horror

Review: The Waste Lands, Stephen King

Title: The Waste Lands (Goodreads)

Author:  Stephen King

Rating: ★★★★½

~ Blurb from Goodreads ~

Roland, the Last Gunslinger, moves ever closer to the Dark Tower of his dreams and nightmares- as he crosses a desert of damnation in a macabre world that is a twisted mirror of our very own.

With him are those he has drawn to this world, street-smart Eddie Dean and courageous wheelchair-bound Susannah. Ahead of him are mind-rending revelations about who he is and what is driving him.

Details

Series: The Dark Tower #3 of 7
Genre: Sci-fi/Fantasy/Horror
Published: First published August 1991
Pages: 422

Paper copies: Amazon.com • Amazon.co.ukBook Depository
E-copies: Amazon.com • Amazon.co.uk • Barnes & Noble

Review

Note: The Stephen King’s The Dark Tower challenge is supposed to be a read-a-long, but I’m doing less of the “answer questions as you read” part and more just reading each book and posting my review each month. If you’re interested in reading some discussion questions about each book, please check out the Dark Tower Challenge blog.

You can also check out my reviews for the first two books in The Dark Tower series, The Gunslinger and The Drawing of the Three. This review contains spoilers!


Roland, Eddie and Susannah (as Odetta is now called) are recovering from their time journeying along the beach in search of doors between the worlds. It’s soon clear that Roland is slowly starting to lose his mind, as he hears voices and is no longer sure which of his memories is the truth. Meanwhile, in New York, eleven-year-old Jake is having a similar crisis as he’s sure he should have died on his way to school. Roland and his companions must try to draw Jake into their world and continue on with their quest.

We find out a lot more about the Tower, about the group’s Ka and their quest towards the end goal moves along at pace, taking them to an almost-ruined ancient city in search of an insane train.

The Waste Lands is packed with literary references, as well as elements of pop-culture from the 1960s-80s eras. I’m sure there were quite a few references I didn’t pick up as well. The often odd references made the story enjoyable in some ways, but distracted from the Mid-world itself in other ways. The first part of the story is a little slow – I thought the entire sequence with Roland and Jake’s dual memories went on for too long. The pace picks up a lot more in the second part of the book and I had a lot of trouble putting it down right to the end.

I found The Waste Lands much more enjoyable than the previous two books. For one thing, it’s not quite so desperate and a lot more adventurous. I spent the entire time reading The Drawing of the Three biting my nails, waiting for the next horrible event to occur, but The Waste Lands was much more like a traditional fantasy tale with a fairly linear journey and plenty of character relationship development.

I loved the way the characters have developed, although I’m still not really sure what happened to Odetta and Detta at the end of the previous book. Susannah seems like a strange mixture of the two of them and we don’t get to know the new her all that well. I did think Eddie was brilliant and I can’t wait to see how he and Susannah develop both their relationship and their abilities as Gunslingers. I also loved having Jake back in the story and the introduction of Oy the billy-bumbler, even though I’m trying not to form too much attachment to any of them as I’m sure they could be killed off at a moment’s notice!

As with the previous books in the series, I’d recommend it to fantasy fans who don’t mind a bit of blood and guts and who enjoy terrifying chases and escapes. The series just keeps getting better with each instalment and I’m really looking forward to getting stuck into the fourth book, Wizard and Glass.

Warnings: Sexual scenes (some abusive), coarse language, graphic violence.

 

The Dark Tower series

The Gunslinger

The Drawing of the Three

The Waste Lands

Wizard and Glass

The Wind Through the Keyhole

Wolves of the Calla Song of Susannah The Dark Tower

Review: The Drawing of the Three, Stephen King

Title: The Drawing of the Three (Goodreads)

Author:  Stephen King

Rating: ★★★★☆

~ Blurb from Goodreads ~

After his confrontation with the man in black at the end of The Gunslinger, Roland awakes to find three doors on the beach of Mid-World’s Western Sea—each leading to New York City but at three different moments in time. Through these doors, Roland must “draw” three figures crucial to his quest for the Dark Tower.

In 1987, he finds Eddie Dean, The Prisoner, a heroin addict. In 1964, he meets Odetta Holmes, the Lady of Shadows, a young African-American heiress who lost her lower legs in a subway accident and gained a second personality that rages within her. And in 1977, he encounters Jack mort, Death, a pusher responsible for cruelties beyond imagining. Has Roland found new companions to form the ka-tet of his quest? Or has he unleashed something else entirely?

Details

Series: The Dark Tower #2 of 7
Genre: Sci-fi/Fantasy/Horror Novella
Published: First published April 1987
Pages: 463

Paper copies: Amazon.com • Amazon.co.ukBook Depository
E-copies: Amazon.com • Amazon.co.uk • Barnes & Noble

Review

Note: The Stephen King’s The Dark Tower challenge is supposed to be a read-a-long, but I’m doing less of the “answer questions as you read” part and more just reading each book and posting my review each month. If you’re interested in reading some discussion questions about each book, please check out the Dark Tower Challenge blog.

You can also check out my review for the first book in The Dark Tower series, The Gunslinger.


The story of The Dark Tower really begins in earnest in this second instalment. At twice the length of The Gunslinger, The Drawing of the Three packs twice the punch in drama and non-stop action.

As one might expect from a Stephen King novel, the story is often strange and more often graphically violent, right from the first chapter when Roland first meets the “lobstrosities” – the huge, razor-clawed crustaceans that roam the beach and pose a constant danger throughout this story.

There are three doors to be entered, each leading to New York City but to three people in different times. The Gunslinger must try to help each of these tortured individuals with their dramatic lives, and bring them through the doors to his own world to join him in the quest for the Tower. Along the way he must deal with a completely foreign world, and I found this aspect of the story fascinating. Roland is very good at improvisation and manages to get what he needs in the strange world despite his bafflement and awe.

I enjoyed this second book in the series more than the first, as it flowed together in one coherent story. There may well be some allegorical meaning that I’m missing somewhere, but in itself this is a very compelling and often horrible story. I wanted to read it, to find out what happens, but I didn’t want to read it because of the things that were happening!

I’m not convinced about the characters in this one – Roland himself is still awesome, but everyone else seemed to have wild and extreme mood swings – they love very easily and yet hate with passion, which doesn’t seem entirely realistic to me. At the end I was left wondering what exactly had happened to Odetta/Detta, but I suppose I’d better get a hold of book three to find out!

If you’re a fan of horror and fantasy in equal measures, I’d recommend The Dark Tower series. It’s an often harsh world but it is so well-written that I can see why many call it King’s masterpiece.

Warnings: Sexual scenes, coarse language, graphic violence.

 

The Dark Tower series

The Gunslinger

The Drawing of the Three

The Waste Lands

Wizard and Glass

The Wind Through the Keyhole

Wolves of the Calla Song of Susannah The Dark Tower

Review: This Green Hell, Greig Beck

Title: This Green Hell (Goodreads)
Author:   Greig Beck (@GreigBeck)

Rating: ★★★★☆

In the jungles of Paraguay, Dr Aimee Weir and her team are in trouble.

While drilling deep into the Earth a contagion strikes, their camp is quarantined, but workers start to vanish in the night. 

Is it fear of contamination – or has something far more lethal surfaced? 

Alex Hunter – code name Arcadian – and his Hotzone All-Forces Warfare Commandos are dropped in to the disaster area to do whatever it takes to stem the outbreak. But for the mission to be a success, the Arcadian must learn to master his violent inner demons long enough to confront the danger that not only threatens his own immediate survival, but that of mankind.

Details

Series: Alex Hunter #3 of 4
Genre: Science fiction thriller
Published: Pan Macmillan Australia (print) April 2011, Momentum Books (electronic) August 2012.
Pages: 326
My copy: Momentum Books for review

Paper copies: Amazon.com • Amazon.co.uk • Book Depository • Booktopia.com.au
E-copies: Amazon.com • Bookworld.com.au (epub)

Review

Dr Aimee Weir, deep in the Paraguayan jungle, is on the verge of making a discovery that could change the world – a source of renewable energy from bacteria deep within the earth that produce natural gas from carbonates. When the samples are brought up though, the bacteria begins to feed on any carbon available – including human flesh. On top of that, an ancient evil has been disturbed and is gradually picking off the workers at the drilling site. Can the Arcadian and his team get in there in time to get the survivors out?

This Green Hell is actually the third Alex Hunter book. I wasn’t aware of that before I started reading it, but the fact that I haven’t read the first two didn’t affect my enjoyment of this book. There is a potted explanation of the Arcadian project and references to previous stories in the first few chapters, so I had some idea of what was going on as This Green Hell got under way. Basically, Alex Hunter was a soldier, brought back from the brink of death by a procedure to his brain that has given him enhanced senses, strength and speed (a bit like Captain America, I suppose). Unfortunately it has also made him slightly unstable, and his commanding officer is protecting him from the military scientists who’d like to dissect and study him. He’s an operative in the HAWCs, a marine-style division in the US military.

Alex himself is pretty bad-ass, but also seems quite tortured and prone to losing control in violent ways. His romance with Aimee may rekindle in this book, but I thought she should just stay the hell away, personally!

This book is certainly not for the faint-hearted. There’s plenty of grisly descriptions of the melting-death disease unearthed at the drill site and also the general ripping apart of people that the undead priest is fond of. I’m not usually a huge fan of blood and guts and it was perhaps slightly overdone in this book, but not enough to put me off completely. The detailed descriptions aren’t all grisly though, and the descriptions of the surroundings really put you right into the action. I mean, this is the tropical jungle, here. It’s steamy, sweaty and full of bugs, and you certainly get that feeling while Aimee and the drill site team are at work.

The action is a little slow in the first half of the book but the suspense builds up so well that by the time it all starts happening, it was very, very difficult to put the book down. There’s a bit of a cliffhanger ending which is slightly disappointing after all they had just been through, but the next book is due out very soon so there’s not long to wait to find out what happens next!

I’d recommend This Green Hell to those who enjoy military thrillers with a sci-fi twist, and who don’t mind a bit of blood and guts in their violence.

Warnings: Extreme violence and horror themes. Sexual situations. Language.

The Alex Hunter series

  1. Beneath the Dark Ice (2009)
  2. Dark Rising (2010)
  3. This Green Hell (2011)
  4. Black Mountain (TBP December 2012)

What did others think of This Green Hell?

  •  “This Green Hell is a smart, delightful read with a big heart.” – 4 stars – Coeur De Lion Publishing
  • “I love a great action/adventure thriller and Greig Beck is quickly becoming a force to be reckoned with in this genre. This was an edge of your seat nail biter for me the whole way through.” – The Speed of Write

Review: The Gunslinger, Stephen King

Title: The Gunslinger (The Dark Tower #1) (Goodreads)

Author:  Stephen King

Rating: ★★★★☆

~ Blurb from Goodreads ~

In The Gunslinger King introduces his most enigmatic hero, Roland Deschain of Gilead, the Last Gunslinger. He is a haunting, solitary figure at first, on a mysterious quest through a desolate world that eerily mirrors our own. Pursuing the man in black, an evil being who can bring the dead back to life, Roland is a good man who seems to leave nothing but death in his wake.

Beginning with a short story appearing in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction in 1978, the publication of Stephen King’s epic work of fantasy — what he considers to be a single long novel and his magnum opus — has spanned a quarter of a century.

Set in a world of extraordinary circumstances, filled with stunning visual imagery and unforgettable characters, The Dark Tower series is King’s most visionary feat of storytelling, a magical mix of science fiction, fantasy, and horror that may well be his crowning achievement.

 

Details

Series: The Dark Tower #1 of 7
Genre: Sci-fi/Fantasy/Horror Novella
Published: Originally in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction 1978-82
Pages: 264

Paper copies: Amazon.com • Amazon.co.ukBook Depository
E-copies: Amazon.com • Amazon.co.uk • Barnes & Noble

Review

Note: The Stephen King’s The Dark Tower challenge is supposed to be a read-a-long, but I’m doing less of the “answer questions as you read” part and more just reading each book and posting my review each month. If you’re interested in reading some discussion questions about each book, please check out the Dark Tower Challenge blog.

This first book in the epic Dark Tower series introduces us to “The Gunslinger”, a mysterious cowboy-type character who is pursuing an unknown “Man in Black” across a barren desert. Through his encounters with the inhabitants of the desert and with Jake, the strange boy he meets later in the journey, he tells stories of the events of his past.

I’ll admit, I was kind of lost for a while at the start. I haven’t read any Stephen King for quite a long time, but I remembered enjoying his writing style before and I wasn’t disappointed this time – he has an amazing style of storytelling that really draws you in and gives you a feeling for the setting. The characters are bleak and rather strange and the events of the story even stranger, but by the end of The Gunslinger I was starting to get a handle on what was happening (maybe).

The Gunslinger was originally published as a series of stories in a magazine – a fact that I didn’t find out until after I’d finished reading it. Suddenly, the “sections” of the book make more sense!

There’s plenty of graphic violence which isn’t usually my cup of tea, especially when children are involved, but in this case it wasn’t too overpowering. One thing that did annoy me slightly was that there was plenty of foreshadowing of what’s to come – it kind of spoils a story for me when I know that something bad is coming. Stephen King is the master of the unexpected though, so you never know what might be around the corner!

There’s a strange mix of the wild west that could be our world in a post-apocalyptic setting, complete with Christianity, Hey Jude and railroads, but there’s also plenty of magic. I did quite enjoy Stephen King’s storytelling style and this first instalment in a much longer journey has really whetted my appetite to read more of this series.

Warnings: Sexual scenes, coarse language, graphic violence.

 

The Dark Tower series

The Gunslinger

The Drawing of the Three

The Waste Lands

Wizard and Glass

The Wind Through the Keyhole

Wolves of the Calla Song of Susannah The Dark Tower

Review: Shift, Kim Curran

Title: Shift (Goodreads)

Author:  Kim Curran (@KimeCurran)

Rating: ★★★★☆

When your average, 16-year old loser, Scott Tyler, meets the beautiful and mysterious Aubrey Jones, he learns he’s not so average after all. He’s a ‘Shifter’. And that means he has the power to undo any decision he’s ever made. At first, he thinks the power to shift is pretty cool. But as his world starts to unravel around him he realises that each time he uses his power, it has consequences; terrible unforeseen consequences. Shifting is going to get him killed. In a world where everything can change with a thought, Scott has to decide where he stands.

Details

Series: Stand Alone (for now?)
Genre: YA Paranormal Thriller
Published: Strange Chemistry, September 4, 2012
Pages: 416
My copy: The publisher via Netgalley

Paper copies: Amazon.com • Amazon.co.ukBook Depository
E-copies: Amazon.com • Amazon.co.uk • Barnes & Noble

Review

Scott is busily going about his teenage life with his dysfunctional family, when he accidentally Shifts for the first time. The rather abrupt but very mysterious Aubrey Jones drags him away from a confrontation with the government organisation in charge of regulating Shifters, ARES. Scott soon finds himself deep in a strange new world, where every choice could have dramatic consequences.

Shift is one of two titles debuting not just for their authors, but for the Strange Chemistry imprint. Kim Curran has a engaging writing style, writing with a very British voice. Much of the character interaction seems quite cartoonish, written a little tongue-in-cheek and I found it quite entertaining.

The premise of this story is fascinating – Shifters can undo their past decisions, changing their own reality to a different path. The ability to Shift fades out at about twenty (a phenomenon called “entropy”), so almost all of the Shifters are teenagers going through training to control their abilities at the ARES headquarters in East London. ARES itself aims to encourage Shifters to only shift to improve reality, to make only decisions that will make reality better.

There’s also an underground movement working against ARES, the SLF. These teenagers are convinced that entropy is not certain and that ARES are manipulating Shifters for their own uses.

Unfortunately the whole Shifting phenomenon wasn’t explained all that well – we only get glimpses here and there of the theories as Scott discovers them and I was left with questions at the end. Is entropy real? Why is it so hard to Shift some decisions while the Shifts made while fighting are quick and easy? What was with that strange power the machine gave to Scott at the end? There were a lot of things that weren’t explained and it got a little baffling at times.

The character of Scott was the star of the show here, just keeping his sanity together as he discovered all the horrors of the Shifting world. The romance with Aubrey was gentle – any more would have been overpowering but I feel Kim Curran got it just right. There’s also plenty of action and some pretty horrific scenes in this story.

On the whole, Shift was quite an exciting read and I’ll look forward to the next instalment in this story, hopefully to find out some more about my unanswered questions.

Warnings: Horror themes.

 

What did others think of Shift?

  • Shift is like a British, young adult version of The Butterfly Effect with just as chilling effects and served with a side order of humour. ” – 4/5 – Ellie of Curiosity Killed the Bookworm
  • “The writing was good, clearly conveying Scott’s attitude to things. I love how Kim doesn’t shy away from graphic descriptions” – 4/5 – Nina of Death Books and Tea
  • “I just kept waiting for the moment where I would start to feel, well anything for the characters, but it never came. That being said, I do think Kim Curran is talented as the overall concept and writing style were impressive, enough so that I would be interested in checking out her future works as her imagination definitely isn’t lacking.” – 2/5 – A Book Obsession

 

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