New Dark Rite review

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!


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.


Home to nice reviews

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…


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

February 26, 2013

BlackFeathersBlack 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.


Emma Newman and Between Two Thorns

February 21, 2013

If you’re a regular here, the name Emma Newman probably rings some bells. It should, because she’s a mighty talented person and I’ve talked about her a bit. I was lucky enough to be asked by her publisher to pre-review and blurb her short fiction collection, From Dark Places. You can see that review here. I was also happy to host one of her Split Worlds stories here last year.

Well, now the Split Worlds has expanded into the first of a series of novels, published by Angry Robot Books, called Between Two Thorns. And the reason I’m talking about it now is because there’s a sweet little pre-order special offer happening.

Between Two Thorns is an urban fantasy novel. Here’s the blurb:

Something is wrong in Aquae Sulis, Bath’s secret mirror city.

The new season is starting and the Master of Ceremonies is missing. Max, an Arbiter of the Split Worlds Treaty, is assigned with the task of finding him with no one to help but a dislocated soul and a mad sorcerer.

There is a witness but his memories have been bound by magical chains only the enemy can break. A rebellious woman trying to escape her family may prove to be the ally Max needs.

But can she be trusted? And why does she want to give up eternal youth and the life of privilege she’s been born into?

Sound interesting? Well, here’s the offer:

Pre-order a copy of Between Two Thorns for a chance to win a great prize!

BetweenTwoThorns-COVER1-e1355137730189Pre-order a copy of Between Two Thorns and you’ll be entered into a prize draw. If you win, you’ll have a character named after you in All Is Fair – the third Split Worlds novel (released October 2013) – and a special mention at the end of the book.

You have to admit, that’s a pretty cool prize.

How to Enter

Pre-order a copy of the book from your favourite retailer (if you pre-order from Forbidden Planet you’ll get a signed copy).

If you order from Forbidden Planet or (for ebooks) you don’t need to do anything else – Angry Robot will take care of your entry for you. If you pre-order from anywhere else you’ll need to email a copy of your order confirmation to: thorns AT and they’ll assign a number to you.

Here are links to all the places you can pre-order:

Forbidden Planet (signed paperback)

Angry Robot Trading company – for DRM-free ebook

Amazon (paperback) UK


The Book depository (Worldwide free postage)

UK Edition

US Edition (bigger)

There are two UK launches and an international one using the magic of telephone conferencing. All the details are here:


Wild Chrome by Greg Mellor – review

January 8, 2013

TITLEGreg Mellor is a relatively new voice in Australian science fiction, but his debut collection from Ticonderoga Publications places him firmly in the upper echelons of SF writers at work today. Wild Chrome is a collection of 21 short stories, ten of them new and original to the collection and the other eleven reprints from such august publications as Clarkesworld, Cosmos, Aurealis and more.

Mellor has a background in astrophysics and is one of those writers who can dream big ideas and back them up with believable and potentially realisable science. His stories play mostly around the ideas of the post-human singularity, the arguably inevitable conjoining of humanity and technology, which opens up all kinds of questions about mortality and our place in the universe.

Mellor manages to keep an entirely human aspect in all his work, however big or deep the subject matter. That is, unless it’s one of his stories from the point of view of an alien species, and then he manages to write a very convincing non-human.

Not every story in this book hits the mark dead on, but all the stories are imaginative and entertaining, really nailing the excitement and wonder that we should expect from science fiction. And some of the stories are nothing less than brilliant. I’m looking forward to anything else Greg Mellor writes, but he’s set himself a high bar with this collection.


On idiot reviews

December 13, 2012

I’ve said many, many times here that reviews are the lifeblood of an author’s career. And reviews can mean literal reviews, posted at places like Amazon, Goodreads and so on, as well as reviews in newspapers and on dedicated reader blogs. But reviews can also refer to readers simply talking about a book they enjoyed with friends, family and colleagues. That may lead to those people buying the book, so it works just like reviews are supposed to. But not all reviews are created equal.

In essence, any review is valuable. Even if you didn’t like a book and you give it a bad review and a low star rating, it’s still useful to potential readers and it may lead a different reader to think, “Well, the problems that person had with the book don’t sound like problems to me, so I’ll give it a go.” And besides, you can’t please all the people all the time, so a good spread of reviews and ratings shows honesty and means we don’t start to suspect that Auntie Mabel and the Sockpuppets are the only people reviewing the book.

For example, American Gods by Neil Gaiman is a book universally recognised by readers and awards alike as being quite excellent. But not everyone likes it. On Amazon it has a 4-star average rating, but that includes 92 1-star reviews. (I’d be ecstatic with 92 reviews of any kind, but that book has over a thousand in total!) Anyway, my point is that not all reviews are going to be good ones and giving a one or two star review is fine. If you’re reviewing the book.

Wondering what I’m talking about? Look at this fucking idiot:


In case you can’t read that, it says:

Taming a Seahorse was good. However, Monday I purchased another Spencer book, and it took sooooooooooooo long to get to my Kindle, I was 20 pages into another book………………..

And the idiot gives the book a 1-star review. I’ve deliberately blurred the name, as I’m not here to witch hunt. It’s just one of many reviews I’ve seen that are like this. This “reviewer” is directly damaging the author’s career by reducing their rating average for reasons that are nothing to do with the author or the book and for things over which the author has no control. The “reviewer” even says they thought the book was good, but they’re giving it a one star review because the Whispernet service was slow delivering a completely different novel by the same author. The degree of stupid here is staggering. What the fuck did the author do to deserve this one star review, exactly?

It’s just petty hollering because the person wanted to have a moan about something publicly and arbitrarily tacked that whinge onto one of Parker’s books. If anything, they should have simply complained to Amazon directly (which, admittedly, is like trying to water a garden bed by pissing on the roof).

This is not an isolated, or even uncommon, incident. These fuckknuckles are everywhere. There are even blogs set up to collect all the reviews that are small nuggets of human idiocy distilled into illiterate paragraphs. This is one of my favourite examples of blogs like that, but I can never get past a few entries before the red mist of rage descends: Seriously, it starts off quite funny for the first one or two, then I begin to despair at the stupid, then, after half a dozen or so, I just want to go out and block the blow hole of a dolphin until it drowns. Then hit stupid people with the dead dolphin.

Reviews are awesome and anyone who takes time to review a book is a fantastic person who will be rewarded with cookies and whisky. But only people who review the book. If you’re using a review and slamming an author’s work in order to whinge about postage times, delivery networks, the fact that your dog shat in your bed (which you deserved, by the way) or anything else, then you’re a broken, stupid person and you should have your internet privileges revoked. Please, won’t someone think of the authors?


Dredd – movie review

October 30, 2012

Dredd is the second attempt to make a movie from the incredibly enduring 2000AD comic strip, Judge Dredd. The last attempt, with Sylvester Stallone in the title role, was such a smouldering pile of crap that I refuse to say any more about it. Does the new version make up for that? Actually, yes it does.

Dredd is the story of a future Earth where nuclear holocaust has reduced the vast majority of the planet to radioactive wastelands full of mutants, generally referred to as The Cursed Earth. The surviving, unaffected members of humanity live in massive, sprawling cities that cover thousands of square miles, called Mega-Cities. The biggest of these, covering the vast majority of the east coast of the US and home to some 800 million people, is Mega-City One. Most people live in Blocks, mega structures of some 200 stories each. As you can imagine, people crammed in those kind of numbers into that kind of space means crime and violence are everyday dangers. The only line between the people and utter chaos are the men and women of the Hall of Justice, known as Judges. They are judge, jury and executioner, dispensing justice and sentence wherever they go. Of all the Judges, Judge Dredd is the Judgiest. An absolute law man, with a perfect working knowledge of every aspect of Mega-City One’s fascist and brutal justice code and a black and white eye for resolution.

This is a world and a society that has grown incredible detail over the decades, so to tackle the subject in a single 90 minute film is daunting, to say the least. The makers of this film, however, were smart and, after some opening sequences through Mega-City One, they locked two judges in one block and the rest of the film played out there. It’s the story of one particular crime boss, known as Ma Ma, and her control of the new drug Slo-Mo. When you take Slo-Mo, you perceive the world as passing at 1% its normal speed, which gives the filmmakers an excuse for some awesome and beautiful super slo-mo sequences. Also some truly brutal ones, but we’ll get to that.

Judge Dredd is saddled with a new rookie judge, Anderson. The rookie failed her test to become a judge, but only just. She does, however, have a pretty powerful psychic ability and the Chief Judge tasks Dredd with taking her out for a day’s assessment to see if the slight fail can be ignored if Anderson’s psychic abilities prove her to be a good judge on the streets. On investigating a triple homicide in Peach Trees Block, they find themselves trapped in Ma Ma’s web and the crime boss seals off the block with war protocols and orders everyone inside to find and kill the judges. Thus begins a Die Hard-esque fight for survival while Dredd and Anderson try to stay alive and dispense justice.

Seeing as I’ve been a fan of Judge Dredd since before my age hit double figures, I was scared about how faithful to the comics this film would be…

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


El Orfanato (The Orphanage) – DVD Review

October 17, 2012

I’ve been a fan of Guillermo Del Toro for a long time and his films are usually well worth the time. In this case, the Pan’s Labyrinth director is a producer for director Juan Antonio Bayona’s gothic horror about an old orphanage that is being reborn under the care of an ex-resident. As a child, orphaned Laura lived in the big old house by the Spanish seaside and has fond memories of her time there. She was adopted and left the home. Now in her mid-30s, Laura returns to the dilapidated institution with her husband, Carlos, and their seven-year-old son, Simon, to reopen the orphanage for just a handful of special needs children.

But, naturally, there is something weird going on in the beautiful old house. Simon’s behavior begins to grow increasingly strange and Laura and Carlos start to think the boy is getting carried away with his imaginary friends. On the opening day of the new orphanage, Simon’s bizarre behavior is written off as a bid for attention until truly strange events occur and Simon disappears. The search for Simon leads Laura deep into her memories of the orphanage and she begins to uncover troubling things that occurred after her own adoption…

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


Blackbirds and Mockingbird, by Chuck Wendig, reviewed

September 12, 2012

My latest reviews are up at Thirteen O’Clock. I’ve been enjoying Blackbirds and Mockingbird by Chuck Wendig. Excellent dark urban fantasy horror thrillers. Review excerpts below.

Blackbirds is a novel by notorious internet pottymouth, Chuck Wendig. Chuck’s online writing advice and sheer volume of bloggery is quite impressive and I was slightly dubious about wading into his actual fiction for the first time. I really wanted to like it, but wasn’t sure if I would. I needn’t have worried.

The story follows ballsy, attitude-ridden, hardass, Miriam Black, who has the power to know, from a single skin-on-skin touch, when a person will die. She’ll see in graphic detail, just once, the first time she touches a person, exactly how that person will shuffle off. She’s never wrong and she can’t change anything that happens. What she can do is make notes about the people who are going to cark it and be sure she’s nearby at the time to loot the corpse. That’s how she makes a living. Pretty dark stuff.

But when Miriam hitches a ride with Louis Darling and shakes his hand, she sees that in thirty days Louis will be murdered just as he seems to spot her behind the killer. Miriam knows from experience she can’t save him, but if she’s there as he’s murdered, she’d better try, in order to save herself if nothing else.

Wendig delivers this story like shotgun blast after shotgun blast of action and smartmouthed dialogue. The characters, for the most part, are excellent. Miriam is a very well-conceived invention, a real basketcase, and Wendig manages her well.

Read the rest of the review here:

Mockingbird is Wendig’s second novel from Angry Robot Books and the sequel to Blackbirds (which I reviewed here.)

Mockingbird picks up a year or so after the events of Blackbirds, with Miriam and Louis in some kind of stable situation. But this is Miriam Black, so we know that’s not going to last. Louis sets Miriam up with a job using her special power to see how people are going to die. A friend of his works at a school for troubled girls and wants to know if her suspicions of terminal illness are well-founded or not. Miriam reluctantly agrees to use her powers for good.

While at the school she touches a young student, a troubled teen called Lauren, and sees her suffer a hideous death, aged eighteen, at the hands of a particularly nasty serial killer. This leads Miriam to investigate further and she begins to uncover a lot of horror, murder and mayhem, dragging her through several twists, reversals and life-threatening scenarios.

Once again, Wendig showcases his excellent writing skills, with tight powerful prose, locked into the voice of his characters like a tick to exposed skin. The character of Miriam definitely grows in this book – she’s explored more deeply, we discover more about her background and what has led her to be the way she is. She also begins to realise what she is to become, where her own destiny lays.

Read the rest of the review here:

A way to fight the review buyers and sockpuppetmasters

September 11, 2012

There’s been a lot of stuff going around the interwebs lately about douchefucks paying for positive reviews, guerrilla reviewing their rivals with one star attacks, sock-puppetry and so forth. I blogged about it a little bit here and a web search will show loads of other people weighing in on the debate. The net result of all this is primarily twofold.

1. People are now distrustful of all positive reviews;

2. The real victims are readers, because now no one knows what or who to trust.

In some respects, this is only a small part of the bigger picture. Most people buy their books on the recommendations of friends, regardless of reviews. They trust certain outside sources, like book bloggers they respect and so on. However, reviews are a significant part of any author’s literary lifeblood. We will always get new readers when someone reviews a book, someone else sees that review and says to themselves, “Well, that sounds like it’s right up my particular stinking alley, I’ll give it a go.”

So we need people to continue reviewing. We need people, once they’ve read a book, to take a moment to leave a review and a star rating on Amazon, Goodreads, LibraryThing or wherever they frequent. We need them to write about it on their blog, mention it on Twitter or Facebook or wherever they hang out socially. These things are easy and it shows great love for your favourite authors, so said authors get to continue squeezing word babies from their fetid brains for your amusement and delectation. It’s a symbiotic relationship and it works well.

That is, until these fuckmuppets and their sockpuppets start devaluing the whole thing for everyone else. (Incidentally, Fuckmuppet & The Sockpuppets is the name of my next band.)

Some people are suggesting that Amazon needs to address the problem. Some are saying they need to only allow reviews from verified purchasers, or only allow reviews from accounts linked to some third party verification. But there are massive problems with that.

The verified purchaser thing is a problem because what if someone borrowed a copy of a book from a friend and really liked it? What if they wanted to review it on Amazon? Or even if they hated it and wanted to review it. They can’t. People borrow books all the time, there’s nothing wrong with that. Or they buy them secondhand. Or they download them illegally. All these things deny the author a royalty, but it doesn’t really matter. It’s just how things are. What does matter is that those people can leave reviews which will help that author in the long term. Take away that option and you take away the ability for borrowers to give anything back to the author they enjoyed (or hated) so much.

And it’s not all about good reviews. People will pay much closer attention to a book with a whole range of reviews than to a book with only 5-star reviews. The more variety in the ratings, the more likely a person is to learn about that book and make an informed decision. You can’t please all the people all the time. An honest 2 or 3 star review can actually help to sell a book. What you don’t like might appeal to someone else.

The absolute last thing we need is for places like Amazon to make it harder for people to review books. If that happens, the douchefucks have won. The power is more in the hands of the reading public than it has ever been, and that power only retains its potency while it is easy to apply. Right now you can read a book from any source, then spend literally five minutes or less popping into Amazon and Goodreads and leaving a star rating and a couple of lines of review. You only have to type it once, then copy and paste it elsewhere. Take this review of RealmShift on Amazon from one Cathy Russell:

I liked that this story had believable characters and explored faith (or lack of), it’s origins, etc. It had a lot of deep themes. The characters were well thought out. The plot was engaging, and I liked the whole idea of a superhuman who could kick the devil’s ass. While reading this, I kept thinking it would make a great action movie or comic book too. I’d recommend this.

That’s a fantastic review (Thank you, Cathy) and would have only taken moments to write. She gave it four stars, too, bless her beautiful reading eyes. Now imagine if Amazon had required some particular hoops be jumped through in order to leave that review. She may still have done it, of course. But she may very well have not bothered. That would damage me as a writer and potential future readers.

I don’t think it’s Amazon’s job to police this stuff (beyond the obvious, like removing reviews flagged as hate, etc.) It’s up to us, the readers. BY THE POWER OF GREYSKULL, it’s in our hands! We can fight the douchefucks with our minds and tappity typing fingers. I’ve compiled a list below of all the things you can do to help your favourite authors. And you can address authors you’re not so keen on using the exact same list. Because open honesty is what’s required. If we deluge the system with clear and open reviewing, then whatever douchefuckery these other bastards engage in loses its potency with every blow we strike.

At the same time, if you are one of those douchefucks who buys positive reviews, uses sockpuppets, sabotages your fellow authors with 1-star attacks or anything else, just fucking stop it already. You’re a scumbag and you make the world a worse place. Don’t game the system for your own selfish ends. Let the system work. If recent news is anything to go by, you’ll be found out in the end anyway. You’re just pissing in the shared flagon in the meantime, and that’s not on.

So, here’s that list I was talking about.

Whenever you read a book, take a moment to do the following:

  • Talk about the book, online and IRL. Tell people you read it and what you thought.
  • Tweet, Facebook, Google+, etc. a quick comment about it, like “I just really enjoyed/hated reading This Book by An Author.”
  • Go to Amazon, Goodreads or any other bookish place you frequent and click a star-rating.
  • If you have time while you’re there, jot down a few lines quickly about why you rated the book the way you did. You don’t have to be super eloquent or anything. Just honest.
  • If you have time, spend a bit longer on a more thoughtful review.
  • If you have a blog, maybe write a blog post about the book.
  • If you enjoyed the book, buy it for a friend, family member or colleague for their birthday or anniversary or just because you’re a hoopy frood.
  • If you hated the book, buy it for an enemy, because you’re cold like that, you mean sonofabitch.
  • If you’re part of a book group, suggest the book as a future read for your group.
  • Talk about the book, online and IRL.

You may have noticed that my list is in increasing order of time and effort. If you only do the first thing, that’s great. It’s better than doing nothing (which is why it’s repeated at the end). The more of those things you do, the better it is for everyone and the less of an impact the dishonest douchefucks will have.

So, take it away. And please comment with your thoughts on the subject and any suggestions you have for doing the right thing by authors and readers. Feel free to suggest additions to my list.



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. Zetetic.

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