Salby Damned, Ian D Moore

Salby Damned, Ian D Moore

Salby Damned

Salby Damned opens at a fracking wellhead near Salby, in Yorkshire, where drilling appears to have released a highly contagious and lethal virus. Transmitted via bite, the symptoms include increased healing, damage to cognitive functions, and most damaging of all, a destructive, homicidal rage. Freelance reporter and ex-sergeant Nathan Cross, covering the opening of the new well, didn’t expect to be hauled out of bed at the crack of dawn to the news of a disaster at the well, and he certainly didn’t expect his sudden, overwhelming attraction to Evelyn Langford, the woman he’d met the night before at the well conference.

The story features the staples of the zombie genre, including last-ditch stands against oncoming zombies, unexpected alliances and dalliances, and the revelation of the true cause of the outbreak, along with a variety of blunt, bladed, and projectile weapons used to varying effect against the diseased. I did find that the story as a whole was given to a level of description of trivia that impacted the pace of the action, as well as extraneous scenes that seemed by the end of the book to have done little to directly move the plot along. However, I definitely feel that the book has a lot of potential, and the character development was by and large strong and consistent.

 

Raven’s Peak, Lincoln Cole

Raven’s Peak, Lincoln Cole

Raven’s Peak: World on Fire Book 1

Raven’s Peak takes a unique twist on urban fantasy, painting a thin veneer of normality across a reality of madness, murder, and demons, held back by the forces of the Council, a quasi-religious Star Chamber that works in total secrecy. However, the Council has its back to the wall, and their decision to bring one of their top hunters out of the black site prison where he’s been since he got too good at thinking like his prey precipitates the events of the whole story.

Lincoln Cole has managed to weave a lot of the Christian mythos of demons and exorcism into this plot, and the result is a nice mix of the darkness of ‘The Exorcist’ and the choreographed violence of ‘Kill Bill’. While I felt that the book could benefit from another proofread, the author’s talent and imagination were more than enough to draw me into the book, and his story and characters kept me there. The contrast between Haatim, a privileged son of the mundane world, and Abigail, a Council hunter trying to claw her way back after a demonic possession that cost her her mentor and most of her standing in the Order, is particularly well done.

Although Raven’s Peak is clearly the first in a series, it makes a strong standalone read and avoids the temptation to end in a real cliff-hanger. Abigail is guaranteed to please any reader who prefers heroines whose IQ exceeds their bust size, and the layers in the plot combined with the depth of the characters offers rich ground for many future books. I’ll be looking forwards to the next one.

Reviewed for Knockin’ Books.

Walk in the Flesh, Peter Bailey

Walk in the Flesh, Peter Bailey

Walk in the Flesh

Walk in the Flesh is a dark, twisty sci-fi thriller, set in a future where a breakthrough in nano-technology has made it possible to upload the consciousness of a military operative into the brain of anyone that British Intelligence can take off the street for two weeks – anyone from a Chinese diplomat to an Iranian teenager. Provided that Neil, the military operative in question, is able to destroy the head of his host body at the end of each mission, all evidence of his presence is erased.

Peter Bailey’s writing is particularly successful at melding the sci-fi elements with reality; the violence that Neil’s ability to push his host body past its physical limits enables is described with gritty realism, along with an almost clinical dissection of the collateral damage to Neil’s wavering grip on his sanity.

For me, the main storyline took a little while to get off the ground; the first third of the book read like a series of cameo stories of Neil’s missions, and it wasn’t until nearly halfway that the story really focussed and pulled me in. It felt almost as if the author experimented with several secondary characters to pair against Neil, and only found the perfect match on the third or fourth outing, which is the secondary character he then runs with for the rest of the book.

This secondary character is Ariana, an Iranian medical technician who isolates the traces of Neil’s presence in the brain of a body he failed to perfectly destroy. She also has the misfortune of having been born female at a time when religious fundamentalism and the accompanying gender prejudice are again sweeping the country. She appears to serve two purposes in the book; she allows the author to explore his perception of gender inequality in the Muslim culture from a female viewpoint – and she provides the perfect trigger to Neil’s final destabilisation, tripping all his conflicts about his role as a white knight versus the destructive aspect of his condition.

On the whole, this was a thoroughly enjoyable book, with plenty of action and an original premise. By far the strongest aspect for me was the analysis of Neil’s spiral into complete breakdown, but the overall story was a good read, definitely worthwhile for anyone out there who likes sci-fi or military-style thrillers.

Reviewed for Knockin’ Books.

The Eyes of Others, Mikael Carlson

The Eyes of Others, Mikael Carlson

The Eyes of Others

Mikael Carlson’s The Eyes of Others is the story of a mole within the walls of the Washington intelligence agencies, haemorrhaging sensitive information to enemies of the United States that has resulted in a number of American deaths. If you had a mental still at that description of a grim-faced Liam Neeson looking at you down the barrel of a handgun with a massive explosion silhouetting the White House in the background, we’re probably on the same page.

In many ways, this is a familiar plot outline, subject of countless movies and thrillers. This book takes the unusual approach of relating its story from multiple first-person viewpoints, clueing the reader in by naming which of the protagonists or secondary characters is telling this particular segment via chapter headings. While I, personally, found it confusing and frequently irritating when I had to scroll back up to the top of the chapter to figure out which war hero or intrepid law enforcement officer I was reading in that piece, the novel structure does tie back appealingly to the book title. However, for me the sheer number of the secondary characters through which I had to head hop (in first person) made the read somewhat disjointed. In terms of characterisation, by far the strongest character is a secondary called “Louisiana”, who tends to grab the spotlight by the short and curlies whenever he shows up, effectively distracting you from any other character you might be reading about, but he stands out from all the macho alphabet agency types and decorated ex-military heroes simply by virtue of not being like anyone else in the book.

Overall, the plot was a solid, fairly well-written high-octane thriller read, with plenty of explosions, a nice offering of car chases, and a few shoot-outs. Readers who like to figure out the bad guy on their own will note there isn’t much by way of bread crumbs leading you to final villain, but it does make for a very nice plot twist come the final few chapters when you hit the grand reveal. While this book certainly merited its three stars, I didn’t find it quite had that extraordinary combination of truly appealing characters, original plotting and sheer flair that singles out a five-star and makes me read and re-read a book until the covers fall off.

Reviewed for Knockin’ Books blog.