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Raising Steam (Discworld Novels)

Raising Steam - Terry Pratchett I was about 30 pages into it the first time I gave up. I started again after a few weeks and this time got about 40% through. It's not a bad book. There's some great walk-on parts with some of my favourite characters and the story is ok, it's just that I feel it's all a little hollow really. At the same time I did kind-of enjoy what I read. It's just that it simply didn't draw me in the way I'd like it to have.

I'll definitely read this at some point. Probably in the not too distant future too. It is a Discworld novel after all's said and done.

Maybe I just need to be in a more Discworldy frame of mind first.
SPOILER ALERT!

77 Shadow Street

77 Shadow Street - Dean Koontz This only just got 4 stars due to Dean Koontz's seemingly uncanny ability to mess up a fantastic story right at the very end. He did this with Phantoms by wimping out and invoking the great god, Science, and now he's gone and done the same thing again here.

It was a truly great ride right up to the last 100 pages(approx.) when he decided to introduce what he clearly thought was a really cool and unexpected twist by letting us know that the house was in fact built on a tear in space-time which caused future creatures which from what I could make out are future humans that have been adjusted by some sort of nano-machines that use the human as a host upon orders of some sort of intelligence called the One. This is all very well and good, and is hinted at throughout the novel with various messages being heard by the various characters, but I really do wish Mr Koontz would have the guts to not make it about how great and all powerful science is. Just for once I'd like it to be about how powerful nature, or demons, or some sort of weird and wonderful creature is. Not something enhanced with nano-tech or something being beaten and dispatched because, of course, science is so much more powerful than mere nature.

This novel isn't nearly as bad as I'm making out, but it is very annoying when I'm 90% through the novel wondering what this demonic creature is and where it comes from and why it's here and getting really excited to know whether it turns out to be an ancient god, or a demonic power previously unknown, or some other force of nature that got screwed up somewhere in the dim and distant past, only to find out that it comes down to Koontz's great god Science, ...yet again!

Read this for the first 90%, then stop and make up your own ending. You'll be happier, and it'll be a better novel for it.

Phantoms

Phantoms - Dean Koontz I find Dean Koontz is best read at-a-pace. I mean that I find parts of his novels tend to slow to a crawl a lot of the time. This didn't happen much, if at all in this novel, however, it did demonstrate one of my pet hates, namely that the all-powerful 'SCIENCE' takes on and not only beats the ancient evil life-form that professes to be none other than the devil himself in his various guises but then simply dismisses it as little more than a very old creature that somehow managed to survive millions of years due to it's abilities to be all but unstoppable. Unstoppable that is until the great god 'SCIENCE' comes along with it's super-powers and defeats it within hours(days at most).

No. This was a bit of a cop-out in my opinion. It was never completely proved that the creature was not actually a demon, but it was stated quite categorically several times and we were clearly meant to think that that was the case. All this does for me is suck all the mystery and potential horror out of the story and relegate it to the realms of the mundane. I like my horror to be a good deal more creepy and unknowable than simply 'SCIENCE has solved the mystery with it's super-powers'.

So this moved at a fair old pace, which was nice, but it seemed to delight in dismissing an ancient evil as nothing more than a creature that was lucky enough to have avoided 'SCIENCE' for the last few million years.

No idea why this is so highly rated amongst his fans. Of the few Dean Koontz I've read so far, this is the one I would have happily skipped over had I met a review like this one first.

I wouldn't bother if I were you, there are much better Dean Koontz novels to be read.

Halloween

Halloween - Curtis Richards Loved the film. Loved the novel at least as much. Was interesting to hear Michael Myers' thoughts and the odd memory of him as a child. I wasn't so keen on the little explanation at the beginning about the curse in ancient times and so on, it felt a bit unnecessary and I would've preferred the author to have left it out completely.

Very good, which is probably not something that's said too often about novelisations.
SPOILER ALERT!

Doctor Sleep: A Novel

Doctor Sleep - Stephen King 'Doctor Sleep', the sequel to 'The Shining' was always going to be a big ask. I really wanted to like this, and on the whole I did. Quite a lot in fact. Unfortunately, it does miss the mark in a very, very big way as far as I'm concerned. As enjoyable as the story is and as well as the characters are written(of course, it being Stephen King), I really did miss that fantastically eerie, creepy atmosphere that pervaded 'The Shining'. A lot of that had to do with the solitude of the Overlook Hotel of course, and then there's the fact that it was winter with all the snow and the cold and so on and so forth, but still, it would have been nice if just a little of that wonderful atmosphere had made it into the sequel. It didn't, and it's a crushing shame.

So, the story itself isn't half bad. A group of people(creatures?) calling themselves 'The True Knot' survive by slowly killing their victims and inhaling what they refer to as steam. Their victims are people like Danny who have a bit of the Shine about them. We follow Dan as he fights his alcoholism and ends up settling for a time in a small town where he helps people who are dying pass more peacefully, assuaging their fears and generally giving them a helping hand with the aid of his 'Shining' talent. A nice little touch is the cat, Azzie, who waits with those that are about to die until Dan can get there, at which point it resumes its daily routine patrolling the corridors of the hospice again.

Things come to a head when the little girl that Dan has befriended, Abra, goes into battle with 'The True Knot', and in particular with it's leader, a woman called Rose. Abra has the greatest Shining talent Dan has ever encountered, even more than him in fact. It was a pleasant surprise that this battle didn't drag on and on as I was expecting it to do but was over in a flash really considering the fact that the entire story had been building up to this point all along. I could see some people marking this as a weak point, perhaps suggesting it was rushed, but I liked it. I fully expected the long drawn out battle and when it didn't happen I was glad. It just seemed more likely this way, more realistic somehow.

The book ends with Dan, years later, accepting an award from his Alcoholics Anonymous group for being sober for fifteen years which I felt kind of rounded the novel off quite nicely really.

So in the end, I think this stands up well as a good, solid paranormal/supernatural story with very well realized characters, but it's definitely missing something. Unfortunately, the fantastically eerie, creepy atmosphere of 'The Shining' is entirely absent, and without that this sequel just doesn't do it for me in the same way it's predecessor did. It's a real shame too because everything else pointed to it becoming just as much a classic of the horror genre as any other. But ultimately, it's just not in the same league as 'The Shining'. Think back to the scenes in the bar, and the party going on all around. Think back to the loneliness and the sprawling emptiness of that huge hotel cut off from everything. Think back to Jack slowly descending into his own personal booze-filled hell. Think back to all those wonderfully intense moments that filled the pages of 'The Shining' and then tell me that 'Doctor Sleep' even comes close. It doesn't, it just doesn't.

It's a good story though, and it's certainly worth a read. Just try to forget that it's a sequel and just enjoy it for it's own sake and you won't be disappointed. Just don't expect it to be on a par with the 'The Shining' that's all.


Hunters of Gor

Hunters of Gor - John Norman Ah, so then, #8 - Hunters of Gor. How on earth did I ever get to book number 8 without going entirely nuts? Anyway, this one sees bosk of Port Kar(as Tarl Cabot calls himself these days) going into the Northern forests to hunt for and supposedly rescue Talena who has been taken as a slave by the Panther girls. On the way he encounters one of his seemingly numerous past ladyfriends, now living out her life as a paga slave in a tavern. She turns out to be Elizabeth Caldwell, someone whom he was quite enamoured with relatively recently. She ended up here because of a particularly stupid mistake she'd made when she turned down Tarl Cabot's offer to send her back to Earth. Why on earth she would ever choose to remain on Gor when she could have gone straight back to Earth is a mystery of epic proportions, but leaving that aside, she of course and quite understandably believes Bosk(as he now is) will buy her and help her in any way he could. Of course, why wouldn't he? He was after all in love with her not so many moons ago. So he helps her out of her slavery as any normal sane person would, right?

Nope!

Nope and double nope!

He in fact tells her that she had the opportunity to go back to Earth and that because she didn't choose to do so this means that she has in fact chosen slavery(because she got caught by a slaver and enslaved). Now maybe I'm just a sucker for a pretty face or something but doesn't this strike you as the actions of a complete and utter sadist? I mean, he just throws her away like some sort of... well I don't even know what. No. Bosk can call himself what he likes but he'll always be that sadistic bastard as far as I'm concerned.

I've seen peoples reviews of earlier books where they state that book number so-and-so was just too much for them what with it's enslavement of women or it's treating them as nothing more than sex objects or it's treating them as little more than possessions or animals and about how it turned them off the series from that moment on. Well, if anything I've read in these books so far was going to turn me off reading any more of them, it would be Bosk's treatment of Elizabeth Caldwell here in the tavern slaving away as a paga slave. I mean she literally begs him, BEGS HIM, to buy her and take her away, to help her, but no. 'She is Slave', and off he goes.

What a complete bastard!

I had thought I'd read these on and off until I'd read them all, and I may yet do so, but that moment right there more than any other really sticks in my throat. I think it'll be a while before I pick up book #9 now.

2 stars - partly because it was a little tedious chasing through the forest anyway... but mostly because of the entirely unbelievable way Bosk treated poor Elizabeth Caldwell. I'll never forgive him for this.

Glory Lane

Glory Lane - Alan Dean Foster I very nearly continued with this one, but in the end decided that with all the books waiting to be read in this world, not finishing Glory Lane by Alan Dean Foster is something that I feel I can live with.

It wasn't a bad book, as such. Just not the great piece of humorous sci-fi I felt it should have been. What didn't help in my case was my inability to really empathize with the protagonist, Seeth, the punk. Initially I was quite taken with this idea of having a punk as a lead character but I found it wore thin rather quickly.

The lack of a gripping story-line didn't do much to help matters to be honest. It seemed to take a long time to get to where it wanted to be, which when we did get there, didn't even seem to be worth the wait.

I nearly gave it 3 stars(as in, I liked it) because I didn't dislike it really. It just didn't grab me in any way at all. And I like to feel there's something in a novel that I can like.

Was OK. But only just, and not really worth plowing on through unless it's all you have left on the shelf.

Glitter & Mayhem

Glitter and Mayhem - Amal El-Mohtar, Maria Dahvana Headley, Laura Chavoen, Michael Damian Thomas, Damien Walters Grintalis, Cory Skerry, Sofia Samatar, Damien Walters, Kyle S. Johnson, Kat Howard, Seanan McGuire, Jennifer Pelland, Vylar Kaftan, Rachel Swirsky, Tansy Rayner Roberts, Diana Ro This was produced via kickstarter apparently. I didn't know that until I happened across a review, I think it was Tor.com I initially read about it. It's an Anthology that asked for submissions with a prompt of,

 "Roller Derby, nightclubs, glam aliens, (literal) party monsters, drugs, sex, glitter, debauchery, etc."


...which sounded like heaven to me. So I bought it for next to nothing on 'smashwords', about $3.95 or something I think, which was a steal considering one or two of the stories are worth more than that on their own.

I won't go through each story individually due to them all being well written and wonderful in their own way, but of course in every Anthology their are always the stories that you love more than others. For me I particularly enjoyed the ones that dived right into the whole 'Roller Derby' scene complete with various aliens and other strange goings on. It sent me right back to the '80s when we'd go daily to the hall in our local sports centre and stumble around the large wooden-floored hall there in an attempt not to go arse-upwards in time to the music that blasted out. I remember one lad that gained one hell of a reputation for being the best skater that ever lived. He was there all the time, whenever we arrived he would already be whizzing around, jumping over the fallen with unnatural ease and generally being a god of the rink.

I've never seen a real, proper Roller Derby but some of these stories really make me feel as though I have, while at the same time hoping I'll get the chance for real one day.

There are a few stories that didn't hit the spot with me at the time, the more serious ones usually, or those few that only very subtly hint at the whole 'Roller Derby, nightclubs, glam aliens...' prompt given to those submitting. However, I would jump at the chance to see a 'Glitter & Mayhem 2' enter the fray and will be keeping an eye out on their website just in case another kickstarter appears. If it does, do yourself a huge favour and jump right on it ASAP. I certainly will be. In the meantime, do yourself another favour and head on over to smashwords(or any number of other sites) and download the best time you'll have since those dim and distant memories of the '80s.

Fantastic Anthology. Highly recommended. Buy it now...!

Tick Tock: A Novel

Tick Tock - Dean Koontz This was a funny book, mainly due to the weirdness of some of the characters and not at all what you'd normally expect from Dean Koontz. It's about a man that receives a little cloth doll, it's left on his doorstep and he takes it into his house, which turns out to be the both the biggest mistake of his life, and also a terrific blessing due to the fact that it leads him to find a wonderfully eccentric young lady called Deliverance Payne.

The story is fast moving and the characters are truly memorable. Deliverance was a little too good to be true at times what with her being an heiress and having amazing magical/psychic type powers and all, but was otherwise a favourite.

Tommy's mother was very well done I thought, as was her friend the sorceress from the old country. One of the reviews I read of this book said that it had changed her life. It didn't change mine so much as simply reinforce views and beliefs I've held for a very long time, so for that also I'm also grateful.

A very enjoyable little tale set in a wonderfully weird and yet perfectly normal world. I can recommend it as a rollicking, light-hearted and at times thought-provoking read.

oh, and I almost forgot, there's a little twist near the end that was quite well done I thought.
SPOILER ALERT!

The Safety Of Unknown Cities

The Safety of Unknown Cities - Lucy Taylor My god! I really wish I hadn't read this book.

I knew before I started on this one that it wasn't going to be a light read, but even knowing that, I certainly didn't expect it to be quite so intense. It starts out with our protagonist, Val, travelling around from country to country and city to city as she always does. Being wealthy she can do as she pleases and so seems to have dedicated her life to the pursuit of pleasure, but even pleasure gets a little tedious after a while and she begins to think about a place known only as 'The City', a place her mother spoke of when she was little. By all accounts it's a place of such great pleasures and perversions that you'll never experience anything like it, ever, no matter what.

So, off she goes in search of a man she knows who she thinks may be able to direct her to this wonderous place. She finds him of course and here it begins to get a little stranger, with a more fantastical feel to the story. Surfice to say there's an incense burner and a lot of green flame and hey-presto you're in another place, yep, you're in 'The City'.

Up until now the story is much as I'd been led to believe, a bit of sex here and there and perversions noticed in passing and taken part in too, but once our, now two, protagonists enter 'The City' everything really turns perverted in the most extreme fashion you can imagine. The next god-knows-how-many-pages take you on a ride through just about every torturous, perverted, sick and depraved sexual activity that you'll ever have the displeasure to endure. I use the word endure because that's what it was for me. It truly was a test of endurance. I passed the test by reaching the end of this awful ride when Val manages to escape the sick perversions of 'The City' along with a young girl she brings with her back to the mundane world(who's mother incidently turns out to be her friend, Majeed, who she initially thought was a man only to find out quite early on is actually a hermaphradite). Majeed decides to stay on in 'The City' for reasons of his own, which I found to be a little odd, but then after forcing myself on through this sick-fest of a story, nothing really surprises me for long anymore.

Anyway, what can I say about a book like this?

Well, I can say in all honesty that I hope I never meet the author. I'm sure she's a very pleasant, well adjusted young lady, but am I willing to take the chance that she may be otherwise? No. No I'm really, seriously not. You could say that everything I've said here could be taken as a huge compliment, and you'd be right. It could. Or you could say that this story lingers on the sick and perverted acts with just that little bit too much gusto and zeal, and you'd be right there too. You could also say that the characters are well written as is the story as a whole, and you'd also be right there too. But when all's said and done I'm looking for books to take me out of a world I find to be quite dull and a little lacking at the best of times, a book whose story and characters I care about and want to either get behind or rail against or at least feel some sort of affinity with. Unfortunately, where this book fails for me is in the fact that I not only can't relate at all to any of the very unlikable characters, but the story itself goes where only a very sick mind would want to follow. This is a strange thing to say considering I love a good horror story and can usually take pretty much anything a novel, or in fact a movie can throw at me. I think what makes the difference here is the very fact that there really isn't any redeeming factor at all. It's characters are depressingly self-centred and intensly unlikable, while their goals in life amount to nothing more than the persuit of greater and greater perversions and more and more invented tortures. The sole thing of note that this novel left me with was a very deep and very unwelcome feeling of depression. And I mean that in a very real sense. I felt depressed. For hours and hours afterwards.

I'm entirely at a loss to find one single thing to recommend about this book to anyone. So why am I giving it 4 stars then? That doesn't make sense, right? Well, as much as this book left me with a lot of feelings I'd rather have not had, it is well written(even given the unlikable characters) and there is a story of sorts(if you're an unashamed sado-masochist at the most severe torture-porn end of the scale)

So. Not my cup of tea at all. I couldn't wait to finish it. I'm so glad I am finished it!

...and yet, I still feel it deserves 4 stars.

God, I'm soo depressed!
The Woods Are Dark - Richard Laymon Good ol Richard. Oh how I love thee. I've not read much of Richard Laymon so far but I intend to put that right as soon as possible. He reminds me very much of a well loved old slasher movie, or the best of Hammer Horror as seen through a few decades of rose-tinted nostalgia.

This version was put together by his daughter from his original writings after the original publisher messed up the editing when it was first published. I've not seen the original version but absolutely loved this one. It's not overly original at first glance, being a kind of Hills Have Eyes type of story, but it certainly does manage to surprise as the story moves on and has some very nice little twists and touches that I didn't expect. The main characters are portrayed quite well, or at least, well enough anyway, and I'd heartily recommend this to anyone who either wants to try some Richard Laymon or who has a weird love for old, atmospheric slasher movies. The sex isn't actually nearly as graphic as I'd thought it was going to be and somehow even the violence isn't up there with some of the more modern novels you get these days, so it fits right in with that classic slasher feel.

Anyway, very good read. Highly recommended.

Ghost Story

Ghost Story - Peter Straub I decided to finally read this after seeing it on almost every best of list I came across. Had to be an amazing read right? Nope. Started off very well with a man travelling around with a little girl who just seemed to be resigned to whatever was going to happen to her even though there was a marked air of something sinister beneath the surface. Then we cut to a little group of men who seem to get together regularly to tell stories, but again there's clearly something more to it. I'll never(probably) know what that something is because one by one they proceed to tell the most tedious stories you can imagine. I'm afraid I just don't have the inclination if I had the patience to wade through this kind of tedium any more. There are just too many books I want to read to waste time like that.

It's a shame that the author allowed the narrative to slow to a crawl after the first chapter because it really started very well. And it still amazed me that this is nearly always high on any horror best of list. I truly can't see why that would be the case even given the great start and a pretty good sinister, creepy undertone to the story. Just took too long to begin for my liking, and what I mean by that is, I feel the story really should have moved along a good bit further by the point I gave in, after all, I was heading for the 20% mark.

Disappointing, writing itself drew me in, but simply took too long to go anywhere and I just wasn't invested enough in the story by the time I decided to quit to attempt to continue in the hope it gets better.

Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee: An Indian History of the American West

Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee: An Indian History of the American West - Dee Brown Very good story of the near extinction of Native American Indians in the late 1800s. Extremely sad, and makes you wonder what hope there is for the human race in general when you read this type of story. Really made me think about the plight of others.

Each chapter tells part of the story, usually from the point of view of a different tribe, although there is some overlap. It's a part of American history that probably isn't that well known, at least, not in such great detail. Gives an excellent account of the mistreatment of an entire race of people but from their point of view.

Very highly recommended. Excellent.

The Plague of Sound (Flash Gordon, #2)

The Plague of Sound - Alex Raymond This is the second in a series of 6 books published in the 70s based on a comic strip by Alex Raymond. The first one was a little more entertaining, and to be honest I don't think I'll be continuing with this series of books. The characters are too flat and unengaging and the storylines aren't much to write home about really. Certainly the first of these two was a little better than this one, but looking back I think it was more of a novelty read than anything.

A very average read that felt a little flat and uninspiring.

Captive of Gor

Captive of Gor - John Norman This one very nearly got 5 stars this time, but for the fact that it did get a little repetative, and if I'm honest, a little tedious at about the 30-40% mark. Fortunately the tedium passed and it picked up nicely and swiftly developed into a really nice love story.

Tarl Cabot, or Bosk as he has come to be known nowdays, doesn't make much of an appearance here except right at the end but I found I didn't miss him too much. There's not too much of plot as such either, just one woman's memories of her capture and subsequent life as a slave. The love story that develops towards the later part of the novel between Elinor and her Master is done quite nicely I thought, although it was never going to be a surprise. John Norman has used this exact same little storyline before in pretty much the exact same way, so I'd like to see something a little bit different from now on.

Critisisms if any, well I've already mentioned that parts do tend to get a little laborious at times and I found myself speed-reading through almost 100 pages before it picked up and then held my attention very well right up to the end. Then there's that almost obligatory falling for the Master that seems to be getting to be a bit of a habit.

A good read if you skim parts of it, but not the best so far. Still quite enjoyable though and definitely not deserving of a lot of the critisisms I've read in a good many reviews.

It's really not all that bad...

Tao of Pooh (Wisdom of Pooh)

The Tao of Pooh - Benjamin Hoff Always been partial to a little Taoist thinking, and this has been written in a very accessible and entertaining way. I wondered if it might beat me at first when I realised I hadn't read any of the actual Winnie the Pooh books, but of course it makes no difference where this is concerned.

Needless to say, this book attempts to explain how we can bring the methodology of the Tao into our everyday lives in order to improve our lives in every way imaginable and thereby live the lives we were supposed to live instead of the lives many, if not most of us find ourselves living.

If I have one criticism of nearly every spiritual manual I've ever read, it's that it all seems so approachable and doable on paper... until you come to bring it into your own life. But I suppose there's only so much a book can do, the rest is really up to us. But this book at least tries to get around that by bringing it all down to earth using a well loved children's character, or characters. I liked it. I wish I could say it's going to succeed where all the rest have failed but I doubt that's going to happen. It is making me want to try though, so that's a big plus in its favour.

very good. I read it in one sitting which is always a good sign. Definitely the sort of book to be re-read, over and over. Highly recommended.