Archive for the ‘Reviews’ Category

Department 19 The RisingIf I’m being honest, I can’t stand it when I see film posters in January and February saying “movie of the year”. How do they know nothing better will come along in a couple of months’ time? In June, at the start of the blockbuster season? In August, in the short season’s twilight? Or even in December? Surely they’re missing a couple of words at the start of their commendations. If they simply added “potentially the” to their reviews then an implausible opinion becomes something more credible.

Anyway, DEPARTMENT 19: THE RISING is potentially one of the best books of the year. Whilst I refuse to acknowledge it as the best I’m going to read this year – not with it being the 31st January, 2013 and my TBR pile still threatening to spill over and smother me in the night – I will say that whatever comes along and knocks this monster of a book off its pedestal has got to be very special. Very special indeed. It’s deep but it’s fast. It’s gory but it’s tender. It’s long but there’s no effort involved. You race through it like an F1 driver on a track day.

Admittedly, at 700+ pages, if this were the first book in the series I might never have read it. I’m getting a little tired of books over the 400 page mark. I’ve read a few in recent months that just haven’t been worth the effort. As stories and plots go they were okay up to a point, but once they hit the big four-zero-zero, they tumbled. At times it felt like the authors had a quota to fill. The biggest culprits in recent times were Lars Kepler with THE HYPNOTIST and Justin Cronin with THE PASSAGE. Both started off brilliantly. Magical pace; exquisite characterisation; delightful dialogue. But something happened along the way and they both slipped into a mire filled with 2-D characters, stupid action and snail-pace plotting – and as for the endings… I don’t know if they started to believe their own publicity, if writer’s block took over or if their editors had given up the ghost. Either way they could both learn a thing or two from Will Hill on how to write a long book properly.

The HypnotistThe Passage

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE RISING’s narrative picks up not long after the events in the first book so if you haven’t read DEPARTMENT 19 but fancy THE RISING, then stop. Go back to the beginning. If you don’t then the majority of what takes place in THE RISING will be lost to you. Yes Will Hill does try to recap where possible but it’s never the same as experiencing the events themselves. It’s like talking to someone who went to a concert you were desperate to see and them telling you about it. The detail is missing. The experience is missing. The whole feel of the music, the crowd and the atmosphere is missing. So this isn’t a trilogy you can read out of order. It’s one to lasso yourself to at the very beginning.

As per the majority of my reviews I’ll try not to reveal spoilers. The  plot is relatively simple: Dracula has been given new life and Blacklight, the government department charged with protecting us from all things supernatural, has to stop him and his fellow vampires from achieving world domination. Told in 3rd person with our main protagonist the same as in book one, seventeen-year-old Jamie Carpenter has to deal with the responsibilities of being an officer in Blacklight whilst juggling friendships, relationships and a couple of vampires very close to his heart (somewhat ironic). Jamie is extremely believable. Full of teenage angst one minute he is brave, the next angry and the third close to tears. Yes he can be annoying at times and the way he deals with people can often have a lot to be desired, but he is a believable creation. Jamie carries the book with effortless ease – in truth, with all the things going on in his life, carrying this book is the easiest job of the lot!

So what has Will Hill done? He’s followed up his majestic debut with a book full of depth real emotion and outstanding action. It doesn’t bore and it doesn’t insult. Vampire fiction can often be insipid and downright ridiculous (you know what I’m talking about) but THE RISING is a mark above the rest. A bloody big mark.

And even if the final book in the trilogy in 400, 500, 6, 7 or 800 pages plus, I’ll be reading it.

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!).