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!

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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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Coming Home–The Adventure Continues

Our first week back in New Zealand has been action-packed. In addition to my sprained ankle, we also had severe jet-lag and a hideous case of post-plane-flu. We’re looking for a new place to rent and so are living in a motel as we’ve been too sick to stay with friends. But none of that stopped us for jumping straight into our creative workflow. Though this week was been mostly been about artistic conventions and festivals.

Recently I was nominated for a Sir Julius Vogel Award, for my short story, Narco, which was published in 2016 in the At the Edge anthology, edited by Lee Murray and Dan Rabarts. I was so excited to be nominated and honoured to be shortlisted amongst some other amazing New Zealand writers.

The awards were announced last weekend at Lexicon, the New Zealand’s National Science Fiction and Fantasy Convention held in Taupo. Sadly, I was unable to attend this year, however, I followed the awards ceremony online. I was so excited to see many of my colleagues win awards for their amazing work.

Eileen Mueller won Best New Talent, and as she is one of my writing critique friends I am so over the moon for her. My good friend, Lee Murray won Best Novel for her awesome book, Into The Mist, as well as an award for Services To Science Fiction, Fantasy And Horror. She also won Best Collected Work, which she shared with another good friend, Dan Rabarts for their anthology, At the Edge. Jean Gilbert won Best Youth Novel for, Light in My Dark. I haven’t read that one so I look forward to checking it out.

My short story did not win, however, I feel that being nominated was a great achievement in itself. A.J. Fitzwater claimed the prize for her beautiful story, Splintr.

Well done to all of the winners and nominees.

So what was I doing instead of enjoying the writers convention? I was at the Wairoa Maori Film Festival. My fiancee Dave Whitehead had his directorial debut short film, Possum showing. Despite not feeling 100%, we both had a lovely weekend. It was great networking with film people from all across New Zealand and abroad. The festival features films by native people worldwide, providing a great opportunity for cultural exchange as well as seeing some beautifully crafted films.

Dave’s film was greatly received by the audiences up in Nuhaka and it was made even more special because his father was born there and Dave’s film was set on the east coast too. 

Possum Short Film

Possum is a tale of two young brothers who accompany their lumberjack father to a forest campsite. At odds with each other, their relationship meets the ultimate test when they venture into the woods, hunting a notorious possum named Scar.

This screening was just the start of many more to come. I can’t wait to see where Possum takes us next.

We would have been in Berlin during the weekend and by now we’d be in Norway. We would have seen Radiohead in Oslo a couple of nights ago. We gave our tickets to some friends though, so it brings us joy to know that we could give that experience to people we love.

Even though we missed out on part of our overseas trip, we got to meet some great people that we wouldn’t have if we hadn’t come home early.

Things never go as planned, but that is just all part of the adventure. So get out there and make life magic people!

My airport wheelchair adventure!

Au Contraire – 2016

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The science-fiction and fantasy convention, Au Contraire 3 took place this weekend in Wellington and it was a blast!

I was honoured to have two presentations. The first was on Friday, as part of the youth One-Day writing Workshops. I was thrilled to be included in a prestigious line-up of presenters, including talented Kiwi writers, Piper Mejia, Lee Murray, Kevin Berry, Celine Murray, Eileen R Mueller, Alicia Ponder, Simon Fogarty, Jan Goldie, Alan Chad Lindsay and Jean Gilbert.

The kids had a great day, and I was blown away by some of the incredibly talented young writers.

kids

A huge thanks to Piper for organising this event and giving us writers a chance to get involved with the young folk who, let’s face it, are the reason why we write young adult fiction!

The convention didn’t stop there though, I gave a second presentation on the role of sound in storytelling which was a nice change of pace. All too often, we get swept up in the visual feast of words and pretty covers, we forget about the huge potential sound plays in stories. These days, audio books offer a valuable way for writers to branch out and reach a wider market.

There were discussion panels for a variety of genres, covering a multitude of subjects from poetry to horror. I especially liked the panel from the independent authors. I picked up some very handy tips from the pros. The writing workshop offered by Anna Mackenzie was also fabulous and really got my creative juices flowing.

On Sunday, we had the book launch of At The Edge, a collection of New Zealand and Australian speculative short stories, which I was, again, humbled to be a part of.

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Sadly, I missed the presentations of the Sir Julius Vogel Awards, but I was so proud and excited to see so many of my friends take home the prizes. Eileen Mueller, claimed best youth novel for her ‘You Say Which Way’ novel, ‘Dragon’s Realm’ and Lee Murray won her sixth SJV for her short, ‘The Thief’s Tale’.

Well done to all the winners as well as the finalists for producing such great work. You can see a list of the winners here.

A big thanks to the guests of honour, Juliet Marillier, Amanda Fitzwater and Martin Wallace for their contributions to the convention. It was inspiring meeting so many great authors.

And a very special thanks to Lee and Dan for putting the program together and everyone else who helped make this such a great event.

So…when is the next convention?