Once upon a time, there were three little girls who went to the Paris Opera. And they were each assigned very hazardous duties....now they work for meOnce upon a time, there were three little girls who went to the Paris Opera. And they were each assigned very hazardous duties....now they work for me. My name is Erik...
Kim Newman's latest collection stitches together some previously published novellas, with some entirely new material, and the result forms a very entertaining serial novel. The premise, typically fun and off the wall Newman, is essentially a blending of The Phantom of the Opera and Charlie's Angels. I know, it sounds corny as can be, but it isn't and works extremely well. The Phantom is Charlie, with the Persian as Bosley, and the Angels, who change throughout the years (roughly 1870-1910), are taken from a range of period novels and include the likes of Christine Daae, Irene Adler, Trilby O'Ferrall, Alraune, Eliza Doolittle, and so on. As with Newman's seminal ANNO DRACULA, spotting all the literary and pop culture references is half the fun, while the clever stories themselves provide the balance. Thrilling adventure, fantasy, and horror all come together in this excellent volume. If you've enjoyed Newman's ANNO DRACULA or DIOGENES CLUB stories, you'll love this. If you haven't read Newman before, it's as good a place as any to get started. ...more
Full Metal Jacket meets 28 Days Later in a lightning paced military thrill ride as the members of Charlie Company must fight for survival through theFull Metal Jacket meets 28 Days Later in a lightning paced military thrill ride as the members of Charlie Company must fight for survival through the 'zombie' infected streets of New York City. Sounds terribly predictable and cliched doesn't it? Well, it would be if it had been written by anyone other than Craig DiLouie. This is a well crafted piece of work that will have you tensing with unease and cringing in nervous expectation at every turn. DiLouie elevates a basic plot through strong characterization and exceptional use of language. I'm not generally one for military fiction, and even less of a fan of zombie fiction, but this combination of the two had me wanting more. A first rate read from start to finish and far more literate than most in the genre. Bravo!...more
Interesting read, with a very strong central concept, but ultimately not quite as engaging as I'd hoped, and that's unfortunate as the period and SF/FInteresting read, with a very strong central concept, but ultimately not quite as engaging as I'd hoped, and that's unfortunate as the period and SF/F tropes are entirely within my wheelhouse.
1890: A long-suffering soldier, Captain John Hardwick, is released from torturous captivity in Burma and returns home to an England ravaged by seemingly terrorist activity and is immediately recruited into a shadowy government sanctioned agency called the Apollonian Lycea (very much along the lines of Kim Newman's take on The Diogenes Club) and tasked with tracking down those responsible for the outrages ravaging London. Unfortunately for Hardwick, when a body disappears in a flash of light at Marble Arch, the so-called terrorists are quickly shown not to be bomb-happy Fenians, or like any other group of known radicals, but prove to be members of an expeditionary force from...dun dun dun...a parallel universe! Hardwick must come to terms with the notion and find a way to stave off the approaching incursion while dealing with his own personal ghosts and demons.
As I said, interesting read with a great SF/F multiverse concept at it's heart, very clearly going for a a portion of Mark Hodder's market share, but...it fell a bit short for me in terms of execution. The main problem, I think, stems from the characterization of the protagonist Captain Hardwick. Well, to be fair, none of the characters are particularly well-developed, but surely Hardwick, as protagonist, needed something more. He's a bit of a whiny prig with daddy issues who has his ass handed to him more times than not in physical conflicts, and repeatedly makes blindingly obvious poor choices, which makes him something of a hard character to root for throughout the length of the novel.
Other issues are the pacing and perfunctory 'style' to the writing. We spend an inordinate amount of time getting to know the largely uninteresting Capt. Hardwick, and his sketched in supporting players (Stalwart soldier Jim Denny and flamboyant fellow Apollonian Ambrose Hanlocke, the latter meant to be a sort of dashing Rudolf Rassendyll type) and the rest of the Apollonian setup, before really getting into the meat of the matter. It wouldn't have been a problem, really, had the characters been half as vibrant as their respective inspirations (Mark Hodder, for instance, occasionally goes off on all sorts of info regarding Richard Francis Burton and the poet Swinburne, without ever losing my interest) but Latham doesn't quite run with the characters and the potential isn't fully realized. It isn't until the introduction of the gypsies, specifically love interest Rosanna, where things start to move. But even then Hardwick's lacklustre character and ultimately whiny personality, kind of kill the action. Quite honestly, the guy is a douchebag and just never gets past that, so it's hard to engage as a reader. While mediocre characters can be forgiven, when presented with style in terms of writing, Latham, while highly competent, falls a bit short in prose styling.
Now, I've been fairly critical here, but don't get me wrong, it's a fun premise and not bad at all, just a bit flat around the edges. There's serious potential for the series, so I'll definitely pick up the second book - The Iscariot Sanction - when it is released in September 2016. ...more
It might have all begun with Kim's 1994 book The Original Dr. Shade and Other Stories. Or perhaps in the short story 'Clubland Heroes' that appeared iIt might have all begun with Kim's 1994 book The Original Dr. Shade and Other Stories. Or perhaps in the short story 'Clubland Heroes' that appeared in Joe Lansdale's anthology Retro Pulp Tales in 2006 (reprinted in The Secret Files of the Diogenes Club 2007). Or even a vague element of his most recent novel An English Ghost Story. But while all are obviously contributing factors, the heart of the story, as noted in the acknowledgements, is an expansion, or extension, of the 2010 novella 'Kentish Glory: The Secret of Drearcliffe Grange School' as published in Mysteries of the Diogenes Club. For longtime Newman fans, this sort of cross pollination is exactly as it should be, and for this reader, the result is an utter delight. For readers not so well grounded in Newman's sort of linked worlds, or an utter newbie to Newman's writing, or even someone coming directly from An English Ghost Story, it may be a slightly baffling read, at least so far as to why he's writing 'Girl's Own' style fantasy adventure in 2015.
This is nothing like the sort of scholastic bait and switch SF philosophizing in a Kazuo Ishiguro-esque Never Let Me Go, vein, nor is it the beautifully horrifying apocalyptic little-girl-done wrong ala Mike Carey's The Girl with All the Gifts (although if you blended those two books with a Ronald Searles 'St. Trinian's' cartoon, or the associated cinematic stylings, you'd be on the right track), instead it is unabashedly pure Grade-A Kim Newman Brit-pulp, with all the usual nods to external influences (Sally Nikola is clearly the spawn of Guy Boothby's Dr. Nikola) and his own previous work (Janice Marsh of 'The Big Fish' makes an appearance, as does Catriona Kaye of numerous Diogenes Club stories). In short, this is a glorious return to Kim Newman's 'Diogenes Club' stories form.
In a spoiler-free nutshell, the plot (it's a superhero origin story of sorts, if you've read the two Diogenes Club stories I mentioned above)revolves around young Amy Thomsett, a girl with an 'Unusual' ability, who is sent off to the Drearcliffe Grange boarding school for girls, shortly after WWI, where she gets caught up in some almost Lovecraftian extra-dimensional hijinx while trying to fit in with her classmates. Sounds simple? Almost YA-like? Well, don't be fooled, it's creepy, funny, and with some downright nasty moments, and it all comes together to be greater than the sum of its parts with Newman nailing the period language and character types perfectly.
As I said, perhaps not the best book to begin with to enter the delights of Kim Newman's vaguely connected worlds, although not the worst either, given that Titan will be reprinting Kim's 'Diogenes Club' stories shortly, it's not the worst place to get on board. Me, I loved it and look forward to more....more