He-Man and the Masters of Deception!

I feel that the promotional material for the New Masters of the Universe show was a little misleading.

I’m all for the direction the show took but purposely getting everyone excited for He-Man and then smashing that excitement to bits in the first episode was a marketing decision that could only lead to disappointment.

They should have had some confidence in the show and at least put the main characters in the poster. You can see them in the ensemble poster if you hold it up to your face and squint, but they should have been front and centre.

I think if you asked people who they thought would be in this show, based on the trailer, all the social media that lead up to it, and Kevin Smith’s promises to stay true to the original, I’m willing to bet they would say, with some confidence, “He-Man.”

They would be wrong. Hoodwinked. You don’t build all your marketing around a cameo.

One of the best books I’ve read this year.

The Swordsman’s Lament by G. M. White is genuinely brilliant. When I had to turn the audiobook off after my commute to work I was looking forward to getting back on the road, and back in the story.

Belasko is a great new hero. This series deserves to blow up. I hope it does. The story is a simple but compelling one. A good man accused of a murder he didn’t commit escapes from the dungeons to clear his name.

The writing is excellent and G. M. White is an exceptional storyteller.

There is an equality to the storytelling too. Strong female characters. Female guards, they/them pronouns, ambiguous sexual orientation. It’s not at the forefront of the story, but it’s there in the subtle world building.

The nobility / underclass devide is tackled with an edge as sharp as Belesko’s rapier.

The Swordsman’s Lament, “the older I get the better I was”, is put to the test and Belasko prevails.

There is nothing to not like about the book. Just read it already, it’s great.

I believe it was the narrator’s first foray into reading audiobooks and I hope he reads more. He sounded very much like Tom Hiddleston. It was like having Loki read you a book, and who wouldn’t want that?

The Hitchhikers Guide to… Loki? – Loki episode 1 review

Me and Rachel just watched Marvel’s Loki, on Disney+. Really enjoyed it. It felt like a nod to so many other things, but in an good way. The beginning felt like a homage to Douglas Adams. Loki was Arthur Dent entering into the Vogon beurocratic dominion.

There was the, “But what if I am a robot?” – Bladerunner reference?

While queueing we get an explanation of the science of the TVA via a television presentation. An animated clock tells us about the One True Timeline in the old UPA style of cartoon. Was that a nod to the DNA cartoon in Jurassic Park? I reckon so.

During the cartoon we are introduced to the three god-like beings who keep the timeline in order. There is something very Bill and Ted about those gods.

The office scenes reminded me of Terry Gillliam’s Brazil and the movie adaptation of George Orwell’s 1984.

I liked the self-aware commentary of comic book writers creating new timelines for the superheroes they created. I’m wondering if that is an intentional meta commentary or if I’m just reading too much into it.

Owen Wilson and Tom Hiddleston are great together. Overall, excellent first episode. Looking forward to the next one. Smart pacy writing and spot-on visuals.

His Name Was Shane

I’ve been going back and reading the classics of the western genre. The cornerstones of gunslinging pulp.

(The following contains spoilers. So if you just want my reaction, I loved it. I recommend you read it).

Shane by Jack Schaefer was first published in three parts in Argosy magazine in 1946. Pulp to the core. It came out as a novel in 1949 and has never been out of print. Literature with a capital W.

It’s a small book that takes its time. A slow burn. Told from the viewpoint of a boy, Bob Starrett, who watches this mythic rider come into town. The man on the horse stops at his farm house and asks for water for him and his horse. His name is Shane. The boy becomes infatuated with him. His father, Joe Starrett, offers the stranger a bed for the night and he ends up staying for much longer.

They spend time on the land. Shane helps Joe remove a tree stump. It takes a long time and Schaefer keeps with it. Showing each swing of the axe.

Shane doesn’t talk about his past and much speculation is made of him.

Soon that past, or knowledge of who he is, catches up to him. A man flees town upon merely setting eyes on Shane.

Bob and his parents are being run out of town by a rancher who needs their land back. They are homesteaders who staked their land on Luke Fletcher’s ranch. Land Fletcher had never claimed himself.

Shane stands up and defends his new home.

At first I wasn’t sure about the book. You’re spending time with these characters without a lot happening. But the writing won me over. There is something about the farm and the people that pulls you in. I liked spending time with Shane, and Bob, and Joe.

It rewards you for your patience with a great final act.

I would read it again. If you love westerns and haven’t read this one yet it’s well worth it.

The Fearing by John F.D. Taff – Audiobook Review

Book One – Fire and Rain.

This is one of the very (VERY) rare books that I would read again.

Fire and Rain is book one of a tetralogy. (Yep, that’s the word for four books in a series. Who else thought it was quadrilogy? Just me? Okay.)

I have been raving about this book. Taff understands story. He knows how to create characters that you love, and is equally good at making characters that you hate. The pace is great. The set pieces of fear are imaginative and vividly realised.

The Fearing Book One

It starts with a troubled guy named Adam. He is afraid of everything. On the day that we meet Adam something unusual happens. People who come into contact with him are killed by their own fears. It starts small, but escalates quickly. By the time Book One is over, North America is on the brink of a fear induced apocalypse.

I was going to start this review by saying it contains spoilers, but I’ve decided I don’t want to ruin the fun. All I will say is that I was enjoying the book right up until it got to a scene involving a group of people on a bus and a fear that involved The Wizard of Oz… That was when I started loving the book.

The story centres around three different groups of people and we shift between each group as the events escalate. Adam and Jelnik, the people on the bus, and three teens.

There was a moment when the third group was introduced; a jock (Kyle), a popular girl (Carli), and a nerdy girl (Sarah), and I thought, “Oh, god, here we go. Bring on the cliché.” But Taff deftly steers it away from what you’re expecting and you are brought into the dynamic of the group as they struggle with all the things Taff throws at them.

Book One ends in a big way. From this point on the world will never be the same. The more afraid the characters get, the more danger they are in.

Oh, I almost forgot to mention the narrator. Linda Jones is a superb reader. You don’t even realise she’s there (which is a compliment, even though it might not sound like it). I listen to an awful lot of audiobooks and Linda is a real talent.

Book Two – Water and Wind

Book Two sees the introduction of a new character; Reverend Mark. And with him comes one of the creepiest scenes in the story so far, involving a young boy named Dom. I won’t say anything about what happens but it proves the author can do small, fear-inducing, character-driven horror as well as the big imaginative set pieces that launched the narrative in book one.The Fearing Book TwoThe mystery of what’s happened to the world starts to become clearer. Adam is a vessel for all the world’s fears and the vessel is full. It has spilled out into the world.

Mark meets a girl. Monday. She’s going to be important.

If you’re reading this review I’m assuming you’ve read book one and are wondering if you should continue. Continue fellow reader, continue. Even if it’s just to get angry at Carli, the traitorous little bi-…

Great narration from Linda again.

Book Three – Air and Dust

It starts with a pile of burning dogs.

Mark and the small group he has met along the way arrive at an army base. On the first night the base is attacked.

There is a moment where Rev Mark, and the rest of the camp, are being attacked by swarming- well, I won’t say what, that would spoil the fun- and he does something that should come across as absurd schlock, but is actually exciting and just what the book needed at that moment. The Fearing Book ThreeThere are rumours of an encroaching darkness. A wall of sheer black spreading across the globe.

At the end of the book a man arrives with a convoy of people he has “saved” from other places. He tries to take over leadership of the army base and succeeds, but in doing so becomes the new villain of the story (god it’s hard to explain a story without spoiling anything). I’ll say this. By the time book three closes you’ll hate him in your bones. You’ll feel it in your gut. His name is Tim Jacoby and you’ll wish you were there so you could grab a weapon and reap vengeance yourself.

As with my previous reviews, hats off to the narrator, Linda Jones.

Book Four – Earth and Ember

The darkness is closing in. The psychotic new leader, Tim Jacoby, has had a message from God; Thou shalt go to Memphis.

So there he leads the last people alive on Earth. Graceland becomes their temporary home. The last stop before the final confrontation with Adam.The Fearing Book Four

We find out what is up with Jelnik; Adam’s personal slave. We go back to Jelnik’s childhood. The events described are awful, harrowing and terrifying. After the flashback, Adam assures Jelnik that things could have been so much worse, if he only he knew. Jelnik doesn’t believe it. Adam shows him.

At this point I thought, “There’s no way Taff can make that scene worse unless he goes over-the-top-corny with it.” Scary stuff can fall into absurdity very easily and lose its impact. It’s a fine balancing act.

So the memory restarts. Adam has turned up the fear. And… it… is… glorious. There are no limits to Taff’s disturbed mind. And god it’s fun to watch.

The last survivors leave Graceland to make their way to the last city on Earth to face down Adam.

Monday’s role in the apocalypse is revealed.

Rev Mark and Adam face off.

The ending is neither rushed nor prolonged.

Linda Jones’s narration was, as always, perfect.

A note on the serialization

I really have nothing bad to say about the story, the author, the narrator, the characters, the writing itself, it’s all great. But I do have something to say about the release of the book. It won’t affect the star rating, but I think it needs to be said, if only because I want to recommend the book to as many people as possible but find that I can’t because I’d be asking them to invest too much money in my recommendation. The price is far far too high. (If the Kindle and paperback editions are priced to reflect the shortness of each instalment, then that’s fine. All good and well. Serialization makes sense in those mediums. This is purely to do with the Audible release.)

I understand the reason for releasing it in a serialised form (in the tradition of Stephen King’s Green Mile, and the works of Dickens, and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle etc.) But the reasons, in this instant, are driven by greed. A reason that rarely succeeds. The cost is too high. Each book is only about 3 hours long (apart from the fourth instalment which is just over 5) and most people only get one credit per month on Audible so he’s asking his readers to spend four months of credits on one story. That’s not much listening for a full third of a year. Especially when you can get seventy two hours of Sherlock Holmes for the same credit, and indeed The Green Mile in its entirety – 14 hours. I suspect it will ultimately have the opposite effect on sales and people will be put off by the combined high price. It won’t matter how much I, or other reviewers who have been lucky enough to get a review copy for free, rave about how great it is (and it is indeed great), the money grab leaves a bad taste in the mouth.

This is a book that should be loved by many more people than will be willing to part with the high ticket price. It would be sad to see the best horror I’ve read this year die because of an ill-considered route to market.

The book is being sold as an epic. And yet all four books combined are only the length of a single novel. It’s money for old rope. It frustrates me because if I hadn’t had the opportunity to review it for free I would have never gambled the £45.83 it would cost me (based on the current prices on Audible) to read it. It would have never happened.

I could get the stand for half the price (or one credit which is even cheaper) and it’s 47 hours long.

These things must be considered when it comes to releasing things in audio.

All four parts should be gathered together and released as The Fearing. I believe it would be a cornerstone of modern horror and many more people will discover it. People that really want to read it but can’t afford the comparatively massive cost would give it a go.

I would be the first to go to social media and tell the world about it.

It is a great book. One of my favourite of the last few years. If it wasn’t for that it wouldn’t frustrate me so much. I want the world to read it.

The one good thing about getting all four paperback editions is that the covers combine to create one big picture, which is pretty cool.

thefearingset

 

One Page Punch Up

I submitted the first page of my new book to The Bestseller Experiment podcast to be criticised in what they call a One Page Punch Up. There were many submissions but, to my joy (and sudden apprehension), I got selected!

And so best-selling author, Mark Stay (author of Back to Reality and the film Robot Overlords starring Gillian Anderson and Ben Kingsley) and Juliet Ewers (Publishing Associate at Orion Publishing who has previously worked with Ian Rankin and Michael Conolly) critiqued the opening page of Shelley Town RPG, my latest novel (it’s a Stephen King-esque horror).

The episode came out. Me and Rachel pressed play and listened. A grin started to spread across my face. By the time it was done we were speechless.

If you want yo hear what these two respected experts had to say about my writing you can listen on the link below! They reviewed five pages. Mine is first so you won’t have to scroll through the audio trying to find me.

EP231: One Page Punch-Ups with Juliet Ewers

Audiobook Review of Grandfather’s House by Jon Athan

Unbelievable Violence and Perversion.

This is a short and sick listen. If you are willing to suspend your disbelief to get beyond the few illogical plot flaws (a kid becoming so hungry he eats rotten chicken after being in solitary confinement for only a few hours) there is a lot to enjoy with this story. It is entertainingly written. The opening scene in the classroom is brilliant and the protagonist and his grandfather are well drawn characters.

The only thing I would change about the actual writing of the book is that characters are far too often “awed” by things. But that’s a small issue really (especially considering the graphic content of the book).

It is violent to the extreme and sexual in a way that is so far removed from erotica it is utterly repulsive. I’m going to leave two words here that may or may not have any relation to the “erotic” element of this sory: grandmother’s bottom.

There we are. Read at your peral.

https://www.audible.co.uk/pd/Grandfathers-House-Audiobook/B07WP8TWZ8?qid=1568366182&sr=1-1&pf_rd_p=c6e316b8-14da-418d-8f91-b3cad83c5183&pf_rd_r=V9C63HN8X2NDV44JP11W&ref=a_search_c3_lProduct_1_1

Feral by Matt Serafini – Audiobook Review

A Horror so gruesome blood trickled from my earphones

Feral Cover

 

The book opens with a glorious and bloody first chapter (it begins with a vicious scene involving a girl in a bath tub. I won’t say any more on that).

The story then meanders a bit as you get to know the central group of characters but pretty soon people start disappearing and werewolves start crunching on skulls with their big fanged mouths. At one point a man’s face is torn away like skin from a cooked chicken. So if you like that sort of thing, tuck in.

The narration by Matt Godfrey is excellent. His voice delivers the story to your ears with great efficiency and effectiveness.

Feral is a good start to what I’m sure will be a bloody and howling series.

My only criticism is the meandering second act but much is made up by the quality of the writing. Matt Serafini knows his craft well.

Click here to view the book on Amazon (or on the picture above to go directly to the Audible page).

The Rats by James Herbert – REVIEW

This book surprised me. I was expecting some schlock. Some B-movie pulp horror. A first attempt at fiction by an author who would become one of England’s best selling horror novelists. But actually, it was brilliant.

It has a few intentional false starts so you’re not sure for a while if the person you’re following on that page is going to die in the next. Or if he, or she, will go on to be the main protagonist of the story. At first the book is a series of vignettes of rat killings. But you don’t just get a violent attack. You really get to know every character before they are ripped to shreds.

It starts with a story involving a gay salesman struggling with his love for another man. You think he’s going to be the main character and then he wakes up to find he’s being eaten alive by a swarm of rats the size of a small dogs.

The depth James Herbert gets from his characters is impressive for such a small book. He wants you to feel something for them before their eyes are graphically chewed out.

There are lots of things about this book I want to spoil for you, but I won’t. The ending was absurd and brilliant. I absolutely recommend it.