Friday, June 15, 2012

Book Review - The Dead Trilogy by David Gatward

I’m an avid reader of horror. I was hooked many years ago (like millions of others) by Darren Shan’s Cirque Du Freak series, and since then I have been devouring novel after novel filled with carnage, chaos, and calamity. I came across David Gatward’s “Dead” trilogy a few years back on Amazon. I live in the US, but I frequently visit the UK Amazon site to order the latest Shan book before it is released in my own country. I noticed the first two books of Gatward’s trilogy in the “Customers Also Bought” section, and plopped them into my cart and ordered.
When the books arrived, the first thing that struck me was how beautifully grotesque the covers were. Horrific close ups of tortured demons with blood and guts spewing, a slightly raised design that made it seem as if the monsters were trying to escape the pages and come after me. The books looked fabulous, and I made the decision to read The Dead and The Dark before I read the Shan book. Boy was I glad I did.
No one can deny what Darren Shan has done for the world of young adult horror. He’s the pioneer of the genre and I, like many others, adore him and praise him for his accomplishments. However, lately I have felt that Mr. Shan has become a little too focused on the blood and guts factor of his novels, and his characters have become detached. I noticed this change in style while reading his Demonata series and it unnerved me.
But I digress.
My reason for bringing that up, though, is because The Dead Trilogy by David Gatward was the perfect remedy. His books offer all of the blood and gore and demons that a great Shan book has, but he also plops this insanely relatable and powerful character in the middle of all the bloodshed. I love the chill factor of horror just as much as the next guy, but Lazarus Stone and the other characters that populate Mr. Gatward’s horrific world are what truly set it apart from any other horror novel out there.
Laz is just like all any other teenager. He’s so relatable from the get go that it drags the reader in and makes them want to see what happens throughout the story. Gatward does an amazing job of starting the action off early in the first few pages and ending each chapter on a mini cliffhanger, making it near impossible to put the book down and stop reading.
And the magic of this series is that even when the action starts picking up and the bodies start dropping, Gatward never loses touch with Lazarus’s humanity. There’s no awkward dehumanization or desensitizing of Lazarus’s emotions. The things that happen to Laz are monumentally traumatizing, and they’re never written off as anything less than that. When reading the books, you start to feel that this is the story of a very real boy dealing with real heartaches and pain and trauma.
Throughout the series, the books also grow in size. The Dead was a short read and The Dark was packed with even more. Gatward saves the best for last, though. The Damned is my favorite book of 2011 by far. Everything that has built throughout the past two books comes to an action packed and blood drenched conclusion. The book, just like the previous two, starts off fast and only gets faster. And the ending, oh man that ending. It leaves you with a small spark that the adventures of Lazarus Stone may not be over… Which is admittedly bad news for Laz, but it’s great for us fans!
In conclusion, if you haven’t read these books yet, go out and buy them now! You won’t regret it. My thanks go to David Gatward for sending me a copy of The Damned to review. He’s a genuinely awesome guy and if you have the time, check out his site and shoot him an email. He’s always more than happy to chat with fans.
David’s new book Doom Rider comes out in July, and you can be sure that I’ll be reviewing that.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Author Interview: David Gatward

David Gatward is the best-selling author of The Dead, The Dark, and The Damned. These books are utterly brilliant and you can expect my review to follow soon. He has a new novel coming out later this year entitled Doom Rider, and Mr. Gatward very kindly took some time out of his holiday week to answer a few questions.

1. You have a new book coming out called Doom Rider. I'm sure the release date is out and about, but could you give us all a reminder?
Release is July 5. However, I’ll be doing plenty of build-up stuff through my facebook page and website, such as comps and so on, as well as getting out into schools in the UK to spread the doom!

2. The cover art for your books has always been top notch; but Doom Rider's cover takes it to a whole new level. It's phenomenal. Who was the artist?
Isn’t it just? My face pretty much fell off when this arrived in my life! Absolutely blown away by it. As to the artist, I’m still not sure! He/she is clearly a person of much mystery. However, with work like this, they’re talented beyond belief. That image is exactly how I imagined the main character, Seth. What I love about it is that it’s just so dramatic. That’s a kid with a purpose, and one that could rip the world apart. Loving it!

(The cover art for Doom Rider can be found at the end of this post.)
3. Who usually comes up with the idea of the cover? Is it something you as the author kind of outlines and then the artist builds off of that? Or does the artist have free reign?
Well, the artist has the book for starters. Then I’m asked for ideas, but that’s not always so easy to come up with as I’m no artist (I draw like a three year old cave child). The editorial and sales team at the publishers also come up with ideas and then my editor sorts out a design brief. Then off the artist goes and creates something really rather astonishing.

4. Okay, I've got to ask. Is there anything more you can tell us about Doom Rider other than the summary that's up on book purchasing sites?
Er… Well, I’d love to, but I’d have to kill you and everyone else… Other than that, I guess I can say that it’s not a humorous story. I’ve always been fascinated by the four riders of the apocalypse, but knew if I was to write about them that I didn’t want to do it as a poking-fun kind of thing. In Doom Rider, I’ve tried to write a story that deals with religion and belief in all its possible incantations, and the notions of destiny and free choice. Oh, and the horses are very, very cool…

5. Is Doom Rider the start of a brand new series or a standalone book? If its a series, can you tell us anything about subsequent books?
At the moment it’s a standalone, and it was great to write it as such. It did start out as a three-parter, but honing it down to something that I had to do in one take was brilliant. It sharpened the story, made it even more urgent, and the pace is breakneck. If you thought The Dead/Dark/Damned were fast-paced, wait till you read this… and hold on!

6. Doom Rider is such a great name for a horror story. Was that the original title or did it go through a couple of others first?
First it was Apocalypse Boy! I liked that, but it didn’t have enough punch. And it was edging towards an amusing title rather than something more serious. Then it was Children of the Apocalypse, but that didn’t work, as it sounded like a bunch of kids surviving the end of the world. Then I think it was my agent who suggested something to do with doom, and finally someone, somewhere, yelled out with “The Doom Rider”. Finally, we dropped “The” and stuck with “Doom Rider”. And you’re right, it’s such a great name/title!

7. We're all excited for Doom Rider. However, I read before that you would possibly write a second trilogy dealing with Lazarus Stone. As an avid fan, that would be a dream come true. Any idea if this will happen?
Well, I’d love to do something else not just with Laz, but with the rest of the characters, too. One in particular is Abaddon, the undead priest. He’s just the darkest creature I’ve come up with (more so than Red in a lot of ways) and his back story is huge. Would be a lot of fun to explore that. Will just have to see how things pan out…

8. I'm sure I'm not the only one that's curious; what's a normal day for you like? How much time do you usually spend writing each day?
No day is normal! Some days I’m doing school visits, others I’m writing, others I’m wrestling bears. I’ve never been someone who writes a few hundred words a day and is happy with that. I write fast, so an average day is perhaps 4000 words. The best I’ve done? 14,000. IN A DAY. I was so tired I could see through time. It just depends on how things are going. If it fully sucks, I bin it and walk away. No point hanging around to get more frustrated. Best to come at it fresh. If it’s going well, I like to just keep going…

9. How long does it usually take you to finish the first draft of a book? I'm sure there are a lot of kids out there like me that struggle with getting the story out. Any advice for writer's block?
No set answer to that! A book goes through a lot of stages. Doom Rider started as a PS at the end of an email. Then it had to be developed into an idea, then into a synopsis with a couple of chapters. Then it had to be fleshed out into a full storyline thing. Then I had to write it. That process, start to finish (remember it goes to my agent and publisher, too, for their feedback) took three months (ish). The writing can take anything from a few weeks to a few months. It all depends. So many variables. And advice for writer’s block? Smash it with a hammer. Pack TNT against it and blow it sky high. You just have to get on with the writing, grab it by the scruff of the neck, beat it into submission, drag it kicking and screaming to where you want it to be. I think…

10. I just want to thank you for taking time out of your day to answer these questions. It's been an honor and I can't wait to read Doom Rider when it's released! Any parting words?
Doom Rider? It’s gonna fully rock!

***



As I stated above, I'll be posting reviews of Mr. Gatward's previous three novels in the coming weeks. And you can bet that when Doom Rider is released, I'll be reviewing that immediately!

In the meantime between now and July 5th, go read The Dead, The Dark, and The Damned; visit his website (http://www.davidgatward.com/), like his page on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/#!/davidgatward.author), and follow him on Twitter (http://www.twitter.com/davidgatward)!


Saturday, April 7, 2012

Book Review - Fear: A Gone Novel by Michael Grant

It's been one year since all the adults disappeared. Gone.

Despite the hunger and the lies, even despite the plague, the kids of Perdido Beach are determined to survive. Creeping into the tenuous new world they've built, though, is perhaps the worst incarnation yet of the enemy known as the Darkness: fear.

Within the FAYZ, life breaks down while the Darkness takes over, literally—turning the dome-world of the FAYZ entirely black. In darkness, the worst fears of all emerge, and the cruelest of intentions are carried out. But even in their darkest moments, the inhabitants of the FAYZ maintain a will to survive and a desire to take care of the others in their ravaged band that endures, no matter what the cost.

Let me preface this review by stating that I am absolutely in love with this series. It has everything a long running series needs: an engaging and unique plot, kids with mutations and powers, extremely well written, believable characters; real life issues, horror, gore, love, action; thought provoking situations that blur the lines of right and wrong. My praise for these books could go on and on forever, but let me also state that I am not one to be biased in my review just because I adore the series. While a very strong book and great addition to the series, Fear is not perfect.

Fear is the fifth and penultimate book in Michael Grant's Gone series. For all of you who haven't yet read the previous books (shame on you, get on it!), let me first set the scene. The series takes place in a fictional town in California called Perdido Beach (In loose Spanish, the town translates to "Lost Beach"; a very fitting piece of symbolism), where one day all of the inhabitants over the age of 14 suddenly disappear. A giant bubble twenty miles in diameter encloses the town and cuts it off from the outside world. The kids are left alone to form order amidst the chaos that ensues with no adults. Strange mutations begin to affect some of the children and wildlife, giving them impossible powers; and a strange entity known as The Darkness (Or the Gaiaphage) begins to make it's presence known.

Throughout the other four books the children have faced the sudden disappearance of the adults, the affects of starvation, a false messiah, and a plague that eats kids from the inside out. Despite all of these hardships, Fear definitely presents their biggest struggle yet: The FAYZ is becoming black and soon the kids will be plunged into absolute darkness.

Fear succeeds because it manages to switch up the established formula that has been in effect for the last four books. Right from the beginning readers are treated to a genuine surprise; the first chapter is told from the perspective of a parent outside of the dome. This is the first time (besides a few brief sentences in Lies) that readers are provided with a look at the world outside. It answers a ton of questions that have built up over the course of series, while also presenting more to keep the reader engaged.

The other way that Fear changes things up is that the action in the story is much less physical. Don't get me wrong, there are brilliantly bloody battles galore, but most of the story is dedicated to superb characterization for many of the characters. A strength of Michael Grant's is that he manages to provide a plethora of players that represent almost every archetype possible. Though each character has some stereotypical qualities, most of them also have traits that set them apart from clich├ęs.

I really liked the developments in the characters we've come to know and the affects that the dome changing has on them. As usual, the one word novel title hits home the major theme of the book. Fear is expressed in ways I never thought imaginable and almost every character faces a situation in which they come face to face with their worst fear. The story is dark and smothering and the reader can definitely sympathize with the characters.

My major complaint with Fear is that the wonderful characterization can sometimes bog down the pace of the novel. This book reads a lot slower than its fast paced action based predecessors. Also, while the character development is great, sometimes the changes seem a bit stretched and seem to happen too fast. This is undermined, however, once you remember that this book is set four months after the end of the last book, Plague.

That issue aside, Fear is a great read. The theme and idea of fear is represented expertly and uniquely and keeps the reader engaged in the plot. Grant is not afraid to spill blood and terrify his readers, and the characters in Fear definitely have their fair share of nightmares to face. The sometimes slow pacing builds up throughout the story and culminates in a fantastic ending that will leave readers dying in anticipation for the final volume in the series, Light, which comes out in 2013.