Monday, 23 May 2011

Review of The Damned, MTUK

Not sure how often books get reviewed in music mags. It matters not for I've been lucky enough to have each of my Dead books reviewed in the ezine MTUK, a mag that rocks to the sound of a dark and sinister beat (you know the type: the stuff that makes your ears bleed and your eyes burst; marvellous!) Pete Woods seems to have become a fully fledged Deadling in his love of what I've created. And he's the first reviewer to mention the nod at Mad Max with the Land Rover driven by everyone's favourite alcoholic angel, Arielle; nicely! So, without further ado, behold: a rather nifty review of The Damned, book 3 of The Dead...

There will be no spitting here, well there might be and it will be thick and green and incredibly slimy but this is not about The Damned who we would normally write about, nothing to do with the latest exploits of Messrs Vanian and Sensible. This is in fact the closing part of a trilogy of horror novels written for younger readers, which started with The Dead and continued with The Dark, a thrilling ride it has been as well.

I was looking forward to the concluding episode, which follows on from the end of the last one and carries on at breakneck speed. I am not alone either as our editor is eagerly about to grab this and read it too. We don’t consider ourselves big kids really as these novels have plenty of bite that us older readers can appreciate as well. Let me make one thing very clear, although our main hero Lazarus is a mere teenager he is also now established as guardian of the dead and to put it simply the dead are not really very keen when it comes to behaving. The gang from previous instalments are all here, an angel who likes a dram or two called Arielle, faithful sidekick Craig, Abaddon a rotten or should that be rotting priest with revenge on mind and Red whose part in all this becomes more apparent as things unfold. Put these strong characters together with all manner of nasties and demonic foul fiends, a vehicle out of Mad Max and plenty of twists and turns and you will find yourself turning pages at fast and furious speed.

One thing that did impress and also make me feel sorry for the characters is the drive of the narrative. It is especially noticeable here that they never have time to relax for a second. Sleep, forget it, they may well be knocked out but there is little perchance to dream. Even if limbs are lost or indeed flesh is chewed off right down to the bone, they have to get straight back into the thick of it. I mentioned before in previous reviews what the scenarios reminded me of and was particularly pleased to see Fulci’s ‘Sea Of Darkness’ passage from The Beyond prior to the story starting. This is the reason that as an adult I can fully appreciate this; Gatward knows his horror and is not one to hold back on grue and gore for the sake of more sensitive readers.

I really enjoyed these three novels and hope to find time at some point to sit down and read them back to back (although there is a bit of a friend’s waiting list to borrow them). I also think there is plenty of scope for more in the future featuring the same characters but whatever David G goes onto write next I will be more than intrigued to quickly pick up and no doubt fail to put down till finished. A film would be great too but I have come to the conclusion that making it for an under 18 audience would be nigh on impossible, still if it ever sees the dark of night I would happily put myself in the frame for playing something nasty and dead!

Thursday, 5 May 2011

The Damned, Frightfest Review - 5 Star Rating!

I'm astonished by this review. A full five-star rating from Frightfest? To me, that's like getting an Oscar. Stunned. Enjoy...

"Following the very well received (in these quarters) THE DEAD and THE DARK, THE DAMNED is the third and possibly final installment of an epic young adult horror trilogy. Following the action-packed ending of the second volume, THE DAMNED immediately hurtles the reader into an action scene. The plot finds teenage protagonist and Keeper of the Dead Lazarus Stone and his companions Arielle (a member of the heavenly host more than partial to the odd drink) and Abaddon (a reanimated and vengence obsessed Priest, or in Lazarus’ words “undead git”) embarking on a desperate mission into hell itself to rescue Lazarus’ father and friends who have been trapped in the bleak, purgatorial land of the dead. However matters take an even more dire turn when Lazarus is confronted by one of The Fallen, an angel exiled to hell, and discovers that hell is preparing an army of the dead to invade our world. Soon all that stands between the corporeal world and eternal damnation is one teenage boy with a bad attitude.

Author Gatward seems to have become more confident in his delivery and surer of his characters with each successive installment, and THE DAMNED is easily the best of the three books. He writes great pulp dialogue and conjures up a hi-octane juggernaut of a narrative that careers crazily from one outrageous setpiece to the next. This third volume takes on the epic tone that was hinted at in THE DARK. In an extended action scene a vast tower rises from hell bringing an invading army of the undead to earth. Our heroes must reach it and race towards it in a battered Land Rover. However a vast wall of flame originating from the tower is sweeping hell burning everything in its path. It is tempting to draw comparisons to Tolkein when reading this scene although Gatward credits an illustration by Stephen Jones in an H. P. Lovecraft collection as inspiration for the image of the tower.

Now all three volumes have been published, the trilogy really feels like a single complete novel, and could easily be read as such. This entire third part is almost one extended action-packed climax. Although written for young adults, I would recommend these books to adult readers looking for some exciting dark fantasy escapism without hesitation. They are the kind of imaginative, exciting horror thriller that seems all too rare in genre fiction aimed squarely at grown-ups. As the shelves of bookstores’ horror sections (if you are lucky enough to find a bookstore with a horror section) strain under the weight of endless identical zombie/viral contagion holocaust novels, reading these books took me back to teenage years spent voraciously consuming grisly James Herbert and Robert R. McCammon novels. Bliss."

Thursday, 6 January 2011

Frightfest review: The Dark

To get a good review is something I still can't get used to. To get one from people who seriously know their horror? It's like my peers, those I seriously respect and look up to, have turned round and said, "You know what, Dave? Nice one!"

So here's the review from Frightfest ( of The Dark. And, even if I do say so myself, it's a total blinder! They even gave it four our of five stars! Crikey! I even get compared to Lucio Fulci, and the movie The Beyond! I simply cannot express how happy that makes me feel. And, indeed, utterly astonished and shocked...



THE DARK is the second installment in a horror trilogy aimed at young adult readers. First installment THE DEAD was a rollicking tale although one that was over rather too quickly. With the second book author David Gatward has really hit his stride, opening up the macabre world he has created and producing a more assured, expansive and better-paced adventure.

Opening at the previous book’s close our hero Lazarus Stone crosses the veil that separates the world of the living from the world of the dead in search of his lost father. Along for the ride is Lazarus’ horror obsessed school friend Craig, who acts as point of view for the reader and a much needed comic foil. Lazarus has discovered that he is destined to act as the Dead’s Keeper policing the borders of the purgatorial realm and our world ensuring that none of its desiccated inhabitants escape to possess the living. However he’s not happy about this, especially having died twice in the previous installment!

Lazarus’ quest in THE DARK takes sinister and violent turns, leading to a road trip with an alcoholic angel. Lazarus and Co must set off in search of Abadon, fabled scourge of the dead. Abadon is the key to preventing the worlds of the living and the dead from colliding with apocalyptic consequences. Abadon is a great character with a terrifying and grisly history that I will leave it to you to discover.

THE DARK improves upon the solid foundation laid by THE DEAD in almost every way, the sometimes clunky dialogue of the previous installment is much improved, characters are deeper and Gatward paces his plot well, leading to an satisfying climax and setting up the final installment. The book is pleasingly gruesome without being too gross for younger readers, and will continue to delight junior horror fans as well as satisfying those closer to middle age.

Gartward’s world of flayed demons and repurposed religious imagery is clearly reminiscent of early Clive Barker, but there are also nods to Italian splatter legend Lucio Fulci. Fulci’s film THE BEYOND seems to have influenced Gatward’s imagination in realising the grim realm of the dead and its rotting and malevolent inhabitants on the page. How often can you legitimately raise the specter of Fulci (a man with three entries on the official DPP video nasties list) when reviewing a book aimed at younger readers? For that alone Gartward deserves some kudos.

THE DARK continues Gartward’s ripping yarn and wets the appetite for the third and final installment THE DAMNED due in April 2011.