Coming Soon -

The Terror by Dan Simmons
Strange Tales Vol III ed by Rosalie Parker
In The Courts Of The Sun by Brian D'Amato
Creatures Of The Pool by Ramsey Campbell

Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Conjure by Mark West


Conjure
by Mark West
Publisher : Rainfall Books, 2009.

There is a tradition in Britain of the seaside holiday. For years people from the cities packed up and left for a few days in the sun at their local seaside resort. Unfortunately these thriving holiday havens have suffered from the availability of cheap package holidays abroad. Now they are left, desolate and slightly grim, unused and rundown. So when Rob and his girlfriend Beth win a weekend in one of these towns, it’s seen as something of a booby prize.

Beth is pregnant, however, so relishes the prospect of some time away so, determined to enjoy themselves, they set out for Heyton. Unfortunately within the town, there is an ancient wrong that needs to be put right and the solution lies in (yes in) pregnant women.

Mark West has created a marvelously enjoyable short novel which captures some of that faded glory of the seaside resort. Add to that the complex relationship of a young couple who are about to have their first child and all the stresses and joy that comes with it and you have a firm base for the tale.

Throw in some ancient and dark history, some interesting (and disturbing local characters) and a large dose of supernatural power and the story works well. It’s a strangely British tale and reminded me of something that may have been produced in the seventies by Hammer or part of Tales of the Unexpected but very much updated with modern quotas of brutality and gore. It’s closest in style to the likes of Bill Hussey or Adam Neville.

If it has a fault it is only that it is quite short and could easily, I think, have been expanded into a full length novel. It’s the first I have read from Mark West but he is definitely a name I will be looking out for in the future.

Rating 4 out of 5
(This post previously appeared on Highlander's Book Reviews)



Monday, 28 December 2009

The Pines by Robert Dunbar


by Robert Dunbar
Publisher: Leisure, 2008.

Ah! The Pines, surely a novel about the beauty of the great outdoors, wandering amid the dappled shade of the mighty Pine trees, celebrating nature in all its glory.. err....not quite.

The Pines of the title are not quite the lofty ancient trees you may imagine (and that the cover might lead you to believe) no these are twisted, gnarled, wasted pines growing in the pine barrens. Oh, and there is something else living in those pine barrens, something even less pleasant.

First published in 1992 The Pines was Robert Dunbars first novel and has been republished here in a new uncut edition. The novel follows the lives of a group of people who live on the edge of the Pine Barrens, a desolate, haunted place inhabited by the pineys. The characters in this novel are without exception troubled and shaped not just by the normal difficulties of life but also the influence of the location.

When people start disappearing, rumours of an ancient legend surface and whilst the finger of blame points firmly at the Pineys there are a few who recognise the sign of The Jersey Devil at work.

So, all in all, this sounds a bit like a mixture of the X-files with Deliverance and a large dash of Southern Comfort (the movie) but that would be seriously underselling this book. The book develops such a rich and bleak feel that it becomes much greater than its component parts. The gradual shift from deliverance type horror to a much deeper supernatural threat is gripping and the character development makes it even more powerful.

This could so easily have been a book full of cliche but instead it's a fine addition to any horror library and comes highly recommended.

You can read more about Robert Dunbar here.

Rating 4 out of 5


Sunday, 20 December 2009

The Scalding Rooms by Conrad Williams


The Scalding Rooms
by Conrad Williams
Publisher: PS Pubishing, 2007.
Hey it's nearly christmas and everywhere the tiny children are laughing in the snow whilst listenting for sleigh bells. Good will and joy are everywhere. What better way to celebrate then than with one of the most visceral, gruesome and downright dark books you are ever likely to read.

The Scalding Rooms is a short but highly effective post apocalyptic vision of a society where life is all about survival. Our "hero" is Junko Cane, a slaughterhouse worker who is forced into nefarious dealings by his criminal boss. The rest of the time he spends scavenging trinkets from the remains of executed bodies.

Quite how the world got in this mess, quite who is executing the bodies and quite why people don't just throw themselves off the nearest cliff rather than live like this is never fully explained. In effect though it's a book about family. Junko Cane, despite everything, is compelled by a primeval urge to protect his family, no matter how strained his relationship.

The intensity of this protect and survive mentality in an ultimately selfish society keeps the books moving quickly and although only a novella, the descriptive writing really paints the picture of the setting and the characters in brain searing detail.

Conrad Williams is well known for writing dark, dark horror and there is "none more black" than this one. A true Tale From the Black Abyss. Conrad Williams is also noted for the strength and quality of his writing and this is a standout example.

Rating 5 out of 5

The Island by Tim Lebbon



The Island

by Tim Lebbon

Format: Hardback, 446pages,

Publisher: Allison and Busby, 2009.

We have been to Tim Lebbon's fantasy land of Noreela before, most recently in the excellent Fallen, so I was keen to revisit for more of the same but one thing I have learned is that Tim Lebbon doesn't do " more of the same". The setting may be familiar but once more Lebbon shows that he is one of the most inventive genre writers around.

Set almost entirely around the small fishing village of Pavmouth Breaks this is a book that focuses more on characters than locations. Kel Boon is the main protagonist, a seemingly simple life is thrown into chaos by a tsunami and the subsequent appearance of a mysterious Island. It soon becomes apparent, however, that Kel Boone is anything but a simple woodcarver and gradually his background as a secret agent in the Core (think Noreelan SAS) is revealed.

When the inhabitants of "The Island" start to arrive in Noreela it's Kel Boon and partner Namior that suspect something is not quite right. What follows is a race against time to protect the people and traditions of Noreela. The story has elements of steampunk, fantasy, science fiction and horror but is, deep down, a thoroughly enjoyable adventure.

There is little of the epic sweep of Fallen here, though it does share a common sense of mystery, this is all about survival. Survival from a feared but largely unknown antagonist. There are elements here that could almost reflect modern politics as a technologically advanced nation threatens to overrun a much less advanced and far more traditional lifestyle.

In Tim Lebbons usual skillful prose style he keeps the pace moving by gradually revealing more details throughout the book. This coupled with the inventiveness of the setting made this a pleasure to read. If anything it was too short leaving quite a few questions but also leaving the way clear for (hopefully) sequels.

It's not quite as powerful as Fallen but that may just be down to my preference for epic quests but once again we are given a unique snapshot of life in Noreela which pushes fantasy to its boundaries and often beyond. It may have swords and even sorcerers (well witches) but this is about as far from traditional fantasy as you could get. Lebbon's stories almost take on a mythic quality mixing the genres up in a suitably strange and potent brew.

You can read more about Tim Lebbon here or publishers Allison and Busby here.

Rating 4 out of 5

Buy The Island

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

This is the definitive list of SF/Fantasy and Horror book review blogs as put together by John at Grasping For The Wind.


A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z




Romanian French Chinese Danish Portuguese German

A




7 Foot Shelves

The Accidental Bard

A Boy Goes on a Journey

A Dribble Of Ink

Adventures in Reading

A Fantasy Reader

The Agony Column

A Hoyden’s Look at Literature

A Journey of Books

All Booked Up

Alexia’s Books and Such…

The Alternative

Andromeda Spaceways

The Antick Musings of G.B.H. Hornswoggler, Gent.

Ask Daphne

ask nicola

Audiobook DJ

aurealisXpress

Australia Specfic In Focus

Author 2 Author

AzureScape

B




Barbara Martin

Babbling about Books

Bees (and Books) on the Knob

Best SF

Bewildering Stories

Bibliophile Stalker

Bibliosnark

Big Dumb Object

BillWardWriter.com

The Billion Light-Year Bookshelf

Bitten by Books

The Black Library Blog

Blog, Jvstin Style

Blood of the Muse

Book Addict

The Book Bind

Bookgeeks

Book Love Affair

Bookrastination

Booksies Blog

Bookslut

Books on the Knob

The Book Smugglers

Bookspotcentral

The Book Swede

Bookthing

Book View Cafe [Authors Group Blog]

Brain Harvest

Breeni Books

C




Calico Reaction

Cheaper Ironies [pro columnist]

Charlotte’s Library

Circlet 2.0

Civilian Reader

Cheryl’s Musings

Club Jade

Cranking Plot

Critical Mass

The Crotchety Old Fan

D




Daily Dose – Fantasy and Romance

Damien G. Walter

Danger Gal

Dark Faerie Tales

It’s Dark in the Dark

Dark Parables

Dark Wolf Fantasy Reviews

Darque Reviews

Dave Brendon’s Fantasy and Sci-Fi Weblog

Dazed Rambling

Dead Book Darling

Dear Author

The Deckled Edge

The Discriminating Fangirl

The Doctor is In…

Dragons, Heroes and Wizards

Drey’s Library

Drying Ink

Dusk Before the Dawn

E




Enter the Octopus

Erotic Horizon

Errant Dreams Reviews

Eve’s Alexandria

F




Falcata Times

Fan News Denmark [in English]

Fantastic Reviews

Fantastic Reviews Blog

Fantasy Book Banner

Fantasy Book Critic

Fantasy Book News

Fantasy Book Reviews and News

Fantasy By the Tale

Fantasy Cafe

Fantasy Debut

Fantasy Dreamer’s Ramblings

Fantasy Literature.com

Fantasy Magazine

Fantasy and Sci-fi Lovin’ News and Reviews

Feminist SF – The Blog!

Feybound

Fiction is so Overrated

The Fix

The Foghorn Review

Follow that Raven

Forbidden Planet

Frances Writes

Free SF Reader

From a Sci-Fi Standpoint

From the Heart of Europe

Fruitless Recursion

Fundamentally Alien

The Future Fire

G




The Galaxy Express

Galleycat

Game Couch

The Gamer Rat

Garbled Signals

The Geeky Bookworm

Genre Reviews

Genreville

Got Schephs

Graeme’s Fantasy Book Review

Grasping for the Wind

The Great Gnome Press Science Fiction Odyssey

a GREAT read

The Green Man Review

Gripping Books

H




Hasenpfeffer

Hero Complex

Highlander’s Book Reviews

Horrorscope

Hot Cup of Coffee

The Hub Magazine

Hypatia’s Hoard of Reviews

Hyperpat’s Hyper Day

I




I Hope I Didn’t Just Give Away The Ending

Ink and Keys

Ink and Paper

The Internet Review of Science Fiction

io9

It is the Business of the Future to Be Dangerous

J




Janicu’s Book Blog

Jenn’s Bookshelf

Jumpdrives and Cantrips

K




Kat Bryan’s Corner

Keeping the Door

King of the Nerds

L




La Bloga

Lair of the Undead Rat

Largehearted Boy

Layers of Thought

League of Reluctant Adults

The Lensman’s Children

Library Dad

Libri Touches

Literary Escapism

Literaturely Speaking

ludis inventio

The Luminous Page

Lundblog: Beautiful Letters

M




Mad Hatter’s Bookshelf and Book Review

Mari’s Midnight Garden

Mark Freeman’s Journal

Mark Lord’s Writing Blog

Marooned: Science Fiction Books on Mars

Martin’s Booklog

MentatJack

Michele Lee’s Book Love

Missions Unknown [Author and Artist Blog Devoted to SF/F/H in San Antonio]

The Mistress of Ancient Revelry

MIT Science Fiction Society

Monster Librarian

More Words, Deeper Hole

Mostly Harmless Books

Multi-Genre Fan

Musings from the Weirdside

MyBlog2.0

My Favourite Books

My Overstuffed Bookshelf

N




Neth Space

The New Book Review

NextRead

Not Free SF Reader

Nuketown

O




OCD, Vampires, and Rants, o my!

OF Blog of the Fallen

The Old Bat’s Belfry

ommadawn.dk

Omphalos Book Reviews

Only The Best SciFi/Fantasy

Ooh…Books!

The Ostentatious Ogre

Outside of a Dog

P




Paper Spaceships

Paranormality

Pat’s Fantasy Hotlist

Patricia’s Vampire Notes

The Persistence of Vision

Piaw’s Blog

Pink Raygun

Pizza’s Book Discussion

Poisoned Rationality

Popin’s Lair

pornokitsch

Post-Weird Thoughts

Publisher’s Weekly

Punkadiddle

Pussreboots: A Book Review a Day

Q




R




Ramblings of a Raconteur

Random Acts of Mediocrity

Ray Gun Revival

Realms & Galaxies: Celebrating SFF

Realms of Speculative Fiction

Reading the Leaves

Rememorandum

Review From Here

Reviewer X

Revolution SF

Rhiannon Hart

The Road Not Taken

Rob’s Blog o’ Stuff

Robots and Vamps

S




Sacramento Book Review

Sandstorm Reviews

Satisfying the Need to Read

Science Fiction and Fantasy Ethics

Science Fiction Times

ScifiChick

Sci-Fi Blog

SciFiGuy

Sci-Fi Fan Letter

The Sci-Fi Gene

Sci-Fi Songs [Musical Reviews]

SciFi Squad

Scifi UK Reviews

Sci Fi Wire

Self-Publishing Review

The Sequential Rat

Severian’s Fantastic Worlds

SF Diplomat

SFFaudio

SFFMedia

SF Gospel

SFReader.com

SF Reviews.net

SF Revu

SF Safari

SFScope

SF Signal

SF Site

SFF World’s Book Reviews

Silver Reviews

Simply Vamptastic

Slice of SciFi

Smart Bitches, Trashy Books

Solar Flare

Speculative Fiction

Speculative Fiction Junkie

Speculative Horizons

The Specusphere

Spinebreakers

Spiral Galaxy Reviews

Spontaneous Derivation

Sporadic Book Reviews

Stainless Steel Droppings

Starting Fresh

Stella Matutina

Stomping on Yeti

Stuff as Dreams are Made on…

The Sudden Curve

The Sword Review

T




Tangent Online

Tehani Wessely

Temple Library Reviews

Tez Says

things mean a lot

Tor.com [also a publisher]

True Science Fiction

Tyrion Frost’s Fantasy Blog

U




Ubiquitous Absence

Un:Bound

undeadbydawn

Urban Fantasy Land

V




Vast and Cool and Unsympathetic

Variety SF

Veritas Omnia Vincula

Vons Books

W




Walker of Worlds

Wands and Worlds

Wanderings

Wendy Palmer: Reading and Writing Genre Books and ebooks

The Weirdside

The Wertzone

With Intent to Commit Horror

The Wizard of Duke Street

WJ Fantasy Reviews

The Word Nest

Wordsville

The World in a Satin Bag

WriteBlack

The Written World

The Wry Writer

X




Y




Young Adult Science Fiction

Z




Romanian




Cititor SF [with English Translation]

French




Elbakin.net

Mythologica

Chinese




Foundation of Krantas

The SF Commonwealth Office in Taiwan [with some English essays]

Yenchin’s Lair

Danish




Interstellar

Ommadawn.dk

Scifisiden

Portuguese




Aguarras

Fernando Trevisan

Human 2.0

Life and Times of a Talkative Bookworm

Ponto De Convergencia

pós-estranho

Skavis

German




Fantasy Seiten

Fantasy Buch

Fantasy/SciFi Blog

Literaturschock

Welt der fantasy

Bibliotheka Phantastika

SF Basar

Phantastick News

X-zine

Buchwum

Phantastick Couch

Wetterspitze

Fantasy News

Fantasy Faszination

Fantasy Guide

Zwergen Reich

Fiction Fantasy

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z




Romanian French Chinese Danish Portuguese German

Review Policy

Contact Me/Reviewing Policy

The best way to contact me is through e-mail.

REVIEWING: I am happy to accept any relevant product for review with the following provisos. If you would like Tales Of The Black Abyss to review your product, please look below for my e-mail, etc. 

  • I have the right to not review your product if I do not think it's appropriate or I don't like it. I feel it is unfair to review a book that I can't finish but I generally try to review all that's sent to me, and I do prioritise reviews according to release dates and/or how much I like the product.
  • I will only accept products suitable for this blog.  Horror and Dark Fiction are my main areas of interest but I also feature historical, thrillers, crime, fantasy and SF. Anything with a supernatural edge to it is preferred, no Paranormal Romance though.  Sorry, but I just can't read books on a computer so I won't review e-books or PDF/Word documents.  I do accept unbound novels and ARCs.
  • I write all my reviews honestly.  They will be completely unbiased and fair.  They are my own opinion and my opinion only.  I will not give anyone extra credit or hype up a product because of the company or author behind it.
E-MAIL: cgleslie@gmail.com is my e-mail address and I regularly check my inbox so under a normal schedule I should get back to your query within 3 days.  For those who have sent an enquiry to my old email at info@highlandersbooks.com then sorry but your email has not been recieved. Please send it again to the new address.

COMMENTING: I get all comments left e-mailed to me, so feel free to leave a casual query there, but if you would like me to review for you or if the subject is along similar lines, please e-mail (see above).  If I think a comment is not appropriate or is offensive then I have the right to delete it.

MY ADDRESS: If you need my address for review copies, press releases, etc. then please e-mail me. Any relevant news or information should be emailed to me, if I think it is appropriate then I will feature it on the site.

Thanks for looking.

Colin

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown




The Lost Symbol

by Dan Brown

Format: Hardback, 528 pages

Publisher: Transworld, 2009

Dan Brown is the Mono-sodium glutamate of fiction writers. Let me explain, you know that feeling you get when you eat a Chinese takeaway, that feeling of rich satisfaction and fullness and you know how five minutes after you have finished those feelings have been replaced by a feeling of emptiness, you feel bloated and yet strangely unfulfilled. That feeling is created by the wonders of MSG and it’s exactly the feeling you will get reading the Lost Symbol.

First of all lets start with our cards on the table. I read the DaVinci Code before it got big (honest I did) the reason I read it was because of a longstanding interests in esoteric tales. The same reason I have read Clive Cussler, enjoyed Indiana Jones and was glued to the X-files. I enjoyed it but largely because of the subject matter, then things got out of hand. The book took off, everybody read it and inevitably it’s popularity led to an intense literary snobbery, clearly true art can’t be popular so popular therefore equals poor art. I was confused, was this the same book I read and kind of enjoyed (I also read Brown’s other books and kind of enjoyed them) was it really so bad, am I that poor a judge of writing, what exactly did I enjoy? So I started the Lost Symbol with some trepidation, almost embarrassment, at reading such populist trash, why I might as well be reading Jeffrey Archer or Jilly Cooper.

Back to the current book though and a brief synopsis. Robert Langdon (international symbol expert) is called to Washington to give a talk, only when he gets there he discovers that he is instead on a quest. It’s a quest which sees him and his (brilliant) female companion try to evade capture by a homicidal maniac whilst being helped by rich old man (that’s right it’s the same plot at the DaVinci Code).

Needless to say the characters are drawn into a world of masonic conspiracies, hidden knowledge and a quest to discover the ultimate secret. Do they succeed…well you will have to read it to find out but don’t build up your hopes.

Brown’s skill as a writer lies in engaging his readers with short snappy chapters which nearly always end on some hanging plot point or Flash Gordon type cliffhanger. His failings as a writer are all the other stuff, like plot, characters and dialogue. This leads to a strange duality where you may race through the book with a degree of excitement but it leaves you strangely unaffected. You don’t really care about the characters you just want to know the secret. After all Robert Langdon, Brown’s recurring protagonist could quite happily fall into a vat of acid and I wouldn’t care. He is totally unengaging and this is the hero! He is also, or appears to be, particularly thick and despite being the expert on symbols seems to need everything explained before he finally “gets it”. At times you might urge on the bad guys just to get to the end quicker….just tell me the sodding secret!

Using the same techniques as DaVinci he takes you through these esoteric, hidden (in full view) locations but there is nothing new here, it’s all freely available on the same shelves that held the books he got the DaVinci plot from. In fact I read The Field by Lynne McTaggart five years ago, so whilst it’s great to see subjects like Noetic science getting some recognition it’s not original and that’s one of the big failings of this book. Despite all the cliffhangers, all the action did I learn anything? That might not be an issue, this is fiction after all but Brown’s whole technique is to tease the reader onto the next page with promises of further revelations, when these revelation turn out to be years old and frankly often uninteresting the reader can’t help but feel disappointed.

So like that Chinese meal, this book and Brown’s writing in general, whilst satisfying at the moment of consumption is ultimately poor quality, artificial and probably bad for your health. Again though, like the finest junk food, it’s strangely compelling, will I be there for the next book, probably. You can find out more about this book just about anywhere you care to look.

Rating 2 out of 5

Monday, 9 November 2009

Winter Song by Colin Harvey (Review)



Winter Song

by Colin Harvey

Format : Paperback, 432Pages

Publisher: Angry Robot, 2009

I must admit to being a bit of a fan of Norse mythology. All those snow covered, barren wastes and hulking great warriors knocking seven shades of stuff out of each other with axes..great. Set a science fiction novel on one of those worlds and you would really grab my attention which is exactly what Winter Song did.

Karl Allman's spaceship crashes on Isheimur but he is soon rescued by some of the locals. Living in communities based on ancient Scandinavia he soon becomes embroiled in the difficult and hard lives of these people. Once he discovers that there may be a way to leave, life gets a lot more complicated though.

A book of two halves, the first is almost pure fantasy as the lives and relationships of the planets inhabitants are revealed. The second half jolts back to Science Fiction as events take a global turn.

I can't say much more about the plot without introducing spoilers only that, for me, the shift in scale and scope in the second part of the book was a bit sudden and slightly incongruous. The characters are well drawn but in the end reverted to cliche just a bit too much for my liking.

As a mash up of styles it's an interesting idea and the first part of the book works well as a fantasy with recurring SF themes but once the global dynamics come into play then the plot becomes a bit too forced.

I enjoyed Winter Song and thought the setting was original and engaging. SF with axes, what's not to like.

Sunday, 8 November 2009

Infrared Dreams

I have always been a huge fan of Simon Marsden's Infrared Photography (if you don't know it have a look here). Of course trying to emulate it in pre digital days required special film and hours steeped in darkroom chemicals. Digital has made it slightly easier.

Here are a couple of examples I recently took at Clava Cairns, prehistoric burial mounds near Inverness.





Now whilst they are not a patch on Simon Marsden's quality they do have a certain something. Infrared really captures the mysterious nature of these sites. More experiments soon.

Friday, 30 October 2009

Steampunk Tales - Volume 3



My story "The Shew Stone" has been published in issue 3 of Steampunk Tales. It features John Dee, Nikolai Tesla and lots of steampunk goodness. You can obtain a copy here at a remarkably good price. While you are there check out the first two issues for more steamy lovlieness.