Some reviews

Posted: February 26, 2012 in Reviews
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EARTHBOUND by Richard Matheson

EARTHBOUND disappointed me.

I love Matheson. HELL HOUSE is so brilliant I cannot choose between it and Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House for the best haunted house tale ever written. The praise for I AM LEGEND stretches far and wide – and whilst it is the third best vampire tale (behind Dracula and Salem’s Lot), for me the novel I had most fun with was STIR OF ECHOES. There were moments in there I actually wondered what the hell was wrong with my throat! Turns out I was so tense I had pulled the thing in on itself (not nice). Imagine how excited I was when I found this in a bookshop. I was looking forward to it.

Wish I hadn’t bothered.

An erotic ghost story should involve plenty of ghostly action and a decent amount of sex but there was barely any – and what little there was contained no warmth. The action was as cold as the derelict house into which the two protagonists holidayed (a second honeymoon to try and rekindle a failing marriage after the husband has an affair). The more I read, the more I couldn’t decide if Matheson had written the book in a rush or simply felt embarrassed by the need for sex. He does romance and the longing for a missing loved one extremely well – whether that’s because they’ve disappeared or their love has died – but I found myself wondering why the sex was so perfunctory. So robotic.

Perhaps it’s because all the characters were either annoying or reprehensible. Perhaps it’s because I found the setting difficult to conjure up in my head (on the coast during the cold season). I don’t know. I simply know this novel left me cold.

Frigging frozen actually.


KING RAT by China Mieville

This isn’t the first time I’ve tried China Mieville’s work. My first attempt was KRAKEN. It was easy enough to get into but every so often I would stumble on a word that would leave Samuel Johnson scratching his head. And rather than being able to skip past the word or the sentence, both seemed vital to the paragraph, page and chapter. So I moved on. But I liked what I read so made the decision to start at the very beginning.

I know the author’s work is placed on the Sci-Fi shelves but there’s a fair amount of horror in among these 400+ pages – some of it genuinely nasty. There’s a take on an underground murder that’s rather… interesting.

The big, scary words are there but they’re fewer and far between. This means you won’t need the dictionary so much and can enjoy the free-flowing style the author appears to a great practitioner of. The idea is a smart take on the Pied Piper of Hamelin and manages to make the conversion of man to rat seem genuinely believable. Scenes in which Saul discovers the truth behind his existence are compelling enough but the action scenes were a disappointment – especially the end battle which had the chance of being so much more but ended up with only one redeeming feature (no spoilers. you want to know, read it yourself and give the author his royalties). I don’t why the author chose to include a police procedure aspect to the plot because he abandons it halfway through. Whenever the detective appears in the latter half of the book it feels like a filler scene, summed up by the detective’s involvement being severed in the last chapter by an answering machine message. It felt like a square beg / round hole scenario.

On the whole, I wanted to like this book more than I did. I’ll read more Mieville but it probably won’t be for a while (it certainly won’t be in 2012 as I don’t like to read the same author twice in a year – there are simply too many new and good ones out there to enjoy). Perhaps if my expectations aren’t so high next time then I won’t be disappointed. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if I’m blown away (there go those expectations again!).




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