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Pipers (Review) PDF Print E-mail
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Sunday, 17 September 2017 00:00

nother one from the collection Four Summoner’s Tales, the second of the set.

You’ll remember my review of the first one of this group, Suffer the Children, and how I thought that was going to be pretty much the sorts of stories we were going to go through in this necromancy collection (people of the past raising their dead out of Salem graveyards or the like). Well, Pipers blew that assumption out of the water.

So in this novella, Zeke is a practical rancher down in a Texas border town. He lost his wife years back and so his world now centers on Savannah, his beautiful daughter, the light of his life. Our story opens with him chatting with her in his pickup on their way to a music festival, a father-daughter discussion where he’s both clueless and big-bear loving, a conversation that rings true and helps establish his love, his caring, and his situation. So he drops her off to go hang with her friends and then decides to try his own hand with the waitress he’s been considering over the years. Perhaps he’s finally coming out of the shell he cast himself into after his wife’s death.

But that’s when a Mexican cartel, pissed that this little town has organized a border watch and caught a couple of their mules, strikes. Two trucks loaded with gunmen fly down the main street, blazing away. Savannah is killed right before his eyes.

And it’s nothing but bleakness for Zeke, that is until the little dark man comes to town with an odd proposition. He can raise the dead, and he’s pissed at the cartel and its top man, given the fact that they kidnapped, raped, and killed his daughter, posting parts of her back in pieces. Turns out that this little man cannot bring her back – not with only half a body. But the dozens of innocents killed in the streets by the rampaging cartel? Yes, they would make a perfect army of the dead. And all the survivors have to do is agree to his terms and he’ll give them the power to bring them back. And they will keep healing, keep getting better until they are restored to normal. But until then, they can’t be killed.

But they can kill.

I really liked this tale. It was dark and twisty and tense, and the person who read it for the audio disk did a crackerjack job in his reading (his cowboys sounded weatherbeaten, and his drug lords oily). It was a great story with a fantastic twist that grows on me every time I think back on it. So, yes, this one is just a jewel on the crown of a fantastic collection. My recommendation is to read/listen to it. Wow.


Moonfleet (Review) PDF Print E-mail
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Sunday, 10 September 2017 00:00

often root for old books. I want them to be good, even better than novels of the current day, just to throw something in the face of people who assume that people of the past were simplistic clods who suffered because they didn’t have access to the likes of Clive Cussler. And now I’m delighted that I found an old book of 1898 vintage, Moonfleet, that tops everything.

No, it’s not a book about spaceships. Moonfleet is a story of youth along the southern coast of England, of 1757, of smugglers slipping in past the watch, of barrels unloaded on dark beaches and men watchful for the posse patrolling the white cliffs. And this novel blew me away, for the excitement, the adventures, and the grim events that occur.

As in most works of the time, young John Trenchard is an orphan who lives with his aunt in the rundown village of Moonfleet. It used to be under the sway of the family Mohune, among whose line existed Colonel John "Blackbeard" Mohune, a villain who turned on his King, turned on his assistants, turned on damn near everyone and died in wretched isolation in Moonfleet. Part of his legend involves a diamond now cursed for his actions and long lost. There is even the legend of his churchyard ghost which frightens travelers and apparently strangles the unwary.

And so young John goes about his business, looking towards his eventual life of possibly fishing and maybe smuggling (which takes place around him – after all, the local magistrate Maskew just shot down (like a dog, damn him) the son of the local pubkeeper, who now grieves his loss).

But then John makes an amazing discovery, finding the cave (in a very cool place) used by the smugglers. And true to such tales, in the smugglers come, forcing him to hide (just like Jim in the apple barrel). I read this thinking, okay, either he is discovered and brought aboard the smuggling vessel or he’s going to carry the secret of the smugglers and use it for his own purposes (he’s in love with Grace, daughter of the evil  Maskew, don’t you know). But then the story turned on its ear and took me to places I couldn’t imagine.

After this, it’s lonely moors, lines of redcoats firing, bullets humming past, hidden caves, bodies down wells, a smuggler or two (so eventually they did show up), of terrible fates, shipwrecks, deaths and murder.


All I can say is that, outside of War of the Worlds, this was one of the most enjoyable reads I’ve gone through from the end of that century. And, damme lad, I’m putting it into your own grasping hands, HERE ye go. Yes, this one is available for free – you can read it any old way you like, but read it you must, it’s that good.

Or you can go back to your Clive Cussler, if you must.


Last Updated on Friday, 25 August 2017 15:16
Suffer the Children (Review) PDF Print E-mail
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Sunday, 03 September 2017 00:00

his is the first review from the Four Summoner’s Tales collective, which is an audio book we brought with us on our long vacation drive. In a nutshell, it’s four novellas that follow a loose format – the tales have to involve a stranger who can raise the dead. We’ve got three of the four down and are looking forward to taking on the last one for the drive back. Since these are novellas (i.e. spacious tales with far more legroom than mere short stories) I’ll review each in turn.

And in an advanced rating, I’m going to tell you that you might look up this effort – either in written or audio format. I’m really enjoyed them.

The first one (which I am reviewing here) is Suffer the Children, and likely the most expected of the bunch (the rest are well off the grounds of the expected, as you’ll find out in coming weeks). This story takes place in Canada, seemingly somewhere in the backwoods. While no year is given, it’s modern enough so that the railroad is coming through (not this town, but servicing the area). However, it’s old enough so that diphtheria has recently wiped out a number of children and old people in this tiny little town.

To this sad little community comes an odd pair, a younger man with an odd name (which I can’t find right now – it sounded like a mix between Romanian or Biblical) and a tottering older “assistant”. And to the council, most of whom have so heartbreakingly-recently lost children or grandchildren to the disease, he proposes an offer: This necromancer can raise a child but it will cost $300 (a not-small sum for the time). AND (and there is always an “AND”) another soul must be offered (through the spattered service of a sacrificial murder) – because, after all, one cannot make souls. For every one brought back, another must be offered. And for a council made up of a grieving mayor, a broken blacksmith, and a shattered doctor, it sounds like a good deal indeed. Steep, but, as they reason, fair.

Just to sweeten the deal, to show it’s legit, the mayor’s son is brought back, the older assistant sacrificed to do so. The next thing you know, the recently lost child sits up in his ready-to-bury coffin, blinks, and is whole. Slightly addled, but whole. But don’t worry, the necromancer notes – he’ll come to be himself in the days to follow. He’s just a little… groggy from the trip.

But it is the fourth councilmember who stands against this pact. Named “Preacher” and anything but (the community did not need the services of two schoolteachers, but with this newcomer and his wife they made her the schoolteacher and he the preacher (even though he is skeptical towards all things, Godly and otherwise)). He doesn’t believe this will end well, he opposes it, and eventually he acts against it. And of course, he is right. What is actually occurring in these miraculous “rebirths” is horrific in the extreme. The tale’s end is both surprising and unnerving, and well worth it. So, yes, we enjoyed it.

And the next tales, as I will relate in coming weeks, are even stranger.

Again, this collective is top-notch and well worth the effort to find. I give it four resurrections. Get it!


This Census-Taker (Review) PDF Print E-mail
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Sunday, 27 August 2017 00:00

ong-time readers of my reviews know that my favorite living author is China Meville (it’s a love-hate relationship – this guy writes like I should write). I’ve got pretty much every book of his on my shelves. A lot of them are crazy-weird but leave me haunted and thoughtful. And This Census-Taker, it’s the craziest (and deepest) of the bunch.

So this boy lives in an almost dreamlike house high on a windy hill overlooking a town, sometime in a sort of steam-punk post-greatness era. And the tale begins with him dashing down to the city in the valley below, running all the way, screaming and crying that there has been a murder. His mother has killed his father. Or is it the other way. We’re not sure.

No, it seems he’s hysterical – his father (a simple key-maker, though this carries far more magic than the skills of an ordinary locksmith) is fine. His mother, it seems, has left. There is a note. There isn’t any blood. And there is certainly no body (there is a hole in the mountain above, one that his father throws the family’s trash and the occasional animal he brutally kills into) but how can one prove that a corpse has been dropped into that horrific darkness? So, sure, the boy must be hysterical. He’s returned to his father’s care. What else can the disinterested villagers do?

This Census-Taker (named after a character hinted fleetingly through the course of the book, only showing up in the eleventh hour) is a strange book, one that will not conclusively tell you what has happened and what is to be, but more of a dream. After I read it and sat blinking at its conclusion, I slept on it and woke up with my own private idea of what might have happened. I’m not sure if it’s true – I just have a conviction that I know a little more about what took place in the background of this macabre tale.

But I liked it. It had place and depth (that “trash hole” gives me the willies, even now). The characters were realistic – they move with a purpose not dictated solely by the story they appear in. In the end, there is a conclusion (of sorts) and a belief that the characters have moved on. But, as I said, the story echoed in my head for days to follow, troubling me with its implications in unspoken whispers.

If you are looking for a simple story, one where the goal is set in the opening page (i.e. solve the murder or go to war), you won’t care for this windswept tale at all. But if you are a reader, a true reader, you should check this one out. And hey, it’s a novella, a short little thing, so if it really doesn’t appeal, you won’t be in it that long.

Me, I wish it had run longer.


Last Updated on Sunday, 27 August 2017 05:04

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