Category Archives: Horror

Fiend by Peter Stenson

Fiend by Peter StensonReview: Fiend by Peter Stenson (Crown, 2013)

Ask anyone to name the three best TV shows of the past five years and I can pretty much guarantee that Breaking Bad and The Walking Dead are going to occupy two of those slots (with Game Of Thrones in the other). The meth-making exploits of Walter and company as well as the gruelling slog for survival against the undead have both firmly lodged themselves in the popular psyche. It seems then only natural to ask, what would happen if these worlds collided? Meth-heads versus undead? Thanks to Peter Stenson that question no longer resides in the realm of late-night pot-fuelled ramblings.

Chase Daniels was a Twin Cities white boy of privilege who  threw it all away to follow the path of crystal meth, abandoning family, study and work for a life of low-level dealing to support an ever-growing habit. Slumming it with his waste-of-space friend Typewriter (seriously), he wakes from a week-long, housebound trip to oblivion to hear a dog barking in his front yard. Investigating he witnesses a young girl approach the near-rabid beast, only to lunge at it and tear it’s throat out. Convinced he’s hallucinating on account of the drugs, Chase retreats inside the house, only to be pursued by the blood-soaked, giggling monster. Terrified and cornered, Chase and Type end up killing the child, torching the house and fleeing the scene, convinced they’ll soon make the news for murdering some poor family’s daughter while in the throes of meth paranoia.

Hours later and the blood is still on their clothes but something’s wrong. The streets are deserted. Where is everyone? An encounter with a kill-crazy, chuckling, Russian webcam sex operator (deceased) and a conversation with one of her former clients soon confirms the worst. The dog attack was no hallucination and the child was no innocent. The world has descended into a madness far worse than any head trip. Chase and Type are now confronted with two problems. Firstly how to survive the attacks of the giggling zombie hordes, and also how to ensure they can get their increasingly urgent meth fixes in a world apparently without people?

That’s as much of the plot as I’m going to give away but Fiend is so much more than that. Of course on the surface the concept is a ridiculous blend of horror and the darkest of humour. And yes, you can take it that way, but I only used the Breaking Bad/Walking Dead references to draw you in. Fiend is not so much a zombie/meth survival comedy as an almost unbearably bleak and intense examination of the nature of addiction and its effect on our psyches. Faced with the end of the world, Chase and his fellow survivors never for a second deviate from their true primary goal – the next fix. All other concerns are sidelined in favour of the pipe or the needle and friendship has value only inasmuch as it will lead to another rock.

This is never portrayed more clearly than in the narration itself. The entire book presents itself from Chase’s viewpoint and the writing moulds itself to his current mindset. Immediately following a fix he’s a hive of mental activity, sentences bursting out rapid-fire, jumping from one idea to the next. As the high recedes and the cravings return his thoughts, and hence the text, become darker, less coherent, more paranoid. This creates a truly unsettling experience for the reader, dragged along by Chase’s neuronal activity and at the mercy of his habit.

Of course there is plentiful humour to alleviate the tension and it is truly necessary. Without the incredibly dark humour splattered throughout Fiend it would be an almost impossible read. As it is Stenson keeps the atmosphere only just light enough to allow the reader to continue without choking on the addiction, violence and betrayal which spill off the pages. At least he does until the climax which will leave you feeling like you’ve just intentionally pounded your skull with a hammer for a couple of hours.

Cards on the table time, Fiend is hands-down one of the best books I’ve read in a couple of years. From the first few pulse-racing pages it snatches you up and proceeds to force you through an emotional grinder before crushing you under its heel like a cigarette butt at the inevitable and cruelly abrupt ending. It’s relentless, violent and horrifyingly real but nonetheless thoughtful, intelligent and beautifully written. It’ll raise your heart rate, crush your faith in your fellow man, make you examine every possible source of addiction in your life and still entertain you. That’s something special.

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The Troop by Nick Cutter

The Troop by Nick CutterReview: The Troop by Nick Cutter (Simon & Schuster, 2014)

Note: Thanks to Simon & Schuster for providing an Advance Reading Copy of this title.

Any discerning horror aficionado knows that there are two main sub-types of horror. The first is the classic supernatural ghost story, told in many forms but always having you look over your shoulder and sending chills up your spine. See the recent review of Snowblind for a wonderful modern example. The second is the literary equivalent of a video nasty, tha author’s aim being to have you empty the contents of your stomach over the pages of your book. While reading The Troop on a lunch break I almost had that very experience. Well played Mr Cutter, well played…

The Troop tells the sorry tale of Scout Troop 52. While on a wilderness camp on remote Falstaff Island off Canada’s east coast an unexpected visitor lands in their midst. Bedraggled, starved almost beyond recognition and raving deliriously about insatiable hunger he’s an obvious danger to the small group of teens but Scoutmaster Tim, local GP, can’t just turn an obviously sick man away. He’ll soon wish he had though, as it transpires that he didn’t come alone. Nestling in his belly (and indeed the rest of his walking corpse) are a horde of visitors, all eager to find new hosts no matter what age or species.

What ensues is a gruelling, visceral tale of survival and body horror. The boys – Ephraim, Newton, Max, Kent and Shelley – soon realise that they are stranded on the island. The sole adult is soon incapacitated by the parasites lurking in the gatecrasher’s internal cavities and they must do everything they can to avoid his fate. The insanity of the situation, combined with the natural group dynamic present in pubescent boys everywhere, means they are soon pitched against each other as much as the mysterious, repellent organisms sharing the island. And meanwhile, why is nobody coming to check on them and what are those black helicopters and boats circling the island at a distance?

Early reviews of The Troop have compared it rather obviously to Lord Of The Flies and to be fair the comparison is entirely justified. But it’s so much more than that. Beside the whole kids-on-an-island trope there are elements from other equally powerful sources. The first which sprang to mind was John Carpenter’s The Thing. You’ve got a small group of people in an isolated environment threatened by a near-invisible, highly contagious and utterly deadly entity which threatens the whole of mankind. That and the buckets of gore, incredibly inventive and wonderfully sickening gore. The second was Battle Royale, mostly for its relentless brutality in its treatment of its adolescent cast. Nick Cutter is utterly merciless in creating an inescapable hell for his characters, playing a cruel god of fate and dashing their hopes on the rocks at every turn.

So we’ve established that it’s a vicious gorefest mixed with a school holiday. But what of the writing itself? I’m pleased to say it’s certainly of a strong enough calibre to hold the story up. While The Troop initially had me wondering whether or not to continue – it felt a little juvenile purely because of the subject matter – it soon picked up the pace, got its grown-up clothes and started delivering gutpunch after gutpunch. Nick Cutter has two prominent strengths as a writer. The first is characterisation, peopling his novel with a broad mix of characters ranging from sympathetic to repellent to outright evil. Despite their young ages these kids are all individuals, on the cusp of adulthood and starting their journey of self-discovery, each choosing distinctly different paths which sets them up for conflict later. Then, having introduced his cast, he introduces the second key tool in his kit as he begins gleefully dismembering them. This man has a talent for depravity, knowing exactly which buttons to push in order to tie your guts in knots. At times it was difficult to discern which was more disgusting, the parasites invading the bodies of the Scouts or the grotesque effect they had upon those very bodies and minds.

Cutter acknowledges a debt to Stephen King in the acknowledgments but it’s clear that The Troop is no mere knock-off. Yes it wears its inspirations on its sleeve but Cutter manages to take these distinct elements and create something entirely new and, to a seasoned horror veteran, remarkably stomach-churning. I almost hope he never sells the movie rights to this book, I don’t know if I could handle it and that is perhaps the highest praise I could offer anyone in this genre.

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Snowblind by Christopher Golden

Snowblind by Christopher GoldenReview: Snowblind by Christopher Golden (St Martin’s Press, 2014)

Note: Thanks to St Martin’s Press for providing an Advance Reading Copy of this title.

Twelve years ago, a blizzard descended on the town of Coventry, New England. Nothing special there, but this storm was different. By the time the snows had cleared, the town was torn apart. People had simply disappeared, vanished into the drifts leaving not a trace behind. Worse, others simply did not survive the night at all, falling prey to the weather as well as forces unexplained. In its wake the disaster deposited desperation and emptiness, changing the lives of those left behind forever. Now the storm is returning and people are acting more than a little strange.

I’ll get this out of the way right off the bat – Snowblind is receiving a snowplow-load of comparisons to early Stephen King and I can’t help but agree. It has all of the ingredients: north-eastern US setting; down-to-earth characters; supernatural forces. Hell, the man himself even gave it a spot of cover blurb. Does it live up to the hype? And does Golden have a distinct enough voice to wrestle free of his obvious inspiration? Well, the answers are both resoundingly positive.

Snowblind features without a doubt one of the most gripping and fraught opening acts I’ve read in years. Comprising of a flashback to the original devastating storm it proceeds to set up a believable and intriguing cast of characters before suddenly turning on them and putting them through hell. By the time I had caught up to the present day I had forgotten that this was just a taster, that the meat of the story was yet to come. There were no guts, no gore, not my usual horror fare at all. Nothing but a creeping sense of unease which reached an eventual crescendo, leaving me glancing at the windows to make sure no unwelcome faces lurked there.

And then… silence. Like the calm following the storm Golden then surveys the damage he has wreaked, taking in the shattered lives, the broken families, the loss of hope. Without lingering too long on the scene you’re left in no doubt about the scale of the emotional damage caused to adult and child alike. But there’s only a short time to catch your breath before Snowblind pulls you back into the eye of the storm for an intense final act.

Christopher Golden does indeed have some stylistic similarities with the master of horror but where King’s older works can occasionally seem dated and a little twee these days, Golden is sharp and thoroughly contemporary. I’ll admit it hurt to see him use the word ‘hipster’ so often, as if it were some kind of virtue, but I’ll let that slide. His words pull you along effortlessly into the story, so much so that it feels more like the book is simply happening to you, rather than you actively reading it. Even though the eventual explanation of the storm’s terrible power seems a bit stretched in hindsight it doesn’t detract from the power of the story at all.

It’s been a long time since I read a good old-fashioned horror yarn and Snowblind has instilled in me a fresh hunger for more. This is exactly the fare I cut my reading teeth on (King, Herbert, Barker, etc) but updated for a modern age, a potent mix of the old and the new. If Christopher Golden has any more like this left in him then I’ll be waiting in line. One to read while curled up in front of a real fire on a cold, windy day, with the curtains closed and door locked of course…

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Parasite by Mira Grant

Parasite by Mira GrantReview: Parasite by Mira Grant (Orbit , 2013)

Note: Thanks to Orbit for providing an Advance Reading Copy of this title. Sorry the review took so long to appear!

We live in a pretty filthy and creepy-crawly world when you think about it. We’re surrounded by life, it’s everywhere and it’s mostly so small we’ll never see it. Even your own body plays host to more non-you organisms that it does to your good self. Something like two-thirds of the body’s cells are non-human which will either have you gasping in awe and trying to find them if you’re like me or wretching and itching uncontrollably if you’re more normal. Don’t worry though, the hygiene hypothesis tells us that this is kind of okay. Our daily exposure to these alien organisms, both within and without, helps maintain a healthy immune system and keeps a whole host of diseases and allergies at bay. Unfortunately our recent reliance on disinfectants and the like is drastically reducing our exposure, and our resistance is likewise plummeting.

Such is the central thesis of Mira Grant’s Parasite. What can we do to reverse the damage our increasingly sterile environments are wreaking on our bodies’ natural balance? Enter SymboGen, a bio-engineering company which has created a concept so radical it will revolutionise the medical industry forever. The Intestinal Bodyguard is a parasite based on the the tapeworm which lives happily in our guts, programmed to secrete any medication we need, as and when we need it. Far-fetched? Of course it is, verging on ludicrous, but suspend disbelief for now and strap in – the ride’s going to get a whole lot crazier.

Sally Mitchell is unique. Well, aren’t we all? The thing is though, she used to be dead. Following a serious car crash her brain was so badly damaged that doctors pronounced her beyond hope – until, that is, her SymboGen implant kicked in and began reconstructing brain tissue. Overnight she became a sensation, a miracle and above all a poster girl for the new parasitic technology. There was a problem though, her revival came to late to save her memories, forcing her to re-learn everything, from relationships to language, from scratch. Her recovery continues at pace, monitored closely by SymboGen and their legions of doctors and psychologist, and all is looking rosy. Until… it seems some of those carrying implants aren’t faring so well. Suddenly a rash of incidents occurs, parasite-carriers turning blank-faced and immobile before attacking those close to them. What’s happening? Why is SymboGen preventing the news from hitting media outlets? And why do the affected all seem to know Sally’s name?

If this all sounds ridiculous then don’t worry, you’re absolutely right. And, as you should know from reading this blog, ridiculous is often a wonderful springboard for a good story. Does it work for Parasite? Well, yes and no. Let’s deal with the good first. Straight off the bat the parasitic implant idea if bloody wonderful. It’s visceral, creepy and pushes all of David Cronenberg’s favourite buttons. It’s hard to get more disgusted than by an enemy which lurks inside you. Once the story gets moving we’re in good old horror movie territory and it rattles along at a fair old pace.

Unfortunately, Parasite could have done with slowing down a little and paying attention to some details. The characterisation in particular could have used some work. Sally, the novel’s heroine and central character, is at times painfully weak and pathetic. Rather than eliciting a sympathetic response I found myself groaning at yet another ‘screaming and running away’ situation. Okay, she’s technically six years old and dealing with an insane problem but still, some backbone would have gone a long way. To be fair perhaps this will develop in the forthcoming two installments in the planned Parasitology trilogy. Further, the two ‘bad guys’ in the book seeming to represent the evils of science and business are truly ridiculous caricatures. One would do anything for money, the other for knowledge, neither appearing remotely human and thus losing a lot of plausibility.

Still it’s a fun read despite its flaws. Good fodder if you want to switch your brain off for a few hours and enjoy a good, icky story. It’ll be worth seeing how the tale develops in the next two books, I see catastrophe looming…

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The Place In Between by Reverend Steven Rage

The Place In Between by Reverend Steven RageReview: The Place In Between by The Reverend Steven Rage (Legume Man Books, 2010)

Let’s get this out of the way first: you are not ready to read this book. You might never be ready. So do yourself a favour and forget about it. This is a perfect storm of wrong. An unholy union of bizarro, relentless horror and unbounded, amoral imagination. The Reverend Steven Rage also goes by the moniker ‘The Grim Reverend’. There is reason for that, good reason. Stay away. Go and read Twilight 5: Return Of The Angsty Teen Vampire Underwear Models. Seriously.

Still here? Good, then we can begin. The Place In Between is a triptych of tales set around the fictional town of Harbour, two taking place after an unspeakable apocalypse, one just beforehand. The first tale, Blood and Bubblegum chiefly centres around Juan and the shit-demon which lives in his ass. Juan and his passenger traverse Harbour’s cold and dangerous byways, taking care to avoid the demons spilling out of the mouth of hell while trying to rise above the pathetic, huddled masses around them. The one sure way to do this is through the drugs trade. Their key to entering is the mysterious Good Doctor and his patron, the Nocturne. Juan and his partner in crime hatch a plot, kidnapping a blood-offering which should secure their place in the Doctor’s good graces. The scenes which follow are… special.

The second story, the titular The Place In Between, is an altogether different beast. Set in a more familiar universe before things got weird, this is a tale of revenge which will tie your stomach in knots. Del is a man struggling with his wayward wife Luci, whose affinity for cocaine tends to land her in trouble far too often. Del, an upright Navy man, reaches his wit’s end when he finds that she has become ensnared by Sancho, a wicked piece of shit with whom he has unresolved business. After hooking Luci on crack and persuading her to perform all manner of acts on camera, Sancho sends the results to Del who has an understandable meltdown.

An attempted suicide leaves him completely paralysed, unable to to do anything but think, and he is placed in the care of Luci and Sancho, masquerading as an old friend. Del though life was bad before the gunshot. He was wrong. Unable to so much as breathe unaided he becomes Sancho’s plaything while his wife is further degraded. However, a near-death experience puts him in contact with a particularly vindictive demon who makes him an offer he can’t refuse.

FInally we have Bad Notion, Travelling Potion, returning us to the realm of the Good Doctor and his companions. Here the nature of the narcotics trade referred to before becomes clear. There are two main drugs available, analogues of opium and cocaine. Both are produced by a pair of conjoined creatures called Trudge and Drudge, a witless beast kept caged and which thrives only on semen, preferably the Doctor’s but man-goat will do in a pinch. The opiate is secreted by this mutant in the form of earwax while the cocaine is its dandruff. However, Trudge and Drudge harbour another secret – the salt of their tears, if ingested, will literally transport the user to a happier place. Unfortunately the creatures facilitating this transport are none to happy to see their services suddenly abused on such a huge scale.

The Place In Between is a very wrong book on many levels. The worlds it creates are dire, grim beyond belief. There are no happy endings, no morals, no reasons. The stories just are. Reading them was like passing a car wreck and feeling my gaze drawn to the scattered corpses despite my best intentions. This is not a book to read if you are in a negative state of mind or if you are of even a vaguely sensitive disposition. However if you’re made of sterner stuff it’s bloody hilarious in a way which may well make you hate yourself. You’ll feel dirty afterwards, you may actually want to take the book into the shower with you and scrub it clean, but I bet there’ll be a little smirk somewhere. Admit it. You love it.

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The Rising/City Of The Dead by Brian Keene

The Rising by Brian KeeneReview: The Rising and City Of The Dead by Brian Keene (Delirium, 2003/2005)

For the longest time I had been of the opinion that zombie fiction was an entirely dead genre (sorry) only occasionally revived (really sorry) by the likes of World War Z, rare titles indeed. The majority of the titles found on the shelves are thoroughly braindead (forgive me) and do nothing but elicit moans (I know, I know) as I read. Thank Romero then that I stumbled upon Brian Keene via his Jack’s Magic Beans short story collection. The originality, visceral thrills and creeping menace he managed to bring to the tales within (read them, seriously) tempted me to pick up his award-winning The Rising, paving the way for four or five nights of intense night reading.

The Rising begins in a setting more familiar to zombies than the survivors of their apocalypses (Apocaloids? Apocalii?). Jim Thurmond is trapped within the shelter constructed in his backyard in the wake of millennial fever. Above his tomb roam the undead remnants of his neighbours, not to mention his wife, peering down his periscope and taunting him incessantly. Suddenly his cellphone rings after days of silence, a missed call and message from his son Danny at his ex-wife’s home halfway across the country in New Jersey. By the time he listens to the recording his battery dies, power stations having failed around the world, but the sound of his voice galvanises him to strike out and reach his son, saving him if it costs him his life.

As you can imagine, the country lies in ruins. With no warning the dead began rising, armed with an insatiable hunger for human flesh and more besides – see later… Infrastructure collapsed, humanity shattered into tiny pockets of survivors, varying massively in their levels of sanity and civilisation – you know the drill. Jim has to pick his way through this wasteland, avoiding the dead and the more dangerous elements of the living, making alliances where he can and inching ever closer to Danny.

By the second installment, City Of The Dead, Jim has reached his destination but finds himself drawn to the centre of Manhattan. Ramsey Tower, a supposedly impregnable and self-sufficient built in the wake of certain terrorist attacks, is putting on a lightshow every night, broadcasting to survivors in the locale. Following a hair-raising journey to the tower, Jim and his collection of stragglers (no spoilers as to who makes it!) join the tower’s community.

Still shell-shocked from the devastation outside, the fortress is as close to paradise as they can imagine. Plentiful food and water, a functioning school, hospital cinema and broadcast system, enough armed guards to see off the interminable zombie assaults, it’s an island of plenty amid the hordes of the undead. But things are never so simple – with a zombie army en route to the tower and a leader slowly losing his grip on reality (in truly hilarious fashion) it’s only a matter of time before they are once more fighting for their lives.

Now while the above synopsis may sound like a mish-mash of several well-worn zombie tropes, The Rising and City Of The Dead have an ace in the hole with the mechanics of the undead themselves. Remember I mentioned the taunting? That’s not figurative, that’s literally talking to Jim, looking down his periscope at him, feeding him his dead wife’s recollections of extra-marital affairs to drive him insane. The zombie army? Not merely your average shambling horde of corpses but a legion of the undead toting rifles and driving tanks. Where most other zombie novels either leave the origins of the scourge a mystery or go for the usual disease option, Brian Keene takes a novel approach which allows him far more flexibility.

His dead bodies are possessed by demons, malevolent creatures shunned by God from the dawn of time and out for revenge against his pet creatures. As soon as a soul leaves a body (yeah, I know) the demons can take up residence, absorbing their memories and using what’s left of the flesh for their own means. Conscious zombies, actively working together to bring about the fall of mankind so that their cousins can finish the job and torch the planet entirely before moving on to the rest of God’s creation. It’s certainly an original conceit and while it takes time to find its feet, Keene soon has fun with the possibilities opened up to him.

The Rising and City Of The Dead manage to weave the standard plotline together with the demonic zombies and come up with a pretty gripping tale, albeit a rather lightweight and pulpy one. The one thing which grated for me was the religiosity – souls, gods, etc – although to be fair it was not handled in a ham-fisted way. For every mention “God will get us through this” another innocent would die a gruesome, painful death only to return and attack his comrades. That aside, for any zombie fan looking to kill a few hours it’s well worth a read. Go into it expecting an enjoyable romp with some well-developed characters, originality and extreme violence and you won’t be disappointed.

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The Antipope by Robert Rankin

Review: The Antipope by Robert Rankin (Pan, 1981)

The Antipope by Robert RankinLife is far from dull for the regulars of the Lucky Swan, a stereotypical old English boozer in the heart of London’s Brentford, yet it’s not exactly abnormal. The locals come and go about their business – unlikely gambling schemes, peccadilloes with their neighbours’ wives and such like – punctuating their activities with several lagers and embellishing tales of their latest exploits with the necessary bells and whistles. In fact the scenes playing out at the Swan could be re-enacted without a second glance at any other pub up and down the country without anyone batting an eyelid. Then the tramp comes to town…

Shambling barely perceptibly up the street, the itinerant starts to make casual contact with the locals. An unassuming request for help here, a tall tale there, imparting information and soaking it up at the same time. Yet as soon as he appears he soon vanishes, disappearing in mid-conversation and leaving only the vaguest notion of his presence in the first place. For Jim Pooley and John Omally, two layabouts who are more or less part of the Swan’s furniture, the vagrant’s comings and goings assume a sinister and they find themselves naturally compelled to investigate – for who knows, perhaps their efforts may yield fame or fortune?

Before they know it they find themselves wrapped up in series of adventures and misadventures quite beyond their booze-addled comprehension. Aided by the local professor, a reclusive genius (also skilled in the ancient martial arts of Dimac), they uncover the secret of the magic beans, reveal a growing army of miniature demons and stumble upon a plot to turn Brentford into a new Vatican, hatched by none other than a malevolent reincarnation of Pope Alexander IV, last of the infamous Borgias.

And that, in a nutshell, is The Antipope, first instalment in Robert Rankin’s Brentford trilogy. On the surface it seems like yet another absurdist slice of, erm, horror? Urban fantasy? Gothic? And therein lies the joy of The Antipope – jumping merrily among genres it happily defies categorisation and carves out its own little niche. The settings and characterisation are straight out of Wodehouse while the general humour are cut from the same cloth as Pratchett, Adams and their ilk – thoroughly English without ever becoming twee or lapsing into patronising stereotype. There’s a great warmth with which Rankin portrays his protagonists, painting them as neither heroes nor anti-heroes but simple everymen who, upon finding the odds stacked against them, rely purely on whisky and chance to get them out of a scrape. The Swan and its patrons strikes an immediate chord with anyone who has spent a few hours in a genuine old British pub, the sounds and smells filling your senses as you read – for better or worse…;

Around this shell is wrapped a tale which is irresistible in its lunacy and yet which, thanks to the grounding in its characters and locale, almost manages to pass as a description of normal life in Brentford. Encompassing everything from demons to zombies, from kung-fu adepts to satanic midnight masses, there’s no let-up in the action from start to finish. The build-up to and execution of the cowboy party scene in the Swan is absolutely beautiful, a crescendo of every brand of craziness known to man, encompassing page 3 girls, and army of Lone Rangers and a neon-lit (and poorly grounded) king of the open plains. No description can do this section justice, just go and read it right now.

Finally, no review of The Antipope would be complete without a mention of the alcohol. To my recollection I have never seen, heard or read of such Herculean acts of consumption. Hunter Thompson doesn’t get a look in while Withnail and I look on in goggle-eyed awe. It seems that every single act committed by the denizens of Brentford must be accompanied by a bottle or two of Scotch if it’s to stand any chance of success. In fact, such is the constancy of the liquor’s flow that I can’t even recall mention of a single hangover – the effects are never given a chance to wear off before they are refreshed. Perhaps a re-read and an actual bottle count is in order.

By virtue of Robert Rankin’s aptitude for genre-hopping  would feel at home on a diverse range of bookshelves. Classified by the author himself as ‘far-fetched fiction’, there’s an appeal to those of a fantastical, science-fictional or horrific bent as well as those who simply fancy a taste of pre-Information Age England. The locale and literary style are firmly fixed but the humour is universal, making this one for lovers of a well-spun yarn anywhere.

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