Posted in Reviews

Storyhack 0: The Monster Without by Julie Frost

I struggled with this one. I’m not a fan of Urban Fantasy, werewolves and vampires do nothing for me at all. When said werewolves are depressed war veterans my enjoyment level dips even further.
Spoilers ahead!

Right then. Julie Frost can write. I got a real Kelley Armstrong vibe off the story, a thought confirmed by my daughter who also read the story. She LOVED it btw, it hit all her buttons and is planning on buying Frosts book as soon as she’s finished with her current crop. She’s a massive Armstrong fan and so the comparison is a badge of honor.

So, what’s it all about?
The hero is a Private Detective, just coming off a particularly nasty case. It’s left him depressed. It’s triggered memories of Afghanistan leading to deeper depression. Enter a femme fatale with a tale of woe. Reluctant to get involved he’s nevertheless drawn in against his will.
*sigh*
I had the whole thing figured out far earlier than I should have, and maybe that’s down to a minor addiction to noir detective fiction or maybe its that Frost telegraphed the ending by sticking so hard to the genre conventions. Daughter got it pretty quickly too, though a couple of clues later than I did.
If there’s one thing that’s annoyed me about Storyhack is the number of stories that feel like introductions to series. It’s bloated many of the stories as essential backstory is peddled. Frost gives us the works. A devoted wife who wants to be an actress, the mother-in-law that’s like a mother to the hero. The cop who’s part buddy part counselor. It didn’t kill the stories flow but you could sure feel those beats getting hit. Daughter’s already looking forward to reading more about them.

Me, not so much.

Look, there’s no way with the best will in the world that I was ever going to like every story in the collection, it’s never happened yet. Daughter did, quite a lot as it happens so there is that. There’s nothing wrong with the Frosts craft, she’s a decent writer without a doubt.

Depressed werewolves just aren’t my thing.

Thanks for reading guys

Take care

Dean

Posted in Reviews

Storyhack 0: Hal Turk and the Lost City of the Maya by David Boop

Admission time; I’ve had a really hard time concentrating on anything frivolous this week. The terrorist attack in Manchester has obviously been at the front and back of my mind.  Still, life goes on, doesn’t it?

I read David Boop this morning as Lil Buddy was playing with her favorite aunt and I had a moment to myself. While they did whatever it is that young ladies do I settled in with a coke a couple of jaffa cakes and my Kindle.

Spoilers ahead.

Bryce has a good eye for story and I can see why he choose this one for his premier issue. It’s well written, the characters are well drawn and the tale moves along quickly, the various scenes transitioning nicely one into another. Be in no doubt, David Boop has clearly got writing chops. It’s just that I honestly believe that this story could have been so much better.

Okay, I liked this one, but I didn’t love it. It hit all the marks from the likable and quick-witted hero to the well-written action scenes but it didn’t set my skull cinema on fire. Instead, I kept seeing similar bits from one of my favorite animated films Eldorado while hearing Indiana Jones theme music. Is that a bad thing? Probably not, but it didn’t really inspire me to search out anything else that Boop has written.

It’s not a dud, I’m sure that others won’t have the seem feelings about it, purely because of the afore mentioned writing chops. It’s enjoyable, just not at the same level as the first three I read. If I’d have read this one first I’d have gone on to read others, it certainly wouldn’t have put me off. Also, as I said at the outset I fully accept that my judgment might be…compromised.

Read, enjoy and take care

Until next time

Dean

 

Posted in Reviews

Storyhack 0: Dead Last by Jay Barnson

Okay, this is getting embarrassing. Three stories so far and all have been great. It’s not like I’m looking for something to hate, or even dislike but you’d think there would be at least one out of the first three that would annoy me.

Nope.

Warning: SPOILERS!!!

We have a secret agency.
We have mystical tomes.
We have a necromancer.
We have zombies.
We have objects of power.
We have special abilities.
Annnnnd we have guns. Yay for action!

That’s a hell of a lot to squeeze into a short but it all gets shoehorned in, and if it’s a little bit clunky in parts that’s just part of its charm. The writer is clearly enthusiastic about the genre and that really comes through which makes it very easy to get carried away with the story. As a whole, the story works very well indeed.

I do have a niggle and it’s not with the writer though. There is a small problem with the copy editing as every story so far has had mistakes. It’s not much of a problem, but they do tend to dump me straight out of the story when I come across them. Like Flemming rather than Fleming. What can I say, if I wasn’t enjoying this so much I probably wouldn’t have such high expectations.

Back to the story. Barnson handles both the plot and the action well, has created an easy to like hero in the mould of Correia’s Owen Z. Pitt or Butchers Harry Dresden. He’s not perfect, he’s flawed but not so much that he’s a douche. I like that. The worldbuilding seems solid enough and is fun! Another author to add to my rapidly growing list.

That’s pretty much it guys, lil buddy is demanding I do play d’oh with her and there are cakes to be baked.

Until next time take care

Dean

Posted in Reviews

Storyhack 0: Desert Hunt by Jon Mollison

If you like X then there’s a very good chance that you’ll like Y.

Said every librarian ever.

Something else that I’m guilty of. I can’t help it you see, I just have this need to categorise stories with other stories. In this instance, I’d happily place Mollisons’ Karl Barber story ‘Desert Hunt’ with any of the stories containing F. Paul Wilsons wonderful creation Repairman Jack. Believe me when I say that I really cannot give any higher praise, Wilson is in my top five writers and Jack is, without a doubt, my favourite hero.

You know there might be spoilers ahead, read on at your own peril!

In Desert Hunt, you get people traffickers, a stolen Yazidi girl and a guy that’s out to stop them. Seriously, what’s not to like in that setup? The locations interesting, Cairo is described well and from the actual point of view of the character. Speaking of…

Karl Barber is no Gary Stu, or Marty Stu or whatever the male equivalent of a Mary Sue is. He quite clearly has flaws as well as skills and when he’s put under duress there is a real fear that he might not make it out alive. His enemy, the big bad of this particular story is worthy of him and not some cobbled together central casting goon that’s been set up to fall down. I like that, I like that a lot.

I like that, I like that a lot.

Barber is a recurring character in a set of stories and so reading a story that he’s in is going to feel like watching an episode of a TV show. You know, one that you like and not just something you’re watching because if you don’t the other half is going to be annoyed at you for. That’s not a bad thing, just me thinking out loud I guess.

So, as far as things stand StoryHack is two for two and passes the minimum value test. For .99p you get at least two stories that are worth buying it for alone. That I got to read them while the other half was watching what she wanted was a definite Brucie bonus.

That’s all for now, take care

Dean

Posted in Reviews

Storyhack Issue 0: King of Spades by David J. West

Confession time. I love a good short story, but they have to be very, very good to pass muster. Thirty odd years ago I discovered Stephen King and I thought he was good, and for years thought he was the best. Now the guys not even in my top ten. The best, for me, is the guy that I can read and reread over and over again because anyone of his stories is just that damned good.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you Montague Rhodes James.

It’s a pretty high bar. Lovecraft made a decent fist of it, Howard was almost there, Le Fanu and Saki close by. James is just that bit better. Each story is so polished, so perfectly crafted that they leave me with a feeling of awe and admiration. That’s what I look for in any short story that I read.

So I picked up StoryHack hoping for a little bit of that. I headed straight for David J. Wests tale because I’ve read one of his yarns featuring Porter Anderson and thoroughly enjoyed it. The guy already had coin with me, and so I came to the table expecting to like it. I wasn’t disappointed.

Okay, some spoilers may lie ahead, but I’ll do my best to avoid them.

King of Spades has a rock-solid concept. Take zombies and put them in biblical times. What is there not to love about that? Throw in Lilith, King David, the Witch of Endor and an enemy that keeps coming back for more and you have a serious contender. Add a loyal general, some self-doubt, and great battles and you have a solid gold story. The pace is great, dialogue is good and the characters likable where they should be and it’s a genuine pleasure to read. Be in no doubt, I enjoyed this.

I…have an issue though.

I don’t think that this should have been a short story. There’s just so much that I would have liked to have seen explored that you could have got a full novel out of. I would have liked to have seen West’s depiction of King David developed. More of Lilith, more battles, more stakes and greater tension. The concept is certainly strong enough to handle it, and West is a good enough author to pull it off. I’m telling you now that I would pre-order this book on day one of pre-sale.

You never get that feeling with James, his stories leave no room to be anything more than what they are. Everything is told and nothing is left out which is where their power lies. Kudos though to David for a cracking story.