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."