Quick Review: NEON PREY by John Sandford (G.P. Putnam’s Sons/Simon & Schuster)

SandfordJ-NeonPreyUSLucas Davenport’s 29th outing…

Clayton Deese looks like a small-time criminal, muscle for hire when his loan shark boss needs to teach someone a lesson. Now, seven months after a job that went south and landed him in jail, Deese has skipped out on bail, and the U.S. Marshals come looking for him. They don’t much care about a low-level guy–it’s his boss they want–but Deese might be their best chance to bring down the whole operation.

Then, they step onto a dirt trail behind Deese’s rural Louisiana cabin and find a jungle full of graves.

Now Lucas Davenport is on the trail of a serial killer who has been operating for years without notice. His quarry is ruthless, and — as Davenport will come to find — full of surprises…

This is the 29th novel in Sandford’s excellent Lucas Davenport/Prey series. I started reading them, I think, when Certain Prey, was first published in the UK. Since then, I’ve managed to read almost all of them (the first few weren’t available in Britain at the time, but are all getting published this year). With each new novel, I was impressed by Sandford’s ability to keep the series fresh and interesting. Neon Prey is no exception: I really enjoyed this. Continue reading

Quick Review: THE SOLAR WAR by John French (Black Library)

FrenchJ-HHSoT1-SolarWarThe Siege of Terra as the Horus Heresy draws closer to the end

After seven years of bitter war, the end has come at last for the conflict known infamously as the Horus Heresy. Terra now lies within the Warmaster’s sights, the Throneworld and the seat of his father’s rule. Horus’ desire is nothing less than the death of the Emperor of Mankind and the utter subjugation of the Imperium. He has become the ascendant vessel of Chaos, and amassed a terrible army with which to enact his will and vengeance. But the way to the Throne will be hard as the primarch Rogal Dorn, the Praetorian and protector of Terra, marshals the defences. First and foremost, Horus must challenge the might of the Sol System itself and the many fleets and bulwarks arrayed there. To gain even a foothold on Terran soil, he must first contend the Solar War. Thus the first stage of the greatest conflict in the history of all mankind begins.

This series has been a long time coming. The Horus Heresy series began with Dan Abnett’s Horus Rising, published back in 2006. After 53 more books, countless short stories, audio-dramas and more, the traitor forces of Warmaster Horus are knocking on the doors of the Solar system. This novel covers the opening moves of the end-stage, and French does a fantastic job of portraying this chaotic, brutal siege. If the rest of the Siege of Terra series is as strong (or stronger) than this, fans are in for one hell of a ride. Continue reading

Quick Review: BEST. MOVIE. YEAR. EVER. by Brian Raftery (Simon & Schuster)

RafteryB-BestMovieYearEverUSAn excellent examination of “How 1999 Blew Up the Big Screen”

In 1999, Hollywood as we know it exploded: Fight Club. The Matrix. Office Space. Election. The Blair Witch Project. The Sixth Sense. Being John Malkovich. Star Wars: The Phantom Menace. American Beauty. The Virgin Suicides. Boys Don’t Cry. The Best Man. Three Kings. Magnolia. Those are just some of the landmark titles released in a dizzying movie year, one in which a group of daring filmmakers and performers pushed cinema to new limits—and took audiences along for the ride. Freed from the restraints of budget, technology (or even taste), they produced a slew of classics that took on every topic imaginable, from sex to violence to the end of the world. The result was a highly unruly, deeply influential set of films that would not only change filmmaking, but also give us our first glimpse of the coming twenty-first century. It was a watershed moment that also produced The Sopranos; Apple’s Airport; Wi-Fi; and Netflix’s unlimited DVD rentals.

Best. Movie. Year. Ever. is the story of not just how these movies were made, but how they re-made our own vision of the world. It features more than 130 new and exclusive interviews with such directors and actors as Reese Witherspoon, Edward Norton, Steven Soderbergh, Sofia Coppola, David Fincher, Nia Long, Matthew Broderick, Taye Diggs, M. Night Shyamalan, David O. Russell, James Van Der Beek, Kirsten Dunst, the Blair Witch kids, the Office Space dudes, the guy who played Jar-Jar Binks, and dozens more. It’s the definitive account of a culture-conquering movie year none of us saw coming…and that we may never see again.

Best. Movie. Year. Ever. is an excellent, illuminating discussion and examination of the movies that defined 1999: a year that produced an incredible number of excellent, ground-breaking movies. They broke the moulds of their respective genres, updated certain outmoded mores and tropes, or created something wholly new. A fascinating book that is a must-read for movie fans. Continue reading

Quick Review: PERIHELION SUMMER by Greg Egan (Tor.com)

EganG-PerihelionSummerA story of survival and coming together in the face of catastrophic environmental change

Taraxippus is coming: a black hole one tenth the mass of the sun is about to enter the solar system.

Matt and his friends are taking no chances. They board a mobile aquaculture rig, the Mandjet, self-sustaining in food, power and fresh water, and decide to sit out the encounter off-shore. As Taraxippus draws nearer, new observations throw the original predictions for its trajectory into doubt, and by the time it leaves the solar system, the conditions of life across the globe will be changed forever.

I’ve been looking forward to reading this novella ever since I saw that stunning cover. I know, I know: don’t judge a book by its cover. But, damn, that’s a gorgeous image. Devastating, too: a world both on fire and experiencing  deep freeze at opposing poles. Egan’s novella is a well-written, unsettling story of how fragile the world is, but also how humanity can pull together to help one another in the face of incredible hardship. Continue reading

Quick Review: THE PAPER WASP by Lauren Acampora (Riverrun, Grove Press)

AcamporaL-PaperWaspUKAn interesting, unsettling novel of obsession and twisted friendship

Abby Graven is a dreamer. She dreams her way through her small, lonely life – hiding back at her parents, working at the grocery store. At night, she collects tabloid clippings that taunt her with Elise – her best friend, now Hollywood’s hot new starlet.

When a school reunion throws Elise in her path, Abby seizes her chance. With feverish certainty, she boards a one-way flight to LA to become Elise’s assistant and enters her gauzy realm of film sets and glamorous actors.

But behind Elise’s glossy magazine veneer, she is drowning in Hollywood’s vicious social cycle. Ever the devoted friend, Abby conceals her own burning desire for greatness.

For she is smarter than Elise. More talented. A true artist. And as she edges closer to her own ambitions, Abby can see only one way to make her dream come true.

After spotting the cover for this novel online, I did some digging and the synopsis caught my attention. I was lucky enough to receive a review copy, and dove in shortly after it arrived. I’m a sucker for novels set in and around Hollywood, and I enjoyed Acampora’s take on a friendship twisted by ambition and an unsettling obsession. Continue reading

Music Review: THE GHOST OF OHIO, Andy Black (Island Records)

AndyBlack-GhostOfOhioAndy Biersack/Black is, in my humble opinion, one of the best young vocalists in rock. In his “day job” as frontman of Black Veil Brides, we’ve heard his vocals and songwriting skills improve in leaps and bounds since they formed in 2006.

From the run-of-the-mill screamo of their debut album, We Stitch These Wounds (which was rather blandly stereotypical), to the way-more-glam Set the World On Fire (2011), to the monster hits of Wretched and Divine (2013) and Black Veil Brides IV (2014), he and his bandmates kept knocking it out of the park and getting better and better. Then, in 2016, he released his superb debut album, The Shadow Side: far more pop-oriented than BVB’s output, it is polished and catchy as hell. BVB’s fifth album, Vale (2018), built on everything that had come before and was another fantastic rock album. The pattern had been set: continued growth, and restrained experimentation, and more sophisticated song-writing. Continue reading