Horror Stories by Alan Toner. eBook reviewComments Off
HORROR STORIES, by Alan Toner, self-published, e-book, £1.94. www.trueghoststories.co.uk.
Reviewed by Stewart Horn
Many modern horror authors try to avoid what they see as the old clichés, and tend to focus on more subtle, psychological horrors. So it’s nice to get a collection like this and touch base with some old friends.
Here you will find vampires, living waxworks, revenants, lots of ghosts, a haunted telly, and some EC-style revenge tales.
The stories are all fairly short, neatly plotted and written in an accessible style. It reminded me of the R. L. Stine books I used to read to my kids, so I suspect Mr. Toner had a YA audience in mind. That said, there is some violence, some creepy stuff, and a few sexual references, but nothing that should faze an average modern 12-year-old.
An enjoyable, fun and respectful take on some classic horror themes.
The Queen’s Martian Rifles by M.E. Brines. Ebook reviewComments Off
THE QUEEN’S MARTIAN RIFLES by M.E. Brines, self-published, Kindle, $2.99, http://www.mebrines.com/
Reviewed by David Brzeski
This was a very interesting one to read. Had I realised going in that the author’s book contained a fairly heavy Christian, Creationist message, I might not have bothered. Having already started the book, I decided that, since I was quite happy to read horror novels in which Christianity played a great part in rallying the forces of good against the supernatural evil, it would hardly be fair of me to let my personal atheist biases prevent me from giving this book a fair chance. I’m quite glad I did.
M.E. Brines is by no means a bad writer. He creates an interesting steampunk scenario, in which Earth sent colonies to Mars in the late 19th century. It has to be said that, while there are indeed several Earth nations competing for whatever benefits they might glean from this situation, the integration with the primitive Martian population is a lot more diplomatic and respectful than real history suggests would have been likely.
The hero, David McLaughlin, is a likeable character. He joined the Queen’s Martian Rifles regiment, rather than follow his parents wishes to enter the clergy, out of a need to do more good than he could see himself achieving from a pulpit. Refreshingly, he’s not the typical square-jawed, athletic hero, in fact he’s quite “portly”, as the author puts it. He soon finds that the rest of his regiment is in a sad state, having been allowed to fall into slovenly ways, due to their snobbish, drunken officers not doing their job. McLaughlin runs into a lot of class-based prejudice from his superiors. Brines does a reasonable job of arguing against this sort of social bigotry, along with sexism and racism. One suspects that he felt a need to show his reasonable, non-bigoted side, before he attempted to portray the “evidence” for his religious standpoint. McLaughlin is very much the everyman of the book, in that he believes in God, but doesn’t really see any problem with rationalising this with evolution and extraterrestrial life. He represents the reader who Brines possibly hopes to influence with the rationalisation of Creationism that lies at the heart of this story.
The first part of the book starts in the middle and lands our hero and heroine in deep trouble. Part two is a flashback, where McLaughlin muses on his first meeting with the feisty heroine en route to Mars. Lady Rebecca “B” Bryce is a militant suffragette and archeologist, who also happens to be an atheist, who is out to find evidence to prove her Von Danikenesque theories on the extraterrestrial origins of the human race. Brines is a little heavy-handed in the way he depicts her constant assumptions that anything the hero does to help is based on the belief that a mere woman is incapable of doing anything for herself. He is to be commended, however, for not automatically making all the non-believers in the book villains.
The villain of the piece is none other than “the wickedest man in the world”, Aleister Crowley. Sadly, Crowley never really manages to be the major villain he should be, in that he has a few conversations with the other characters, turns up at a sacrifice in a Martian temple, then runs away. To be honest, the book would have survived quite well without Aleister, who was really only there to put forward the pro-Lucifer viewpoint.
There’s a certain amount of religious discussion in this part, which is helped along by the inclusion of a Christian missionary, who plans on converting the indigenous Martians. Brines does a reasonable job of putting forward the beliefs of all sides in a fair manner.
The third part starts out well enough. Brines writes good, exciting action scenes. I found the Christian bent of the book didn’t hinder my enjoyment of a rollicking good, pulpy steampunk yarn too much at all. There are places where the author’s evident enjoyment in the fast-paced action makes him forget the period and McLaughlin starts to sound very modern, almost American in places.
After the battle on Mars is over, it all starts to fall apart a bit. The hero suddenly comes to realise how the evil, Lucifer-worshipping Martians have set into motion the intended destruction of Earth. Frankly their method was a real knockout blow to my suspension of disbelief. One hardly expects steampunk to be a hundred per cent scientifically feasible, but this was as silly as a 1950s Superman comic book. I suppose, on reflection, that is wasn’t any sillier than the ideas found in the proto science fiction tales of the 19th century, but I feel we tend to expect more in the twenty-first century, even when the book is set over a hundred years in the past.
It’s not much of a spoiler to reveal that the hero does indeed save the day and the world. The absolute silliest moment in the entire book, is when “B” suddenly accepts all the evidence that there is a Devil, therefore there is a God and the Creationists were right all along. And isn’t this wonderful? And she can’t wait to get home and help spread the word.
The thing is, it’s not the Christian bent of the book that will put people off. We’ve all read many, many books in which the heroes believe in God. I’ve never found that particularly off-putting as a non-believer. After all, I have good friends who believe. The problem for most people, and I include most of the Christian readers here, is in the Creationist concept, that evolution is nonsense and God created the World, including mankind, in just six days.
Still, I did enjoy the book for the most part.
Banished by Billie Sue Mosiman. Ebook reviewComments Off
Reviewed by David Brzeski
Billie Sue Mosiman is not your typical self-published author on Amazon. For one thing, she has quite a pedigree. She’s been writing thrillers and horror novels for a long time. Her first book was published in 1984 and she has been nominated for Stoker and Edgar awards. I’d been meaning to get around to checking out her work for quite some time.
‘Banished’ was an interesting choice for me to start with. The protagonists are Fallen Angels. For the most part, books featuring Angels tend to be firmly in the supernatural romance genre. Not this one.
The Fallen can come to Earth by inhabiting the body of a human at the point of death. Angelique grasps at such an opportunity, but has the bad luck to find herself in the body of a ten year old native girl, on an island which would later become known as Haiti, in the 13th century.
She rules the indigenous people of the island for two hundred years, before the Spanish arrive, affording her the opportunity to escape to Spain. For another two hundred years, she wanders the world, using human slaves to pose as her parents, or guardians, but the constant need to uproot & begin again, due to her never aging, becomes unbearable.
In England in the 1800s, she brings down another of the Fallen to aid her, but perhaps Nisroc hasn’t fallen as far as she’d assumed. Eventually Nisroc breaks free from her influence, but Angelique is never going to allow him to be his own master. She pursues him wherever he goes, taking terrible vengeance on any who befriend & help him.
This is an enjoyable page-turner of a book. Well-written, tightly plotted, with engaging characters. It has a satisfying ending, while leaving an opening for a sequel to follow.
For those who don’t own a Kindle, there’s a large print Createspace edition & an audio download version available.
The Spaces Between Your Screams by Christopher Hivner. Ebook reviewComments Off
Reviewed by Phil Ambler
The Spaces Between Your Screams is a collection of short stories from the fertile imagination of American horror writer Christopher Hivner.
We are presented with a myriad of premises across the forty odd tales contained within this anthology. Vampires, werewolves and demons all show themselves in amongst the pages but we are also treated to other terrors including malevolent plant life, unseen alien forces and unhinged psychopaths.
Now, before I go any further, be warned that whilst there is some beautiful imagery within Hivner’s writing, it is quite visual at times. As a seasoned horror fan of over twenty years, I found the violent extremes and gore within some of the stories slightly uncomfortable and I would advise anyone without a fondness for the genre to look at other books reviewed by the British Fantasy Society team.
The book is split into two sections; The Spaces and The Screams. I definitely felt that the first section was the stronger of the two as the tales felt more complete on the whole. Personal favourites throughout the book were ‘Dr F is Coming and You’re on His List’, ‘Feya Who Tends The Flowers’ and ‘When The Machines Arrive.’
Dr F is a comedy/horror vignette told with a great deal of fun. The evil Dr Filer and his inept assistant Medora get caught mid-sacrifice by the police who have been tipped off by one of Dr F’s experiments, talking canine Duke. Watch out for the perfectly pitched pre-sacrifice dancing extravaganza!
‘Feya Who Tends The Flowers’ is an unnerving tale of power, envy and revenge. Feya harbours a hatred towards her mistress Sophia. After leaving Sophia’s prized flowers to wither and die, Feya finds her drinking water contaminated or is it all in her mind. A psychological breakdown follows reminiscent of the style of Shirley Jackson.
‘When The Machines Arrive’ is a dystopian future in a similar vein to War of the Worlds. Strange music is played across the planet, humans succumb to its bliss inducing charms except for a select few. As the eventual carnage begins, how will those untouched survive?
Given the shortness of the stories in the book, this is more of a coffee table read; although I wouldn’t just leave it around for the kids to pick up. With some tales being two to three pages in length, and with no common theme, the reader can find themselves wanting the stability of a longer piece to be able to engage more readily with the characters. It is like being at a party where you are constantly being introduced to new people every five minutes.
Throughout I found myself unsure as to my feelings towards the book. There were some really strong pieces which enthused me to read on for more. These would then be followed by stories which failed to pack their intended punch and often went out with a whimper leaving me with a sense of frustration.
Overall, The Spaces Between Your Screams is a reasonable mix of tales with some solid stories which will get you thinking and others which feel as if Hivner is exploring concepts which don’t always deliver for the reader. Worth picking up to dip in and out of but be prepared for a variation in quality. A tighter, more considered selection of stories would have made this a much stronger offering.
Ebook novella collaboration between Stephen King and Joe Hill due soonComments Off
About the Book:
Within minutes they are disoriented, in deeper than seems possible, and they’ve lost one another. The boy’s cries are more and more desperate.
What follows is a terrifying, entertaining, and masterfully told tale, as only Stephen King and Joe Hill can deliver…”
Debut fantasy novelist Dave Weaver signs with digital-first publisher Elsewhen PressComments Off
Elsewhen Press, a small independent digital-first publisher specialising in speculative fiction, has announced that Dave Weaver, graphic designer and author, has signed a publishing deal for an undisclosed sum for his debut fantasy novel Jacey’s Kingdom. Managing publisher Al Murray calls it an “exciting and thought-provoking” book which is a “must-read story for adults and young adults alike.”
The story sees Jacey Jackson collapsing with a brain tumour while sitting her final history exam at school. While deep in a coma, she struggles through a quasi-historical sixth century dreamscape as surgeons fight to save her life. Jacey is helped by a stranger called George, who finds himself trapped in her nightmare after a terrible car accident. There are quests, battles, and a love story ahead of them, before we find out if Jacey will awake from her coma or perish on the operating table. And who, or what, is George? In this book, Dave Weaver questions our perception of reality and the redemptive power of dreams; are our experiences of fear, conflict, friendship and love any less real or meaningful when they take place in the mind rather than the ‘real’ physical world?
The book will be published as an e-book in winter 2012 and in print in 2013.
Judgement of Souls: The Kiss of Dawn by Margarita Felices. ebook reviewComments Off
Reviewed by Katy O’Dowd
What they say: Judgement of Souls is a Gothic horror in which a naïve pure-blood Vampire is tossed into the mortal world. Rachel meets Daniel, a nightclub owner and his group of friends and after Daniel’s best friend is murdered by Max, becomes embroiled in the search. Rachel tries to fight off her feelings for Daniel, even siding with her Vampire friend Arun to think again about Daniel’s involvement, but he’s her love and she’s going to protect him, no matter what.
What I say: This book is also being marketed as paranormal romance – but it would also do well in a young adult capacity. Even though there are a couple of sex scenes, they are over quickly (if you’ll excuse the pun) so Teens These Days would be fine.
The premise is neat, vampire meets mortal with rather interesting family history, vampire falls in love with mortal and mortal with vampire. Rival vampire factions fight to gain control over a relic – in this case a scroll and then a book – which will in turn give whoever has said relic control over more or less everyone.
Set mainly in Cardiff, and action rather than plot driven, the writing is sparse and goes at a steady whack. It has an intriguing opening, and readers who prefer their vampires in a modern-day setting and coming out fighting should enjoy this book.
I don’t say this lightly, nor do I wish to detract from the author’s hard work – the copy I was sent for review was riddled with mistakes, and in my opinion what Judgement of Souls: The Kiss of Dawn really needs is an edit to turn it from a good book into a great book. The grammatical errors are annoying for the reader, and take away from the enjoyment of the book. Other reviews that I have come across on the internet, on the whole, are good, so perhaps the Kindle release is an edited version. I really hope so, and if not they should be easy to fix.
Having said the above, all of the elements are there, and the last third of the book is superb and very engaging. It’s so very nearly there it’s tantalising. The fight scenes are well written, and Arun in particular is a stand-out character. A good debut, which I would have enjoyed more had it been error-free.
Editor’s note: The review copy was in fact an uncorrected proof. We have since been assured by the author that the final version was heavily edited.
Shelflings #2 reviews ezine shortly to go out to BFS membersComments Off
Shelflings #2 has been compiled by Stephen Theaker from reviews edited by Craig Lockley, Phil Lunt and Jay Eales for the BFS website. It features almost 30,000 words of reviews by Carl Barker, Chris Limb, Craig Knight, David A. Riley, David Brzeski, David Rudden, Elloise Hopkins, Glen Mehn, Jacob Howard, Jay Eales, Katy O’Dowd, M.P. Ericson, Mario Guslandi, Matthew Johns, Mike Chinn, Pauline Morgan, Phil Lunt, R.A. Bardy, Rebekah Lunt, Selina Lock, Steve Dean and Stewart Horn. It is available to members in epub and mobi formats.
Creators reviewed include: Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill, Alison Littlewood, Christopher Priest, Dan Abnett, David A. Sutton, Frances Hardinge, Gary Fry, Howard Hopkins, Jilly Paddock, Joseph Nassise, Kim Lakin-Smith, Maynard Sims, Nancy Kilpatrick, Nick Kyme and Gav Thorpe, Paul Magrs, Reggie Oliver, Richard Davis, Shaun Jeffrey, Terrance Dicks, and many others.
Ceaseless Steam: new anthology from Beneath Ceaseless SkiesComments Off
SFScope reports that Beneath Ceaseless Skies, the fantasy ezine specialising in secondary-world fantasy, has released their third ebook anthology: Ceaseless Steam: Steampunk Stories from Beneath Ceaseless Skies Online Magazine.
They state: “The eighteen stories in Ceaseless Steam feature a gardensmith crafting fanciful clockworks to enchant his noblewoman love, a restless librarian who yearns to escape a city that bounces up and down in the sky, and a flock of clockwork birds trying to redeem their Jaguar Knight creator. Their authors include Margaret Ronald, Yoon Ha Lee, 2012 Nebula Award finalist Tom Crosshill, and 2009 Campbell Award finalists Aliette de Bodard and Tony Pi.”
Ordering information can be found at the website HERE
Wizard’s Tower to publish Tales of Einarinn seriesComments Off
Wizard’s Tower Press is pleased to announce that is has acquired the rights to publish ebook English language editions of The Tales of Einarinn series by Juliet E. McKenna.
The Tales of Einarinn comprises five novels: The Thief’s Gamble, The Swordsman’s Oath, The Gambler’s Fortune, The Warrior’s Bond and The Assassin’s Edge. They were originally published by Orbit in the UK and Eos (a division of HarperCollins) in the USA. They have been translated into many languages including Russian, German, Japanese, Dutch, Polish, Hungarian and Czech.
In a series of posts on her blog, McKenna has talked about the challenges facing an author wishing to make her backlist available as ebooks. This includes converting a paper book to digital format, ensuring that she does indeed own the ebook rights when there is no mention of them in the original publishing contract, and considering issues such as whether to impose Digital Rights Management (DRM).
McKenna noted: “Seeing online dissatisfaction with some of the early ebook backlists rushed out by publishers who didn’t pay sufficient attention to such detail makes it very clear that readers expect – and make no mistake, they deserve – the same quality of text in an ebook as they would get in a paper edition.”
The ebook editions will be prepared by Antimatter ePress and Wizard’s Tower, bringing with them the same attention detail that has already been applied to McKenna’s short fiction works: A Few Further Tales of Einarinn and Turns and Chances. The books will have the same high-quality covers by Geoff Taylor that graced the original UK editions.
Securing worldwide English language rights to the ebook editions involves complex legal issues which McKenna has explained in her blog posts. Wizard’s Tower and Ms McKenna thank Orbit UK and HarperCollins USA for their cooperation in these matters.
For Wizard’s Tower Cheryl Morgan said, “Our objective is to help authors with backlists put out a quality product by taking care of the technical and business issues, leaving them free to concentrate on what they do best: writing new books.”
For Antimatter ePress Elizabeth Campbell added: “Preparing a scanned copy for e-publication is a labour-intensive process. This couldn’t happen without invaluable assistance from two proofreaders who have donated their time to make McKenna’s ebooks the best that they can be. It is an honour and our delight to be able to do this for her, bringing to a new electronic-based audience some of our very most favourite books.
The Tales of Einarinn will be available through the Wizard’s Tower bookstore, on the Kindle, Nook, Kobo, and through other online venues.