The Night Sessions, by Ken MacLeod.

Intriguing police procedural, set a few dozen years in the future and predominantly in Scotland. The Earth’s groaning in the wake of some fairly nasty climate change problems, resulting in a pair of massive space elevators being constructed to facilitate vast, floating solar barriers in an effort to mitigate UV radiation. Robots are becoming relatively commonplace and some of them are developing artificial intelligence, which is something of a problem for the general community as they don’t quite know how to deal with it — or integrate them properly into society. Add to this the fallout from the Faith / Oil War, which has effectively banned religions of all kinds, and we have a very interesting world postulated.

Into this mix we have the bombing murder of a man who turns out to be a Catholic priest, a title which has no official standing in this new world and has cause for potential future political ramifications, especially since religious terrorism has effectively been wiped out by the ‘winning’ of the Faith War. Casualties with ‘underground’ religious affiliations begin to mount as the protagonists, a Scottish police inspector and his robot aide-de-camp (once-combat mech) Skulk, desperately try to work out what is going on — and whether extremist religion is making a monstrous comeback as a very significant anniversary approaches…

Enjoyed very much. Particularly liked the fairly harsh, albeit balanced, treatment of religion — it effortlessly segued into an e-mail meme that’s circulating at the moment that’s very resonant and powerful: a picture of the World Trade Centre twin towers with John Lennon’s words: Imagine no religion beneath it. The story isn’t horribly politically correct (it can’t be with that type of subject matter) and doesn’t mince words as it beats down on the religious, the authorities and the fundamentalists alike.

The interaction of robots and people was also compellingly drawn, especially the sensitive and awkward issue of incipient artificial intelligence spreading like a slow virus through otherwise non-sentient machine workers… and the hideous potential for fundamentalist religious extremism to infect even the inhuman.

It becomes a bit chaotic towards the end (and not a little nihilistic either), but in the main MacLeod keeps all of the many balls he’s juggling in the air and the effect is, for the most part, mesmerizing. Definitely recommended.

 

 

 

…unfortunately, unlike the following three:

The Caryatids, by Bruce Sterling.

 

Well, I liked the cover…

This is a mad, sprawling, incoherent future-tech-dying-planet-eco-disaster, er, splat of a novel. One of those books where the ideas outpaced the story — in fact, the story seemed almost nonexistent, or at most very flimsy indeed. Four clone women in different situations, bred to be avatars of now obsolete technology, trying very hard to… nope. Didn’t get it. Doesn’t mean others won’t, but for me The Caryatids fell very, very flat: it was like a future-tech wiki and a Greenpeace screed met in a bar, fell in lust over a few cigarettes and then went home and tried to shag out a story before realising they were sexually incompatible. I applaud the intent, loved some of the ideas, but the whole didn’t work at all…

 

 

…rather like Palimpsest, by Catherynne M. Valente — and I’ll be brief with this one. Style over content, and of the latter there was none. People dream their way into a fantastical world, the trigger to enter (no pun intended) is sex with someone who bears a tattooed map of this oneiric wonderland. And then… nothing happens except a few weird sights, incomprehensible rituals and/or conversations, and a desperate neeed/want, like drug withdrawal, to stay there forever.

Not I. Unfortunately I wanted to leave from the moment I first got there, and am still somewhat surprised I persevered through to the end. If dreamy, poetic but ultimately meaningless prose and ridiculous, improbable characters desperately seeking escape into a world that makes no sense and is drawn about as clearly as a charcoal sketch on a blackboard is your thing, then go for Palimpsest and good luck. I like a little story with my opium musings, thanks….

 

 

 

…and that brings us to the titular ‘urgh’, which I will keep short and sweet:

Brian Keene’s Castaways.

  • Apparently a homage: Jack Ketchum’s Off Season and elements of Richard Laymon’s original ‘Beast House’ trilogy;
  • Apparently a homage: the television game-show Survivor;
  • Has cannibal Neanderthal monkey monster rapists in it;
  • And the most cardboard-cutout characterisation and phoned-in plot, complete with astonishingly out-of-place and romance-novel happy ending I’ve ever had the misfortune to read…

Sorry. Awful. I used to like Brian’s work a lot, but some of his recent work… well, I love horror, but for some reason I don’t seem to be his audience anymore, because his last couple have been indifferent to me, and this one was dire. From someone who absolutely loathes reality shows like Survivor, being unable to give a positive report on something that was essentially panning the TV genre is sad indeed.

 

 

‘Kay then. Next time it will be all good, rather than some good and some urgh, promise. 🙂

Advertisements

 

Another gem from the steampunk canon (cannon? heh heh oh forget it), George Mann’s The Affinity Bridge is a rather full-throttle Victorian potboiler of a murder mystery, set in a world of airships and brass automatons, clockwork technology and steam-powered road ‘trains’, all tied together rather neatly and gruesomely… and with a very effective twist at the end that I probably should have seen coming, and didn’t.

It follows a case — rather, two cases initially seeming quite separate — being investigated by Sir Maurice Newbury, former soldier in the British Army (and, incidentally, the only man known to have survived a bite from a particularly virulent Indian plague which turns people into flesh-craving revenants) and current antiquities expert-cum-investigator-cum-occultist, and his assistant Veronica Hobbes, a surprisingly forthright and capable woman whose actions and abilities scene-set the coming of the suffragettes. Allied with Newbury’s oldest friend, Chief Inspector Charles Bainbridge of Scotland Yard, they become involved in the issues of a string of murders perpetrated in Whitechapel by a glowing spectral policeman and an airship crash in the middle of London from which the pilot has mysteriously vanished. The latter case has an added complication: Queen Victoria herself (who continues to live and breathe somewhat past her prime via huge, hulking, steam-bellowing machines infibulated into her body) has asked that Newbury investigate it, with potentially serious political ramifications.

What follows is pure adventure, mixed with a very healthy dollop of violence and a fascinatingly realised world where the expected and the unexpected alike blur like the septic fog that perpetually clouds the Londons streets. A spreading plague of bloodthirsty dead Victorian workers, clockwork automata rewired as killing machines, lightning weapons and gruesome vivisection are only some of the treats you’re in store for in this tale: there’s much more packed in this compact little hardcover, and once you crack the cover you’ll be reading it ’til the wee hours, unable to pull away.

Mann’s writing style has been criticised a little for being plain and unadventurous; I didn’t mind it in the least and found it suited the breakneck pace of the story — I certainly couldn’t fault his sense of description which, whilst minimalist on occasion, eerily evoked the world and characters he was building and put across faultlessly some gruesome, evocative and fantastical scenes. This isn’t childrens’ literature though, unlike the previous post: although there’s no sex the violence is, on occasion, quite brutal and detailed.

If you’re fascinated with this particular genre or just want a phantasmagorical adventure story, you can’t go wrong with this one. Very recommended, and I’m now impatiently waiting for the next one

Hotchpotch

January 12, 2009

i.e read lately, as in the last month or so. Not exhaustive — I seem to be reading a lot lately, mainly due to the hideous 38ºC weather:

  • Terminal (Brian Keene): noir crossed with horror, about a compassionate bank robbery (main character discovers he has cancer and only a couple of months to live, decides to rob a bank to provide for his family) gone badly wrong. Enjoyable story, bleak ending but there’s a fine line between homage and plagiarism and for some of it… it bothers me how much of Garth Ennis‘ early Hellblazer run (and elements of Preacher) show through, in some cases almost word for word. Obviously Keene admires Ennis’ work: I’m just not sure it doesn’t fall a little close to the line in this case.

  • Kill Whitey (Brian Keene): again, noir crossed with horror, and much better this time. Working man infatuated from afar with a Russian strip-club dancer abruptly becomes murderously entangled in her world when she attempts to flee the club and its oppressive owner, Whitey. Who comes after them, and apparently can’t be killed. Fun, this, in a Terminatoresque way: particularly liked the reason why he’s so unkillable (and no, it’s not because there are any robot bits under his skin). Recommended.

  • Brides of the Impaler (Edward Lee): when Lee’s writing for the small press, unfettered, unrestrained and uncensored, he’s untouchable — one of the most imaginative and brutal writers around. When he writes mass-market (and nope, not blaming him for that, man’s got to make a living and hopefully it’ll give him enough financial stability to write more of his dark, dark work), he’s diluted down drastically, probably by editorial decree and blue pencil. Trouble is, it makes a lukewarm read compared to what he’s capable of. Impaler’s a case in point: it’s violent and twisted and sexual, sure, but sanitised: the ‘camera’ cuts away when the worst begins, and what remains is a disjointed and somewhat gutted story that doesn’t entirely hold together and isn’t gross or gruesome enough for the reader not to mind. The Bighead, unfortunately, it ain’t.

  • Queen of Blood (Bryan Smith): sequel to House of Blood, under the same imprint (Leisure Books) as Impaler above, but far more brutal and harsh, surprisingly. Perhaps poor old Edward Lee’s reputation for sick and depraved fare means he’s more heavily censored/edited, but Smith comes out far higher on the in-your-face scale, which pleases and perplexes me at the same time. Difficult to explain what this one’s about without giving the plot away, except it allegorises concentration camps and fetish domination whilst mixing in demons, magic and the potential to rewrite the world to one’s worst fantasies. Enjoyed greatly, yes… but wouldn’t have been my first choice for a sequel: that would’ve been Freakshow, which was utter genius.

  • LA Confidential (James Ellroy): 1950s police drama/thriller/blacker-than-black noir. Everyone’s bent, everyone beats up everyone else, the police are as bad as the villains and the world is hell. Convoluted, insanely detailed plot — a reread is probably in order to make sure all the dots joined up. The violence levels are extraordinary, not only the killings and beatings the police are investigating (and, in the latter’s case, often instigating), but in their own methodologies (interrogation via the garbage disposal was a new one on me). Loved it, but don’t start your Ellroy collection with this one: it’s the third in a self-styled ‘LA Quartet’ that starts with The Black Dahlia (based on the real-life murder), steamrollers through The Big Nowhere and ends with White Jazz. I recall the film version (Russell Crowe, Kim Basinger… Guy Pearce??) was also rather good, if not particularly close to the decayed morals and brutality of the book.

  • Vampire Zero (David Wellington): third in what I thought was a trilogy of vampire novels after 13 Bullets and 99 Coffins; not so sure after reading the last page.  [in fact not a trilogy: fourth novel in progress according to the author’s website] Wellington’s vampires are monstrous, nigh-on-invincible predators distinguished in particular by their jutting shark-like teeth, which they use very frequently and not at all in decorous twin-neck-punctuating fashion. The fact that he treats them as monsters rather than sad, castrated Goth wannabes makes me both smile and want to read more; the fact that he’s built an excellent police procedural around the hunts for these horrifyingly powerful beasts only adds to that. Find the series and get it immediately: he’s breaking mainstream after originally serialising all of his work on the web (some of which is still there and thus free to read), and deservedly so.

 

  • Bad Things (Michael Marshall): thriller, with one of the most effective first chapters I’ve ever read — gave me chills, but then Michael Marshall (Smith) is good at that. A father whose life was destroyed three years ago by a horrible but inexplicable event receives a cryptic e-mail basically saying ‘I know what happened’. Returning to his home town to investigate, he becomes involved in something monstrous… and perhaps otherworldly. It’s an intriguing twist on the noir/thriller trope, and it works very well indeed… and Marshall is head and shoulders above most of the mystery/thriller writers out there both in this regard and in general. I just wish that he’d write science fiction again: Only Forward, Spares, One of Us and some of the short stories from What You Make It are some of the best examples of that genre, and generally fiction writing, period.

 

  • The Tale of Beedle The Bard (J K Rowling): yes, I, along with much of the world, loved the Harry Potter series and when this came along I snapped it up. With a price-related wince I went for this fancy commemorative edition (ouch! £50!! What the hell were you thinking?!?) because it, er, had an embossed metal skull on the cover (yep, shallow = me). Curiously enough, they printed 100,000 copies of this limited edition, which didn’t seem very limited to me, and apparently within a month they were sold out, and my £50 book now sells in excess of US$185 used and US$240 new. Which I’m not entirely sure what to think about, but am happy I got a copy anyway because it’s beautiful: oversized wooden book-shaped box, velvet inlay, velvet bag, leather book with metal clasps studded with gems (probably coloured glass) and the aforementioned grinning embossed skull… oh yes, the stories inside are fun too, but by far the most fun element is Professor Dumbledore’s ‘comments’ after each one. I think they’re in the unlimited edition, so if you’re a fan you won’t miss out, but they’re completely hilarious: very rare I laugh out loud at a book. If you can find one of these limiteds, pay the price: it’s worth it.

(gasp) Enough for now. More later-ish. (Yes, there were indeed more)

Wince

January 2, 2009

No, not about the wedding. Wedding was fine, yep, don’t remember much about the actual ceremony but am crystal clear about all the rest of it. It’s good to be married, methinks. Ring still feels a bit weird on my finger (heavy) but no doubt it so did upon Sauron’s until he got used to it.

Haven’t been in much because of the oh for Christ’s sake I keep making excuses about this — I’m here when I’m here I think is the best way to determine how and when I update this bloody thing. Brain’s falling out of my skull through several of my age-related deossifying fossa now I’ve crumbled out of my thirties.

The ‘wince’ of the header was simply me going over in my head recently elements of books that made me — strong-stomached, reared-on-horror-and-lovin’it, can-take-anything-I-can me — wince. For no particular reason except I’d outlined a scene for something a while ago that made me cringe a little… and I wrote it. Came from a dream that shot me awake, sweating and shuddering despite the joys of air-conditioning in an Australian summer (and that definitely is a joy).

Anyway, for no good reason, Things Wot Made Me Wince In Books (The Not Exhaustive List O’Fun) :

  • Hooray for Matthew Stokoe’s Cows and his very fresh approach to ‘animal relations’ involving razored cookie cutters, pinioned cows in a slaughterhouse run and a whole heap of frustrated abattoir workers;
  • Peculiarly enough, while I can read American Psycho any day of the week and enjoy it, there’s a line in the far, far tamer Rules of Attraction that gets me every time: “I almost slit my dick open on her coil.”
  • Honourable mention for the surgeon-rapist nightmare things in Brian Lumley’s House Of Doors II: Maze of Worlds. Their utterly bizarre chanting and rather insalubrious dream-inspired antics got a double-take and a reread out of me.
  • And speaking of Lumley, his very detailed descriptions of an alien talent called evagination in Necroscope: The Touch were a barrel of fun too… and let’s not forget the poor bastard forced to run about with his foot turned around backwards.
  • Can’t forget Edward Lee with just about all of The Dritiphilist, which is so limited edition most will probably never see it, and quite frankly all, be thankful for that. I won’t explain the particular philia: that’s half the fun.
  • And whilst I’m in siction territory, Wrath James White’s Succulent Prey, complete with very detailed recipes for cooking and eating certain choice parts of the human anatomy, dug the knife in a couple of times.
  • There’s a scene in Tim Waggoner’s Skull Cathedral wherein a man with assholes for eyes gets caught short having dinner in an expensive restaurant… Yep, eurgh.
  • A couple of moments in J F Gonzalez’s Survivor are a little hard to take, especially the upshot of the bargain a captured woman makes in order to get out of being the star of a snuff film.
  • The sheer brutality of Jack Ketchum’s unexpurgated Off Season has to be read experienced to be believed, with the slow, hideous death and cannibalisation of one of the girls an astonishingly visceral (no pun intended) jolt: monstrously powerful writing that stays with you for ages.
  • A strange half-laughing / half-what-where-you-thinking? wince for the method with which the Tooth Fairy in Robert Devereaux’s Santa Steps Out actually creates and delivers the gold coins she exchanges for cute kiddie molars…
  • Literal cold shivers on my skin in Derek Raymond’s final ‘Factory’ novel, Dead Man Upright, when the unnamed Detective Sergeant of the series finds and watches the killer’s first video.
  • And perhaps another shudder or two for just about all of David Peace’s Nineteen Seventy-Four, where the discovery of a mutilated swan leads to another discovery of a dead child — with angel wings.
  • Another honourable mention goes rather despicably to me and something that lurks on my hard drive, never to be seen by another human’s eyes (probably) about a deranged woman who finds herself locked in a maternity ward…

 

I think I could go on and on with this. Surprisingly therapeutic fun. But since everyone’s throwing up in a corner by now, may be a good time to leave it. What about you, Friends Who Are Reading (or probably soon to be ex-reading now that they’ve read this blog entry) — anything in fiction freaked you out?

 

>:)

The Necronomicon

December 1, 2008

 

Necronomicon: The Best Weird Tales of H P Lovecraft.

 

Weird, yes. Weird that I’ve never read him before, and I consider myself fairly well read in the horror genre. And yet for some reason I kept bypassing the acknowledged master and trailblazer of the field, and I don’t know why. Perhaps I thought he’d be tedious reading: after all, his canon comes from the late 1800s to the 1920s, and under the thin, hideous guise of ‘literature’ I’ve read some horrendous ‘great works’ (including Henry James: sorry, not a fan) that have had all the appeal of urethral surgery sans anaesthetic. (I’m staring grimly at some of you, Dickens, and just about all of you, Brontë)

But then along came Gollancz’s reissue of, effectively, the best of H P Lovecraft’s stories in a leatherbound, gilt-embossed edition (for astonishingly less than £20.00 for nearly 900 pages as well), and, after reading all that Lumley, I thought I’d give ye olde hoary master a shot.

And all was Good.

This is a man with an imagination way before his time. His horrific worlds are fantastically detailed, and the (only slightly) old-fashioned language is quickly swept away from perception in a fountain of perfect — and often harrowing — descriptiveness. His crumbling, decaying rooftop worlds of New England resonate perfectly with a horror that is often completely alien to anything before it… or often since. Lovecraft eschewed the vampire and the werewolf, common staples of the time, in creating fantastical new mythologies of dispassionate Elder Gods and monstrosities from outside time and space, profusely detailed and profliglately chaotic. From blood and guts horror (‘Herbert West — Reanimator’ [incidentally a very, very good film]) through alien civilizations that may not yet be dead (‘At The Mountains Of Madness’) to the terrors of what lies parallel with us, crammed into the very air surrounding (‘From Beyond’ — and that film wasn’t bad either), his is a skewed and violently twisted, utterly original worldview that is very much worth the immersion.

Lovecraft gets a bit of stick these days for racism, elitism and a little misogyny and, yes, I can see that in his writing. And that’s fine. His writing is a product of the times he lived in, and I’m happily aware of, and content with, that. It’s not excessive and, were he writing today, it probably wouldn’t be there. However, to those people saying he should be written to get rid of the above elements (Lovecraft was apparently personally terrified of Negroes, for one thing), I’d say: get a life. We need that sort of literary alteration the way we need Big Ears to no longer be sleeping in the same bed as Noddy or the Fat Controller being renamed the Horizontally-Challenged-But-More-Than-Capable-Civil-Servant. Sigh.

The book itself is a beautiful thing, worthy of the many evil old tomes Lovecraft himself references throughout his exhaustively complete worldbuilding: black leather, ridged spine, inlaid with gilt and filled with pen and ink drawings of squid-like Cthulhu, faceless night-gaunts, crumbling manuscripts and lurking evils (in one of those interesting cyclic connection things that is no doubt me reaching for connections that aren’t there, it’s illustrated by Les Edwards who, under the name Edward Miller, produced the covers for China Miéville’s early novels… which owe a great deal in terms of descriptive style and visions of urban decay to Lovecraft!). Well worth picking up for the presentation alone… but then you’ll be sucked in to a new kind of strange hell by the contents, and you won’t want to leave.

Superb. Totally recommended. Delve back to the uneasy beginnings of the twentieth century, and find a tarnished, blood-spattered, horrifying treasure transcending time, space and your perceptions of horror…

Shaking off the rust

November 14, 2008

Last time I was here was August. Bloody August. Time flies, no?

Well, things happen. For me, it’s interesting to note the general decrease of good blog content as everyone seems to wend their way over into Facebook or MySpace or twitters meaingless bullshit at each other. Everything is short and fragmentary and nobody seems to have very much to say. Me included.

I may not have been writing a lot about it but I’ve certainly been reading a lot; have to prise them books out of my cold, dead hands to stop me, to paraphrase a well-known lunatic firearms fringe. Also trying to write myself, as nearly 40,000 words of PM2 can attest. I had a real run on that too, especially when I took some time off, but now that I’m working again it’s more difficult to find the time. Which is probably an excuse, but time does seem to slither away like a headless snake bloodily slopping its way over an embankment and that was possibly the worse metaphor ever. Anyway. Should resolve to crack that 40,000 word barrier this weekend.

Reading-wise (oh god where to start):

Bought an enormous amount of Brian Lumley lately. Predominantly the ‘Necroscope’ series, some of which is criminally out of print, but, frankly, almost anything with his name on it. I never thought I was a particular fan of the Lovecraftian/Derleth Cthulhu Mythos until I started reading Lumley. Appears that I am, since a great big leatherbound hardcover of all of Lovecraft’s work in this vein, The Necronomicon, is winging its way towards me from Amazon UK as we speak.

Speaking of the Necroscope series, it’s excellent, although why the book covers persistently have blurbs shrieking, “If you like Anne Rice you’ll love this!!!” I have no idea. Anyone who thinks they’re going to get Lestat in a Lumley book might be in for something of an unpleasant surprise. Lumley’s vampires intermingled with psionic espionage and cold war machinations, and are less of the hand-wringing ‘Sweet-Lord-it-is-a-sad-sad-lot-to-be-a-vampire-oh-woe-is-me-never-to-see-the-sun-again-I-shall-existentially-pontificate-for-three-hundred-years-blah-de-sodding-blah’ and more of the shapeshifting horrendous monster that bites peoples’ heads off in one gulp type. His posit that vampires (Wamphyri) are infested by leechlike parasites which metamorphically change human flesh into fleshwreaking and bloodslurping monstrosities is highly entertaining, but more: his adversaries, psychics and spies, are quite unique in literature — a kind of James Bond crew with a unique array of very diverse psychic talents including the ability to speak to and raise the dead. (As a side note, the books all have lovely skull-themed covers, both English and American editions, which make me smile and chuckle evilly to myself)

The Necroscope series is Necroscope, Wamphyri!, The Source, Deadspeak, Deadspawn, Blood Brothers, The Last Aerie and Bloodwars. Thus far. There’s a few more I haven’t got through yet (The Lost Years, Resurgence, Invaders [come back into print, you swine: you’re holding up the bloody series!!], Defilers, Avengers, The Touch). Muchly recommended. Not a doubt when I finish ’em I’ll probably go into the whole thing in more detail, if I can staple my fingers and my attention to this blog again…

  

Currently reading Stephen King’s new short story collection, Just After Sunset. Just about every other book gets put aside when a new King appears. Not terribly far into it yet but ‘The Gingerbread Girl’ already deserves a special mention for creepy psycho of the week, whilst ‘Willa’ is an almost surreal ghost story. Lovely.

Should give a shout-out for Neal Stephenson’s Anathem, a door-busting brick of a book that’s a weird twist of monks, mathematics, science fiction and the end of the world. Difficult to quantify and it started a little slowly, but then abruptly grabbed me by the eyeballs and hauled me in. Very much enjoyed.

And can’t leave without mentioning Neal Asher, because two of his books showed up at the same time. Shadow of the Scorpion deals with the backstory of one of his perennial characters, the Polity Agent Ian Cormac; The Gabble and Other Stories is short (although some were novella-length) pieces expanding on elements of his sci-fi universe with a lot of emphasis on his completely weird and wonderful creations, the gibberish-talking, utterly unpredictable and occasionally human-eating gabbleducks. Superb, both of them.

 

 

An odd little one: Skull Cathedral, by Tim Waggoner — short story that’s barely a book, dream-like (nightmare-like, more accurately) and horrific descent into someone’s head via way of machinery, hideous fantasies/hallucinations and altered perceptions. Recommended for that shelf we all have (or is it just me? 😀 ) which overflows with bloody bodily fluids on a regular basis. Particularly liked the moment where the protagonist discovered he had rectal sphincters for eyes, all appropriately plumbed in as well, in a crowded restaurant… I mean, we’ve all been there, haven’t we? >:)

 

 

Will stop there for a moment: rambling. This blogging thing is hard lately… I read too many books. Run out of bloody shelf-space again… :O

Demon Apocalypse

August 7, 2008

 

 

Demon Apocalypse: Book 6 of The Demonata, by Darren Shan.

 

A kid’s book, huh? Wish these’d been around when I was a kid. I mean, the very first paragraph has a human-sized demon in the shape of a scorpion poke out some hapless victim’s eyes with its stinger and lay millions of flesh-eating maggots in the bloody sockets, which then proceed to eat said victim’s brain. Kid stuff. Yum.

I’m not buying into the argument here that violent material stimulates violent activities in children. For what it’s worth, I think that’s down to parental supervision and the ability of a parent to contextualise said material for the little tykes if it’s a wee bit splattery or nasty. What I am buying into is that almost any kid would love this, which is why Darren Shan is so popular. It’s gruesome, gory fun with a cleverly engrossing overarching plot and a real sense of danger throughout the series. In Shan’s books, people make decisions and have to live with the consequences; often those decisions are bad, and so are the results. As is life.

Shan’s characters are, above all, human. They’re scared, and sometimes that doesn’t mean they do the right thing. Sometimes running away is considered the best option, as well it should when a million demons led by the luverly Lord Loss, a floating red eight-armed monster with a torn-out heart and Medusa-like serpents in the bloody hole, invade your home town and proceed to kill and eat everything in it. And when the chips are down and they do the right, noble heroic thing… it doesn’t always work. Characters you know and love may not make it through.

And that’s damn good. As has been this series, thus far. Happily, bloodthirstily awaiting the next one (Death’s Shadow) — especially if it has the return of the acid-spewing, stomach-melting giant rabbit. I dunno, kids today…  😛