I know this is six years old now, but it’s always worth trotting out between book reviews to fill a post, or should that be filler post?
I know this is six years old now, but it’s always worth trotting out between book reviews to fill a post, or should that be filler post?
Tales from the Inner City is a powerful reflection on the nature of existence and the urban relationship we have with the animals within our human world. From the dog to the crocodile; from the tiger to the frog, world renowned artist Shaun Tan explores the perennial love and destruction we feel and inflict on our fellow creatures.
Shaun Tan always creates enjoyable and thought-provoking work, and in Tales from the Inner City he explores nature, our co-existence – or not – with animals and how our way of life effects the natural environment around us.
This heavy, lavish hardback tome of 225 glossy pages, is full of atmospheric illustrations, each set over two pages which accompany the numerous short stories, and sharply contrast the differences in two opposing worlds and have an air of the dreamlike about them.
The stories themselves are a mixed bag in terms of their messages, some are obvious, but due to the trademark whimsy and surreal of Tan’s style, others fail as the point being made is sometimes too veiled. Despite this, I find all them enjoyable and full of depth. Continue reading “Tales from the Inner City – Shaun Tan”
It’s Monday and catching up on the YouTube I follow after a few day’s absence was predictably depressing. There was a ‘woke’ BBC sketch (this is the BBC that has admitted it would never commission something like Monty Python these days) that has been doing the rounds recently which was mildly amusing – at best – but (and although I don’t always agree with him) this Jonathan Pie tirade really gets the message across in a much more forceful way.
It’s a much-needed rant and I believe he speaks for many sane people on the subject, just with more expletives. We only get one life, we should concentrate on saving the culture as well as the physical planet. It would be great to hold all these virtue signallers to account and mock them mercilessly – as nobody has the right not to be offended – but if you notice, more and more websites are disabling or deleting comments that echo Mr Pie’s…funny that.
I can think of nothing further to add to this…
When I was praying
For the victims
And for the living
To give in
I saw Death
Pick up its scythe
And go on cutting
All the while
At my sheer naivety
Image credit: cheo36.deviantart.com
Recently it has been a pleasure to retire to bed at about half nine in the evening for some quality reading time. Stopping to make a hot chocolate which always gets the reading off right, then leaving it to cool off next to my funky touch lamp before picking up whichever book is currently occupying my imagination.
The beauty of the lamp accompanying the chosen literature is the intimate setting it creates, beyond the book everything is either obscured by the dark or its impact on the peripheral vision lessened so that the small zone of light contains the reader’s only focus on the many adventures to be undertaken.
The accompanying silence as the night wears on – if you are lucky enough to live away from main roads and such – adds a lot of atmosphere, as it did when I picked up Stephen King’s Desperation, and The Stand where 99% of the word’s population has died (not that this appalling tally seems to be noticed as this is all set in America) and the survivors are left to their almost totally silent world.
The night though is versatile, after extensive reading research throughout the years particularly vivid memories of 2001: A Space Odyssey and its three sequels, The Rama series, and Solaris which being Sci-Fi come to mind. It feels right to read the genre at night as it does horror, like the stories of M.R. James, and Susan Hill’s The Woman in Black, which is the only horror book that I have been genuinely creeped out by. Continue reading “Night Delight”
One man only saw them and him they killed, hunted him down through the dense reed bed, trapped him, drove him mad with terror before they pulled him to pieces and ate every bloodied shred of his body.
And then it was quiet again for a little while.
Until they came ashore again, in their hundreds, their bodies reeking with a malignant cancerous disease that was within them. The disease that was driving them mad with pain, mad to kill, t wipe out every living thing in their path.
On that beach were hundreds of men, women and children. Food.
The awkwardness of the blurb both grammatically and in decency is just part of the charm of this series and I have missed getting my fix of those cunning crustaceans that are as big as sheep, cows or horses depending on which book you happen to be face deep in.
My hankering for the resilient sea life started whilst watching Independence Day: Resurgence, which was a terrible sequel. Adding to that a conversation about a lot of film series having their fourth installments set in space like Critters, Hellraiser and Leprechaun (all of which I enjoyed coincidentally), it was in vain anticipation that I turned to Crabs on the Rampage which I hoped would be (however implausably) set in the infinite black depths.
Being a pulpy horror, it is perhaps not such an outlandish hope but sadly it came to be set in 1980’s Britain where it seems everybody is pretty mean-spirited or downtrodden or wanting sex for the most part. To this setting, the crabs come to put people out of their misery with gory and somewhat repetitious disembowelling revenge, a lot is repeated from other books of the series but newcomers need not be put off as this installment works well by itself.
The over the top first chapter – which is pretty much the blurb – says it all really and this is the level of profundity you can expect from the rest of the book as well. If you enjoy character development this is not the book for you, with the huge body count it puts Game of Thrones to shame for wiping people out, although these deaths are all predictable and set up to be so. Not that returning characters get to develop either, plot is king in this book. Continue reading “Crabs on the Rampage – Guy N. Smith”
UnCommon Origins presents 22 depictions of moments on the precipice, beginnings both beautiful and tragic. Fantastical stories of Creation, Feral Children, Gods and Goddesses (both holy and horrific), and possibilities you never dared imagine come to life. Including stories from some of the most talented Speculative Fiction and Magical Realism authors around, UnCommon Origins will revisit the oldest questions in the universe: Where did we come from? and What comes next?
anthologies are uncommon on my bookshelf, due mainly to the up and down nature of the stories and my usual preference for singular stories in the books I read. Breaking new ground, I found I not only enjoyed the variety of ideas but was also impressed by the quality of the writing on show.
This Sci-Fi offering contains a lot of good stories, possibly from some very twisted minds. I wasn’t expected to be pulled in so quickly but from the initial story – The Hanging Gardens of Brooklyn – a story about kindness to strangers, foreigners and so much more, it became clear that it was going to be a lot of fun.
Some stories took a little longer to get to the reward but even the less satisfying stories – for this reader, that is – always had the seeds of something interesting to speculate on. There are a few authors I would be interested in reading more of, which is the pleasure of this book and the curse of the bank balance.
It was rewarding and quite exhilarating to dabble in a bunch of writers whom I have no prior knowledge of, not knowing what will come my way next. This inventive melding of genres and imagination in a plethora of writing styles ensures that there is something for everybody here and I look forward to rereading some of them again when the fancy takes me.
This collection was brought to my attention through a barrage of emails and latterly my letterbox by perennial blog favourite Jess Harpley and her featured story includes her trademark action packed, high body count style. As ever though there is so much more behind the action, in this story of slavery, family, the balance of power and a decision that ultimately leaves everything in the balance. Continue reading “UnCommon Origins: A Collection of Gods, Monster, Nature and Science”
It was only when the bones of the first devoured victims were discovered that the true nature and power of these swarming black creatures with their razor sharp teeth and the taste for human blood began to be realised by a panic-stricken city. For millions of years man and rats had been natural enemies. But now for the first time – suddenly, shockingly, horribly – the balance of power had shifted . . .
For some reason I’m oddly drawn to animal stories when it comes to the horror genre, I reviewed Guy N. Smith’s Crabs (as big as sheep) series elsewhere on the site and now its vicious rats (as big as dogs).
Whereas Smith’s books have a tongue in cheek feel about them, the same cannot be said for this gruesome which takes itself far too seriously and as such fails as, paradoxically for that reason it can’t be taken seriously at all,
The idea of big rats is horrible, malevolent predators fighting back is an instinctual evolutionary fear, bringers of the appallingly devastating Black Death in a different age and now themselves doing the killing. It does play on that fear fairly effectively up to a certain point but the book is not strong enough to sustain any real horror as the genre has moved on and become more sophisticated.
Being Herbert’s debut novel, it can perhaps be forgiven for lacking in quality and depth somewhat, my overall feeling is that it is a fair effort and one that fans of the genre may appreciate but for the casual reader there isn’t much else here to grab you If you are looking for a quick gore fest and little depth then this one may be right up your rat infested alley though.
Liberally scattered through the book are plenty of examples of outdated sexism and casual racism, which can be overlooked because of the time it was written in but it does jar these days with its outdated views and poorly phrased language. It doesn’t help that the characters are cardboard so one can’t even find out their world views as most are frequently created simply in order to be killed off. It does make the set pieces very predictable but if you have picked this book up, then it will probably be for the rodent based carnage so this really can’t be seen as a minus. Continue reading “The Rats – James Herbert”
The turn of the last century and Theodore Stubbs’ manor house resides in the quirky village of Muchmarsh. A renowned entomologist, he is often within the attic adding another exotic specimen to his extensive collection of insects. But Theodore is also a master hypnotist, holding the household in thrall to his every whim. Theodore’s daughter-in-law Eleanor returned from the sanatorium two months before is a haunted figure, believing that her stillborn child Alastair lives and hides in the shadows. Then she falls pregnant again, but this time by the hypnotic coercion and wicked ravishment of Theodore. A dreadful act begets terrible secrets, and thirteen years later the boy Alastair Stubb begins to lose his identity. It is not long before mystery, intrigue and murder follow gleefully in his wake. The Unusual Possession of Alastair Stubb is a gothic terror of the highest order, delivering a dream-like and hallucinatory reading experience that promises to reveal secrets both disturbing and astonishing. Do you dare meet the Stubbs?
Thanks to Matthew from Urbane Publications for sending me a review copy of this elegantly Gothic tale, one that feels familiar in all the right places – in a good way – but also has a fresh sort of rampant fiendishness running through it that kept me engrossed right to the end, with its thoroughly entertaining denouement.
The precisely constructed plot is chock full of seduction, blackmail, murder, depravity, madness and secrets aplenty which can’t fail but to appeal to any reader. What makes it more pleasurable is the interspersing of dark comedy from a supporting cast that sound like they are the offspring of characters from a Dickens novel, it’s a fine balance but the comic aspects never ruin the brooding feeling of the novel, if anything it makes the sinister more effective.
The first half feels very reminiscent of Mervyn Peake’s Titus Groan, the protagonists live almost separate lives in a big, aged house, yet they contrive to make their shared endurance feel like a claustrophobic and uncomfortable existence. This works well with the slow build up, that takes its time to reach a memorable boiling point. Continue reading “The Unusual Possession of Alastair Stubb – David John Griffin”
On a dark November evening at the turn of the century, three medical students make an unholy pact. For the young Hugh Meredith, it is the beginning of a nightmare that will pursue him to the grave – and perhaps beyond.
In the cellar of their narrow lodging house in Printer’s Devil court, and in a subterranean annex of the hospital, they begin to experiment with the boundaries that separate the living from the dead, witnessing events both extraordinary and terrifying.
Years later, when Hugh must return to Printer’s Devil Court and face his demons, strange events take clear that his youthful actions have had consequences worse than anything he could have imagined.
It’s the time of year when the nights start to close in and that makes it perfect for a traditional ghost story, especially a macabre tale in the Victorian style of M.R. James.
I have a slinky hardback copy of this book with the evocative and embossed dust jacket that feels pleasingly tactile. Once I removed the dust jacket, the black cover underneath was perfect for the story and was a nice mirror to the black and white illustrations inside which are a nice touch and evoke the types of storytelling that these days has fallen out of favour.
I’ve always found the immediacy of any story is linked with the touch (and smell) of a book – one of the many reasons why I avoid e-readers – is another reason why I found the story more effective, not in the form of scariness though. This book isn’t scary but to feel disappointed by that omission is, I believe to miss the point.
The book harks back to the days of the classic ghost story and the tale has the feel of its older predecessors, its sparse and wonderfully Gothic and in that respect it doesn’t have an effect on the modern audience that is would have done back then. Much in the same way that A Christmas Carol or Casting the Runes don’t inspire dread these days, the pseudo science of the book won’t take in the reader but does provide a pleasantly eerie idea from a less advanced time. Continue reading “Printer’s Devil Court – Susan Hill”