Tuesday, March 6, 2018

recent read; Return to the Lost Level


Keene returns to THE LOST LEVEL with a worthy sequel!

Picking up where THE LOST LEVEL left off, Aaron Pace's adopted tribe has been raided by Anunnaki snake-men. Pace and the surviving villagers set off on a rescue mission, enduring hazards, danger, and hardship all along the way. Pterodactyls, Anunnaki, deadly flora, and other lost world features all hinder their efforts. Along the way they adopt a baby triceratops, and encounter Ambrose Bierce, too.

Keene sprinkles tantalizing bits of his own mythos throughout the story. The framing device also leaves a reader wondering about Pace's final fate in the Lost Level.

RETURN TO THE LOST LEVEL leaves the reader on a tantalizing cliffhanger promising more. I eagerly anticipate the next entry in the saga of Aaron Pace in the Lost Level.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

recent read; MARROW DUST

MARROW DUST by Steve Van Samson

MARROW DUST is the sequel to THE BONE EATER KING, which was one of my favorite reads last year.

Van Samson weaves an intriguing story from the opening pages. Time has passed since the events of THE BONE EATER KING and, clearly, things have gone very bad. Somewhere, somehow, Re, the heroine of the previous novel, has succumb to the curse of the matsatsaku maza - the vampires of near-future Africa who have laid waste to the world.

But Re fights on to retain herself to execute a mission of revenge. Along the journey through post-apocalyptic Africa, we meet a cast of characters - all well fleshed-out and interesting. The action is pulse pounding, and the reveals and turns keep coming through the very last page. The near-future African setting continues to entice and to fascinate and hums with veracity.

As with THE BONE EATER KING, Van Samson delivers the story in a non-linear fashion that is extremely satisfying. The hooks of the current narrative combined with the puzzle pieces of flashbacks all lock together in step until all is revealed but you've got stay for the entire ride.

And believe me, MARROW DUST is a ride you want to take.

5 out of 5.

Monday, February 12, 2018

recent read; The Outpost

I recently read Jake Tapper's The Outpost, a non-fiction book about an American military outpost in Afghanistan. (I am trying to read a little more history and non-fiction this year.)
I thought - given the terrain and operations involved - it would be a fitting post over at Frontier Partisans.  (Jim Cornelius graciously agreed.)
Nuristan province in northern Afghanistan is historically some of the most difficult terrain in which to conduct warfare. It is the land of Rudyard Kipling’s The Man Who Would Be King. The mountains chewed up the forces of Alexander the Great, the British Empire, and the Soviets. In the early 2000s, it was the United States turn.
You can read my review over there.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

recent read; StoryHack #1

StoryHack, Issue #1, edited by Bryce Beattie.

StoryHack continues on with its pulp mission to provide action adventure tales of derring-do, regardless of genre. Issue #1 provides a mix of science fiction, fantasy, westerns and even a few touches of horror and urban fantasy. Heck, there are also steampunk and supernatural detective stories, too!

In addition to story content, I have a print copy and it's very good production quality.

I enjoyed some stories more than others but that is to be expected. They are all quality tales. There's enough in this issue to satisfy anyone's pulp sweet tooth.

Give it a read!

Monday, February 5, 2018

recent read; The Secret Files of Solar Pons


Pons finds himself dealing with four separate mysteries in this collection - "The Adventure of the Crawling Horror," "The Adventure of the Anguished Actor," "The Adventure of the Ignored Idols"
and "The Adventure of the Horrified Heiress."

I admit to sometimes being too easily entertained. I am still new to original Sherlock Holmes tales and the tales of Solar Pons.  I thought these tales were enjoyable, at least.

In "The Adventure of the Crawling Horror," Pons must solve the mystery of a ghostly monster in the marsh lands. "The Adventure of the Anguished Actor" features a tale of theater as Pons and Parker race to save an actor from assassination. In "The Adventure of the Ignored Idols," a brazen thief challenges a museum to stop his imminent procurement of exhibits. And "The Adventure of the Horrified Heiress" is a tale of murder and inheritance.

I found the last story surprisingly predictable.  "Ignored Idols" seemed to have an odd central conceit - the museum thief is initially introduced as known forger. So, why turn to thieving? I was expecting an artifact forgery swap somewhere in the story but it is also a straightforward tale of burglary and Pons's attempt to stop the thief.

So, I'd say the first two stories were the better of the collection.

Copper favored novella length adventures for Pons and his stalwart companion, Parker. I enjoyed settling into all of these longer stories, soaking up some atmosphere and spending more time with the mainstay characters of the series.

(The original Basil Copper stories came in the series of books published by Pinnacle Books back in the day and included Derleth's run. Hence, the first edition of SECRET FILES was numbered 10, not 3. Story content is the same.)


Friday, February 2, 2018



THE LAST SACRIFICE is the first novel of a (new) grimdark trilogy from James A. Moore. Moore again displays the chops that make his writing a standout. Dripping with blood, horror, and an array of moral gray, we are plunged into a world where dark gods demand human sacrifice. When mercenary Brogan McTyre decides the price of losing his entire family is too high, the world is plunged into Armageddon as Brogan battles the monstrous servants of the gods and sets his sights on killing the gods themselves, if no other options are available.

Not any easy mission. Certainly not any easier when Five Kingdoms have put a price on your head to stop the end of the world.

This series, The Tides of War, is apart from Moore's previous Seven Forges series. Once again, Moore's creativity shines through with a new world, new pantheon, new monsters, new nations and continents. The characters live and breathe and pop from the page - often with swords swinging.

The sequel, FALLEN GODS, was just recently released and I cannot wait to dive into the dark - again.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Disney World 2018

My wife, kids and I took a trip to Disney World (Orlando, FL) last week. We all had a grand time, especially the kids – so it was worth it.

We visited Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Animal Kingdom, and Hollywood Studios. Many highlights.

As a family, we all enjoyed the TOY STORY MANIA ride the most. You ride along in a car with 3-D glasses and fire a virtual pop gun at various toy targets.
 We ate too well.

My personal highlights were the Kilimanjaro Safari ride and staying at the Animal Kingdom Lodge. The lodge – Jambo House – has a faux-pseudo-African vibe and is designed like a safari lodge house on steroids.
Jambo House
 We lucked out – our room did not overlook the ‘savanna’ but it did overlook animal pens where the animals get fed and/or shelter for the night. In the mornings, we saw bearded wildebeests, giraffes, impalas (mid-sized antelopes,) zebras, and ostriches sharing a common open space. Off to the right in separate areas were roan antelope (elk-sized, I’d guess,) and a pair of red river hogs came trotting out for their breakfast.

Red river hog comes out for breakfast. Roan antelope in the background.
Fire pit to relax and put up your feet after a long day of standing and walking.

The Kilimanjaro Safari ride offered views of more animals, including an elephant, a hippo, lions, and a white rhino. Lots of other animals and birds, too.
White rhinoceros on the safari
The only downsides were spending lots of money and waiting in lines.

The staff and patrons are all courteous and friendly. The staff need to be. But all the visitors seem to be aware we were all there for the same reason – to relax and have fun. Maybe we can all take that back to our daily lives.

It was good to get away, to connect with family and to drop off social media for a week. I think we can all use that once in a while.