Tag Archives: 5/5

The best historical who-dunnit…EVER!

Okay, I know the title of this post is a little over the top, but January must be the month for brilliant books. Seriously, I’ve just finished ‘A Star in the Sky’ and I’m in awe of the author’s talent. Under the ‘Look Inside’ you’ll find the review I just left for ‘A Star in the Sky’ on Amazon. 5/5 of course.

Not only does the author, Zichao Deng, [d.z.c. for short] make the world of the ancient Mayans come alive in all its barbaric splendour, he’s also created a murder mystery which could only have occurred in that time!

This is no ordinary murder disguised with a thin vineer of history. Every clue, every backward step, every twist and turn of the plot is woven out of the facts of that world:

  • The man who died was poisoned,
  • The poison was the same poison as used on darts, but he was not shot,
  • In fact, there did not appear to be any way for him to have been poisoned at all,
  • The politics of the situation could have seen the death explained away as ‘magic’, but
  • The female doctor who is charged with investigating the death refuses to allow either politics or superstition to get in the way of the facts, or logic.

And, like the very best who-dunnits, the clues are there all along, but the great reveal doesn’t happen until the very end. In fact, there are two reveals and the second is even more astonishing than the first.

‘A Star in the Sky’ kept me reading when I should have been doing other things, and that was despite not dumbing down the names and Mayan words sprinkled gently throughout the story.

I love alien sounding names, so I had no trouble with the female doctor being called ‘Lady Tz’unun’. I likewise had no trouble with the name of the Queen – Sak K’uk – at least, not inside my own head. As a reader, all I wanted to do was identify the character, so who cares whether my pronunciation was accurate or not? And those names were part of the reason I knew I was not in Kansas any more.

Another thing I loved about ‘A Star in the Sky’ was the richness of the characters. Lady Tz’unun may be the Sherlock Holmes of the story, but her servant Three Rabbits, plus the Queen’s councillor, the Ti’sakhuun are all part of an ensemble cast that just work, individually and as group. The story is finished but I still want to know more about them, and I definitely want to know more about their slice of history.

I sincerely hope that Zichao Deng has more murder mysteries for Lady Tz’unun and her team to solve. Simply brilliant.

My review won’t go live on Amazon for a few more hours, so I’ll just leave you with a concept drawing done by the author himself:

a-star-in-the-sky-concept-drawing

You’re welcome 😀

Meeks

 


The Communion of Saints – a review

I haven’t done a review in a long time, but I finished The Communion of Saints last night, and I simply had to review it.

But first a little background. Communion is the third novel in the John Ray series that began with Hope Road and continued with Father and Son. My reviews of Hope Road and Father and Son are here and here. It’s been a long time between drinks, but the wait was worth it. Here is the review I just posted on Amazon:

Like ‘Hope Road’ and ‘Father and Son’,  the first two John Ray thrillers, The Communion of Saints is that rare beast: a character driven genre novel. And like its predecessors, Communion is brilliant.

The Communion of Saints can be read as a standalone novel because the author weaves enough prior knowledge into the story to make the character and motivation of the protagonist  realistic and satisfying. Nevertheless,  I highly recommend that you read the earlier novels first.

Why? Because all three novels are character driven thrillers, and it’s the character of John Ray, the protagonist, that sucks you in and keeps you turning the pages.

John Ray is the last surviving member of a crime family. He’s the white sheep, the one that broke away and tried to live a straight life. But it’s hard to remain divorced from your past when you see your brother shot to death in front of your eyes. It’s even harder to stay detached when the Law tries to lay every nasty crime at your door.

After the gruesome death of his father, the old crime boss, John Ray tries to start afresh. He gives his business away and takes a job as a lowly lecturer’s assistant, but he’s shrivelling up inside.

Enter Detective Chief Superintendent Shirley Kirk. She needs John’s help. Or, to be more exact, she needs the help of his historical links to the underworld because someone is making allegations of child abuse against an institution to which they both have ties.

In the process of unravelling truth from lies, John discovers yet more about his own past, none of it good. He also becomes a suspect in two murders, simply because of who he is.

The plot is tight, with no ‘what the…?’ moments, and the prose is elegant, painting a vivid picture of the characters and their world without ever being flowery or pretentious. But the true joy of Communion is in the characters. Not even the walk on/walk off characters are two dimensional. All of them possess a vitality that makes them feel real, no matter how minor.

As for John Ray and Shirley Kirk, they’re real people to me.  I care about them. I’d like to meet them, talk to them, spend time with them. More importantly, they are people I will not forget.

I cannot think of greater praise for an author’s work.

Something I didn’t write in the review was that I wondered whether I’d still have a wee bit of a crush on the charming rogue, John Ray. The answer is yes. He’s still a bad boy with heart, and we know how women like them. 😀

cheers

Meeks

 


State Zero – short, sci-fi movie – brilliant and Indie

I don’t like zombie movies, or horror movies in general, but I loved Alien when I first saw it at the movies.

Okay, stop sniggering, I was a lot younger then. Anyway, this Indie short reminded me of the very first Alien movie with a hint of Silent Hill because of the intelligent use of fear. Plus the graphics blend seamlessly with the live action. See for yourselves:

State Zero is top quality movie making at an Indie price.

Apparently DUST is a channel on youtube created to showcase short, Indie movies and I, for one, intend to see more of what’s available.

Happy Sunday,

Meeks


‘Ready Player One’ a #5star review

Before I begin, a warning to all non-gamers – tune out now.

ready player oneOkay, for those of you left, let me begin by saying that ‘Ready Player One’, by Ernest Cline, is the first non-Indie novel I have read in a very long time. I broke my unwritten rule about supporting only Indies because I’d heard the story was brilliant. It is. It’s a tour de force of imagination, but not for everyone.

Why? Because it’s all about gaming. MUDs, consoles, MMORPGs, VR, you name it. There’s even an homage to all things 80’s thrown in to season the mix. But if all those acronyms mean nothing to you, then neither will the plot because gaming provides the structure and mindset that makes the plot compelling.

And it is a compelling story. Set in the 2040s, ‘Ready Player One’ paints a dystopian picture of a world in which we left things too late. Climate Change is no longer a theory to be disputed, it is a reality to be endured, and for the majority of America’s population, that means living in abject poverty.

With the real world so grim, most people escape to the virtual reality of the OASIS, which is like our internet on steroids. VR immersion rigs – goggles, haptic gloves and suits – and cheap OASIS access mean that even the very poor can escape reality, at least to some extent.

But as with all good stories, there is a villain of the piece, and in the case of ‘Ready Player One’, that villain is a corporation known as IOI.IOI want to control OASIS because by doing so they would gain control of vast swathes of the world’s population.

Standing against this corporate threat are a bunch of teenaged geeks – Parzival, Aech, Art3mis, Daito and Shoto – called gunters. The action, however, unfolds on both the VR and real world planes, blurring the lines of both.

Is the plot innovative and new? Um, yes and no. At its core, the story is about the fight between good and evil, which is as old as human time itself. But how it’s done is why the story is so compelling. Being able to empathize with all of the main characters also helps.

The main character is an avatar called Parzival. The young man behind Parzival is Wade, an orphan who lives with his aunt and her abusive boyfriends in a ‘stack’. Stacks are trailer parks that have been built upwards rather than outwards [to save space] and they provide shelter to the very poor.

Wade can access the OASIS because at the beginning of the story, he is a school-age boy and all school-age children are provided basic access for free – so they can attend virtual schools on a virtual planet called LUDUS.

As always, of course, money talks, even in a virtual reality, so we become invested in Wade’s life because he is the stereotypical geek. The big difference between him, and say someone like me, is that Wade/Parzival is one of the smartest geeks around. Luckily, his insecurities make us love him even as we wish we were more like him. -cough-

And then there is the gentle love story I mentioned. It’s there, and it’s an integral part of the story, but it is not the integral part of the story, the pivot around which all else revolves. If you need a comparison, think Chani and Paul Muad’ib from the Dune saga.

For me, the love story in ‘Ready Player One’ struck just the right balance because it provided a change of pace when needed, as well as motivation for parts of Wade’s character development. All without ever overshadowing the science fiction element. Then again, I may be a bit old-fashioned when it comes to science fiction and romance.

And finally a word about the writing. Here too, the word that springs to mind is balance. At its core, science fiction [like its cousin Fantasy] is all about world building, so info. dumps are almost inevitable. The trick, then, is to balance the info. dumps with the action so the reader wants to keep reading.

As you can imagine, balancing two such conflicting elements, whilst also juggling character development, social commentary and that hint of romance, is one heck of a job. Ernest Cline, the author of ‘Ready Player One’ manages to keep all his balls [pun intended] in the air…most of the time.

I think I only really became aware of the info. dumps once or twice during the entire story, and even then, I was interested enough in the world to feel no resentment.

This was a story I enjoyed from start to finish, and it saddens me to think that such quintessential science fiction has been largely ignored by the establishment. It did win the Prometheus Award in 2012, but for my money, it should have won the Hugo and Nebula awards as well. It didn’t, but perhaps, as with The Martian, Ready Player One will gain the recognition it deserves when/if Steven Spielberg turns it into a movie.

In the meantime, why not read the book? Honestly, if you have ever played a video game, of any sort, then this novel is a must read.

cheers

Meeks

 


My review of The Remnant and #Amazon’s new review format

Click to go to the Amazon page

Click on the cover to go to the Amazon page

I’ve just discovered a new, fresh, wonderful voice in sci-fi! The author is Paul B. Spence and the book is The Remnant, book 1 of The Awakening series. Better still, books 2 and 3 have already been published so I have reading material for a couple of weeks at least. 🙂

This is the review I just left on Amazon:

I don’t normally enjoy so-called ‘military’ sci-fi because it often reads like a boys own fantasy with impossible Star Wars type space battles that are completely unrealistic, and woefully unscientific. But /this/, this story seems to be built on real science and real possibilities, no matter how remote. It is also a finely balanced blend of politics, archaeology and psychology where all the elements work together to create a very compelling story. From my point of view, the most compelling part is that the main character is both heroic and damaged. I like him as a hero, but I care for him as a person. This is how all sci-fi should be.

The only negative thing I will say is that the editing could have been better, not in terms of the prose – the prose is crisp, clean and at times almost lyrical – but in terms of the odd missing word, the odd typo. I noted them as I read them, but immediately dismissed them as the story drew me on.

Paul B Spence is a new voice in sci-fi [at least to me] but not for long. This is a storyteller who deserves recognition. Very highly recommended.

Seriously, I wasn’t exaggerating. This man knows how to write. 🙂

Now, to the second part of this post, Amazon’s new review format. It’s quite a departure from the past and has some good points, but also some strange ones. The following is a pic of the review screen as I was writing the review for The Remnant:

amazon new review format The Remnant

You can click on the pic to see an enlarged version, but the main features should be readable even in this one. The main innovation is the multiple choice meta reviewing now available. You can select options in four major categories – plot, mood, pace and character – to give a kind of snapshot of the book, presumably for people who don’t want to wade through reams of prose.

As an attempt to make the reviewing process less prone to abuse*, I have no issue with the multiple choice categories because they:

  • require at least some thought on the part of the reviewer, and
  • are not all polarized options ranging from ‘good’ to ‘bad’.

To illustrate the second point, let’s say I have some axe to grind with Amazon, or sci-fi in general, or Paul B. Spence in particular. To make my displeasure felt, I can still give The Remnant a one star ranking, but now I also have to provide a less black and white response via the multiple choice questions.

Under plot I could probably select ‘predictable’ as the most negative option, but some readers look for predictability in their reading material. Similarly, selecting ‘slow’ for the pace and ‘one dimensional’ for the character would be construed as negative by some readers but not all. Finally, under mood, I have no ‘bad’ choices at all.

So, all in all, I see the new format as a fairer way of leaving a review, however the lack of real choice in the answers kind of defeats the purpose of a real review. For example, I found the mood of The Remnant to be both ‘suspenseful’ and ‘thoughtful’, but I could only choose one option so therefore that element of the review is already inaccurate.

To be fair, the designers of the new format would have sweated blood getting the multiple choice questions to be as effective as they are. Nevertheless, I would love to have multiple choices per category rather than just one – e.g. ‘select the words that most closely reflect how you feel about…’

All in all, however, I give Amazon a big 3/5 [see the *update below] for the new review format, and Paul B. Spence gets a glowing 5/5.

Man, I love discovering great new authors, especially when they’re Indies**. Please give this man some love. My review brought his total up to just 10. He is obviously as good at marketing as I am. 😦

cheers

Meeks

  • * Carrie Rubin just let me know that you can leave a review without selecting any of the multiple choice options, which kind of ruins the idea that this will help reduce review-abuse. Ah well…:(
  • ** -sigh- I really should do my research before I hit the Publish button. The paperback of the Remnant was actually published by Asura. The Kindle edition, however, may be Indie published as it sells for $2.99. I read the Kindle version so… 😦

Halfskin – a review

Science fiction is supposed to be about pushing the boundaries, and coming up with new concepts, but much of the time it simply regurgitates old ideas. And we’re happy with that because those ideas are familiar and comfortable, like a well-worn pair of slippers. We don’t have to think about them, we can just enjoy the entertainment on offer.

And then there are the stories that challenge us too much. Here I’m thinking of China Mieville’s Embassy Town. I enjoyed it, sort of, but I certainly did not understand it, and that left me feeling inadequate.

Halfskin, however, is that happy medium all writers aspire to – a bright, shiny new idea wrapped in the comfort of characters we can relate to, characters who do not so much challenge as persuade. They are not Other, they are like us, and so we can understand their motivation. In fact, most of us would probably agree with their motivation. I know I do.

The story begins with a familiar enough scene – a bunch of young kids getting up to mischief and egging each other on. One of them, Nix, gets cut, and we realise that Nix isn’t bleeding blood, he’s bleeding biomites.

Biomites are the result of bionanotechnology, and act like stem cells, becoming whatever the body needs to function properly. In reality, however, biomites are microscopic computers, and they are all linked wirelessly to a massive computer system dubbed MOther. But MOther, standing for Mitochondria Terraforming Hierarchy of Record, does more than just receive data, it has the ability to monitor the level of biomites present in each and every human body. And when one of those bodies becomes a halfskin – i.e. half flesh, half biomite – MOther has the ability to switch the biomites off.

But if 50% of the functioning of a body is handled by biomites, and they’re suddenly switched off, what happens to the other 50%, the flesh percent?

It dies, that’s what. Enter the villain of the piece, Marcus Anderson.

Marcus Anderson, Chief of the Biomite Oversight Committee, and a ‘pure’ who has no biomites in his body, believes that Halfskins are not human any more. Furthermore, he believes that if biomites are allowed to proliferate unchecked, homo sapiens are doomed. Something will survive the biomite invasion, but it won’t be human any more.

And this is where the persuasion comes in. Because we know that biomites saved the life of young Nix, and make ordinary people ‘better’ than they would be naturally, it’s very easy to empathize with Cali, Nix’s sister as she moves heaven and earth to keep her baby brother from being switched off as a Halfskin. We see being switched off as cruel, and unnecessary. We want Cali and Nix to survive because they are the human face of Halfskins, and they’re still nice people, right?

The delicious thing about Halfskin is that with just a little change of perception, the story could easily become as scary as the old Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Imagine if the biomites were tech gone wrong. Imagine if they took over those they infected …and turned them into zombies!

No matter how much I may dislike Marcus Anderson as a character and a person, I can see the fear that motivates him. Self righteous he may be, but maybe, just maybe he has cause.

Halfskin is just the start of the story, and I for one am very, very curious to see where the author, Tony Bertauski, takes it next. Will he give us his answer? Or will he continue to gently push us to find our own?

Without a doubt, Halfskin is one of the best science fiction stories I’ve read this year, and I’ve read a lot. The writing is smooth and assured, with no awkward sentences or embarrassing typos. The characters too are perfect. As a mother myself, I have no trouble understanding Cali’s fierce protectiveness. Faced with the same circumstances, I know I’d do exactly the same. And even Marcus the Villain isn’t completely two dimensional. Nonetheless, for me, it’s the underlying ethical questions that truly make this story stand apart.

Halfskin – 5/5 and very highly recommended.

Meeks

p.s. You can buy Halfskin from Amazon as a stand alone book for $3.50 or you can buy is as part of the eleven book Taste of Tomorrow bundle [for 99c].

Standalone:

Bundle

http://www.amazon.com/Taste-Tomorrow-Dystopian-Boxed-Collection-ebook/dp/B00HPM3PDA/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1415571362&sr=1-1&keywords=A+taste+of+tomorrow


Cats in Clover – 5/5

I read this little book back in June, and liked it so much I left a glowing review on Amazon, but somehow I neglected to review it on the blog. I meant to, but time slipped away from me. Or perhaps I thought Cats in Clover would be so popular it wouldn’t need any additional help from me.

Sadly, when I stumbled on it again today, I discovered my review is still the one and only. What the hell? If reviews are a measure of the popularity of a book then something is very wrong here. This book deserves better. 😦

Why? Because it’s the funniest thing I’ve read since My Barsetshire Diary, that’s why. And oddly enough, My Barsetshire Diary starred a cat as well… Hmm…

Anyway, moving on. Whether you actually like cats or not, you are going to find this story about two middle-aged cat owners laugh out loud funny. Seriously. The cats are gorgeous but the people, the people are hilarious. 😀

http://www.amazon.com/Cats-Clover-Adriana-Island-Book-ebook/dp/B00GW5U7SC/ref=la_B00GW5PJ7Q_1_6?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1410416519&sr=1-6

Buy it! Read it! And if you agree that it’s a fantastic pick-me-up then please leave a review! [And no, I wouldn’t know this author from a bar of soap so no kick-backs are coming my way].

cheers

Meeks

 


The Queen of twist

Candy Korman is best known for her Monster novellas, but she is also a highly talented short story writer, and her stories always have a twist at the end. I’ve read quite a few of them now, so I know what to expect, yet the twists still take me by surprise.

I particularly enjoyed this one, so I thought I’d be nice and share. 🙂

***

Immortal Stranger

by Candy Korman

Very early in her life, Sonia began to entertain the notion of her immortality. When she was five, she received news that she took as a definitive confirmation. Her mother, then unexpectedly pregnant, told Sonia that she was adopted.

“We chose you, Sonia. You were a tiny, little baby and we picked you to be our daughter.”

The speech had the feel of something that had been rehearsed before a mirror many times. Her mother also seemed to expect a number of questions about the new baby, the origins of babies in general and about the nature of family. But Sonia only smiled. As far as she was concerned this simply added credence to her observations. She was not like her parents. She was smarter, braver, more important and definitely immortal. At this point, she wasn’t sure how to define her condition. Was she a creature from a fairy tale? Perhaps. Or an alien spawn from a movie on TV? Either way, she was an immortal stranger lodging with this human family.

When Jared was born, Sonia became a devoted older sister. She felt that she had to protect him and guide him. The extended family was very impressed by this. They’d expected some form of extreme sibling resentment, if not outright rivalry. As Bette, Sonia and Jared’s mother, was 46 and their father, Ben, was 45 when Jared was born there was chatter about the difference between accidents and surprises.

Grandma Anne, Bette’s mother, was appalled by the perimenopausal pregnancy. She continued to dote on Sonia, but was always a bit cool toward Jared. In this, she was not alone. Jared was a difficult child.; he was intelligent, but socially awkward; large and strong, but uncoordinated. This disturbed his sports-loving father. Jared bit another kindergartener during playtime, wet the bed until he was eight, was caught snooping in his grandmother’s medicine cabinet at nine, and walked in his sleep. Sonia was his only friend. Even the family’s cat didn’t like him. Fluffy slept in Sonia’s room and hid under her bed if Jared visited…

***

The link to the rest of the story, and the twist at the end, is below. Enjoy!

http://www.candysmonsters.com/immortal-stranger-a-strange-family-saga/

cheers

Meeks

p.s. While you’re visiting Candy’s new website, have a look at some of the other goodies you’ll find there. 🙂


The Wind from Miilark – the psychology of obsession – a review

John Deskata, heir to House Deskata, was exiled from Miilark for sleeping with his Law-Sister Rhianne. They were very young at the time and were not blood relations but the law had been clear and so John Deskata was disowned and thrust out into the world, to live or die by his own wits.

Many pampered heirs would have died but not John Deskata, he thrived – as a soldier. Despite having been raised as a trader he became a strong, cunning, efficient killer of men, and other things. His motivation was survival and pride, two things that served him well while the enemies he fought were clearly defined and while his allies were fighting the same enemies but what happens to such a man when the fighting stops and the past catches up with him?

For John the past returned with the destruction of House Deskata and a reunion with Rhianne. Both he and Rhianne were older, both had changed, yet both still clung to the love they had felt for each other as teenagers. Was this to be the happy ending to their shattered lives?

If you think M.Edward McNally’s Norothian cycle has suddenly taken a turn away from grown-up fantasy to romance novel then think again. In the Wind from Miilark McNally does take a slightly different direction but it is not into romance. Instead he explores the dark side of obsession and asks uncomfortable questions about whether it is ever possible to go back, to recreate a beautiful moment in the past with someone you have loved. Can things ever be the way they were or is it necessary to forge new bonds?

Rhianne is the first to recognize that the boy she loved is now a man and a stranger. She follows faithfully where John leads but all her attempts to get to know this stranger seem doomed to failure. John does not like talking about his past, the past that she did not share and seems to believe that nothing has changed, least of all himself. He is still just as obsessed with Rhianne as he was years before but now he has another obsession as well – exacting revenge on those who destroyed his House. For him the future is clear – he and Rhianne will live together and they will punish their enemies in any way they can, using any means open to them.

For John the end justifies the means. That is a lesson in survival he learned well as a soldier. And so obsession and expediency gather momentum as he stalks his prey with single-minded determination, dragging Rhianne along in his wake.

But Rhianne is no helpless damsel, she is intelligent and honest, far too honest not to realise that the man she is coming to know is not someone she always likes. She remains loyal but the seeds of the coming tragedy were sown many years before and cannot be stopped.

I won’t tell you what happens to John and Rhianne but I will tell you that The Wind from Miilark is my favourite book in the series. It is a very grown-up book, rich with a knowledge of the darker side of the human psyche. It is an exploration of the monster within, told with insight and great subtlety. For my money these internal monsters are far more interesting, and chilling, than any dragon or demon and make The Wind from Miilark a dark book full of foreboding.

I rarely rate books because I consider arbitrary numbers to be just that, arbitrary. However I’m breaking with tradition this time to give this book a 5/5 because I believe it crosses the genre barrier into literature. And I loved it.


Bram Stoker’s Summer Sublet – a review

We all know what it means to see life through ‘rose-coloured spectacles’ but no-one ever talks about the bruise-coloured glasses that cover our eyes when love goes wrong. I imagine that a simple ‘growing apart’ would result in purple specs but what kind of glasses would you wear if you discovered your fiance in bed with another woman… just two weeks before your wedding? Is there a filter deeper than black?

In ‘Bram Stoker’s Summer Sublet’, Willie is that woman betrayed but we don’t know that at the start. Her story begins in an unfamiliar bed with an unfamiliar the dog wanting to go for his morning walk. The apartment in which Willie wakes is not her own. The neighbourhood is not her own and Quincy the dog is not her own either. We learn that Willie is pet-sitting Quincy and Renfield [a talking parrot] for a month while their owner is away on holiday.

Everything seems very normal, even mundane until you begin to see that Willie is not just pet-sitting, she is in hiding from her own life because she can’t face what HE has done to her, HE being the fiance who cheated on her. She can’t face HIM and she can’t face the apartment they shared so she is literally homeless until her new apartment is refurbished. She could have taken her small suitcase and gone to stay with friends or her family but she can’t face them either. And she most certainly can’t face Facebook, not with her wall plastered with wedding news, so it’s just as well that she left her computer behind with everything and everyone else.

Willie believes that pet-sitting in a strange place where no-one knows her is the perfect way to retreat from the world while she licks her wounds but she is not aware of how isolation can distort the dark lens through which she already views the world. She begins to see significance in small things – a cab goes by showing an advertisement for a sexy new vampire movie and we learn that she is attracted to bad boys like her fiance. She says ‘HE wasn’t a vampire – although he certainly sucked the life out of me when I found him in bed with another woman…’ A little later she notices that the “coffin corner” on her floor is empty of decoration ‘as if it were ready for the undertakers.’ [In older buildings coffin corners were built into the bends of the stairwell to allow coffins to be carried down stairs.]

A little further in the story Willie catches the tail end of a news flash on tv, about the sudden increase in violent crimes… in her new temporary neighbourhood. Small things given special significance by a dark lens. I could go on but I think you can see the pattern unfolding.

When I read the Sublet just over a week ago I was too enthralled by the story to give much thought to how it was written but now I can appreciate the cunning way in which Candy Korman has woven these moment of special significance into the mundane world of dog poop, misery and day-time TV. It all feels so real and so normal yet with every page the influence of the dark lens becomes deeper and the impossible starts to feel… plausible.

Where is the dark lens leading Willie? That is the question that kept me turning page after page. By three quarters of the way through I could see where the story was headed yet I still did not want to believe because I’m a normal person and I know vampires aren’t real. Are they?

And that is all I am going to tell you, except perhaps to say that ‘Bram Stoker’s Summer Sublet’ is one of the best psychological thriller-cum-literary monster stories I have read in a very long time. The writing is superb, of course, but you won’t notice that until the end because you will be too busy wondering who the real monster truly is.

I knew that Candy Korman was a great indie writer when I read her first novella, ‘The Mary Shelley Game’, but now I know she is a great writer, full-stop because ‘Bram Stoker’s Summer Sublet’ is a great book. Great as in one of the classics. Great as in ‘will be remembered’. Great as in ‘would have been published in a bygone era when traditional publishers still cared about merit’.

This is a book you MUST read and I do not say that often. 5/5

[Note : Those of you who have followed my reviews from the beginning may have noticed that they have changed, becoming more and more positive as the months have rolled along. You may have wondered whether my reviews could be trusted. I just thought I’d take this opportunity to explain that I still read books that leave me dissatisfied but I no longer review them. This was a conscious decision on my part because I find negative, or even just so-so reviews very hard to do. They upset me. I put them off. I feel guilty. Then, when I finally force myself to write them I spend far too much time trying to be diplomatic, time I should be spending on my own writing. So I decided that I would only review books that made my greatness antennae go bzzzzzz. You may still disagree with me about what makes a given book great but I promise you that I’m not faking it!]


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