Monday, December 22, 2014

REH comic gold vein, plus others

Popped into a local comic store for a 25% off sale and got lucky. These are complete sets. Even cheaper than finding a graphic novel trade collection!

I don't know if they are good or faithful, but they were worth the price to check out. With Roy Thomas attached, they should be alright, at least. I need to look up how many of these Dark Horse did.
Aside from Robert E. Howard adaptations, I grabbed these as well. I could have grabbed many more.

Seriously - Tarzan at the Earth's Core & a Predator! Who could resist?!

Reminds me to put Tarzan at the Earth's Core on my shortlist for next year's reading.

I need a comic reading binge week!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

insert generic update here


Been awhile since I posted. Nothing much to report.

We sent my father off appropriately.

Then 2 weeks to the day he died, my wife's best friend lost her battle with cancer.

That was expected, but that didn't make it any easier.

We're doing our genuine best to keep the holiday cheer.

Anyway, I haven't really completed any reading.

I am a few chapters into Larry Correia's Hard Magic. Fun concept. Magic in a 1930s noir mix-up. I was just thinking that a lot of the "magic" powers could also fit in the "superhero" vein.

Finally started reading the first volume DC archive of Kamandi. Sure there's a lot of Planet of the Apes in there, but that doesn't make it any less fun. The Bruce Timm introduction is a good read, too.

I did finally watch Once Upon a Time In The West.  Good western.

If I don't get to post here before the holidays are done - I hope you have enjoyable holidays and do hug your loved ones tight - and call them on the phone if you can't be there in person.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

And we'll see no more of giants

What is death but a traversing of eternities and a crossing of cosmic oceans?
 - Robert E. Howard

Most of people I am in touch with via social media are aware, but if anyone hadn't heard yet - my father, Richard McNamee, passed away on Wednesday morning.

He was 83. The only way I can describe it was that it was medically unexpected, but in hindsight, there were signs & portents. A few coincidences, and he seemed to get more serious about being prepared for such an event over the past year. Whether he just knew the odds or something was guiding him - well, that's all to what and how much you believe. 

He was in the hospital for other ailments - none which were thought to be critical. We were assured that his heart was strong through all of it. But, there must have been a blood clot lurking. The nurse told my mother that he was in good spirits one moment and then gone (heart attack) the next.

Folks have been asking after us and our Mom. I'd say we're okay as can be expected. My Mom is the most stoic person I think any of us know. As stunned by his death as we might be, we are all equally stunned by her unwavering, unblinking acceptance that my father is with ancestors and passed friends now. And she is "thrilled for him" that he went suddenly and didn't linger.

I also know that yes - he died the day before Thanksgiving and the day before my birthday, it could be a very dark time. But thankfully, my head isn't going there. I consider the birthday a passing of the torch, and Thanksgiving for his long life and everything he gave us.

We're waiting on final obituary proof and I can link to that once it gets published. And also, as time goes own, share happier stories of his life.

His wake & funeral will be combined affair on Tuesday morning.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Doctor Who month

Last year was the 50th anniversary of the first broadcast of Doctor Who. That makes this November the 51st anniversary, and there wasn't any of the hoopla. The eighth series of the 'new' show wrapped up early in the month, and things got quiet.

I decided -  Whovian that I am - to explore some other areas of Doctor Who this month. I read two novels and listened to one of the audio-dramas from Big Finish.

The Dalek Generation by Nicholas Briggs

The Daleks benevolent? The Dalek Foundation, creating habitable worlds for throngs of human beings? An entire generation raised up believing the Daleks are rarely-seen philanthropes? What are the Daleks really up to?  That is the mystery the (11th) Doctor must solve.

Briggs has a good handle on describing the 11th Doctor in prose. That was a strong point. The Doctor did not feel like a placeholder, or a rewritten different Doctor. He rang true as the 11th Doctor.

Ironically, the issues I have with the story are the Daleks. The plot is a fun conceit, and it is impishly enjoyable to read as the Daleks behave, engage in bureaucracy and simmer under the surface just dying to let loose with guns and screams of "Exterminate!"  The trouble is, because of that setup, there isn't a whole lot of Dalek action in the story.

The Daleks' villainous plot is another weak point. It's vague, at best. A bit of hand-waving (sucker arm waving?) at the end. Some great power (unexplained what) will cause massive galactic changes (unexplained how.)

It is a fairly fun, quick read to pass the time - as long as you don't analyze it too much.

Engines of War by George Mann

Through a bit of creative retroactive continuity, it was revealed during last year's anniversary barrage, that there had been one regeneration of the Doctor that shunned the name of "Doctor." He became a soldier and a warrior who directly engaged the Daleks in the great Time War. In the end, it was he who destroyed both the Daleks and the Time Lords, to put an end to the war.

That 'other' Doctor (or, 'War Doctor') was played by John Hurt and only appeared briefly in one episode, and then was a central part of the anniversary special that followed.

This novel gives a look into that Doctor, and also events that drove him to such genocidal actions. Engines of War is a very good story that pulls together various threads of two episodes - "The End of Time" and "The Day of the Doctor." In addition there are plenty of other references for the fans without coming off as poor fan fiction.

The Daleks' villainous plot(s) are well realized. The Time Lords, too, have their own maniacal plans to halt the Dalek advance - even if it means sacrificing billions of people to succeed. Plenty of murderous, dangerous Dalek action, too.

Can the Doctor stop the Daleks, and the Time Lords, and still come out ahead?

I liked this one, a lot. One of the best Doctor Who novels I have read.

The Light At The End (audio)

While the BBC were creating their own anniversary special last year, the folks over at Big Finish audio came out with their own celebratory story, too.

The Master, the Doctor's arch-enemy renegade Time Lord, has thrown all laws of time out the window. He crosses his own future (the Master here being played as an incarnation from the past) and sets a trap that causes the Doctor to meet his previous incarnations, tearing apart his own timeline and history in the process.  Can the Doctors unite and escape the ultimate trap before the Doctor himself is wiped from all time & space?

This was fun. The story meshes the Doctors together very smoothly. Of course, a story like this could be a convoluted, confused time travel story, but the causality plot-line is not overly complex. The reveals are well-paced enough to keep the mysteries engaging. The Doctor actors play off each other very well. There are even actors performing good mimic to the voices of the first three Doctor actors who have passed on.

A very fun romp.  Well done.

Monday, November 17, 2014

recent reads; digital graphic novels

I read through a lot of digital comics this weekend. Much easier than reading prose when multitasking, a.k.a. minding kids.

Gotham by Gaslight (A Tale of the Batman)

Not steampunk, but a Victorian take on a late 19th century Gotham with a prowling Batman, Jack the Ripper and art by Mike Mignola. Who could say no? It was good, though I guessed who was the Ripper fairly early on. Good twist with Bruce Wayne nearly at the gallows for the crimes, which did make for a suspenseful moment - perhaps in this alternate world Bruce/Batman would turn out to be a mad murderer? You'll need to read this one to see for yourself.

The Tower Chronicles: (Volume1) Geisthawk

John Tower, investigator/mercenary for hire when you have a supernatural problem. The art by Simon Bisley is excellent. All manners of creatures pop up along the way; vengeful ghosts, vampires, kobolds, demons. Tower also has a history with a secret society, The Brotherhood of the Rose, who weave their unwelcome threads along his immortal history. I am looking forward to reading the second series.

Buck Rogers, Volume 1 Future Shock

This was fun. This Buck Rogers ends up in a future where men are meat and intelligent animals, "The Pack, threaten mankind. All the while he must also discover who he is and what to make of himself in the new world. Lots of pulpy fun here. Flight suits, spaceships, atomzier pistols., etc.

Buck Rogers, Volume 2 Brave New World

The fact that I kept going onto Volume 2 immediately should tell you that I did indeed enjoy Volume 1.

This followup had even more space opera derring-do. Instead of one enemy, Buck goes from breathless adventure to breathless adventure. He saves the world from underground mutants, air pirates, and rogue robots on the moon.

I don't know what became of this series. Volume 2 ends on a cliffhanger with the promise Rogers will be back. Of course, that was back in 2010. I can't even find these listed at Comixology for sale anymore. I don't know if something fell through with the rights. (There is a new, retro Buck Rogers now from Hermes Press with art by Howard Chaykin.) Too bad. I would have continued with the Dynamite storyline it if it kept going.

Trinity (Superman / Batman / Wonder Woman)

A stand-alone tale of the famous trio's first team-up. In this story, Batman and Superman know each other, but Wonder Woman is a new arrival. A mystery villain recruits a rogue amazon and frees Bizarro from the Antarctic ice (where Luthor put his failed experiment for safekeeping.) The hand is soon revealed to be Ra's al Ghul. He is on yet another mission to purge the world of the evil elements of mankind.

In addition to a decent villainous plot and heroes interplay, I appreciated that there wasn't a cliche "battle of heroes over a misunderstanding." When Wonder Woman first confronts Superman, thinking he is guilty of a crime committed by Bizarro, she uses diplomacy (appropriately enough) before any fisticuffs. Wonder Woman and Batman almost come to blows, but Superman keeps the peace. In other words, this is indeed a team, no "versus" here.

The one negative here was implication of Ra's al Ghul as a rapist. He threatens such on Wonder Woman and invades Themyscira making comments about Amazon "breeding stock." It seemed a bit ignoble of the character - but I'm not well-versed in the character's comic history, either.

Again, my highest compliment would be to see this one animated as a movie by DC/WB. I think it would be a fun one.

Overall, a good batch of stuff, I am happy to report.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Doctor Who; Series (Season) 8

(Note; UK television does "shows" that come in "series"; US does "shows" or "series" that come in "seasons")

I've debated writing a post about this, simply because I'm lazy and I believe my wordcount could be better spent.  But as a long-time Whovian, I just wanted to sum up my thoughts on the latest Doctor Who season.

In my humble opinion, it was not a good season.

There were some good moments, and even some good episodes. I can name my top three or even top five of the season. The problem is that it would not be a list of gradual decline. There is a huge gulf between the ones I liked and the rest of the list.

My top episodes of the season were the ones where we got to see Peter Capaldi playing his Doctor to the fullest - not retreading past Doctor traits or playing second fiddle to other characters. Capaldi is an excellent Doctor. He did not fail - the writing did.

Not surprisingly, the ones I favor also had minimal moments of rule breaking or world breaking. Often, the rule breaking was done just to sell a crazy idea.

Other people have noted this tendency of showrunner and head-writer, Steven Moffat. Some fans noted it early on as being problematic.  Personally I thought Moffat generally got away with it. But this time around, the plotting seemed either repetitive or muddled or inexplicable - sometimes all three. It seemed that not only was Moffat going for the "crazy splash page," he was also going for big visuals (e.g.; Cybermen coming out of graves) and "moments." But to arrive at those visuals, concepts and moments, the plotting often contradicted character and established "rules" of Doctor Who. Characters (companions and the Doctor) were grossly inconsistent from episode to episode.

Moffat has also mentioned the (not unusual) idea that the companions are our window to the Doctor. Because he is alien, we need their viewpoint. That is a fair analysis. What I don't buy is when Moffat goes to the next level and states that the show is really about the companions. No, no it isn't. The Sarah Jane Adventures are about companions. Doctor Who is about, well, the Doctor.  To me, Moffat really pushed that concept too far this season. I am not the only one who felt like we were watching The Clara Oswald Show, guest starring the Doctor.

By the time I watched the season finale, I didn't even feel like I had watched an episode of Doctor Who. All the elements were there - UNIT, the TARDIS, the Doctor, Cybermen. But the parts did not add up to the sum.

Too much style over substance. Too many gimmicks. (Nicholas Kaufmann sums up my own feelings about the 2-part finale quite well, btw.)

Some people seem to have enjoyed the season. Power to them, but I just don't see it.

My favorite of moment of the season - and even with all this season's faults, perhaps one of my top ten Doctor Who moments  - occurred during the episode, "Into the Dalek." The Doctor speaks to a Dalek;

"You see all those years ago, when I began, I was just running. I called myself the Doctor, but it was just a name. Then I went to Skaro. And then I met you lot. And I understood who I was. The Doctor was not the Daleks!"

It was an insightful character moment that harkened back the very first encounter between the Daleks and the original Doctor.

I wish Series 8 had more of that.

Monday, November 10, 2014

recent read; Fantastic Four: The Life Fantastic

After my local comic shop's 50%-off sale for Halloween, I resolved to slow down my print purchases for a while until I read through my ridiculous backlog of reading material.

Then the store acquired a huge collection and put up another big sale over this past weekend!

I am weak. I came away with 12 books. The prices were a steal.

After the usual horror and fantasy grabs, I made myself try some superhero titles. I don't read much Marvel, and I've been on the lookout for a Hulk storyline that interests me. Of course, that was the one thing the collection didn't have much of.

I did wind up with this one - Fantastic Four: The Life Fantastic. I am not a huge FF fan but I thought with the Hulk it might be interesting. Turns out that it contains four short stories - it's not just the Hulk story.

Also, to be different, I read it this weekend instead of putting it in the "to be read" bookcase.

I enjoyed the Hulk FF tale a lot. It helps that the writer was J. Michael Straczynski. The other stories featured other writers. The second tale was a 40th anniversary special. Not much going on but it was fun and even had 'cameos' by Stan Lee & Jack Kirby. The third story features a battle of wits and wills between Reed and Doctor Doom, and I found that again, I was pleasantly surprised and I liked it. The final tale was one of time travel and causality. It took a while to get going, but once it did I thought it was well done. Bonus for a Lovecraftian moment. (literally - the word "Lovecraftian" was used!)

I don't know if I would have bought the book new but in a 3 for $10 pile, it was worth it.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Lost in the shuffle (Night Shade Books and total lack of promotion)

Looks neat doesn't it?

I found it HERE.

And that, my friends, is a problem.

Because I didn't know about it. Thanks to Amazon for all that consumer-specific data mining. I saw the link.

I follow Night Shade Books on Facebook and Twitter.


I forget who bought out Night Shade Books. But, they haven't done an update to their Facebook page in over a year. Which isn't too smart because they have been putting out books. 

I went to their main page. The Facebook link went to the un-updated page. The Twitter links goes to a new, unsetup Twitter feed - not the one I had been following.

Newsfeed on their main page, too, is spotty. This book was released 07-October-2014, according to Amazon. No news item on that day about the release.  AT ALL.

 This is NOT going to help keep the imprint alive, people!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Further haunts of October

Well, I'll be busy tomorrow and I'm not sure what other haunts I'll get to before Halloween and October are officially over.  So, here's one more blast of scary tales consumed this month.

"Spirits" by James A. Moore

"Furious Demon" by Addison Clift

"The Phantom Coach" by Amelia B. Edwards

"The Secret of Kralitz" by Henry Kuttner

"The Eater of Souls" by Henry Kuttner

"The Salem Horror" by Henry Kuttner

"Needle Song" by Charles L. Grant

"Wake-up Call" by David J. Schow

Sabrina #1 (comic)

Ghosts #1 (comic)

"Foet" by F. Paul Wilson

"The Candle in the Skull" by Basil Copper

"The Black Stone" by Robert E. Howard

Blood From the Mummy's Tomb (movie)

Straight On 'Til Morning by Christopher Golden (still reading)

Twice-Told Tales (anthology movie - three stories, I've watched the first, "Doctor Heidegger's Experiment")

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

More October frights

"Doctor Porthos" by Basil Copper

"Stragella" by Hugh B. Cave

"A Place Where There Is Peace" by James A. Moore

"Human Remains" by Clive Barker

"A Week in the Unlife" by David J. Schow

"The House at Evening" by Frances Garfield

The Curse of the Mummy's Tomb (movie)

One Million B.C. (1940) (movie)

The Mummy's Shroud (movie)

The Halloween Tree by Ray Bradbury

There will be a night of anthology horror movies coming up on TCM, on Oct 28th, not Halloween (oh, they have other horrors for Halloween.) Dead of Night, Twice Told Tales, Kwaidan, The House That Dripped Blood and Torture Garden (screenplay by Robert Bloch.)  I'll be recording them all except ...House.., as I've already seen it.

Monday, October 13, 2014

October Frights So Far

I have no real plans or goals for horror consumption this October. Just reading or watching whatever hits my fancy. Almost at the mid-point of the month. Here's what I've experienced so far.

"Echo From The Abyss", "One Thousand One Nights Unseen", "Curse the Child" by David J. West

"The Calamander Chest" by Joseph Payne Brennan

Yours Truly, Jack the Ripper (graphic novel)

THRILLER (t.v.) - (episode) "The Twisted Image"

"The Music of Eric Zahn" by H. P. Lovecraft

"That Hellbound Train" by Robert Bloch

That Hellbound Train (graphic novel)

"The Witching Tree" by Brian Keene

The Creature from the Black Lagoon (movie)

"Widow House" by Gregory Luce

"The Dwarf" by Ray Bradbury

"The Chemical Vampire" by Lee Francis

"Beyond Any Measure" by Karl Edward Wagner

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Bloch, Lansdale & Lansdale quadruple shot

Over the summer, during one sale or another, I grabbed two graphic novel adaptations of Robert Bloch short stories. Both were adapted by Joe R. Lansdale and John Lansdale (I don't know their relation.) I thought October would be a good time to pull them out, and compare them with their source material.

"Yours Truly, Jack the Ripper" (original appearance, Weird Tales, 1943)

There are murders in Chicago, and an eccentric Englishman believes they are the work of Jack the Ripper. Why did Jack murder and then disappear in the 1890s? How could an old, old man physically commit knife murders now? Because Jack is an immortal sorcerer who must kill to maintain his eternal life. He wanders the world, springing up in various cities over the years, committing murders and then moving on. The narrator, a psychiatrist by trade, gets pulled along in the grisly hunt.

It's a classic for good reason, though the twist is a bit predictable.

Yours Truly, Jack the Ripper

The twist at the end of the original story, and the original story's first-person point-of-view, undoubtedly made this adaptation a challenge. Having read the short, I knew who the villain was, but Lansdale made changes that helped obscure (in a good way) where the tale was going - even from someone familiar with the original short story.

One clever change was to make the murderer a monster, albeit under control of the true criminal. It keeps the reader guessing. It made me wonder how many changes were made and would the "whodunit" be changed?

The minimalist take on the art extended to the cast of characters - there aren't very many. I did find it odd that there really aren't many suspects offered. There is a quick throwaway scapegoat near the end, but he comes in awfully late.

This is a good graphic novel and a very good lesson in stretching a tight short story into a longer tale, and a very good lesson in adapting to the comic form.

"That Hellbound Train"

(original appearance, The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, 1958)
Great tale, though more fantasy than horror. Martin lives a hobo's life until that Hellbound Train and its devil Conductor offer him a deal. I have to believe Rod Serling tried his best to get the rights to adapt this one. It would have made a classic Twilight Zone episode.

That Hellbound Train

Very faithful adaptation of the story. Closer than Yours Truly, Jack the Ripper. The only main change was the Devil tempting Martin with Eve, whereas in the original story, the Devil just lets Martin do himself in. Bonus points for including Robert Johnson in the passenger car splash!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

loot: Horror Gems, Volume 2

Horror Gems, Vol. Two

I stumbled on this series on Amazon one day through various searches. I don't know anything about the Armchair Fiction publisher but the table-of-contents were intriguing. I went with Volume 2, rather than Volume 1, because I wanted to read a Joseph Payne Brennan story.

It's a nice print book.

Table of contents are a bit slammed in there, and I saw no original copyright or first appearance information. I could look it up on the internet, but it would be nice if it were handy in the book.

I would guess that these are all public domain grabs. Nothing wrong with that to me as long as they're truly public and they are presented well.

I found the lack of an overall introduction odd. In the actual content, some stories have introductions and some don't. Again, odd.

Nice font and layout.

My only complaint here is that the font, while nice, is a bit light on the page. It could be darker.

It is what I expected and looks like a fun series of books. Once I get to reading it, I'll let you know if there are typo issues.

If I like it, I'll certainly consider acquiring more.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

recent read; Writ In Blood (Serenity Falls, Book I) by James A. Moore

Writ In Blood (Serenity Falls, Book I)

In upstate New York, a writer embarks on writing his hometown's history. What Simon MacGruder learns are dark and disturbing moments that the entire town seems to casually overlook. Occult forces are at work - they always have been, since Serenity Falls' cursed beginning. Meanwhile, Jonathan Crowley, a mysterious man with decidedly unnatural abilities, heads toward Serenity Falls to meet something dark and evil. But, strange events keep his arrival perpetually delayed.

Serenity Falls was originally one self-contained novel. When it went to paperback, the story was expanded into a trilogy of novels. As such, Writ In Blood tends to be a very large setup novel that sets the stage for the rest of the trilogy (I assume.)

As I've only starting reading Moore's work, so it might be early to say, but between reading Seven Forges and Writ In Blood, I would daresay James A. Moore likes to build his worlds and reveal them to us in due time. He does this deftly and keeps the reader interested all the way. Writ In Blood might be more about the town of Serenity Falls as a historical whole than about its inhabitants, though many of them obviously have roles to play. This opening tale is largely about atmosphere and that's what good horror is, to me.

Moore presents the tale across three aspects - MacGruder's experiences as he digs into the town history, the town history itself, and Crowley's journey. It's a good idea, with Crowley's physical action giving counterweight to the drama of MacGruder and the history of the town.

This opening tale ends on a some very unresolved notes. (see - "split up into trilogy.") But I've been invested enough in the twisted little town of Serenity Falls that I certainly will be returning for the second installment.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

recent read; Operation: Ice Bat

Operation: Ice Bat

Not only did attending NECON give my horror reading an extra kick, it also made me want to read stories from many of the writers I met. I did seek out various novel titles for my wishlists, but anthologies are an even quicker way of delivering my needs. Fortunately, over the years, a great many of the writers have featured together in anthologies. (There are even some NECON specific anthologies.)  I picked up on this benefit anthology, and it seemed a good place to start, and it featured many NECON attendees.

It's a solid anthology with varying degrees of horrors sub-genres. One or two of the stories didn't match my tastes, but overall it was an entertaining group of stories. That is usually the case with any anthology. For the ebook price, the cause and the variety, Operation: Ice Bat is a sure bet if you're looking for some horror reads.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Tis the season

I could blame all these recent horrific acquisitions on the Autumn/Halloween season, but I started earlier this year. We'll blame Charles Rutledge, Jim Moore and NECON in general.

The Drums of Chaos by Richard Tierney

The Dracula Tape by Fred Saberhagen

The Night of the Ripper by Robert Bloch

The Monster's Corner, anthology, edited by Christopher Golden

Mammoth Book of Best New Horror 23, anthology of stories from 2011

B.P.R.D. (Volume 3, Plague of Frogs)

Afterlife with Archie

I've bought some other stuff, too, of course, but they aren't horror titles.

Monday, September 15, 2014

On to Washington (D.C.)

My nephew got married this weekend, so that meant a whirlwind family trip to the Washington, D. C. area. It was my kids first time on an airplane and they did great. We squeezed in a very brief trip to the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum. The kids are still too young to appreciate the exhibits, but there were some hands on arts & crafts "build your own plane" stuff going on, so it was a good distraction.

The wedding was a fun, pleasant affair. The couple got married at the Old Post Chapel next to Arlington National Cemetery. The reception was back at our hotel, the Hyatt in Crystal City Arlington, VA.

The reception was in the top floor Chesapeake room, and the view of the Potomac River and Washington D.C. were spectacular.

And just to illustrate where my mind goes sometimes...

I've been to Gettysburg and various American Civil War battlefields. I've been to D.C. But, it never really hit me until I had that view of just how fragile the Union's hold on the capitol must have been. I mean, I know D.C. is in Maryland but I guess, in my head, I always pictured it as central in the state, but it's not. Washington is right there, against the river and what was the border of the Confederacy.

I know the war was long before planes and the river is wide, and troops would need to come overland. But - one good bridge in the hands of the Confederacy and who knows what might of happened.

It's somewhat amazing they held not only during the opening days of the war, but throughout the four years.

A while back, The Siege of Washington by John & Charles Lockwood got onto my Kindle via a Daily Deal. I'm going to need to read it soon.

My other geek vibe from the view was from Karl Edward Wagner's gunslinger character, Becker. In his alternate world, he saw Washington D.C. burn and the Confederacy won the war.

Monday, September 1, 2014

recent read; Enemies & Allies

Superman & Batman, set in the late 1950s/early 1960s Cold War. Batman and Superman, fighting crime in their separate manners, find themselves drawn together as defense contractor Lex Luthor sets evil plans in motion. Luthor wants government contracts & power, and is willing to push the superpower nations to the brink of nuclear annihilation to get what he wants. With a nod or two toward Dr. No, he sets up a Caribbean base of operations.

Luthor's co-conspirator in the Soviet Union is trying to establish his own race of supermen from exploited workers who are excavating the site of a meteorite impact. The radiation from the strange, green element cause mutations, which General Ceridov hopes to transmute into a Soviet eugenics program to compete with the American Superman.

This novel was a lot of fun. The characterizations are spot on. Lots of nice period touches without going overboard. Balanced explorations of Bruce Wayne & Clark Kent and their alter egos. Lois Lane is feisty as ever.

I'd love to see this adapted as a DC Universe Animated Original Movie - which is really the highest compliment I can give it.

Monday, August 25, 2014

recent read; The Color Out of Time

Michael Shea, creator of Nifft the Lean, among other great writings, sadly passed away in March (2014.) Shea's books were already hard enough to come by, and predictably the prices at eBay nudged up after his death. Fortunately for those seeking out Shea's Lovecraft pastiche, The Color Out of Time, it was made available as an ebook earlier this year, shortly before his death.

The novel is a direct sequel to the H. P. Lovecraft story, "The Colour Out of Space."

At an idyllic New England lake in summertime, two older college professors, Gerald and Ernst, notice a strange, disturbingly colored halo about the lake one dusk. Later they find twisted, stunted trees and giant insects in an isolated tract of the woods. They also feel depression and dread for no seeming reason. Eventually the horror grows as the strange color exhibits and manifests a malevolent nature - poisoning spirit and body alike.

Things only grow worse, as afflicted and endangered vacationers ignore the warnings - perhaps due to the psychic influence of the entity.  The protagonists come to refer to the alien entity as simply, the Enemy. Murders by physical manifestation of the Enemy, along with madness-inflicted deaths, spread. Eventually our heroes take it upon themselves to solve the mystery and destroy the evil. Along the way they meet an older woman, too, who knows the truth of the Enemy - having seen it kill a family when she was a child - before the area was flooded to make the lake. Before H. P. Lovecraft heard the story and rewrote the details into 'fiction'...

Yes, there is a direct, open link to Lovecraft in the narrative. So, I'll stop there to avoid any further spoilers. As for Lovecraft's inclusion in the narrative, albeit as a person dead and in the past, I'm still not sure it works favorably or not. It did put me out of the tale a little, but as the post-climax tension and stakes rose rapidly, I let the story take me along.

Simply put, this was an enjoyable pastiche. Shea was able to imitate and modernize and put his own unique twists on the Lovecraft tropes. While not delving into purple prose, there is an intentional erudite hand in his word choice, which reminds of Lovecraft without falling into parroted imitation. Instead of an unlikely fainting blueblood protagonist, we get unexpected heroes in a trio of savvy, vigorous, whisky-drinking seniors. Instead of pontifications on race and heritage, we get interesting examination of tribal and mob behavior, and how something from Outside can exploit it.

Shea also includes some absolutely horrific moments along the way - shocking the reader out of the cosmic horror, back into grounded terror.

Having the novel on Kindle is convenient, and it was bittersweet to read the fresh introduction from Shea. But I will keep an eye out for a paperback copy. Especially because of this Ken Kelly cover!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Return to Lovecraft Country

Well, not so much of a return as a drive-by.

When it comes to Lovecraft Country, there are different regions. The most famous, perhaps, is the northeast coast of Massachusetts, with its fictional Kingsport, Arkham and Innsmouth. Central-western Massachusetts is another area where at least two of his more famous tales were set - "The Colour Out Of Space" and "The Dunwich Horror."

Supposedly, the events of "The Colour Out Of Space" took place in an area that was destined to be forgotten under the waters of the new reservoir for Boston. Though he died before it was completed, Lovecraft cleverly worked the Quabbin Reservoir into "The Colour Out of Space";
Traces...will doubtless linger...even when half the hollows are flooded for the new reservoir. Then the dark woods will be cut down and the blasted heath will slumber...the secrets of the strange days will be one with the deep’s secrets; one with the hidden lore of old ocean, and all mystery of primal earth.
This weekend we attended a picnic in Amherst, MA. Our drive took us past one lookout area over a small portion of the reservoir along Route 202. We didn't have time to stop - the lookout was across the opposite lane anyway. And we took a different way out. So, I had to settle for a drive-by photo op.

(If you zoom on the sign, you will see that it reads, "Quabbin Reservoir - Pelham Lookout." And you can see a bit of water in the far background.)

But, the way out was interesting, too. I forewent the GPS's suggested route on the way to the picnic - mostly for the Quabbin photo op. On the way back, the GPS took us through even deeper backroads, which are also Lovecraft related. I vaguely recognized some of the buildings and crossroads. I had explored around the area in my Lovecraft reading heyday. I had used "Lovecraft and the New England Megaliths" by Andrew E. Rothovius from The Dark Brotherhood and Other Pieces as my guide back then - referred to many USGS maps, too, before Google and Yahoo maps existed.

I sometimes forget how lucky I am to live in such a historical region - fictional history or otherwise. It was nice to drive through there with Lovecraftian fiction in mind, even if it was a brief passing by.

The nights here are already growing colder. It might be time to reread "The Colour Out of Space" and perhaps follow it up with a read of Michael Shea's The Color Out of Time, which is in my to-be-read queue.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Whovian 2-fer

On the way to NECON last month, I had an hour & a half ride each way, so I loaded up some Doctor Who audio dramas for the ride.

Energy of the Daleks

Though released later in the series, this story was Tom Baker's first audio return to Doctor Who. It is also the first time his companion, Leela, gets to tangle with Daleks.

Speaking of Daleks, this is a welcome return to conniving Daleks with attitude and a plan for world destruction. During Tom Baker's era, Davros, the creator of the Daleks, was invented by Terry Nation. In the two Dalek appearances for Tom Baker run, the focus was more on Davros. The Daleks were reduced to (sometimes none-too-bright) foot soldiers.

This is a very convincing Dalek tale that fits right into the 4th Doctor era. You can almost see the t.v. episode in your head. (My head, anyway.) The Daleks are "old school" and there is a nice return of Robomen (first used and only seen in The Dalek Invasion of Earth.) The Daleks are behind a new "free energy" beaming scheme that will rescue the near-future Earth from its energy crisis. The Doctor intends to find out why.

It is one of those stories that you don't want to think too hard about. If the Daleks can send a scout ship with six Daleks onboard back in time to alter history, why not just send a whole fleet? Such things are easily explained away by "timey wimey wibbly wobbly," so a line or two of dialog to explain away the question would have been nice, but, whatever.

Tom Baker was the first Doctor I ever watched. I don't subscribe to the "your first Doctor is your favorite Doctor" paradigm - especially with all the Doctors to choose from now. But, I had forgotten just how enjoyable he can be as the Doctor.

This was a lot of fun.

This is nearly pitch perfect for a 4th Doctor era story. I will absolutely be visiting more Tom Baker audios from Big Finish.

The Architects of History

This story closes out a trilogy featuring the villain, Elisabeth Klein. Klein is a Nazi from an alternate timeline where the Doctor's negligence helped the Nazis to win World War 2. During their previous adventures, the Doctor obliterated her timeline and tried to enlighten her. But Klein was patient, and gained enough knowledge to abscond with his TARDIS, and establish a future Reich that spread across the galaxy. Now the Doctor has arrived to put things right - which doesn't seem very possible from his prison cell.

Klein is a wonderful, thought out villain (villainess.) I wish she could have been on the t.v. show, proper. (Let's face it, The Rani never came up to potential on t.v.)  She has motivations, she goes toe-to-toe with the Doctor and nearly pulls off her grand schemes.

I really enjoyed this one. There is a second Klein trilogy - as well as a series that focuses on her non-fascist counterpart in the correct timeline. I look forward to listening to all of them.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Running silent

Sorry for lack of posts, interesting or otherwise. NECON is a tough act to follow ;)

I've been reading a lot of different things which means I don't have anything cohesive to review. My current novel read is Kevin J. Anderson's Enemies & Allies which is a period piece (Cold War - late 50s/early 60s) where Superman and Batman meet. I am really enjoying it - just taking a while.

I've started #WellmanWednesday where I read a Manly Wade Wellman short each Wednesday night. This week's read was "The Third Cry to Legba" via the Haffner Press' John Thunstone collection.

I've read some other miscellaneous short stories and lots of comics. I started binging on The Goon last night. Darkly twisted and very funny stuff.

More book scores, too, of course. Nothing super rare or exciting, but they make me happy. I'll be happier when I get around to reading them.


Saturday, July 19, 2014

Camp NECON 34

This past Friday I was fortunate enough to attend one day of "Camp NECON" in Rhode Island. (It is a 4 day affair, but I figured I would ease into it considering family time demands, etc.) NECON is the abbreviation New England Horror Writers Convention. I don't know why HW is left out of the acronym - I guess it's not as fun to say. And NECON is fun!

I haven't really tried my writing pen on horror in a long time, but there have been some short stories in that vein of late on my computer. I've been reading more horror lately, and a lot of the writers attending are genre-crossers anyway.

I met Charles Rutledge and Jim Moore in person. Charles showed me all the ropes. We spent most of the day together and with others chatting & socializing.  I cursorily had brief greetings with Amber Benson, Kasey Lansdale and Christopher Golden, among higher profile names you might recognize.

Yeah, Jim & Charles are big guys!
A panel on Horror & Crime fiction and the lines they blur.
A panel on film making (mostly indie, but some network t.v., too!)
Christopher Golden and James A. Moore
I met and bought a pile of signed books from Darrell Schweitzer, plus a few other books.
Loot! And all signed except the Keith Taylor collection.
I just missed meeting F. Paul Wilson as he showed up just as dinner started, and I headed home afterwards.

Aside from those names you know, I met plenty of other friendly, considerate, passionate and kind folks. The panels were fun. The informal KaffeKlatsch discussions were informative and fun.

I must thank Charles publicly for including me. Learning that he had been in my backyard (so to speak) last year, I wanted to meet up this year. Then I figured I didn't want to just third-wheel my way into a dinner, so I decided to do at least a day of the convention properly. And Charles agreed that was a fine plan.

 I ate well, I talked writing and books and genre and Doctor Who and I had a blast.

The unfortunate bit was that this is NECON's 34th year, and the convention founder and organizer Bob Booth died last year, so I never met him. But there was a wonderful tribute to the man, his legacy. We watched an interview where he went over the history of NECON. It was touching and very informative.

And that was all in one day! And I didn't even get to stay for the evening stuff!

NECON is a great, small, no pretensions, all inclusive little convention.They do keep it small. But, if you ever get the chance to go, especially if you know someone else attending who can guide you through the first time, it's is absolutely worth the experience.

Great motivation, too. I can't show up empty-handed next year, or Jim Moore will look me in the eye and say, "Write your damn book." ;)

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

semi-recent read: The (First) Swords trilogy

Fred Saberhagen is one author I made a point to read more of this year.

I didn't think I'd read three of his in a row, but seeing as how I had them in omnibus form, I went ahead with reading the entire first trilogy of his Swords novels. (I did take some breaks between to read other material.)
Twelve magical swords, forged by Vulcan himself, are the focal point of the series. But this is not the ancient god, Vulcan, that we know. Rather, the Swords tales are set centuries into Earth's future, generations after Saberhagen's sci-fantasy trilogy, Empire of the East.

The gods have returned, and they want to play a game. What the game is and what they might win or lose is never made clear. That is intentional. The gods themselves don't entirely understand their own nature. That is just one intriguing mystery of the trilogy. The Swords are dispersed among men. Struggles and battles ensue as both men and gods attempt to acquire the Swords and harness their powers - for good and evil.

The first tale's hero is named Mark. (I get a kick out of Saberhagen's use of such commonplace names in a fantasy setting.) Under magic compulsion, Mark's own father, Jord, helped Vulcan to forge the swords. Jord also sacrificed an arm in the process. Mark's lineage is somewhat uncertain and he seems to have a connection to the swords, but he doesn't fully understand that connection. Forced to flee home, Mark becomes entangled in swords, princes, seers, dragons and villains. He makes fast friends among a group of dragon hunters, two of whom, Ben and Barbara, become the major secondary characters in the trilogy.

The second novel is almost a classic dungeon crawl, as Ben and Mark join with a group of treasure looters. Everyone wants to get rich, but Mark also wants to secure Swords for his liege's cause. Their choice of raid is fraught with peril. The Blue Temple see the worship of money as a religion, and they don't look kindly upon thieves.

I really enjoyed the third book. It had an intriguing opening, and lots of variety to the plot. Very unexpected things happened. The Blue Temple return for revenge, the gods become much more directly involved in the struggles of men. A new villain, the Dark King, is wonderfully creepy.

The first strong point of this trilogy is its variety. Saberhagen keeps changing things up. Each book does not follow immediately in the world. Four years or so pass between each book, and things happen between the tales, that shift settings, balance of power, and even how and where the characters are and where they have been.

I was surprised that the story was not wrapped up neatly. At the end, some gods have died, some have disappeared, two Swords have been destroyed, and the fate of the main human characters in their last ditch battle is unknown.

I know the Swords tales continue for the eight novels of the Lost Swords series. I guess I thought the Lost Swords might take place between the lines of this first trilogy, but it appears that is not the case. The world goes on, the gods go on, characters, gods and swords come and go.

I look forward to reading some of the other titles, just to see what Saberhagen threw into the mix with each story.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Book binges

No, not binging on the reading, but the buying. I found an eBay dealer with a bunch of overstock books. As though you were in the bargain section of B&N. But, he offers many paperbacks and many fiction titles that appeal to my interests. Combined for cheap shipping, these are new, though shelf-worn in very minor detail. In most cases, I also bought them cheaper than their ebook versions.

 I already scored a complete set of 5 Cosmos (Wildside imprint) Robert E. Howard mass market volumes (for reading copies of public domain REH stories) and a hardcover Saberhagen's Berserker Death omnibus a few weeks ago.

My second order came in today;

I've been stocking up on the Mammoth Books of.

I've wanted to read Midnight Mass for a very long time. I assume it is a rewrite of Wilson's short story "Midnight Mass." A story set where vampires have overrun our world.

The two Drake titles are from his newest TOR fantasy series. Unlike his Isles series, this one is supposed to close out at book number four, and was planned that way from the start. (One per classic element, I guess.) I did enjoy the Isles series though it had (intentionally) repetitive plotting.  I will be interested to see how this series unfolds.

I've been curious about the Gabriel Hunt books. It starts with At the Well of Eternity, I believe. There was a mistake in the eBay listing, the second one shown here was listed as being written by David Schow, but Schow wrote a different one. Ah well, I'm still glad I got them as they appear to have already been revamped with new, less interesting cover art.

Monday, July 7, 2014

recent read: Seven Forges

Seven Forges is the opening novel salvo of what promises to be a large, rollicking dark fantasy series from James A. Moore. Moore has experience as a horror writer and this is his first published fantasy work.

In the novel's opening, we are introduced to Merros Dulver, a mercenary and former soldier who has undertaken a commission to explore the Blasted Lands - a scary wasteland north of the Fellein Empire. His mission comes at the behest of not only his emperor, but also his emperor's sorcerer/advisor. Things get complicated when Dulver makes contact with an unknown/lost race, the Sa'la Taalor; and they know him by name. Uncomfortably thrust into role of semi-ambassador, Dulver is soon embroiled in politics and cultural honor. The Sa'la Taalor are large, scary and the most efficient, violent warriors Dulver (or any Fellein citizen) have ever encountered. To have them as enemies instead of allies would spell certain destruction for the Fellein Empire.

The book spreads its vines and roots as Moore brings various characters into play, and sets up many questions - some which are teasingly not answered in this opening volume.  While there is a bit of lack of martial action in the second act, the story does move forward as Moore explores and explains various cultures and characters. It is groundwork laying for the entire series, and I didn't really mind it because it was not presented as info dump. Moore kept me interested with exploring the world he has created.

The third act kicked everything up a notch, establishing some riveting suspense and by the novel's end, we are left with some large, breathtaking cliffhangers - including the opening of war.

I really enjoyed this novel. Moore deftly arranges all his story elements to keep the reader engaged straight through the tale. The cliffhangers work - I am eager to start reading the sequel, The Blasted Lands, shortly.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Staycation Loot

I am on vacation for the next week. Hanging around the house and puttering with chores and stuff that needs doing, mostly. Plus family time.

I am hoping to get reading & writing done, of course.

I took a little me time at the comic shop Saturday afternoon. It's a little dangerous - a very good local comic store turned their warehouse into a warehouse with a storefront. 6.9 miles from my house! They have many $1 bins. Many.

$1 bin results;

New stuff;

And, even after all these years of being away from scifi in a big way, I can't resist a good ol' Cold War apocalypse story.

Of course, I'm acquiring reading material far faster than I'm reading lately. But I hope to get more posts going - even if they are just one-off comic reviews.

That doesn't even count my eBay score of books last week. More on that later, perhaps. ;)