Hounds of the Underworld Review

Hounds of the Underworld – (The Path of Ra Book One), by Dan Rabarts and Lee Murray.

Released today from Raw Dog Screaming Press!

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Raw Dog Screaming Press


Hounds of the Underworld is a gripping new novel, co-written by Kiwi authors Dan Rabarts and Lee Murray. Packed with action, chilling drama and otherworldly terrors, it brilliantly blends supernatural horror with crime-noir. Set in near-future Auckland in the 2040’s, the noir setting becomes all the more appropriate. 

The two main characters, Penny the career-driven lab-technician and her adopted brother/cousin Matiu, are at odds from the outset, yet they’re dependent on each other’s different skill-set to get the job done. Matiu’s criminal past is a constant headache for Penny who has just received her first assignment from the police to help solve a crime. Unfortunately, Matiu’s shady connections to a man dealing in dog-fights offers a breakthrough in Penny’s case that she cannot turn her back on. To make things worse, she’s reliant on him as a driver, since in this day and age, not everyone can afford a car. There’s also a deep undercurrent of paranormal danger, as Matiu struggles with a dark entity, Makere who has haunted him since he was a boy. A constant shadow at his side and whisper in his ear, Makere constantly prompts Matiu to cause trouble. As a woman of science, Penny dismisses Matiu’s imaginary friend as a construct of his troubled mind. She can never trust his gut-feelings no matter how on the mark they are. This contrast in perspectives makes the blend of genre’s work particularly well, casting a wide net for readers of varying interests.

Thoroughly researched Murray and Rabart’s world-building is subtle and evocative. The setting is unique and fresh and engaging throughout, woven masterfully within the story-telling. Lovely detail is paid to creating the feeling of a future where resources are strained, but not so far as to be post-apocalyptic. A native New Zealand bird species, the Takahe, is extinct and Penny has to watch how long her shower is to avoid running out of her daily allowance. The science is solid with believable leaps to near future tech. I particularly love Penny’s DNA typing machine, the Breadmaker™ and how Penny notes; “if science gets any easier she’ll be out of a job”. 

Some wonderful descriptions bring a Lovecraftian tone to some of the paranormal drama. One of my favourites:

“He knocks again. This time, when no one answers, he reaches out, wraps a hand around the door handle. It’s cold as death in his grip. He turns it. With a soft crack, like the sound of the thin ice in the centre of a pond surrendering to some brave and foolish child’s weight on a frosty winter morning, the door swings in.”

The strongest part of the book for me is easily the two protagonists. Their characters are deep and engaging and beautifully juxtaposed so that as their situation becomes more perilous, we see the tension reflected in their relationship. The writers swing effortlessly between humour and drama, adding a layer of dark humour to what might otherwise be a more bleak and grim tale. Sometimes, Penny and Matiu’s troubles are heart-wrenching, but sometime they’re wonderfully hilarious. I was reminded fondly of the pairing of Scully and Moulder from the X-files. However, in this case the lab-nerd is teamed up with an ex-con with no regard for rules or fear of losing his job. Matiu’s slight personality disorder allows him to test his sister’s patience far beyond what most normal adult siblings would. However, his emotional depth reveals itself in his personal battle with his inner-demons and his perception of the spiritual realm.

Secondary characters provide a nice broad array of personalities for Penny and Matiu to bounce off. Though they are sometimes not as developed as I might have liked, there should be scope to flesh them out more in the sequels. Rabarts and Murray do a great job of picking moments to let secondary characters shine, without dropping the pace. The suspense builds nicely towards a gruesome climax that is satisfyingly horrible. There are moments I felt that the writers were holding back a bit too much from the reader, mostly when it came to unveiling the truth behind events of the crime or the killer’s motives, however, I understand why they’d want to hold a few cards to play in the sequel by keeping us guessing.

All in all, Murray and Rabarts deliver a page-turning killer of a tale, I can’t wait to read the next instalment.  


About the Authors

 

Dan Rabarts writes fantasy and speculative fiction. He is a sometime narrator of podcasts (including stories for the Hugo award-winning StarShipSofa), occasional sailor of sailing things, and father of two wee miracles in a little house on a hill, under the southern sun. In 2014 Dan received the Sir Julius Vogel Award for Best New Talent. Baby Teeth – Bite-sized Tales of Terror, a horror anthology co-edited with Lee Murray, also won the SJV for Best Collected Work and the Australian Shadows Award for Best Edited Work. Dan’s short stories have appeared in Beneath Ceaseless SkiesAurealis MagazineAndromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine, and on the Parsec Award-winning steampunk podcast Tales from the Archives, among many others. Find him here: dan.rabarts.comTwitterFacebook

 

 

 

Lee Murray writes fiction for adults and children. She is a five-time winner of the Sir Julius Vogel Award for science fiction, fantasy and horror, and holds an Australian Shadows Award (with Dan Rabarts) for Best Edited Collection for Baby Teeth: Bite-sized Tales of Terror . She is co-editor of five anthologies, including four by New Zealand intermediate and secondary students, as well as At the Edge (with Dan Rabarts) a collection of antipodean speculative fiction. Lee’s fourth novel, Into the Mist, a speculative thriller set in the Urewera ranges, is published by Australia’s Cohesion Press. Find her here: leemurray.infoFacebook

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Book Review – ‘Miss Lionheart Omnibus Edition (Miss Lionheart and the Laboratory of Death 1-3)’

lilly

Award winning New Zealand author AJ Ponder, who wrote Wizard’s Guide to Wellington has published her latest book ‘Miss Lionheart and the Laboratory of Death.’

I loved the first instalment of AJ Ponder’s ‘Miss Lionheart and the Laboratory of Death’ which I bought last year, so I was excited to see she had compiled the three parts into this omnibus edition.

Full of twists, cunning plots and deadly creatures, this book is perfect for teens, but also caters for a wider readership with clever language and great world-building.

With elements of fantasy, science fiction and dashes of mystery and suspense, this adventure is full of surprises.

Her characters are deep and engaging. I was hooked into Lilly’s quest from page 1 as she fights to escape the underground laboratory run by mad scientists.

Of course no laboratory would be complete without a horde of DNA modified, designer creatures that range from terrifyingly gross to terrifically cute!

Lilly is joined by a cast of quirky genius kids, who must learn to work together if they’re to engineer the deadly beasts their evil boss is demanding. The question is, what else can they cook up to help them escape their villainous overlords? Sounds like fun? It is.

Ponder’s use of hyperlinks, images and emails in the story adds a realism to her work that will engage kids even further, leading them deeper into the fantastical world.

Beautifully crafted and full of heart, I highly recommend this book.

Pick up your copy on Amazon today!

 

http://www.amazon.com/Lionheart-Omnibus-Edition-Laboratory-Death-ebook/dp/B019FLDJKW/ref=cm_rdp_product

Book vs Film Review: The Martian

the-martian-trailer

As someone who works in the film industry, I am not a huge advocate of the – ‘films ruin books’ – argument. Though there are certainly cases where film versions do no justice to the books they are based on, there are also cases where I believe films have enhanced and improved aspects of a particular book. Mostly, I think it’s unfair to suggest that a film can ruin a book, because it is not like the existence of the film can erase the book from history. Nor is anyone forced to watch the film if they loved the book and want don’t think the film can live up to the experience they had reading it.

Having made that claim, let me say that I do enjoy reading a book prior to watching the film. This is mostly because the film only takes 2 hours (or 3+ if its a Tolkien experience), while a book takes a lot more time, allowing me to get swept away to another world for much longer.

The Martian was no exception. I made sure I read it before the film came out and I am sure glad I did.

 

Book. *****

This was an exceptional book, living up to it’s notoriety completely. Totally worth the hype. Methodically researched and beautifully crafted, I was hooked from page 1. The story telling is inventive and fresh. Although at times, it runs the risk of losing dramatic tension, because we are being told about dire situations after the hero has effectively dealt with them. However, Weir keeps us engaged through the use of great characterisation and choice of places to switch points of view. Weir’s protagonist Mark Watney, is compelling and real. The secondary characters are well fleshed out too, considering how little time we get to spend with the rest of the cast. One of the things I loved most about the flight crew was that, as Weir suggested in an interview, they are all exemplary human beings. Unlike some sci-fi’s where we see astronauts fighting amongst themselves or losing their minds, Weir recognises that we only send people into space who are fully capable of handling the associated pressures. The drama is centred around the dangers of space, not the people who have signed up to be there. Despite the heavy maths and science that is present in the text, it is also fast paced and thrilling. The balance is achieved, once again, through great characterisation and humour. I don’t read a lot of hard sci-fi, especially as it can be brutal, overly-technical or too dark. The Martian, however, kept me smiling for days.

 

Film. *****

This film was spectacular. There has been a lot of wonderful sci-fi films released over the past few years, such as Gravity and Interstellar. As a sound editor, I am capable of enjoying a film like this on 2 separate levels. I watch films from a technical standpoint, analysing the sound mostly, but the visuals, the editing, and the craft of the film-makers in general. On this level alone, the Martian was fantastic. Great sound, great visual effects, both practical and computer generated. I want to go to Mars just to listen to that beautiful dust storm. I want to drive a rover across the rolling red plains. The film lived up to my imagination of the scenery and exceeded my expectations of what would be delivered. In terms of the story itself, I think the film-makers stayed very true to the feel and tone of the book as well as covering much more of the plot than I’d expected. If this was a recreation of my book, I’d be blown away. I love Ridley Scott’s representation of Weir’s vision. The science is as close to accurate as possible, though the technical details are never overdone. Reality never gets in the way of a good yarn. It’s still all about the character and his story.

So for me Book vs Film? Well, they’re pretty even in terms of my enjoyment, but since the film wouldn’t exist without the book, then perhaps I’ll let the book have this one.

How about you did you like one and not the other?

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