Sunday, 26 July 2009

Reading Catch-Up

I haven't been neglecting my reading. I've worked my way through a few novels of late - as well as journals and various non-fiction tomes, sites etc.

I'd thought it about time I posted something about the fiction - let you know about some good reads out there - and maybe one or two not so good.

First off the pile is Jeff Strand's Pressure - a non-supernatural horror. Now this is a book I enjoyed immensely. Strand's protagonist starts as a young man in trouble, sent to a boarding school to sort him out. In one way it works, he ends up at University, but it also instroduces him to our friendly neighbourhood psychopath Darren Rust.

The book is told in segments, each some years apart from the next about times when our lead encounters Rust. This results in a series of climaxes growing in intensity as the book reaches its end. Great stuff.

Can't really say the same about Richard Satterlie's Imola. It's another non-supernatural horror - telling the tale of a mentally ill young woman, one of whose personalities just happens to be a sadistic sex killer with a hatred of men. Whilst it's well written - the death scenes well handled and story okayish, it has a problem. It's a sequel, and the only thing that raised the first book above average was the twist - which is not possible to have in this.

Nate Kenyon's Bone Factory raises the average. It tells the story of an engineer who takes a last-resort job deep in the woods in Canada during winter, working on a power plant that seems to be poisoning the flora and fauna.

This is a good read. The author uses the remoteness of his setting well, emphasising the distance between the characters and any possible cavalry - there really is no one going to come to their rescue. It might be a bit light on gore for some horror fans but definitely shows Nate Kenyon is a name to look out for.

Keeping on the trend of non-supernatural horror is Dean Koontz' Relentless. Now Koontz is one of the big names of horror, but in truth his best is behind him. He still has the craft though. His prose is very readable, he builds a decent amount of suspense and you do get to worry about the lead characters, but there are one or two too many unreal over-the-top components to make this a great book. Flawed but with some decent touches.

The final horror book of my recent reading pile is Brian Keene's Urban Gothic. Once again no supernatural but this does move away from just being a serial killer story. Here the big-bads are a bunch of deformed mutants who enjoy torturing their victims before eating them. Ii's a total gross out of a book - slime, blood, secretions galore. Not a book for the squeamish.

The only non-horror novel I've read of late is Robert Charles Wilson's Julian Comstock. It's a Mark Twain style novel set in a 22nd Century America after the end of the oil economy. Society and technology have regressed and the States are at war with a United Europe.

But the action is a lot more intimate than a war between continents might suggest. The action follows a young man, the Julian Comstock of the title and his friend Adam Hazzard. Comstock is the nephew of US President Deklan Comstock, a paranoid man who sees Julian as a threat.

It's not the easiest book in the world to read by any means. The prose is quite dense, being deliberately styled as you would expect a Victorian novel, but it is immensely rewarding. Wilson's imagining of a future America is incredibly vivid. I just cannot recommend this book enough. But then again I am a fan of RCW - have been for years so maybe I am biased.

Anyway, end of list. I have a few on the slate to read - some more PS Publishing, the third of Dean Koontz's Frankenstein series, the new Gary Braunbeck, and hopefully I'll find time for the next Kevin Anderson / Brian Herbert Dune novel.

But then - these schedules are always likely to change. You never know what will drop through my letter box tomorrow.

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