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Shriek: An Afterword
Shriek: An Afterword
by Jeff VanderMeer
Edition: Paperback
Price: $18.82
51 used & new from $3.98

2.0 out of 5 stars More of a (muffled) croak, January 24, 2016
This review is from: Shriek: An Afterword (Paperback)
A somewhat overextended rehash of an H P Lovecraft plot (to name it would be a spoiler) seen through the prism of an afterword by an unreliable narrator (annotated in parenthesis by her brother) and epilogued by a snooty aesthete named Sirin (there's a sign or a symbol there, oh yes). The prose does not reach the heights implied by this piece of name-dropping (far from it), and the combination of unreliable narrators and fantasy setting makes for a rather clumsy telling of a rather unremarkable tale (albeit some of the details are quite fun). The use of parenthesis to differentiate one narrator from the other is a thoroughly cack-handed device (and results in a somewhat irritating read).


Tales from a Broken Biro: There Will Be Ink
Tales from a Broken Biro: There Will Be Ink
Price: $2.99

4.0 out of 5 stars A sharper class of pen, December 23, 2015
Twenty-four tales, all short, and some very sharp indeed. Quite a few are twist-ended types of the Saki-O. Henry species, but even the shortest usually have an emotional impact that prevents them falling into flippancy, and only one ("Trick or Treat?") disappoints with a conventional genre punchline that is unworthy of the nice build-up. The very short pieces - notably "Flowers" and "Aaron's Short Romance" - jab all the better for comprising only a few dozen carefully chosen words. Others, like "Parallel Conservatory" and "The Wall", make use of surreal yet highly concrete imagery to convey the poignant or frightening mental states of their narrators; and "Two Swans", the best of the collection, combines the virtues of all the rest in its brevity, oddity, satiric humour and poignant finale.


The Black Opera
The Black Opera
Price: $0.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Nuclear gonzo, December 17, 2015
This review is from: The Black Opera (Kindle Edition)
The Black Opera is nuts. It's pacy, intricate, gripping, hilarious and nuts. It throws together enough conspiracy material to make Oliver Stone's head explode - nukes in suitcases, rogue intelligence operatives, the Kennedy assassinations, hackers, Islamic fundamentalists, Cuba and no doubt I've missed a few - and stirs them into a plot that most authors wouldn't get through in five times the page count, let alone make comprehensible. However insane the action (did I mention that The Black Opera is nuts?), the plot never confuses; and although the character population is large, everyone is crisply etched and their numbers are in any case rapidly thinned by the unfolding calamity. Embrack's style is as sharp as the creases in a CIA bad guy's suit, like Hunter S Thompson covering the build-up to Apocalypse.


Redemption Road (Martin Calvary Book 3)
Redemption Road (Martin Calvary Book 3)
Price: $4.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Fast lane, December 11, 2015
Fresh from shooting a British politician in a compromising position, Martin Calvary is assigned to investigate the connection between a rich Russian thug and Alal, an independent operator whose previous escapades have ventured unpleasantly near the apocalyptic. The trail leads Calvary to the profitable morass that is the Democratic Republic of the Congo, first with three fairly unknown quantities and later with a motley band of unreliables, undesirables and possibly-redeemables, all of whom are as deftly sketched as the pestilent, war-ravaged and bandit-banked river from which the book takes its title. This is another fine performance by Stevens, snaking rapidly along to a gripping chase.


The Temptations of Emile Cioran (American University Studies)
The Temptations of Emile Cioran (American University Studies)
by William Kluback
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $57.95
22 used & new from $44.97

1.0 out of 5 stars Eminently resistible, September 19, 2015
A woefully unenlightening, dismally indulgent, horrendously written collection of pieces on the French-Romanian essayist and aphorist. One of the authors likes to express himself in such sentences as "Existence longs to deepen its individuality and peculiarity, to hold itself apart from the amorphous logic that assigns to it a place in the never-ending movement of logic to find its own self-realisation." He also refers to himself throughout in the first person plural. The other author is less of a failed Cioran parodist, but still thinks that he can squeeze some sort of insight from constructing an entire paragraph out of the English titles of Cioran's books. Those interested in Cioran would do better with a work which the plural parodist shrugs off: Susan Sontag's long essay introducing The Temptation to Exist.


The Devil's Secret
The Devil's Secret
Price: $3.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Devilishly clever, July 11, 2015
A doctor in a small English town starts receiving anonymous messages, at first apparently harmless but escalating rapidly to the threatening and criminal. As the situation becomes more and more traumatic, with ever more extreme and fiendish interventions, it becomes increasingly difficult for doctor and reader alike to discern who can be trusted. T G Stevens, who may possibly be related to the spy novelist of nearly the same name, has produced a neat, well-characterised psychological thriller which plays nicely with its audience's expectations of who the devil will turn out to be.


Nemesis (John Purkiss Thriller Book 6)
Nemesis (John Purkiss Thriller Book 6)
Price: $3.82

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Patriot games, March 26, 2015
An old enemy of Purkiss' escapes from a prisoner exchange and, motivated by blood-and-soil patriotism, sets about consummating an extremely unpleasant plan. Purkiss is sent out to foil him, aided by two fellow professionals whose reliability he has various reasons to doubt. In the higher echelons of British Intelligence, of course, motives and means are more dubious still. The story is a more or less straightforward chase, and none of the secondary characters quite matches up to Delivering Caliban's Nina or Tundra's S V Lenilko; but although this latest installment in the Pukiss saga marks time a bit, it's still a thoroughly efficient, page-turning read.


Rewind Rewrite
Rewind Rewrite

4.0 out of 5 stars Popish plot, February 9, 2015
This review is from: Rewind Rewrite (Kindle Edition)
As usual the Church is in crisis, and the Pope commissions the splendidly-named Atticus Justice to travel back in time and deliver proof to the faithful that faith is no longer necessary. Braving the climatic and dietary hazards of first-century Judea, Atticus does his best, but twelve unforeseen complications arise. The author of "Jasper and Ruby" and "Liability Limited" has spun another amusing tale, whose many incidental charms include the exact wine that was magicked at Cana, a new perspective on the miracle of water-walking and a dismissive one-liner about Satan.


Cronos Rising (John Purkiss Thriller Book 5)
Cronos Rising (John Purkiss Thriller Book 5)
Price: $3.82

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fallen gods, November 16, 2014
When his boss is killed in a terrorist bombing, Purkiss has to investigate urgently since, quite apart from his personal feelings, there is every chance that he will be next on the list. Via a Greek islet and some neat allusions to the pantheon, the investigation reaches back into the unholy mess that was British intelligence in the nineteen-seventies. The assistance which Purkiss picks up along the way - a blandly efficient fellow-agent, a mysterious sleeper and a battered ex-squaddie - is all kinds of uncertain, and the story contains all the multiple-crosses one would expect, and a couple more for good measure. This is another excellent performance by Stevens, and the final revelation about Cronos adds a surprisingly emotional twist to the many others preceding it.


The Last Days of Mankind: The Last Night
The Last Days of Mankind: The Last Night
Price: $5.99

5.0 out of 5 stars The epilogue as prologue, September 1, 2014
It beggars belief that Karl Kraus' monstrous masterpiece, The Last Days of Mankind, has had to wait almost a century for a full English translation. As Michael Russell, the brave man who has finally taken on the task, points out in his introduction, Kraus is both a great European writer and a member of the still more exclusive club of great satirists; and his insights into the poisonous relationship between war and the media are as depressingly relevant today as they were during the Great War. The Last Night is the epilogue and summing-up of The Last Days of Mankind, and its extraordinary imagery of gas-masks, hyenas and the mass-media Antichrist has lost none of its potency. Russell's translation, like the original, is in rhymed verse and reads very well for the most part; and the explanatory notes are useful without being obtrusive. On the evidence of this work, Russell's forthcoming translation of the complete play should be a worthy commemoration of the genius of Kraus, and the horror of the Great War and all the wars to come.


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