Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Black Magic Woman

I like a good supernatural thriller so I'm very glad that I decided to pick up Black Magic Woman by Justin Gustainis, which deals with investigator Quincey Morris and white witch Libby Chastain.
Morris is called in to help protect a family from a curse that goes back to the Salem Witch Trials and enlists the help of Chastain. Their quest takes them across America all the while the target of a powerful black witch.
Gustainis has a great writing style that skillfully mixes fictional characters with his 'real' world. Quincey Morris for example, is the great grandson of the Quincey Morris who helps Van Helsing defeat Dracula, and other characters from fiction are woven into the narrative.

The story has it all with black magic, white magic, voodoo, Zulu magic, demons and succubi. It is also quite brutal, characters die and not in a pretty way either, usually it is quite violent which adds to the gritty nature of the story. An impressive book and I look forward to reading more about this duo.


Scandinavian crime novels are almost a subgenre all their own. Every year more and more novelists are being translated into English so that we can enjoy these wonderful stories.
I have just finished Nemesis by Norwegian author Jo Nesbo and starring Detective Harry Hole. Hole is your typical fictional detective, he smokes, is a loner at work, has troubled relationships, is a recovering alcoholic, is a little overweight, and tries to understand the meaning behind evil and why it is committed.
In this novel (number four in the series but the third one translated) Harry is brought in to help a bank robbery investigation where the robber kills the cashier. While this investigation is ongoing an old flame of Harry's arrives in town and they catch up. The next day she is found dead and Harry begins to receive threatening emails. Someone is trying to frame him, and while Harry tries o clear his name the bank robberies continue.

Nesbo has written a great thriller that is full of twists and red herrings. Harry is a great character and the reader wants him to succeed, if only because it will annoy certain people on the police force. Overall an amazing read and I'll look forward to reading more of Nesbo's novels.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Galaxy in Flames

Horus' treachery is now fully revealed in Galaxy in Flames by Ben Counter, as Horus' plan is put into action on Istvaan III. Horus has decided that the Space Marines who will not follow him will be killed in the front line in the invasion of Istvaan III, so that he will then be free to turn on the Emperor and attack Terra.
Again Loken is one of the main characters as we see him struggling to be true to the Emperor as seemingly all around him plot treason at every turn. Loken is sent to the surface of Istvaan III with the other loyal Space Marines and fights the bloody war against the Istvaanians in their capital city.

Other loyal Space Marines are also trying to foil the plans of the Warmaster in their own little way against the large forces turned against them. Also the Cult of the Emperor has grown with the addition of a Saint and an Apostle.

Counter has produced a fast paced read that has to bring together a lot of the threads from the previous two novels. Overall a great read.


Heroes of the Space Marines is a collection of short stories dealing with ... you guessed it, Space Marines and Chaos Space Marines.
  • The Skull Harvest by Graham McNeill shows how to raise a Chaos raiding party.

  • Gauntlet Run by Chris Roberson is about Imperial Fist Space Marines vs Orks.

  • Renegades by Gav Thorpe tells how the third company of the Avenging Sons Chapter became traitors.

  • Honour Among Friends by Dylan Owen looks at Black Legion Marine Scaevolla and his endless quest to kill Imperial Fist Marines.

  • Fires of War by Nick Kyme follows the Salamanders as they try and cleanse the city of Cirrion of Chaos cultists.

  • The Labyrinth by Richard Ford tells of the Sons of Malice.

  • Headhunted by Steve Parker is about the Deathwatch as they cleanse an Ork ship.

  • And They Shall Know No Fear ... by Darren Cox deals with Black Templars and their crusade against a Chaos cult.

  • Nightfall by Peter Feheruari is about Chaos Marines.

  • One Hate by Aaron Dembski-Bowden deals with the Crimson Fists as they help the Imperial Guard retake the world of Syral from the Orks, or so it seems.

Overall a great collection to dip into and read bit by bit.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009


My favourite urban fantasy series is easily Simon R Green's Nightside series starring John Taylor. Luckily for me then that he has released the latest one called Just Another Judgement Day.
John Taylor finds himself called in by the new rulers of Nightside who want him to tackle the latest threat they are facing, the Walking Man. The Walking Man is a creation of God, a mortal who has sworn vengeance on all evil things in revenge for a tragedy they suffered and is granted certain powers in return. These powers include invulnerability, the power to open any locked door by touching it and unerring aim with the pistols he carries. It is up to Taylor to work out how he can stop this literal killing machine from wiping out the Nightside.
I enjoy Green's take on noir writing but I did have one small problem with this novel. The Walking Man is too similar to The Saint of Killers from the Preacher comics. Same look, same MO, even a similar background, though I suppose it is probably true that they are based on the same cliches from westerns and popular culture and therefore they are similar. This wasn't enough to stop me from enjoying the roller-coaster Green takes Taylor on though, as Taylor finds himself facing a seemingly impossible task. I can't wait for the next one.


Harriet Harvey Wood has written an interesting and informative book which deals with the lead up to and aftermath of the battle of Hastings in The Battle of Hastings. The Fall of Anglo-Saxon England. Wood documents the events which led to William invading England, and why he won the eventual battle.
This was a complex time period in English history with multiple claims to the English throne after the death of Edward the Confessor, with William and Harold just two of many who believed they had good reason to be crowned king. It must be remembered that at this time England was quite a prize with an established legal system and untold wealth.

Woods writing style is very engaging as she examines different sources and weaves them into an interesting narrative. History buffs should get a kick out of this book, as would anyone hoping to find out more about this important part of English history.

Monday, July 6, 2009

The Road to Chaos ...

The Soul Drinker Space Marines are loyal to the Emperor who they have served for thousands of years helping to push back the darkness that threatens to engulf the Imperium. While trying to recover an artifact called the Soulspear which is sacred to them, the Soul Drinkers watch it get stolen from under their noses by the Mechanicum who want it so they can study and reverse engineer it. The Soul Drinkers obsession drives them to attack their allies in an effort to retrieve the Soulspear, but they cannot and are forced to flee into the warp.
The Soul Drinkers soon find themselves declared Excommunicate Traitors and all the forces of the Imperium are turned against them. Meanwhile inside the Chapter the Space Marines themselves are changing and showing signs of mutation, and have begun to worship the Architect who they see as the Emperor without the corruption of the Imperium. But things are not as they seem and it is revealed that the God they are worshiping is very different to the one they believe they are following.

Ben Counter's series about these Space Marines who aren't part of the Imperium but refuse to follow the Chaos Gods begins in Soul Drinker and continues with the Chapter trying to regain their lost honour and be welcomed back into the Imperium. I'm interested to see where Counter goes with this series in the future.

Friday, July 3, 2009

On the box

Watching television for a job would be fun for a little while, but the sheer monotony would eventually get to me. Being a critic for the paper would be a reason to keep watching a little longer, but even then boredom would win out. Despite my problems with this job, A. A. Gill has collected together some of his best writing about television in Paper View: The Best of the Sunday Times Television Columns.
In this book Gill applies his blowtorch wit to such topics as costume dramas, sport, cop shows, soap operas, the news and quiz shows. All the time arguing that what is on television is important and should be treated as such, rather than a vehicle to sell ad breaks. Gill is quick ti identify things he doesn't like, and even quicker to take them down a peg or two. Nothing is safe from his gaze, not even nostalgia which also comes in for a kicking.

Overall this book is a fun read, even if Gill has an unnatural love for the word soporific. I enjoyed dipping in and out of this collection, and had a ball as Gill tore strips of some poor bugger, or sinks the boot into another crap program.