I’ve long been meaning to read The Keep. It is the first in the Adversary Cycle, and ties in with the (later) RepairmanHe was dead. And yet not dead.
I’ve long been meaning to read The Keep. It is the first in the Adversary Cycle, and ties in with the (later) Repairman Jack novels. I have also seen it mentioned on numerous top-ten lists pertaining to Vampire Horror (although, to be fair, the author is very specific about the nature of his antagonist – but this is spoiler territory so I won’t go there).
So, does it live up to expectation?
Something in that air caused the hair on his arms and at the base of his neck to stand on end.
If you have read any of the Repairman Jack novels, you will already know what to expect from this book, although admittedly The Keep leans more toward straightforward horror whereas the Jack books follow a genre mishmash template. That said, you will not often feel too upset when characters get killed, since they’re mostly portrayed as fairly villainous themselves.
Something as dark and as cold as the chamber he had entered was awake and hungry and beside him.
I found this to be a fairly visual read, that’s to say it would probably make for a good film what with all the fantastic set pieces, not to mention the World War II backdrop. There are scenes here that are genuinely eerie and / or scary. What’s more, at times the story is quite ingenious, especially the concepts of Light and Chaos that the author introduces.
He was no longer in command of the keep. Something dark and awful had taken over.
Two gripes. There is a love story here that feels forced and awkward. It certainly has a place in the story, but at times the author lathers it on a bit thick and the fluttery-eyed sugary-sweet gloop is hard to stomach. In my experience when it comes to this sort of thing less is more.The second gripe that I do have comes from a rather abstract place. The cover art of the new Tor editions are rather unimaginative and, frankly, boring. I much prefer the artwork of some of the older editions.
She would fear the dark forever.
In closing, there are some nice conspiracy theories thrown in for good measure. You know, just to thicken the broth.
The Keep is a fairly solid entry in the Vampire Horror genre. Added bonus: it has some novelty value, especially if you already read Repairman Jack.
3.5 stars (which I have to round, because Goodreads doesn’t give me any other option)
When provoked, Sparhawk was not the most reasonable of men.
The Ruby Knight is a direct continuation of The Elenium, picking up almost exactly where ThWhen provoked, Sparhawk was not the most reasonable of men.
The Ruby Knight is a direct continuation of The Elenium, picking up almost exactly where The Diamond Throne let off, so don’t let grass grow beneath your feet between books. That said, this book doesn’t have the same impetus going for it; it takes a while to build up steam, and there is a lot of moving around from point A to B to C. There and back again…
“I'm starting to feel a very powerful urge to hurt some people."
“The Younger Gods of Styricum like symmetry. We were ten when we began this search, so now we have to be the same ten every step of the way.” Um. Really? As bizarre (and random) as some of the plot parameters appear to be, the big “revelation” at the end of the story actually puts everything nicely in perspective. It wasn’t a real surprise to me, since there are more than enough hints, to be honest. Eddings also seems to be foreshadowing events here that will only take place much later. As late as The Tamuli even.
"You're a bloodthirsty one, aren't you, Sparhawk?"
The action scenes are quite good. Counterpointed with the lighthearted vibe of the dialogue (and the story in general), though, it sometimes comes across as surprisingly dark and violent. Sparhawk is always entertaining though, since his impulses often place him (and his friends) in some rather awkward situations.
"Are you mad, Kalten?" Ulath exploded. "You want me to draw my axe on my own king?" "Of course not," Kalten grinned, "only on his funeral cortege. If he goes up against Sparhawk, he'll be drinking heavenly mead after the first pass."
The religious theme can be quite funny, since it touches on a reality that many can likely identify with: even among religious folk, there are different levels of commitment.
“You go with him, and if he tries to pray more than once a day, you have my permission to brain him." "That could have some interesting political ramifications, Your Majesty." "Lie about it. Say it was an accident."
In conclusion. It’s not as good as The Diamond Throne and it does get a bit repetitive, but it’s still fun, and I still want to finish the trilogy.
"That's a very ugly horse you've got there, you know?" "We're a matched set, Your Majesty."
Cover art – notes
Firstly: Keith Parkinson is responsible for the art, and it’s pretty good, but I’m not entirely sure what it relates to. That saurian fellow on the right confounds me. It isn’t The Seeker since that worthy is clearly depicted as insectile, and it most certainly isn’t Ghwerig the (stunted and hairy) Troll either. This leaves one possibility: namely the vaguely described being that Sir Tynan inadvertently summons by necromancy. Any thoughts?
Secondly, and lastly: Whoever designed the cover on the Del Rey mass market paperback should be severely chastened chastised. The cover art is cropped to death, and slotted into a little block at the bottom of the cover. It looks ludicrous, since you can only see the top half of the picture, like a child took a scissors to it. And to think, how marvelous the older editions looked…
“If he stops to pray one more time, I'm going to strangle him.” ...more
Vampires (or, as they’re called here, Archaics) in the Old West does certainly sound like fun. And in fact, on paper, there is a Another Tricksy review
Vampires (or, as they’re called here, Archaics) in the Old West does certainly sound like fun. And in fact, on paper, there is almost nothing wrong with this book (except perhaps the cover).
The premise of Blood Riders is fairly simple. Undead critters from Europe have arrived on American shores and are chowing down on the locals. Enter Franco Nero Jonas Hollister, a “disgraced” Yankee Cavalry officer, to put an end to the problem. Alongside the likes of Abraham Van Helsing and ninja shaman sidekick Burt Reynolds as Navajo Joe Sergeant Chee, all kinds of mayhem and uneven pacing ensues.
There is quite a bit of name dropping in this book: the story features a number of historical characters, such as George Armstrong Custer, Allan Pinkerton and Oliver Winchester. Is this a good thing or a bad thing? You decide.
I enjoyed the story, but at the same time it felt like a bit of a missed opportunity. For one thing, the latter end of the book is marred by an ‘orrible love story that seems slapped on only because the novel features Vampires and therefore it is expected. It seems to be the curse of the new Vampire fiction: writers feel compelled to insert a bit of the old fang banging.
The action sequences are well executed for the most part, although they are contained to a few large confrontations in isolated settings, which creates the feeling of “not much happening until a hell of a lot happens”. Since the approach here leans a bit more towards Urban Fantasy than Horror (the Archaics are not enigmatic horrors, but rather a race of beings that have lived alongside mankind, albeit in the shadows, and they have feelings too you know) the edge is taken off some of the proceedings. Vampires are just not that scary anymore.
I really wanted to like this book more (say, 4 stars), since it has a really cool setting. I will say this: the book is definitely better than the cover will lead you to believe. There are also some very good secondary characters, and a cool dog named… wait for it… Dog.
Skullduggery and dark doings, he thought. A dangerous prize and a lovely lady!
Great fun, this.
It is shared world fiction (one of my occasional guilty Skullduggery and dark doings, he thought. A dangerous prize and a lovely lady!
Great fun, this.
It is shared world fiction (one of my occasional guilty pleasures), so my expectations were aligned accordingly. However, this one still managed to surprise.
It was an ominous-looking thing, with a silver skull embossed in the center and dire runes inscribed at each hasp. The title was stamped out in silver chasing: The Sarkonagael, or Secrets of the Shadewrights.
When written right, the Forgotten Realms setting still offers a formidable helping of atmosphere. I suppose if you’ve never dabbled in D&D at least a bit, the appeal could potentially allude you, but this story is crafted competently enough for even casual fantasy readers to enjoy.
The night's work demanded clothes that fit like a shadow over a grave.
I found Jack Ravenwild to be an endearing protagonist, despite (or perhaps because of) his ambiguous nature. He is a rogue and a thief and a scoundrel, but he is pretty entertaining, and his Dread Delgath personality is nothing short of hilarious.
"Come out, come out, little thief," the demon hissed. Its voice was thick oil poured over a hot stove.
As you would expect from a Forgotten Realms novel, there is more than enough action. It’s presented quite well too.
I especially enjoyed the portrayal of fighting sequences involving magic (the magic use in this novel is excellent throughout, Jack is pretty adept for a rogue class character, which may annoy purists. It is, of course, explained towards the end of the story.)
Jack picked himself up and launched a deadly magical attack of his own, a pair of streaking force globes that hammered into the shadow and detonated with brutal force.
Keeping track of the clues in the Game of Masks is quite a feat, but it adds another layer to the story. To be clear: there’s quite a lot going on in this book (Baker packs a lot of story into just a little more than 300 pages) and not everything is clearly connected other than the fact that the protagonist is involved in some way or the other.
The wind screamed like something flayed alive as they dropped into the darkness.
In conclusion: I found the story involving and very well paced, mostly because of the lively fashion in which the protagonist is portrayed. As a Forgotten Realms novel it succeeds in spades, but it can also be read in isolation. The weakest bit is the grand finale, where things inevitably get a bit OTT.
4 stars... because it was so much fun to read and because I still have a soft spot for the Forgotten Realms setting.
"Dungeon delving is an occupation for those unfortunate souls who have demonstrated that they are too stupid, ill-tempered, or incompetently noble to hold down any honest job."
Another review that’s far more difficult than the book actually warrants.
The story deals with the legendary retired hero Druss Kell, who wields the faAnother review that’s far more difficult than the book actually warrants.
The story deals with the legendary retired hero Druss Kell, who wields the famous battle axe Snaga Illana (um, in all fairness, the author does cite David Gemmell as a big influence) and the events surrounding an invasion by an army of vampires.
And no, they’re not real vampires either. The Vachines are basically a race of beings (humans) that have had their internal organs removed and replaced with clockwork machinery in order to make them stronger and more durable. Now they need blood-oil to, well, oil the workings. It’s a fairly interesting concept, if a bit grim, and somewhat more complicated than my quick description here will lead you to believe.
Speaking of grim. One can’t help but wonder about a story where (rather crude) expletives are used to refer to sexual organs during intercourse. It seems a bit juvenile, but that could just be me being prudish? On the other hand: almost every single female character in here is either brutally raped or exploited or tortured. It’s that kind of book… for better or worse.
Kell’s Legend most certainly is not for everyone. It’s got plentiful action (it’s fairly bloody as heck) which will appeal to some, but it is a bit “rough around the edges”. Only recommended to hardcore fantasy readers who like their fantasy gritty.gritty.gritty.
But, and here’s the thing, I actually find myself wanting to read the next one (Soul Stealers). I’m curious how this is going to pan out. One thing that Remic seems to be good at is cliffhangers. I may yet revisit this review one day.
damn this rating system I have no idea how much to give this book 2.5 stars ...more
Suddenly, with a magician's flourish, he produced a skull. He held it high over his head with his strong left arm and turned slowly around in a compleSuddenly, with a magician's flourish, he produced a skull. He held it high over his head with his strong left arm and turned slowly around in a complete circle so each man could see the large, distinctive, high-domed shape. The men stared at the cave bear's skull glowing whitely in the flickering light of the torches.
Contemporary anthropology can be pretty confusing, and science may have disproved some of what’s on display here, but this novel does feel like it was well researched at any rate, so let’s leave it at that. It’s still just a story, and an historical-fantasy at that.
“The child has a totem, a strong totem. We just don't know what it is.”
And we all know the story by now. Cro-Magnon girl is orphaned by earthquake and is adopted by Neanderthal clan: drama and intrigue follows. It’s no surprise that emphasis is laid on the differences, and perceived differences, between H. neanderthalensis and H. sapiens.
(I found the “Caveman” names quite typical, and amusing: Eg. Grod, Droog, Groob, Crug and for obvious reasons, Durc.)
This book was pretty huge back in its day. It also seems to be provoking all kinds of debate. The reviews on goodreads alone make for interesting reading, and more than a little contradiction. Is the book racist? Is the book sexist? Is the book factually correct?
More to the point: is the book any good?
He had a sudden understanding of the gulf between the mind of this girl and his own, and it shook him.
The intimacies of clan interaction does have a terrifically epic backdrop in prehistoric (paleolithic) Europe and something that the author conveys quite well is the solitude; you really do get the idea that there are not many people around. However, expect a bit of an infodump: there are pages and pages of depictions of plants and their medicinal properties. If you can skip-read over these, you’ll read the book in half the time I did (I compulsively read everything).
She was part of nature's new experiment, and though she tried to model herself after the women of the clan, it was only an overlay, a facade only culture-deep, assumed for the sake of survival.
It’s an interesting story, but also somewhat cyclical, with some events seemingly repeated in some form or other throughout the story. Season follows season; day to day depictions of paleolithic Neanderthal life serving as backdrop for the pissing contest between Ayla and Broud; wash, rinse, repeat.
Something that reviewers seem to be skirting around is the rape scene depicted in the story. I found it fairly brutal, given the context (the victim is a 10-year girl), even if it does serve to move the story along. I would have expected the author to exhibit a modicum of sensitivity in the prose, but alas. The reason I’m mentioning this incident specifically is because it did influence my reading experience. Perhaps this is the idea, to set a more sinister tone for the rest of the novel.
We don't know why your totem has led you to follow that ancient path, but we cannot deny the Spirit of the Cave Lion; it must be allowed.
In the end, it’s testament to the staying power of the novel that I still enjoyed it despite its shortcomings. With a tweak here and an edit there it could have been great; as it is it’s still very good.
3.5 Stars Read as part of the must-read agreement with my wife – 2015
I wasn’t aware when I started reading this that it is actually the second book in a series. The author does fill the reader in, but I can’t help but wI wasn’t aware when I started reading this that it is actually the second book in a series. The author does fill the reader in, but I can’t help but wonder how much this affected my reading experience. For one thing, the character development here is rather lacking, and it is possible that the author fleshed them out sufficiently in book 1 (Beyond the Gap). I guess I’ll never know, since I don’t intend on going back to the first novel at this stage, if ever. I do, however, own book three (The Golden Shrine) and will probably read that at some stage.
While the premise of The Breath of God appealed to me greatly, I’m a bit torn about the execution. Harry Turtledove appears to be a very popular author, but I struggled to get used to his writing, and especially the dialogue. The easiest way to describe it is that it felt like it was translated from another language. I’m not saying that it’s bad, only that it wasn’t particularly to my liking.
The story is also slightly hampered by glacially slow pacing (pun intended) and a throwaway “love story” angle that I felt was at odds with what the author was attempting. There are also a delightful number of anachronisms: one of my favourites being a warrior looking at the stars and contemplating the way the “Milky Way” glitters. How much did prehistoric man know about this kind of thing?
I also didn't quite get some of the characters. Like Gudrid, for example. What on earth is that all about?
Anyway, maybe that’s just me nit-picking. On the whole I don’t have a lot to say about this novel, other than the fact that it does redeem itself a bit towards the end (I still want to read the next novel to see how everything unfolds). It wasn’t particularly bad but it wasn’t particularly good either.
Now began our real journey. Hitherto our toil had overcome all difficulties, now difficulties would spring up at every step. I had not yet ventured toNow began our real journey. Hitherto our toil had overcome all difficulties, now difficulties would spring up at every step. I had not yet ventured to look down the bottomless pit into which I was about to take a plunge. The supreme hour had come.
OK so if you’re a reader of Science Fiction, and especially the classics, you owe it to yourself to read some Jules Verne. Not only was he enormously influential in the genre, but he is responsible for stories that are still popular to this day.
What human power could restore me to the light of the sun by rending asunder the huge arches of rock which united over my head, buttressing each other with impregnable strength?
The story here is not unfamiliar. In fact, it’s been well covered by film and television, as well as the illustrated medium, a great many times. I will therefore not go into great detail around the plot, other than to say that it deals with a journey into the earth’s crust and below (much like the title states).
So, then, the dream in which I had had a vision of the prehistoric world, of the tertiary and post-tertiary periods, was now realised. And there we were alone, in the bowels of the earth, at the mercy of its wild inhabitants!
It’s an adventure novel, really, and not hard science fiction by modern standards. However, it would have been a very different story at the time of first publication (1864). The scientific discussions presented here must have been positively electrifying.
There are only a few characters and none are truly fleshed out. This, I think, is a symptom of the genre and the time it was written. Science Fiction has come a long way since 1864.
It is apparent that the author was aiming not only for a base to present his own scientific beliefs (the book does enter “lecture mode” on a few occasions) but also to press some “sense of wonder” buttons in his readers. I didn’t read the book in the original French but in English, alternating between the Penguin Classic translation and the Gutenberg Project translation (there are some interesting comparisons / differences between the two but that is a discussion for another time). Still: it is obvious, even in translated form, that Mister Verne had a flair for the dramatic and knew how to spin a yarn. Respect.
From that hour we had no further occasion for the exercise of reason, or judgment, or skill, or contrivance. We were henceforth to be hurled along, the playthings of the fierce elements of the deep.
3.5 – 4 stars
Read as part of annual “have to read” agreement with wife – 2015 ...more
Readers please take note – you can not start reading the Repairman Jack novels here. You really, really need to go back and start with The Tomb (AdverReaders please take note – you can not start reading the Repairman Jack novels here. You really, really need to go back and start with The Tomb (Adversary Cycle, #2).
Now then :
All The Rage
In a parallel literary universe somewhere between Fringe and Supernatural, consisting of a dollop of Horror, a slice of Science Fiction & Fantasy, a smattering of Techno-thriller, a dash of Action & Adventure and a wee bit of Suspense lies the genre-defying world of the Repairman Jack books.
This entry is no different.
A premonitory worm of unease began to wriggle in [his] gut.
The author paints a rather scary picture concerning the effects of a drug titled, rather aptly, Berzerk. (I’m not particularly fond of crowds myself, but crowds of raging psychotic crazy people? Not fun). Jack is pulled into this in a rather oblique fashion, when he is contracted by a concerned employee to investigate some strong arm tactics against her employer, who just happens to be a big shot in the pharmaceutical industry. Jack obviously uncovers some nastiness and the game commences.
“Never seen anything like it. Like they all went crazy at once.”
I probably did mention this in one of my previous Repairman Jack reviews, but this is one guy you don’t want to piss off. I’ll say one more thing for the Repairman Jack novels: they are tense. When things go right, they go punch-the-sky right, but when things go wrong they go very wrong.
The drug angle was actually not my favourite part of this novel: I was much more partial to Ozymandias Prather’s Travelling Circus and Oddity Emporium. Okay, so obviously everything is connected here, but still. There is a fantastic re-introduction of an old acquaintance, which I can’t go into since it is elite spoiler territory.
A chill ran over her skin.
Yes – the otherness is mentioned (although no new details are forthcoming)
Yes – there are tires that fall out of the sky
Yes – Gia is rather annoying, but at least she doesn’t feature much
Yes – there is a [spoiler]
Yes – you should read this series
And then a scream of fear and mortal agony echoed through the trees, rising toward a shriek that cut off sharply before it peaked. ...more
The third Repairman Jack novel, and again it’s nothing like the previous two. Conspiracies is the weirdesA dream, or real? And where did it come from?
The third Repairman Jack novel, and again it’s nothing like the previous two. Conspiracies is the weirdest so far; it deals with the sort of fringe – or pseudo-science horror also found in novels like The Bad Place… but with a pulpy charm and an endearing vigilante protagonist that just about makes it irresistible.
Jack felt a raw uneasiness wriggling through his gut, a vague awareness that he was riding toward big trouble.
As I’ve mentioned in reviews before, this kind of thing can be hit or miss, but F. Paul Wilson seems to be playing by his own rules with the Repairman Jack novels. You see, despite being macabre and dealing with horror themes, these books are actually an immense amount of fun to read. They’re also not same-y. That’s to say, each story is clearly definable and unique, despite forming part of a series. This particular book does suffer from coming dangerously close to being hokey, but the author seems well aware of the limitations of the subject matter and manages to steer well clear of pitfalls (for the most part).
He is not alone in the room.
The one consistent thing is that these novels are exceptionally well paced. Like it’s predecessors, Conspiracies just kind of reads itself. Efficient and effective, you have to love that in a book.
We can sense the Otherness on the far side of the door, we can smell its hunger.
This is also the novel that introduces the concept of the Otherness. I’m assuming this is what ties the series together, but since I’ve only read three Repairman Jack novels I can’t say for sure. It does link Conspiracies back to both The Tomb and Legacies. Just how this concept plays out going forward, I’ll have to wait and see. In the end, it’s a labyrinth of tantalizing what-ifs and could-it-be’s. Needless to say, I have already ordered the next three books…
The wonder is gone, leaving only the terror.
Whether you’re shelving these as supernatural thrillers or horror novels, they certainly do pack a fair amount of scares. Since we’re dealing with a series I suppose the edge is slightly blunted since the reader is somewhat assured in the fact that the protagonist will “live to fight another day”, so to speak. However, things do get somewhat eerie, and the cheesy-but-apocalyptic OTT finale was palm-drenchingly tense. Holy catspats!
[He] lay in the dark, trembling, staring at the shadows on the ceiling, afraid to go back to sleep. ...more
Life really sucked sometimes. But it didn't have to suck all the time. Sometimes things could be fixed.
Well, this one just read itself.
This is the secoLife really sucked sometimes. But it didn't have to suck all the time. Sometimes things could be fixed.
Well, this one just read itself.
This is the second Repairman Jack novel. It’s a great book. If you’ve read The Tomb (Adversary Cycle, #2) you may be entering this book with a certain expectation. Well, let me just come out and say that Legacies is every bit as good, but without the supernatural elements of its predecessor. No, the “weird” factor in Legacies is driven by pseudo science, and reads more like a conspiracy theory / techno thriller than a horror story. This is a good thing; it’s clear that the series isn’t going to stick to a specific template.
Repairman Jack, of course, is the guy who doesn’t exist. He is also the guy who fixes things. At a price, of course.
Rarely have I read anything containing a more resourceful and quick witted protagonist. He collects old films and action figures, and he belongs to the Avengers and Captain America fan clubs. He also happens to be proficient in hand-to-hand and close-quarter combat and in altering his appearance. He’s a bit like MacGyver, Batman and Sherlock Holmes rolled into one, if you will. Plainly put: he’s the guy you want on your side in a fix.
This carnage was certainly not the work of an average citizen.
Something that I found particularly fascinating in this novel was the “Building Hacking”. I wasn’t familiar with this "pastime", and at first I thought it was something the author made up, but it isn’t. No doubt some dramatic flair has been added and the requisite amount of artistic license exploited, but still. And no, it has nothing to do with computers.
[He] didn’t like this at all. His curiosity was being overtaken by a creepy feeling.
Pick up the "Abominog" album by Uriah Heep and stare at the front c[He] didn’t like this at all. His curiosity was being overtaken by a creepy feeling.
Pick up the "Abominog" album by Uriah Heep and stare at the front cover for at least five minutes. No, make that ten. Congratulations, you have now assimilated Origin.
If that thing on the "Abominog" cover looks like it can take a nasty bite out of you… it’s because it probably can, as this book also sets out to prove.
[Its] lips creased back, revealing a huge valley of yellow, jagged teeth.
This book is quite a conundrum for me, insofar as reviewing it is concerned. It is fairly sparsely written, that’s to say the author keeps things lean, and that makes it easy to read. Even so, it takes a while to really get moving.
Judging by the small print on the cover this is a technothriller. I understand why the author would want to sell it as such, but given the collection of broken people, the religious undertones and the gorefest that eventually ensues it’s hard for me to classify it as anything other than Horror (why? Because these are all horror staples as far as I’m concerned)
But his voice – soft, low, almost seductive – was the voice of a thousand nightmares.
Speaking of broken people: some of the characters here have serious issues and would be better off in psychiatric care. The problem is that I didn’t really care much for any of them. This is never a good thing when reading dark fiction. Oh look, so-and-so is being killed in terrible fashion! Oh well… them’s the breaks.
One of the better bits in the book concerned the differences between the Judeo-Christian religions (Judaism and Christianity). I got some interesting stuff from there, although I’m not sure I’ll remember all (or any) of it. The same thing goes for the science-y stuff. There’s a lot of discussion about DNA, genetic manipulation, genome sequencing et al. Interesting, but in the end a lot of it probably just went over my head.
It’s maw stretched open, bloody drool leaking down its chin.
Origin, and more specifically, the main antagonist, will no doubt evoke a mixed response. Things aren’t what they seem and frankly, the book leaves the reader with more questions than answers. There are some cool twists, however, and an interesting ending. I mentioned earlier that this is a reviewing conundrum for me, and that’s because I enjoyed the book, but I really wanted to enjoy it more. Some aspects of the plot just didn’t seem to gel all that well. In the end it was good but not great.
My initial impression of A Gathering Of Crows wasn’t favourable, but as the story progressed I found myself changing my mind quite a bit. For one thinMy initial impression of A Gathering Of Crows wasn’t favourable, but as the story progressed I found myself changing my mind quite a bit. For one thing, this story features Keene’s mysterious mythos dealing with “The Thirteen” which is fabulous stuff, and reminiscent of the ideas H.P. Lovecraft liked to employ. And for another, this book also features a rather endearing and somewhat out-of-the-box protagonist in the ex-Amish magus Levi Stoltzfus, who roams the countryside fighting supernatural evil, not completely unlike the Winchester brothers in the TV series. There is one big difference though: instead of driving a muscle car, our bearded hero utilizes a horse and cart, much to everybody’s bewilderment (the story does take place in a present-day setting).
I had come across the mythos of The Thirteen when I read Darkness on the Edge of Town but I didn’t know that it was a theme that was shared across other Keene novels. I have also, in the meantime, become wise to the fact that there are other Levi Stoltzfus novels as well, which I will certainly add to my TBR list.
In a nutshell, this Horror story deals with five shady characters arriving at a backwater town and creating havoc in the form of grisly murder and mayhem. The town also gets cut off from the rest of the world, creating an environment of isolation (again, much like Darkness on the Edge of Town). If you enjoy novels dealing with the occult and with a fair bit of gore, this might be up your alley. There is also a bit of fantasy thrown into the mixture, but it’s generally dark stuff all round. The big mystery, of course: who are these five men and why are they doing this?
If you’ve read Brian Keene before, you’ll know what to expect. That said, this isn’t the best Keene book I have read so far, so maybe it isn’t the ideal place to start. Keene is immensely popular in horror circles, but I do find him to be a bit of an acquired taste.
And I again I am thwarted by the Goodreads rating system. This book is not 4 stars, and it is not 3 stars, it is 3.5 stars. Or, 7 out of 10. So, do I round up or down? I’ll just toss a coin. Or a severed ear. ...more
This book has a good number of things going for it. I particularly enjoyed the characterization of All she could do was stand there and scream.
This book has a good number of things going for it. I particularly enjoyed the characterization of Repairman Jack. There are also some Lovecraftian references that fans will recognize.
Striding down the dark passage like the avatar of a vengeful god, came Jack.
I can imagine that followers of the Agent Pendergast series (Relic), the Charlie Parker series (Every Dead Thing) or the Harry Dresden series (Storm Front) would enjoy this, especially considering that The Tomb predates all of these by more than a decade. It is the first novel in a horror / supernatural series, so don’t go into this expecting crime fiction. There will be beasties and there will be blood! blood! blood!
…there were rustling and scraping and grunting sounds coming from the darkness beyond that door.
It’s an enjoyable enough romp with some interesting twists. Some I saw coming. Some I did not. Not too much more I can say about The Tomb. It isn’t subtle and it isn’t fancy, but it gets the job done. I will certainly be reading the other books in this series.
She glanced up over the hood and froze in horror at the sight of a dark, dripping, glistening form rising out of the bay.
There is so much that happens in this novel, that any thoughts I can cram into one review will always be woefully inadequate.
Don't you sTricksy Review
There is so much that happens in this novel, that any thoughts I can cram into one review will always be woefully inadequate.
Don't you sometimes think there's more to life than order? Don't you want just a little magic?
It is perhaps a good thing to read this book three decades down the line, separated from the hype that so weighed it down when it was first published. 50% Horror; 50% Dark Fantasy. 50% Straub; 50% King, and yet not anything you would have expected from either.
The quotes from Mark Twain, that open and close the story, make me think that Jack Sawyer’s surname isn’t coincidental, although I reckon The Talisman is more Huckleberry Finn than Tom Sawyer.
There was too much death, the world was half-made of death.
The novel requires a flexible mind, and is based on the assumption that other worlds exist just below the surface of the one we all live in. Normally this kind of thing would only appeal to me in a purely Science Fiction setting, what with “parallel worlds” and all that. However, the authors manage to keep things tight, and steer clear of over-indulgence. It’s a story about the fantastical, but it’s also a chilling tale of fear and the macabre. This is not Narnia.
He went down the stairs on all fours, silent as oiled smoke, eyes as red as brake lights.
As befits any good supernatural Horror story, there are some fearsome critters to be found here. Not all are inherently evil, though, and I suppose anyone who reads this will love the character of Wolf.
There was madness here, and walking death, and gibbering irrationality.
The transformation of Traveling Jack, from Jack Sawyer to Jack Sawyer, is handled masterfully. It represents one of the most palpable feats of character development I have ever read.
There were some sequences that I felt didn’t positively influence the general feel of the novel, but that is my personal opinion. Also, towards the end things get a bit messy; the final, climaxing scenes are interminably drawn out for no apparent reason. This is the only reason I’m not giving it five stars.
It’s a story that will probably resonate with me for a while, and I might have more to say on the issue, but not right here and now.
In 1973 Frank Frazetta painted The Death Dealer. It is a rather provocative piece of work as far as fantasy art goes, featuring a sinister figure atopIn 1973 Frank Frazetta painted The Death Dealer. It is a rather provocative piece of work as far as fantasy art goes, featuring a sinister figure atop a large black steed and wielding a bloody axe; face lost in shadow except for two smouldering red eyes gazing contemptuously out of the frame. It also has its own Wikipedia entry.
He stripped each body and made a blanket from their leather tunics. He heaped their armor and weapons along with his broken axe and helmet on the blanket, tied them in a bundle. He drank from the stream in animal fashion, and washed most of the dry blood and gore off his body. Then he picked up the bundle, heaved it to his back, and started down a narrow trail beside the stream.
In 1988, the first in a series of novels entitled “Frank Frazetta’s Death Dealer” was published: it was titled Prisoner of the Horned Helmet. The author (James Silke) draws his inspiration directly from Frazetta’s painting, and strives to infuse the story with the same menace and grittiness that Frazetta so successfully portrayed. It is also, unsurprisingly, a nod to the works of Robert E. Howard and his contemporaries. The prose is purple and the battles are bloody; the somewhat psychotic (anti) hero protagonist says nary a word and scantily clad maidens swoon at the first sign of danger.
Politically correct this may not be, but it is powerful stuff. The first battle featuring Gath of Baal (a.k.a. the Death Dealer) is nothing short of breathtaking. He is somewhat invincible, which negates the stress factor to an extent, but hot-damn if I’d gotten hold of this in my teenage years I may well have pursued a career in pillaging or, barring that, writing.
He was a massive horned demon of black metal and sinew graced by golden light, drinking air and holding the bridge with booted feet as if all the elements were personal possessions. The helmet had transformed him. He was death, and he had never felt so alive.
Does the novel succeed in what it sets out to do, i.e. to bring to life the Death Dealer of Frazetta’s painting? To an extent, sure enough, but it does have some shortcomings: the plot is on the thin side and there is no character development to speak of. It’s a simplistic and occasionally silly story, but hey, who cares? They don’t make them like this anymore. If anything, you need to read this for the adrenaline fueled and uncompromising fighting sequences. Also: if you really wanted to, you could think of this book as “Beauty and the Beast” on some seriously hardcore enhancement drugs.
Finally, a note on the cover art, also by Frank Frazetta. I always appreciate it if I am able to relate the cover of a book to its contents. In this instance we have Gath of Baal laying into some slave drivers at the ruins of a place called “Chela Kong”. Yes, it’s in the book. I’ll be rating this quite high, thank you very much. Nothing wrong with some pulpy goodness every now and then, although it’s not quite as good as, say, Karl Edward Wagner's Dark Crusade. ...more