Category: Audios/Books


Having thoroughly enjoyed the previous two books in the trilogy, I was a little bit apprehensive going into Twilight of the Dead. It could have been a failure in so many ways. If you’ve previously read the original comic strip, then you’ll allready know that Constanta is still alive in the 1980s and so can’t possibly be killed in this book. Also we know that the vampyr’s plot to take over the world can’t possibly succeed either, as again in the 1980s everything seemed normal. Fortunatly David Bishop was able to overcome these potential stumbling blocks and once again produce a cracking good read.

Twilight of the Dead is very much a coming together of the two seperate plots in the previous novels. The first two books told of soldiers on both sides of the Eastern Fronts experiences with the Vampyr’s , and this time around the two sets of characters have to join forces to attempt too overcome the greater evil. The setting of Berlin during the final days of the Second World War was an inspired choice, as it serves as a perfect match for the bleak nature of the story. This was a place which was literally hell on Earth, and I imagine the only thing that could possibly have made it any worse would have been if there had been actual vampyr’s present. The scenes set during the Vampyr’s night spent slaughtering the Berlin citizens are extremely atmospheric, and thanks too Bishop’s writing I found it very easy to picture in my head. If your looking for a fun read then this certainly isn’t it.

One thing that suprised me about this book was Bishop’s willingness to kill off some of the main characters. I won’t spoil here who gets killed, but towards the end of the novel (and indeed the trilogy) some of the most important characters of both the first and second books are killed off in an alarmingly casual fashion. Indeed its the end of the novel that left be just the slightest bit unsatisfyed. While everything is wrapped up nicely, it all feels like it happens far to quickly. With about thirty pages of the book left, I found myself thinking that it would be impossible to bring a close to the trilogy in such a short amount of space. To Bishop’s credit he does just about manage it, but I think this installment would certainly have benefitted from an extended page count. I had begun to worry that after so much build up we wouldnt actually get to meet the Sire of the Vampyr race, but thankfully we do and what better place for it to be living than in a lake of blood. The Sire doesn’t quite make the impact it should perhaps, but it serves its purpose as an essentially disposable enemy, which as I said Constanta wasn’t. Again not going to spoil the ending, but if you’ve ever seen the classic Doctor Who story “State of Decay” then you can expect something very similar to that.

So does Twilight of the Dead bring this excellent trilogy to a satisfactory conclusion? Ultimatly I would have to say it does. It wasn’t everything it could have been, but it was still a brilliant read and took the story into some unexpected areas. If you’ve never read the Fiends of the Eastern Front trilogy then I can highly recommend you do so, even if you haven’t read the original comic strip. Its a fantastic mix of supernatural horror and WW2 adventure, and at the price you can pick up all three books online now, I promise you won’t be disapointed if you give them a try.

7/10

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Rather than follow on immediatly from the events of the first book in the trilogy, The Blood Red Army introduces us to a new set of characters in a new setting. Having previously shown the invasion of Russia from the perspective of the Germans, this time David Bishop switches the action to a Soviet penal company during the Siege of Leningrad. Its not just the characters which change, but also the style of writing. This time around the story is told in a first person perspective, with Victor Zunetov looking back on his experiences in Leningrad. There’s far more than the siege to worry about however, as Constanta and his vampires continue their involvement on the Eastern Front.

The previous book in the trilogy, while still essentially a horror story, had a feeling of a sort of boys own adventure yarn which couldn’t be more different from this installment. The Blood Red Army is an incredibly bleak novel, suitably evoking the seemingly hopeless situation which the citizens of Leningrad found themselves in. Indeed for almost the first two thirds of the novel there is little supernatural occurances, with the all to real horrors of war being more prominent. One of the most disturbing passages in the enitre novel involves some civilians digging up dead bodies in order to cook them and eat them. It’s a harrowing scene and one which sadly is documented as historical fact. David Bishop deserves credit for making this particular reader want to go online and look up details about the siege of Leningrad, such as the cases of cannabilism, and i’m sure i’m not the only person to have read this novel and then looked up what really happened.

As I said the first two thirds of the novel are pretty light on the supernatural. Contstanta retreats into the shadows for the most part, which is a far more effective use for him than in Operation Vampyr. Scenes in which he does appear are lent a certain weight due to his being used more sparingly. The final third of the novel more than makes up for the first two thirds in terms of the supernatural however. For the first time in any Fiends of the Eastern Front stories, zombies are brought into play, and as you can imagine during World War Two there were plenty of dead bodies to bring back to life. If you have played the Nazi Zombie levels on any of the Call of Duty games then i’m sure you will enjoy these scenes, which are somewhat reminiscent of the games, although I believe this book does actually precede them.

While both part of the same trilogy, The Blood Red Army is completly different to Operation Vampyr in pretty much every way. In fact you could probably read the two books in either order and the story would still make perfect sense, although there is one reference to the events of the first novel in The Blood Red Army. While perhaps not quite as readable as its predecessor, this installment is still an excellent read and one which comes recommended. If you have an interest in the Second World War (like I do) then you’ll probably find plenty to enjoy, even when the Vampyr’s and their thralls are nowhere to be seen.

7/10

When it comes to full length novels, I have something of a confession to make. As much as I love reading, nine novels out of ten I will fail to finish. Sometimes its because they’re dull, sometimes its because I simply can’t be bothered reading for a few days and then forget to go back to it. So it goes without saying that for me to finish a novel it has to be something pretty special, something that manages to keep my attention throughout, and actually makes me want to go on reading it. Operation Vampyr is certainly managed to do all three of those things and much more

The first in a trilogy of novels by David Bishop, Operation Vampyr begins the story of the Rumanian Vampyr soldiers as previously seen in the legendary 1980s strip Fiends of the Eastern Front (it isn’t neccesary to have read the original strip to be able to read the books however). Like the original strip, Operation Vampyr tells the tale from the perspective of the Germans, as they begin to uncover the truth about their Rumanian allies. Fortunatly these aren’t crazed deranged Nazis we’re talking about, these soldiers are just ordinary men fighting for their country. The main protaginists are the three Vollmer brothers, one an infantryman, one a tank commander, and one a pilot. The three characters are introduced individually with their stories gradually coming together roughly two thirds of the way through the novel. Each of the characters has their own encounter with the Rumanian Vampyr’s, which recall memories of the original comic strip.

The story itself rattles along at breakneck pace, never allowing the reader to grow bored. Bishop’s writing manages to effectively convey the horrors of war even when the Vampyrs aren’t present. Indeed, I could probably have quite happily read this even if the supernatural element hadn’t been present, and it had instead been a straight forward war story. The supernatural elements are however what make the novel go from being merely good to being genuinly great. The leader of the Vampyr’s (as in the comic strip) is Lord Constanta, who is every bit the classic Vampyr. Suave and sophisticated when trying to appear normal, Constanta becomes a genuinly nasty villain as soon as what he truly is is revealed, and like all good villains gets some very memorable speechs. As well as the horrors of war, we also get to see the horrors inflicted by the Vampyr’s. Some of the scenes in the novel are particularly nasty, perhaps most notably being the Russian POW camp, where the prisoners are slowly drained of blood untill they die. Its not just the bad guys who get the nasty scenes however, as the heroes of the novel viciously torture one of the Vampyrs in a particularly gruesome few pages.

As the first book in a trilogy, Operation Vampyr is an absolute belter. With a story which never lets up in its relentless pace, and characters whom the reader is made to genuinly care about, Operation Vampyr is far more than the mere pulp fiction you may imagine it to be at first glance. Exciting, dramatic, and with a final page which nicely sets up the rest of the trilogy, Operation Vampyr comes highly recommended. Considering how cheaply a second hand copy can now be found online, there’s really no reason not to give this a try. I can’t wait to read the next one.

9/10

The Strontium Dog audios from Big Finish are, sadly, something of a forgotten gem. Selling far more poorly than the Dredd audios, only two were ever made (with Johnny Alpha making a further appearance alongside Dredd in a later release). To this day though, the quality of these two audios is frequently praised and quite rightly so.

Fire From Heaven by Jonathan Clements, sees Johnny, Wulf, and the gang, in pursuit of a conman who is masquerading as a high priest. Landing on a nearby University planet the S/D agents have to mingle with the student population in order to discover his where abouts. As you would expect theres a lot of humour to be had here, particularly from Middenface McNulty, who lets just say isn’t exactly the most learned of people. His reactions to everyones patronising attitude towards him always raises a smile. The story as a whole is very light hearted, especially when compared to the previous Strontium Dog audio “Down To Earth”. Fortunatly the humour is always funny, so Fire From Heaven stands up to repeat listens.

The performances of the cast are spot on. As with the Dredd audios, whenever I read a Strontium Dog strip now I hear the voices from these audios. Middenface McNulty is particularly spot on, and you really have to buy this if only to hear how a Gronk sounds. Simon Pegg (who Im sure needs no introduction) is thoroughly convincing as Johnny Alpha, while Toby Longworth gives an admirable performance as Wulf Sternhammer (who must surely have been the most difficult part to cast).

Unfortunatly the chances of there being any more Strontium Dog audios are pretty much nil, so I recommend you pick up Fire From Heaven, as well as Down To Earth, as soon as possible.  If you want to pick them up now then they are both available as part of a bundle of four 2000AD audios from Big Finish, for just £7. At that price you really have no excuse not to get them.

8/10

Link to purchase: http://www.bigfinish.com//SPECIAL-OFFER-2000-AD-4-Single-CD-Special

(Stranger Than Truth by David Bishop is the first of (so far) four Crime Chronicles released by Big Finish Productions.)

Synopsis: Eliza Blunt is on a visit to Mega City One from Brit Cit hoping to get an interview with famed author Truman Caput (best known for his creation Slick Dickens).  However death seems to follow in the footsteps of Ms Blunt when she is witness to several murders by Slick Dickens himself, who appears to have stepped out of the pages of fiction and into reality.  Dredd investigates and discovers that he is top of Dickens hitlist.

Review: Stranger Than Truth is a story I have very mixed feelings about. While entertaining to listen to I did at times find that having a cast of two people meant my mind started to wander.  The plot twist at the end is one that you either won’t see coming, or will guess straight away if you have seen a certain film which uses the exact same twist. Toby Longworth is absolutly superb as Dredd and it is testament to him that whenever I read the strip it is his voice I hear coming out of those speech bubbles. Music and sound effects are also very good giving a constant background to the story which stops it from being just two people reading aloud.

I guess your enjoyment of this is really going to depend on whether or not you guess the plot twist. If like me you do, then you’ll probably find it a bit to long with not enough detours to maintain your interest. If you don’t then there is certainly plenty here to enjoy and to keep you guessing.

6/10

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