“A fun, action packed read that although suffers from a poor main character, is for the most part, entertaining and enjoyable – and allows for a great new take on zombies.” ~Bane of Kings, The Founding Fields
The first volume in D.J. Molles’s bestselling series, now in a special edition with the bonus novella The Remaining: Faith.
In a steel-and-lead encased bunker a Special Forces soldier wait on his final orders.
On the surface a bacterium has turned 90% of the population into hyper-aggressive predators.
Now Captain Lee Harden must leave the bunker and venture into the wasteland to rekindle a shattered America.
I’ll read pretty much anything post apocalyptic, not only because I love the genre, but also post apocalyptic fiction 8 times out of 10 will zombies and zombies are awesome. So with that in mind, I gave The Remaining a try, the first novel in the titular Remaining series by D.J. Molles, set in a world where a bacterium turned 90% of the population into aggressive predators.
We follow Captain Lee Harden, a Special Forcethe-remanings soldier in this world, and he’s our eyes and ears in the book for the most part – which like most stories of this type, take place in America. (Not a gripe about the book or anything, but I would love to see a zombie survival story set in London (or anywhere else in the UK for that matter) that isn’t Sean of the Dead for a change). Lee Harden is a fairly fun character to have as the main narrator, and unlike certain zombie fiction where the survivors aren’t normally involved with the military, Lee is a trained soldier – and this of course gives him an edge when it comes to fighting the new, hyper-aggressive predators.
However, don’t mistake the zombies for Walking Dead or World War Z copies. Rather than just being mindless fast or slow creatures, they can still talk. They’re smart too, and can plan tactics. You think mindless zombies are scary? Imagine what zombies could do if they actually could do more than just walk about in a large horde until they find something to eat? This change from the norm makes for an interesting read, but unfortunately there are several parts that didn’t make this book quite as good as it could have been.
First of all, for an Army Captain, Lee Harden makes a lot of stupid decisions, which was bugging me throughout the book. Molles’ character isn’t as well developed as he could have been, and unfortunately doesn’t have the sticking power that other characters have done in debut novels which is a shame because survival stories typically have a very small amount of cast, so if you don’t like the main protagonist then unfortunately there’s normally very little else. Take Alden Bell’s The Reapers are the Angels for example – one of my favourite novels from the sub-genre. Although obviously they’re different – Temple has a far greater impact on the reader than Harden does which is a shame. However, that said – there are more books in the series though, so it there’s a chance that he could grow on me as a character.
The combat sequences are fun to read, with some well written action from Molles. Whilst characters aren’t necessarily his strongest suite, he manages to deliver some entertaining action that does not disappoint – which is unfortunately falling into the trap of your average zombie read – good action, but the characters are usually poor.
Molles gets the pacing pretty much spot on however, the book moves fast. Despite any problems that I had with it, The Remaining managed to be a good page-turner, and I really sped through this book finishing it quickly. It’s also a decent enough start that I wouldn’t mind returning to the series if I was able to get ahold of the second book. It’ll be interesting to see if Moles improves, that’s for sure – because he’s got all the templates for a great storyline. Just improve the character work and we could have a great zombie thriller.
If you love zombies and want a refreshing twist on the sub-genre then this book may be up your street. Character development aside, The Remaining is a relatively solid book that’s action packed with some well written fight sequences – and as a result, it comes cautiously recommended – but obviously some will enjoy this more than others.
“A thrilling ride that proves Farnsworth is a very awesome writer. For those of you who are not on board with this series yet, all you need to know is that a Political Thriller with added vampires and other supernatural creatures make this book one hell of a read.” ~The Founding Fields
I love a good thriller novel, and when it comes with added supernatural element, the better. Christopher Farnsworth’s Blood Oath introduced us to the Vampire Nathaniel Cade, the Secret Agent working for the President of the United States and Zach Barrows, Cade’s ally. Whilst I completley missed the chance to read The President’s Vampire, the follow up, I was relieved to see that there was no cliffhanger ending for that book and Red White and Blood poses as a great returning point for readers who perhaps tried out the first book but didn’t get the second for whatever reason. That also applies to readers who are yet to read any of Nathaniel Cade’s adventures – what the hell are you waiting for? This is some seriously awesome stuff and Christopher Farnsworth is a really strong writer, having two books under his belt already and has ended Book three with a fantastic cliffhanger that really sets the stage for Book Four.
"A political operative and a volunteer are brutally murdered. Written in their blood on the wall of the crime scene: IT’S GOOD TO BE BACK.
In 145 years, Nathaniel Cade, the President’s vampire, has fought one particular evil over and over again: the source of urban legends and nightmares across the country. It has gone by many names and guises, but is best known by the one that all children instinctively fear: the Boogeyman. No matter how Cade kills him, the Boogeyman always comes back. When the killer begins targeting the president’s people on the campaign trail, Cade and his human handler, Zach Barrows, are tasked with cleaning up the mess before it spills over into the upcoming election. Cade and Zach must stop the one monster Cade has never been able to defeat completely. And they must do it before the Boogeyman adds another victim to his long and bloody list: the President of the United States himself."
As expected from a thriller/horror blend, the book itself is very gory, bloody and doesn’t let up throughout the book. There are deaths right the way through the book and all the victims of the Boogeyman are dying in gruesome ways. Cade is really tested to his limit in this book and Farnsworth has managed to make the book unpredictable, making it a very entertaining ride particularly as Cade and Zach are as strong characters as ever.
Farnsworth sets the book against the backdrop of an election campaign and it’s very interesting to see the political plotting of both sides and the lengths that they will do to control the White House. The political thriller aspect of Red White and Blood is very strong as well, and I would have enjoyed this book on its own if it was just a human serial killer being traced by an agent of the FBI in this political setting. But it’s more than that, the supernatural side of the book that Farnsworth brings to it manages to make it doubly entertaining, especially as vampires actually behave like monsters. There’s no Twilight nonsense here, and fans of the series will already be aware of what Cade is like as a vampire.
The book itself, much like the first one, has a very cinematic feel and at times you feel like you’re reading an action movie. This book fits right in with the books that you’ll find on display in airport shelves but it still remains a welcome addition to any horror or political thriller fan’s library, and that comes at a cost. There’s little room for character development, which is probably the only thing that I disliked about the book, as the characters are in some cases one dimensional and difficult to attach to as it feels like you’re reading a novelisation of a script. However, the premise is enough to draw you in – a vampire secret agent hunting a supernatural serial killer, complete with shadowy government conspiracies and an intense, thrilling read, you’ll soon find yourself not caring about the characters.
The book manages to be gripping, page-turning and very awesome. If, like I said above, horror and/or political thrillers are your thing, then you’ll want in on this book regardless of whether you’ve read Books One and Two. Superb stuff.
“An excellent book. Neil Gaiman fans will love this. A strong contender for the Best Book of 2013.” ~The Founding Fields
I’ve only read two Neil Gaiman book before – Coraline and American Gods (not counting graphic novels). And have loved both of them (and his Sandman Volume 1 was incredibly awesome), so needless to say – I was super-pumped for The Ocean at the End of the Lane. If I’d have remembered to make a Most Anticipated List for 2013, then this book would probably be very near (if not at) the top. As it was Gaiman writing his first proper adult novel since Anansi Boys in 2005, the expectation was, no doubt high. And there are two things that you’ll notice about The Ocean at the End of the Lane, one – before you start reading, the other after you finish. The first, is that the book is actually quite short. It’s not your average length for a hard-cover book, nor the average size. It’s short, clocking in at 200-300 pages. The second – is that apart from a sex scene, this could easily be a young adult novel. But that hardly detracts from just how incredibly awesome that this book is.
"Sussex, England. A middle-aged man returns to his childhood home to attend a funeral. Although the house he lived in is long gone, he is drawn to the farm at the end of the road, where, when he was seven, he encountered a most remarkable girl, Lettie Hempstock, and her mother and grandmother. He hasn’t thought of Lettie in decades, and yet as he sits by the pond (a pond that she’d claimed was an ocean) behind the ramshackle old farmhouse, the unremembered past comes flooding back. And it is a past too strange, too frightening, too dangerous to have happened to anyone, let alone a small boy.
Forty years earlier, a man committed suicide in a stolen car at this farm at the end of the road. Like a fuse on a firework, his death lit a touchpaper and resonated in unimaginable ways. The darkness was unleashed, something scary and thoroughly incomprehensible to a little boy. And Lettie—magical, comforting, wise beyond her years—promised to protect him, no matter what.
A groundbreaking work from a master, The Ocean at the End of the Lane is told with a rare understanding of all that makes us human, and shows the power of stories to reveal and shelter us from the darkness inside and out. It is a stirring, terrifying, and elegiac fable as delicate as a butterfly’s wing and as menacing as a knife in the dark."
One thing that you’ll notice is that there is no reliance on the usual mythology here that populates urban fantasy. There aren’t any Vampires, Werewolves, and certainly no Gods from any ancient Pantheon. But then again, it’s Neil Gaiman. You shouldn’t expect him to write an average, stereotypical urban fantasy featuring either a badass Buffy ripoff or an equally badass Harry Dresden ripoff. No, The Ocean at the End of the Lane is different. Unique.
Not many authors can write a story with a lead character that doesn’t even have a name, but Gaiman succeeds. His take on the seven year old boy is realistic, and deals with several themes – stuff that has been forgotten, dreams and the questioning of reality. This book, like Coraline before it, provides some creepy scenes, and yet – the book isn’t quite all horror. It doesn’t quite feel at home on a horror shelf, nor urban fantasy – nor fantasy itself for that matter. Every so often you come across a book that can’t quite fit into one clear genre, and The Ocean at the End of the Lane fills that category. It’s a superb book.
A strength in Gaiman’s writing was that he has managed to add a little extra to the ordinary, making his stories feel something more than they would in the hands of any writer. Even the most mundane moments of the book are given that extra feel – and thus has unfolded a wonderful tale. Fans of Gaiman only need three words of convincing in order to pick this book up, and they are “By Neil Gaiman.” His output is incredibly awesome, and he’s really good in a wide variety of settings as well - his two Doctor Who episodes were incredible, even if Nightmare in Silver may have not been as awesome as The Doctor’s Wife, and Sandman is one of my favourite graphic novels – although I am seriously behind on my reading, having only read Volume 1.
The book itself is written beautifully, describing a lost childhood in a wonderful way. There’s a nice nod to Batman that fans will appreciate, and that made me smile when I saw it. It’s not so overly glaring in your face in a way that it feels like the author is trying to include as many pop-culture references as possible (which is a similiar problem to what I’ve had with other books), and it just feels like it fits. I don’t want to spoil too much, but Gaiman’s work is best left going in with as limited knowledge about the plot as possible. All you need to really know is that Gaiman wrote it, and that should be enough.
“An intriguing mix of horror stories that proves that the genre can be very varied indeed. Giving classic monsters new twists.” ~The Founding Fields
Be“An intriguing mix of horror stories that proves that the genre can be very varied indeed. Giving classic monsters new twists.” ~The Founding Fields
Before we start this review, I’d just like to say that the Black Library Bolthole is one of my favourite forums on the internet if not my favourite, and if you’re into the works published by Warhammer 40k/Fantasy publisher Black Library, then you should certainly sign up for it, it’s a great environment frequented by some of the authors themselves. Although I was unable to contribute to the Anthology, I was glad when James Fadley, aka He2etic, the mastermind of this project and the contributor of a story himself, approached me through twitter to write a review of this anthology. Having seen some of the fanfictions of various contributors before, I leapt at the chance – wanting to see what work they’d be able to do in their own setting.
And I really enjoyed it. It’s a great mix of stories, and you don’t have to be a fan of Black Library in order to enjoy it, as there are no short stories set in the either the grimdark far future or the Warhammer world here. This is horror, and enjoyable horror at that.
"In generations past and, surely, generations to come, ancient tales of demons and monsters persist. Ghosts, vampires, werewolves, mummies, gargoyles and more. Some endure, familiar as they are terrifying. Others wear new faces and take new forms. From the twisted minds over at the Bolthole writing forums comes nine fantastic and dark tales of horror. Edited by Andrew Aston and CS Barlow, including a story by special guest author, veteran horror writer CL Werner, here is proof that you can teach an old monster new horrors…"
The Birth Howl by James Fadley
This anthology contains several short stories that take place across a wide range of settings. First up, we have James Fadley’s great opener, The Birth Howl, which is split into two parts and really sets the tone for the anthology to come. The story focuses on Detective Inspector Ian Stewart, and Fadley has chosen 1972 as a backdrop for what is essentially a murder mystery short with a supernatural element. Unpredictable, The Birth Howl delivers a stunning cliffhanger and will keep readers wanting to read more. I really think that the cliffhanger was timed perfectly here, allowing what would have otherwise been just one large story to be split in two, increasing the tension with some awesome results.
Ian Stewart is the main narrator and it is through his eyes that we get a look at the mystery. Having the main character as the narrator allows Fadley to pull a surprise for us in the second part of The Birth Howl allowing for a thoroughly enjoyable short story with a satisfying ending – one that kicks off this anthology with a bang and will make readers want to stick around for more.
Plague of the Krakenmari by Simon Howers
Plague of the Krakenmari follows on from James Fadley’s The Birth Howl and changes the setting completely, taking us to not just a whole new place but a whole different time. We not only get a perspective change, from third to first, but also a gender switch, the main narrator is a female rather than a male. All of these things allow for a refreshing change of pace and an interesting mystery which for me is probably another strong installment in the anthology. Howers’ story is set in Shureham, a small quiet neighborhood that is about to be plunged out of its depth when confronted with a monster that I’ve never encountered before in fiction – the Krakenmari.
It’s a very interesting option for a horror story and the Krakenmari really do help show the variety of what the horror genre can give us. I particularly liked the solution to how they could be defeated as well, and how the whole thing was resolved.
Whilst it wasn’t perhaps the most page-turning of reads, Plague of the Krakenmari was another solid entry in the anthology and one of the best.
The Sculptor’s Torment by Jonathan Ward
The Sculptor’s Torment is the third story in the anthology and again takes place in a different time and setting from the two stories that came before. With an even smaller dramatis personae than Plague of the Krakenmari, The Sculptor’s Torment is another strong instalment in the anthology telling another different type of horror tale from what we’ve seen before.
This is a great contribution, with a strong lead character in the form of David Lerman, and the only other major character, his Uncle Zak, are explored in great depth in this short. Whilst it is only a short, we do get to learn a lot more about them but of course the main focus is on the horror, and this tale is, like the ones before it – another chilling read. So far, this anthology has gone from strength to strength and is a really promising debut from the Black Library Bolthole Crew, and The Sculptor’s Torment really shows just that stories with minimal characters can also be the most powerful.
Unmarked by Andrew Aston
Unmarked is the next story in this anthology inspired by Ancient Egypt, and is another great contribution. I loved the way the characters interacted and Unmarked, along with the rest of The Black Wind’s Whispers, really shows why you shouldn’t underestimate self-published fiction. Sure, there are some disappointments, but overall, I really enjoy finding a self-published story (or in this case, anthology) that reminds me why I don’t overlook this method of publishing.
Another, chilling, atmospheric tale that really proves the strength of this anthology. So far, we’ve had four enjoyable tales out of four.
An Old Friend by Keanu Ross-Cabera
An Old Friend is Keanu Ross-Cabera’s entry to the anthology and is again limited to a short dramatis personae, telling the tale of an old man alone with a dog in house. Ross-Cabera really manages to make his contribution toThe Black Wind’s Whispersan entertaining one, and whilst I didn’t feel it was as strong as the ones that followed it, that doesn’t mean that I didn’t like it. It was certainly an enjoyable story that again, shows just how varied this anthology can be.
It does manage to chill you though, and although the main character isn’t as memorable as the previous characters – I had to look up his name whilst writing this review, something which I didn’t have to do with the others, the tale is nonetheless an engaging read.
“A thrilling, horror ride through a twisted new world. Horror fans will get as much a kick out of this as comics fans. Abnett fans should love this as“A thrilling, horror ride through a twisted new world. Horror fans will get as much a kick out of this as comics fans. Abnett fans should love this as well. It’s a stellar comic.” ~The Founding Fields
Writer: Dan Abnett | Art: INJ Culbard | Cover: INJ Culbad | Publisher: Vertigo (DC Imprint) Comics | Collects: The New Deadwardians #1-8.
So, I’ve never encountered an Abnett comic before aside from the first issues of Resurrection Man, and I was a bit unsure about whether I should dive into this graphic novel and read it or not. As this was before my read of Pariah, which I will be reviewing lately and wasn’t as enjoyable as I thought it would be – I’d never been disappointed by an Abnett novel before. Graphic novel though? I know Abnett can handle things fine out of the Black Library universe (Embedded & Triumff), but like I said, I wasn’t sure whether he could handle the comic medium (despite apparently successful runs on Guardians of the Galaxy [Something that I haven't read, but need to check out]), but after reading this graphic novel, rest assured – I no longer have any doubts. This mini series was superb, and Abnett at his best.
In this collection of the 8-issue miniseries, nearly every member of upper class, post-Victorian England has voluntarily become a vampire in order to escape the lower classes – who are all zombies! Into this simmering cauldron is thrust Chief Inspector George Suttle, a lonely detective who’s got the slowest beat in London: investigating murders in a world where everyone is already dead!
First of all, there’s an obvious premise that will draw readers to this book. The whole Zombies vs. Vampires, what would work and what wouldn’t – set in the backdrop of a post-Victorian England allows for some great thrills and Abnett, with art from Culbad, just makes the setting work. This is something that you couldn’t get in a novel and that the graphic novel setting just captures the premise perfectly.
The lead character, Chief Inspector George Suttle – is an interesting character. We’re drawn to support him particularly when you learn that he’s the only one that’s actually bothered to remain in his job despite being like everybody else - effectively dead. This makes us want to root for him even though he is a vampire, and whilst Abnett has twisted the traditional mythos slightly so they’re not as evil as Dracula and pals, they don’t sparkle and fall in love with teenage humans. They also still drink blood.