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Halloween / Samhain Review: Garbage Man by Joseph D’Lacey

Regular readers of this blog know that I’m a great fan of Joseph D’Lacey‘s work – ‘Meat’ stunned me, ‘Black Feathers’ rocked, ‘The Kill Crew’ was a damned fine zombie-tale, and ‘Snake Eyes’ was one of the finest short-fiction collections I’ve read.

So, when I got this chance to finally read ‘Garbage Man‘ -which Joseph arranged to send to me wayyy back, along with ‘Meat’- I jumped at it, and here, after years of having the book, is my review. 🙂 And just in time, too… It’ll have entered the Blogosphere just as the nameless things that we don’t see begin twitching toward wakefulness… 😉

Here’s the blurb:

Shreve, a dead-end town next to the UK’s largest landfill. There’s nothing the bored residents won’t stoop to in an attempt to spice up their pedestrian lives. All wannabe model Aggie Smithfield wants is to escape before Shreve swallows her ambition along with a million tons of rubbish and dirty little secrets. Desperate, Aggie asks renowned but reclusive ex-photographer, Mason Brand, for help. The deal they make might be the only thing that can save her when the town’s fate catches up with it. Beneath everyone’s feet, something born of the things we throw away is awakening. And when the past is reborn, there will be no escape.

Garbage Man‘ focuses on that which we discard, which we no longer find value or meaning in, and takes it to an extreme exploration that could easily have become a sad, hilarious B-Movie plot-gone-stupid. But Joseph doesn’t write stupid, cheap-thrill stories.

The novel opens with a scene that’ll have you grimacing and squinting while you read (I won’t spoil it for you), introducing two -perhaps three- of the novel’s main characters – Mason, Aggie, and … well, you’ll see. It’s one of those portentous scenes, layered with much more than what the characters are doing or thinking. The reader gets a good introduction to Mason and Aggie -their outlooks on life, their personalities, what stresses them, etcetera- and from then on the novel, chapter by chapter, introduces the other players in the horrific drama which is unfolding, while building and expanding the plot.

The result is that the reader is insistently nudged along, without even realizing it. Some parts of the story do slide back in time, but the pacing of the tale isn’t affected at all, and these scenes serve to deepen our understanding of the character involved. When this character begins to do things no sane person would probably even consider, the reader understands why, and it even makes a twisted kind of sense. But Joseph doesn’t pull this feat off with only one character.

There are many others – a housewife engaged in something she would be roundly condemned for; a father and husband who finds himself helpless against his urges; a college-age teenager who spends his time doing anything else rather than study and attend classes; a husband who is trying to break a habit; a son helplessly and painfully in love; a daughter who wants a bigger and better life for herself, and others. The reader is immersed in their lives, in their relationships and the roles they play in those relationships, and the reader is also very subtly shown how things begin falling apart long before the appearance of the Garbage Man.

And when the titular Garbage Man appears, it comes across as the natural culmination of events and decisions, as if this -horrible and terrifying as it is- could not help but happen. As always, there’s no shielding the reader – whether it be sight, smell, touch, hearing or taste, there’s no quarter given – when people die, they die horribly and painfully, and when they don’t their emotional turmoil his heart-breakingly palpable.

But the violence and emotional shocks aren’t there only to make you groan or gag – every character and everything that happens to them is part of a larger tale, exploring an important theme that runs through Joseph’s work, which resonates no matter your background or beliefs. It’s just that kind of novel – shocking, emotionally powerful, memorable, and quietly thoughtful. In short, another masterpiece.

9 / 10

garbage-man-auk

Garbage Man‘ is published by Oak Tree Press. To order your copies, click here from Amazon US, and here from Amazon UK. Don’t forget to check out Joseph’s website here, and you can also check out an article in The Guardian wherein he discusses his Top Ten Horror novels. 🙂

Until next time,

Stay terrified and

Be EPIC!

 
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Posted by on November 1, 2013 in Reviews

 

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**INCREDIBLE** Book Trailer – Black Feathers by Joseph D’Lacey

Got this from the awesome folks over at Angry Robot Books – the book was an awesome read (reviewed here), and this book trailer is a thing of beauty!

<a href="http://vimeo.com/63401644">BLACK FEATHERS MASTER NEW H264</a> from <a href="http://vimeo.com/horrodandharris">HORROD AND HARRIS</a> on <a href="http://vimeo.com">Vimeo</a>

To order your copies, click here for Amazon US, here for Amazon UK, and here if you’re in South Africa. 🙂 Check out Joseph’s site here!

Until Friday, when I’ll be posting my review of Lauren Beukes’ ‘The Shining Girls’,

Be EPIC!

(sorry about the code-stuff at the bottom of the vid – no idea how to remove it!)

 
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Posted by on April 10, 2013 in Angry Robot, Book Trailer

 

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Angry Robot Review: Black Feathers (Volume One of The Black Dawn) by Joseph D’Lacey

Ever since I had the opportunity to read Meat, the occasion of being able to get a new Joseph D’Lacey story and read it has excited and intrigued me. Meat was shocking, searing, and true in a way very few novels have ever achieved (read my review here), and now that I think about it, perhaps Stephen King had so many words in his mind after reading Meat that ‘rocks’ seemed the best word to encapsulate them all. Why? Well, Joseph does plenty right in ever story he writes, and Black Feathers (incoming from Angry Robot Books) was yet another example of his versatility and understanding of what it means to be human.

The story focuses on two characters, Gordon Black and Megan Maurice, who live in different eras and cultures.

Gordon lives in a world that we, at first, understand; it is our world, with its electricity and cars and skyscrapers and cellphones and internet. But Gordon’s birth is an event that echoes up and outwards, into the future in which Megan lives. Megan is chosen to take the first steps on a path that might lead her to being a Keeper, the history- and memory-keepers of the land and its people. Connecting them is a force (perhaps of good, perhaps of evil) called The Crowman, and in the world of the Bright Day (an era of peace after the terrible, destroying events of the Black Dawn), Megan feels the call to find The Crowman. As does Gordon. How they do this is the story of Black Feathers.

From the get-go Joseph layered the story in mystery – we are introduced to Gordon’s father, sisters and mother, who each have their own role to play in Gordon’s story; we witness the strange circumstances of his birth (leading to his father’s reactions and, much later, an important event in Megan’s life), and we begin to understand that Gordon’s world, our world, is changing. Perhaps not for the better.

As Gordon grows and matures he keeps a diary (my eyes only), in which he records thoughts that most people, including his family, might think evidence of insanity, thoughts and recollections and memories of dreams, of hearing a voice not his own in his mind, of his peculiar almost-need to collect corvid feathers, of his burgeoning fear and bewilderment at the events beginning to overtake the world (the fall of everything, to be replaced –should they succeed- by a group bent on dominating everyone and everything), of constantly wondering whether he is insane… He’s just a young boy, not yet a teenager, and he has to deal with all of this. Chapter after chapter Gordon grew, and succeeded, and failed – he is, to my mind, the kind of character that many, many readers will be able to identify with. He has crippling moments of doubt, surges of almost overwhelming exhaustion and sadness; like many people, he knows that to ask questions is to be hurt, yet he knows that without knowledge or pain, nothing can ever be learned or understood. Indeed, he had to face more in his fourteen, fifteen years than most people face in the entire span of their lives. As a character he was mesmerizing and a joy to discover, written with a depth of emotion and empathy by Joseph that helped me to truly inhabit Gordon’s ‘skin’.

Megan was also beautifully written – her world is changed irrevocably on a day that she goes into a forest near her home, and from that moment on hers is a journey of discovery and self. Through her we discover how drastically life has changed since the Black Dawn and how those changes affected humanity and everything we did and thought we stood for and believed in. Megan is constantly curious and possessed of a beautiful strength, the kind of character that slips quietly in and watches you reading from across the room. Like Gordon, though, she is forced into a world she’s only heard whispers about and doesn’t understand at all, and her journey to knowledge lost nothing even as Joseph used her to explain more about the world as it was after the Black Dawn. The balance between world-building and characterization in this novel –especially as regards Megan- was expertly handled, with neither suffering at the other’s expense. Instead, both seemed to add to the other – which was very important, since the people and the land (both during the Black Dawn and the Bright Day) are inextricably linked.

As can be expected from Joseph’s work, there are moments of horror, moments of wide-eyed disbelief, moments of laughter and tears and silence pregnant with either peace or rage. He managed to handle everything beautifully and with respect, making both his characters and the world they inhabit come alive. One of Joseph’s undeniable strengths as a storyteller is the ability to remember and use the small things – those moments that have nothing to do with advancing the plot and yet have everything to do with advancing the plot, because without those small moments the world and the characters wouldn’t ring true.

But be warned – there are some scenes that may make you flinch, despite the knowledge that these aren’t real people or real situations, and I guess that’s the mark of a truly good storyteller: making you feel. Black Feathers is a post-apocalyptic urban-fantasy journey-of-discovery horror and much more that doesn’t fall into a category of any kind. I loved this book and I’m so glad that it’s the first of two – kudos to Angry Robot for sending me Joseph D’Lacey’s best story to date, and massive thanks to Joseph for writing it. I’m definitely coming back for more!

9 / 10

To pre-order your copies of Black Feathers, click here for Amazon US (26 March), here for Amazon UK (4 April), and here for South Africa. Please do check out Joseph’s site here, which will give you links and info for his other novels, collections and novellas.

Huge thanks to Darren Turpin at Angry Robot for posting this ARC all the way to South Africa! Head over to Angry Robot Books and check out their extensive and brilliant catalogue – if you don’t find something there to interest you, you’re probably a rock. Seriously. 😉

Until next time,
Be EPIC!

 
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Posted by on March 8, 2013 in Angry Robot, Reviews

 

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Double Review: The Kill Crew and Snake Eyes by Joseph D’Lacey

I’ve become a huge fan of Joseph’s since before I’d actually finished (or read, for that matter) one of his books – many moons ago, I read some of one of Joseph’s unpublished novels (to date, that is, though it’s on the way to the shelves), and loved what I’d read. That led to him organizing copies of Meat and Garbage Man for me to read, and also led to me ordering Meat, Garbage Man and The Kill Crew for the bookshop I work at.
As soon as the books arrived I eyed The Kill Crew, an innocently slim book, perfectly priced, and bought it as soon as I had the money. I read it and enjoyed it, despite its slimness.

The Kill Crew

The Kill Crew is a story about a group of people who have survived, and continue to struggle to survive, in the aftermath of a zombie apocalypse. I hear you thinking, Man, that’s a tired plot, come on, seriously? Everyone has written about the Zombie Apocalypse! And you’d be right – but this is the thing that generally gets a writer’s blood pumping – taking a tried and tested plot and injecting something new into it; something that Joseph excels at.

Case in point, the Zombies in The Kill Crew aren’t what you’d come to expect from zombies – they are extremely dangerous, yes, and they do have a proclivity for ripping you to shreds with their teeth, sure, but as the story progresses the mystery surrounding them only grows bigger, until what seems to be a Zombie Apocalypse might actually be an apocalypse of a completely different kind. You’ll understand what I mean when you read it, but it does give us a refreshing and interesting angle on the whole zombie-phenomenon.

Also, Joseph gives the characters in The Kill Crew a tight emotional focus, which brings a razor-sharp intensity to the story. The tale blazed through my mind, chilling me, especially towards its climax, which really hit me like sledge-hammer. After just over an hour of reading I was left slightly breathless – that’s one reaction I’m pretty sure every person who has read Joseph’s work will agree they’ve felt.

So if you’re looking for something to read that will chill you, challenge your preconceptions, and leave you rocked in your seat, then The Kill Crew should be what you read next. It won’t take up much of your time, sure –though it does have a certain epic quality to it- but it is memorable, slightly disturbing and, in places, tearfully poignant. The perfect read, in my opinion, and a book that yet again shows just what a damned good storyteller Joseph is. Highly recommended!

9 / 10

Order your copies of The Kill Crew here from Amazon UK and here from Amazon US.

Snake Eyes

Snake Eyes consists of two tales that were highly entertaining for two very different reasons.
In A Man of Will and Experience we meet Robert Johnson – he wakes up one morning and realizes that he is seeing something, attached to people, trees, mountains, etc. that he just can’t believe he hasn’t noticed before. This realization leads him on a journey that is both fraught with danger and also points him to deep and resounding realizations about himself and his place in the world. What makes this story so special is that

a) Joseph plays with different genres in this one tale, sort of like when you listen to a song by Queen and catch all the different styles of music in that one song – it opens with cringe-inducing Horror, follows with Metaphysical Mystery, next up is a Dystopian Sci-Fi yarn, and then ends with what could be an Alternate Reality view of one of the World Wars.

b) In each tale I met the same character, though each tale showed me a different side of the character, until, when everything is revealed, I understood the character deeply, having been treated to an all-encompassing view of not only the character himself but the worlds he exists in (and no, I’m not giving away anything with that last…). It’s the kind of tale that shows that Joseph can play with different styles and genres while not losing that which connects the reader to the central character, and I really dig this tale.

The star of the book has to be, in my opinion, A Trespasser in Long Lofting. I found this morality tale / satire / black-comedy / to be absolutely brilliant! Not only did I find it to be a morality tale that pokes fun at, among other things, morality, but the comedy in this story is amazing and sharp and, when it needs to be, incredibly subtle. As a satire this tale made me look at the world and giggle at everything that seems so serious, so done, so proved and so this is the way things are. One of the highlights is a priest-type character who almost, in my opinion, steels the show, and Joseph also gives one of the characters a prop that, when put up against the very similar other prop, seems more important and crucial to existence. It’s a tale that plays with Good and Evil, concepts of Heaven and Hell, even Demons and the funny intensity of small-town life. What also makes it so damned good is the fact that when you put this tale up against Meat and The Kill Crew, it shines so hard that it blazes because it shows a side of Joseph’s writing that may not be as apparent in his other tales.

All things considered, I didn’t want Snake Eyes to end – it’s a book that you can read in a day (or two days, a day for each story), and I highly recommend it. It deserves a resounding 9 / 10. 🙂

To order your copies of Snake Eyes, click here. And remember, if you want signed copies of Joseph’s work, head on over to The Big Green Bookshop, and if you want to find out more about Joseph and his work, click here to go to his blog. 🙂

Until next time,

BE EPIC!

 
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Posted by on March 12, 2012 in Reviews

 

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Review: Meat by Joseph D’Lacey

Meat is one of the few novels, such as J. Robert King’s Angel of Death, that has not only hooked me on a specfic author after only one book, but which has also amazed, revolted and enthralled me. I’ve got Joseph’s Garbage Man, too, and will be getting into it as soon as I’ve finished two other books, a Fantasy and a SF novel.

The first thing that struck me about Meat is that in the opening passages I already felt uncomfortable, as if something ugly and fragrant and unlike-us was watching me and I was aware of its regard but not where it was – the opening passages introduce the main protagonist of the tale, but in a manner that makes you wonder just what the hell is wrong with him, where he lives, and why he’s doing what he’s doing when you meet him.

From there, the book becomes sinisterly relentless – the world in which he lives, a town in the middle of nowhere and nothing, grows with hints of what people believe, how they live and work, and while this world grows and the various characters are introduced, Joseph is slowly planting the seeds of a repulsive, incredibly shocking, and deeply affecting reveal. It’s at this point that I think many readers, if they have thought of putting down the book, will put the book down and stop reading and try and forget that they ever picked up the book.

In speaking to friends and customers about Meat, I used this scenario to describe it: imagine you’re on the road, driving, to work or wherever, and the road is busy; traffic starts to slowy back up and before long you’re inching along, fuming because of the heat and the fact that your plans have got to wait; as you inch along, you start seeing the evidence of an accident – a tyre lying on its side, rubber-stripes on the tar where the driver tried to stop, and then pieces of shattered glass here and there, splashes of what is probably oil – and as the evidence builds you can’t help thinking that this was a terrible accicdent. And as you approach the wrecked hulk of the car, you don’t want to look, because you know you’re either going to see the state of the car and your imagination will fill in the blanks or you’ll see the body, or bodies, or pieces of bodies, and even though you don’t want to look, as you reach the wreck, you do…

The subject matter of Meat punches hard, relentlessly and without mercy; Joseph doesn’t spare you. But he doesn’t only freak you out and unsettle you – the characters that populate the town are real and vibrant -sometimes sickeningly so- and Joseph shows that he has a real eye for the kind of personal dialogue and interactions that help you slip behind the eyes of the characters, making it so that understanding them and their point of view is effortless. Some of the characters I wanted to beat to death because they revolted me, others I was intensely curious about, wondering if they were, in fact, human, and still others I sympathized with even though what they were doing would spell trouble for everyone and everything later on. Like Stephen King, Joseph has an amazing ability to put the every-day man into srange, incredible and insane situations without forgetting the fact that he’s writing about people and telling their story.

Meat is an intensely unsettling book – it really shocked me and made me think, and Joseph’s afterword was perfectly fitting; this won’t be a book that will make you feel good, although you might crack a smile in some instances – this is the kind of book that will make you smile in a malicious way as you enjoy the fates of the some of the characters. And it’s also one of the most important reasons why this is such a damned good book – it doesn’t pull any punches, it explores the blurred line between depravity and getting used to something, between good and evil, and in a brutal, feverish and yet I-can’t-stop-reading manner.

Josepf D’Lacey is the kind of writer that might just make you retch and lose sleep, but he’s also the kind of storyteller that tells the stories you don’t want to, but need to, hear.

Read this book!

10 / 10

To order your copies of Meat, click here for Amazon UK, here for Amazon US, and here if you’re in South Africa (you can order the book in-store through Ingrams at any Exclusive Books or place your order online). To get more info about Joseph and his work, click here.

Until next time,

BE EPIC!

 
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Posted by on October 25, 2011 in Reviews

 

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