Tag Archives: Review

Review: Rime by Tim Lebbon

Hey everyone, Dave here.🙂 Hope you’ve all been well!

I’m back with a new review, this time a with a look at Tim Lebbon’s ‘Rime’. I said on FB, while I was reading it, that the tale reminded me of why I’m a fan of Science Fiction, and I’m sticking with that.


Adrift in space, a gigantic freighter, Cradle, carrying seventeen million souls makes its slow journey across the universe.

They are in search of a new home, a ‘Goldilocks’ planet to sustain human life after the decimation and downfall of planet Earth.

One man, a control room tech, is part of a generation destined to live their lives protecting those of the sleeping millions onboard Cradle.

But soon, everything is about to change

When Cradle encounters five unknown entities flying just beyond its radars, the ship’s AI calls for caution. Comms go down across the gargantuan ship, cutting the tech from the millions of other souls under his watch.

Those in cryosleep don’t realise the danger they are in. Their lives are in the balance.

And the alien ships are fast approaching

Now this lonely technician must make his decision: will he stand his ground, and risk the lives of millions?

Or is it time to admit that humanity has strayed too far into the unknown?

Mankind’s fate is in his hands. Soon, the consequences of his actions and the message he bears will be felt for generations to come

‘Rime’ is a SF retelling of Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s ‘Ancient Mariner’, and while I must confess that I haven’t read that Classic, I’m confident in saying that ‘Rime’ can stand alone and proud among the future Classics of Science Fiction, and also among all that has come before. For such a short tale (around an hour and half’s reading, I’d estimate), this story has wonderful depth.

‘Rime’ centres on a technician aboard what we would know as an ark-ship, called Cradle. Cradle has been travelling away from Earth for centuries with a cargo of millions of humans in cryo-stasis; the generations of various technicians living on Cradle have the envious job of making sure that the vast ship runs properly. Something happens, at once wonderful and terrible, which none of the technicians, nor the ship’s governing Artificial Intelligence (also named Cradle), could have predicted – contact with intelligent aliens, and the technician is drawn into the centre of events which will affect not only Cradle but humanity as a whole.

Now, remembering that Cradle is an Ark-type ship, or Colony Ship, Tim does an excellent job of conveying not only the ship’s size but also how all the myriad technicians fit into the running of it. The technicians also have their own culture, dependent on their specific jobs on the ship and who they come into contact with. Some technicians have no religious beliefs, few manage to explore Cradle in its entirety, and social circles are small.

There’s a sense of almost desperate isolation in the characters we meet which deepens as Tim tells the tale from two points in time – pre-Contact and post-Contact – I was kept wondering about what had happened aboard Cradle and just where the technician had ended up, what had happened to so psychologically affect him, and the fate of Cradle and its passengers, both in cryo-stasis and tending the great ship. Tim steadily unfurls the tale, like a solar sail being released by its parent craft, early on already, and by the time the ‘sail’ is fully extended and begins to catch the solar wind, the book is impossible to put down.

For those seeking action and battles, this might not be the kind of book you’re expecting. Though it is proudly and wonderfully grounded in the core of what good SF should be -that sense of wonder and mystery, of exploration and consequence- it is a tale that also explores what it means to be human, to react emotionally, to grieve, and to be at once at part of something massive yet also supremely isolated.

‘Rime’ is damned well crafted, beautifully and painfully told, and a welcome addition to Science Fiction – won’t be surprised at all if this becomes a future SF Classic.




You can order your copies (ebooks) of Rime at Amazon US and Amazon UK, and check out this post by Tim for more information about the tale. Rime was published by Venture Press.

Until next time,


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Posted by on July 26, 2016 in Reviews


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Review: A Coin for Charon by Dallas Mullican

Hey everyone, Dave here again, hope you’re all well.🙂 I hope you got yourselves copies of ‘Thou Shalt Not’, which I reviewed on Wednesday.

In this post I’ll be reviewing a serial-killer thriller which is right up there with the work from folks like John Connolly and Thomas Harris, at least in my opinion.


Gabriel isn’t murdering anyone. He’s saving them.

The media has dubbed him the Seraphim Killer. He believes the gods have charged him to release the chosen, those for whom life has become an unbearable torment. Gabriel feels their suffering—his hands burn, his skull thunders, his stomach clenches. Once they are free, he places coins on their eyes to pay Charon for passage into paradise.

Detective Marlowe Gentry has spent the past two years on the edge. The last serial killer he hunted murdered his wife before his eyes and left his young daughter a mute shell. Whenever she looks at him, her dead eyes push him farther into a downward spiral of pain and regret. He sees the Seraphim as an opportunity for revenge, a chance to forgive himself―or die trying.

Gabriel performs the gods’ work with increasing confidence, freeing the chosen from their misery. One day, the gods withdraw the blessing―a victim he was certain yearned for release still holds the spark of life. Stunned, he retreats into the night, questioning why the gods have abandoned a loyal servant. Without his calling, Gabriel is insignificant to the world around him.

He will do anything to keep that from happening.

This novel is the first book is Dallas’ ‘Marlowe Gentry’ series, gentry being the main character and a detective.

Marlowe is a no-nonsense, seriously unhappy man; having gone through a massively traumatic experience and working as a detective, he sounds like the kind of character it would be difficult for the reader to associate with, but I found myself really caring about this guy; Dallas’ reveals more of Marlowe’s inner self chapter by chapter instead of giving the read *everything* about the man as soon as he’s introduced, a mistake which many writers in this genre have made. Marlowe comes across as an living, breathing person, and when I finally found out just what had been driving -and hounding- Marlowe, it rounded out his character perfectly. He’s a damaged man, but then, all great, memorable characters are.

Marlowe’s supporting cast is split between his superior, McCann, and his friend, Spence – the back and forth between them is entertaining and doesn’t feel forced at all. McCann is a man under immense pressure and Marlowe’s past (which is known to him) doesn’t make things any easier for him. Spence is, in many ways, Marlowe’s opposite, yet still manages to stand out among the cast – he supports Marlowe but also calls him out from time to time, the kind of thing a true friend does. Koop, the medical examiner, is another stand-out character who, along with Spence, could easily star in their own series’.

There are two other characters, Becca and Max. Becca is a psychologist and the wife of a bad cop; Max is a husband and father who gets very bad news, which impacts and changes his life. How these characters swirl into each others lives and then intersect with Marlowe’s, was expertly handled – they are all important and central to the plot, as well as to the plans and choices of the man who will change all their lives.

Which brings me to Gabriel, one of the most interesting serial killers I’ve met in this genre. His view of life, his personality, his choices, motives and methods are pretty damned unique and memorable and I was absolutely helpless as his tale unfolded.

The novel has an air of mystery and just-perceptible supernatural elements and the writing is tight and controlled; Dallas’ creates and maintains a balance between evoking the gritty urban world the characters inhabit and their inner selves, both deeply realized and explored.

When there’s a tangible sense of place as well as stand-out characters, a tale works well, and this tale, focusing on people trying to find their place in an unforgiving and brutal world, is excellent.

The only writers of the genre who have so captured me before this have been Thomas Harris and John Connolly – Dallas Mullican deserves to stand alongside them, and I’m really looking forward to reading the next Marlowe Gentry novel.



And how awesome is the cover art?!🙂

To order your copies, follow this link for all the other links and info you’ll need.🙂

Until next time,

Be Epic!


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Review: The Rage Wars – Book One: Predator – Incursion by Tim Lebbon

Predator Incursion

Hey everyone, Dave here.🙂

I had high expectations for this after reading Tim’s excellent Star Wars novel, and Tim managed to knock even my expectations aside.

The characters in this are superbly written and fleshed out, with their own believable motivations – quite a feat, considering that Incursion is also a fast-paced novel which expands along two different timelines, includes a lot of cool, new information on the Colonial Marines, the Predators and other groups, and has plenty of awesome action.

One of my favourite characters -introduced in the very beginning of the novel- has an interesting, important and ever-building arc which ties her to basically all of the novel’s events, while the other characters unravel the mystery of the novel’s premise is different, attention-holding ways. Most never meet but all have an important part to play.

The Predators were awesome handled – they remain the powerful, incredibly dangerous and mysterious race we have come to like and yet Tim also deepens their mystery while adding more layers to their society. Tim really should be the go-to guy if Titan wants a Predators-only novel.

The action was frenetic and brutal, as we’ve come to expect from anything involving the Xenomorphs and the Predators, and the plot is really damned good – Fox should have waited for this novel to arrive; I’m pretty sure they would have been orders of magnitude more successful with this trilogy.

There’s even a link to one of the Predator movies which deepens the immersion into this universe.

All in all, highly recommended! You should definitely be reading this if you’re a fan of this universe. Looking forward to the next novel in the trilogy! 9/10

Predator Incursion

Predator – Incursion was published by Titan Books; the second book in the trilogy, Alien – Invasion will be published this year, so keep an eye on Tim’s and Titan’s websites for more information.

To order your copies, click here for Amazon UK, here for Amazon US, and here if you’re in South Africa.

Until next time,


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Posted by on January 11, 2016 in Reviews, Uncategorized


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Review: Stuck on You and Other Prime Cuts by Jasper Bark (Crystal Lake Publishing)

Hey everyone, Dave here, and I’ve got a new review for you – that of a short story collection from an author I’m now a huge fan of!

This is collection featuring stories from a storyteller who should be spoken of in the same breath as Stephen King and Clive Barker. Very few storytellers, especially in the difficult and harrowing genre that is Horror, have managed to grab me from the get-go, and Jasper succeeded.



The first tale blew me away and made my gorge swirl in my mouth. It describes the fate of an utter asshole as he travels across the border to help his girlfriend. One thing leads to another and a while later he has been lightning-struck and … well, I’m not spoiling it, but fuck.

I was astounded by what this guy went through, even more so by the way Jasper describes it all – pulling no punches, thrusting the reader into the mind, terror and pain of this character to such a degree that trying to tear myself away was like, well, fiddling with a very fresh scab. By the end of the tale I was breathless, shaking my head over and over, and hoping to hell that I never find myself in the kind of situation the character found himself in.


Damned fine tale that, in my mind, asks the question: ‘If you could right a wrong, and in doing so caused a lot of pain to someone, but could get away with it, would you do it?’ By the end of this tale I was cheering on what had occurred – a mean feat, considering just what it is that happens, but Jasper has a way, man…


The Catholic in me *loved* this tale, and if any stock-broker, insurance-broker, tax-guru type reads this then I’m pretty sure they will, too – long live Suchs!😉


A tale that plays with your expectations right until the end while it explores the notions of betrayal, love and obsession in a twisted, horrifying manner. Also one of the ‘hotter’ tales in the collection.😉


This tale surprised me – in the beginning I thought I knew who the victim was and how that victim had been wronged, but as the tale progressed I was pleased to have been proved wrong. This tale also explores something entirely new when it comes to blood-rituals, so the crazier among you will definitely enjoy it.😉


Remember that scene in Hannibal (the novel and the movie adaptation) where Hannibal feeds a character his own brain? I never thought I would read something that would trump the horror of that scene. Not until I read this tale.


This tale was chilling and hard-hitting (not that the others aren’t), and follows how a man trapped in a house after a terrible event begins to understand just where he is and what he is doing. You might struggle to sleep after this tale, folks.


A tightly-plotted and awesomely explored take on a couple of tropes, those being The-Guy-Who-Can’t-Remember-a-Thing and The Maze – didn’t see the resolution coming, and neither will you.


Probably the very first Horror-Western I’ve read, this tale takes a whole bunch of ideas and mashes them together – coherently and masterfully written, it builds mysteries and characters until the very end. Damned good tale!


Taken together, these tales are shocking, brutal, utterly creepy and, in at least a part of every tale, beautiful. Jasper explores many different themes and ideas, pushing imagery into the mind and causing physical reactions while reveling in the settings his characters explore. There’s a seamless blending of physical settings and mind-scapes in these tales, and even though I sometimes didn’t want to be dipped into the various character’s minds I just couldn’t put this collection down.

If you’re looking for something that pushes many, many boundaries, this is it.

10 / 10


This collection was published by Crystal Lake Publishing and is available from Amazon for both your Kindle and as a paperback. The collection also features excellent illustrations by Rob Moran (who also did the cover), so those looking for a ‘book with pictures’ can’t complain.😉

Remember to check out Jasper’s site and keep on eye on Crystal Lake Publishing for future tales from Jasper.


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Posted by on September 1, 2015 in Reviews


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Book Review: Annihilation

To be honest I might never have picked up this were it not for the science fiction book club I belong to via Meetup. I had never heard of Jeff VanderMeer and didn’t know a thing about this book before I started reading, and that was probably a good thing.


Area X has been cut off from the rest of the continent for decades. Nature has reclaimed the last vestiges of human civilization. The first expedition returned with reports of a pristine, Edenic landscape; all the members of the second expedition committed suicide; the third expedition died in a hail of gunfire as its members turned on one another; the members of the eleventh expedition returned as shadows of their former selves, and within months of their return, all had died of aggressive cancer.

This is the twelfth expedition.

Their group is made up of four women: an anthropologist; a surveyor; a psychologist, the de facto leader; and our narrator, a biologist. Their mission is to map the terrain and collect specimens; to record all their observations, scientific and otherwise, of their surroundings and of one another; and, above all, to avoid being contaminated by Area X itself.

They arrive expecting the unexpected, and Area X delivers—they discover a massive topographic anomaly and life forms that surpass understanding—but it’s the surprises that came across the border with them, and the secrets the expedition members are keeping from one another, that change everything.

That is a very long blurb for a book that’s barely over 200 pages. Also, that last paragraph makes the story sound way more thriller-esque than it actually is. And that cover is just awful!

When I started reading this book, I assumed it had been published in the 1960s or 70s – that cover doesn’t help much either. The style was reminiscent of that era, in that the narration was exclusively ‘tell’ with absolutely no ‘show.’ The reason for this is that the story is actually one long journal entry written by the biologist. This just didn’t work for me. I felt nothing for the characters and found the main character – who describes herself as detached and emotionally withdrawn – impossible to relate to. Consequently, I didn’t care at all what happened to her or the rest of the team. What kept me turning the pages was the premise – there’s not really a plot – and wanting to know what Area X was and how it had come to be.

Despite only being 200 pages, this book felt long especially since there isn’t really much plot, more like a character meandering, trying to understand both the external landscape and her own internal one. This was where the story became more interesting for me and to a large extent, I felt that the story was an allegory: the biologist wasn’t researching an alien landscape so much as trying to understand herself and why her marriage had fallen apart, coming to terms with aspects of a troubled childhood etc. As a metaphor, the story is layered and nuanced, but the last chapter seems to undermine this idea when the biologist has a sudden revelation about what Area X is and how it might’ve come to be. I think the story would’ve been much better with a less literal interpretation.

I enjoyed this book for its unashamed weirdness and am still curious about what Area X really is and what’s happening in the background regarding the institute that keeps sending in these research expeditions. I do think, however, that this would’ve worked so much better as a longer short story. Despite being a short novel, it just meandered too much and became repetitive although never quite boring, just a little tedious. Had I known the writer was a Nebula winner and Hugo nominee, and that this book was published in 2014, I might’ve had higher expectations and been a little less impressed. Since I only discovered that after the fact though, I’m not going to let it affect my rating of the novel.

If you enjoy report-style science fiction that ventures into the absurd then you will probably like this book very much. While I’m not in a hurry to read more in this series, I am definitely keen to read other works by this author. It gets 3.5/5 ink splats from me.

3.5 inksplats

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Posted by on March 3, 2015 in Reviews


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TV Show Review: Forever

I’ll admit it. I’m a sucker for procedurals. JAG, CSI, Lie to Me, House, Castle, Criminal Minds, Mentalist, Bones, Elementary, White Collar… – I have watched and loved them all! Give me a procedural with a speculative aspect and I am in my uber happy place. Shows like Blood Ties, Moonlight and even Tru Calling really did it for me. So I was delighted to discover the brand new TV show due to air this Autumn on ABC. It’s called Forever and stars Ioan Gruffudd, an actor I had a mega crush on when I was a kid and addicted to the Hornblower series. Gruffudd’s soulful eyes and accent aside, Forever made me all kinds of excited and it certainly wasn’t because of the IMDB description:

A 200-year-old man works in the New York City Morgue trying to find a key to unlock the curse of his immortality.


When I first read that rather dry one-liner, I went ‘nah’ and moved on to the next new series of Fall 2015, but then reviews started dribbling onto the net and I saw some promo pics and I realized that there was a hell of a lot more to this story. See, that 200-year-old man, Henry Morgan (Gruffudd), isn’t some creepy janitor mopping the mortuary floors and getting cozy with the corpses, he’s the NYPD’s medical examiner! He’s a highly intelligent doctor with a savant-like eye for detail, a somewhat brooding countenance and a dry wit to boot, and his days aren’t spent pondering his immortality so much as they are running around New York City with an ultra slick female Latina detective, Jo Martinez, who is as badass as she is beautiful. She’s a strong, independent female character in a male dominated field who could give Kate Beckett a run for her money and I find her an interesting and compelling character, if not quite as interesting as Mr Immortal. So, the show’s description probably should’ve read something like this:

A 200-year-old man works as a crime-solving ME in New York City while trying to unlock the secret of his immortality before a know-it-all stranger threatens to destroy his carefully constructed world.

Now that sounds exciting and is far closer to the gist of this story, which is equal parts police procedural and sci-fi mystery – yup, there’s a whole immortal sub-plot lurking in the background and I know it’s going to be unnerving and awesome! I thoroughly enjoyed the pilot and have remained captivated through the other episodes that have aired. This is due in part to Ioan Gruffudd owning the screen with his portrayal of a sometimes arrogant, often endearingly naive, always quirky character as he navigates the modern era with his sexagenarian side-kick who provides comic relief and food for thought. While certain aspects of the show seem a little familiar – hard to avoid given that this is a police procedural after all – there is enough of an emphasis on the science fiction aspect – or arguably fantasy aspect, we’re not sure yet – to make this series seem fresh and unique when compared to the bevy of other procedurals currently on air.

My biggest gripe about this show? The bloody voice-overs! I point my fingers at the CW for turning this into a trend. Voice-overs have always been a lazy, but easy way of conveying exposition to an audience, be it words scrolling on the screen or the main character dictating a screed of ‘stuff you need to know.’ I have NEVER been a fan of this trick so pervasive in SF/F film, and I’m even less of a fan with it on the small screen. Shows like Arrow, The Tomorrow People and now The Flash are all guilty of it and the whole ‘my name is’ formula is getting old fast. While I could forgive the voice-over in the pilot of Forever as a way to set the scene and explain the main SF concept to those perhaps expecting a more mundane crime show, I am fast losing my tolerance for it in subsequent episodes. Thank goodness they seem to be sticking to an intro voice-over and an end of episode wrap-up comment with a slightly philosophical tone. Any more than that and I think I might put my fist through the screen. Still, this is a trend I wish would die a sudden death!

In conclusion, Forever is great for fans of procedurals with a sci-fi bent who enjoy quirky characters, more thinking/less action, and slower pacing for subplots. If it weren’t for those damn voice-overs, this might’ve scored 5 ink splats from me because this show has just about everything I look for in smart, entertaining TV. Alas, it only gets 4.5 splats.

4.5 inksplats

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Posted by on October 21, 2014 in Guest Reviews, Reviews


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Review: No Return by Zachary Jernigan

Hey everyone, hope you’re all well.🙂

It’s been a while since I posted a review, I know, but I’ve been focusing on writing my second novel and time is always a problem! But I’m back with a review of the first novel set in the World of Jeroun – No Return.

This novel is brilliant. The world of Jeroun is incredible and terrifying – a world where the skins of a dead race can be used for power and protection; where mages use their magic to enter into the planet’s orbit; where a god looks down on Jeroun and wrestles with a decision that could mean the end of everything and everyone.

There is so much going on in this novel! As a writer I was astounded by how much Zachary managed to pour into this tale – as with Erikson’s massive narratives, the myriad stories taking place on Jeroun are all memorable and intriguing, adding not only a sense of vast time and history to the world but also managing to echo in the thoughts of the characters, giving them even more flesh and emotion. The people of Jeroun are inherently terrified of their world and the god above them, and how this terror and stubbornness exists alongside the excellent world-building is truly something sublime to explore.

But Zachary’s characters are the stars, here – Vedas, Churls, Berun, Ebn, Pol and even Adrash shine in each chapter they appear in. Vedas seems to be the lodestone of the narrative, but really only when taking the climax into consideration, but each of the others also play very significant roles throughout the tale, managing to stand on their own, for their own unique reasons. I’m actually terrified of what some of them could achieve – and here I’ll make another comparison to Erikson: as when a particularly powerful mage in the Malazan world unveils his or her warren or warrens and the reader is astounded at the level of power and capacity for destruction, the same applies here. Psychologically, these characters are incredibly complicated, and how some of them interact with each other gives the novel its heart and emotional centre. Zachary manages to explore a great variety of subjects through his characters, another reason why this novel works on many levels.

In fact, I want to re-read it before the next book, Shower of Stones, is released – not to refresh my memory, but to learn as much as I can from Zachary’s writing – he has, alongside Steven Erikson, become a writer I know I will learn a lot from. But forget about that – No Return is at once a twisted, dirty-mirror echo of the kinds of fantasy that has come before it, and also something new, bold and visionary. Hell of a read.

10 / 10


Check out Zachary’s site for all the info you’ll need regarding how and where to order, as well as more information about his short stories (I’ll be reviewing Bottom of the Sea next) and his other work.

Until next time,


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Posted by on October 1, 2014 in Reviews


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