I was happy to expand my literary horizons through these samples from a decidedly non-mainstream speculative series. “Good things come in small packages,” goes the old saying, and there’s no shortage of humongous talent here.
Set in the late 1800s in England, the story follows Tessa Grey, a young American girl who has arrived in London, as she discovers the many secrets of the Shadow World which Clare has created with exquisite detail and imagery. Along the way, Tessa discovers Downworld and the supernatural creatures who belong to it including vampires, warlocks and other paranormal beings.
The first two or three chapters have a distinctively “real” feel. But then, the author does something with his characters which some readers may not like. The story, which had felt like a mainstream novel suddenly becomes a bit stylized. Not entirely, but a bit. The characters speak and do things that characters in a noir novel might do. Think Mad Max meets Sin City. It’s not a bad thing, and it certainly will not mar the book for those who like hip larger-than-life characters.
Flash Gordon rocketed onto the movie screen in 1936, in a serial of the same name which ran for 13 episodes. He appeared in two further movie serials – a now defunct format, killed off by television – in Flash Gordon’s Trip to Mars (1938) and Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe (1940), the latter title indicative perhaps of America’s new-found confidence as an emerging superpower. Most of us who went to Saturday Matinees as a child, to a Rialto or a local Odeon, will have seen some of these episodes, along with (say) a Laurel and Hardy short, a Disney film or a George Formby feature.
We are all simply cogs in a global machine, and nowhere is this more apparent than in Cog. At first glimpse it is a somewhat ordinary story of revenge, greed and power set against a futuristic backdrop. And yes, at its core, Cog is a classic story of family dysfunction with some James Bond-esque thrills and rather groovy technology thrown in.
When a retired teacher looks after his young grandson, he discovers more than mysterious cones on the beach. The two of them find their deficiencies counterbalance each other making their loving relationship able to combat menacing phenomenon.