Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Skinner by David Bernstein

SkinnerSkinner by David Bernstein
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Skinner is a supernatural overcoming the monster horror story from David Bernstein. A simple premise with three couples on their way to a cabin retreat, they attempt to drive over a mountain during an inexplicable storm. First filling up with gas at a rather creepy 'last fuel stop', they encounter an old man surrounded by and wearing wolf pelts.

Going up the mountain the snow worsens and they narrowly avoid running over, yep, the old man from the gas station, by plummeting down the side of the mountain. It's then a conveniently found cabin in the woods and a battle for survival scenario as one by one they succumb to a foe that has been playing this game for an eternity.

What we have is a fairly standard horror story that plays out somewhat like a movie script, more an intricate description of events as they happen and to be honest I was a little bit bored by the whole thing. There's the usual inner group squabbles, a bit of deception and questionable loyalties but I really didn't care for any of the characters, nor whether they lived or died.

The story wasn't too predictable regarding who survives, it just didn't grab my interest. I think it was more the style than anything, very little character depth and some cringe worthy conceptual metaphors. I mean comparing falling down a cliff in a car to shoes in a tumble dryer set on the highest possible speed and smells compared to the sharpness of a thousand newly minted pennies. It just didn't work for me, I normally read and highlight the good, the bad and the ugly in any story, and when I go over the notes if there's lots of things that are grouped by a 'nah' and there's no quotes I liked then it doesn't bode well.

A book that plays out like a movie has to have some way of getting involved with the story, I've read stuff like this before and enjoyed it. Over the top, riotous fun, with some humour, anything in fact to make you want to pick it up again, sadly this didn't have much in the way of redeeming qualities. If you like your stories in a sense almost articulated, simple to comprehend with little concentration required you might enjoy this. On the other hand if you want to experience a story, think about it, even when you're not reading it, desperate to get back to it, then this won't be for you.

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Tortured Souls: The Legend of Primordium by Clive Barker

Tortured Souls: The Legend of PrimordiumTortured Souls: The Legend of Primordium by Clive Barker
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Tortured Souls is set in the 'first city' of Primordium, a city of degradation, corruption and violence. On the periphery of this story is the ancient being known as Agonistes, for two thousand years he has walked the earth, making God's art from flesh or so he proclaims. A transformer of human flesh, if a supplicant comes to him, lost to hopelessness and desperate for revenge. If he agrees to the terms set, then Agonistes will remake the supplicant through a combination of art, magic and pain in the image of their monstrous ideal.

The story starts with assassin Zarles Krieger, whilst on a routine political murder ordered by the Emperor himself, he completes his nefarious task and then as he arranges his victim for maximum effect he is interrupted by the daughter of his victim, Lucidique. She implores him to look what is going on around them and Zarles Kreiger is persuaded. He seeks Agonistes in the burned desert with dreams of making Primordium a republic, singlehandedly and ending the dynasty of an Emperor.

Lucidique's meeting with Agonistes is under slightly different circumstances, kidnapped she is killed in view of the flesh transformer (that’s not one of those metal ones), her vengeance will be sated and she is changed almost beyond recognition.

Both become abominations in the eyes of others but it doesn't stop them entering into an unlikely affair that directly results in a shifting of power in Primordium. The relationship between the scythe master and his lover is almost a thing of beauty, amidst the carnage and depravity, brutal and ferocious yet undoubtedly loving. Lasting beyond death, yet even though she sought him out, Lucidique was never to cross paths with Agonistes again.

Tortured Souls: The Legend of Primordium is a beautifully vivid and passionately dark tale, I recommend the audio and that's probably the most cost effective method of enjoying this story. It's not on kindle and I think was only published by Subterranean so it’s a costly one if you want the book.

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The Shepherd's Crown - Spoilers!

The Shepherd's Crown (Discworld, #41; Tiffany Aching, #5)The Shepherd's Crown by Terry Pratchett
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Upon the death of Granny Weatherwax, the elves seek to invade the realms of man once again. Can Tiffany Aching rally the other witches of Lancre and The Chalk and protect her two steadings (and the rest of the world)?

Here we are, the book Terry Pratchett was refining when Death finally showed up to claim him. PUT THE MANUSCRIPT DOWN, PRATCHETT. YOUR WORK IS DONE, or something to that effect. As a result, it doesn't quite feel finished but it was enjoyable just the same.

The Shepherd's Crown is a tale of acceptance and changing times, much like many of the later Discworld books. A male witch? Humans living alongside goblins? Elves trying to invade a world moving into an age of iron and rails?

Discworld goes out with a bang when Granny Weatherwax dies in the first few pages and the elves seek to take advantage of the power vacuum. Tiffany has to deal with being Granny's successor, herding the other witches, and deal with Geoffrey, who may in fact be the first male witch on the Disc, all the while contending with massing elves and their fallen queen, Nightshade.

Like I mentioned, Pratchett was working on this book when he passed and, as a result, it doesn't feel finished. While the standard wit and wisdom of Discworld is there, it's a little thin and feels unrefined. Still, I found many parts hilarious and others touching, par for the course for a Discworld book.

While I've enjoyed many Discworld books more, the final tale of Tiffany Aching and the Disc was quite satisfying. I'll miss you, Terry. Four out of five stars.

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