The Bell at Sealey Head ★★★★★

bellatsealeyhead (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: The Bell at Sealey Head
Series: ———-
Author: Patricia McKillip
Rating: 5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 245
Words: 71K

 

Synopsis:

From Wikipedia

The small ocean town of Sealey Head has long been haunted by a phantom bell that tolls as evening falls. The sound is so common that many of the town’s inhabitants do not even notice it, let alone questions its existence. Ridley Dow, a scholar from the city, comes to investigate the mystery, and sets up residence at the old inn owned by a young man named Judd and his ailing father. To aid Ridley, Judd enlists the help of his friend and love-interest Gwyneth, a young woman who writes her own stories to explain the bell.

On the other side of town is the ancient manor Aislinn House, whose owner, Lady Eglantine, lies dying. Emma, a servant in the house, is able to open doors that lead not into another room, but into another world. On the other side of Aislinn House’s doors is castle where the princess Ysabo moves through her daily rituals, tasks that Ysabo hates and does not understand, but cannot question. While Emma and Ysabo are able to speak to one another, neither has ever tried to cross into the other’s realm.

When Lady Eglantine’s heir Miranda Beryl comes to Aislinn House, Sealey Head’s secrets begin to reveal themselves, sometimes with dangerous consequences. Miranda brings to Sealey Head an entourage of friends from the city, as well as a strange assistant. As the town gets pulled deeper into the strange magic that Ridley, Judd, Gwyneth, and Emma uncover, Ridley breaches the border between Aislinn House and Ysabo’s world. It is only when the bell’s location and owner are discovered that Aislinn House and all of Sealey Head are able to return to safety.

 

My Thoughts:

I so enjoyed the time I spent reading this. While my reads in March were pretty cool, there is just something about McKillip’s writing that soothes my soul.

Everything I might have to say I’ve said about McKillip before. I’m not going to repeat it ad nauseum. Beautiful language, highly recommended, go read it.

You Are Welcome.

★★★★★

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

Lightning ★★★★☆

lightning (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Lightning
Series: ———-
Author: Dean Koontz
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 533
Words: 145K

 

Synopsis:

Wikipedia and Me

As Laura Shane is born in January 1955, during a freak lightning storm, a mysterious blond stranger (Stefan) prevents a drunken Dr. Paul Markwell from attending to the difficult and complicated delivery. Her mother dies in childbirth, though Laura is a perfectly healthy, exceptionally beautiful baby, and she is left to be raised by her father Bob Shane. When Laura is eight years old, a junkie attempts to rob her father’s convenience store; however the blond stranger reappears, saving them both and instructing them on what to tell the police. In 1967, Bob Shane dies of a heart attack. At her father’s funeral Laura sees the stranger watching over her yet again and begins to think he is her guardian angel, along with an unnamed man calling for her when she tries to follow him.

Laura is sent to live in the McIlroy orphanage, where she is housed with a set of twins, Thelma and Ruth, who later become her best friends. She also meets Willy Sheener, a frightening child molester who is also the maintenance man and custodian. Willy becomes infatuated with Laura due to her uncommonly good looks, haunting her wherever she goes in the orphanage. However, due to past experience the twins warn Laura that reporting Sheener, also known as “The White Eel” or “Eel” for short, will do more harm than good. Laura is eventually sent to live with a foster family that exploits her, so she purposely behaves badly and they send her back to the orphanage. After several disturbing incidents, her mysterious angel visits Sheener and brutally beats him. This scares him off for some time, until Laura is sent to live with the Dockwielers, with whom she quickly forms a bond. Sheener comes to their home one afternoon; Laura is able to fend him off and eventually kill him, but the shock of discovering the scene causes her new foster mother to suffer a fatal heart attack, sending Laura back to the orphanage. Shortly thereafter, Laura turns 13 and is moved to another orphanage for older children, and receives the devastating news that Ruth was caught in a fire in McIlroy and died.

At college, Laura’s creative writing brings her to the attention of Danny, a naive man who has fallen in love with her from afar. After a botched attempt at being her secret admirer they agree to date and over time, fall in love. After their marriage Laura becomes a celebrated author of several books and gives birth to a boy, Christopher Robert. The birth was difficult, making it so she will not be able to have any children in the future.

Years later, Danny, Laura and Chris are saved from a horrific accident by the blond man’s (revealed to be named Stefan) intervention. The unnamed man shows up moments later. Both Danny and the blond man attack but Danny dies of several gunshot wounds, before Stefan kills the man and tells Laura what to say, like years ago at the grocery store. He promises to return soon and tell more, but due to mistakes, he doesn’t return until a year later, wounded, in an isolated stretch of winter woods. Laura and Chris are able to treat him at a doctor they locate in the phone book, but must battle unknown assassins shortly thereafter.

The group hides out in a small motel. Stefan recovers and finally tells his story. He was born in 1909, making him 35 years old. He is from Nazi Germany in the year 1944, and is part of secret time traveling experiments, sending agents to the future to uncover ways to change the outcome of World War II. Stefan had previously arrived in an alternate version of 1984 and had seen Laura, who was a quadriplegic because of Dr. Markwell’s drunken errors during her delivery. However, despite her disability, she wrote beautiful books of poetry which inspired Stefan to renounce his mission, and travel to difficult parts of her life to change them. However, his superior Kokoschka became suspicious of him and followed him, sending the assassins into the future to learn of their path.

With the help of Thelma, who has become rich as a comedienne and actress since her sister’s death, they gain many supplies they need. Fat Jack, an arms dealer, supplies them with guns and Vexxon nerve gas. With the aid of modern computational technology, Stefan is prepared to go back to his time. He uses the nerve gas to kill the five men on duty at the time and disposes their bodies six billion years in the future. He makes a jump to see Winston Churchill and convinces him that the institute containing the time machine must be bombed; Churchill agrees. Stefan also makes a trip to Adolf Hitler, to convince the dictator of various threads that must be cleared up, in reality sabotaging the German war effort.

While he is gone, Laura and Chris, in an empty patch of rain washed desert, are attacked by more Nazis, as records of a police stop have been discovered. Stefan returns to find Laura and Chris dead. He works around the time limit of the machine by sending Laura a message to save them. Despite this, Chris and Laura still have to battle all four men themselves. The second cylinder of nerve gas proves invaluable. It is Laura who eventually kills all four men pursuing them, as she protects Chris as best she can. In the long months that follow, Laura and Chris are questioned by the police. They soon believe a story of ‘drug dealers’ who wanted revenge. Laura backs up her story by turning over Fat Jack, something she was going to do anyway (he does not blame her, due to his personal beliefs). Stefan, who had been hiding with Thelma, comes to live with the two again. After even more time, Laura finds herself falling in love with him.

The book ends with Stefan realizing that a throw-away comment he made to Winston Churchill had lead to the downfall of the Soviet Union in this world and that this is now the “real world”, the World That Was Meant To Be.

 

My Thoughts:

This book was published in 1988 and the Terminator movie was released in 1984. Considering my thoughts about Koontz and the Terminator franchise in my Hell’s Gate Review I’ve realized that the idea comes from Koontz first, and it is also something he simply cannot “not” write about. Every story he writes usually has some sort of either time traveling or alternate reality traveling.

I think this was my most enjoyable Koontz so far, beyond Odd Thomas of course. This was also one of his longest books yet. Like I said in my Quote post, this felt like Koontz was at the top of his game when he was writing this. With this being slightly longer than his normal book, Koontz doesn’t have to rush the ending, which is one flaw of his that he doesn’t seem to see as a flaw in most of his books. I was thankful for that, as it made finishing the book more enjoyable.

Now, while I enjoyed this a lot, there was some subject matter that needs to be talked about, as it could be a real problem for people. Laura was “fated” to either be crippled or raped as a child. There are two times where she is almost child raped but her protector Stefan steps in and keeps it from happening and while nothing happens, the very idea that it “could” happen was just very disturbing. It definitely was NOT a Lolita style of story plot, but the simple inclusion of it really disturbed me. Thankfully Koontz never gets graphic, but he also doesn’t shy away from his characters stating what they plan to do to Laura. So just be aware of that particular subject matter.

I mentioned the non-rush ending, which is not typical of Koontz and how much I liked that. What I REALLY liked however was how Koontz slips in a “better” future that was “meant to be”, one without a Soviet Union. I never saw that outcome coming and seeing how he wrote it into the storyline was cool. I just smiled at how he uses time travel and the rules he sets up.

I’d recommend this book as long as you handle the tension of child Laura being in real danger.

★★★★☆

 

bookstooge (Custom)

Hell’s Gate ★★★☆☆

hellsgate (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Hell’s Gate
Series: ———-
Author: Dean Koontz
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 190
Words: 68K

 

Synopsis:

Victor Salsburys awakes with almost no memories and a voice in his head telling him what to do. Without emotion and almost no control, Victor obeys and kills a man, who looks just like him. Wondering what is going on, Victor follows the instructions of the voice and finds a cave and falls asleep.

Waking up 2 weeks later, Victor moves into a house in a small town. He seems to have shaken off whatever control the unseen voices had over him but he is filled with knowledge that he doesn’t know how he owns. He IS Victor Salsbury but he appears to also be something else, something stronger, faster and smarter. Victor is attacked one night by an automaton that uses weaponry Victor instinctively understands. However, Victor is wounded and is nursed back to health by the young woman who sold him the house. Victor also saw a glowing portal through the attacker came and behind that portal were beings of demonic visage.

One of Victor’s pieces of luggage turns out to be a super computer and tells him that he is an experiment from the far future where Earth and all alternate Earth’s have been conquered by the beings Victor saw. Victor is humanity’s last chance at destroying the machinery that allows the creatures to travel across the multiverse. Victor must cross the portal, make his way to Earth Prime and destroy the starship base where the demons live.

He succeed with the help of other alternate Earth humans and returns to the girl and lives happily ever after.

 

My Thoughts:

Funny thing about Koontz. Even though he re-uses the same ideas over and over, he re-uses them in different combinations so that no story is the same. We have the name Victor, proto-flesh that doesn’t bleed, inimical beings that want to destroy our world, etc. And it is a completely new story.

I had to wonder if James Cameron read this before he made the Terminator movie. While I was reading this I had to look up the published date (it was 1970 by the way) because so many of the things reminded me of the Terminator. A soldier returned to the past, portals that could only pass certain materials through, unstoppable killing machines that were vaguely humanoid. It wasn’t a play by play but the similarities were enough that it raised questions in my mind. The ending is as rushed as ever, or maybe I should say Koontz rushes the ending and has never stopped that practice even in his books today?

And yet, while I complain about stuff and only give this 3 stars, I have no intention (as of yet anyway) of stopping my reading of books by Koontz. I still enjoy them even while acknowledging their inherent weaknesses. I guess that makes him a good author? Facepalm

Oh, and that cover? It really does look like that. It is the weirdest thing ever.

★★★☆☆

 

bookstooge (Custom)

Warlock ★★★☆☆

warlock (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Warlock
Series: ———-
Author: Dean Koontz
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 221
Format: Digital Scan

 

Synopsis:

The Darklands, a loose coalition of city states presided over by General Dark, have been at war with the Orogonians, led by the tyrant Justin Matabain. There have been credible reports that the Orogonians have breached the Mountains and found the fabled land filled with technology left over before The Blank, a time of crisis 1,000 years ago.

General Dark sends a small detachment led by his most trusted Captain to Shaker Sandow. Shakers are powerful men with powers beyond the normal. They need the Shaker and his 2 apprentices to help them find this Orogonian outpost and take it for themselves, or at worst, deny it to both sides. Before the expedition even starts out though, 20 men are murdered in their beds and the 3 Shakers are set upon. Thus they all realize that the Orogonians have some spies within their midsts.

On their journey to cross the mountains and find the fabled city of treasures, the spies kill almost half the group before being revealed themselves. But they aren’t human. They are wire worm things inhabiting the bodies of their hosts and taking over. They are dealt with and killed.

Once over the mountains, the Darklanders must deal with Orogonians who have made use of such technology as airplanes and guns. Shaker Sandow uses his powers to find an unused entrance into the city where the remaining Darklanders fall victim to the descendants of genetically modified humans inhabiting the bodies of massive blue apes.

Turns out the apes were just incapacitating them all to be on the safe side, since the Orogonians had been treacherous and tried to kill all the apes. They all team up, wipe out the Orogonians in the city, take a super-submarine back to their land and wipe out most of the Tyrant’s stores of technology and his castle where he lived, thus hopefully wiping him out.

Shaker Sandow and his apprentices realize they have brought the potential for unending war back to life and envision a time when all the Shakers can come together and lead the world into a utopia of peace and knowledge.

 

My Thoughts:

This was written in 1972. It reminded me a LOT of John Christopher’s middle grade series The Sword of the Spirits trilogy that was released in 1970. Post-apocalyptic Earth with humanity rising again. Koontz is a bit more on the positive side though, with his ending foreseeing a return to the stars and a Utopia established. I did have to roll my eyes because the idea is predicated on the “fact” that knowledge alone will temper humanities’ worst impulses. Koontz has definitely bought into the Religion of Scyenze in this book. Sadly, Hitler, an extremely educated man, really taught that Generation nothing.

A decent story with some action but I didn’t feel any of the tension that I think Koontz meant to inhabit the pages. Part of that is I’m a widely read reader so nothing of this is new any more and I’ve read enough Koontz to know what he likes to write about. He likes to write about new flesh that is super in some way and while not an exact replication of that idea, the wire worms taking over the bodies were as close as could be gotten.

In regards to that “widely read reader”, there was a small section of the story where the darklanders came across an oasis of jungle land that was converted all to crystals of various kinds, ie, rubies, diamonds, sapphires, etc. Plants, animals, all turned to jewels. It immediately made me think of JG Ballard’s short story, The Illuminated Man from his Complete Short Stories Collection. That was published at least in 1964 and I’m sure Koontz “used” the idea because he thought it was cool. However, as a reader, it came across as”I don’t have enough of my own ideas so I’ll use somebody else’s to pad my own story”. That can be a fine line. Sometimes it is cool to see an idea recycled from one author to another and sometimes it really isn’t cool.

Overall, I’d call this a decent story. While it lacked the pizzazz and tension I prefer, it also didn’t end on a “pull it out of a hat” ending that I’ve experienced with some of Koontz’s other stories.

★★★☆☆

 

bookstooge (Custom)

Od Magic ★★★★★

odmagic (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Od Magic
Series: ———-
Author: Patricia McKillip
Rating: 5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 328
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

Brenden Vetch saved most of his village from the plague but he couldn’t save his parents. He learned the magic of plants all on his own and now he wanders, listening to what the plants tell him. One day a woman named Od appears before him and tells him to go to her school in the big city, as she needs a gardener. He’ll know the entrance by the sign with the boot on it. Sick at heart and ready for a change, Brenden goes and finds the door. He enters, meets a wizard and finds out that only very special people ever find the door with the boot on it. All the other students enter through the front gate.

The King of the city, and his ancestors, started the school in honor of Od when she saved the kingdom hundreds of years ago. Slowly they have usurped its powers and decreed that only magic they control is allowed.

A wandering magician enters the city, only to entertain. But circumstances set the king off so he sets his own wizards on the trail of the magician to either control him or remove him and his troupe (said magician performs magics of illusions for the crowds) from the city.

At the same time the princess is to be married off to the head wizard, a man who is controlled completely by the rules of magic that the kings have set up. When she realizes this wizard will never allow her her own small magics taught her by her grandmother, she runs away to find the wandering magician to learn outside magic and to gain her freedom. This sets the King off even more.

At the same time Brenden accidentally shows what he is capable of to the head wizard. Realizing what he has done, Brenden runs away. The Head Wizard chases after him.

Everybody ends up in the North Country where there are 8 Stumps, which are beings of immeasurable power but who are afraid of humanity. Turns out Od is their representative to Humanity so they can all co-exist. Brenden must help the human magicians look beyond the limits they’ve set for themselves so that they won’t be afraid of unknown magic.

 

My Thoughts:

This hit the spot. I really needed a good book after the stinkers I had last week. I slid right into the rhythm of the story like sliding into silk pajamas. My mind and senses felt caressed by the writing. It was just plain soothing.

There was a LOT going on. Brenden’s story, the wandering Magician, the Princess, the Stumps, Od herself, and all of the side characters swept along by each of the main characters. In a good way, it was easy to lose myself in the story. But I never felt like McKillip lost a thread or made a mistep there. Each character was balanced within the overarching plot and at no time did I ever feel like a particular point of view was too long or too short. It just flowed together perfectly.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, every sentence of it. I had no issues with anything, well except maybe for wishing it was slightly longer, but I feel that way about every McKillip book. Of course, she writes just the right amount for the story she is telling.

If you haven’t started to read McKillip’s body of work by now, then nothing I can say will galvanize you. You won’t get any contempt from me, just pity. And trust me, getting pitied by me means you’re pretty low on the totem pole…

★★★★★

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

Time Thieves ★★★☆☆

timethieves (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Time Thieves
Series: ———-
Author: Dean Koontz
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 146
Format: Digital Scan

 

Synopsis:

Peter Mullion wakes up sitting in his car in his garage and can’t remember a thing about how he got there. He knows he went to his cabin to work on it, but that is it. When his wife comes home and sees him, she tells him he’s been missing for 3 weeks! Peter sets out to investigate just what happened to him.

Unfortunately, he’s having trouble counting or keeping track of time or even where he is. He loses his way one day in his office building and when he comes to his wife tells him he’s been missing again, for several days. Peter sees the same man watching him, at a restaurant, at home, wherever he turns, there he is. Peter and his wife Delia head up to the mountain cabin to see if that holds any clues. They find the cabin painted, which means Peter was there. However, upon further examination, it appears that the painting was done less than a day ago, not weeks ago like it should have. Peter’s paranoia isn’t so misplaced after all.

One night Peter begins hearing voices and he realizes he can hear other people’s thoughts. Peter ends up in communication with an alien being, who has been spying on him using its robot servants. Peter flees, honing his mental skills. During a cat and mouse game, he destroys the minds of the robots. Now he just has to deal with the aliens.

The aliens mentally kidnap his wife and tell Peter that they accidentally killed him 3 weeks ago. They rebuilt him but due to them not being familiar with human biology, accidentally gave him telepathy. They say Humanity isn’t ready for that and they just want to take that ability away from Peter. No harm, no violence, just remove a mistake that they made. Peter refuses and tells them every single human is alone and that they shouldn’t be. Peter kills the aliens, who are pacifists at heart and he and Delia go off to live a happy life, spreading telepathy to all and sundry like corn kernels to chickens.

 

My Thoughts:

First, that cover has ZERO to do with this story. There is no sexy woman with a ray gun, Peter doesn’t dress up like a ninja and crouch on a mountain and the UFO is only talked about. It’s actually parked inside a mountain for the whole book.

The title only makes sense if you consider the aliens to have stolen time from Peter when he went missing those several times. They can’t actually manipulate time. I kept waiting for that right up until almost the end of the book.

The tension was pretty high for most of the book and I liked that. Koontz kept me edgy and wondering just what was going to happen.

My issues came down to the fact that Peter killed the aliens because they were going to take something back that had been given by mistake. His life was not in danger, his wife’s life was not in danger but Peter had something and he wasn’t going to give it up. The justification given is because of how much Peter loves Delia, but that just rang false. He was an adult who knew enough about how Humanity would use such a gift and he was even told that it would spread but he chose to keep it anyway. It almost felt like Koontz was writing about a modern Adam and Eve, but ones that weren’t deceived into eating the forbidden fruit but ones who willfully chose to take and eat such a fruit. Even “love” can be corrupted and that is really applicable in this day and age with every idiot bleating about “love” all the time but having no concrete concept of what Love actually is.

My kindle had this at about 140 pages. I think the paperback runs around 100, so either way, it was a short little novel bordering on the novella. I wasn’t expecting a mind blowing experience and I wasn’t disappointed. On the other hand, I wasn’t disappointed. Glad I read this but don’t plan on ever reading it again.

I am thinking of adding an author’s name as a tag to any series of books that don’t have a series associating them together. I’ve been doing that with Dickens and I’m going to start now with Koontz. I will have to decide if I want to start that with every book or not. The problem with NOT doing it for every author is then remembering which authors I AM doing it for. But if I do it for every author then my tag cloud is going to grow humongously, even more ridiculous than it already is. Do any of you have any thoughts or opinions or anecdotes or experience to shed some light on this issue?

★★★☆☆

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

Cowl

11324205Cowl
by Neal Asher
SF
Ebook, 336 Pages
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

 

Confusing start and lots of scientific’y talk about time travel and chronal possibility, blah blah blah.

It comes down to lots of fighting and people killing things and each other.

I liked this more than Asher’s The Departure., but not as much as the Polity Universe.