Roachkiller by R Narvaez


A dark collection of short stories.

The characters in each of these short stories are almost tangible. Like real people, all of them are flawed in some way, even the good ones. Conversely, in the same way that in real life nobody is all bad, even the ‘bad’ characters have a trace of good. These elements of personality are trickled to us in such a subtle way that our reaction to them is shaped almost without our awareness. You will probably neither love nor loathe any of the characters but you will certainly feel something about them because they seem so real.

As far as the narrative is concerned, each story is written in the distinctive voice of one (or, in the last story, two) of the characters. Narvaez seems to completely step into these characters so that the narrative seems authentic and the style of each one different. Each story has a different and interesting premise and many of them cause the reader to question their own assumptions about the black and white distinction between good and bad. There are a couple of great twist endings as well.

On the whole this collection is well worth reading. I’ll certainly be watching out for any more titles from Narvaez.

R Narvaez is a talented writer and one to watch out for.

Review of House of Shadows by Walter Spence

This is an interesting and unusual vampire story. The approach is very different from the traditional gothic horror but at the same time also far removed from the misunderstood and loveable creatures that we have grown used to in the past few years. ‘The Breed’ that Walter Spence introduces us to is something akin to a mysterious race. As the story unfolds and we learn about their traditions and history, we may not grow to like them but we do grow to understand them.

The story is written in the first person and, whilst I know that many readers prefer the third person, I think that is was a good choice in this instance. The gradual and seamless change in narrative tone shows the development of the main character, Eugene Evans, from child to adulthood is gradual and seamless and is only obvious by re-reading earlier chapters and comparing the difference. In fact, I thought that character development generally was very good.

I have only two criticisms. The first is that the ending felt a little rushed and I would have preferred the pace to have slowed down just a little. The second is that, although there were some very good similes, too many of them were in the first few pages of the book. However, the writing style overall is very good and neither of these criticisms are major problems so I would only remove one star for both of them taken together.

Scary Moment

I was somewhat excited to receive a phone call this morning informing me that the long awaited running hot water to my kitchen sink and the moving of my telephone point to a downstairs location would be taken care of today. Sad that I should get excited over such a thing, I know, but that is about as good as it gets in my life.

Unfortunately, when the workmen arrived, I was upstairs making the place presentable. My eleven year old daughter called up to ask whether she should let them in, to which I replied, “No. Just tell them I’ll be there in a minute.”

Why do children never listen?

By the time I got to the door, my daughter was busy fiddling with my, admittedly too large, bunch of keys and complaining that she couldn’t get the thing unlocked.  On closer inspection, I discovered that there was a very good reason for this.  She was trying to unlock it with the wrong key.  No problem, thought I, I will remove the key and use the correct one.

You’ve guessed it.  The fact that the key did not fit had not prevented my daughter from getting it firmly into the lock, from which it refused to budge.  As the realisation dawned that the only other ways out of the house were through the window or over the (not insignificant) back wall, letting anybody in began to seem like the least important thing in the world, particularly as I had managed to park the car too close to the window to be able to open it.

Eventually, I managed to extract the key, unlock and open the door to two cold but highly amused young workmen.

Some very important lessons learned: unlock the door every morning, don’t park the car too close to the house and, most importantly, always tell my daughter to do the exact opposite of what I actually want her to do.

The Devil of Echo Lake by Douglas Wynne

The Devil of Echo Lake sounds like a familiar tale: struggling musician sells his soul to the devil in exchange for fame and fortune.  However, don’t be misled, this story is far more than that, with twists and turns that are really quite inspired.  The author’s biography states that he has worked in the music industry and I certainly had a sense that he knew what he was talking about when describing Billy Moon’s world.

 I felt that the protagonist’s character was very well developed with enough insight into his past and thoughts to enable me to care about him despite his many faults.  Jake too, is a well rounded character, with his own conflicts, who I grew to like very much.  My one complaint with regard to the characterisation is that I would have liked some of the other characters to have been developed a little more.  In particular, I felt that the antagonist was pure bad.  I suspect that this was a deliberate choice on the part of the author to add weight to the idea of him as the devil incarnate but, personally, I would have liked a little more history, especially towards the end of the story.

 The plot is certainly very good and the subplots are woven into it seamlessly with plenty of suspense throughout.  If, like me, you enjoy trying to guess where it is all going then it’s definitely for you.

Extinction Point by Paul Antony Jones

I thought I’d post a few of my reviews of books by other indie authors.  Starting off with Extinction Point by Paul Antony Jones.

ImageThis is an interesting take on the ‘end of the world as we know it’ type of novel, not least of all because the main character, and sole survivor of the ‘red rain’, is a young woman. 

Emily Baxter is working as a journalist in New York when a strange, blood-like rain begins to sweep across the globe.  It becomes apparent that the rain is more than it seems as, in its wake, whole nations of people succumb to a terrible virus that attacks suddenly, violently and fatally.  When the virus reaches New York, Emily waits for her own inevitable demise but when it doesn’t come she realises that she is probably the only survivor in the whole city, if not the world.  Extinction Point tracks Emily’s progress as she tries to adjust to living in a world devoid of life and then her struggle for survival and escape as a new world begins to emerge from the destruction of the old.

The character of Emily is easy to like with a dry humour and unswerving practicality.  She strikes a good balance between femininity and toughness, giving us a sense of an ordinary woman who finds herself having to toughen up to survive.  Although there are no other characters for most of the story.  Paul Jones gives us enough little glimpses into the characters of the minor players in the build up to the red rain to make us truly sorry for their fate.

The action is well written and the moments of tension really do have you on the edge of your seat.  My one little grumble is that there is a lot of unnecessary narrative.  Unless you know Manhattan, the detailed routes that Emily takes on her journeys through the city are fairly meaningless.  Paul Jones shows himself throughout to be a competent writer with a knack for building suspense.

On the whole, a darned good read, although slightly annoying to only find out at the end that it is just the first in a series of books so we don’t really get a proper resolution.  However, the second in the series is a work in progress and you can check for updates on Paul’s website where there is even a mailing list so that you can find out as soon as it’s released.