Tag Archives: book review

Book Review: ‘Haunted’ by James Herbert

Book review ‘Haunted’

by James Herbert

Rating: 2/5

ISBN-13: 978-0330451574

First Published 1988

 

The book follows the simple idea of a haunted house. David Ash is a psychic investigator who uncovers fake hauntings and has doubts as to the existence of ghosts. His sceptical view stems from a dark childhood secret. He travels to Edbrook, a remote country house, to investigate a haunting and stays with the Mariell family and begins to unravel their family secret.

Ok, so I have not read James Herbert for a while as I was getting fed up with his books. I got this book cheap in a charity shop, which is the best place to get books in my opinion. Or at least until I am an author and my royalties are affected. I had an open mind. Maybe with the passing of time, I would like his books again, maybe I had just read several duff books and this would be the one to bring me back.

The blurb in the dust cover promises that ‘he has taken on the haunted-house mystery story and re-forged it in his own uniquely brilliant and terrifying way.’  Sadly, the book is different to other haunted house stories in that James Herbert uses all the themes that he uses in all of his books, as well as every theme that haunted house films and books have used ever since, well, since houses were haunted.

James Herbert has very limited characters, which was the main reason that I was alienated from his books. All of his major characters in his books are late thirties to early forties, at least in ‘feel,’ if not implicitly stated. The character is always male, heavy smoker and drinker, hiding a bad past. The first pretty female encountered WILL end up in bed with said male character. She will have little character development and be very two dimensional.

Then there is the haunted house; the book reads like a check sheet of what to include. There is the murky pond haunted by a girl, life endangered one moment, then there is no threat, the house owner hiding information about a dodgy past, crazed people hidden from others, the violent dog, the ghost detectors that are not set off, child-like giggling, seeing someone, look again and they are gone, telephones not working, the local pub knowing something dodgy happens at the big house. Ok, you get the picture; there is nothing original in here at all. We’ve seen it all before!

Then there is the mitigation. James Herbert has the skill to form the story. His words leave deep impressions and vivid images. I did keep reading it; there were interesting parts, sadly not enough, and not enough originality. The haunted house is done to death, and it would take an incredible idea to revive it, sadly, ‘Haunted’ does not deliver.

 

Vedict: Unoriginal and disappointing.

Book Review: ‘The Dwarves,’ by Markus Heitz

Book Review, ‘The Dwarves,’ by Markus Heitz

Published by Orbit Books

ISBN 9781841495729

Verdict: 3/5

Good read but don’t expect anything earth shattering.

‘Dwarves’ is the story of Tungdil, a dwarf brought up by human magi, unaware of his background and family. He studies books, learning about dwarves and their culture and longs to meet them himself.

After a falling out, he is sent to deliver a message, and loves the idea of seeing the wider world. As his journey continues, he discovers a magus, Nudin, has betrayed the others. When he meets with the other dwarves, he finds that they must reforge a weapon, the only way to destroy the evil that resides within Nudin.

On his quest, he is helped by a range of unusual characters, from the fabulous Rodario, an actor, to the maga, Andôkai and her companion, the enigmatic armoured giant, Djerůn. The unlikely friends travel all over Girdlegard to stop the encroachment of the Perished Land and destroy Nudin, but Tungdil must also unify groups who have their own grudges against each other as well as his own party.

So what to say? The book is long at 730 pages, which can be daunting to some people. There are other books is the same world, but this is a complete story. It puts me off when I pick up a fantasy book and see that it is book X of Y. The length takes time to explore the characters and also to explain other points of action. Despite the length, there was never any feel that the book was slowing or intentionally long. It was as long as the story needed to be.

The book ambled at a gentle pace, although I found it harder and harder to put the book down the more I read. Most of the characters I liked and felt for, even one who was whiney. As with most stories that have several characters, there were a couple I did not enjoy, and I felt that the character of Djerůn could have been developed more. It probably did no help that he was not able to talk.

So far, so good. But why only three stars? This was Markus Heitz’s first novel, and since then, he has set several more books in the same fantasy world. I do not know if he has improved, I hope so as I find his work very good. There were some down points, which hindered the story and were silly. The use of ‘orbit’ and ‘cycles’ to replace ‘day’ and ‘year’ respectively made reading at times clunky, and it did not contribute to the story in any way.

The maps at the start of the book looked as if they had been thrown together in five minutes. We are all used to the beautifully crafted maps of Tolkiens Middle Earth, the world of Game of Thrones, Games Workshops’ ‘Warhammer World’, or even the Elderscrolls maps. The map of Girdlegard is very rectangular (it was drawn of A4, I am guessing.) They show a darkened area where mountains are and name the important places that are in the novel. There are no trees to show where the forests are, no rivers, no other important places. It is easy enough to make a map with more detail, even websites for it. So a map is not the most important part of a novel, but it would have contributed more to the atmosphere of the Girdlegard world, rather than making it look cheap.

Another, albeit, minor and personal annoyance, is that the book was translated from German into American English. I know this is because the American audience is larger, but seeing ‘axe’ as ‘ax’ and ‘amour’ as ‘armor’ just gets on my wick.

Now, I come to my biggest grievance, and the reason the book does not get a better score from me. The book is a fantasy book. Let me explain; there is nothing original. Had the book been written in the 1970’s then it would have been ok, but everything in this book we have seen before. The dwarves live in great fortresses underground, they smith, love gems and gold, drink too much and hate elves. The elves live in trees, dislike dwarves and are haughty to non-elves. Every stereotype of fantasy is in the book, so it gives nothing new to fantasy. Even the plot is very contrived. A dwarf does not know his past, magical weapons to kill the bad guy, but first they have to travel far and wide to get it. A mismatched group of travellers who become friends and discover things about themselves. The orcs who don’t seem to be able to kill anything, and throw themselves at the dwarves to get slaughtered.

Would I recommend this book? Yes, but only for a reader who wants easy reading, a reader who wants basic run-of-the-mill fantasy. Would I read more of his works? Yes. As I said earlier, it is well written with good characters, and hopefully his experience would remove the negative points I have pointed out.

Book Review: ‘Backwards,’ by Rob Grant

Review of ‘Backwards’

By Rob Grant

Verdict: 4/5

Great for all ‘red Dwarf’ fans

Backwards is a book set in the ‘Red Dwarf’ universe and written by Rob Grant who, along with Doug Naylor, wrote the TV show. Maybe this helps, as he knows the characters and universe so well.

The story begins with the crew of the ‘Red Dwarf’ on a planet that runs backwards. They have to rescue Lister before he goes back so far in time, he becomes and embryo then a lot worse. From there, they fight against the psychopathic robots, the Agonoids. There is also an appearance from one of my favourite smeg heads, Ace Rimmer, much to Arnold Rimmer’s annoyance.

The original characters are neatly captured, with my mind imagining the show’s actors and voices. There are parts of several TV episodes mixed into the writing, and the same humour is very much present. When a world runs backwards, it leaves so many fun possibilities, and among the many fun scenarios mentioned in the book, sex is so much less fulfilling when it ends with the foreplay. Being a book, the author can get away with more than he could on TV, but the gross-out factor is only the worse for it, with everything being in the reader’s mind. Although this is the third in the series of ‘Red Dwarf’, reading the others is not essential as it is easy enough to follow the plot.

Sadly Cat did not have a large enough role, although what he did have was fantastic, I would say more, but I don’t want to spoil it for readers. The crew leave the backwards planet in good time, and the pace does slow and the humour fades, but even that cannot dampen this hilarious book.

Book Review: “Web of Darkness” by Marion Bradley

Web of Darkness

Marion Bradley

ISBN 0-450-05855-7

Published 1983

Verdict: 1/5

Web of Darkness is the second in the Fall of Atlantis series, although it is can be a stand alone book as well. It follows the story of two sisters and the part they played in the downfall of Atlantis. The two sisters live in a temple, one is a teenage child, the other slightly older.

I had never heard of Marion Bradley, so was not aware that she had written so many books nor of her controversial sex allegations. That probably made it easier to have an open mind when I began the book.

The comments within the covers compare it to Tolkien and there are generally favourable reviews on the internet, but for me, I could not even finish it. Many books I have read which begin badly I struggle through, some improve (The White Witch) while some torture me until the bitter end. For me not to finish the book, it must have been awful. I reached page eighty, of 369 pages. In those pages nothing happened. No really, nothing at all. People walked about and talked. Some went to a temple and some talked. They even slept. And talked, although not at the same time.  Inane conversations, and muttering of love and some people’s places. There was no character development, no excitement and the characters were not even interesting. I did not like the main characters, they were annoying and bland. I also did not like the names, with the main two characters, Deoris and Domaris being too similar so that I was not sure who was whom. I have read many fantasy books, and yet the names in this books seemed too ‘far out’ to understand.

At this point of slating a book, I move onto the bit I liked about the story. Um, yeah. Even the cover was not particularly inspiring.

Conclusion: Good to help the insomniacs.

Book Review: ‘Robin Hood’ by Carola Oman

Book Review:

Robin Hood

by Carola Oman

 

Rating: 4/5

Published By JM Dent & Sons Ltd in 1975 (originally 1949)

ISBN 0 460 02177 X

 

Robin Hood is one of the most famous fictional characters in the world, with his tales dating back into the middle ages. The truth and fiction is mixed up, with theories that he was based on various real people, and tales being collected and changed across the centuries. He is an English hero, among the greats of Sherlock Holmes and King Arthur.

Carola Oman’s book is not one continuous tale, but a collection of stories about Robin Hood collected together with a loose connection. Her tale begins with Sir Richard of the Lee in debt and in danger of losing his lands, where he meets Robin Hood who helps him. Sir Richard makes several more appearances throughout the novel, playing a major part. All of the other characters expected in Robin Hood tales also appear; Little John, Maid Marion, Will Scarlet and of course the wicked Sheriff of Nottingham.

The book begins with Robin already being an outlaw with his band of merry men in the forest of Sherwood. It was written for children, and takes a gentle atmosphere, full of merriment and heroism. It is a nice book, innocent and inoffensive to anyone, as to be expected for children’s books. So it is a child’s book, why did I read it? Because I enjoyed it.  The character of Robin is loveable and infallible, and he is more Errol Flynn than Kevin Costner, swashbuckling his way through the baddies.

Yet it is not perfect. Sometimes the writing is dated, and the speech is almost a stereotype of medieval talk. There are parts that could have had more detail. At one point they go to the Sheriff, but it is only touched upon in a couple of lines of speech. It is a major plot point dismissed in an instant. The tension does feel lacking, probably because of this point. I would also have liked more background on Robin Hood, as I feel it started too late in his story. There are some parts of his background that leave questions open.

 

Verdict: Despite a few shortcomings, it is a fun take on a well used theme.

Book Review: ‘Haunted’ by James Herbert

Book review
‘Haunted’
by James Herbert

Rating: 2/5
ISBN-13: 978-0330451574
First Published 1988

The book follows the simple idea of a haunted house. David Ash is a psychic investigator who uncovers fake hauntings and has doubts as to the existence of ghosts. His sceptical view stems from a dark childhood secret. He travels to Edbrook, a remote country house, to investigate a haunting and stays with the Mariell family and begins to unravel their family secret.
Ok, so I have not read James Herbert for a while as I was getting fed up with his books. I got this book cheap in a charity shop, which is the best place to get books in my opinion. Or at least until I am an author and my royalties are affected. I had an open mind. Maybe with the passing of time, I would like his books again, maybe I had just read several duff books and this would be the one to bring me back.
The blurb in the dust cover promises that ‘he has taken on the haunted-house mystery story and re-forged it in his own uniquely brilliant and terrifying way.’ Sadly, the book is different to other haunted house stories in that James Herbert uses all the themes that he uses in all of his books, as well as every theme that haunted house films and books have used since, well, since houses were haunted.
James Herbert has very limited characters, which was the main reason that I was alienated from his books. All of his major characters in his books are late thirties to early forties, at least in ‘feel,’ if not implicitly stated. The character is always male, heavy smoker and drinker, hiding a bad past. The first pretty female encountered WILL end up in bed with said male character. She will have little character development and be very two dimensional.
Then there is the haunted house; it is like a check sheet of what to include. Murky pond haunted by a girl, having life-threatening experiences happen, then suddenly they are not. The house owner hiding information about a dodgy past to the hero, crazed people hidden from others, the violent dog, the ghost detectors that are not set off, child-like giggling, seeing someone, look again and they are gone. Telephones not working, the local pub knowing something dodgy happens at the big house. Ok, you get the picture; there is nothing original in here at all. We’ve seen it all before!
Then there is the mitigation. James Herbert has the skill to form the story. He does not resort to mindless bloodshed, bludgeoning his readers over the head to force the point that this is horror; he molds the words to be psychologically horrific. His words leave deep impressions and vivid images. I did keep reading it; there were interesting parts, sadly not enough, and not enough originality. The haunted house is done to death, and it would take an incredible idea to revive it. Sadly, ‘Haunted’ does not deliver.

Vedict: Unoriginal and disappointing.

Book Review: “Dying Inside” by Robert Silverberg

Review: “Dying Inside”

By Robert Silverberg

(Sidgwick and Jackson 1972 ISBN 028398577I)

Davis Selig is a Jewish New Yorker in the 1970’s but has an incredible power of mind reading. He can enter minds and see what they know and think, seeing it as images. He has few friends, and the person he is closest to is his sister, and they do not particularly like each other. She is one of the few people who know of his power. However, the power is dying; he is finding it harder and harder to enter other minds.

As the book progresses, we learn of how he has used the power and the few people who have been close to him. It shows that he has identifies himself as ‘different’, and why this made him sad and lonely.

What to say about this book? Well it is hard going, the timeline jumps about, and there is a theses in full (He writes them) which does not contribute to the story at all, except possibly illustrating his character more. This chapter is long arduous and irrelevant.

            Yet the book is fantastic. Books about superheroes are about people who have fantastic powers and use them to save/takeover the world. Get real! If most people could read minds why not use it to get laid or cheat or have an easy life. David is too lazy and insecure to use his powers to get immensely wealthy or get a career, but he uses it to ‘bum about. Hey this is the 1970’s after all. The book is depressing about how much damage being different is, and Selig goes from applauding his powers to cursing them.

            The characters are strong, especially David, who despite being a bit of a loser, is lovable. The story is enjoyable and raises many questions, such as what we would really do if we had superpowers, and what is it like to be different in society. The ending is good, but not how I would have expected it. The content is very adult, and sometimes sexually disturbing.

            I had never heard of Robert Silverberg before, but found out with Google that he is normally a Sci-Fi writer and is a prolific author, and in 1958 had 80 stories published. He had been having 5 published a month previously. I will be seeking out more of his works.

Verdict: Fantastic book, I recommend it.