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Archive for the ‘Recommended Reads’ Category


 

Scars on the Face of God: The Devil’s Bible is a pacey urban fantasy/horror novel set in a village north-east of Philadelphia. Bauer expertly builds suspense with unsettling supernatural occurrences and drip feeds enough clues to keep the reader engrossed in the scandalous past and present of Three Bridges, formerly known as Schuetten.

The residents live in the shadow of the Volkheimer legacy and the Catholic church. A host of unwanted secrets bubble under the surface of the narrative. More specifically, in the sewer system. The construction of a new restaurant disturbs the long buried secrets of Three Bridges. Debris floating amongst the abject waste of the sewers sets the tone of a dark narrative.

C. G. Bauer writes from the point of view of Johnny Hozer, later known as “Wump” due to a very specific event in his early adulthood. The narrative is in first person and heavily colloquial. Being English this did present a few problems with certain brands and phrases having no meaning for me at all. However the voice of Hozer was so strong and fully formed that these quirks only served to add to the character of Hozer.

The narrative holds the attention of the reader with expert timing of the supernatural. Sparse and explainable events sow the seeds of doubt and flash backs fill in the gaps of knowledge that combine to expose the criminal neglect of the Volkheimer Tannery and unravel the horrific truth about the Monsignor.

Bauer ploughs straight into action in the prologue where Hozer witnesses the extremely short life-span of a newborn child. The contrast with Hozer’s bewildered twelve-year old voice to his hardened sixty-five year old voice sets the precedence for a narrative that swings from horror to investigation. Hozer’s perception is deeply embedded in the past and his desperation to seek justice drives the plot forward with well paced momentum.

In this novel Bauer raises questions about responsibility. The main dominant male positions in society put in jeopardy the safety and morality of all of the villagers. Each of the superior figures harbour clear ambitions to which they will spare no cost in order to achieve. Their disregard for the well-being of people is as harrowing as the physical horrors that occur. A misguided perception on the value of human life propagates a dangerous backdrop for this dark horror story.

At times the plot begs incredulity but the character and plot development swallows the more fantastical scenes with a well earned sympathy for the characters and a deep seated need to resolve all the mysteries of The Three Bridges.

Bauer is the author of several short stories, the latest of which is to be published in the anthology 100 Horrors in the very near future. A promising new voice in Horror, this book comes highly recommended for readers seeking a new author.

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I managed to read the first two books within the space of a week. Normally when I get into a book I can read it within a few days and then I take a break from reading. Two books in a week is a hell of a lot of reading. As a part-time casual book commenter/reviewer I feel this is far too much in one go but I cannot leave them alone.

Even now as I sit trying to do something other than reading I keep wondering what is going to happen next. I’m a few pages into the third book, dangerously behind on my housework and feeling guilty that my second draft of my first novel is gathering digital dust on my flash drive.

For the first half of the first book I sat moderately unimpressed by the book that had created such a huge fuss when it first became popular. I figured it was the usual disappointment that follows any hyped up media e.g. Avatar being a prime example.

Each Harry Potter book became increasingly dull and poor quality in my eyes as the expectation of publication dates reached fever pitch. Perhaps as I grew older the magic was lost on me. In truth the writing probably never changed but having shut the book on the final volume I don’t think I will ever be able to open another one of them again.

So with hype passed and the very real possibility of accidently seeing the film before I’ve read the books I decided to finally sit down and see what it was.

At almost the exact midpoint of the book I got hooked. The pace suddenly exploded forwards and never stopped rolling. I intended to review each book individually but I think it has been extensively reviewed by far more qualified people already. Instead I’ll write an essay that’s been brewing in my head during the tea breaks once I’ve finished all three!

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First published in 2009 by Gollancz

You can’t go far wrong if you pick up a SF book published by Gollancz. Patient Zero is yet another satisfying print from the SF publisher, an imprint of Orion books. Whether its a classic or a new find, trust these guys to deliver you everything you need for a day snuggled up on the sofa with hot tea and chocolate biscuits. Although as SF is a male-dominated readership perhaps I’m in the minority of SF readers who does so in this fashion.

Patient Zero is a fast-paced novel heavily dominated with military action. Maberry’s style reminded me of Robert Ludlum’s Bourne series. The main character had a finesse for combat and stategy which flavoured the narrative throughout. A delicious injection of zombies kept me on the edge of my seat, not literally as I don’t actually sit upright whilst I read, and I could not stop turning the pages. That made for a few late nights whilst I was meant to be settling into a new home and redecorating etc.

The medical and scientific depth of the plot gave Maberry’s zombies a unique place in the modern world. Zombies as a terrorist weapon holds significant importance to the reader who will have experienced much of the Western paranoia about what manufacturing exists in other countries. Maberry’s unusual take on a stock horror figure gives his book an ambiguous genre placement. This is not simply horror or sci-fi. It is comparable to the best of high-action thrillers with enough reality to give readers who don’t read sci-fi an exciting read too.

Maberry has given the Zombie genre a kick and raised the bar for all future novels. Maybe its time for the vampire fad to take a step backwards and try out Zombies again?

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