Review: Slayground

Slayground
Slayground by Richard Stark
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A great story told with incredible economy. Sub 200 pages and Stark manages to cram in a complicated web of corrupt cops, an up-and-coming gangster, a mob boss, a platoon of hired guns and- stuck in the middle of it all- Parker, with a bag of stolen cash and no easy way out.

If you’ve seen the movie version of Slayground, with Peter Coyote as the Parker character, be aware that this is similar but different. No Mel Smith for a start. Still features a closed up funfair showdown though, with traps and tricks galore.

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Review: Ninefox Gambit

Ninefox Gambit
Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Incredible. Reads like a Warhammer 40K novel written by Ann Leckie; or possibly an epic sword & sorcery tale with dragons replaced by spaceships and magic spells swapped out for elaborate ritual mathematics. Fantastic background, rich settings, intriguing characters. It reminded me of a lot of things, but they were all good things. Highly recommended.

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randoms x: ‘alienist’

“I had some school days. Back at the start. Little bits and pieces anyway. There wasn’t much book learning to be had when I was growing up. On account of my situation, you know?” 

I’ve read the files. Understand all that’s been recorded about her circumstances. The next steps involve a deeper apprehension.

“Remember the Crusades,” she says. Continue reading

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failing my RPGaDAY roll

Best laid plans and all that… I had intended to do much better this year and actively answer an RPGaDAY question every single day of August.

As it turned out I did even worse than last year and managed only a half-hearted answer to the first question. Blah.

Anyway, I was tempted to do a re-run of last year and cram everything in to one long posting effort, but instead of that I have decided that over the next week or so I’ll try and do some more regular postings about gaming stuff. Or maybe I’ll answer a few RPGaDAY questions anyway. I don’t know. Given how badly ‘planning’ has gone in the past it could go either way.

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randoms ix: ‘sind’

“I torched an orphanage one time,” she says. “None of the kids were harmed. We just stood outside and watched and laughed whilst the deep-red bright-yellow flames took the whole of that horrible place down to the ground.” 

I don’t have anything to offer. 

“When the constables arrived—after the fire brigade and the one unnecessary ambulance—everyone said it was me. The kids all bold and happy with the fact, you know? Proud that I had rescued them from everything that went on there. They thought the grown-ups would understand. Be grateful.” 

A pause while she lights another cigarette. No matches. She just holds it between her fingers and the end sparks and catches just-so. If there’s a trick to it I don’t see how it’s done. Something chemical or…  Continue reading

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randoms viii: matchbox signs

What did he look like?

 French.

 

I don’t understand what you-

 

Like a French actor maybe. One of those ones from the seventies or eighties? Unshaven, rail-thin and scruffy at the edges, but cool with it in a rumpled blue suit, black lace-up shoes; like he’s been out all night and doesn’t care who knows it. His nails were clean and long. That’s all I remember. I didn’t get a good look.

 

What was he doing when you saw him?

 

Walking and watching, mostly. Step a few paces from here to there, stop, and then wait and look around, like that, you know?

 

And that’s all you-

 

I saw him reach into an inside pocket of his jacket. He took something out—a few times—put them in his mouth. You could imagine the crunch. Continue reading

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Review: Rupert Wong, Cannibal Chef

Rupert Wong, Cannibal Chef
Rupert Wong, Cannibal Chef by Cassandra Khaw
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is glorious. For something so short it certainly crams in a lot of ingredients: gods, monsters, down-at-heel ex-mob chefs, gluttons, gourmands, angry ghosts, colonialism, assimilation, ancient vs modern, a bustling cityscape both bright & wild and grimy-drab…

It’s got everything and all of it is mixed to perfection to produce a noirish yet numinous tale of one strangely compelling not-exactly-hero caught in the midst of a grand parade of terrifying grotesques.

Cassandra Khaw brings incredible depth to her world; a turn of phrase or well crafted image hinting at onion skin layers of history and politics and meaning and mystery, all waiting to be revealed beneath every place and every action. Despite the supernatural subject matter, this reads always as a story of real place, and real (strange) people.

Rupert Wong, Cannibal Chef rattles along in fast and thrilling style and manages to skip from visceral horror to easy violence to genuine heart-breaker pathos whilst never missing a step or leaving you behind. Highly recommended.

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