Review

New RealmShift review at Fantasy Faction

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April 1, 2014

I do love a good review and Dan Hanks at Fantasy Faction has written a pearler about RealmShift. Thanks, Dan! Here’s a few highlights:

“…a thoroughly enjoyable and thrilling book—and one that showcases a writer unafraid of throwing universe-sized ideas out there, before nailing them to the page like a pro.

As you’d expect for a thriller, the writing is crisp and solid, with little in the way of flowing, flowery fantasy sentence structure. But…it’s different too. There’s an almost noir-haiku-like quality to the author’s prose that I found really interesting.

Overall, thoroughly enjoyable. I highly recommend.”

It’s been a while since RealmShift saw any review love, so this is good to see. You can read the full review here.

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Bloody Waters by Jason Franks – review

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January 28, 2014

Here’s my latest review posted at Thirteen O’Clock:

BW cover eBook t 193x300 Bloody Waters by Jason Franks   reviewBloody Waters by Jason Franks

Possible Press, 2012

ISBN: 978-0980813531

Bloody Waters is the debut novel from Jason Franks, maybe better known for his comics work. I reviewed The Sixsmiths here a while ago. This first novel was nominated for an Aurealis Award for Best Horror Novel last year and I can see why. Here’s the blurb:

When guitar virtuoso Clarice Marnier finds herself blacklisted she makes a deal with the devil for a second chance. Soon Clarice and her band, Bloody Waters, are on their way to stardom… but cracking the Top 10 is one thing; gunfights with the Vatican Mafia and magical duels quite another. Clarice is going to have to confront the Devil himself – the only question is whether she’ll be alive or dead when it happens.

I had no expectations going into this book, other than knowing it had an award nomination. I was really surprised. It’s a unique read. The writing style is tight and powerful, the book clips along at a solid pace. We start with young Clarice putting aside Barbie dolls for a guitar and we follow her progress through high school and into her first band and beyond, where nothing else matters but the music. Absolutely nothing. The chapters are short and the description spare but complete.

Clarice herself is an interesting main character. She’s very well-realised by Franks as a balls out, takes no shit hero of rock’n’roll. If I have any complaints about this book it would be that sometimes Clarice is a bit too cold and calculating. I would have liked to see a few more moments of humanity in her, but it’s no surprise they weren’t there. She is a force of heavy metal nature and no one gets away with messing with her. Except, perhaps, the Devil himself…

Read the rest of my review at Thirteen O’Clock.

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10 Question SFF reading meme

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January 19, 2014

I saw this over at S F Signal, and thought it asked some interesting questions about sci-fi/fantasy/horror reading. So I’ve snurched it for my blog here. Feel free to copy the questions and add your answers in the comments, or snag it for your own blog, Facebook, blood-scrawling on the wall of your cold, wet dungeon or wherever else you like to write things down.

The last sf/f/h book I read and liked was:

On Stranger Tides by Tim Powers. This is the book that Pirates of the Caribbean was based on. It’s been on my To Read list for ages and I finally got around to it. It’s a brilliant book, the story far better than the movie. (Although, I do love those movies.)

The last sf/f/h book I read and wasn’t crazy about was:

The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon by Stephen King. It’s not a bad book, but it’s far from a great book. It’s just kinda okay and I suppose I expect more than that from King. The previous King book I read, Joyland, was excellent.

The sf/f/h book I am reading now is:

North American Lake Monsters by Nathan Ballingrud. This is a short story collection. I’ve never heard of Ballingrud before or read his stuff, but I saw this book being touted a lot in my social media. I always take the advice of those good people, so I bought it. I’ve only read the first two stories so far and it’s really quite excellent.

The sf/f/h book(s) I most want to read next is/are:

The Cormorant by Chuck Wendig and The Book of the Crowman by Joseph D’Lacey. The first is the third Miriam Black book and I was a huge fan of the first two, Blackbirds and Mockingbird. The second is Volume 2 of The Black Dawn. I read the first one, Black Feathers, a while back and it was very good. In fact, I reviewed these books for Thirteen O’Clock. Blackbirds here, Mockingbird here, and Black Feathers here.

An underrated sf/f/h book is:

I’m not sure about this, as I don’t really know what’s underrated among other people. If I had to pick something that certainly deserves more attention I would suggest Joanne Anderton’s Veiled Worlds trilogy. The third one of those is out soon. (Jo is a friend, yes, but her books are fucking amazing, so shut up.) Another book I read last year that blew me away and I haven’t seen much about it elsewhere is Max Barry’s amazing novel, Lexicon. And the last thing to spring to mind is a novella from Spectral Press that I read last year, called Whitstable by Stephen Volk. It’s an amazing blend of fact and fiction.

An overrated sf/f/h book is:

Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card. And not just because Card is a hoofwanking bunglecunt of the highest order. (I saw that insult on Twitter this morning and just had to find a place to use it.) But seriously, I hated this book before I really knew anything about Card’s despicable views. I read it because it’s always on top 100 sci-fi book lists so I thought I should try it. And it was very dull, and the central conceit was really obvious from early on and it’s just stupid. On that front, another highly overrated SF book is John Scalzi’s Old Man’s War. Now Scalzi isn’t a nasty piece of human sputum like Card. Scalzi is actually a stand-up guy, a really nice fella if my social media interaction is anything to go by and he does fantastic things for the SFF community. But this book did not work for me at all, I couldn’t finish it. I reviewed it briefly on Goodreads here if you’re interested in more of my opinion on it.

The last sf/f/h book that was recommended to me was:

I honestly can’t remember… I talk about books with people so much that it’s impossible to keep track. I know Lexicon was recommended to me not that long ago. Sorry, my brain isn’t up to this question.

A sf/f/h book I recommended to someone else was:

Recently I’ve been happily recommending these wherever I can:

Lexicon by Max Barry
Whitstable by Stephen Volk
The Dog-Faced Gods trilogy by Sarah Pinborough
Midnight & Moonshine by Angela Slatter and Lisa L Hannett
The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes
The Great and Secret Show by Clive Barker
Cabal by Clive Barker

Seriously, if you’ve been stuck for a good read lately, go and buy all of those now and you’ll be reinvigorated. Amazing stories, brilliantly written.

A sf/f/h book I have re-read is:

The Great and Secret Show by Clive Barker. I lovelovelove this book and recently reread it again. It is a truly outstanding achievement, but I’m a total Clive Barker fanboy, so maybe I’m biased. But seriously, if you haven’t read it, do. In fact, I’m going to add it to the list answering the previous question, because I’m always recommending this and Cabal by Barker whenever I get the chance. I’m adding Cabal too. I’d better stop there though – honestly, I could sit here and recommend books all day.

A sf/f/h book I want to re-read is:

The Earthsea series by Ursula K Le Guin. I’ve read and loved the original trilogy a few times, but never read the others. I recently bought all the various volumes and have them sitting on my side table ready for a big reread. (Well, reread of the first three, then read of the rest.) I’m really looking forward to it.

So there you go. I thought those questions might lead to an interesting discussion of good reading. Mmmmbooks, how I love them…

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On authors responding to reviews

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September 16, 2013

DON’T

dont just dont On authors responding to reviews

Pacific Rim – Peter Watts says it all

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July 18, 2013

I was going to blog about the awesomeness that is Pacific Rim. Seriously, guys – giant robots smashing the shit out of giant kaiju! What is there not to love about that? I wanted to talk about the amazing effects, the reason it works even though it’s absolutely fucking ridiculous. In fact, right after the movie, I tweeted:

My Pacific Rim review: Absolutely fucking ridiculous. Absolutely fucking tremendous. 5 Stars.

And really, that does say it all. But I wanted to blog about why. Thankfully, I don’t need to, because the excellent Peter Watts has done it for me. He says exactly what I thought about this film, so go and read his post here.

The joy of dumbness.

…in terms of sheer dumb popcorn-munching fun, no other movie I’ve seen in the past year comes close to Pacific Rim.

Word.

landfall 1024x470 300x137 Pacific Rim   Peter Watts says it all

My holiday reading

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July 8, 2013

I’ve recently had a week’s holiday in the sun. The best thing about holidays is the unfettered reading time. Of course, seeing another place, spending quality time with my wife, snorkeling amazing coral reefs and all that was fantastic too and it rates up there with the reading time, but, you know, reading. It’s brilliant and on holiday, apart from all that other stuff and drinking, it’s all about reading.

I read an interesting bunch of stuff while I was away, so I thought I’d share it with you.

Joyland My holiday readingJoyland by Stephen King

This is King at his best. Poignant, beautifully drawn characters and a fantastic sense of place. I love a good carny story and this is just that, wrapped up in some crime and a touch of the supernatural. It’s a short novel and showcases King’s talent for story. It’s also a good ending, which is something King often falls down on for me. It’s still something of a deus ex machina ending (King’s usual flaw) but in this case, it makes sense and it’s well foreshadowed. A highly recommended read.

burial rites My holiday readingBurial Rites by Hannah Kent

This is a simply outstanding novel. And that it’s her first novel is mind-blowing! Her portrayal of the people and place at the time of the story’s setting is flawless and utterly convincing. An incredibly powerful book, beautifully written. I’m not generally a fan of historical fiction, and this story is based on true events, but in this case I loved every page. Kent’s research was exhausting for this book and it really shows. One of the best things I’ve read this year.

The Burning Girls by Veronica Schanoes

This is a dark fantasy novelette available to read at Tor.com. This is the direct link to the story – http://www.tor.com/stories/2013/06/burning-girls It’s a tale of Jewish folklore and magic and a journey to the new world. It’s superbly written and well worth the time, especially as it’s free!

Critique My holiday readingCritique by Daniel I Russell

This is a very well-written journey through desire and addiction, but not addiction to drugs. It has gross-out moments that work very well within the context of the story. There’s no great surprise to how it pans out – you can pretty much see what’s coming – but it’s handled really well nonetheless. It’s a horror story, but this is still something a bit different done very well. The cover is truly awful, however, and does the book no favours at all.

18039179 My holiday readingA Killer Among Demons, edited by Craig Bezant

Caveat – I have a story, The Beat of a Pale Wing, in this collection.

However, aside from my story being in it, this is a fantastic collection. Craig Bezant, the editor, should be proud of a job really well done. He’s collected ten stories of supernatural/paranormal crime and the first thing you realise is just what a tremendous job he’s done collecting ten brilliant but very different stories (if I do say so myself!) The variety here is impressive and the quality very high. This is an anthology that will hopefully get noticed, because it’s different and very good. Highly recommended.

9654818 My holiday readingBlack & Orange by Benjamin Kane Etheridge

This is a dark fantasy/horror novel, a Stoker Award winner no less, but I had serious problems with it. I’ve just posted a full review over at Thirteen O’Clock, so head over there for a read of why this didn’t work for me nearly as well as it should have. Which is annoying, because I really wanted to like it and it had such potential. But even though I didn’t like it, I still enjoyed reading it. It’s excellent writing. Ah, click the review link to save me saying it all again here.

So all in all, I had a pretty solid selection of holiday reading.

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You don’t owe me anything

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June 28, 2013

boy reading 263x300 You dont owe me anything Mea culpa. I am guilty of this and I’m putting my hand up right now to accept that and change my position. I’m getting more than a little sick and tired of authors demanding things of their readers. Back in 2011, I wrote this blog post where I said such things as “You’re a reader and you have a new responsibility” and “it’s an act of true benevolence to leave good reviews of stuff you enjoy, or drop by websites and leave a star rating. You can write a single line or single paragraph review and copy that to all the sites you visit or shop at. If you do blog, then reviewing a book on your site is fantastic. But whatever you do, do something.” While I still believe that stuff has true value, the last part is bollocks and I take it back. You don’t have to do something. You don’t have to do jack shit.

I also posted a thing recently which listed all the ways readers could care for authors – it was a funky little infographic and had things like leaving star ratings at Amazon and Goodreads, reviewing, telling friends and family and so on. Again, all those things are great, but you don’t have to do anything.

If you bought a book, give yourself a pat on the back, because you are a fucking legend. You did all you had to do. Anything else is gravy. I do log all the books I read on Goodreads. I usually leave short reviews, and cross-post to Amazon if I can. I’m one of three contributing editors at Thirteen O’Clock, a dark fiction review site. But you know what? I really enjoy all that stuff. I’m happy to do it. But I don’t have to do any of it and neither do you.

I honestly believe that reviews are the lifeblood of authors. Whether those reviews are on a dedicated blog, at sites like Goodreads or over a beer in the pub with your friends, only honest word of mouth really works. That’s the holy grail of marketing right there. People talking up your shit is the stuff of dreams. But if someone bought your book, enjoyed it and never mentioned it again, anywhere, it doesn’t matter. They haven’t slacked off in their readerly duties at all.

Too often now I’m seeing things like the stuff I posted before, but it’s starting feel wrong. Where my intention in posting it was a genuine entreaty for mutual support between readers and writers (who are often the same person, incidentally), I’m seeing a more and more militant approach lately and it’s pissing me off. It makes the stuff I wrote before seem just as militant and I don’t like that. I don’t want to demand anything of my readers. Fuck me, you bought my book! I’m dancing like a freaking numpty over here, because that is the absolute top of the line result right there.

If you want to do more, like write reviews, tell your friends, even buy more copies as gifts for like-minded friends and family, then you shit solid gold and your breath smells like roses dipped in chocolate and don’t let anybody tell you different, because you went above and beyond, dear reader. You, sir or madam, are a diamond encrusted behemoth of a human being. Because you didn’t owe me anything. No one does. But if all you did was buy and read my books, you still have gold shit, chocolate-rose breath and diamond encrusted body parts, because there’s nothing “all you did” about it. You bought and read a book. You. Fucking. Rock.

So yes, I do still stand by the value of all those lovely things readers can do, but I retract any assertion that they have to do those things. Because it’s getting kinda creepy and nasty out there and the last thing we need to do is be creepy and nasty around our readers. Talk about taking a crap in your food bowl. Readers are awesome and that’s all writers really want – to be read. So buy the book, read it and hopefully have a good time. If you choose to signal boost that book in any way, you’re brilliant. If you don’t, you’re still brilliant, because you’re a reader. And you don’t owe anyone anything.

*drops mic*

*reads*

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New Dark Rite review

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May 30, 2013

Things have been pretty quiet around here for a while, for which I apologise. I’ve been flat out with many things lately and it’s always the blogging that suffers at those times. After all, the writing is the main thing and everything else comes secondary to that. Anyone who tries to tell you differently is stupid or lying. Write!

Ahem.

Anyway, just thought I’d drop in and as I’ve nothing much else to say right now, thought I’d share this new Goodreads review of Dark Rite:

This is a novella at the end of the day, and works perfectly in that form. The story fits the format well, and keeps the pace cracking along from first page to last, and can easily be read in one sitting. To be honest you’ll want to, as once you get started this is a difficult book to put down.

I’d recommend this one for fans of early Stephen King and Richard Laymon and anyone who wants a good creepy horror.

Got to be happy with that! Have you got your copy yet? Click on the book cover to the left for all the details.

Right, I’m off to get more writing done. Catch ya later.

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Home to nice reviews

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April 29, 2013

I’m back from Conflux 9 and a damn fine time was had by all. Great to catch up with old friends, make some new friends and drink too much. I’ll write up a proper report soon, probably tomorrow. I’m too brain dead today and have a bunch of classes to teach, so might go for a little lie down for while beforehand. But I came back to some very nice reviews of Dark Rite, which is always wonderful.

Firstly, the very cool Damien Smith wrote us this review for Thirteen O’Clock, where he says: “a rollercoaster ride that kept me turning the pages until I was almost late for work” among other nice things.

And US author Terry Ervin II had this to say:

“Unraveling the mystery of his dad’s death turns into a nightmare as Grant finds himself mired in a dark cult’s secret that long ago engulfed a small town, and threatens Cassie, a girl he’s fallen for. Grant knows he’s doomed, but that doesn’t mean the demon worshipers have to win.

As the plot began to unfold, I found myself unwilling to put the book aside until I reached the end.”

–Terry W. Ervin II, author of Blood Sword

Bloody lovely. But for now, a snoozzzzzzzz…

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Black Feathers: The Black Dawn, Volume One by Joseph D’Lacey – review

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February 26, 2013

BlackFeathers Black Feathers: The Black Dawn, Volume One by Joseph D’Lacey – reviewBlack Feathers: The Black Dawn, Volume One
by Joseph D’Lacey
Published by Angry Robot Books
UK ISBN – 978-0-85766-345-0
US ISBN – 978-0-85766-344-3

Black Feathers is the first volume in a new horror series by Joseph D’Lacey. The story follows two main threads simultaneously. We have young Gordon Black, a thirteen year old boy living in a slightly alternate version of our own modern day. In Gordon’s England, the world is sinking into economic collapse and being ravaged by various naturally destructive phenomena like solar flares and earthquakes. The land is ruled with an iron fist by The Ward, a combination of brutally right wing political party and zealous corporate conglomerate, driven by a greed for money and power. The people of most countries have voted The Ward into control globally after the successful lobbying of the party to convince the populace that only The Ward can protect the people against the swift descent into Armageddon facing them all.

Concurrent with this story is the tale of Megan Maurice, a young girl living far in the future, in a green and pleasant post-apocalyptic land where people have returned to living with the Earth, putting back as much as they take out and revering the Great Spirit and The Earth Mother. Megan is approached by Mr Keeper, a very revered holy man among the people, and he tells her that it is her destiny to walk the Black Feathered Path. This is a path of Shamanic learning, where she puts herself in the path of the stories of the Crowman, for someone must keep the tales alive in order to never lose the knowledge.

By now I’m sure you’re getting the feel for where this book is going. Gordon’s family are abducted by The Ward, but Gordon escapes and goes on the run. He is told he must find The Crowman, a terrifying creature of modern legend who some say is pure evil and others say is a force for good. As Gordon runs, the world descends quickly into its destructive cycle as the Earth Mother shakes off the scourge of humanity and The Ward are desperately hunting Gordon, as he is prophesied to usher in the end times, which is something they can’t allow if they are to maintain their grip on power and profit.

It should be quite clear by now that this is a book with a very clear and unashamed agenda. D’Lacey has an affinity for the Native American mythology of the Earth and it manifests throughout this narrative. The thing is, D’Lacey is a brilliant writer and while the message is something of a sledgehammer throughout, the story, the characterisation and the sheer beauty of the prose make that okay. This is an excellent story, very well told.

Read the rest of this review over at Thirteen O’Clock.

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Welcome

The website of author Alan Baxter

Alan Baxter, Author

Author of horror, dark fantasy & sci-fi. Kung Fu instructor. Personal Trainer. Motorcyclist. Dog lover. Gamer. Heavy metal fan. Britstralian. Misanthrope. Learn more about me and my work by clicking About Alan just below the header.

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