With the newest addition in Phipps’ United States of Monsters series, 100 Miles and Vampin’ picking up where the first book in the collection left off, I had to read it as soon as it was available. With only subtle references to the Weredeer saga, this story returns to down and out vampire, Peter Stone, as he’s still trying to earn a dollar and not ruin the fragile relationship between Vampires and the rest of the world. At the end of the last book, Stone had become the Belladix (read that as Sheriff) for the vampire nation residing in New Detroit. His job is to police the vampires who break the laws. Unfortunately, he doesn’t get paid for it and has to keep his job at the gas station. When his financial woes are bringing him to peak distress, he’s assigned to protect Stephanie Meyer….err I mean Rebecca Plum. A romance/vampire novelist who’s also a vampire that’s a little too into the killing aspect of her species. Vampires hate her for being a psycho murderer, but humanity loves her simply because they love her books and know nothing of her murderous tendencies. In pure Phipps Fashion, everything goes horribly wrong, leading to a chain of events that results in a lot of fun for the reader and a lot of distress for Peter Stone and his friends. Normally, Phipps’ books tend to be about character reflection and this one definitely had a lot in it, but not nearly as much as is usual. That’s not a negative comment, just something that I observed. When we’re not stuck in the moral feedback loops of the character, there’s room for more action and adventure. In the first book (Straight out of Fangton), Peter Stone was able to self-analyze plenty and that left room in this book for a lot more action while still giving us the necessary character development (his relationship with his brother and brother’s killer) just in a much smaller dose. Upon my own reflection, I might be wrong and this book just had the self-analysis interwoven in the character discussions and events. Either way, this book benefits from however it was done. The only thing that seemed to keep haunting me throughout this book was the technically second murder (The big one, not the guy in the bathroom). I kept on wondering what the motive was until it was finally answered, but the answer was so fast and shadowed by the bigger events that had happened since that I had to go back and double check. I’d been waiting so long for the answer that I was left a little uncomfortable with what a minor moment it was. That didn’t detract from the story at all, but played more like a magician’s slight of hand. I don’t mind being frustrated with how simple the answer was when other authors might have left it unanswered and would have left me frustrated to no end. My favorite parts of this book were the powers that Stone showed in manipulating time as well as the action scenes. Every fight played out like a movie, making this book feel more like a proper Blade sequel and that much more enjoyable. Of course, I loved this story, and can’t wait to read the next one. 5 out of 5 stars.
A great review of Andrew Doran At The Mountains of Madness! I can’t wait to get book 3 done!
Masters of Chaos by David Hambling is the fourth book in the Harry Stubbs series and it goes without saying that I am a huge fan of the series.
David’s Mr. Stubbs is a man of simple means, striving to better understand the world. This is more than the world as normal men and women know it, although he is constantly reading and taking correspondence courses to increase that knowledge, but also the darker and more sinister works first described by H. P. Lovecraft. To that point, Harry had found himself in the “employ” of an American named Ms. DeVere. She had recruited Harry to investigate the of happenings of Norwood. Harry is only barely qualified for this role through his past run-ins with Lovecraft’s mythos and his history as a former successful boxer.
Master of Chaos did something I didn’t expect a Stubbs novel to do, although I should have, and thrust our hero into an undercover role as an orderly at an asylum. While I hadn’t expected it, it fit well with the evolution of Harry’s investigations and made for some amazing scenes and great literary art as the reader who, four books in and well versed in Stubbs’ adventures, questions along with our hero whether or not he’s lost his mind.
My favorite thing about this novel and each of the Stubbs’ adventures, is how Hambling introduces entirely new elements of the mythos into Harry’s life and makes it seem like part of the everyday world we live in. It makes me wonder if some day Harry will lose all sense of reason as anything can be explained away by the police or the doctors…
My favorite part of this delightful tale was easily the part regarding the time Harry received in the first book. When you read it, you will know what I’m referencing. It’s difficult to say this was my favorite part, because I had so many and always enjoy a good yarn of my favorite boxer, but I’m a simple man.
5/5 stars for the Norwood Titan!
Special thanks to Adam for this great review!
The Statement of Andrew Doran
Macabre Ink/Crossroad Press
In the vast majority of stories set in the Cthulhu Mythos, or within the broader genre of Lovecraftian or Cosmic Horror, it is a trope that if any character – whether protagonist, antagonist or some part of the supporting cast – comes into contact with a being from the Mythos, or any of the magic that comes from the void between dimensions that said beings inhabit, then there will be an incredibly high price to pay. That price is usually something to do with one’s sanity being slowly (or rapidly) peeled away as the true face of the uncaring cosmos is revealed; a soul being corrupted or completely destroyed; or, at best, some combination of the two that doesn’t happen immediately but is cursed to haunt the character until their shortened and untimely death in the near future. That’s all well and proper, and such an intrinsic part of Lovecraft’s writing, and the genre that has expanded upon his writings, that I would be concerned to see a story in the genre that didn’t include it; it wouldn’t be a Cosmic Horror story, or something inspired by Lovecraft.
However, I must admit that it is nice to see a piece of Mythos fiction that features a protagonist who is fully aware of the myriad dangers of the void, but who is still skilful and disciplined enough to be able to effectively wield those powers without immediately turning insane or being mutated into a fleshy blob that can only scream telepathically. Sometimes it’s a good thing to buck the general trend of a genre, as long as it’s actually done properly – an excellent example is the Midnight Eye series of novels by my favourite author, William Meikle, which features a Glaswegian private detective who becomes embroiled in Lovecraftian shenanigans and can occasionally pull off a success without his mind being irreparably shattered. Another great example is the book that I’ve just finished reading, and is therefore the subject of this review – The Statement of Andrew Doran by Matthew Davenport. The titular Doran is a professor, mythologist and occultist who divides his time between studying various elements of the Lovecraftian deities and the cults who worship them, studying forbidden texts to understand the basis of the evils done by the deities, and fighting anyone foolish enough to try and use them for evil. He’s a fantastic creation, unashamedly in the style of iconic and archetypical adventurers such as Indiana Jones – someone not afraid to use guns, swords and his bare fists at times to fight foes trying to end the world through Lovecraftian means – not to mention a hefty dose of void magic when appropriate.
Set in the early 1940s during the Second World War, with the United States on the brink of joining the war against Germany and Japan, The Statement of Andrew Doran sees the professor pursue the Necronomicon when it is stolen from Miskatonic University by agents of the Nazi regime, fighting his way across Spain, France, Switzerland and Germany in an attempt to stop the nefarious Traum Kult from unleashing the apocalypse on Earth. Fast-paced, action-packed and extremely well-written, by the time I was half-way through the novel I was enjoying myself more than I have in quite some time. Because while we get fantastical, almost cinematic action sequences (a fight against undead Nazi soldiers while fighting through a heavily-armed convoy is a particular favourite of mine), and some of the genre’s obligatory dream-like sequences where entities such as Cthulhu are witnessed, there are also some intriguing ideas ventured by the author.
For example, the Necronomicon is stolen by the Nazis from Mistaktonic University at the beginning of the novel, and there’s an interesting relationship between Doran and the university administration that’s really only hinted at by Davenport. I rather enjoyed the idea that the senior faculty left the dreaded, forbidden tome on open display for students to read, in order to see what they would conjure from the book and they could take advantage of once the unfortunate student was driven insane or killed. Davenport also weaves together a number of genre archetypes, such as creatures, cults and deities, to evoke a world in which the theft of the Necronomicon, and the desperate efforts to get it back, are merely on plot amongst many being undertaken by cultists and other groups and individuals. This is brilliantly illustrated by an early section set onboard a trawler heading from the United States to neutral Spain, with Doran encountering some oddly fish-like men who are guarding a mysterious set of packages heading for the Spanish coastline, and having to disrupt their plot in order to proceed with his journey.
Doran himself is also an interesting and well fleshed-out character. Although he starts off as an obvious homage to Indiana Jones, with a desire to keep forbidden tomes in museums (or preferably all to himself) and an eager readiness to punch foes in the face, the author slowly but surely gives him more depth as the novel moves forward. We get to see how his efforts to get the Necronomicon back affect him, both physically and mentally; and his relationship with a supporting character that appears about a third of the way through the book is incredibly well done, doing an excellent job of subverting the often stale genre trope of ‘suspicious companion who doesn’t seem quite human.’
Cheerfully pilfering the best and most exciting elements of the genre – the Necronomicon, Cthulhu, Herbert West – and deftly bringing them together, Mr Davenport has written a fantastically pulpy, fists-swinging, guns-blazing, magical lightning-hurling action-adventure that readily proves that not all Mythos tales need to be grim, foreboding and often achingly depressing in order to be successful or authentic; Davenport shows that it is possible to use all of the tropes of the genre, and be faithful to them, while still producing an incredibly enjoyable adventure. The Statement of Andrew Doran is a credit to both the author and the publisher – once again the fantastic Crossroad Press – and I cannot recommend this heartily enough; I greatly look forward to reading the sequel and any other books that come in the series.
Charles over at Booknest.eu had some really awesome things to say about the newest installment of Broken Nights, Broken Nights: Strange Worlds!
Superhero fiction is a niche genre in a niche genre. Superheroes thrive in comic books, video games, and movies but aren’t so very popular in prose fiction. Perhaps because it’s such a visual medium but I think it’s more there’s just never been an iconic example of the genre. Despite this, there’s some truly great examples of superhero fiction which I’ve been proud to review. Things like Wearing the Cape, Origins of a D-List Supervillain, Soon I Will Be Invincible, and Villains Rule.
Broken Nights is one of those series. Is it Citizen Kane? No, but it’s a great book which has created its own superhero universe and is slowly building it up to be something huge. In the previous book, we had Jason Night try to become Darden Valley’s answer to Batman only to accidentally stumble onto a plan to take over the world. Succeeding at extreme cost, he’s only now just recovered six months later–only to find out he’s unwittingly inspired an endless stream of superpowered copycats.
You can read the rest of his review over at Booknest by going here: http://booknest.eu/reviews/charles/1112-brokennightsstrangeworlds
Thanks for the Great Review, Charles!
A great interview with writer David Hambling!
David Hambling is an author and science/technology journalist based in South London. He writes for New Scientist magazine, The Economist, WIRED, Popular Mechanics, The Guardian newspaper and others. 2018 will see the release of “Master of Chaos”, fourth in the Harry Stubbs series of Mythos adventures, as well as the nonfiction “We: Robot – The robots that are changing the world” …both of them are pretty scary.
InThe Elder Ice, Harry, a former heavyweight boxer and sometime debt collector now working for a legal firm, is on the trail of a valuable legacy left by Ernest Shackleton (a real-life polar explorer from Norwood). Shackleton died in 1922 leaving huge debts, and also hints of a valuable find; Harry is looking for the reality behind those hints.
The Elder Ice is a novella, and a taster for the rest of the series. It is succeeded by Broken Meats, Alien…
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Happy New Year!
I graduated college on December 22, 2007. On December 31, 2007, I uprooted my entire life in New York and was putting a key into my new apartment in Marion, Iowa by January 1st, 2008.
To commemorate my decade anniversary as an Iowan, I dug up old Facebook posts.
A lot has happened since these old posts. A lot. As I enter into 2018, I can’t help but be excited for what life will throw at me in the next decade. I’m happier now than I have been in my entire life and am married to the most wonderful person I have ever met. Iowa has brought me happiness this last 10 years. I’m so excited for it to continue.
Thank you for the review BookNest!!!!