Category: Reviews

Epeolatry Book Review: Dark Divinations: A Horror Anthology

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Title: Dark Divinations
Author: ed Naching T. Kassa
Genre: Gothic Horror
Publisher: HorrorAddicts
Release Date: 1st May, 2020

Synopsis: It’s the height of Queen Victoria’s rule. Fog swirls in the gas-lit streets, while in the parlor, hands are linked. Pale and expectant faces gaze upon a woman, her eyes closed and shoulders slumped. The medium speaks, her tone hollow and inhuman. The séance has begun. Join us as we explore fourteen frightening tales of Victorian horror, each centered around a method of divination. Can the reading of tea leaves influence the future? Can dreams keep a soldier from death in the Crimea? Can a pocket watch foretell a deadly family curse? From entrail reading and fortune-telling machines to prophetic spiders and voodoo spells, sometimes the future is better left unknown. Choose your fate.Choose your DARK DIVINATION.With stories by: Hannah Hulbert, Ash Hartwell, Joe L. Murr, Emerian Rich, Naching T. Kassa, Michael Fassbender, Jon O’Bergh, Stephanie Ellis, H.R.R. Gorman, R.L. Merrill, Rie Sheridan Rose, Daphne Strasert, Alan Fisher, and Jeremy Megargee

This anthology contains fourteen tales all set in Victorian times; each story begins with the location (UK or USA ) and the year it is set. The authors are a mix of Brits and Americans too. The theme of the anthology is hinted at in the title – all manner of divination methods are explored in these tales. We have scrying, (mirrors/bowls), entrail reading, fortune-telling penny slot automata machines, seances, tasseography (reading tea leaves), human seers, animals who can prophesy the future and voodoo spells. The choice of ways in which the characters try to foretell their future or discover hidden secrets is rich and dizzying. 

This sort of read is very much up my dark historical alleyway- loving, as I do, all things Victorian, supernatural and gas lit. 

The stories are very strong on conjuring the era – some capturing the ‘voice’ of the times more effectively than others; I did read the occasional jarring line of rather modern speech or phrasing but overall I could happily believe I was back in the era of crinolines, tea parties, arranged marriages, horses and carriages, or the American Civil War.

Two of the stories, (one by the editor Kassa) and the other by Jeremy Megargee reference two of the most famous myths of the Victorian era; one fact, the other fictional. I won’t say more due to spoilers. I wasn’t entirely sure about including these in the anthology, as though both were well written, I think the other stories with freer range in material, worked better.

There wasn’t a story I didn’t enjoy in the anthology- a couple did seem to end a little abruptly and didn’t feel fully finalised to this reader. However I do want to mention a few of my favourites, always a personal choice I realise.

Alan Fisher’s “The Moat House Cob” is set in the Tower of London for a start which piqued my interest and is possibly the most unusual and original take on the anthology’s theme and is memorable, especially as I have, (like the main character) intense arachnophobia! The Cob is not what you might think it is by the way.

Hannah Hulbert’s opening story, “Power and Shadow” (set in my home town of Norwich!) – for the depiction of the dominating Mother and the rather nice clever twist in its ending.

Jon O’Bergh’s “The Bell”- don’t want to give too much away here but if you suffer from claustrophobia and/or taphophobia- be warned – this story will not make you feel better.

Stephanie Ellis’ “Romany Rose”- a fully realised world within this story, a lovely depiction of the street urchins and the ending packs a punch.

Shout out to the cover artist, Kladyk, for the stunningly gorgeous image which I’d have as a poster in my study no problem

Quick word about – I did spot a few typos and editing errors; in some of the stories more than others.                                                                                                                  

I would like to thank the editor for sending me an E-ARC for the purposes of me writing a fair and honest review.

4/5 stars

Epeolatry Book Review: Infected 2: Tales to Read Alone – Charity Anthology

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Our reviews may contain affiliate links. If you purchase something through the links in this article we may receive a small commission or referral fee. This happens without any additional cost to you.

Title: Infected 2: Tales to Read Alone
Author: ed. Steve Dillon
Genre: Horror
Publisher: Things in the Well
Release Date: 17th April, 2020

Synopsis: Our second collection of terrifying tales set in the very near future… or perhaps it’s already here? It’s an infected apocalypse and we’re all (alone) in it together! 100% of proceeds will go the Save the Children Response. Features short stories by: F. Paul Wilson | John Palisano | Mark Towse | R.J. Meldrum | Rebecca Fraser | Tabby Stirling | Pochassi | Patrick J. Gallagher | Paul Alex Gray | Claire Fitzpatrick | Tom Prince | Louise Zedda-Sampson | Brianna Courtney Bullen | T.C. Phillips | Edward Ahern | Calvin Demmer | Chris Mason | Catherine McCarthy | Brian Bowyer | Eugene Johnson | Shaun Taylor | Noel Osualdini | Irene Punti | Gerri Leen | Tracy Fahey | Eric J. Guignard | Yash Seyedbagheri | Steve Dillon

Infected 2:  Tales to Read Alone is an anthology of pandemic proportions. It’s a competitive collection with a focus on the fearful spread of contagion. The book is also a fundraiser for Save the Children’s Coronavirus Response, and I can assure donors that they will be treated to adventures of the mind with their generous contributions. There is something in these tales for every horror reader’s preference. Although the title is Tales to Read Alone, the lasting effect of the book is that we’re not alone in this unprecedented time of lockdown with no toilet paper. 

The stories dare to explore possible outcomes like cannibalism, military control, and body scanners. “The Obscenity Carrier Pigeon” by Brianna Courtney Bullen suggested mandatory execution of Terms and Conditions in order to be released from quarantine. I’ve already had to put my name to a disclaimer acknowledging that masks will be worn by all who enter my place of employment. Who’s to say that more intrusive demands won’t happen?  

I felt the helplessness and hopelessness and sometimes, the resolve to conquer the invisible antagonist. Intense migraine headaches, flesh-eating diseases, and maddening itchiness paved the road to insanity. Cloud contamination, deliberate infection of holy water – there were no boundaries in this anthology. The shock value wasn’t as powerful for me as it would have been during another time when I wasn’t smack in the middle of this incredible coronavirus crisis that’s begun to desensitize me.

There were a few stories that fell short of leaving an impact with me, but the majority were compelling, thought-provoking, and even educational. I was presented with the what-if of comets and tidal waves in “Numb” by John Palisano. Calvin Demmer took the phrase “seeing red” to another level in “Red.” The surgical procedure in “Head Womb” by Brian Bowyer fascinated me, partly because I’ve survived a decompressive craniotomy. I swear I heard the squishes and suctions during Dr. Singh’s operation.

I relished the historical aspect of “The Music from the Rue de l’Eglise” by Claire Fitzpatrick. There were other stories in the book meant to take place in a previous time period, but they missed the mark as far as creating setting, characters or dialogue that kept me there. “The Music from the Rue de l’Eglise” entrenched me in 1794 Paris.

“The Plague Doctor” by T. C. Phillips was one of my favorites in this collection. The main character, Doctor Sait accurately described the Apathy Virus, which reduced intense emotional reactions, as an enemy. Its threat manifested not in nuclear weapons, but in the house next door, and inside riders on the bus. The doctor found herself locked out of her own laboratory. Does she find a cure for the pestilence, or will she lose her ability to care?

My top pick in Infected 2 is “Lysing Toward Bethlehem” by F. Paul Wilson. The point of view was that of a contagion that the reader followed throughout a body.  I had flashbacks of an exhibit I once toured called “The Human Body” that amazed me with all of the inner workings under the skin. Wilson’s words roared through the pages, swirling and tumbling inside the human structure.

As my bibliophilic journey of Infected 2 came to an end, unexpected and insightful poetry escorted me quietly out of its uncontrolled chaos. The authors spoke their minds about pandemic captivity and the dark places it took them. I bonded with the honesty in the poems, which helped tip the 4 rating into a 4.5.

Available on amazon.co.uk and amazon.com.

For more information, go to Things in the Well.

Epeolatry Book Review: Highland Cove

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Our reviews may contain affiliate links. If you purchase something through the links in this article we may receive a small commission or referral fee. This happens without any additional cost to you.

Title: Highland Cove
Author: Dylan J. Morgan
Genre: Horror
Publisher: DJM Entertainment
Release Date: 30th March, 2020

Synopsis: Highland Cove Sanatorium sits abandoned on a desolate island one mile off the Scottish mainland. It’s a dark, foreboding place, filled with nightmares. Even darker are the asylum’s secrets: a history of disease and mental illness, macabre experiments and murder. The tales of ghostly appearances are said to be more fact than fiction, but no one has ever documented the phenomenon. Codie Jackson aims to change all that. Arriving from London with his small independent film crew, they plan to make a documentary that will forever change their lives. But when one of the crew disappears, things begin to spiral out of control. A storm closes in to ravage the island, and in the darkness Highland Cove’s true horrors are revealed. Now lost within the institution’s labyrinthine corridors, Codie and his team realize that their nightmare is only just beginning.

Think Overlook Hotel, “1408,” Rose Red.  I love haunted houses, buildings, rooms.  Anyone who craves the same will find this book well worth their reading time.

Codie Jackson leads a filming expedition for Webb Enterprises.  He and four others are going to produce a documentary on a desolate mental asylum only accessible by boat.  Captain O’Connell reluctantly sails them as close as he dares to the asylum.  And that was their first clue; the ghost tales of former residents – former inmates – who still haunt the building might have some truth to them.

This story had everything a novel about a desolate haunted establishment needs – fierce thunderstorms, broken windows, decades of debris scattered throughout.  I sensed the cold chill moving through my body, heard the whispers, and recoiled at the icy touches.  The night I finished the chapter where the wheelchair first moved on its own, I felt it best to sleep with the nightlight on.

The depraved history of the asylum and its deranged doctor is unfolded as secret documents are discovered. Five central characters each suffer through their own trauma, and Morgan keeps the obstacles coming.  Maybe they’ll survive.  Maybe the tormented souls that came before them will swallow them in the darkness.

“The hunt was sweeter than the kill – that’s why cats played with mice before slaughtering them.”  That statement proved all kinds of truth regarding an antagonist who is everything I love to hate – arrogant, condescending and merciless.

Each chapter of this book served a purpose and kept my trepidation from resting.  I didn’t expect the ending, least of all the character in it.  

A 5-star thriller!

Available on amazon.co.uk and amazon.com.

Epeolatry Book Review: Our Lady of Darkness by Fritz Leiber

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Our reviews may contain affiliate links. If you purchase something through the links in this article we may receive a small commission or referral fee. This happens without any additional cost to you.

Title: Our Lady of Darkness
Author: Fritz Leiber
Genre: Horror Fantasy
Publisher: Currently Open Road Media Sci-Fi and Fantasy
Release Date: 1978

Synopsis: A horror author is drawn into a mysterious curse in this World Fantasy Award–winning novel from the author of the Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser series.

Fritz Leiber may be best known as a fantasy writer, but he published widely and successfully in the horror and science fiction fields. His fiction won the Hugo, Nebula, Derleth, Gandalf, Lovecraft, and World Fantasy Awards, and he was honored with the Life Achievement Lovecraft Award and the Grand Master Nebula Award. One of his best novels is the classic dark fantasy Our Lady of Darkness, winner of the 1978 World Fantasy Award.

Our Lady of Darkness introduces San Francisco horror writer Franz Westen. While studying his beloved city through binoculars from his apartment window, he is astonished to see a mysterious figure waving at him from a hilltop two miles away. He walks to Corona Heights and looks back at his building to discover the figure waving at him from his apartment window—and to find himself caught in a century‑spanning curse that may have destroyed Clark Ashton Smith and Jack London. 

Fritz Leiber is one of genre fiction’s most versatile authors, but he is probably best known for Our Lady of Darkness, a work of urban fantasy.

 One day, Franz Westen is standing up on Corona Heights. He casually spots his apartment building and notices, to his disquiet, something pale brown leaning out of his window. The thing waves at him, setting in train an increasingly obsessive (yet equally somehow understandable and rational) desire on the part of the point-of-view character to solve the mystery.

 The plot revolves around the geometry and layout of San Francisco, utilizing its unique character and many of its famous landmarks in the process. The premise is that ancient demons can exist just as easily in a wholly modern environment as in ancient houses, castles or graveyards. They wreak terrible vengeance when their slumber is disturbed, and I find it more terrifying when they do so in a calm and calculating manner.

 Like many works of urban fantasy, the city that provides the book’s setting also functions as an additional character in its own right. San Francisco, with its Modernist architecture and gridlined street layout, is as important to the story’s psychological underpinning as the hero or his companions. It is the perfect setting for the story that unfolds. The book also has something of an autobiographical feel given that it is based around Leiber’s life in a city he knows inside-out.

 The action is very low key, and the feel is uncanny rather than overtly bloodthirsty. Part of the attraction of the story lies in Franz’s investigation into the disappearance of real-life author Clark Ashton Smith.

 Through a subtle blending of real historical figures with those of his own invention, Leiber pays fond homage to those who came before him. Horror writing is quite a hierarchical genre, drawing upon influences from past writers in ways that are continually developing and shooting off in new directions, so this style of approach feels very right.

 The plot development and ending were satisfying and affirming, and overall (despite the weird focus throughout) it finished in a way that was unexpectedly positive. It felt far cozier than a different writer (Lovecraft, for example) would have delivered, and this acts as a pertinent reminder that, whatever lineages exist in the development of horror fiction down the generations, each writer of genius tells the tale that grows inside them and in the style that speaks best to them.

5/5 stars

Available on Amazon.

Epeolatry Book Review: Altered Carbon: The Art and Making of the Series by Abbie Bernstein

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Our reviews may contain affiliate links. If you purchase something through the links in this article we may receive a small commission or referral fee. This happens without any additional cost to you.

Title: Altered Carbon
Author: Abbie Bernstein
Genre: Sci-Fi
Publisher: Titan Books 
Release Date: 31st March, 2020

Synopsis:

Go behind the scenes of Altered Carbon in this exclusive collection of art. Packed with concept art, final designs, and artist commentary plus previously unseen storyboards.

Awaken into the cyberpunk world of Skydance’s Altered Carbon. Stacks – implanted chips that store human consciousness – have made death obsolete. When Envoy Takeshi Kovacs finds himself sleeved in an unfamiliar body and assigned to investigate the murder of a wealthy businessman, he begins to uncover the seedy underbelly of a society where death is no longer permanent.

This richly detailed and beautiful coffee table book takes readers from the glittering Aerium to the gritty streets of Bay City. Featuring development art, stills, set photos, storyboards, and VFX builds from the first two seasons, plus interviews with cast and crew. Altered Carbon: The Art and Making of the Series will bring readers into this visually stunning futuristic world where technology has transformed mortality.

My most favorite thing about a new coffee table book? Opening it for the first time. The crackling of a new spine, the whiff ink, the glossy feel of each page in my fingertips. And I also hope to learn something after I close it, to have a take-away.

“Altered Carbon is set in a future where human consciousness is digitized as digital human freight, or DHF; an Individuals memories, personality, emotions, everything that comprises their identity.” This is the intro to Bernstein’s newly released coffee table book. Immortality is something we’ve all fantasized about. Countless books have been set upon this idea. In an ambiguous 300 years into the future, Altered Carbon takes it to a new level: soul imprisonment within a “stack”. Bernstein quotes executive producer/director Nick Hurran, “It’s a frightening thought, what Richard K Morgan has created in the world going forward.” 

Bernstein portrays the challenges involved in adapting Morgan’s novel into a Netflix Series. Her book is a behind-the-scenes look at the series production. It’s an artistic commentary, and a guide companion.

I binge-watched this series on Netflix before reading the futuristic trilogy, written by Richard K. Morgan, that the show was based upon. I love sci-fi, and action. Altered Carbon is often described as Blade Runner meets The Matrix. A mixture of sci-fi and film noir. Since there is so much world building in this series, it’s no surprise a coffee table book would be forthcoming. So, with that in mind, this hardcover edition, which covers season 1 and 2, was a great resource.

Bernstein’s book walked me through The Ground, The Aerium, and Off World. The Ground is reminiscent of rainy, dark and dirty dystopian city streets. It’s low rent, and seedy. The Aerium is home to the boastful greedy uber-wealthy who have built their castles above the city, so high in the sky that they can’t be touched. Off World encompasses areas like Harlon’s World (a planet about eighty light years from Earth). Throughout, we are immersed in storyboards, set photos, and concept art. There’s also a cool glossary towards the back. Interviews and quotes with producers, designers, VFX persons, cast, and actors pepper the narrative. 

There’s a definite theme underlying Altered Carbon. My take on that will differ from yours. Bernstein explores the show’s theme with several quotes. Actor Chris Conner, who plays AI Poe (as in Edgar Allen Poe), says he sees Altered Carbon as, “the struggle to be human.” Showrunner Allison Schapker says, “How much of what makes me ‘me’ is tied to the mind, the body, the soul?” Writer and producer of Altered Carbon, Laeta Kalogridis, says, “But also we’re trying to explore the idea of imbalance in resources, when too much goes to a small group, and not enough to everyone else.”  

Overall, Bernstein filled in the few questions lingering in my mind, and helped clear up any confusions, too. I think the most important take-away for me was how well this book stands alone. Meaning, I didn’t feel like I had to have read the novels or watched the series in order to enjoy Bernstein’s book and its visual content. There are close-ups, pictures, sketches and 3D renderings, and diagrams. Her book delves into characters, sleeving process, stacks, weaponry, Ocular Neural Interface (ONI), holograms, Songspires, the AIs, and Elders. Yes, the terminology is extensive. And I’d highly suggest this compendium while watching the series.

5/5 stars

Available on Amazon and Book Shop in the US, Forbidden Planet in the UK, and Booktopia in Australia.

Epeolatry Book Review: In the Scrape by James Newman and Matthew Steensland

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Our reviews may contain affiliate links. If you purchase something through the links in this article we may receive a small commission or referral fee. This happens without any additional cost to you.

Title: Blood Red Sky
Author: James Newman and Matthew Steensland
Genre: Horror
Publisher: Silver Shamrock Publishing
Release Date: 1st July, 2019

Synopsis: Most kids dream about a new bike, a pair of top-dollar sneakers endorsed by their favorite athlete, or that totally awesome videogame everyone’s raving about. But thirteen-year-old Jake and his little brother Matthew want nothing more than to escape from their abusive father. As soon as possible, they plan to run away to California, where they will reunite with their mother and live happily ever after.It won’t be easy, though. After a scuffle with a local bully puts Jake’s arch-nemesis in the hospital, Sheriff Theresa McLelland starts poking her nose into their feud. During a trip to the family cabin for the opening weekend of deer-hunting season, Jake and Matthew kick their plan into action, leaving Dad tied to a chair as they flee into the night. Meanwhile, the bully and his father have their own plans for revenge, and the events to follow will forever change the lives of everyone involved . .

I’d like to thank the publisher for an ARC of this book. 

In the Scrape is a Young Adult novel but also wholly suitable as an adult read. The theme works for all age groups: growing up in a dysfunctional abusive family, surviving the school bullies, following your dream and fighting back.

It’s told (mainly) in the first person voice of thirteen-year-old Jake, looking back as an adult on the  transformative summer when he and his younger brother, nine-year-old Matthew, grew up, fought back and came out the other side of a vortex of violence and abuse.

There is no spare flesh on the bones of this short (104 pages) story  From the opening page, the reader is tossed into the maelstrom of the boys’ home life with their alcoholic father and missing mother. 

The narrative mainly unfolds through dialogue, which is direct, unflinching, and takes you into the boys’ hearts. The older lad, Jake, has plans to escape to California where he’s been told his mum lives, and he unquestioningly hates his Dad. But the younger boy, Matthew, has a heart-breaking tug of love/hate war thing going with his father, from whom he craves parental affection and approval.

As if the boys’ lives aren’t hard enough, they are stalked by a school bully. Outwitting him and staying one step ahead adds to the tension.

Jake is likeable, funny, tough, self-reliant, and wise beyond his years. The authors have really nailed the characterisation. I was rooting for him from the start. It’s not easy writing teenage characters so well, credit to Newman and Steensland.

Dad wants to take his lads hunting with rifles, but at the cabin he gets more than he bargained for when Jake ties him to a chair and the brothers try to flee with the help of the (female) local Sheriff.

However, the school bully and his own bully of a father are following them, and they’re bringing rifles to the party.

The conclusion is a shocking stand-off of shots fired, deaths, betrayal, and the boys teamworking to save each other. There is no happy ending here, but there is resolution and calmer waters ahead. Also, a secret is finally revealed—don’t want to give more away than that. 

There is in fact a lot of story with a lot of punch packed into just over 100 pages which I wolfed down in one sitting (nearly; I had to take the dog out for a walk).

Exciting, engaging, absorbing- highly recommend.

5/5 stars.

Available on Amazon.

Epeolatry Book Review: Blood Red Sky by Paul Kane

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Our reviews may contain affiliate links. If you purchase something through the links in this article we may receive a small commission or referral fee. This happens without any additional cost to you.

Title: Blood Red Sky
Author: Paul Kane
Genre: Horror
Publisher: Silver Shamrock Publishing
Release Date: 9th March, 2020

Synopsis: The world has changed. Ever since the night that sky, the blood red sky, appeared, and the adults were wiped out by what some of those who remain call the Trolls. Huge, hulking beasts that hunt the young survivors. One such group have tried to make a life for themselves, tried to create another family after losing their original ones—whilst at the same time planning a way to defeat the creatures who roam this new landscape. But that’s all about to change as well, when a couple of newcomers appear. Strangers who have their own story to tell… The latest post-apocalyptic tale from Paul Kane, the #1 bestselling and award-winning author of the Hooded Man novels, Pain Cages, Lunar, Before, The Rot, and Sherlock Homes and the Servants of Hell, this is a compelling coming of age novella unlike anything you’ve ever read.

I’d like to thank the publisher for an E-ARC of this Young Adult novel. I am happily clocking up a few reads from indie horror/dark fiction publisher- Silver Shamrock and can recommend the ones I’ve read so far. More reviews will soon wing their way to you.

This might be aimed at Y.A., but it’s a fast entertaining read for adults, too. This is a post-apocalyptic yarn, which read against the background of global lock down, and the Covid-19 outbreak seems very close to home in spirit if not in actual facts.

The story is told through the eyes of a quartet of teens, our main protagonist Ethan, his brainy younger cousin, Faith (who makes home-made bombs in a shed—gotta love this gal), Becky with whom they meet up, and Becky’s older, protective somewhat sullen brother, Cameron. 

These four find a base, (ironically named the White House—really liked that touch), go scavenging for food, fight off the Trolls, and try to plan a future. There is a touching scene where beans on toast for tea is described as a luxury to be revelled in, in this back to basics new world, with no convenience stores.

There are flashbacks from each of the characters inserted throughout (in italics—I wasn’t sure about the italicising myself; I found it distracting on the eye), with each being given a backstory as to where they were when the world turned to cheese and the arrival of the Trolls—named thus by Ethan due to their leathery grey skin—and the culling of the adults. Only the children and teens are left, and now the Trolls are hunting them, too. 

The quartet of teens are joined by two newcomers, Donna, and Liam—a smooth talker with lots of charm. Their arrival changes the dynamics and loyalties of the group in ways which lead to betrayal and death. The message here is clear: not all the survivors are fighting for mankind’s common good. Who can you trust?

I found it easy to get into the story, was grabbed by the sense of danger, by the bravery and resourcefulness of the kids. I particularly enjoyed the character of Faith, so bright, so young, only eleven-years-old and a chemistry whiz with attitude.

Personally, for me, the story dipped in the middle section, when there was too much description and discussion of the changing relationships within the group of kids. I found Becky’s thoughts about her feelings towards the lads rather over-long. 

The lead-up to the ending and the exciting, gripping finale seasoned with a couple of unexpected twists brought me back on track and raised the adrenaline levels.

There are some exciting individual hair – raising action scenes, where the kids face the Trolls. One, in a small village store, was particularly vivid.

I would probably have liked more description of the Trolls, but that could just be me. You are never sure of the Troll’s agenda, their numbers, or their how intelligence. I also would have liked more information about the title’s ‘Blood Red Sky’, but again that might just be me. 

Fast paced, exciting, believable, likeable characters are fighting the enemy within and without for survival. There’s no easy ending but a definite hope for the future.

A story for our times for teens.

3.5/5 stars.

Available on Amazon.

Epeolatry Book Review: Eden by Tim Lebbon

Disclosure:

Our reviews may contain affiliate links. If you purchase something through the links in this article we may receive a small commission or referral fee. This happens without any additional cost to you.

Title: Eden
Author: Tim Lebbon
Genre: Science-Fiction
Publisher: Titan Books
Release Date: 29th Feb, 2020

Synopsis: In a time when Earth’s rising oceans contain enormous islands of refuse, the Amazon rainforest is all-but destroyed, and countless species edge towards extinction, the Virgin Zones were established in an attempt to combat the change. Off-limits to humanity and given back to nature, these thirteen vast areas of land were intended to become the lungs of the world.

Dylan leads a clandestine team of adventurers into Eden, the oldest of the Zones. Attracted by the challenges and dangers posed by the primal lands, extreme competitors seek to cross them with a minimum of equipment, depending only on their raw skills and courage. Not all survive.

Also in Dylan’s team is his daughter Jenn, and she carries a secret––Kat, his wife who abandoned them both years ago, has entered Eden ahead of them. Jenn is determined to find her mother, but neither she nor the rest of their tight-knit team are prepared for what confronts them. Nature has returned to Eden in an elemental, primeval way. And here, nature is no longer humanity’s friend.

The plot line of this latest horror, an eco-thriller, from Tim Lebbon is very topical and en pointe. It’s set in a near future where our planet is drowning in pollution. Literal mountains of waste drift in the oceans, the Amazon Rainforest is all-but destroyed. Desperate measures have been brought into play and thirteen vast areas of land have been carved out, strictly off limits to humanity, intended to be the ‘lungs of the world’. The largest and oldest of these virgin zones is – drumroll: Eden.

Of course, humans being like humans everywhere, we just can’t resist breaking the rules. And the narrative follows a team of extreme runners/adventurers who are determined to run/hike/swim their way illegally across Eden.

These teams are led by Dylan, whose daughter Jen is also on his team. Additionally, there are a small group of supporting team members who, for me, anyway, never really came to life as rounded individuals. But then this is very much an action thriller and each character has his/her own skill set to bring to the story.

The relationship between Dylan and his daughter is vibrant and touching. They are both suffering from the loss in their lives of their wife/mother- Kat. But Eden holds more than one secret for them; Kat may well be closer to them than they thought.

(One of the more interesting characters for me was Selina, who gets the team into Eden, but she only appears in the first part of the book).

I believe from what I’ve read that the author, Tim Lebbon, is a bit of an extreme runner himself- he certainly invests enthusiasm and commitment for the sport into this story. Raw energy bursts off the page. There are many descriptions of the team jogging/trekking across Eden, which I, however, found to be a little repetitious. 

I appreciate that every chapter was prefaced by a bulletin of information purporting to come from doctors/twitter accounts/Greenpeace/ and leaked documents from the United Zones Council. I felt that this drip-fed the reader with back story, like how the zones were set up and the ongoing issues/myths around them. I found these chapter starters thought provoking and interesting. Yet I would have liked to see some of the issues they raised developed further in the narrative.

As expected, there is much trouble to be found in this Eden; nothing is as green, peaceful or perfect as it seems. The teams find worrying clues early on which hint at what might come, but the narrative only gets moving halfway through, with much scene-setting beforehand. I would have liked the trouble to ramp up faster. 

When trouble does get going, then there are lots of exciting action scenes, fights, flights, battles and losses as Eden reveals its toxic side. 

Personally, I preferred Lebbon’s earlier novels, Coldbrook and The Silence to this one. I think Eden missed a few opportunities to be scarier and more horrific.

However, for a fast paced, thought provoking read filled with drama and excitement about what we are doing to our planet, I’d say yes, go for it.

3/5 stars.

Available on amazon and Book Shop.

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