The Mansion by Ezekiel Boone (Book Review)

Ezekiel Boone is the writer of The Hatching Trilogy, and if you’re interested you can read my reviews of these books via the following links:

Book 1 – The Hatching

Book 2 – Skitter

Book 3 – Zero Day

 

The Mansion is his stand-alone science-fiction horror techno-thriller, which merges artificial intelligence with an old-school haunted house story. With a creepy location reminiscent of the Overlook Hotel, and a sinister AI technology, this book comes across as a mix of Stephen King horror and a Michael Crichton thriller.

 

With his marriage on a precariously balanced tipping point, debts up his eye-balls and substance abuse issues, life has taken a turn for the worst for Billy Stafford. But when his old multi-billionaire pal Shawn Eagle calls him with an offer he can’t refuse, things brighten up for Billy and his wife, Emily.

Nellie, an AI program first developed by Billy and Shawn shortly after graduating University, had been shelved after the boys parted ways. But now, years later Shawn’s made giant leaps in the programming and technology world, and finally brought Nellie to life. However, she currently has some issues. So Shawn invites Billy and Emily to his renovated Mansion, so that Billy can test drive and fine tune Nellie’s programming.

 

The vast majority of this book has numerous similarities to The Shining by Stephen King, everything from the location, to the weather, to character personalities, and even the writing style and plot. It’s almost a re-write of that novel coupled with the typical stereotypes found in stories such as this: Alcoholic father, beats wife, beats kids, kids grow-up with issues and go on to become alcoholics who beat their kids etc. ad nauseam, but with some AI and sci-fi thrown in, and not forgetting the all-important love-triangle. Despite this, and probably because of it, I really enjoyed the beginning of The Mansion. However, I got a little bored through the middle when the story began to feel stretched out, with very little of importance happening.

I was hoping for more of a horror feel to The Mansion and while there are a few horror elements, unfortunately the story is primarily techno-thriller. I’ve never been the biggest fan of this genre, or indeed of the premise of self-driving cars, despite them now becoming a reality and not just a figment of sci-fi imagination, and I always found myself squirming in discomfort every time the characters got behind the wheel of such a vehicle.

At 2 out of 5 stars I’d say the overall concept is mediocre, the AI aspects intriguing, but with all the similarities to The Shining I thought there was a lack of uniqueness to the plot which lets this book down terribly. If you’re a fan of Stephen King’s The Shining as a novel, and also enjoy techno-thrillers then you might appreciate the base concept behind The Mansion. However, be forewarned that once you pass the initial set-up and scene setting, the plot becomes slow and laboured for a long time before finally reaching its conclusion. I really wanted to love this book, but it dragged on so long in never-ending ways, with large chunks of time where absolutely nothing happens.     

 

See also:

The Hatching

Skitter

Zero Day

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)”

The Catacombs by Jeremy Bates (Book Review)

World’s Scariest Places: The Catacombs

The Catacombs is written in first-person narrative, mostly from the perspective of an American called Will, though includes some shorter chapters from the perspective of other characters. Will has relocated to Paris with the intention of starting over, after a boating disaster turned his life upside down, killing his younger sister and best friend, on the night before his wedding.

He befriends a local girl called Danièle, who shows him video footage of an Australian woman lost in the Catacombs beneath the city. She convinces him to join her on a night-time trip, deep into the caverns and tunnels on a hunt for this missing woman, along with her friends, Pascal and Rob. Although reluctant, Will later agrees to accompany them, after an unexpected conversation with his ex-fiance spurs him on.

 

Initially I was a little sceptical going into this book, I’d read the previous novel in the ‘World’s Scariest Places’ series last year and was a bit underwhelmed by the story. Suicide Forest didn’t live up to the creepy goose-pimply tale I’d been expecting, but I was hoping, considering the location, that The Catacombs would make for a much scarier story.

…possible spoiler warning…

Continue reading “The Catacombs by Jeremy Bates (Book Review)”

Revenger Series: Book 3 – Bone Silence (Book Review)

Bone Silence is the third of the 3 Revenger series books by Alastair Reynolds, and continues the story of Arafura and Adrana Ness, and their rag-tag crew aboard the Revenger.

…potential spoiler warning for those who haven’t read the preceding novels…

You can check out my reviews of book 1, Revenger here via this link, or book 2, Shadow Captain here.

Continue reading “Revenger Series: Book 3 – Bone Silence (Book Review)”

Revenger Series: Book 1 – Revenger by Alastair Reynolds (Book Review)

Having read a few Alastair Reynolds books before, I decided to pick up his three Revenger novels: Revenger, Shadow Captain and Bone Silence, hoping for more of his gripping hard sci-fi adventures. However, I later discovered that these are actually young adult books and so are not quite up to the same standards as earlier reads.

…potential spoiler warning…

Continue reading “Revenger Series: Book 1 – Revenger by Alastair Reynolds (Book Review)”

The Shining: Book 2 – Doctor Sleep (Book Review)

For those not already in the know, Doctor Sleep is the sequel to Stephen King’s famous novel The Shining, and the book begins almost exactly where The Shining left off.

You can read my review of The Shining here via this link.

 

…warning: spoilers ahead…

Continue reading “The Shining: Book 2 – Doctor Sleep (Book Review)”

The Shining by Stephen King (Book Review)

When it comes to Stephen King, I tend to struggle a little. A lot of books begin with a fabulous premise, full of promise and excitement, but somewhere along the way, they branch off toward tedious side streets and monotonous never-ending twisty plots. In a nutshell, I end up bored and these type of books can be difficult to finish. However, The Shining is one of those rare masterpieces that keeps me turning those pages and staying awake to read long past bedtime. Binge-reading chapters for hours on end.

Most people by now are probably familiar with this story: Recovering alcoholic Jack Torrance begins a new job as Winter Caretaker at the Overlook Hotel in Colorado. He relocates his family, wife Wendy and five-year-old son Danny, to the remote location with him. As Jack struggles with his sobriety and anger management issues, the family hope that this will mark the start of a better future for them.

The main premise follows Danny, who has the supernatural ability known as The Shining. This essentially means that he has precognition or clairvoyance. He is more susceptible to paranormal activity, such as seeing ghosts of the past, and can also catch flashes of other people’s inner thoughts and feelings, or witness events before they happen.

As the Torrance’s arrive at the Overlook, Danny instinctively knows, thanks to his ESP (extra-sensory perception) that bad things are going to happen there. He’s not wrong, slowly but surely things go downhill for the unlucky family.

 

This is a bit of a slow-burn novel that gradually develops over time, it might not be to everyone’s taste as it’s a lot more thriller than it is horror. However, for me personally, I love this story with its leisurely pace and isolated location. It also has good character development, with the subtle change of Jack Torrance from his sober state to that of a mallet-wielding madman.

Having read this again after the passing of many years, I can understand the bad reviews and harsh critiques this gets for being dull and long-winded, but I honestly find it really enjoyable. I can always binge-read The Shining in a few days, despite struggling desperately with loads of other Stephen King stories. I also prefer it to the film, which for some reason didn’t really appeal to me much. The two formats are vastly different, and I find that most people will connect with one, but not the other depending on their own individual preferences.

Initially, this used to be a 5 star novel for me, but now I’d probably have to give it 4 stars at most. I love the little flecks of humour that are interspersed within the story, which always get me laughing-out-loud and cracking a smile. However, I often forget that Danny is only a five-year-old kid, as his character and inner dialogue quite often comes across as more mature and adult at times. My one other negative note is that my copy of this book had a few quality issues with spelling, which really shouldn’t exist in a professionally printed Stephen King paperback.

Beware if you’re looking for this book to scare you though, as you’ll be sorely disappointed.

 

See also:

Book 2 – Doctor Sleep

Suicide Forest by Jeremy Bates (Book Review)

World’s Scariest Places: Suicide Forest

I took an interest in Jeremy Bates’s World’s Scariest Places series as it focused on real locations, which can sometimes be a nice change from made-up places usually found in fiction. However, as I began reading I remembered that what had originally piqued my interest in Suicide Forest, was the film which I had reviewed a few years before for a previous incarnation of the blog.

So I decided to post my movie review of The Forest first, and those interested can read it here.

 

I really wanted to enjoy this book, as suicide and depression are issues that are quite close to my heart, and I thought that some of these aspects of the story might be quite fascinating. However, the writing style and prose itself were very tedious, and I found myself struggling to continue reading beyond the initial 20% of the book.

My many issues with this novel include the monotonous plot – vastly different from that of The Forest – and the characters who deliberately set off for hiking and camping without proper equipment and clothing, then leaving the proper trails and paths behind, despite numerous signs and warnings not to do so.

I had expected this book to be immensely creepy or scary, considering the location, but in reality there were very few creepy moments and nothing that truly scared me. The characters plodded slowly along through this boring and overly descriptive story, until finally something of significance happened about halfway through, after which the plot dissolved into somewhat predictable and fairly ridiculous events.

At just 1 out of 5 stars, I couldn’t wait for Suicide Forest to be over, and I could move on and read something much more exciting. Frankly, and probably surprisingly, despite my negative review of the film, The Forest had a much more engaging plot than this snoozefest of a novel.

See also:

World’s Scariest Places: The Catacombs

Haunted Cruise: The Shakedown by Tanya R. Taylor (Book Review)

In the midst of divorcing her husband of seven years, Dellie Hayworth sets off to work on a test cruise across the Atlantic Ocean. The ship, known as The Caesar, will be her home for the next 14 days.

 

Haunted Cruise is my first book by horror writer, Tanya R. Taylor and I found it to be one of the better short novels that I have read in quite some time. The story has a quick pace, yet doesn’t feel overly rushed. The narrative flows along easily, hooking the reader into the story with sharp and pertinent prose. It is very well-written and highly compelling, so much so that I couldn’t help but read this in one quick sitting.

It took quite a while before the horror elements made an appearance, and I began to wonder if I was mistaken in believing Haunted Cruise to be a horror story. However, occult spectres did eventually appear and were remarkably creepy, as you would expect. Unfortunately, I’m not sure I’d class this story as a typical haunting, however there are ghosts. I felt that the ending may have been a bit rushed, but overall this is a good short horror novel, at a little less than 200 pages, perfect for anyone seeking a quick read.

At 4 out of 5 stars I highly recommend Haunted Cruise to anyone interested in the horror or occult genres, or those looking for a short introduction to Tanya R. Taylor’s extensive catalogue. I’m definitely now interested in checking out more stories by this writer.

Hopefully, sometime soon I’ll be checking out Tanya’s Cornelius series of books, so watch out for those reviews in the coming months.

Break Point – James Patterson with Lee Stone (Book Review)

I’d like to apologise for the lack of book reviews lately as I have been a bit distracted from my usual reading. One of my favourite rock bands, Backyard Babies, released a new album on March 1st (Sliver and Gold) and as a result I’ve rediscovered my love for this band’s music, listening to all of their albums pretty much for the last month straight, so there’s been very little reading going on. Anyone interested can check out the Backyard Babies music videos on their Official Youtube account here. I’ve been a fan since I was 16 year’s old, when a friend loaned me his copy of their debut album, Diesel and Power, back in 2000.

 

Anyway, since I don’t have a new review for you I’m reposting an old one that I did for an earlier incarnation of my blog; Break Point is a deviation from my normal repertoire of science fiction, fantasy and horror, instead focusing on my Mother’s favourite writer, James Patterson. Speaking of Mother, it is Mother’s Day tomorrow (Sunday) here in the UK, so I guess this works out quite well really.

I arrived into the midst of a family situation a couple of years ago, which left me waiting around and twiddling my thumbs, and having not had the foresight to bring along a book to read in case of emergencies, I was a little restless. As a result I ended up diving into one of my Mother’s piles of James Patterson crime thrillers that were sitting close at hand, and coming out with one of his ‘Bookshots’ or short novellas under the advice that “that one about the tennis players is quite good.” With nothing more interesting to pass my time I decided to give Break Point a chance to amuse and enthral.

 

Kirsten Keller is a tennis pro on the verge of winning the French Open, when an unexpected noise from the crowd terrifies her so completely that she flees the court in fear for her life. It soon transpires that Kirsten has been receiving mysterious death threats, and after the embarrassing circumstances in France she decides to employ the services of ex-Metropolitan Police Officer turned Investigator, Chris Foster, to protect her at Wimbledon, and provide some much needed piece of mind allowing her to focus on her career. Can Chris find a way to capture the person responsible for Kirsten’s torment and save her life?

 

Despite my misgivings about reading crime thrillers, which aren’t necessarily my usual cup of tea, I must confess that I rather enjoyed this brisk, straightforward story which at only 119 pages can be easily read within an hour or so.

Not being very familiar with either James Patterson or Lee Stone’s other offerings it’s a little difficult to truly do a review of Break Point justice, however the book is long enough to provide enough depth to the story for it to feel properly complete, which is a feat that even some full length novels often fail to achieve.

At 3 out of 5 stars it is perfect for those who enjoy crime thrillers that can keep you guessing until very near the end, and/or you’re a little too short on time to read a full novel.