Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman (Book Review)

For my first book review of 2022 I’ve chosen Anansi Boys, the sequel, or rather companion novel to Neil Gaiman’s American Gods. You can read my review of American Gods here.

…beware of possible spoilers…

Continue reading “Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman (Book Review)”

EIGHT 2: The Alpha Species by W.W. Mortensen (Book Review)

The Alpha Species is the follow-up to W.W. Mortensen’s debut novel EIGHT, and continues the story of Rebecca and Ed’s terrifying trip into the Amazon jungle from where the first book left off. Therefore, in order to fully understand this book, it’s recommended that readers are familiar with EIGHT before moving on to The Alpha Species.

You can read my review of EIGHT first by following this link.

Continue reading “EIGHT 2: The Alpha Species by W.W. Mortensen (Book Review)”

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling (Book Review)

It is summertime and Harry Potter is back living with the Dursley’s for the holidays, but when he has an unexpected guest in the form of House-Elf Dobby, he ends up in a whole heap of trouble. Dobby has come to warn Harry that he will be in danger if he returns to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, but when Harry refuses to believe him, Dobby uses magic in the house almost getting Harry expelled from school.

Angry at Harry for messing up his important dinner with potential business clients, Vernon Dursley locks him in his bedroom with the promise that he will not be allowed to return to Hogwarts ever again. Fortunately, worried about his friend, Ron borrows his Dad’s flying car to check up on Harry and when the Weasley’s discover Harry’s unfortunate predicament they take him off to ‘The Burrow’ to live with them until the new school term begins.

As Harry, Ron, Hermoine Granger and the rest of the students settle back into their classes at Hogwarts, strange things begin to happen: Harry hears odd whispering voices, Mrs Norris, Mr Filch’s cat turns up almost dead after a petrification curse and a rogue bludger persistently attempts to knock Harry off his broomstick during the first Quidditch match.

It seems that Dobby’s prediction may be coming true and Harry’s life is in danger, now that the Chamber of Secrets has been opened. But just who exactly is the mysterious Heir of Slytherin and why open the Chamber now?

Can Harry and his friends figure out the puzzle and prevent the monster, let loose from the Chamber of Secrets, from killing Hogwarts students?

Favourite Quote:

“There is a plot, Harry Potter. A plot to make most terrible things happen at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry this year.” – Dobby the House-Elf. p16

At 4 out of 5 stars the second novel in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series doesn’t quite manage to captivate the reader in the same way as its predecessor. However, with serpents, spiders and a strange creature known as Dobby, The Chamber of Secrets is still a pretty fun novel as it tells of the young wizard Harry Potter and the adventures during his second year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

See Also:

Book 1 – The Philosopher’s Stone

Book 3 – The Prisoner of Azkaban

Book 4 – The Goblet of Fire

Book 5 – The Order of the Phoenix

Book 6 – The Half-Blood Prince

Book 7 – The Deathly Hallows

Prison Quest: A Sci-Fi LitRPG Adventure (ARC Review)

Cody Milbourne works security for the Vortax Corporation Headquarters. When she discovers her friend and colleague Joseph Salter has been murdered on company property, she is aghast when the Corporate Crimes Unit falsely accuses her of theft, criminal damage, abduction and Joseph’s murder. As a result she faces up to 40 years in prison.

Cody’s new home is actually a virtual world known as Fortress Forty-seven, not just your regular prison. Her only choice is to complete the virtual reality game known as Prison Quest, if she wants to stay alive and have any hope of escaping this nightmare.

 

Having been a fan of some of Michael Campling’s earlier work, I didn’t hesitate when offered the chance to check out his new book, Prison Quest, which he has co-written with fellow fantasy and science fiction author Saffron Bryant. I received a free advanced readers copy in exchange for my unbiased opinion.

Prison Quest – originally titled ‘Fortress 47’ – is a LitRPG novel, a genre which I am not very familiar with. LitRPG is the literary equivalent to role-playing games in which characters must complete quests in order to ‘level up’ or advance throughout the game or story, by acquiring experience points.

 

In this case, Cody must forge alliances, learn skills and complete various quests within the virtual game world called Fortress Forty-seven, a dangerous and unforgiving place. All while seeking the allusive Prison Quest, which may hold the key to her escape from both the game and her prison sentence.

While prior knowledge of RPGs would be beneficial, it is unnecessary as Campling and Bryant have put together a very well-written story, complete with easy to comprehend explanations that do not distract the reader from the graceful flow of the narrative.

Beginning in the Wild West themed town of Firebrand, there is an air of relative safety as characters who are unlucky enough to die, simply regenerate in the town jailhouse. However, for those who dare to really push the game to its limits and leave town, venturing into the wild desert wastelands, they must be willing to pay the ultimate price. For beyond the walls of Firebrand, when you die, you die for real, and not just within the confines of the game, but in real life too.

The book contains a wide-array of interesting characters and creatures including: bit roaches, grit worms, venomous cavelings and androids. With its combination of science fiction, fantasy and Westerns, this book is perfect for gamers, sci-fi fans, fantasy fanatics and also fans of Firefly. At 5 out of 5 stars this is a fast-paced, action packed novel that you won’t want to miss. I’ll definitely be checking out more books in the LitRPG genre after this one.

 

In Jan 2019, Michael Campling and Saffron Bryant re-released an updated and improved version of this book called The Prison Quest.

The Hatching 3: Zero Day by Ezekiel Boone (Book Review)

Zero Day is the third instalment of Ezekiel Boone’s terrifying spider apocalypse trilogy, and after reading all of the edge-of-your-seat suspense and action in The Hatching, I had high hopes that this would be a really exciting and creepy set of books.

In The Hatching the world has been overrun with an extremely ancient species of cannibalistic, human-eating spider. After wreaking absolute chaos all over the planet, these terrifying spiders suddenly retreat, appearing to die in the process. At first, the monstrous threat is believed to be over. Then, thousands of egg sacs are discovered in various locations all over Los Angeles, including a large infestation covering the interior of the Staples Centre. These egg sacs are soon discovered all over the world.

Unfortunately in Skitter, book 2 of The Hatching trilogy, just when people begin to think that they are handling the situation, burning these egg sacs before they have a chance to hatch, it quickly becomes apparent that the problem is far too large and widespread for their initial efforts to be successful; Many strategically hidden egg sacs will survive and the spiders will return. Also as if all of this wasn’t bad enough, a massive glowing, pulsating egg sac as large as a pickup truck is discovered in Shinjin Prefecture, Japan.

Now, faced with the knowledge that 10% of the people in Los Angeles who survived the first wave of spider attacks are carrying egg sacs inside them, and that a large proportion of these individuals have been released from the quarantine zone, the President of the United States of America must accept that the spider problem is no longer contained, and drastic measures much be taken to ensure the survival of the human race.

How far will the American government go to safeguard their country, and how many people will die as a result? Can these spiders be defeated? Is anywhere safe from this terrifying threat? And just what is up with these giant glowing egg sacs?

 

Zero Day, like both of its predecessors, contains rather a lot of unnecessary dialogue, and persistently jumps around from one location to another. Some of these locations and events are meaningful and play an integral role in the story, however some are only briefly mentioned and simply serve the purpose of showing the epic scale of the disaster. As mentioned previously in earlier reviews, I think it would have made more sense to have stuck with a smaller number of strategic locations, helping to slim down the story a little and helping readers to keep track of events with a more limited number of characters.

Since this is the final book of The Hatching trilogy I had expected there too be far more action, and squeamishly terrifying events than there actually turned out to be. As such it was a little disappointing, rating at just 2 out of 5 stars. It did however, wrap the story up with a nice neat bow, bringing all of the different strands of the story together and coming to a satisfying conclusion.

 

See Also:

Book 1: The Hatching

Book 2: Skitter

The Mansion

The Hatching 2: Skitter by Ezekiel Boone (Book Review)

Skitter is the follow-up novel to Ezekiel Boone’s terrifyingly creepy debut The Hatching.

An extremely ancient, calcified egg sac has been unearthed beneath the Nazca Lines of Peru, and despite having been buried deep in the Earth for 10,000 years, the egg sac hatches releasing a cluster of creepy, ancient, flesh-eating arachnids upon the unsuspecting world.

Unfortunately, Peru isn’t the only place that these scary, carnivorous spiders have been discovered. With outbreaks in China, India, Europe and now the USA, the entire planet has descended into chaos, as these human, flesh-eating, carnivorous spiders quickly take over major cities across the entire world.

However, just as soon as the spiders appear they seem to suddenly die out. At first glance you might expect this horrific threat to be over, but in reality the real threat is only just beginning.

As scientific experts, government officials and the armed forces race to destroy the egg sacs which have popped up all over the globe, a disturbing discovery in Japan heralds a much larger, and more devastating problem, a second wave of spiders are coming.

 

Skitter is the second book in Ezekiel Boone’s spider infestation trilogy, and to properly understand and get the most out of this terrifyingly creepy story, it would be best to have already read its predecessor The Hatching. For those familiar with the original outbreak of arachnids, Skitter pushes forward with the spine-tingling reality that the spider situation is only going to get worse.

In similar fashion to the earlier book, Skitter is littered with a large number of different characters and locations. Some, many readers will recognise from the events portrayed in The Hatching, while others are newer, and quite often short-lived. It can be difficult and frustrating to keep track of such a wide variety of characters and locations, and I know many people will dislike the novel for that reason, myself partially included.

Unlike its predecessor though, it takes a little while before the real action of Skitter begins. While The Hatching was a ferocious onslaught of creepy-crawly, skittery things on eight, hairy legs, this is essentially the calm before the storm, in that quiet place between the first and second attacks. Therefore it can feel as though the reader is cheated a little when the story fails to reach a satisfactory conclusion, especially when the story hasn’t moved very far forward, and there are many questions requiring detailed answers. We’re asked to be patient, and wait for the release of the final instalment, if we wish to know how this terrifying story ends.

As much as I love the premise of this quite well-written, but creepy, arachnophobia inducing tale of terror, it has some problems and is unfortunately, nowhere near as entertaining as The Hatching resulting in a rating of just 3 out of 5 stars. I hope that the final novel will bring all of the numerous characters, locations and action sequences to a rewarding and satisfying end.

See Also:

Book 1: The Hatching

Book 3: Zero Day

The Mansion

The Hatching by Ezekiel Boone (Book Review)

The Hatching, debut novel from writer Ezekiel Boone is a horrifyingly creepy, skin-crawling tale of apocalyptic proportions that will have you terrified of anything you see scuttling around on eight hairy black legs.

The book begins with a hiking expedition in Manú National Park, Peru, where a swarm of spiders attack a rich businessman and his associates. These scary, human flesh eating carnivorous beasts bury themselves in the body of Bill Henderson as he flees from the carnage, unwittingly transporting the deadly arachnid back across the border to North America.

Meanwhile, Peru is not the only place that this new, never before encountered species has hatched into existence, as it soon becomes clear that swarms of spiders are being spotted all over the globe. From Peru, to China, India and even the most remote of Scottish Islands are soon overrun by the black poisonous beasties, in a worldwide epidemic of devastating proportions.

But when the masses of spiders seem to suddenly die out, people mistakenly begin to think that the threat is over. Surely we can’t possibly be THAT lucky?

 

The Hatching is not for those unlucky enough to suffer from arachnophobia, or a squeamish disposition towards insects or any other creepy-crawly things.

Ezekiel Boone fills his novel with a large number of different characters, many of whom serve only to signify the global extent of the crisis rather than to play any real importance in the narrative, and as such it can be difficult to keep track of the wide variety of characters and locations.

While I understand the purpose behind it, I can’t help but feel that it may have been more beneficial to stick with a smaller number of characters scattered across a few major locations. While I enjoy seeing my home country, Scotland being mentioned in a novel, I don’t feel that the short snippets of dialogue bring much of any real importance to the novel, other than to convey the fear of isolation during such a terrifying event.

The Hatching is also another novel that leaves the reader very unfulfilled as the ending paves the way for its sequel, Skitter. However, at 4 out of 5 stars, it remains a highly recommended thrill ride through fear and the true night-time terror of all things that skitter around in the dark, as an ancient species reawakens.

 

Favourite Quotes:

“Own your mistakes and move on, or pack your shit and get out.” – A Henderson Tech company mantra. (p77)

 

‘He sneezed. He saw a fine spray of blood coat the wall. Snot dripped from his nose. It felt like something was skittering around in there, and when he wiped at it, he realised something was skittering out of his nose. He felt the hairy, hard leg and pulled it. Holy fucking shit. It was a spider. He just pulled a fucking spider out of his nose.’ – (p81)

 

‘Mike started to reach for his gun, but he quickly realised that shooting a spider might be overkill.’ – (p100)

 

“You think because you kill one spider in your bathroom that there aren’t others hiding somewhere else in your house?” – Melanie Guyer. (p266)

 

See Also:

The Hatching: Book 2 – Skitter

The Hatching: Book 3 – Zero Day

The Mansion

EIGHT by W.W. Mortensen – Book Review

Happy Halloween everyone!

Today I would like to share one of my favourite, creepy horror novels with you. EIGHT by W.W. Mortensen.

Tagline: ‘Terror Has A New Species’

Archaeologist Ed Reardon is following in his grandfather’s footsteps, searching for the remains of a lost civilisation amid the heart of the Amazonian jungle, which he hopes will contain a mysterious object; a source of sustainable, renewable power that will revolutionise the energy industry.

Intrigued by Ed’s recent find, his former partner and entomologist, Rebecca Riley, along with a team of scientific researchers joins Ed at his base camp in the jungle, but to everyone’s horror, what they actually uncover is a fascinating new species of animal, not at all happy at being disturbed.

Favourite Quotes:

‘Deep in the Amazon, the solution to the global energy crisis has been found; a mysterious source of power set to end our dependency on oil.’ – Quote taken from the opening paragraph of ‘EIGHT’, by W.W. Mortensen (location 1 on Kindle)

“There’s a school of thought that at some point in human evolution, spiders may have posed a genuine threat; our ancestors were likely programmed to fear them. That fear may have lodged in our psyche and been passed on through the genes, the reason as to why so many people are anxious of them.” – Rebecca Riley. (location 893 on Kindle)

EIGHT is the debut novel from Australian author W. W. Mortensen. It is the type of action packed horror story that I absolutely adore, full of expertly researched scientific facts and interesting information, it is also overflowing with such horrifying creatures that will scare you to your very core, arachnophobic or not.

EIGHT is extremely long, for a debut novel, however with the aid of great writing, short chapters, and fast-paced action you don’t really notice, it will hook you so deeply into its web of intricate storytelling that you will find yourself completely engrossed, unable to tear yourself away from it, for hours on end.

At first, EIGHT bore a striking resemblance to another scary spider infused novel that I had read recently (odd considering my arachnophobia), ‘The Hatching’ by Ezekiel Boone. However, while I loved both novels, Mortensen’s was certainly the most riveting read, with a rating of 5 out of 5 stars.

See Also:

Book 2: The Alpha Species

SLITHERS