Monday, July 22, 2013

more capsule reviews

In the Courts of the Crimson Kings by S. M. Stirling (novel)

A sequel to his Edgar Rice Burroughs' Venus series homage, The Sky People, Stirling takes us to Mars for his own vision of Barsoom.  Aiming for a modern take on the sword-&-planet genre, we get an interesting mix of a scifi anthropologic/archaeological tale that morphs into a rousing adventure with airships and wildly imaginative bio-tech.  The opening sequence, a scene where various classic scifi pulp authors watch the first Mars landing together (in an alternate history to our own,) is worth the price of admission alone.

Moanin' at Midnight - The Life and Times of Howlin' Wolf by James Segrest and Mark Hoffman (biography)

I'd been meaning to read this for a very long time.  I know the basics of Wolf's life, but not the details.  Like so many early bluesmen, it's hard to believe he survived to old age.  Also surprising was his sense of discipline to his work ethic.  Music was his job.  He expected his band members to perform sober and well-dressed.  Considering he was one of the wildest of the Chicago bluesmen when he performed, I was surprised to learn that.  It is fascinating to read about Wolf's early solo rambling around the South.  He met and played with the early greats – Charley Patton, Son House, Robert Johnson - long before he went electric & got to Chicago.  It's dumbfounding that given his vocal styling he was never tapped for “field recordings” in his early days as other bluesmen were.  Because he didn't record until after he went electric, there are only a handful of later solo acoustic songs.  I will be seeking them out.

Thieves' World (anthology) by Robert Lynn Asprin & Lynn Abbey

This is the original anthology that launched the Thieves' World continuing series of anthologies and novels.  Various authors try their hand in a shared sword-&-sorcery world.  Though I sometimes felt the grit and nastiness went too far (a backlash against sanitized fantasies of the day?) generally the stories were enjoyable sword-&-sorcery and I'll get around to reading more of them.

Kingdom Come (graphic novel)

A sprawling epic across the DC universe as a new wave of violent super-powered vigilantes displace the old guard.  Drummed out by popularity of lethal force, Superman retreats for ten years while humanity lives in fear of the gods among them.  Lured out of retirement, Superman soon establishes a new order that is much resented by many of the younger breed.  Meanwhile, the government, Lex Luthor and even Bruce Wayne are edgy about the great civil war that is about to erupt between the super-heroes.  Compelling storytelling, “painted” style of comic makes the heroes look very real and among us. It lives up to its hype, I believe.  Worth seeking out.

The Scarlet Citadel (graphic novel)

Like The Phoenix on the Sword, this is a wonderful and faithful comic adaptation of the original Robert E. Howard Conan tale.  The artwork is stunning again.   Nothing wrong here, at all.  It is excellent!

Kingdom of Silver (Doctor Who audio drama)

The Doctor finds a world where Cybermen of the past have worked their way into the mythology of the people.  The populace experiment with “silver” which cures disease and provides other boons.  But it also means that as they approach the dawn of their technical era, the waiting Cyber tomb hidden underneath the world might awake.  A companionless Seventh Doctor allows Sylvester McCoy to deliver a touch of melancholy to his performance as the Doctor.  Terry Malloy, mostly known for his portrayal of Davros - the meglomaniac creator of the Daleks - plays a good-though-misguided-guy, for a change.  This is a solid audio adventure for the Doctor.


  1. Kingdom Come is probably my favorite Elseworlds story. Followed closely by DKR and Gotham by Gaslight.

  2. I love Kingdom Come. I saw it as a bit of a rejoinder to the cynicism of Watchmen.

  3. In the courts of the Crimson Kings is one of my favorite fantasies. Very fine. I'm also a big fan of the Thieve's world series and have read most of the books.

  4. I've got The Scarlet Citadel in the TBR pile. Kingdom Come and Thieves World as well. I'll have to pick up the Stirling.