Tuesday 8 November 2011

Book Reviews

The Fear
Charlie Higson
Puffin Books
Available Now (Hardback)
Review by Rob Wade

The sickness struck everyone over the age of fourteen. Mothers and fathers, older brothers, sisters and best friends. No one escaped its touch. And now children across London are being hunted by ferocious grown-ups. DogNut and the rest of his crew set out to find their lost friends on a deadly mission from the Tower of London to Buckingham Palace and beyond, as the sickos lie in wait. He doesn’t know it, but DogNut is about to set off a chain of events that will affect every kid in the city…

As a series, Higson’s “The Enemy” series has hit a lot of the right points that define, in my eyes at least, a great zombie story (and although technically they’re never referred to as zombies, come on). All the best zombie stories deal heavily with themes of what happens to people once the event has occurred. In this case, the event is the sickness of everyone over the age of fourteen when the illness hit. What follows chronicles the degradation of the teenagers who survive and establish new societies, and it makes for some of the most compelling reading in the genre.

Set a few days before the events of the finale of the second volume, The Dead, the book follows DogNut and a group of youths who have set up shop at the Tower of London. They’re well defended, and have everything they need. However, that wouldn’t make for a very interesting book, would it? “DogNut and the Non-Adventures of the Teenagers Who Survive Despite Horrendous Circumstances” would hardly sell a dozen copies, and Muggins here would be the poor bastard responsible for reviewing it and selling two of those copies himself. So, DogNut takes a small group up the river Thames (not a euphemism) to search for some of his old friends from previous volumes.

If I had to make one criticism of this structure, it’s that with the story jumping around as it does between volumes, the series as a whole can be hard to follow if you’ve not read the previous books recently. As a standalone novel, the pacing is absolutely fine, and in most cases is really well done, but it can be hard to keep track of all the different characters, where they’re from and so on across the entire series so far.

However, this does not detract heavily from what is a really enjoyable read. The book does a really good job of bringing levity into an otherwise tense atmosphere, but knows exactly when to dial up the tension and make the action scenes more dramatic as a result. Once started, this book is difficult not to finish in one sitting, as you’ll generally catch the beginning of a hook that will keep you reading into the next chapter to find out what happens next, and there are plenty of new characters, including the intriguing (and at times amusing) Shadowman.

In addition, the book introduces some interesting developments regarding the infected adults from both the point of view of the children trying to find out more about them and the adults and how they interact with each other. Without going into too much depth at risk of spoilers, it seems that the plot is very much on the point of thickening!

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating
Violence: Plenty of zombie stabbings, smashing and child mutilation.
Sex/Nudity: They’re kids. That’s sick.
Swearing: A fair few uses of “shit”.
Summary: A series that only gets better as it goes along. “The Sacrifice”, as it’s called, is looking like being an absolute stormer. 8/10
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Century 1969
Alan Moore/Kevin O’Neill
Top Shelf/Knockabout
Available Now (Trade Paperback)
Review by Rob Wade

The second volume detailing the exploits of Miss Wilhelmina Murray and her extraordinary colleagues, Century 1969 takes place almost 60 years after the events of Century 1910, in the psychedelic haze of Swinging London in 1969 - a place where Tadukic Acid Diethylamide 26 is the drug of choice and where different underworlds are starting to overlap dangerously to an accompaniment of sit-ins and sitars.

Alan Moore’s a funny one. The creator of such awesomeness as V for Vendetta and Watchmen, he’s probably one of the comic industry’s most sacred cows, in that very little he does is disliked by many. Granted, he tends to distance himself from the adaptations of his various works, but in the case of the Watchmen downloadable video games, it’s not hard to understand his need to do so.

However, there seems to be this feeling among a lot of comic fans that Alan Moore is incapable of writing a bad story, and that it is only when these stories are expanded into other media that the proverbial shit coats the fan in its presence. I’d argue to those people that while he maybe has never written a terrible story, it is generally pretty implausible that anyone can write with 100% success their entire career. If they need an example, I need only show them this volume.

Don’t get me wrong. There are things to like about this story, drawing in characters familiar to those who follow the LXG story threads, particularly (obviously) the first edition of the Century storyline. The artwork is really well done, with bright colours contrasted against dismal greys and beiges, used to great effect to differentiate between moods and setting. It’s just that the story is…alright.

That’s it. The story is Ok. It doesn’t enthral, and at times is paced agonisingly slowly. Moreover, and most tellingly, the story is simply forgettable, and indeed I required a couple of reads before I was able to retain the events that had transpired in the comic long enough to write this review down in the first place. For those interested in nudity, however, (and that goes for danglies of all genders), you’re well represented in this volume as there is absolutely bloody tons of it. From boobies to ballsacks, to scenes of graphic sex (literally – graphics having sex), there’s nudity in all its glory.

Ultimately, while it’s a fun enough read once, there’s not much point in having it in your collection unless you’re either an absolute LXG completist or you worship the very ground that Alan Moore walks on, in which case have at it and enjoy. Otherwise, though, there’s better works of his out there.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating
Violence: Tons of murders, and lots of supernatural goings on.
Sex/Nudity: Tons of it. Female and male nudity, with genitals explicitly shown. It’s drawn, though, so it’s fine.
Swearing: Appropriate to the time period. A few F-bombs and the like, but nothing that seems out of place or gratuitous (certainly in comparison to the nudity).
Summary: An engaging, if somewhat forgettable, read that is probably best suited to those die-hards who believe that Alan Moore can do no wrong. 6/10


In the Middle Ages, the bloodthirsty St. Nicholas murdered his way across the country before beign burned to death in his ship. This Christmas, the bishop will rise from the dead to slaughter as many children as possible.

Thanks to our friends at Metrodome Group, we've got three copies of Saint on DVD to give away! For your chance of winning, send your name and full postal address to emotionally14@hotmail.co.uk before midday on Tuesday 22nd November, making sure to put "Saint" as the subject. The first three entries out of the electronic hat after the competition closes will receive a copy of this awesome DVD!

Don't forget to put "Saint" in the subject line. Incorrectly labelled or blank entries will be discarded.

Saint is available now, courtesy of Metrodome Group.

Entries limited to one per household. Offer open only to postal addresses in the UK and Ireland.

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