All posts by Gavin

Behind Her Eyes – Sarah Pinborough (Kendall Review)

Sarah Pinborough is a critically acclaimed, award-winning, adult and YA author of over 20 novels. She is also a screenwriter who has written for the BBC and has several original television projects in development. Her latest adult novel, Behind Her Eyes (HarperCollins), is a Sunday Times best seller, promoted with a strong emphasis on a twist ending that promises to catch you out. #WTFthatending

 

You know when you first heard M. Night Shayamalan’s The Sixth Sense had a twist ending? It wasn’t really something you wanted to hear was it? Your viewing experience would be tainted, it would never be as the Director intended. Well, sadly for me, as well as finding out that the movie had a twist, I was even told, somewhat spitefully, what the twist was! I’ve never forgiven that person! I would never experience the  big reveal, as intended about Dr. Malcolm Crowe (Bruce Willis). I feel exactly the same about books, I wasn’t too keen on being told that Behind Her Eyes had a twist. But strong word of mouth, and the fact I have enjoyed some of the authors earlier work, I picked up the latest novel from Sarah Pinborough, knowing nothing but #WTFthatending. It was me against the author, was the story going to hold up to the hype of the ending? Would she be able to outfox me?

The story’s told from two perspectives, the first is Adele, the beautiful wife of David, a psychiatrist, who have moved to London for a fresh start. The second is Louise, a single mother who meets and kisses a man in a bar. She later discovers, to her horror, that the man will be her  boss in the new job she is about to start. Adele and Louise literally bump into each other one day and develop a friendship. They are so good for each other, this is the friend that Louise so desperately wanted since her marriage broke up. The problem is, Louise has continued her relationship with David, who it turns out is Adeles husband. In being friends with Adele she is now aware of problems in her marriage to David, problems that suggest David is not the man Louise thinks he is.

Saying much more will spoil the delights Sarah Pinborough has laid out for you. The writing is punchy, with short chapters that help towards the ‘just one more’ form of reading. I felt like I was on a hook, being  reeled in towards the books infamous twist, I was totally under Pinboroughs control, the books pacing was spot on. I’m delighted to say that knowing there was a twist didn’t detract from the story at all. In fact I was so engrossed in the story that the twist was almost forgotten due to what was developing on the page. As for the twist, I would be very surprised if anyone guessed the ending,  I thought I was very close at one point, but then Pinborough whipped the rug from under me, but I didn’t feel cheated, it was a proper ending, a fantastic conclusion to a wonderfully dark story of obsession. I was smiling like a lunatic as I closed the book, the ending did match up to the hype for me, Sarah Pinborough really should be applauded for that. Subtle clues litter  the book, but it’s only once finished, you can think back and reflect on how cunning Pinborough has been in creating this twisted story.

One of the best books I have read in a while.

Star Rating (out of 5): 5*****

I eagerly anticipate the next novel from Sarah Pinborough.

 

 

 

 

Resident Evil 7 – Biohazard [Playthrough Day 4] (Kendall Review)

Today marks Day 4 of my Resident Evil 7 – Biohazard play through. Will the scares be back as I edge closer to the games finale? Well, there is only one way I can find out…

BEWARE! STORY SPOILERS!

 Mia is now aware of Ethans location within the ship and heads off to find him. To do this she needs to solve a variety of puzzles to get the lift working and to gain access to keys and a machine gun.  This is now very much in the style of Resident Evil.  Using the reactivated lift, Mia descends into the very depths of the ship, evading enemies and adding to her inventory. Ethan is found trapped in the black matter that Eveline generates. Prior to Mia breaking  him free, Ethan has a vision of Jack Baker in his normal human form. In this vision Jack tells of how he found Eveline wandering out in the swamps. He took her in as one of his own, only for her to start using some power over them that they had no control over. He begs Ethan to kill Eveline, in doing so any hold she has over his family will be broken. In a twist, Mia frees Ethan from his restraints only to push him out of a door and locking him out. Through the door window, Ethan can see Mia start to transform again, she screams at him that he must go and kill Eveline, to end this horror.

In leaving the ship, Ethan is now back out in the swamp. He must follow a path through to a lift, that will take him down into a salt mine. Progression through the mine is occasionally hindered by the occasional enemy, but there is nothing too taxing and Ethan will eventually make it to a laboratory. It’s here that Ethan can conveniently create the E-Necrotoxin, the only thing that can stop Eveline. Moving deeper into the mine with the E-Necrotoxin, sees Ethan attacked by a lot more enemies of varying difficulty, but nothing that the excessive amount of remote mines lying around can’t solve. The end of the mine sees Ethan find a ladder that he climbs to find himself back in the basement of the Baker House!

For me, this following section was back to what the game did best, there was so much atmosphere. Essentially, Ethan is walking about the house triggering flashbacks, there is no combat nor real puzzle solving. You were back in the creepy old house, and the tension was rising. Loved it! It’s only after triggering 5 or so of these flashbacks that you find yourself in the attic with Eveline. It’s here you block her attacks and administer the E-Necrotoxin. Eveline ages dramatically and turns into the woman in the wheelchair who  I assumed was the Bakers Grandmother. She screams, and melts into the floor, only to reappear as a giant face at the back of the room. All Ethan needs to do is unload as much weaponry in her as quickly as possible to beat her. If you fail, you die in a scene that immediately reminded me of the following scene from Nightmare On Elm Street 3…

If you do die, the game gives you a chance to reevaluate your inventory and to load up on fire power. I used a combination of Grenade Launchers and Machine Gun. After damaging her enough, you are thrown out of the building and see the Eveline mutation burst out after you. She has tentacles that attack you and  are also used to cover her face, the weak spot!

This sequence was a bit of a let down, it’s essentially a QTE! You need to fire at her face a few times, after which a new scene triggers that sees you able to conveniently grab a new weapon, which you can use to ultimately defeat Eveline.  Chris Redfield appears who takes you back to an Umbrella helicopter, which also has an injured Mia in it.

So there you have it! Day 4 saw me complete the game in just over 12 hours.

I would absolutely recommend this game to anyone, especially fans of the series. For all its promises in the very misleading demo, this is absolutely a Resident Evil game, not some massive reinvention (bar the perspective). The first few hours were absolutely the games best moments, I was on the edge of my seat, seriously considering if I should be playing with the lights on. Maybe in playing you get desensitised to the effects of the scares, but I’m not so sure this is the case.  Was the opening psychological horror of the game only added at the last minute? Spliced into a pre existing Resident Evil game? For me there does seem to be a fairly obvious split from the opening few hours where you are fearful of even looking round a corner in the dark, to brazenly running about like you are in an episode of Challenge Anneka. Running from A to B, solving a puzzle then back to A again. Enemies in the mid section of the game seemed underpowered, they weren’t a threat. Once you figure you can run past them, that’s all you did. They even oddly disappear permanently if you enter certain rooms, which is handy yet daft. Whilst I’m focussing on problems with the game, there were a few moments of annoyingly convenient plotting. So convenient, even in the heat of battle I was rolling my eyes, thinking ‘as if’  (The end game mega weapon , the lab with the E-Necrotoxin) The relationship between Ethan and Mia was oddly written, they are a married couple yet  it was so underplayed, Ethans lack of reaction to finally finding Mia after she was missing for three years, presumed dead, was odd.

Negatives aside, this was great fun to play. As I said back on Day 1, I’ve not played a RE title for years, and this pulled me right in from the start, although not the game I was expecting it to be, this is a fantastic reboot of a series that appears to have been struggling.

I have high hopes for the next chapter in the Resident Evil series.

Star Rating (out of 5): 4****

Resident Evil 7 – Biohazard [Playthrough Day 3]

As I was about to start my this, my third session with Resident Evil 7, I was in an apprehensive mood. Day 2, for me, lost a lot of the factors that made the game initially so enjoyable. Would Day 3 ramp up the scares?

BEWARE! STORY SPOILERS!

In a phone conversation with Lucas, the Baker’s son, it’s been revealed he has captured both Mia and Zoe. It’s up to Ethan to try to rescue them, he uses two key cards he had found earlier to unlock the next stage of the game.

The game really does have a change of pace here, now you are negotiating trip wires that will set off explosions if triggered.  Working your way through the level, mindful that Lucas has booby-trapped nearly everything in the building, you end up in a large barn. Here Ethan manages to outsmart Lucas by defeating the monster sent in to kill him, and so activating a lift that will take him out of the barn and back to near the entrance where an initially locked door can now be opened,. The next challenge is somewhat reminiscent of the movie Saw, various tasks need completing in a certain order so Ethan can escape, get the order wrong and Ethan dies in a pretty unpleasant way. I really wanted more of these challenges, but it sadly appears there is only the one.

Malicious traps bypassed, Ethan can now progress to the room where both Mia and Zoe are being help captive, he cuts them free and with Zoes help using the items found earlier, creates two doses of the serum. It’s at this point that a heavily mutated Jack bursts into the room and attacks. This was an enjoyable battle, that wasn’t too long nor difficult. The main problem with the fight was that you had to use one of the serum to kill Jack off. Ethan has a decision to make.

I chose to give Mia the serum, (she was Ethans partner after all), I will replay the game and chose Zoe next time to see if the choice changes gameplay. Zoe stays behind at the Baker house, with Ethan and Mia leaving on a small boat. They say they will send help, but Zoe exclaims there is no point,  as everyone will be dead. After a brief time, they come across a shipwrecked tanker, before they can really take in what it was doing there,  Eveline (a girl mentioned in passing throughout the game and who Ethan had several flashbacks about , mostly when he was approaching the altar in Day 2’s play through), attacks, and knocks Ethan out!

Here the game switches, you are now controlling Mia.  As Mia makes here way around she climbs up onto the ship, she keeps having visions of Eveline, who calls her Mother. She also has visions of the ship before its shipwreck. Had she been on the boat before? Who was this girl? With more puzzle solving and item gathering completed, Mia, having followed Eveline through the boat finds herself in a room with the girl. Mia’s asked to watch a video tape, the girl tells her it will help her to remember.

As the tape plays out, it’s revealed that Mia is actually a covert operative working for an unnamed corporation that was developing Eveline as a biological weapon. It was Mias job to oversee the girls transfer from the US to Central America. Typically, this went wrong, with Eveline escaping and wrecking the ship. In trying to force Mia to accept that she is her mother, Eveline infects her.

The tape finishes and Eveline disappears. Mia continues to explore the ship, she finds the bridge and here gains access to the security camera system, flicking through the various cameras, she see Ethan. She now knows what deck he is on, and heads off to find him.

Day 3 consisted of about 3 hours gameplay. I stopped at a point that seemed a natural lull in the action before I head into, what I’m assuming will be, the finale.

This game now feels very much like Resident Evil. Yes, the puzzles are dead easy, there is still the backtracking required to progress, but it’s great fun. I was initially disappointed that the über scary gameplay didn’t continue (maybe we will see this return in another title), but as the game has progressed I’ve consistently found myself enjoying the ride as the Baker family try to wipe me out.

I’m roughly 8 hours in and approaching the games climax. I’ve quite liked how they have tied this into the Resident Evil universe (I would question how Ethan is unaware of Mias profession though. I’m hoping for an explanation later).  I’m already thinking about another play through, first to see if giving the serum to Zoe changes anything, plus a fair few collectibles still need collecting.

I think there will be one session left to complete Resident Evil 7 – Biohazard, I’ll post an update once finished. 

Resident Evil 7 – Biohazard [Playthrough Day 2]

A couple of hours into the brand new installment of the Resident Evil series, I was really enjoying myself. Cautiously peeking round corners, reserving ammo and occasionally jumping six-foot in the air whilst trying to get my nerves back under control. This was great fun…would the next gaming session bring the same rewards?

BEWARE! STORY SPOILERS!

As Ethans investigation continues, Zoe provides more information, first, Mia is still alive! Problem is, she has the same infection as the Bakers. Secondly, Zoe wants to escape from the Bakers clutches, but before they can leave they need to find a cure. This comes in the form of a special serum, the ingredients for which are back in the house, and here lies the next part of Ethans story. Back in the house, Ethan rediscovers, and manages to evade Jack, who is back and looking pissed off! Continued exploration reveals plenty of puzzles and items for his inventory. Deeper into the house now and finding himself in a morgue (every house should have one!), Ethan spots the last dogs head puzzle piece hanging from chains. Obviously a trap, Ethan grabs the head only for Jack to reappear behind him and kick him down to the level below. Body bags are hanging from the ceiling, Jack jumps down to eventually pull out a giant chainsaw which opens like scissors. he attacks Ethan with great ferocity. Fortunately there is another, smaller, standard chainsaw available for Ethan to grab. And so begins a chainsaw battle that should have excited, but in reality was somewhat annoying as it mostly relied on button mashing. Eventually, you realise that the regenerative effects are much quicker on Jacks flesh wounds,  lunging with the chainsaw and causing  deep tissue damage is now the way to go! This is wonderfully gory and resulted in an amusing pay off where just Jacks lower body was, albeit briefly, walking about, the rest of him a bloody pulp. Finally, with all three of the puzzle pieces in his possession, Ethan returns to the Main Hall and unlocks the door to go out into the yard.

In the yard is a trailer, from here new instructions are issued, two new items are to be discovered. Back inside the house, more investigations and puzzle solving bring you into contact with Marguerite. the reasonably fast paced encounters you had with Jack are now gone, Marguerite offers a stealth based experience. Ethan has to hide a lot and keep out of the light of her lantern. If spotted, Marguerite sends forth a swarm of insects that are a real pain to deal with. Fortunately a make shift flame thrower is very useful for dealing with these bugs. Ethan eventually finds himself in the greenhouse, here Marguerite appears but this time she has mutated, she moves very much like a spider, her arms elongated with growths all over her body. This is a long battle, with lots of different areas for attacks to spring from. Ethan eventually wins through with Marguerite turning to dust leaving her lantern behind. This lantern acts as a puzzle piece to unlock another door that brings you into a very spooky childs bedroom. Investigating the room Ethan discovers an altar, the first of the required items is also here. As you go to leave, another phone call arrives, again it’s Zoe saying they should meet back at the trailer.

Arriving at the trailer triggers another phone call, but not Zoe as expected, it’s Lucas, the Bakers son, he has captured both Mia and Zoe, and if Ethan want to see either of them alive he must find two key cards to gain access to where they are. Again, Ethan heads off into the house to find them.

I stopped playing just after this point. I actually found both the key cards and will be ready to move on and see if I can rescue Mia and Zoe.

Now I’m into the meat of the game, I’m starting to see negatives and positives and feel in more of a place to comment.

The most obvious thing for me is that the game, although remaining fairly tense, has lost a lot of what made it originally scary. This game is starting to feel quite different to the opening two hours I played yesterday. The building tension and dread has now been replaced with an episodic and reasonably scare free experience. Minimal interaction with enemies means I am running about a gorgeous looking, spooky house, with no real sense of jeopardy. The fact you can run away from enemies so easily has made them something to not be fearful of. Any time I have died, it’s been mostly down to an error on my part (running into a corner) and not being outplayed by the enemy.

To summarise, I’m roughly 5 hours in and RE7 is still great fun! But it’s not now matching the expectations set from the first couple of hours gameplay. The story is keeping my interest, but that is now more to see how they are going to tie this all into the RE universe than anything else.  The game has turned into a running from A to B, solving some very easy puzzles and then moving on. There were also a few moments of clipping and characters getting stuck in doors, but nothing game breaking.

There will be more updates as I progress further into the game, with a final review once completed.

Rresident Evil 7 – Biohazard [Playthrough: Day 1]

Arriving a day late from Amazon (cheers Royal Mail) I’m delighted to finally have the new Resident Evil game. Now, I’ll be honest and state I have not played a RE game for years, with the Gamecube version of RE4 being the last title I played. I have no idea what the score is with story development since I last played, but what I had read about RE7 suggests this won’t matter. Excellent, so after a brief software update I was ready to step into the RE universe for the first time in over a decade.

Although now played from a first person perspective this still feels very much like a RE game, the graphics, although much improved, still have a similar style to previous titles. Making me feel right at home was the inventory system, from what I remember it doesn’t seem to of changed at all, items like the first aid kits, herbs and basic weapons are all here present and correct. In classic RE tradition, it was only after I had killed an early enemy with my handgun that I knew that ammunition would also be in short supply. Additionally, it still appears that passing through doors, like in the early games, is the chance for data loading to occur. Loads times thus far have been quick and have not effected gameplay.

BEWARE! STORY SPOILERS!

The games lead is a seemingly normal civilian called Ethan Winters, whose partner, Mia, has been missing for three years and presumed dead. So why has Ethan just received a message from Mia requesting he goes to find her in Louisiana? Upon arrival, Ethan discovers an abandoned farmhouse, which of course he will enter to investigate. Locked in the basement, Ethan finds a dishevelled Mia, who after being freed is desperate to escape the house before ‘Daddy’ finds them. Mia starts to panic, Ethan consoles her and lets her rest whilst he checks out the room next door, returning after hearing a scream, he finds Mia has gone. He has to find her! Deep into the house now, a frenzied Mia appears and attacks Ethan, after a short tussle she’s  overpowered and falls to the floor with a fatal looking wound. A phone rings out in the corridor, Ethan answers, it’s a woman called Zoe who says that there is a way to escape the house via the attic. As Ethan climbs the ladder that leads out of the attic, Mia reappears, she has a demonic appearance and attacks with a chainsaw. Again, Ethan overpowers her and seemingly kills her, but there is no time to relax, Jack Baker, the family Patriarch, appears and knocks Ethan out, the last words he hears from ‘Daddy’… ‘welcome to the family son’

Ethan regains consciousness to find himself tied to a chair at a table, heaving with food. The Baker family are also present, there is Jack, his wife Marguerite , their son Lucas and a woman in a wheelchair, who I’m assuming is the Grandmother. Jack tries to force feed Ethan some of the questionable meat that is on the table. When Ethan refuses, Jack starts to torture him, only stopping when the phone starts ringing. All the family have left the room except the woman in the wheelchair, this is Ethan’s chance to escape. He manages to break free of the chair and sets about trying to get out of the house.  Ethan finds himself on the wrong side of  a locked exterior door. The other side of the door is a police officer, who is investigating a missing persons report, after a brief explanation of whats going on in the house, he oddly gives Ethan a pocket knife and tells him to get to the garage. In the garage, Ethan and police officer face off, only for Jack to appear and kill the officer in a ridiculously gratuitous way. In a very bizarre boss battle involving a car, you face off against Jack.  In defeating Jack, it’s revealed that he and his family all have regenerative abilities, making them seemingly unstoppable. Ethan escapes down into the basement where he receives another phone call from Zoe, (who reveals herself as Jacks daughter) this time telling him he needs to get to the Main Hall.

I stopped playing at this point, with just over 2 hours of gameplay under my belt.

The games main strength is its clever use of sound, the house creaks, you can hear things moving off down corridors just out of sight. There is a constant sense of dread,you are on edge, peeking round corners with only your torchlight leading the way. Fortunately the game (so far) has not relied on cheap  jump scares, although there was one where I nearly leapt 6 foot in the air! One thing I do find odd is that enemies are pretty easy to avoid, I’ve not waited to see if they even give up looking for you, but the chase slowed up so much that I could solve a couple of puzzles and then let the enemy spot me again to resume the chase. If I was ever caught then it was pretty easy to get a kill even with the pocket knife, I’m assuming the difficulty will ramp up considerably once I progress further. Something that has not been difficult so far have been the puzzles, they have been incredibly straight forward.

To summarise, two hours in and RE7 has been great fun! I’m intrigued about the Baker family and why they are like they are. A few odd acting moments aside this game been thoroughly engrossing.

I’ll do an update for each day I play RE7, with a final review once completed.

A few Clive Barker signatures.

As part of my ongoing obsession with all things horror/supernatural, it was inevitable that my path would cross with the mighty Clive Barker. In collecting his work, I have been lucky enough to pick up a few signed items and various rarities over the years.

Most of the personally signed items were given to me whilst I was helping out the then official Clive Barker fan club…Lost Souls

I was given the somewhat grand title of UK correspondent, but seeing as Clive had just relocated to the US my role was somewhat limited. (Just my luck). I was on standby for a while, waiting for a spot of on set reporting for the just announced TV version of Weaveworld, but sadly that didn’t come to anything.

Below is a small sample of my signed Barker collection…

    

  • The Books Of Blood

  • 1993 US Barnes And Noble

  • Beneath The Surface Of Clive Barker’s Abarat

  • 2011 Phil & Sarah Stokes

  • Everville

  • 1994 US Harper Collins First Edition

  • Sacrament

  • 1996 US Harper Collins First Edition

Incarnations

1995 US Harper Collins First Edition

Grimm Woods – D. Melhoff (Kendall Review)

I have been aware of US author D. Melhoff for some time now, with his debut adult novel Come Little Children being recommended to me on several occasions. So in typical fashion, it was his second novel I decided to read first. After all, who could resist a story that promised murder that drew on the ‘grisly, uncensored details of history’s most famous fairy tales‘?

“Every fairy tale has a dark side…”

A remote summer camp becomes a lurid crime scene when the bodies of two teenagers are found in a bloody, real-life rendering of a classic Grimm’s fairy tale. Trapped in the wilderness, the remaining counselors must follow a trail of dark children’s fables to outwit a psychopath and save the dwindling survivors before falling prey to their own gruesome endings.

Camp Crownheart, is a fairy tale themed summer camp for troubled children.  Counselors with a mixture of experience have arrived a day before the camp opens, to get to know each other and to understand how the camp works and it’s rules.  The introductions have this old school vibe, the counselors are all about 19 years old, there is the obvious mix of male, female, race and class. Their focus is more on the first night party with the promise of sex and drugs and not learning how to keep the next busload of kids safe. The men are obviously mostly looking for a good time, and it seems a lot of the girls are  thinking the same. Crownheart, in my mind’s eye is  looking and feeling like Friday The 13’s Camp Crystal, its in woodland, by a lake, you have a bunch of sexually active, drug taking, beer swilling teenagers,  you know murder is obviously on the agenda. I’m a huge fan of the 80’s slasher genre, so the stereo-typical characters in a familiar horror setting didn’t bother me at all. The writing is fast paced, with a style that initially keeps me interested, Melhoff had me in his pocket, I’m now sitting here waiting for the mayhem to start. With the story about to kick off in earnest, the author references something modern, I found that jarring. Hang on, I thought this was the 80’s! This was working perfectly as an homage, everything in my head was ready for ’85. Attitudes were rightly or wrongly different 30 years ago, now those somewhat sleazy comments made about the girls seemed wrong, the drug references move from the classic movie stoner to something darker, it was a shift in tone I didn’t appreciate.

I don’t want to spoil anything about this book, but again in classic 80’s slasher style, the first deaths are inexplicably dismissed,  the camp is kept open, as closing  would ‘hurt the hundreds of kids that are due to arrive’. The indifference to these deaths from all parties seems odd, it makes a large proportion of  the characters unlikable. As the book progresses and more deaths occur, characters are still acting oddly, with one lead still maintaining his workout routine, even though mayhem is going on around him. Finding themselves trapped in a building, conversations are occasionally  light and playful, almost flirtatious. When counselors of the opposite sex are alone together, you expect them to start ripping each others clothes off, there is an omnipresent air of sexual tension, which is bewildering as one such scene occurs in a room often tainted by the smell of rotting flesh! At one point, the announcement of the deaths of two counselors is made in such a flippant way, it’s hardly surprising no-one reacts! I was finding myself being pulled out of the story due to the unbelievable way some of these people were behaving.  This was not helped by a middle section that was incredibly tough to get through, a lot of people were running about, letting off fireworks, flirting, running into woods alone, avoiding death, working out, flirting, playing games, avoiding death, flirting and for two of the leads, they developed sleuthing skills to make Sherlock Holmes jealous! Add to that some annoyingly convenient plotting the transition to the last act was complete.

Had this book been set in the 80’s, it would have been an enjoyable novel with nods to classic horror tropes. Setting this book in modern times, I struggled to feel much for anyone. Behaviour that would have stood out as odd even in Friday The 13th stands out as baffling in 2016, the characters were all acting like exaggerated versions of their 80’s slasher counterparts. The premise for deaths based on the original Grimm fairy tales was a good one, but we mostly discover the aftermath and, for me, there is no suspense in that. When Melhoff actually has a victim trapped and is cranking up the tension it works, sadly there was not enough of this. It’s difficult to have an emotional response to the death of a character who’s only presence in the book was a couple of lines of text 50 pages earlier.

A flawed novel sadly, the main problem, setting aside, once you stop caring about the characters, especially the leads, then it’s never going to be a fairy tale ending.

Star Rating (out of 5): 2**

 

Grimm Woods is published by Bellwoods Publishing

The official D. Melhoff website is found here

Do you have any questions for Adam Nevill?

Coming soon to KendallReviews, a feature on award-winning UK horror writer, Adam Nevill.

With 10 successful books under his belt since 2004, Adam is positioning himself among the UK’s horror elite. His latest book, supernatural thriller, Under A Watchful Eye was released January 12th 2017 through Pan Macmillan.

As well as the feature, I hope to interview Adam in the near future about books, self publishing, movie adaptions, music, his future as well as that of horror.

Are there any questions you’d like to see answered in the interview? Please post your questions in the comments section below, I will then offer my favourites to Adam.

The official Adam Nevill website is found here

 

Clive Barker’s Books Of Blood, Volume 1. (Kendall Review)

In an ongoing series, I thought I would do a feature on some of my favourite short story collections.

I can think of no better place to start, than possibly the most famous set of short stories committed to paper…

Clive Barker’s Books Of Blood

Volume One

The Book Of Blood

65 Tollington Place is a haunted house. The room at the top of the house acts as a crossroads, a doorway between their world and ours. So what happens when a charlatan medium enters the house?

  • The Book Of Blood movie adaptation directed by John Harrison saw a 2008 release. It incorporates the last story from the Books Of Blood volume six, On Jerusalem Street (A Prologue).

The Midnight Meat Train

Brutal murders are happening on the late night New York City subway. Leon Kaufmann quite literally wakes in the middle of another killing spree. As the evening progresses he learns that there is a purpose for these murders, the City Fathers need meat!

  • The Midnight Meat Train movie adaptation directed by Ryuhei Kitmura saw a 2008 release.

  • In 1990, Titan Books published a Chuck Wagner and Fred Burke graphic novel adaptation, with illustrations from Denys Cowan and Michael Davis. (Can be found in the Titan Book release Tapping The Vein, Book 3).

The Yattering and Jack

A minor demon is under orders to drive Jack Polo insane, this comic tale shows the lengths he will go to succeed. Trouble is, Jack’s not cracking.

  • Barker adapted The Yattering And Jack into an episode of the horror anthology TV series Tales From The Darkside (Season 4 – 1987/88, episode 76; broadcast Nov 8, 1987) writing the screenplay.

  • In 1991, Eclipse Books published a Steve Niles graphic novel adaptation of The Yattering And Jack , with illustrations from John Bolton.

Pig Blood Blues

When former police officer Redman starts working at an incredibly strict borstal, he hears rumours of ghosts and of young offenders going missing. Redmans investigations show something is not quite right about Tetherdowne, and then he discovers the pig sty.

  • In 1989, Titan Books published a Chuck Wagner and Fred Burke graphic novel adaptation, with illustrations from Scott Hampton.(Can be found in the Titan Book release Tapping The Vein, Book 1).

Sex, Death And Starshine

Struggling theatre director, Leroy Townsonio is having an affair with his leading lady, Diane Duvall, who is a terrible actress. A mysterious man in a mask ,Mr Lichfield, tells Townsonio that his wife, Constantia, would make a better leading lady. To be fair, Townsonio is only keeping Duvall employed because of her publicity boosting association with a soap opera. The main issue with the mans suggestion is that Constantia is dead! So who will be the leading lady come opening night?

In The Hills, The Cities

Whilst travelling, Mick and Judd find themselves witnessing a ritual. Every ten years, two Eastern European cities, Populac and Podujevo, create giants by binding together the bodies of its citizens. Forty thousand people strapped together as tall as a skyscraper. This is not because the respective populations dislike its other, it’s a tradition. This decade, it’s going to end very differently!

  • In 1989, Titan Books published a Chuck Wagner and Fred Burke graphic novel adaptation, with illustrations from John Bolton.(Can be found in the Titan Book release Tapping The Vein, Book 2).

Kendall Reviews: Conclusion

As a whole, the Books Of Blood is an astounding release. Its stunning to think that this marks Barker’s debut. Volume 1 may not have my favourite stories in, but it sets the stall out perfectly for the next five volumes. Usually consisting of ordinary people in extraordinary situations, faced with occasional unblinking ferocity. The drama is often horrific, outlandishly so at time, but its not schlock. It’s written so beautifully, it flows off the page , it’s poetic. Stephen Kings tagline is understandably dug out every time a Barker review appears, ‘I have seen the future of horror…and his name is Clive Barker’. In the Books Of Blood there is so much more to Barker than just horror,  he is a genre blending genius, who  is a visionary and world-class story-teller

The official Clive Barker website can be found here

Erasure: From Moscow To Mars – The most disappointing release of 2016!

Erasure has always been a favourite of mine, they have stayed with me through the years, a constant,  an old friend. I felt comfortable in Vince and Andy’s world, a world I have frequented since I was 12. Erasure appealed not just because I loved their music, they also offered (Thanks to their record label Mute) various versions of their songs to collect, be it on multiple UK 12″ and CD Singles, to imports and various limited editions. I tried to collect them all!  I have seen them live many times, travelled all over to see them. I would say that I have invested more time and money in Erasure than any other music act, this doesn’t make me any more of a fan than the next, but I like to think it explains my relationship with the band and their music.

So why are a band I obviously love in a post about the most disappointing release of 2016?

In 2015, Always – The Very Best Of Erasure, a 3 disc set that offered a decent choice of singles and remixes worked as a  set for new and old fans alike, with the added bonus of a few exclusive tracks for the completest, (one of these being a 2015 version of breakout hit Sometimes released as a single). It was an opportunity to replace Total Pop! – The First 40 Hits a compilation released back in 2009 now BMG had the publishing rights. It made sense to see a new ‘best of’ released. The following year fans saw reissues of Erasures albums on vinyl (some for the very first time), the 30th Anniversary celebrations were ramping up!

In July 2016, through the Erasure (EIS) Newsletter, Erasure announced they  were working on a box set anthology, called From Moscow To Mars with a release expected in the Autumn.

Fans rejoiced!

The main announcement arrived September 1st, again through the Erasure (EIS) Newsletter, detailing a set that would include 12 discs covering singles, b-sides, live and unreleased tracks. Additionally there would be a DVD, book and some prints. Alongside this information was the track listing, and this is where the problems start.

Mute/BMG released Always-The Very Best Of Erasure 30th October 2015. Only one year will have passed between this somewhat thorough compilation and the new Anthology. Was it right to assume the 2015 compilation was for the regular fan? If it was, then surely a 13 disc, 30 year celebrating, all singing, all dancing box set would be for the hard-core fan, the completest? The answer for me , is no! This is a set that benefits  the ‘normal’ fan, in fact, I would go as far to say From Moscow To Mars is perfect for the Erasure virgin! Let me try to explain why.

The Singles

First off we have ‘The Singles’, a three disc set that includes, as Richard from EIS states in the September 2016 newsletter, ‘every one of the bands entire singles output’. Sadly that is just not true, its missing as many as 6 tracks that were singles. These are Sometimes 2015, A Little Respect [HMI Redux], Always 2009, Oh L’Amour [August Mix], Who Needs Love (Like That) [Hamburg Mix] and Phantom Bride 2009. To be fair, the HMI Redux of A Little Respect was a charity single released to help Hetrick-Martin Institute (HMI), an organisation devoted to helping lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or questioning youth in New York City, because of this, and it’s potential for fundraising, I can exclude it.  Irrespective of being remixed or a new version of a previously released single, (only Phantom Bride had not seen a single release in any form), if it was a single, include it.  To make matters worse, there are issues with some of the tracks, namely Heavenly Action and It Doesn’t Have To Be are the album versions and not the single edits, additionally, All This Time Still Falling Out Of Love is also the album version and not the original mix.  Worst of all we have a mastering error, there are a couple of seconds clipped off the beginning of the single version of Elevation.

The B-Sides

 

Back in February 2016, via the EIS, fans voted for their favourite B-Sides. The results of which would create the track list for a two disc set to appear in a forthcoming box set. (not known as From Moscow To Mars at this point). Erasure has some fantastic B-sides and a compilation has long been a subject of fan discussion. As promised, included in the set are two discs consisting of 36 B-sides, ‘as chosen by Erasure Information Service members’. I have no issues with the tracks included, it makes for a great listen, but looking at the overall track listing of From Moscow To Mars across the twelve audio discs, there is an easy way to include ALL the B-sides from the last 30 years. I’ll come to that soon!

Remixes

Two discs of remixes, including six new to this set are  in the Anthology. Opinions differ massively on what makes a remix good or not. For me, the new remixes are distinctly average, with only Vince Clarke’s reinterpretation of ‘Waiting For The Day’ not suffering insult of the ‘skip’ button after their first play. As for the original remixes, some decent selections, with the William Orbit remix of Supernature being a firm favourite. It was that remix that got me into Orbit, triggering another collecting obsession (but that’s for another post). Ideally what the EIS should have done was not do a vote for favourite B-Sides, instead ask us to vote for our favourite remixes. I’m sure I can speak for all Erasure fans and state that we wanted all the B-sides in this anthology. A strong fan voted 2 or 3 disc set of remixes would be very interesting. (I bet we wouldn’t end up with the extended mix of A Little Respect AGAIN!)

Erasure By Vince Clarke And Andy Bell

An interesting idea, but a complete waste of two discs in my opinion. Here we have ‘a playlist each from Vince Clarke and Andy Bell, featuring the songs they consider their personal favourites from across the Erasure songbook’.  The two discs offer nothing new to the Erasure fan, what is missing is why Vince and Andy chose the tracks they did. A better way of supplying fans with this information, would be to have these playlists printed in the box set. It would be great to hear why Andy Bell likes the acoustic version of Boy or Here I go Impossible Again, so much so it’s included in the box set twice. (Both appear on disc 3 of the singles) I’d love to know why Vince chose such a surprisingly down tempo playlist. This could all be done as a printed playlist with both Vince and Andy adding  an informative paragraph explaining their choices.

In printing their playlists, we know have two free discs that could be used to introduce the missing B-sides!

Rare and Unreleased

The one gem from the set, a single disc of rarities that I can find no fault with. Vince and Andy have always said that they really do not hoard material, if they start it, they finish it or erase it. So to have 19 tracks on this CD is a wonderful bonus. They may not all be new to me, but it’s exactly the sort of thing that I wanted in the box set.

Erasure Live

Covering 1987 to 2011, and completely missing contributions from the Tiny Tour, The Cowboy Concerts, The Other Tour, Total Pop! Tour and The Violet Flame Tour, this is a disappointing disc. It’s a jumble of tracks, from all periods in their career. It could have worked as a career spanning ‘best of’, you would be able to hear the young Andy of ’87 and the voice slowly deepen as we get towards 2011. But here, the tracks fade in and out, not mixed together to create that live experience. For me it would have been better to of added a full show, (would the Milton Keynes Bowl audio as broadcast by Radio 1 be available to licence?). If that was not possible, maybe the first ever live gig. So many options, but this random track from random shows approach doesn’t work for me.

A Little Respect – 30 Years Of Erasure (Audio Documentary)

This is really only worth listening to once! I know I sound incredibly negative, but this would be better suited either as an audio track on the DVD, or as a streamed preorder bonus that could be accessed via the official website.

The Wild! Tour (DVD)

Hurrah, Wild! on DVD for the first time! This is what we’ve all been waiting for…the holy grail for Erasure fans!

Apart from its now 2016, and a DVD with VHS image quality, of a show from 1989 that I have watched hundreds of time on VHS does not excite me. I’m not sure where Erasure and the EIS got the idea that this was a good idea. The bonus backstage footage is nice to see, but this is, all in all, a wasted opportunity.  As with most of this set, this DVD seems to miss the point of what the box is celebrating. How about including the DVD (or Blu-ray if possible) of the Milton Keynes Bowl concert? This was by far the biggest show Erasure performed, in front of 60,000 people, broadcast live on Radio 1. (Which at the time was a big deal!).

The Book, The Bits & Pieces and the Packaging

The box is way too big, I have no need for the passport or the stamps, the art prints are somewhat low quality and don’t get me started on the book. The book in the Anthology looks lovely until you open it, grainy low resolution images, minimal text apart from a hard to read Q&A in the back. This is where the Vince and Andy playlist discussion should have gone. This is where all the beautiful album covers displayed in all their  hi-res glory can sit across the page from the designs for Andy Bells outrageous costumes that he wore on stage. How about a detailed write-up on the synths Vince Clarke uses? I could go on, the book, sadly is such a wasted opportunity.

If people have a look at the latest David Bowie box set, that is more what I would have liked to of seen. A robust small box, that can hold 20 discs and a book full of informational treasure.

Kendall Reviews: Conclusion

‘From Moscow To Mars’ is a box set released to celebrate 30 years of Erasure. To do that you need 30 years worth of content, not some of the singles, some of the b-sides, modern remixes that the fans may not like, a live disc that doesn’t make you feel like you’re at a show, a DVD of a gig most fans have had on VHS for 25 years.

For me this set should have had as an absolute minimum…

  • All of Erasures albums on CD, ideally remastered.
  • All of the singles
  • All of the B-sides
  • The same Rare and Unreleased already included in ‘From Moscow To Mars’
  • Milton Keynes Bowl Live DVD/Blu-ray/CD
  • Remix compilation as voted for by the fans,

That right there, is 30 years of Erasure to me. I could go on and suggest that Mute/BMG could have tried to licence other tracks (Under The Looking Glass Sea, Rage, Too Darn Hot) or could have collated some of the promo only remixes , (Love To Hate You [JT Vannelli Remix]) as an example, but I understand this all costs money, and would increase the box costs.

Yes, at the end of the day I have been extremely critical of this set, I’m first a fan, a devoted, loyal, passionate fan. This was the box set that would be the greatest Erasure treasure in among the many gems of my collection.  It’s supposed to draw a line under 30 years of performance, 30 years of memories,  but it’s content leaves you wanting more and not in a good way. It’s missing too much content! The music in the Anthology is wonderful, you cannot deny that, and to the newcomer this is Erasure perfection. Apart from the Rare and Unreleased disc, there really is no reason for me to dig out this box set from my collection. I just wish before compiling, someone from Mute/BMG asked the fans what they would want from such a product.

From Moscow To Mars gives the average fan about four discs worth of new material, leaving us with 70% which we already have. When you consider the asking price for this set is £85, does that seem like good value for money to you?

Erasures 30 successful years in the music industry is something to celebrate, the build up to this box set, from Who Needs Love Like That in 1985  to Sometimes 2015 has been a long and winding road that has seen them release 16 albums, have 24 consecutive Top 40 hits in the UK, 3 Top 20 hits in the US. Erasure has seen 34 of their 45 singles and EPs made the UK Top 40, with 17 making the Top 10. Now that is something to celebrate! At the end of that road, From Moscow to Mars is a bit of an anti climax, and Erasure deserve so much more than that!