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Worse Things Than Spiders and Other Stories by Samantha Lee

SpidersBOOK OVERVIEW

Genre: Horror, Supernatural
Publisher: Shadow Publishing
Author: Samantha Lee

Overall Review:
4/5 – Very Good

Reviewed by: Sandra Scholes

Review

Samantha Lee has had her work published in various publications and volumes of story anthologies; Fantasy Tales 15, Spectre 4, Dark Terrors 6 and The Anthology of Fantasy and the Supernatural. Introduced by David Sutton, Samantha’s work is varied and unusual as it doesn’t follow the standard horror fare. Looking at the cover art, Ancient Egyptian god Set graces it along with other well-known things in black on bright yellow, the color of general insanity. The ink illustration also harkens back to the old covers before computer designed art was even heard of.

As the first story suggests, there are worse things than spiders and they do lurk inside the human mind. When a woman is given a job as a maid in an old fashioned hotel, she has to look after some actors and wishes that she could have their roles rather than existing doing tedious bread and butter jobs. By the end of the story she feels she has no kind of life and she shares that feeling with many of the characters in Samantha Lee’s other stories. “Take Five is every man’s dream turned into a nightmare. Being a sax player able to play with the rest of them on stage is what most dream of, but when it happens somewhere else, it makes one think twice about what one wishes for. “Jelly Roll Blues,” Is shorter than most of the stories in here, but is certainly one of the funniest in a Roald Dahl kind of way (remember his tales of the Unexpected stories?) and has a deserted pub as its setting until a man comes in and lets the barmaid into a little secret he’s had for a while. The story is well worth the read for the comical payoff. “Bon Appetite,” is a similar story written as a joke with a punch line. This one however is set far into the future and has a family who spot a restaurant that might be just for their tastes.
Each story comes with an explanation at the end of where it was published and what the story was behind how it was conceived. There are some very intriguing explanations as to the stories and they are also worth reading. Stories aren’t all that feature in this anthology, there is a nice bit of poetry “Catcawls,” that shows Samantha is versatile with her writing. This is one I would recommend to those who enjoy both dark, urban and comical horror fiction.

Worse Things Than Spiders and Other Stories by Samantha Lee
Published by Shadow Publishing
Reviewed by Sandra Scholes

Chronicles of Syntax, directed by Jack Ayers

 

SERIES OVERVIEW

Director: Jack Ayers

Actors: Liam Dryden, Laura O’Donoughue, Daniel Tyler-Smith

Genre: Action, Adventure, Fantasy, Sci-Fi

 

Our Review: 3/5 – Above Average

 

Reviewed by: Sandra Scholes

 

 

Review

 

The tag line for the series is Live to fight – Fight to live. Written and created by Susan E. Clarke and produced by iDave Productions the premise for this series is that a few people in the world have a unique set of information locked into their DNA they are oblivious to. They have no idea they are special, or that they have powers that could be used for the good of mankind. As usual there is a war coming and these people, once they realise they have powers deep within will soon have to choose which side they will be on – good or evil as the war will make them choose. Set in the present in England, Sian of the Fallen Angel Network (F.A.N.) is a secret facility run by the government who want to prevent the war from coming if they can, but in order to do that, she has to recruit several men and women for her team.

 

The intro is almost akin to movie style with dynamic visuals introducing the characters that star in the series and a narration that tells the viewer what the series is about, who the characters are etc. The intro is professional, and at the beginning of the first episode the intro leaves you expecting to see that the acting shares the professional way the intro had, but it comes across as forced or unconvincing. In the first episode Sian, Kai and Steven locate and find a potential member for F.A.N. but their problem lies with the fact that there is another team who want to be the first to get him. Shame they are the bad guys. There is a scene where their potential recruit gets stuck in a ventilation shaft while the bad guys try to get him out of there by force, but even that looks over the top.

 

As at the beginning the series is a cross between Torchwood, The A-Team and X-Men, or should I say it is trying to be all three. It seemed like such a shame the acting let the series down. When people look back at sci – fi classic Blake’s Seven they only think about the dire production value rather than the acting so they should take that into account. The Chronicles of Syntax has the team going out each episode to find out where another potential member is – and hope they can get to him before the bad guys do. I’m not saying don’t watch the series, I’m actually hoping it gets better as it is an indie venture that needs time and investment. The idea for it is a good one, and I live in hope that the acting will get better, but there needs to be a lot of improvement if this series is to compete against other UK and US TV series. There seems to be time though as this runs for 12 episodes, so it could get better. Remember how bad other series started out with their first season, and how a lot of decent series in the US didn’t make it past the first or second season due to bad ratings.

 

Chronicles of Syntax directed by Jack Ayers (2013)

Review by Sandra Scholes

 

Glorious Plague by Karen Heuler

 

Glorious_Plague-330BOOK OVERVIEW

 

Genre: Horror

Publisher: Permuted Press

Author: Karen Heuler

 

Overall Review:

4/5 – Very Good

Reviewed by Sandra Scholes

 

As Karen is more of a plot person than a character person when she writes, her unique way of writing shows through in most of her work. Her short stories have been published by many successful magazines including Albedo One, Clarkesworld, Cemetary Dance and Fantasy Magazine. Her work has featured in The Year’s Best SF anthology #17 and her books; The Made-Up Man, Journey to Bom Goody, The Soft Room and The Other Door has been well received by readers and critics alike.

 

In Glorious Plague, a virus gets into the bodies of humans, but it is an unusual one that influences people in a very strange way. When they are infected, they become instantly happy, singing and running around as if they have been possessed by an angelic force which has them leaping happily to their deaths. Several residents of Manhattan have to try and find some semblance of normality as this is happening all around them. While one man searches for a cure to the Glorious Plague, another is still in search for his missing daughter and it is proving harder than ever to find her in the chaos around him. What makes this story much more peculiar than the ones I am used to reading is that your belief systems play a large role in how you take this story. The mere sight of Christ appearing and lugging his wooden cross around like Obelix with his menhir is odd enough, but so is a man marrying a mermaid and Ganesh, the Hindu god of luck running for mayor.

 

As far as I am concerned, it is this peculiarity of different gods in odd situations that makes this so original and interesting. It does grab your attention and deserves to be read for this reason. What is really interesting is that while all the strangeness is going on of different gods doing things they wouldn’t normally do, the ordinary people of the city don’t notice it or even think it is strange. They see it as normal and every day. If you have ever researched the various gods and goddesses of the major mythologies, you might notice that the ones in here don’t necessarily act the way they should, and that makes it all the more funny.

 

The Infinity Trap, by Ian C. Douglas

Book Overview

 

51GDWHlisQL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-v3-big,TopRight,0,-55_SX278_SY278_PIkin4,BottomRight,1,22_AA300_SH20_OU01_Genre: Fantasy

Publisher: IFWG Publishing

Author: Ian C. Douglas

 

Overall Review: 4/5 – Very Good

 

Reviewed by: Sandra Scholes

 

Review

 

The Infinity Trap by Ian C. Douglas

 

Genre: Fantasy

Publisher: IFWG Publishing

Author: Ian C. Douglas

Overall review: 4/5 – Very Good

Reviewed by: Sandra Scholes

 

Nottingham author Ian C. Douglas is an avid traveller and writer of several short stories some of which have won prizes. His work has been featured at the Toy Museum, and was a finalist in Last Year’s Independent On Sunday travel writing competition. His travelling is the inspiration for his new book, The Infinity Trap.

 

The premise for the story is how far would you go to find your missing father? In this young adult novel Zeke Hailey gets into a Martian school for psychics when he hopes to learn how to develop the psychic skills he needs to find his father. While he interacts with the other students there he has to find out whether he can use these skills to get the decent results he needs to be able to both fit into the school as a potential psychic and find out the truth of his father’s disappearance. Life in the 23rd Century should be much easier for the young, but for Zeke, his life is about to get very complex. As his father was one of the Mariners, elite psychics originally sent out on a secret mission, he had since vanished and Zeke is a boy left without the psychic skills needed to be able to search for him. He relies on the other teachers and students at the Ophir Chasma Academy for Psychic Endeavour. There Zeke makes a few enemies, more so of Snod, but he also makes a few friends in Pin Mei and Scuff.

 

Arranged into three parts, the Infinity Trap also has short chapters so that the reader doesn’t have to feel as though they are reading too much text. As the story moves on gradually, it is discovered that Zeke cheated on the exams just to get into what the students call ‘the Ophir’ Academy. As the students have rather developed psychic abilities, they find that Zeke has cheated, and at first disapprove of him being there, though if they put themselves in his position, they would probably do the same.  Zeke starts out as an outsider in the Academy, but later becomes a valued student who has to defeat an archaeologist who threatens the universe.

 

As a young adult novel, I would find it hard to criticise this book as it has enough characters, action and depth to be the sort of novel that is good enough to read again and again.

 

Folk’d Up Book Two

 

Folkd-Up-Web-298x460BOOK OVERVIEW

 

Genre: Fantasy, Irish folklore

Publisher: Blackstaff Press

Author: Laurence Donaghy

 

Overall Review: 4/5 – Very Good

 

Reviewed by: Sandra Scholes

 

Review

 

Folk’d Up is Laurence Donaghy’s second novel in the series, the first being Folk’d. Carrying on from the previous volume, Folk’d Up turns out to be about a project run by a telecommunications company who are trying to build a gateway to another world, thinking this gateway is nothing like he thought when he ends up in a parallel universe where he and Ellie, his girlfriend are no longer an item. This universe has fairies, Low Folk (as they are known in here), huge venomous spiders and other hallmarks of a very strange novel that concentrates on the world we think we know and a world we have heard about in folklore but never knew existed.

 

After the first volume Donaghy takes up where the story left off, leaving the reader wondering what will happen to Danny and the other characters now that he lives in this new parallel universe. What was fantasy, folklore and only belief fast becomes reality for him, but he isn’t alone; the war goddess Eriu has to get him trained up to fight the Low Folk. In fact, the first part of the story has Eriu telling Danny all about the history of their folklore starting with the Tuatha De Danann to the modern Ireland’s inhabitants we know of nowadays. Once everything is explained, Danny gets a chance to fight against the enemy that threatens their world, and more importantly the new world he has a hard time trying to embrace.

 

Folk’d Up is an interesting fantasy novel I enjoyed as it was different from most of Donaghy’s work. A lover of Terry Pratchett, Peter David and Timothy Zahn’s novels, his previous work has included short stories he had submitted to magazines and competitions. His Folk’d series form his first time being a published author. Appreciating the authors above has given Donaghy the ability to write in his own unique way using science-fiction, fantasy and folklore as a basis for injecting some comedy and peculiarity into an already readable novel.

 

Danny and the goddess aren’t the only heavily featured characters in the story though; Danny’s father has a part to play, even if it is in flashbacks of his crusade against evil fairies who lurk in the Ireland he knows of. Folk’d Up being the second novel in the series is promising indeed, and for readers who enjoyed the first novel, there is much more to enjoy here and, I hope the third volume, Completely Folk’d proves to be an excellent final addition to it. There is a lot of fun in here and it will fit in well with the young adult market who likes to indulge in rebellious writings about heroes who don’t take crap from nobody.

 

Folk’d Up is published by Blackstaff Press

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