Thursday, 24 September 2020

 

The Fisherman

by John Langan

"A story doesn't have to be fitted like some of pre - fabricated house - no, it's got to go its own way - but it does have to flow. Even a tale as black as this has its course"



The Fisherman is a masterful tale of suspense and eldritch terror. 

Langan's tale of grief, horror and otherworldly horrors is an absolute masterpiece.  This booked deprived me of sleep as I could not put it down and had to read well into the night to find out what happened next.

The story revolves around Abraham or 'Abe', as he tells us in the first line of the book, and Dan. 

When Abe's wife dies from cancer, he finds solace and relief from his grief in the gentle art of fishing. He finds that it quiets his mind and helps him get through the grief. 

When Dan, a colleague at work experiences a sudden bereavement, Abe offers his hand in friendship,  the two form an unlikely bond, borne out of their shared grief. 

One Day, Dan unexpectedly suggests a change to their normal fishing trips and suggests a trip to an unknown stretch of water, called Dutchman's Creek. 

It's on their journey to Dutchman's Creek that the strange tale of how the unmapped stretch of water got it's name, when they stop in fisherman's diner. The horrific tale is told to them - as a warning.

As I said earlier, this book is a masterpiece of suspense. The book is essentially two stories, the tale of Abe and Dan, and also the history of Dutchman's Creek and the terrifying events that surround it.

Whilst, essentially these seem like two diverging tales. Langan skillfully weaves and interlocks the two stories into a fantastic ending that sent me searching for more of this author's work.

In addition to two stories, the story is told from two different perspectives. Firstly Abe's, and then Howard, the owner of the diner which Abe and Dan visit on their way to Dutchman's Creek, who tells them the events surrounding how the creek got its name. For the final act of the book, we return to Abe and the initial story. 

This altering of the narrator, crafts the idea that there is a story within a story so effectively that you do not notice the shift of tone, but it makes it all the more compelling as you wonder how this has an effect on the main story. 

The initial story is set in the modern world of computers and IBM. However, there is a complete contrast of the second story which is set at the time of the construction of the Ashoken Reservoir, whose employees are mainly immigrants to America who bring their own folklore and customs. 

The prose that Langan writes is not too difficult, but it is hard to define his style. Whilst, it can be quite literary at times with passages of description, for anyone who is familiar with Lovecraft, this should not be too difficult to get your head around. In some ways, Langan's style is reminiscent of Stephen king and Shirley Jackson (he is on the Board  of the Shirley Jackson Awards) in that he slowly layers the uneasiness constantly throughout his story until the story reaches a crescendo. 

Essentially, though, this is a human story of how grief affects us and what we would not do to have that final day with those who have passed. 

For me, I would recommend this book to anyone (and have to anyone who will listen) as one of the best horror novels of recent years and I do not say this lightly.

The Fisherman by John Langan is published by Word Horde and is available to buy now at all the usual outlets.

PS. If you fancy reading this novel, Word Horde have joined forces with Story Bundle to give a curated collection of books. This bundle is five books of independent horror that is at a minimum price of $5 (but you can give more if you want to). you can determine how much of the profits the authors receive and also donate to charity. I found out that this offer is only available for the next two weeks. So, Check it out.





Wednesday, 23 September 2020

 

The Trials of Koli (The Ramparts Trilogy #2)

By Mike Carey

Why everyone isn’t reading Mike Carey’s ‘The Rampart Trilogy’ I don’t know. I simply cannot wait until the next instalment of this story hits my reading lists, it is simply brilliant and everyone should read it. 

The Trials of Koli is the second book in ‘The Ramparts Trilogy’ and follows our hero Koli and the rest of the crew as they travel in search of the ‘Sword of Albion’. Their quest takes them through the savage land of England and what it has become following catastrophic environmental disaster and the subsequent devastating wars that have led the world to become a place that is full of cannibalistic tribes, ecological predators and a dark force that is exerting its will to take over the known world.

This second instalment moves the story of Koli, Ursula, Monono and Cup through a wider world as they travel through the devastated lands of England (or Ingland as it it referred to in the story) closer to ‘The Sword of Albion’ that is coming from the mythical city of London.

Whilst Mike Carey’s story is set in a dystopian future of England, its feet are firmly planted in epic fantasy and has all the tropes of that genre that has hooked a diehard fantasy reader like me. For instance, it has the mythical quest for ‘The Sword of Albion’ which is not entirely what you might expect, it has the party that comprises of a wizard (Ursala), the Fighter (Cup) and the quester (Koli) all with an end goal to save the world.

In the first book, the main protagonist is Koli,  with the story being narrated from his perspective and focussing on how he came to be ‘shunned’  and subsequently thrown out of his warm blanket of a life in the village of Mythen Rood and his survival following his expulsion. However, this book introduces another point of view and we spend time with Koli’s former love, Spinner. The points of view move between these two points of view and simultaneously expands Koli’s Story whilst showing what happens in the village of Mythen Rood following Koli’s expulsion through Spinner’s eyes, and also develops a separate character and another storyline. So effectively setting up two separate stories that share an equal billing. 

Now one of the things that I find particularly brilliant is the language that Carey uses. However, I know that some people might find it a bit problematic because the narration is written in a mix of pigeon english and broad yorkshire colloquialisms that some people may find it difficult to get along with, for instance Koli will often say that he has ‘et’ his food, which transcribes as he ate his food. And in another, when Spinner describes her meeting with ‘Rampart Remember’ who is a member of the ruling elite in Mythen Rood who is tasked with getting information from an ancient piece of technology from the world before the one that exists now, she describes hat she ‘done him a courtesy’ meaning she gave him a curtsy. However, I strongly urge you to keep going with it and you soon lose your preconception that this may be difficult to read and thoroughly get swept away in the story .  

All in all, this is a fantastic story that left me wanting more and cannot wait until the conclusion comes in 2021.

Oh, and I want to mention that I got and ARC from Netgalley.co.uk and the publishers Little Brown Hat and gratefully thank them for letting me read this wonderful story!


 

The Book of Koli

The Ramparts Trilogy #1

As far as dystopian tales go, everybody from Mary Shelley to Ben Elton has added to the annals of the genre. So how do you conjure new stories and perspectives in this apocalyptic soup. 

Well for one, you have to be Mike Carey. That could do it. With his book, The Girl With All The Gifts he managed to make a distinctive and thought provoking addition to the zombie apocalypse. With his new book 'The Book of Koli' he adds a coming of age story set in the remnants of the Yorkshire countryside.

Koli is a young boy who lives in the fortified town of Mythen Rood. A village that is thriving despite the fact that everything and everyone is trying to kill you, or eat you or kill you and then eat you. As you can guess this is a savage world and every day is a test of survival. However, Koli is a young man who has aspirations of becoming a rampart. A member of the ruling elite who protect the village. Also, get the girl and live happily ever after. The End.

However, things do not go as planned, which is lucky for us  or it would be a pretty dull book. Now one of the first things that you will see mentioned is the language of the narrator. It is quite dense, but it wasn't to me as the language revolves around a crude broad Yorkshire accent, which is the way that I talk, so it was quite a surprise to see a book written with this type of prose. 

Initially, the story revolves around the village and its trials and tribulations and things go well, there are loves and losses. However the story moves its settings when events occur that change koli's life forever. 

The story revolves around the main narrator Koli, who you can easily imagine being sat around a campfire telling the story to his enraptured audience. And the reader is his audience. Ursala, the technological Gandalf of the story becomes a main character that you hope will be expanded upon. The other main character of the party is Monono Aware (SE) whose character develops (literally) throughout.

With little snippets of information, you learn that the world that Koli and its other inhabitants live are the descendants of the remains of the human world that has been devastated by some kind of cataclysm. We are not sure when or how, but we know that nature has been turned into a voraciously savage beast and the main purpose of the ecosystem is to eat whatever it can. Even the trees have turned into carnivores and the threat of the world outside Mythen Rood looms in the background. However, nature is not the only threat. 

At first, I did find the story a little sluggish, but I think that this reflects the setting. Whilst dangers threaten the life of the village, the little hamlet is as picturesque a village that could be anywhere in the English countryside with it's funny, quaint little customs. But this changes as events occur and the narrative speeds up to reflect of situation. This gear change sneaks up on you from behind and you don't realise it is there until you suddenly realise you have finished the book.

By the way, I read an advanced reading copy from the publishers - Many thanks!

The Book of Koli was 14th April 2020 by Orbit


Tuesday, 22 September 2020

The Bone Shard Daughter (The Drowning Empire #1)

By Andrea Stewart

Andrea Stewart's gothic fantasy tale of love, obsession and secrets is intriguing and delightful.

Andrea Stewart weaves a complex tale that keeps you guessing and turning the pages to uncover the secrets at the heart of the book just like the character, Lin, who is searching for the answers of the bone shard magic that her father wields and guards jealously.

The story centres around Lin, the daughter of the tyrant Emperor Shiyen who rules his house and his kingdom with cruelty and mistrust. 

They live in the crumbling and oppressive castle that is as much a representation of the empire that they rule as it is the relationship that the Emperor has with his children.

The book has a distinct gothic feel to it when it tells the tale of Lin's life with her father, her brother  and the soulless servants that surround her. Her father is cruel and just as soulless as the servants, continuously fostering competition between Lin and her brother as they claw their way to be their way into their father's affections. 

In as much as Lin and Bayan (Lin's foster brother) are the characters, Stewart also makes the environment that they are in as much a character as the people that reside in the castle. There is a palpable air of cloying oppressiveness that reminds me of Shirley Jackson's work.

However, the story regularly shifts points of view to other characters and the wider world outside of the castle in order to show the effects of the Emperor's rule and provide some world building and backdrop to the other protagonists of the story.

Jin is a smuggler who is obsessed with searching for the answers as to how his wife disappeared eight years ago. He is a man that has made bad choice after bad choice, getting himself embroiled with the shadowy underworld of the Ioph Carn, a crime organisation that rules with the same amount of fear as the Emperor on his search for his wife. 

We meet Jin as he is following a lead for his missing wife when a disaster strikes one of the islands of this world. Prior to the disaster, he agrees to smuggle a child to another island in order to save him from the horrific trials of the Tithing Festival, a terrifying ritual in which bones are chiselled from the heads of the islands children so that the Emperor can use their power to bring life to his twisted creations that populate the islands, carrying out the orders that the Emperor commands.As disaster strikes he saves the life of the  young boy and also rescues a strange cat like creature who is as much as a child as the one that he is carrying. The  creature becomes part of his life and the boy that he saves names the creature Mephisolou which gets shortened to Mephi. However, things do not go as planned and the creature the he selfishly saves from death, so that he can stop the child he has saved from crying forms a strong bond with Jin. As the relationship grows between Jin and the strange creature, Mephi changes him in ways that he doesn't realise.

There are other characters in the book, Pahlue, the governor's daughter of one of the other islands of this strange world, and Sand. A mysterious occupant of another island whose importance at first is hidden, but becomes much more of a character as the book progresses.

I enjoyed this book immensely, devouring the story of Lin, Jin and Mephi and definitely cannot wait until the next installment of this story. Stewart has crafted a world full of mystery and intrigue that promises to get better and better.

The Bone Shard Daughter is published 8th September 2020 by Orbit



Do you want to be a mighty wizard? 

Do you want to join a group of like minded sociopathic individuals to get on and join the elite of the wizarding world? Then:

Welcome to A Deadly Education!

(Or how to win friends and influence people, so that the nasty things don't eat you)

Right, let's get the obvious out of the way. This is a magic school for witches and wizards and this is not the sole property of he who shall not be named. Okay? Phew, glad we got that sorted.

What we have here is a tale of friendship against adversity. The old romantic mismatch. A kind of Harry met Sally situation in which the good guy is annoyingly good and the damsel  is constantly  distressed at being regularly rescued by the good guy, even though she is some mega evil witch that has a prophecy attached to her (whoa, stop it! We got those comparisons out of the way in the first sentence. Didn't you know that in quite a lot fantasy stories, there's a chosen one with a prophecy attached? Well, don't you? Jeez anyone would think that this is a HP reference. Well it's not! Okay?).

Glad we got that out of the way!

The story revolves around Galadriel (or El for short) who is a pupil at the Scholomance, a school for witches and wizards whose first lesson that they have to learn, is to get safely through breakfast before they become breakfast. The Scholomance is a magic school that is populated by magical teens that have been whisked away from their parents and have to board in a school that has a vast array of different ways to kill you in some horrible way. From flesh eating maggots in the porridge to demonic corridors that will strip the skin from your bones, there is an endless way to get yourself killed. Add to that psychopathic students who will happily kill you for no apparent reason, this makes my days at school seem positively balmy in comparison. 

On top of that, you have to have political skills that are reminiscent of a medieval court. Where you have to form alliances or trade something of worth in order to fix your door, brush your teeth or even get a shower.

This school is flippin dangerous!

Surprisingly, El does not have many friends. However, this changes when the handsomely, charming popular kid, Orion Lake, starts to take an interest in her and forces his friendship on her, whether she likes it or not. However, as the story progresses we see that even though they are at the opposite ends of the popularity spectrum, they both share similar experiences and are both equally isolated. 

In a Deadly Education, Novak's wizarding school is not all jolly hockey sticks and  full of quaint little traditions that hark back to a corner of England that is stuck in the innocence of yesteryears. It's filled with scary monsters and super creeps. It is the dog eat dog world of a capitalist society where the more power and influence you have, the more likely it is that you will survive. It juxtaposes the world outside, which again is not filled with a  lovely, cutesy world that resides in the past. In Novak's world, being a wizard is a dangerous lifestyle which attracts the monsters that live under your bed so that they can kill you and eat you.

Once you get past the myriad ways in which you can die, be eaten or be killed and then eaten, you get to the heart of the story. Which is, survive. Simple as that. Everything is geared towards surviving the experience of school and hopefully get out of there. That is if you can get past a cornucopia of nightmarish beasts at the graduation ceremony that are hell bent on doing all the things mentioned earlier.

Why anyone would want to be a wizard in A Deadly Education is beyond me. I would use the same tactics that the mundanes (the non - magical community) use. Don't believe in magic. Simple as that! The mundanes do not believe in it and that saves them from  the monsters. Otherwise, it looks like you are in for a life of looking over your shoulder and elevating yourself to the rank of paranoid sociopath.

On the whole, I enjoyed A Deadly Education and the story of the snarky main character and how she manages to get through everyday and how her world expands from a world of one  to her development of 'friends'. This is a  fantastic setup for the rest of the series, it sets up the world, the characters and is just the start of the story.  Will I be reading the next one? Hmm, I think I will! I wouldn't mind seeing what happens next to El and the gang.

Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for the ARC.

A Deadly Education will be published on 29th September by Del Rey



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Welcome to my website. Hopefully, you are all like minded individuals here and are interested in the fantasy genre. Mostly, I will be reviewing books that I like. It might not always be fantasy, there might be some horror or science fiction.

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