Cool Air: The Complete Lovecraftian #46

Some hold the belief that this macabre little tale is the best of Lovecraft’s New York stories… They are of course, in my opinion, wrong, which is probably not all that surprising to anyone who has read many of these blogs. If there is one thing I have learned in my time on this little project, it is that I almost always disagree with the commonly held opinions of both Lovecraft aficionados and his critics… For that matter, I often seem to disagree with the old tentacle hugger’s own opinion of his various tales.  ‘Cool Air’ holds that wonderful middle ground of being reasonably good, alright, not half bad, and whatever other slightly damning faint praise you might happen to throw at it. It’s not the mildly loathsome ‘He, that most critics seem to like, but it’s not the wonderful ‘Horror at Red Hook that everyone but me seems to despise.

When it comes to the ‘New York Tales‘ I am very much at odds with everyone. So exactly how much my opinion is worth you will have to decide for yourself. But if you want a nasty little macabre story that a little bit too predictable and while perfectly well written doesn’t really get under your skin some much as vaguely waft over it. Then ‘Cool Air‘ is just what you’re looking for. Other than that its a bit, mehFor But let me discuss the plot for a moment…

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And there you have the plot, more or less… Thanks to Issue #62 of Warren Publishing’s ‘Eerie’  this comic-book adaptation of the tale that was created by Berni Wrightson. Which is one of a great many adaptations of ‘Cool Air’ Several short films, at least one (arguably two) full-length movies, radio plays, several comic book versions, a prog rock song by Glass Hammer, and it even managed to make the pages of Batman, in ‘The  Doom That Came to Gotham’, with staple Bat-villain Mr Freeze more or less being portrayed as Dr Muñoz the gentleman wearing the shades in the panel above. So what does that tell you, apart from the tale is far more popular than my ‘Meh’ would suggest, and that my opinion is not shared by everyone…

cool air 2

Back to discussing the plot, which has a degree of predictability about it. The narrator never offers us his name and is in New York doing in his words ‘some dreary and unprofitable magazine work’, he isn’t overly enamoured of the city and it’s populous, and ends up living in a boarding house that, again in his words, ‘disgusted much less than the others he had sampled‘. Which, given Lovecraft’s oft-mentioned distaste for the big city life of New York, suggests old tentacle hugger did not look far for inspiration regarding his narrator. Nothing awfully new about that, he may as well have called the narrator Randolph Carter and had done with it…

Considering this Not-Randolph ends up meeting his upstairs neighbour because of a strange chemical leak that starts dripping into his room, you have to wonder just how bad the other boarding houses were. Certainly once noxious chemicals start dripping through the ceiling it’s probably a good idea to look elsewhere. Yet even the landlady is strangely accepting of the upstairs tenant and his strange industrial cooling equipment, and through her the Not-Randolph meets Dr Munoz, a Spaniard who Not-Randolph describes as ‘short but exquisitely proportioned, with a high-bred face of masterful though not arrogant expression’ bearing ‘a short iron-grey full beard, full, dark eyes, and an aquiline nose‘ as well as having a ‘striking intelligence, superior blood and breeding.’ and lets stop there for a moment…

Not for the first time, or I suspect the last, I found myself wondering when I read this particular section of this tale about a subtext which has occurred to me before. This Not-Randolph, like all the other Not-Randolph narrators, and indeed the ones he actually names (so often called Randolph…) seem to have a few traits in common. for example, they all seem drawn to older more experienced men, so many of them happen to be the Not-Randolph’s uncles. These older experienced men from the Not-Randolph’s are drawn often because the can initiate them into dark often forbidden rites and mysteries… It is a theme that is almost a cliche in Lovecraft’s tales. Lovecraft, who’s writing is famously misogynistic, also suffered through a short ill-fated marriage, and had a long close friendship with a younger man called Robert Barlow in the later years of his life, among other close relationships with other young men at other points in his life. I’m not saying Lovecraft was Gay… But there is a whole lot of repressed sexuality that could be read into his stories.. and if he wasn’t gay then he almost certainly lent a little in that direction…

Old tentacle hugger has a bad reputation, quite rightly, for his right-wing views, xenophobia, racism and misogyny. I have made no bones about my own distaste for the influence those views have on his writing. However, if he was indeed repressing aspects of his sexuality it would, if not excuse, certainly explain some of those darker trait’s. He would not be the first, and I suspect not the last, to use deflection as a form of repression in this way. When you hate something about yourself or society has impressed upon you that you should, projecting that hate elsewhere is a common human trait. Perhaps in these more enlightened times when we look back on themes in his writing with distaste, we should also try to look back on it with a little understanding as well, not that it forgives the more abhorrent influences on Lovecraft’s fiction, or his political belief’s. But it is still worth remembering 1920/30’s America was a far more closeted time.

But back to ‘Cool Air’ and the lastest of the Not-Randolph’s old wise uncles who were able to initiate the Randolph into strange rites and mysteries. In this case, the strange rites involve industral coolants, bags of ice, bathtubs and strange hints and dark whisperings of prolonging life despite the lack of a few vital functions. Which drives us to an ending which is somewhat predictable, after all the plot is all about what will happen when the ice melts, and Munoz’s efforts to preserve himself finally fail. Something which is rather too obvious from the first and the friendship that develops between the two men is somewhat stilted, one-sided and not remarkably unlike the relationships the Not-Randolph’s always seems to have with their various ‘uncles’ in so many of Lovecraft’s tales. The junior partner fetches, carries and generally ends up doing everything the elder tells them to do, in an effort to please their ‘uncle’ and perhaps in doing so learn more about the great mysteries that they wish to partake of and observe…

So again, I’m not saying there is a sub-text here… but… sub-text…

Perhaps this is why this falls a little too flat for me. It’s too much of a muchness with so many others, or perhaps because it just drew all those sub-textual lines which highlighted just how much this follows one of Lovecraft’s more well-trodden paths. But it lacks anything particularly new or different about it, it also seemed oddly passionless in places, despite the sub-text, it’s all a bit of a cold fish, which has a certain irony about it… Anyway, it gets a mere three frosty tentacles from me, not because its bad but just because its well, in this case, I find the sub-text is more interesting than the text itself…

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Next up… The big Kahuna himself, old tentacle face lets out his call…

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Further Lovecraftian witterings as ever can be found here

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Well that was odd…

Occasionally, something unexpected happens that strikes you as odd. Or at the very least utterly unexpected. One of those strange little moments of wonderfulness, that take you completely off guard. Particularly if your a tad neurotic, and struggle to see any real value in anything you do. I am, in case regular readers have not guessed this yet, a tad neurotic. As for those ‘lucky’ individuals who just stumble across my occasional rambling, I suspect most of them could figure that out fairly quickly, as I don’t go to any lengths to hide it. Quite the opposite, in fact, I try to an extent at least to be fairly open about my obsessive personality, anxiety, and occasional bouts of depression when writing this blog. So when something genuinely nice but unexpected happens it does take me by surprise and is occasionally something I find difficult to process straight away, and so my initial reaction tends to be a bit on the awkward side. Or to be more exact I tend to think, well that’s odd…

The case in point and the reason for this particular blog post was a message I received on Twitter from fellow author C.G.Hatton, asking if I would write a foreword for a kindle box set of her Novels. (several of which I have reviewed previously the latest only last week.) To which my neurotic self-kicked in with a fairly neurotic response of ‘Are you mad, what on earth are you asking me to do that for, there must be someone better than I whom you could ask…’ or words to that effect. My personal reaction was more ‘wow… surely she can’t be serious, why not ask someone better qualified to do so?’ How the hell do I write a foreword? and surely she has better candidates she could ask. Her books are so much better than my inane wafflings…

Then I had third thoughts, ( I always have third thoughts, and fourth and fifth, and so on, as I over think everything.) my third thoughts, which came just after, ‘how the hell do I write a Foreword?’ can be best expressed outside the confines of my usual expressed vernacular when writing these pages…

Bloody Hell, I’m been asked to write a foreword, How fucking cool is that…

I, of course, was happy to write a foreword. Mildly terrified and did not know where to start but very happy to do so. I am also aware that most people probably never read a foreword, but I always do, and I wanted to do a good job…

I also, while writing it, and afterwards, and still now, wonder why in the hell she asked me to do it, because I am utterly convinced that there are a raft of great sci-fi writers out there who would do a better job and frankly should be writing the foreword to what is one of the best sci-fi series I have ever read. Admitably it helps that I have read them and reviewed them previously, but still they should be read by better writers than I.

(Note for Neil Gaiman, Stephen Baxter, Peter Hamilton, Charles Stross, Alister Reynolds, David Langford, Rob Grant, Jane Fenn, Tricia Sullivan et al… on the extremely unlikely event of you reading this blog at any point ever. You should be writing a foreword for C.G Hatton’s novels, not I, and you could do far worse than to read them…)

Anyway, so I wrote a foreword, while still be utterly amazed to be asked, and considering it a privilege and an honour to do so. I was further surprised when C.G. thanked me for the first draft of a foreword I sent her and ran with it. I still think someone better could have done this, and someone better should have done it. But what the hell, I still think it was bloody cool to be asked to do so.

Here, along with a link to the books themselves if the foreword I wrote ( which she then edited and polished a little) I actually intended it only as a first draft and was going to work on it, but she must have liked the rough cut so whom am I to argue…

 

‘Residual Belligerence’ is a title that grabs your eye. It grabbed my eye at KAPOW sci-fi fair on hot sunny afternoon in June 2014, stacked up against two other novels with equally eye catching titles; ‘Blatant Disregard’, ‘Harsh Realities’ on a stall in the corner of the main marquee. Stood behind the stall were a perky diminutive woman with a broad smile, and a tall skinny bloke with a face like begrudging thunder. As a bibliophile and hobbyist writer myself, my first novel still a year in the future at this point, I loved then, as I do now, talking to writers about their novels. Almost as much as I like discovering new authors to read, and eye-catching titles with equally eye-catching covers draw me like a bear to honey. So I stood over to say hi, buy the books and chat with the author C.G. Hatton, who given the nature of the titles and the ‘face like begrudging thunder’ was obviously the tall bloke…

So that was my introduction to C.G. Hatton’s novels. C.G. who, if you haven’t guess already, is not a tall skinny bloke with a face like begrudging thunder. She is however one of the most brilliant writers of fast paced, character driven, immersive sci-fi thrillers it has ever been my privilege to meet or indeed read. She also has never held my glaring misplaced assumption back in 2014 against me. Indeed, she even to pretended to remember the odd bearded bloke in the top hat who made such a facile error the following year when I gleefully picked up a copy of the forth novel set in her Thieves Guild universe, ‘Wilful defiance’, and after a short chat where I enthusiastically told her that our chat the year before had inspired me to actually finish writing my first novel, which I was about to publish.

Remarkably no one has yet thought to blame C.G. for inspiring me to finish my first novel, but if you ever feel to need to complain about my novels it’s all her fault…

After picking up ‘Wilful defiance’, that year I drove home and lost a couple of evenings, enraptured and enthralled in her vividly drawn universe. A Universe where the human race stands teetering on the brink of all-out war between the two great power blocks of the galaxy the old power of Earth and the younger but no less powerful faction based around the corporate world of Winter. Between them a demilitarised zone of systems who hold a fragile independence only because they keep the two sides apart, and striving to maintain the balance between them is the Thieves Guild. Which isn’t an easy balance to hold, as the principals of both sides will do anything to get the upper hand. So the Guild, under the shadowy guidance of its founder, must walk a fine line. A line that would be easier to walk if its best two operators Hilar and L.C. Anderson were not AWOL, top of the galaxies ‘Most Wanted’ list, hunted by the power blocks of Winter, Earth, as well as every bounty hunter with a ship and a gun, after there last tab. Because they are in procession of something that could tip the balance between Earth and Winter either way, and that isn’t even what makes it so dangerous…

By the end of the first four books I was hooked, a fanboy and come the following June desperate for book 5. Which proved to be a problem because book five wasn’t written yet. The Galaxy would have to stay poised on the brink of disaster, and cliff hanger that was the end of ‘Wilful Defiance’ would have to stay hanging on by it’s finger tips a little while longer. What there was however was book one of the Thieves Guild origins books ‘Kheris Burning’, A novel set on one of the lost little world in the great divide between Earth and Winter and telling a tale of the early life of one of the Guilds top field agents L.C. Anderson, As told by L.C. while hiding out in a sewer somewhere in the midst of the elusive book 5.

It was hard to stay disappointed that book five was still unwritten when your appetite is sated by a novel as extradinary and enthralling as ‘Kheris Burning’, a tale of a street kid caught up in events beyond his understanding, just trying to survive and find enough to feed himself and his friends, torn between the occupying forces of Winter and resistance leaders who use the street kids as a recruits and cannon fodder, with oh so many echoes of places in our own much begotten present.

A year later and book 5 was as elusive as ever, but L.C. was in another fox hole somewhere in a universe gone to hell telling the story of his first tab for the guild and how he first met another character for the main series Hilar. ‘Beyond Redemption’ the second Origins novel pulls on threads that you have read in the first four novels and ties them in new knots. Making the Thieves Guild Universe all the more complex and real. Giving you, the reader, a deeper understanding of the characters at the heart of everything. Which is what makes these novels stand out so much, the characters are so vividly realised, while the pace never lets up.

Then finally after waiting so long along came book 5, ‘Darkest Fears’ and the war that’s was always coming arrives in its full horrifying spender. Though it’s not perhaps the war you were expecting way back in book 1, and book 5 is really book 1 of the new series, or book 7 of the series as a whole, and if you thought the first six books were full of pace, action, adventure and wonder, you haven’t read anything yet…

Which leave two questions to my mind, when is book 6 (or 8 or possible 2 of series 2) going to arrive and why of all the people who could be writing this foreword C.G. asked me to do it. Possibly its an act of residual belligerence on her part for my mistaking thinking one hot day in June in 2014 that the author of these wonderful novels was the tall thin bloke with a face like begrudging thunder.

 

If you have never read C.G.hattons novels I can (you probably guessed by now) highly recommend them so here is a link for the seven books of the series in the intended order for the ridiculously low price of £6.99.

You should read them even if you’re not a famous Sci-Fi writer yourself, or even a not remotely famous scribbler of words like myself who for no reason that makes any sense at all even now got asked to write the foreword…

 

Earlier reviews of C.G.Hattons novels …

Residual Belligerence (the first novel in the series)

Kheris Burning

Beyond Redemption

Darkest Fears 

 

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The Descendent: The Complete Lovecraftian #45

One of the problems with a writer dying young, apart from the whole dying thing which let’s face it probably puts a bit of a crimp in your day, is what happens to your legacy after you die.  By legacy, I am talking specifically here about all those scraps and scrawls of half-finished works which are crammed into draws and dusty box files around your study. Because a young writer, the young in general, never really consider the possibility of departing this mortal plain…

Well okay, yes they do, quite often in fact, it’s the subject of a vast raft of youth culture, and sub-cultures, it’s one of the reasons black eyeliner is always popular among youths of a certain mindset… But unless you actively contemplating taking the exit ramp, are ill in the terminal kind of way or find yourself shipped off to a war zone, most of us under fifty never really contemplate the idea of actually just dying…

Why and I talking about this, well its because personally, as a writer myself, I wouldn’t want the unfinished products of my fevered mind to survive me, because they were unfinished, quite often they are unfinished for a reason. I have hard drives full of unfinished novels and scraps of this that and the other, half-baked idea’s, random thoughts which amounted to nothing, little side alleys of description which never led out to the main road. But just because I have never really considered what would happen to it when I die, and because I suspect there would be little interest in it anyway, I have never really put any thought into what to do with it. Though as its all up on my cloud, it will probably just dissipate away when someone stops paying the bill. I suspect I won’t need to have the hard drives run over by a tractor to avoid anyone releasing my half-written works, unlike Terry Pratchett who had his hard drives destroyed publicly in this way after his death.

In the case of H.P.Lovecraft, who died young as well know, his old box files and folders were raided by those who wished to preserve his legacy and let’s be honest here, make money off it, for every scrap and half written extract they could scrape together into something printable. If this was in line with Lovecraft’s wishes, we will never know. Certainly, he gifted his papers away, but if he intended these small abstracts to find print is somewhat questionable.

As for my own view on them, well for a start Azathoth is one such abstract, which I gave a solitary tentacle as it is just 500 words of something which was intended to be much more, than lay abandoned for years until Lovecraft died. I don’t consider it worth reading because it was never intended to be read by the author. And this is not in an ‘it was the last thing he was writing when he died,‘ unfinished work. Azathoth is just a scrap of an idea, which may have become his greatest work later in life had he lived, but it was a long forgotten scrap he had not gone back to, and probably never intended to. So I don’t feel they have much business been out in the world.

The Descendant‘ then is another Azathoth, all be it a longer extract. (three times longer at 1500 words) It is still only an extract, a possible idea, a fragment of a narrative that will never be complete. Written a good ten years before he died… So I think it is safe to assume he never intended to return to it. He may have reused some ideas from it, ideas we can’t see because wherever he was going with this narrative, we have no incline. But at a guess, he went there in a later tale, if his idea was worth pursuing because nothing lays fallow in a writers mind for ten years without being used.

It’s a shame we don’t know more as its an interesting fragment, and as a Yorkshireman myself I would have been interested to see where Lovecraft went with this tale of a noble house of my homeland, certainly, the little extract below is enticing, (right up to the word tittered, tittered, no Yorkshireman ever tittered, I mean really, tittered….)

 Lord Northam, of whose ancient hereditary castle on the Yorkshire coast so many odd things were told; but when Williams tried to talk of the castle, and of its reputed Roman origin, he refused to admit that there was anything unusual about it. He even tittered shrilly when the subject of the supposed under crypts, hewn out of the solid crag that frowns on the North Sea, was brought up.

 

 

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Scarbrough castle on the Yorkshire coast… (which is not very Lovecraftian, but quite nice and has a gift shop…) 

 

But that just it, its interesting in a vague kind of way, but its interesting to me as a writer, not to me as a reader. It’s a scrap of unpolished prose, even if you ignore ‘tittered’, Lovecraft would have polished this within an inch of its life before he published it, and I suspect ‘tittered shrilly’ would be one of the first things to go as it just sounds wrong. But hey, we will never know. Which is kind of my point, why would Lovecraft want anyone to read a scrap of a first draft that was never fully realised?

So, to sum up, ‘The Descendant’ is of interest to only completists who want to read those small and incomplete twigs that reach out to Lovecraft’s greater mythology (there are a couple tiny things that you could argue do that but its really not worth the bother for a vague mention of someone looking for a nameless city in Araby…), those who write themselves in an abstract academic kind of way and, well that about it. What is isn’t of any real interest to, is to readers and in my opinion, it probably should never have been published at all. I suspect you can guess how many tentacles it gets… and I am been generous…

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Next up.. Cool Air, a frigid little tale of undying interest…

Further Lovecraftian witterings as ever can be found here

 

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Fear of the Darkest Kind…

One of the hardest tricks for an author to pull off is the series, and before you pull me up on that I know what your thinking as you read that, almost everyone writes in series… But that doesn’t stop it from being a problem I have found with the works of many a writer, because what I am talking about is writing a good series. A real series which continues to grow and expand with each new novel.

Anyone, (within reason, as the anyone I am talking about here is anyone who can write) can write a series of books. All you have to do is leave an open enough ending to do so, which often comes down to don’t kill off your protagonist, and let your antagonists get away, or be mere pawns for a greater antagonist. Depending on the genre, you don’t even need to do that, just having a few common threads running through your novels is enough to write a series of detective Ricardo Random novels. A few little links to the greater chain and your away.

With sci-fi and fantasy novels, more than other genres, a series tends to be a sum greater than its parts, or at least that’s what writers tend to be trying to achieve. It is also something of a norm for such genre’s. Readers like a series, they like something akin to the epic, something they know will grow around them, often as the world seems to grow around the protagonists getting ever more complex. It is also, all too often where for me as a reader they fail.

To pick a reasonably random example, mainly because I was discussing the books recently with a colleague at work who had them recommended to him, Robin Hobbs ‘Farseer trilogy’ is a series of novels I found disappointing. Despite the first novel of the series ‘Assasins Apprentice’ being one of the best fantasy books I read the year it came out. The problem was each of the sequels seemed less accomplished, though they were equally well written. Hobbs later novels set in the same world followed a similar pattern, and I can’t explain exactly why I felt this, but the first novel of each trilogy was easily the best, and then each trilogy seemed to lose that vital spark which had made the first book so compelling. Don’t get me wrong, Robin Hobb is a great writer, and her books are extremely good, they just don’t quite work as trilogies for me, there is something about her sequels that always seem to be a letdown.

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Hobb is far from the only example, its a criticism I could and occasionally have leveled at many writers, and it is one I am making purely as a reader, so perhaps that’s just me. It doesn’t harm Robin Hobbs book sales, and she has a whole lot of fans out there so what do I know?

One of the problems is often sequels fail to have the same momentum, or they retrace the successful formula of the earlier books in the series. Take Harry Potter, while I loved the first couple of books, by the third my enjoyment of them started to wane. The rinse and repeat to the plots were a problem for me, which was to an extent was bound to happen given the formula to which they were written, but Harry goes to school, Harry falls out with everyone, everyone believes Harry is a liar, Harry saves the day and is a hero again started to grind on me. And yes, I dare say Miss Rowlings is not going to be too worried by my opinion, but its just that, an opinion.

Harry Potter is also not really a great example of my main problem with series, because Harry Potter was written with a clear end in mind. My main problem with series is better expressed by Robert Jordans ‘The Wheel of Time’ novels, an epic series of novels that grew to 14 books, three of them completed after the author’s death. This was despite the original plan been for three novels and you can see the point in the middle of book three where Robert Jordan’s publishers told him how well the book sales were going for the first novel… Suddenly halfway through book three, the big bad everything was building towards became a minor antagonist and the series was redrawn to its eventual epic scope. Which would not bother me as a reader at all had not the later books slowed down enormously, take on a ponderous aspect and basically drag out everything. The joys of the early novels were lost in this turgid swamp of new plot lines, new characters and less and less pace. By the time I gave up on the series around book eight the ‘Wheel’ was turning so slow it took a whole novel for a few weeks to pass in the main storyline. For me at least, the Wheel had virtually ground to a halt and I never went back to it.

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So, if your paying attention to all that, you’re probably thinking, ‘ok, we get it, Mark, you don’t like series…’ Which isn’t true, I like a good series, in fact I love a great series, I just want one thing, one vital aspect which for me is the most important aspect of any series. The thing that makes a series great, is keeping that same vital undefinable spark that made me love the first book. Build on it, sure. Expand the stage, widen the ideas, bring more to the party, be better than the original, yes. Just don’t for the love of the fictional sky deity of your choice grind it down, don’t write it for the sake of writing it, and don’t just go through the motions. Robin Hobb’s novels (sorry to Mrs Hobb btw as I do really love her writing and recommend her books despite this opinion) would have been so much better if they were in pairs rather than trilogies. There is just something about the story arcs, the way they are written, and the stories themselves that would work so much better for me is they were across two books not, as it feels to me, with the second book stretched out into two to make them a trilogy because ‘trilogy’ is the standard form of the genre…

Okay, that’s my little rant out of the way. Why the rant? Well, that’s because with a degree of trepidation born mainly of my knowledge of how often I have been disappointed with later books in a series I sat down to read a new book by one of my favourite authors. The degree of trepidation was also greater than it would typically be when reading a novel in a series by one of my favourite authors for two reasons.

Firstly because I actually know the author personally and they are therefore not just an abstract figure who writes books I enjoy. (As opposed to Neil Gaiman for example whos books I also love, but I have never met him, I don’t have his email address and I don’t talk to him on a semi-regular basis over a pint and if I dislike his latest book for any reason I wouldn’t feel overly upset for him as I wouldn’t be likely to speak to him about it at any point.)

Secondly, despite some minor protestations on my part because I like to support other authors by buying their books, I was given a copy of this one by the author herself. (As opposed to Neil Gaiman who has never seen fit to send me a copy of his latest novel.)

As this particular book is the seventh book in a series, and I know how series often begin to chafe at me after a while, well if you have not got the gist of why I sat down to read this novel with a certain and definitely quantifiable degree of trepidation then you really have not been paying attention to the top half of this post… So all that said read it I must, not least because I was also looking forward to it and have been since I was sent a tiny bookette with an earlier draft of the first chapter of the novel back in September last year which the author had had printed for ComicCon… ( see this post on that subject last year if you haven’t before... which also explains all too much about me I suspect.)

Darkest Fears is as I said the seventh book of C.G.Hattons series set in her Thieves Guild universe. Its also, depending on how you count them either book 5 of the main series, or book 1 of the second series, books five and six been YA prequels to the main series… (And if you care for my own recommendation it’s read them in the order they were written, and if you have never read any of them do so…) So all that’s in mind it definitely falls into the epic series category,, so trepidation….

Also, bear in mind I don’t post bad reviews, ever, because if I don’t like a book I put it in the category of ‘it’s not for me‘ and move on. I won’t lie or sugar coat a review and I prefer to say nothing about the sliver of an authors soul they are putting out into the world if I don’t enjoy it myself because I would rather write ‘read this book it’s awesome‘ and encourage someone to read something I loved, than in any way undermine something that I didn’t enjoy that someone else probably will. (yes I know I have been less than nice about several authors earlier in this post, but they are big authors with broad shoulders, its not the same as me reviewing an indie author’s novel, and it’s purely my opinion on their novels, god knows given their sales my opinion is utterly irrelevant. I also have never reviewed their books on Amazon or elsewhere)  So again as this is a book written by someone I know and who is probably what people less neurotic than I would just call a friend… So trepidation…

Anyway, what follows is the review, which is as ever utterly honest, from the heart and not in any way sugar coated that I will post on Amazon later today. (spoiler alert, clearly I liked it or I would not be posting a review. But if you’re paying any attention at all you probably figured that out by now as I would not have written this post at all if I didn’t.)

Darkest Fears By C.G.Hatton

This novel grabs you from the first paragraph and never lets go. The old cliche is ‘Once I started reading this book I couldn’t put it down’. Darkest fears is not a book you can’t put down, it’s a book that won’t let you put it down. It takes hold of you and drags you along, the action starts with the first sentence and never lets up. A joyous torrent of a story that sweeps along.

Like all C.G. Hattons books, it is incredibly well written, with an unending pace, a twisting gordian knot of a plot that turns here and there and back on itself yet never loses the reader, keeps surprising you, keeps you guessing, and always constantly enthralled as it pulls you ever deeper into the rich, expansive wonder of the thieves guild universe and those who inhabit its darkest corners and brightest stars…

Be warned, this book drives off the demons of sleep and if you read it at night you will find yourself still awake come dawn as the first rays of the sun great you as you finally read the end, exhausted, exhilarated and begging for the next book in the series…

Some series disappoint, Hattons Thieves guild novels never do…

Don’t take my word for it; you can read a little of it for free here

In case your in any doubt after that btw, all my trepidation when I sat down to read Darkest Fears, were blown away before I got to the second chapter. As I said at the start of this post, which may seem like a long time ago now. ‘One of the hardest tricks for an author to pull off is the series.’  C.G. pulls off the trick and then some. I really can’t recommend her novels enough, and god knows I have tried in the past as I seem to review one every year ( odd that, its almost as if she writes one a year… )

On a side note do you know how hard it is to avoid spoilers when you’re writing about the seventh book in a series so you have to avoid talking too much about anything that would spoiler the earlier books? I am reduced to writing superlatives and damn it I am running out of superlatives for these novels …

If she will insist on giving me free copies of her books then I’ll continue to tie myself in knots of trepidation, but I have come to the conclusion she is not going to start disappointing me as a reader any time soon ( I wrote about that last time I reviewed one of her books, there is a full list at the bottom of this post BTW) . If anything all that happens is her books keep getting better and upping the damn bar from the last one.

So if you have not tried C.G.Hattons novels before, why the hell not? Get a grip, will you! How many glowing reviews from me does it take?

The first four are for reasons that escape me completely are only £2.99 on Amazon, because frankly they should not be so cheap and the first one is free…    LINK HERE 

My other reviews of C.G.Hattons books can be found at the links below (and yes they all seem to have a lot of me waffling on about this that or the other before it gets to the actual review, sorry about that but if your in the least bit surprised by that you have never read my blog before…)

Residual Belligerence (the first novel in the series)

Kheris Burning

Beyond Redemption

 

Posted in book reviews, books, fiction, goodreads, indie, indie novels, opinion, pointless things of wonderfulness, reads, sci-fi, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Sunday Reviews #3

Okay, your used to the drill by now no doubt and probably see no reason to read this first bit of waffle. Which is fair enough because I’m not sure why I’m writing this first bit of waffle. Other than as a little introduction to the three indie novels I am throwing up short reviews, based on the Amazon reviews I posted for them today. You may recognise the 4th novel in this little list, and the review for it isn’t written by me, its included purely because it’s a new review from this week and a bit of nepotism does no one any harm (also because its the 18th review on amazon.co.uk for Cider Lane and I am so close to the magical 20 reviews I can almost taste it…)

It's Grim Up North: A Zombie Tale (IGUN Book 1) by [Wilkinson, Sean]It’s Grim Up North By Sean Wilkinson

★★★★★   
Geordie zombies, is this key side on a Saturday night

 Grim up north it may be, but it’s also fun in a frivolous entertaining bloodthirsty way. The walking dead meets Auf Wiedersehen Pet, and a mad survival nut shows why planning for the apocalypse is not that mad an idea in the first place

 

The Last Necromancer (The Ministry Of Curiosities Book 1) by [Archer, C.J.]

The Last Necromancer By C.J.Archer

★★★★
Grim Romance
 
The Victorian world can be a grim place, and if you fall off the edge it’s even grimmer. Even if you can raise the dead. Archer manages to make her world feel real an draws you into it so well for a while you forget it isn’t real

 

 

Bitcoin Hurricane (SimCavalier Book One): A cyber security conspiracy fiction novel by [Baucherel, K.R.]

★★★★★ 
Bright Futures
Baucherel caught me completely off guard and laid bare a somewhat gross assumption on my part. Did so with some style, a simple enough curveball to thrown at the reader, but it was somewhat masterly pulled off,  I was well and truly hooked, because I am a sucker for having my assumptions thrown back at me…

 

 

And finally this week, this little review of another indie novel which won an award once, the review is by someone else clearly, as I am not that nepotistic.

Cider Lane: Of silences and stars by [Hayes, Mark]Cider Lane By Mark Hayes 

★★★★★ 
Powerfully Emotive
From start to finish, I found myself overwhelmed by powerful imagery and difficult emotions. Cider Lane is altogether beautiful, tragic and sad. The characters within are sculpted and honed to perfection, and their journeys satisfyingly illustrated.

(review by Christopher Hill 9 May 2018

Format: Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase)

 

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The Writers Imperative…

I have to write.

Let me just say that and put it out there, because some people I am sure we see that as an odd thing to say, but I have to write. It’s an imperative, a drive, and addiction. I can’t explain it clearer than that. It is not a choice, not really, not as such. I have to write.

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If, as is probably the case, you’re not afflicted in this way yourself, then I am sure it will seem a strangely melodramatic statement. After all, this is writing we are talking about, it’s not a drug, not like nicotine, or caffeine, or alcohol or heroin (three of which I have been addicted to at one point or other in my life). When I have tried to explain this need to people, one or two have made the odd salient point like this…

‘It is not a chemically driven dependency, it’s simply a choice, after all, you chose to write, or not to write…’

Which is, on one level at least, perfectly true. Except it’s not, it never has been, and those who tell me this are missing out the most important thing about addiction… Addiction to anything is ultimately a matter of the mind. A physical addiction to drugs is only half the problem with drug addiction, otherwise, when someone kicks a habit and gets cleaned up, they would never run the risk of slip back to old habits. There is a reason AA hands out chips for sobriety. There is a reason why an alcoholic remains an alcoholic their whole life, even if they don’t touch a drink for decades. Chemical dependency may be a physical effect, but addiction is much more than just a chemical dependency.

So when I say I need to write and explain it is an imperative born of an addictive personality, that is exactly what I mean by the word ‘need’. It is a drive, a compulsion, a dependency upon which my state of mind rests. Sometimes it is a soft drive, sometimes it is no more than a tingle at the back of my mind, other times it is an absolute need, an absolute imperative. I need to focus my brain, to release the pressure, to let my mind run free, and if that sounds weird, well I never claimed to not be a little odd once in a while…

To be clear, however, I don’t need readers (oh I like them, want them, love them and love people reading my various witterings, but I don’t need them) I don’t need validation of my writing, or praise for it or to sell lots books, all these things would be and are nice but none of them is the actually the reason I write. I write because what I need, actually need is to write, and I have known this for a long time. Here then is a truth, somewhat simplified, but born of experience.

Writing does not make me happy, but not writing makes me sad.

When I’m not writing, and here I mean not writing at all rather than not doing so at a given point in time, then I slowly roll downhill towards the borders of depression. Not writing may not depress me in of itself, but it puts me in a place where depression can take hold of me if other factors fall into place. Depression is not being sad btw, that is an often made mistake, being happy or sad has little to do with clinical depression, which is why I said the above statement was somewhat simplified.

Lets just put it plainly when I am not writing I am on the road to depression. The need, the inner drive I have, which makes me for want of another word ‘need’ to write is an imperative I cannot escape. Its also an imperative I have no desire to escape, for I know full well from where it comes. Indeed, why would I wish to escape from the thing which is my escape…

When I was a teenager, a gawky, awkward, too clever by half, difficult and misfit of a teenager, I struggled with the world. And yes, that’s what all teenagers do to one extent or another, but I struggled more than most. Struggled to the point I considered leaving it more than once. Struggled with a depression that raged undiagnosed from my early teens to my mid-twenties, and this was the mid 80’s, the approach the world took to depression was somewhat less sympathetic at the time. I learned to self-medicate, the way most teenagers do. But I also learned the best self-medication for me was to write. Somehow, losing myself in a world of my imagination for an hour or two, hammering words out on my dad’s old typewriter while I played the sisters of mercy on the record player took me away from myself. Or perhaps it truer to say it took me to myself, my real self, the one that was not so awkward, gawky and confused. Writing became my medication, my escape and my release. Melodramatic as it may seem if I had not turned to writing I suspect I would not be here now writing this, and not because I was not a writer… Because there was always an alternative way to escape. The one from which there is no coming back…

As I grew older and slightly less awkward, the imperative to write stayed with me. It long since ceased to be about escape and my writing is far more complex and different from those immature scribblings of yesteryear. But the drive to write remains, not just as a coping mechanism, but as part of me, a dependency I have built, which given the alternatives I could have chosen is at least a creative force within my life. A good imperative, a desire and need that makes me better than I would otherwise be. But it remains a need.

I have to write…

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Why then am I telling you all this my eclectic bunch of blog readers and anyone who stumbles over this along the way? Well its mental health awareness week, in the middle of mental health awareness month, and my need to write is much to do with my mental health, or to be more exact maintaining my good mental health. I don’t write an awful lot on the subject of depression. Writing may be my therapy of choice, but it is personal therapy, a mechanism that works for me that no clinician ever prescribed. I don’t need to write about my lifelong struggle with depression (and I am not currently under the influence of that old black dog.) But I have written about depression a few times in the past, and if by writing this and dropping links to my previous post on the subject I succeed only in helping one person in some small way come to terms with, or raising their awareness of, the disease of depression by a microscopic amount then its an exercise of worth. Writing is my way to fight my demons, talking to someone, which I never did, is probably a better place to start, and having a general conversation about depression is something we all need to do sometimes…

Previous posts related to this subject…

Depression and talking about it

A Biography of depression

Darkest fears: behind the masks

Obsessions

 

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A Perfect Storm…

Last night, around 11pm,  somewhere between one too many coffees and the point where my mind stopped denying my body needs sleep, I hit a perfect storm. One of those rare moments when everything just clicks into place. A moment when my fingers found the words before my brain even processes the thoughts which put them there. A moment when the streams of consciousness ran uninterrupted from the highlands of my imagination and fed a hundred tributaries into the great river of narrative.  A moment when writing was so easy and so all-consuming that every distraction, every procrastination, everything else beyond the keyboard and screen before me just melted away. A perfect moment, a perfect storm, and then it just held me there, caught within its thrawl, while the words flowed around me. Which reminded me fleetingly of Van Gogh, for when the storm raged it had been beautiful and terrifying, sweeping me along.

storm

At some point, I believe it was about 3 am, the storm ended. Mainly it ended because of my need for sleep becoming overwhelming. In truth, the storm still raged as I lay in my bed trying and failing to sleep. Lighting flashes of inspiration wanting to be earthed to the page but these were just a mere squawl, the after storm wind and rain that takes its time to fade away. My exhaustion overwhelmed them in no time, and I fell into a fitful dark sleep…

When the morning alarm sounded too soon, I was no less exhausted than I had been when I finally forced myself to bed the night before. I was late to work, far later than I usually am. My brain still dizzy, still feeling like it had been on fire, a dull headache brewing, a need for caffeine just to function. It has taken till not to be able to process the wreckage left behind by the storm. So only now as I read through the words I struck against the anvil of my keyboard last night can I see what was achieved.

Some six thousand new words, three chapters redone, renewed and the whole curve of narrative flow against which I had fought for what seems like months has been altered down it new course. I think I have finally fixed the thing I knew was wrong but could not name nor see. I think I can ride the afterglow of this storm all the way to the great sea.

Storms are destructive, violent, and destroy much in their wake. Even a perfect storm creates much destruction in its wake. But destruction is a powerful creative force in its own right, and sometimes as a writer, they are exactly what you need. The trouble is you can not call them forth. You can’t demand they happen, you can’t even tempt them towards you. You just have to open up your word file, or lift your pen to paper, try to write and see what happens. Sometimes you get no more than a smattering of rain, a light drizzle, and sometimes the rain doesn’t come at all. But there is no point in hiding beneath umbrella’s, you have to get your hair wet one way or another. And if you let the rain come you may find yourself in a torrent, if you’re lucky.

Last night I hit a perfect storm…  and it was wonderful…

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