Book Review: Eleanor by Jason Gurley

Gurley_EleanorTragedy has a profound effect on any family. A decision made by a family member in the past reverberates throughout time, reshaping possibilities, closing doors that should have been left open and opening ones that should have never even existed. A young girl, struggling with these consequences, finds herself torn from reality by strange forces that will affect her life forever.

A mesmerising mix of surreal fantasy, science fiction and beautifully written drama, Eleanor is one of those rare moments in a reader’s lifetime when they start to remember why they love reading so much. A story that grips from the first chapter and never lets go. Exquisitely-crafted characters and breathtaking imagery fuse effortlessly with an ambitious and original plot, bringing to life a story so captivating it refuses to be put down.

While dealing with darker themes such as suicide and addiction, Gurley displays an empathy with his characters I’ve rarely seen, neither glamourising their decisions or preaching against them but allowing the characters and their actions to speak for themselves. Conventions of genre are refreshingly swept aside. Many will try to tie it down, to quantify it, to classify it, but this book defiantly refuses to be pigeonholed into some obscure sub-genre.

Fans of Jason Gurley’s other work will be pleasantly surprised. This is Jason as you’ve never seen him before. As brilliant as his other work is, this is his most confident and accomplished book yet, and being the culmination of almost 13 years work it rightfully demands and deserves an audience. Easily one of the best novels you’ll read this year.

Available now on Amazon

 

 

 

Book Review: The Dimension Scales and Other Stories by Garry Abbott

SCALEI seem to be getting a hell of a lot of short story compilations sent to me these days. This can only be a good thing, especially for new authors who want to test the waters and show their wares to an ever-expanding ebook audience. Where the collection is by one author alone however, the stakes are raised slightly. Part of the attraction of short story anthologies to many readers is the variation and originality of the different authors featured. Any author wanting to release an anthology solely of their work has a lot of work to do to keep readers interested.

The Dimension Scales and Other Stories, a collection of fourteen sci-fi shorts from new indie author Garry Abbott does just that. The opener The Diary Of Derek Froggat, The Accidental Time Traveller , a sporadic account of a man thrown through time against his will, echoes cleverly through the final story The Voice Of Strad. Indeed, one of the great features of this collection is discovering how interconnected many of the stories are, some obvious, others requiring a second read for the penny to drop.

Black Swarm is a chilling take on the old b-movie style ant invasion story which, once reading will send shivers down your spine upon hearing a West Country accent in the future.

Given recent claims of a computer passing the Turing test it’s pretty apt that I was reading Love In The Shell when the news broke, as it deals precisely with that issue, where a family intervenes when their daughter becomes obsessed with an online friend they believe to be a bot.

Cry Again Army, is a thrilling dystopian tale of a woman coerced in to first teaching and then becoming the lover of a rich couple’s creepy son, the main advantage being granted access to a cryogenics program which will change her life and the future of humanity forever. This is one of the bigger stories in the series and there’s plenty of room for expansion of this tale.

As the collection continues, there are lots of nods to The Twilight Zone and The Outer Limits and a few more bizarre stories that would be more at home in a Roald Dahl collection. Some of the really short stories work very well, such as The Drawing Room, where a man finds himself lured into a strange trap by a flyer (did Derek Froggat escape a similar fate?) and the title story The Dimension Scales, a cheeky nod to classic sci-fi and The Day The Stars Moved is a short, simple and sweet story of a teenager staring at the night sky and noticing something odd.

One of the standouts for me was Animals Attack: Parts I-IV an apocalyptic tale of murderous animals which has great potential for a novel or series. It’s got some great characters and a solid plot and I’d love to hear more from this story.

There are also plenty of cautionary tales, such as Alex, Boudicca and Benny the Bear, and Newsbot Serial One well as the more horror-oriented Scalp.

As a debut, The Dimension Scales and Other Stories is a strong, imaginative, thought-provoking collection which accomplishes a great deal in establishing Garry Abbott as an author with a great future and I look forward to seeing what he can do with a full novel. He’s got a great writing style, an eye for detail and some great ideas and as a self-published author, he has taken the time to produce a well-packaged product with a great cover that’s also well-edited and formatted.

Highly recommended.

Buy on Amazon

Book Review: NOS4A2 by Joe Hill.

NOS4A2_coverI’m aware I’m a tad tardy to the party on this one but here goes!

The growing trend in horror fiction these days seem to be the evolution of “The Big Bad.” Authors try to outdo each other with over-constructed monsters, demons and sundry psychopaths in a bid to grab the attention of readers nowadays left yawning at the mere mention of anything as trivial as a mere vampire or werewolf. Horror readers have become a bit like gamers, desensitized to fear and violence, no longer looking over their shoulders on dark streets and sleeping quite well with the lights off, thank you very much. It’s getting harder and harder to scare us, even harder to keep us interested.

Joe Hill aims to change that with NOS4A2, a nostalgic hat-tip to 80’s horror novels (many by his father Stephen King) which attempts to reboot a genre already awash with overused tropes and clichés.

The story focuses on Victoria McQueen, a teenager who discovers a strange portal while cycling through an old bridge, which brings her face-to-face with the aforementioned big bad, Charlie Manx a vampiric child-killer with a supernaturally-charged Rolls-Royce Wraith. Surviving the initial encounter and eventually marrying her rescuer, Vic struggles to cope with the experience as she grows into adulthood, but has to face her fears when she learns that Manx still lives, despite being declared dead in prison.

The initial chapters deal well with Vic’s character development, flawed as she is by the time Manx reappears we’re well invested in herself and her family, enough to be genuinely disturbed by his imminent return. Aided by his human “employee” and fellow psychopath Bing Partridge, Manx aims to recreate and return to his hellish lair, Christmasland. Vic is a tough character, but the type of Ripley-esque female protagonist that is becoming all too familiar in recent literature, Lauren Beukes’ The Shining Girls and Hugh Howey’s Wool being prime examples of where this has been done brilliantly. Hill delivers the goods with Vic however, her courage being fuelled by her hatred of Manx and the need to protect her family rather than any real sense of heroism.

Manx himself is quite the piece of work. Part Joker, part Pennywise, part Keith Richards, with essence of demented Willy Wonka, a grimly cheerful ghoul who inflicts his horror with fiendish glee. It’s this levity that often makes him so terrifying as he smiles and quips his way through one horrifying act after another, and despite the introduction of his disturbing backstory he is ultimately irredeemable.

There are times when you would be forgiven for thinking you are reading a Stephen King novel, especially if you’ve read the majority of his work. The style is very similar, albeit with a younger, slightly edgier tone. I read Dr. Sleep previously to this and found parts of it to be very similar structurally (there’s even a mention of that book’s Big Bad, the Third Knot.) Bing Partridge is very similar to The Stand’s Trashcan Man, The Wraith could easily be a reincarnation of Christine. It’s obvious that NOS4A2 is an homage to his father’s work and there’s nothing wrong with that. His work deserves it and there’s no-one more suitable to do so than Joe Hill.

Niggles aside, NOS4A2 is hugely entertaining, often disturbing but thankfully never gratuitous in its execution. Manx and Partridge’s unspeakable acts are largely left to the imagination and while parts may leave you with a feeling of deja vu it deserves to stand on its own as a strong addition to what is fast becoming a tired and diluted genre.