Larry by Adam Millard

Cover Art Larry by Adam Millard

I picked this book up at EdgeLit last week. I’d never heard of the author but he had a stand there selling his wares. There were some books with better looking covers but hearing the author describe the premise behind this story I just had to give it a go. The cover art was perfect for the book. It summed up the splatter elements but more importantly hinted at the humour and rather bizarre nature of this story. I wondered why the author put SQUUUUEEEEEEE on the dedication. You’ll find out as I did pretty soon after you start reading this.

I loved the simplicity of this story. In terms of plot and characters there was nothing that surprised me. The fast-paced easy to read prose made reading this novella a really quick read. There is more to it than that. The sense of humour in this book was brilliant. At times it was subtle but on other occasions it hit you in the face like a blood soaked axe (that was a spoiler). There were quite a few horror references littered throughout this story and at one point near the end it felt like there were so many my brain was going to explode. It didn’t and I enjoyed feeling like I’d found something extra hidden within this deceptive story.

I thoroughly enjoyed this story and plan to read some more of Millard’s work.

And The Fox Crows by V.C. Linde

Book Cov er And The Fox Crows By V. C. Linde

Stephanie Johnson did an amazing job with this cover. My wife rarely says anything about the books I read but she said wow when she saw this cover. Upside down it kind of looked like lady bits, but that might just have been me projecting.

This book was all about foxes. I liked the way Pan was used to place the foxes within the world. This book challenged me as a reader. The thing that I liked the most was also the thing that made this difficult to read as a whole. These poems because of their origins have a different structure and rhythm. After reading the whole book in one go (it is about fifty pages so not that impressive) I went back and read each poem one at a time. It worked better when I did it that way as  I could focus on that poem rather than the overall flow that I usually look for.

I enjoyed this collection and was disappointed that there were not more poems as I could happily have read more. Foxes for me have always been a sign of wilderness. Even in an urban environment they seem to embody what it is to be out there alone in the wilds. That came across really well in this book.

The Last Laugh by Paul D. Brazill

Book Cover The Last Laugh by Paul D. Brazill

The cover just about summed up this book for me. From the misanthropes to the degenerates there was a theme of self abuse particularly substance abuse. When it comes to Brit Grit and hard-boiled noir I can think of few authors I have enjoyed more than Brazill.

Every character seemed not only real but like somebody I knew and could relate to. The real genius for me was how the author managed this with a cursory description and a killer one liner. I have considered writing down a list of Brazill’s genius quips as his books are worth reading just for those.

I have been used to most of the authors noir being set in his fictional Seatown but the first story starts with some ex-pats (or immigrants as we’d call them over here) on the continent. I found this setting to be an interesting change of pace and something I’d like to read more about. I was however most eager to get back to Seatown.  For me Seatown sounded like Jaywick Sands but in the north east but I’m fairly sure the way these stories were written will mean it sounded like a different town to each reader.

I have deleted about fifteen drafts of this paragraph. It was supposed to be a brief description of the stories. Every time I tried to describe them I made the stories seem rubbish. So much of this book happens inside the readers head that I don’t think I’ll ever be able to do it justice without rambling. Suffice to say that I really enjoyed it and will be nudging Brazill to ask if there are any more stories set in Spain coming out soon.

Eve of War Edited by Mhairi Simpson and Darren Pulsford

Eve of War Cover Art

This book is yet another anthology from Fox Spirit. This is yet another example of their high quality work. I can’t remember a single typo that stopped the flow of my reading and that is something I really cherish in a book. This was a well structured and coherent tome that just worked. It has a different feel to other books by this publisher. The descriptions of the combat scenes were well thought out and I could see myself stepping through them in a way that I hadn’t felt in this kind of anthology before. It seemed like the authors wanted this book to feel like the movements were real rather than trying to exaggerate or try to create new body dynamics. I am pretty sure more skilled martial artists than me could re-create most of the combat with ease.

About three quarters through this book I was expecting to say that all of these stories are on a level and that there were no glaring dips in quality. That was until I read Lucille by Alec McQuay. That story hit me hard. It was so emotional not just because of the writing but by how it reminded me of my nan. I could easily see my nan’s inherent sense of justice and inability to accept bullying to lead her in to a similar situation. I’m not sure quite how to describe why I liked this story so much other than because of the raw emotion it engendered. I think I need to read that story a couple more times once it has settled in to me brain. The final story in this book was by Chloe Yates and yet again she made me laugh and entertained me. When I die I want Yates to write my epitaph because she is the mistress of one liners.

 

 

I am Slaughter by Dan Abnett

I am Slaughter by Dan Abnett

I loved the title of this story. As I read through I thought I knew why it was called that but then there was another reason. These two reasons were opposed and created an interesting tension in my mind. I can’t wait to see how these clash and live up to the title.

It was a good idea to get Abnett to write the first book in this series. He has a way of creating lots of threads that are needed later on in a series without it seeming contrived and cluttered. The story flowed nicely.

At the start of this book the empire was strong with barely a threat to the central systems in generations. The old ways being replaced with pandering politics which seems scarily like a modern British parliament to me. Not a great sign. Sure enough as soon as the veneer was pulled back there were cracks the size of my credit card bill.

Some of my favourite Abnett books have been about the Inquisition. Ravenor and Eisenhorn gave me hours of pleasure. To see this side of the Ordos was really interesting for me. I particularly enjoyed the interplay between the head Assassin and the Inquisition senate representative. These two are used to performing duties that others deem unsavoury but that are required to protect the throne from enemies within, without and beyond. This created a tension to their interplay that seemed more dangerous and significant than the slaughter of a Space Marine Chapter.

I am reading this series in the form of audio books and the quality of the reading has been excellent without being hammy and overdone. I’ve already ordered the whole series. This is well worth a read.

Doublethoughts by Akala

Doublethoughts by Akala

I tried for a while to decide on words to describe Akala. It was a lot more difficult than I expected. Best known as a Grime rapper Akala to me he represents so much more. From his TED talk and Hip-hop Shakespare Company to his articulate and intellectual dismantling of the quasi-logic of British racist politicians through to his Oxford Union history talk. I could go on and cite dozens more fascinating things that Akala has been involved in but You’ll enjoy it and learn more if you go looking for yourself. You may be wondering why I’d mention these things before talking about a poetry book. This wasn’t just a collection of Grime lyrics laid out as a poetry book. This was a genuine poetry collection.

The book itself was a paperback. Akala self-published this material to maintain control of his supply line. Could he have made more money through other channels? Possibly. I admire the way he does everything he can to be responsible for his art. It can’t have been easy. When I read a small press or self-published book I always feel the paper. The quality of the paper can often tell you a lot about how much a piece of work is valued. As expected the paper used for this book was of good quality and a great medium for this work.

There was a utopian/distopian futuristic story to the first part of this collection. It centred around the strength of ignorance as a method of control. What I liked most about this part was not only how I could see it in how our own society is developing but how the seeds that control were already present now and a long way back in the past. It would be hard to talk about this book without mentioning slavery and the control of the proletarians throughout our history. I won’t. I don’t have the skill or intellect to do it anywhere as well as Akala does. The power of his delivery also conveyed his passion and knowledge on every page.

The second section of this book was more of the kind of collection and structure of poems that I am used to. The content though was hard hitting and thought provoking. There was one poem called Yours and My Children that I read over and over again. It really hit me hard. Part of me wanted to put the whole of that poem on here to show you but that would take away from discovering it where it should be found in this book. Below is the chorus that I still have echoing through my head several days after reading it.

Chorus

Kids in Iraq: Yours and my children
Kids in Iran: Yours and my children
Afghanistan: Yours and my children
Even Sudan: Yours and my children
Kids in Brazil: Yours and my children
Police drive by the favela and just kill them
Kids in Brazil: Yours and my children
Police drive by the favela and just kill them

Yours and My Children by Akala taken from Doublethoughts

The third and final section of this book showcased some of Akala’s amazing Grime. It included the lyrics to his seminal Fire in The Booth session and I found it fascinating to slow it down and really try to digest what he was saying. There was purpose and education in what he said not just in this section but throughout this collection. I’m finding it hard to be objective about this book because as with most things about Akala I found it thought provoking and belief challenging. I really hope Akala releases more material like this.

 

 

The Emperor Expects by Gav Thorpe

The Emperor Expects by Gav Thorpe

I didn’t so much read this as I did listen to it. I like audio books but they cost a lot more than I can afford more than once in a while. You’ll notice I didn’t say it was expensive. When everything involved is factored in I think that £20 was a fair price for this product. I bought this directly from the Black Library because I try to put money as close as I can to the content creators. This story was excellently narrated by Gareth Armstrong and had a great sense of gravitas.

This was the third book in The Beast Arises series. I hadn’t read the first two in the series and chose this one for a couple of reasons. Firstly the blurb made this sound like a book I would enjoy but more importantly it was by Gav Thorpe. For a gamer of my age the 3rd and 4th edition 40K codexes were things that I routinely broke the spines of through overuse (and that is without considering some of the really cool 40K novels written by Thorpe).

I wasn’t disappointed. There was a great variety of action in this book. From personal combat and system wide ship conflict to the political machinations of the High Lords of Terra.  The multiple threads of this story converge in to a shock ending that means I can’t possibly avoid buying the fourth story in the series. Whilst the politics of the Imperial Navy and their protracted tactical battles were interesting I love anything to do with The Inquisition. Throw in Assassins and you get a story that felt made for me.

I just need to decide whether to save up for the audio books or the physical books. For those really invested in making sure they have a whole series there is an option to buy the whole series in advance at a discount. This at first might sounds silly but I personally  hate it when I’ve read most of a series and it gets canned. This way there is a pretty good chance the series will complete if people have already paid for it. There are worse things to do with your money.