Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Rumpole of the Bailey - John Mortimer

An amusing book, with the unlikely hero, if you want to call it that, of Rumpole, a pretty ordinary looking lawyer, toiling away at his job of defending clients, putting up with his wife, his co-workers, and all that sort of thing.

However, he does tend to stick up the underdog and try and look into things that don't seem right.

3 out of 5

Clarke's Law - Jim Mortimore

A not particularly interesting Babylon 5 book that is basically an exploration of capital punishment. It would probably have been better served being just a novel the author wrote, rather than something that really doesn't ring true from Sheridan's point of view.

There are definitely more Babylon 5 books out there that fans will prefer ahead of this.

2 out of 5

Silverlock - John Myers Myers

A book that is a literary puzzle, an adventure of sorts, and full of sneakiness and tongue-in-cheekness. I have read quite a lot, and when I read this, I had trouble trying to work out who was who in quite a lot of cases. I suppose this is a lot of the appeal, though, being like a really, really hard cryptic crossword, at times.

4 out of 5

Robocop - Ed Naha

Robocop is another fairly ordinary novelisation, neither particularly good, or particularly bad, so gets the usual sort of rating for that.

A Detroit police officer meets a violent end, but there is enough left of him to use his remains as a guinea pig in a cyborg law enforcement trial. His new partner manages to reach him enough that he becomes effective, and more than a robot.

2.5 out of 5

Blake's 7 : Afterlife - Terry Nation

A continuation of the series. Avon has lived, it seems. There is a larger plot going on around him, and it involves his sister. She is smarter, and more dangerous than he is, and a sibling conflict develops.

3 out of 5

Red Dwarf : Infinity Welcomes Careful Drivers - Grant Naylor

Red Dwarf is a very funny tv show, and this book is also pretty amusing. The whole situation Lister finds himself in as the last man alive is a lot easier to follow when someone actually writes it down for you.

A definitely entertaining volume, and certainly recommended for fans of Red Dwarf and funny sf stuff.

4 out of 5

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

The California Voodoo Game - Larry Niven

Again, a murder is committed in Dream Park, and this time the deceased is Alex Griffin's girlfriend. That was probably a mistake.

The California Voodoo Game is massive, involving several teams of top class players, and five Gamemasters, including Tony McWhirter.

Griffin again has to join the game, but this time as a NPC guide. Eventually they discover a complicated, very clever game of industrial espionage is being played within the Voodoo Game itself.

3.5 out of 5

The Barsoom Project - Larry Niven and Steven Barnes

An odd choice for a name, as the Barsoom Project is nothing to do with the actual game that will be played, but a project that the Dream Park company inside the book wants to get involved with, actual exploration of Mars.

The game itself involves lots of cold, eskimo types and other such things, no John Carters or Dejah Thorises or any analogues of any of that to be seen.

3 out of 5

Dream Park - Larry Niven

A highly entertaining book, particularly for rpg geeks I guess. Dream Park is a huge live action role playing game complex, where players participate in games, complete with character stats, and holographic and computer assisted abilities.

Character classes, gamemasters, the whole thing. The Dream Park management have discovered evidence of a crime, so they have to put one of their security operatives undercover in a game.

The problem is that the game is an epic, a confrontation between two world class gamemasters and a famous party leading adventurer.

4 out of 5

The Ringworld Throne - Larry Niven

A return to the Ringworld after a long writing delay. At the start, the Ringworld denizens have to deal with vampires of a sort. Yep, whacky. Later on, Louis Wu and our puppeteer friend have some of the same work to do, as he and Speaker To Animals' son are taken captive by a vampire Pak Protector.

They end up involved in a Protector conflict, vamps vs the others. In general though, the usual suspects aren't really the main focus of the book, it is the Pak struggle that occupies this position.

3 out of 5

The Ringworld Engineers - Larry Niven

This sequel to Ringworld, basically back by popular demand, takes a more in depth look at what it is like to actually live there, and at the beings that actually do.

More of the construction and engineering issues are also looked at, unsurprisingly.

Louis and Speaker To Animals return.

3 out of 5

Ringworld - Larry Niven

A Puppeteer recruits a group to travel to the Ringworld, a large, artificial construct that is a very large band around a sun.

This group includes Louis Wu, a 200 year old bored junkie, your average warrior Kzin type, but for his people, he is remarkable tolerant, and a woman named Teela Brown. She is included for her presumable genetic dispensation towards luck being the result of so many winning birth lotteries.

What the Puppeteer really wants they have yet to find out.

4 out of 5

The Gripping Hand - Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle

The reader her is thrown into the deep end, sociologically. The conflicts both in Motie society and the spooks and political opponents in human society will easily lead to confusion for many readers, me included, to start with.

The Motie blockade has been going on for well over a decade, and the guard is getting lax, and some realise a breakout is probably inevitable.

2.5 out of 5

The Mote in God's Eye - Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle

Humans discover the Moties, a very different race of aliens. Neither side is particularly honest with the other, and they are both quite martial.

The Moties prove to be rather a handful, being genius savant types with technology, and gremlin or tribble like as far as being annoying goes.

Interdiction seems the only option.

4 out of 5

The Dragons of Heorot - Larry Niven

This is also called Beowulf's Children, and deals with what happens to a future generation on the planet Heorot. They have some knowledge of what goes on around the planet now, of course, but they still have to deal with it, and keep trying to forge ahead and create a civilisation. Not as interesting as the first book.

2 out of 5

The Legacy of Heorot - Larry Niven

A group of settlers on a planet include a lot of your smart scientific types. There is, however, one of your hard nosed, pragmatic security and military experts. He is not happy with how everything is set up.

Cue horror movie plot. Animals are eaten/disappear and Beowulfesque monsters roam, although they are just the local lifeforms, with their rather odd breeding cycles. Reminiscent of Heinlein's Stobor of course.

This is really pretty ordinary.

2.5 out of 5

Protector - Larry Niven

The Pak protectors have both a strange physiology and psychology. They mature from the breeder stage to the very intelligent protector stage, and develop a serious protective parental impulse to go with it.

When a protector has nothing to look after, he goes on a quest for purpose, as without one, he will literally die. Enter humans and their little solar system.

3.5 out of 5

Inconstant Moon - Larry Niven

The moon suddenly has greatly increased luminosity. Gradually the protagonist begins to realise that this heralds an astronomical disaster, and has to work out how to spend his last night alive.

He has a brainwave, realises he might be wrong, and along with his girlfriend try and take shelter in her place, which is high above the ground, in case his second idea is correct.

3.5 out of 5

Achilles' Choice - Larry Niven

A short, entertaining, illustrated novel. Nothing too flash about it other than that. A woman decides to compete in an all-encompassing super-olympic style competition to enter society's elite.

The only way to win is to take a drug to boost your performance. This drug will kill you in a few years, unless you do manage to win and get into the elite and get treatment.

Behind all this is a conspiracy, and the woman involved discovers there is something not nice going on. Well, not nice compared to the get rid of competitors and other repression that is already going on, anyway.

3 out of 5

Fallen Angels - Larry Niven

Earth has a bit of a problem with a new ice age. Here, no one likes the anti global-warming types. So, readin this part of the book now may seem really, really silly.

Along with the people struggling along in coats and gloves on Earth are a few people living in space stations. They have a resource problem as well.

One of their people crashlands on Earth, and a group of SF fans try and get him back home. He can't really cope with the gravity, and they have to build a spaceworthy type vehicle. Not too easy.

3 out of 5

Footfall - Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle

Aliens invade earth. They are warlike, elephantine looking creatures with their own strange hierarchy of dominance and submission.

They take captives for study, and some of these ordinary people are able to learn enough about what goes on to help humanity turn the tables.

This is after a lot of fighting, death, and the nuking of the odd United State.

3 out of 5

Lucifer's Hammer - Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle

Meteors, asteroids, what else can you hit the earth with and write a book about it? How about a comet? Yep, that is what has been done here. Apart from sounding cooler, you get the usual nastiness and struggles as those alive in the aftermath have to deal with trying to stay alive.

New power structures, violence and eating take up a lot of the time.

3 out of 5

Logan's Search - William F. Nolan

Logan's Search, the third book in the Logan series, is really pretty pointless. It takes him out of the setting of the first couple, and has a lot of elements of do it all again.

Exploring further what was going on originally, on his own world, would have been a much better idea.

2 out of 5

Logan's World - William F. Nolan

The first Logan's Run sequel is definitely not as good as the original. After intervention by Ballard, Logan, etc., the Thinker supercomputer is no longer the force it once was. This means changes are happening.

As Logan and Jessica tour around, lots of bad things happen to them, sex, violence, drugs, and combinations thereof.

2.5 out of 5

Logan's Run - William F. Nolan

No old people allowed. At 21, they get rid of you, thanks to some fancy biometric tracking. If you don't think that is a great idea, then special operatives named Sandmen, armed with weaponry that discharges a variety of different ammuntion hunt you down.

Logan is a Sandman, and he comes to realise what is going on is wrong. He ends up a runner, and encounters all sorts of bizarre things on his quest for Sanctuary.

4 out of 5

The Stainless Steel Rat Joins the Circus - Harry Harrison

This Rat adventure is a bit better. The richest man in the universe comes to Jim and asks him to find out who is robbing all his financial institutions.

It is not all that simple, though, but luckily Jim has his whole family with him, and has recently received some training from a master magician as part of his new employment.

Sneakiness, doublecross and scamming ensue.

3.5 out of 5

Monday, January 29, 2007

Vurt - Jeff Noon

Vurt is just not very good. When you look at what William Gibson, Pat Cadigan, Walter Jon Williams and others have done with this sort of thing, or even going back further, this is very disappointing.

Alternate reality via drugs and all is perhaps missing the point at little, at this point. Plenty of other cyberpunk tales to read before you need to waste your time with this one.

2 out of 5

Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang - Kate Wilhelm

A book of three separate parts, as it leaps generations. In the first, a family and group of people associated set up a retreat from a devastated world in an isolated area they hope they can control.

Humanity can no longer reproduce naturally, and has to resort to cloning to try and survive. There is only one incursion, and they resort to drowning them.

The next part of the book is more about the adult clones and how they relate to each other: pretty closely, with telepathy/group minds developing.

There are still outsiders in this society, and eventually it seems that diversity is still necessary for the future, as the instability of so many generations of clones, as mentioned in the first part of the book is most definitely going to be a problem.

That this clone society was very insular could be seen in almost zero interest in finding out what is going on in the outside world. Presumably that was intentional on Wilhelm's part. A very alien outlook.

3.5 out of 5

Meteor - Edmund H. North

A good old fashioned drop a big rock on the planet type of story. Astronomical, rather than alien-deliberate in this case.

Scientist types have to convince people that if this happens, it will be bad, and see if they can do something about it in time.

2 out of 5

Breed To Come - Andre Norton

A postapocalyptic style story. In the far future, humans are no longer. Cats, dogs etc. have evolved, and are the dominant species on the planet. These aren't your average useless feline, but do have some intelligence.

They have legends and mythology, especially of demons e.g. humans. So, of course, some of these come back.

3 out of 5

Catseye - Andre Norton

Catseye is another book based in and around the Dipple slum settlement/camp, or whatever you want to call it. There are only a few options open to those that live here. In Judgement on Janus, the main character there chose one, the young man in this book chooses another, taking temporary jobs to try and get by.

He lands what is basically a pet shop job dealing with exotical animals, who turn out to be far more than they seem. This leads to a dog and his boy sort of escapades, or the other way around.

3.5 out of 5

The Sargasso of Space - Andre Norton

Aptitude testing leads a young man to a job on a clunky old ship, not one of the fancy new shiny commercial fancy pants variety.

Through his apprenticeship he is forced to learn quickly, and spaceship maintenance and travel is not all.

They discover a planet with aliens, alien goodies, have to fend off nogoodniks, and all that sort of fun stuff.

3.5 out of 5

Huon of the Horn - Andre Norton

Huon of the Horn is a medieval romance, but Norton has adapted it into a novel. King Arthur is also a bit player in this tale, so that is the setting you are talking about.

This is from Huon's point of view, and we see that Huon is 'better' than Arthur, and they come into conflict over territory.

3 out of 5

Steel Magic - Andre Norton

Three kids find a secret entrance that leads them to Avalon. Once there, they find out a few things are missing, including Excalibur. Huon, the Warden of the West, fills them in.

They set out to find them, intrepid younglings that they are. Along the way they meet Merlin, among others.

3 out of 5

Judgement on Janus - Andre Norton

A boy belongs to a space merchant family, but their ship has been destroyed; a casualty of war. His mother is sick, and to get enough money to survive, he sells his body in to service, in a slave sense.

He ends up taking a suspended animation trip to the planet Janus. Once there, and he begins working for his new master, the discovery of an alien artifact leads to transformation.

3 out of 5

The Borrowers - Mary Norton

The Borrowers are tiny little guys, but otherwise people. They get along by using junk that is lying around and adapting it for their own use. This book is about what happens when a human boy actually discovers them, after moving into their area.

Not a particularly uncommon theme, and this one is pretty dull.

2 out of 5

Bedknobs and Broomsticks - Mary Norton

Those witchy types can certainly come in handy when you are a kid. Although a flying bed has a bit of a problem with the cool factor, I suppose. However, if you are using it to travel to remote places, islands, or even to go back in time, then style is not foremost in your considerations.

An entertaining kids adventure.

3 out of 5

The Stainless Steel Rat Sings the Blues - Harry Harrison

The Rat gets busted robbing a mint, and gets put on trial for his life. His only problem is that the trail comes after the execution.

However, the League has a job for him, and used the Life Model Decoy gambit to get him out of it, and promptly poisons him.

He has to track down an alien artifact on a prison planet. So, as a cover for being a prisoner type, he forms a rock band, the Stainless Steel Rats, natch.

An extensive send-up of Iron whassisname in the woods guy in the latter part of the book, as well.

Amusing as usual.

3 out of 5

The Golden Barge - Michael Moorcock

Tallow is a short, odd man, who goes to find a Golden Barge, and with it, himself. His journey takes him through green women, war, death and other assorted goings on.

The introduction says this was the first thing Moorcock ever wrote, and he has changed it a bit for publication.

2.5 out of 5

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Breaking Strain - Paul Preuss

Sparta wakes up to find a very serious gap in her memory. Looking in the mirror, she realises she is no normal girl. There are people out to get her, so she bails.

Superhuman senses and the ability to directly interface with computers through your fingers come in handy in times like this.

She manages to disappear into a government job, until she is promoted to become an investigator, and sent to investigate an accident on a space liner.

By the end of this, she begins to learn about the organisation behind the program that created her, and their desire to create superhumans.

3 out of 5

Saturday, January 27, 2007

The Coming of the Horseclans - Robert Adams

Milo Morai is a superhuman mutant. Basically, he has the whole Wolverine deal going on, and also does not seem to age.

At the start he is travelling back to a civilisation of sorts that he has set up, the Horseclans. They have some Beastmaster type talents, the ability to telepathically communicate with their own special horses, and with big cats.

The book is set around 600 years after a nuclear disaster, as that is how old Milo is. He wants to find others like him, and has basically set himself the long and difficult task that L. E. Modesitt's Forever Hero has, to rebuild a civilisation that has lost its technology and is greatly reduced in number.

By the end of the book, he has found three other mutants like himself, and led his Clans to the sea, along with a bit of warfare along the way. This is only before finding out of others that have survived the centuries, by body snatching, basically, a group of scientist mind vampires also survives.

The book seems to jump around rapidly, and suffers from not enough focus I think. The author is obviously fond of the primitive arms and armor thing.

2.5 out of 5

Playing Beatie Bow - Ruth Park

A girl from the current time, as far as the book is concerned, finds an artifact, presumably supernatural, and ends up transported back in time to the later 19th century.

She has to adjust to this life, and the family she ends up living with, and the book follows her rapid maturity and relationships.

2.5 out of 5

Time Bandits - Michael Palin

The crazy antics of a kid and a whole lot of short guys and other people in, through, and around the timestream. However, I found this a bit on the dull side and did struggle to get through reading it at the time. Somewhat disappoing from that point of view, and I can't recommend it unless you are a big fan.

2.5 out of 5

Along Came A Spider - James Patterson

This book is one of a series, it appears. A highly competent investigator has to track down a killer of the serial variety, who, is most definitely crazy.

There is also a female FBI agent involved, and it appears that she is most likely more than a little bit dodgy, as well. A dick, deaths and a dodgy dame.

3 out of 5

The Conan Chronicles Volume 2 : The Hour of the Dragon - Robert E. Howard

This is subtitled the 'Hour of the Dragon' to confuse people a little, but it does contain that novel.

The second part of a Fantasy Masterworks double by Orion/Gollancz that collects all the Robert E. Howard Conan stories. It also has his poem 'Cimmeria' and the Notes on the Peoples of the Hyborian Age. This again has an afterword by Stephen Jones.

The contents:

Notes on Various Peoples of the Hyborian Age
Red Nails
Jewels of Gwahlur
Beyond the Black River
The Black Stranger
Wolves Beyond the Border
The Phoenix on the Sword
The Scarlet Citadel
The Hour of the Dragon


Red Nails

Download Conan - Red Nails

Conan is travelling, finds a dead woman, and then encounters Valeria of the Red Brotherhood. After trading some insults, they have the misfortune to stumble across a dragon.

Then they have fun in an abandoned city full of crazed warriors, two evil leering royals, and a third undeed type one. Capture, bondage, slayage, all the great stuff in this tale of a fantastic partnership.

5 out of 5



Jewels of Gwahlur

http://gutenberg.net.au/ebooks06/0600761.txt

To quote Mr. Howard - "Conan was basically a direct-actionist. Such subtlety as he possessed
had been acquired through contact with the more devious races."

and when a woman tries some subterfuge, about being a goddess :

"Why, you sacrilegious little hussy!" rumbled Conan. "Do you not fear
the gods? Crom! Is there no honesty anywhere?"

For military reasons, Conan has to get the Teeth of Gwahlur from their hiding place in a mystic castle before his political and military opposition.

He decides he can get the girl Muriela to run the same scam she tried on him, on some others. The only problem is that the real goddess Yelaya shows up! Then it is time to scarper, sharpish.


4.5 out of 5


Beyond the Black River

http://gutenberg.net.au/ebooks06/0600741.txt

Conan is working around a fort on the border of Aquilonia, when many tribes of Picts, united by the wizard Zogar Sag, combine to attack.

Conan takes out a scouting party to see what goes on, but they are ambushed, and most captured and killed, except one man, that he rescues. The wizard summons beasts by virtue of the powers of an old god, whom Conan is familiar with. With the help of an old dog, Slasher, Conan and his companion try and get the settlers to safety, while the fort is overrun.

Zogar Sag makes a mistake when he sends a fleshly avatar to try and destroy Conan. The barbarian kills the avatar, which destroys the wizard, and the Pictish invasion is over.

4.5 out of 5


The Black Stranger

A tale of three brigands, that starts slow, and then rip-roars along. With multiple pirates, you know there has to be a treasure map. This time, to the Treasure of Tranicos.

Add in a mystical demon warrior, a bunch of raiding Picts, a couple of sieges, three pirates that can't trust each other, a beautiful woman, and Conan, and all hell will break loose.

4 out of 5


Wolves Beyond the Border (draft)

This is pretty much a Conanless Conan story. Conan is away fighting in Aquilonian and we follow a man in the Westmerck near the Picts as he encounters shapeshifting and beast magic.

2.5 out of 5


The Phoenix on the Sword

http://gutenberg.net.au/ebooks06/0600811.txt

King Conan is bored. Politics and statecraft and maps, and all that stuff.

In a dream, a man magically enhances his sword, and that certainly comes in handy later when the odd traitor and demon relieves the tedium of the ruling class.

3.5 out of 5


The Scarlet Citadel

http://gutenberg.net.au/ebooks06/0600821.txt

King Conan's army of Aquilonians has been smashed by a far superior force, led by a wizard. Conan refuses to sign over his kingdom, and the wizard throws him in a dungeon.

He escapes an assassin and a monster, and rescues a wizardly rival that Tsotha had imprisoned. This wizard, please, summons a flying steed to bear Conan back to his kingdom, to take revenge.

4.5 out of 5


The Hour of the Dragon

http://gutenberg.net.au/ebooks06/0600981.txt

The novel length Conan work. An aging Conan is now in a position of responsibility, being King of Aquilonia.

His reign is threatened by a very powerful sorcerer, whom Conan is unable to stop by mundane means, and must take himself off hunting for a mystic artifact.

Having done this, there is some wizard smiting to be done.

Top notch work.

5 out of 5



5 out of 5

Black Tears - L. Sprague De Camp

Conan discovers a traitor in his band, but he has lit out, so Conan must track him into the desert. When he demands his followers go with him through a region that they know to fear, they drug and abandon the Cimmerian.

He ends up rescued by some locals and informed of a demon and the sacrifice demands she makes, and the prophecy that tells of his coming as a saviour.

Barbarian sword, meet Gorgon's black third eye.

2.5 out of 5

The Aardvark Affair - Gary Brandner

The Big Brain is called back in by his former colonel, now a spook for Agency Zero. Three scientists have become vegetative, and they want to know why.

He realises the crop enhancing program is not all that he seems, and both he and his girlfriend get into a lot of trouble in a complicated espionage double agent plot, involving a green organisation and others.

2.5 out of 5

Deadspeak - Brian Lumley

Harry Keogh's son on Starside has cut him off from his Necroscope powers, and his Mobius Continuum powers. He must get back first one, then the other, in order to stop a vampire, hundreds of years old, from killing even more of E-Branch than he already has.

Harry's problem is so bad, Mobius even has to get Pythagoras to help!

Some pretty funky Cthulhoid deinvocations in the final confrontation, as Harry, unable to teleport, has to go in via Greece and Romania the hard way.

3.5 out of 5

Friday, January 26, 2007

The Pearl at the Soul of the World - Meredith Ann Pierce

The third book in the Darkangel trilogy is a bit of an improvement. More is discovered about the planet and the background of some of the major players running around the place.

Aeriel and others must decide what to do when it seems that some very serious sacrifice may be required to keep everything going.

2.5 out of 5

A Gathering of Gargoyles - Meredith Ann Pierce

The second in Pierce's Darkangel Trilogy. The protagonist of the piece has made nice with the vampire guy, and wants to do the darkangel mambo with him, as well, basically.

There is still more odd questing to be undergone to find other things, as this young woman has to walk the line between the whole human and vampire thing in this odd and precarious setting.

2 out of 5

The Darkangel - Meredith Ann Pierce

One of those hybrid sort of books. Throw in fantasy, horror, and a bit of SF, and see what you get. Something like a little of the later Tepper, perhaps. Slightly phantasmagorical, or something like that.

Anyway, I didn't find it too compelling, and struggled through the maid's quest for her boss who has been taken by the Darkangel vampire guy.

2 out of 5

Code Noir - Marianne de Pierres

After a violent conflict over the Tert, Parrish comes out the other side somewhat successful. She is now a boss in her own right, with her own income stream and people that want to work for her.

There is still the higher level situation to deal with, and again the machinations of others involve her as he goes on a hazardous mission to Dis, where genetic experimentation and what, if anything, is sharing her body drive her to finding out what is going on.

She has to work out if she is a saviour, or not.

4 out of 5

Nylon Angel - Marianne de Pierres

Cyberpunk with a bit more of a post-apocalyptic flavour. Parish Pleiss is either a gun moll with a muscle function, or muscle with a gun moll function, as she is decent enough looking to attract a local crime lord's attention. She does what she has to do to get by.

Set in the 'Tert', a regional part of Australia that has suffered a lot of degradation, and the people there are kept out of Viva City, which is presumably probably Sydney of some sort, because they do not have any money.

Parrish gets caught up in a plot involving genetics, information, possible alien parasites, among other things. She ends up breaking out of her situation and involved in something with much higher staks.

4 out of 5

Protektor - Charles Platt

In a society that has everything, there should not be too many problems. However, people with everything, are still people, and scheming, plots, and mayhew will occasionally break out.

That is where the character in this book comes in. He is a troubleshooter, and has to work out what is going on on this particular planet.

You also get glimpses that the Protektorate, the overall body involved with this huge far flung society of thousands and thousands and thousands of worlds, just may not be so nice, despite what they have delivered to some of their citizens.

3 out of 5

Gateway - Frederik Pohl

Adventurous prospecting in space, wrapped inside a psychiatric counselling session, basically. All the trappings of a setup to try and exploit and monetise abandoned alien technology are shown here, down to the commercial advertising surround such an enterprise.

It is a very dangerous occupation, and the main character survives mostly intact, and has to deal with what happened to the people that went with him.

3.5 out of 5

Farthest Star - Frederik Pohl

A really large astronomical object is moving, so people decide to investigate and see what is going on. They are able to do this via a technique that is a little more commonly used now, perhaps, by sending fast moving copies.

What do you do when there are many versions of yourself, and you know you are sending them off to die, most likely? How do you relate to a single person via the different versions of yourself, that sort of thing.

All that and the worries associated with dealing with something that can create such an amazing display of technology.

3.5 out of 5

Jem - Frederik Pohl

A dark satire, I suppose you would call this. This shows what happens when humans go to an alien world, that has three races that exist in different ecological niches, basically. They aren't huge fans of each other, but mostly get along.

Humans bring their warlike, country fighting and spying ways along, and teach the natives. People ain't nice.

3 out of 5

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Last Rites (Graphic Audio Production) - Will Murray

This is another Graphic Audio book that I have not read in novel form, so can't say if it is any different. I have read around three other Destroyer novels, and this is considerably better.

The riff on Chiun is like McDowell from the excruciatingly bad movie, but actually decent. Here, Remo is at the height of his powers, and more interested in a personal issue, finding his father.

The bitterness of the few early books is not in existence here, as it takes a look at his background, and he basically undergoes the Twelve Labours of Hercules. Chiun's twelve labors are pretty low rent, though, which is very funny. His sphinx is a statue, his hind of arcadia is your garden variety moose, as his Cerberus is a urinating hiding mafioso and his three Rhodesian ridgebacks.

Very entertaining. The Remo actor does quite well, fending off stewardesses, putting up with annoying Sinanju masters, and looking for his dead. This one had me laughing at times as it spoofed all sorts of stuff.

I had not really liked what I had read of the Destroyer much so far, but if gets funnier like this later on, I am looking forward to it.

This was a good quality production, from the actors, to the moose and crazy machine gunning, to the narrated backstory.

4 out of 5

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Firing the Cathedral Cities - Peter Crowther

This book includes four novellas. China Mieville takes a look at a bleak, blasted out London full of not very nice things. Avatars of death and politics collide in Paul Di Filipo's A Year in the Linear City, which is really quite good. Ryman's V A O is shorter, and not as interesting.

Of most interest to me is yet another outing for the fabled Jerry Cornelius. In Firing the Catherdral, Moorcock is attempting a scatching satirical take on our post 9/11 type world, as seen by all the newspaper quotes at the start of chapters, from both 2002 and also from decades in the past.

Jerry is running around doing his thing, happy to be back and functioning. So is the omnipresent Una Persson, travelling at Jerry's side for much of the time. The usual brothers, sisters, bishops and even Colonel Pyat make an appearance. It is ok, but maybe more than a touch heavyhanded, at times.

3.5 out of 5

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Hell's Hungry Darlings - Stephen Adams

Femme Noir has to deal with a demon, and a young girl that has problems with being used by said entity. It uses her to enlist other young women in its causes, and sends a plague of demonic little creatures that look like kids into the city.

The police have their hands full, but a detective acquaintance of Noir's rallies them, and with her help, and an elderly priest, they manage to do something about it.

3.5 out of 5

Monday, January 22, 2007

Sherlock Holmes vs Dracula (audiobook) - Loren D. Estleman

Seeing I have a few of those now, I will add this one to the list as well. I am not actively seeking them out, I just happen to have this one, actually even before I read the novel.

This version is taken from the book, and is pretty much a straight radio drama, or radio play, or whatever you call it, with people acting out the roles. I suppose that means it is quite condensed, as opposed to a full reading, even though the book itself is not that long.

Still, the Holmes, Watson, Dracula and Van Helsing actors are all pretty decent, so quite enjoyable.

3.5 out of 5

Hell Dawn Graphic Audio Production - Tim Tresslar

After the first book they sent me, this is one of an additional three Graphic Audio books they have given me to listen to.

I can't compare this to the novel, as I have not read that. Still, I found myself sucked in a little. Bear has lost his surrogate son computer genius. Captured by some criminals who want a super amazing computer worm he has written, so they can indulge in some computer terrorism. Think Kris Kristofferson in Blade for the Bear guy.

The Stony Man Farm heads end up using both Able Team and Phoenix Force to track the bad guys down, with some help from the captive on the inside.

Again, this is done with the background music, the actors for the dialogue, and a narrator for the rest of the book. In this case, male.

A bit of wisecracking, and plenty of shooting. I think they might tone this down a little in the special effects, so you can actually hear the narration, as it is still supposed to be a book. Otherwise, it might blast you out at times!

It seems you also get trailers for other books at the start and the end, too, which is interesting. Unlike the scumsuckers who make DVDs these days, if you don't want to listen to them, moving on in an audio file is simple. Points for that.

3.5 out of 5

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Dragon's Claw - Peter O'Donnell

This book is not quite as interesting as the others, but still enjoyable. The band of villains, in general, would not find having lunch with The Joker disagreeable.

The fire and brimstone preacher fastest gun in the world guy discovers, much as Gallandro did with Han Solo in Brian Daley's trilogy, that speed isn't everything.

I didn't know how she would get out of that exection/shootout scene, so O'Donnell continues to pull marvelous rabbits out of hats.

Once it was down to 2 on 10, rather than 2 against 20 odd, the bad guys were outnumbered.

3.5 out of 5

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Destiny (Graphic Audio Production) - Alex Archer

This is something I didn't expect either. Out of the blue, Graphic Audio emailed me and asked if I would like to listen to their production of the first Rogue Angel book, given I had written about it earlier. Seeing I liked the novel, I said sure, why not.

They are here, for people that are interested Graphic Audio - Rogue Angel : Destiny Their email said you can get audio cd, mp3 cd or download, so that should pretty much cover anyone. Mp3 download perhaps is a good idea too for those that don't do the windows media thing, but I suppose you can always get a cd instead. It would be a useful option for overseas readers, certainly.

Generally speaking, I am not one for audiobooks, as, for me, to listen to an audiobook will take several times longer than reading the novel of the same length. On occasion while working or on a long car trip I have done so.

I have listened to many more radio presentations, or old time radio episodes like The Shadow, or Tarzan, or the Lone Ranger, Green Hornet, or Superman. I much prefer those if I am going to listen to something, as they have acting and the whole thing in there. Some radio shows from the 1980s, and a Sherlock Holmes vs Dracula production that was also pretty much the same as the book, but not as fancy as this.

However, it appears what Graphic audio is doing is a combination. There is a narrator that is basically reading the parts of the book that is not dialogue. In this case it is a woman, which makes sense, as the hero of the piece in this case is female. However, all the dialogue is played by different actors of the appropriate gender. Also, there is a soundtrack, and sound effects. Gunshots, cars, thwackings, and a really cool noise when Annja does the disappear and reappear the mystical sword trick, which is excellent. The mobile phone noises were realistic enough to annoy my wife.

So, this is a hybrid production that is pretty much the full book, which all the added benefits an audio production can bring to enliven the experience. The tagline on the website says 'A Movie In Your Mind', for their books/productions in general. It seems they are not far wrong, as that is the production they are going for.

It all appears to be done quite well. The narrator/actress in effect is playing the straight woman (in a comedic sense), while the male character dialogue flows around her, as she tolerates them to greater or lesser degrees.

The Rogue Angel concept I think is a good one, and designed for crossover appeal. I am guessing that Annja is going to run into a love interest or two to appeal a bit more to romance fans, and there is also the female superhero arse kicker, for fans there, and a bit of the running around with guns for fans of that sort of action. Throw in some monsters and ghostbusting, and a magic sword, and you certainly have an interesting combination. Elements of Witchblade, Highlander, Tomb Raider and/or Relic Hunter, but featuring a character who is a little younger than that crowd.

If you like audio drama, I don't see why this wouldn't appeal, and if you like audio books (or old time radio dramas, or radio drama), there is a lot of that there, as well, which seems to me to be somewhat clever, but this is an area I am not particularly familiar with.

My rating for the actual book is here :-

http://superprose.blogspot.com/2007/01/rogue-angel-1-destiny.html

The actual content is pretty much the same, so that rating doesn't change, after a second run through. If I was tempted to change it, it would probably go slightly higher I think, after the repeat. However, I may be new to this sort of thing. This may mean it impresses me more than a highly experienced listener to books and drama I will give the production itself :

4 out of 5

Friday, January 19, 2007

The Striking of the Gong - Robert E. Howard

Kull survives an assassination attempt, and has a weird out of body experience while unconscious.

2.5 out of 5

Thursday, January 18, 2007

The Skull of Silence - Robert E. Howard

Kull's adviser tells him about the ancient wizard Raama and the secrets he keeps hidden to protect the world. Kull and Brule can't resist a challenge, so off they go with some Red Slayers.

He gets a big shock when he gets there:
"Mortal, who are you to oppose me, who am older
than the gods? Before Life was, I was, and shall be
when Life dies. Before the invader Sound was born,
the Universe was silent and shall be again. For I shall
spread out through all the cosmos and kill Sound-kill
Sound-kill Sound-kill Sound!"

In this instance, the usually sensible King has an attack of the dumbarses, and only his immense willpower allows him to overcome the Silence.

3.5 out of 5

The Complete Chronicles of Conan - Robert E. Howard

A really nice book that just gives you the lot from Robert E. Howard as far as Conan goes.

There is nice map of the world Conan wandered around in at the front, and an afterword by Stephen Jones.

This includes

The Hyborian Age

http://gutenberg.net.au/ebooks06/0603571.txt

This is not a story as such, but an account of the fictional history of Howard's world through the ages, to the time of Kull and Atlantis down to the entitled time when Conan ran amok. Quite nicely done.

4 out of 5


Cimmeria (poem)

The Phoenix on the Sword

http://gutenberg.net.au/ebooks06/0600811.txt

King Conan is bored. Politics and statecraft and maps, and all that stuff.

In a dream, a man magically enhances his sword, and that certainly comes in handy later when the odd traitor and demon relieves the tedium of the ruling class.

3.5 out of 5


The Scarlet Citadel

http://gutenberg.net.au/ebooks06/0600821.txt

King Conan's army of Aquilonians has been smashed by a far superior force, led by a wizard. Conan refuses to sign over his kingdom, and the wizard throws him in a dungeon.

He escapes an assassin and a monster, and rescues a wizardly rival that Tsotha had imprisoned. This wizard, please, summons a flying steed to bear Conan back to his kingdom, to take revenge.

4.5 out of 5


The Tower of the Elephant

http://gutenberg.net.au/ebooks06/0600831.txt

Conan is in thieving mode here. In a tavern, he is asking the assembled crowd of nogoodniks why no-one has stolen a famous jewel from this tower.

They tell him because it is guarded by some very nasty things.

He, of course, investigates, and meets a master thief attempting the same thing.

Humans, animals, a giant spider and a wizard are to be encountered, not to mention an alien.

3.5 out of 5


Black Colossus

http://gutenberg.net.au/ebooks06/0600931.txt

Princess Yasmeela is visited by the sorceror Natokh, in an unearthly appartion. Terrified, she consults the oracle of Mitra, who tells her to make the first man she sees head of her armies.

It is her good fortune that this man is Conan. Her understands her political and military problems, and leads her army in war against the forces of Natokh, who has a resurrected monster up his sleeve.

Carnage ensues.

4 out of 5


The Slithering Shadow

http://gutenberg.net.au/ebooks06/0601051.txt

Conan and the woman with him find a strange city in the desert, after attacks and problems, they finally come across two weird inhabitants, a man and a woman :

"..I am Thalis the Stygian," she replied. "Are you mad, to come here?"

"I've been thinking I must be," he growled. "By Crom, if I am sane, I'm out of place here, because these people are all maniacs."

The strange, deadly black shadows don't care who they take, though, and Conan and Natala must face those, and weird dream warriors, before the end.

4 out of 5


The Pool of the Black One

http://gutenberg.net.au/ebooks06/0600951.txt

Conan has escaped an island where he was in trouble, and swum out to a nearby ship, boosting himself over the side and inviting himself onto the crew.

He plots to take over leadership, but when he follows the pirate leader ashore later, he gets more than he bargained for with a lot of black followers and something nasty in the Pool.

He rallies and rescues what is left of the pirate crew, and has himself a ship, and a woman.

4 out of 5


Rogues In the House

http://gutenberg.net.au/ebooks06/0600781.txt

Conan is yet again in trouble because of drinking and wenching. A crime has gone wrong, and a woman he was with has betrayed him to the authorities.

He is offered a way out, if he will kill a man. This man is Nabonidus, The Red Priest.

The only problems involve breaking in, a huge hulking ape-man servant, and then The Red Priest himself and his powers.

3.5 out of 5


Shadows in the Moonlight

http://gutenberg.net.au/ebooks06/0600971.txt

Conan comes across an Hyrkanian battle leader who has slaughtered the mercenaries he was with. He slays him and allows a girl the dead man had captured to come with him.

Attempting escape they come across pirates, a man ape, and spooky statues at night.

4 out of 5


Queen of the Black Coast

Download Queen of the Black Coast

One of the classic Conan stories. The barbarian goes a-reavin', and finds another of the rare women that can match him. Belit has fire, and presence, and command, but again, it does not end well. Highly recommended.

4.5 out of 5


The Devil in Iron

http://gutenberg.net.au/ebooks06/0600801.txt

Conan, working as a hetman of the Free Peoples is on the trail of a girl he had met in camp. He comes across an odd, dreamlike area, but soon encounters yet another giant defender, but this one even he cannot kill.

The same cannot be said of his rival in the opposition forces, and he takes the girl with him afterwards.

4 out of 5


The People of the Black Circle

http://gutenberg.net.au/ebooks06/0600941.txt

Conan is again in a leadership position, and seven of his lieutenants have been captured and are under sentence of death. He goes to see what he can do about it. In a flash, he makes off with their leader, the Devi. She is not all he has to worry about, as spies, plots and the wizardry of the Black Seers will all hinder him, not to mention the odd small army, along with the Devi herself.

4.5 out of 5


A Witch Shall Be Born

http://gutenberg.net.au/ebooks06/0600921.txt

A bad problem to have - how do you tell which of two women is the very evil twin. Luckily, our favorite barbarian is a very pragmatic man. Excellent and evocative, this story.

4.5 out of 5


Jewels of Gwahlur

http://gutenberg.net.au/ebooks06/0600761.txt

To quote Mr. Howard - "Conan was basically a direct-actionist. Such subtlety as he possessed
had been acquired through contact with the more devious races."

and when a woman tries some subterfuge, about being a goddess :

"Why, you sacrilegious little hussy!" rumbled Conan. "Do you not fear
the gods? Crom! Is there no honesty anywhere?"

For military reasons, Conan has to get the Teeth of Gwahlur from their hiding place in a mystic castle before his political and military opposition.

He decides he can get the girl Muriela to run the same scam she tried on him, on some others. The only problem is that the real goddess Yelaya shows up! Then it is time to scarper, sharpish.


4.5 out of 5


Beyond the Black River

http://gutenberg.net.au/ebooks06/0600741.txt

Conan is working around a fort on the border of Aquilonia, when many tribes of Picts, united by the wizard Zogar Sag, combine to attack.

Conan takes out a scouting party to see what goes on, but they are ambushed, and most captured and killed, except one man, that he rescues. The wizard summons beasts by virtue of the powers of an old god, whom Conan is familiar with. With the help of an old dog, Slasher, Conan and his companion try and get the settlers to safety, while the fort is overrun.

Zogar Sag makes a mistake when he sends a fleshly avatar to try and destroy Conan. The barbarian kills the avatar, which destroys the wizard, and the Pictish invasion is over.

4.5 out of 5


Shadows in Zamboula

http://gutenberg.net.au/ebooks06/0600791.txt

Conan is in Zamboula, and amazingly enough, comes across a girl, and she needs, and is also not what she seems. Royalty, serpent priests, and huge god-servants need some Cimmerian whup-arse, here.

3.5 out of 5


Red Nails

Download Conan - Red Nails

Conan is travelling, finds a dead woman, and then encounters Valeria of the Red Brotherhood. After trading some insults, they have the misfortune to stumble across a dragon.

Then they have fun in an abandoned city full of crazed warriors, two evil leering royals, and a third undeed type one. Capture, bondage, slayage, all the great stuff in this tale of a fantastic partnership.

5 out of 5


The Hour of the Dragon (poem)

The Hour of the Dragon

http://gutenberg.net.au/ebooks06/0600981.txt

The novel length Conan work. An aging Conan is now in a position of responsibility, being King of Aquilonia.

His reign is threatened by a very powerful sorcerer, whom Conan is unable to stop by mundane means, and must take himself off hunting for a mystic artifact.

Having done this, there is some wizard smiting to be done.

Top notch work.


5 out of 5


The God in the Bowl

Conan is indulging in a bit of thievery and is busted by the local constabulary, right near a dead body. Conan proclaims his innocence, which they find hard to believe, but are not going to fight him over it.

Some digging reveals a local wastrel nobel is involved, up to ears in debt, but he ends up with a few problems with the God In the Bowl, of the mortal kind. When he orders Conan restrained, the constabulary lose a few body parts, and others more than that.

3 out of 5


The Black Stranger

A tale of three brigands, that starts slow, and then rip-roars along. With multiple pirates, you know there has to be a treasure map. This time, to the Treasure of Tranicos.

Add in a mystical demon warrior, a bunch of raiding Picts, a couple of sieges, three pirates that can't trust each other, a beautiful woman, and Conan, and all hell will break loose.

4 out of 5


The Frost-Giant's Daughter

http://gutenberg.net.au/ebooks06/0600751.txt

Conan meets a very pale woman after fighting a battle in the frozen north. She is haughty, and arrogant, and summons a couple of her brothers to fight Conan. Giant men they might be, but the Cimmerian grabs them, and then grabs the girl.

She calls to her father Ymir, and disappears. Conan wakes up - was it all a dream?

4 out of 5


Drums of Tombalku (draft)

A story that was completed by de Camp.

Conan has been captured after the destruction of a mercenary band he was fighting in, but a friend escapes. The friend rescues a girl, and takes her back to her home city, but leaves when the horror in the Red Tower awakes, and he has to combat it.

Riding into the desert he meets Conan, who has apparently impressed his captors enough, the riders of Tombalku, that he now rides with them.

They all go to Tombalku, and Conan and Amalric briefly instruct the military there, before they fall foul of racism and a wizard, and decide to leave, post haste.

3 out of 5


The Vale of Lost Women

Conan is war chief of the Bamulas, and the story is told from the point of view of an Ophirean woman that is a captive of the group he is leading.

She talks him into letting her go by offering herself to him, for variety. He doesn't hold her to it, however, knowing that would be wrong, and lets her go.

She manages to get herself into trouble in the vale, where the women she finds definitely are not human. The Cimmerian, luckily for her, had been following her trail, and arrives just in time, another day at the office for him :

"A devil from the Outer Dark," he grunted. "Oh, they're nothing uncommon."

3.5 out of 5


Wolves Beyond the Border (draft)

This is pretty much a Conanless Conan story. Conan is away fighting in Aquilonian and we follow a man in the Westmerck near the Picts as he encounters shapeshifting and beast magic.

2.5 out of 5


The Snout in the Dark (draft)

A short draft. A popular military officer is imprisoned by a dangerous queen type. When she returns from hunting, the population is beginning to turn ugly, and tries to tear her from her horse.

A large, scarred Cimmerian is nearby, and manages to rescue her, not without injury to either.

She promptly orders her Captain of the Guard slain, and gives Conan the job. He is not displeased to be the captain for a good looking naked and bleeding ruler, at least for now.

3 out of 5


The Hall of the Dead (synposis)

De Camp completed this from an outline of Howard's that was found. Conan has left Shadrizar to look for the treasure of Larsha, and a squad of soldiers, out to arrest him for other larceny are on his trail.

He deals with most of them, but the leader, Nestor is not dead and follows him into the city, meeting him in the treasure room after he deals with a giant slug.

They leave, quickly, when mummified warriors come to life and the building starts collapsing. Their loot is not too stable, and not enjoyed for long.

3 out of 5


The Hand of Nergal (fragment)

Another story fleshed out from an outline.

Conan is fighting as Turanian irregular cavalry when large mystical bat creatures attack the force he is fighting with. Their morale breaks, leaving them easy prey, all except the Cimmerian who happens to have found The Heart of Tammuz amulet.

A local scholar sends his girl slave to find Conan and hire him to help him get rid of the evil sorceror using The Hand of Nergal to summon the bat creatures, and worse.

Conan is not able to do much, and is a lot of trouble until the girl arrives, and is able to employ the amulet. As a reward, he takes her with him, out of servitude.

3.5 out of 5


Notes on Various Peoples of the Hyborian Age

All in all, a great way to put this together, and just have the one book. Obvious, but it has finally been done, thankfully.

5 out of 5

Earthquake Weather - Tim Powers

I definitely didn't know when I read this that there were other related books, I just picked it up as the title looked interesting. It didn't leave me too hopelessly lost or anything, as the main plot thrust was having to replace a dead guy as the Fisher King.

The new one is a kid everyone is looking for, complete with supernatural type weirdness around.

3 out of 5

The Science of Discworld II - Terry Pratchett

The second Science of Discworld book, as the title suggests, narrows its focus. While the first took a lot at the cosmological and astronomical overview, this one changes to a focus on the actual planet, and how it formed and developed. This means in both a discworld sense, and the actual real world science behind our planet, in this simplified form.

3 out of 5

The Science of Discworld - Terry Pratchett

This is ok, but it is trying to do two things and once and I found it a little forced, and as such a little on the dull side. The discworld wizards and playing with academics and a computer experiment to do some world building.

Pratchett is giving a few real world science lessons along the way. More interesting perhaps to someone that knows none of it already.

3 out of 5

Reaper Man - Terry Pratchett

After nicking the title of repo man, quite cleverly. Death is the star of this novel. The Auditors get a little unhappy with him and his increasing independence, which they see as a threat.

He ends up going to work on a farm, which is really pretty funny. When the whole Death role gets messed up, he has to fight to get his old job back.

4 out of 5

Moving Pictures - Terry Pratchett

Pratchett chooses yet another industry to satirise, and Hollywood and the whole movie business isn't a bad choice.

A fledgling industry starts up, complete with producers, stars, and all the other hangers-on, until it is discovered that actually doing this movie thing is really, really bad for the discworld.

3.5 out of 5

Eric - Terry Pratchett

Or, Rincewind goes to Hell. In other words, Pratchett has decided to again spoof another couple of pieces of writing.

A young lad wants to do the whole power, fame, women, etc. thing and tries to summon a demon. Much to his disappointment, he gets Rincewind.

You also get Death, the Librarian, the Luggage, and a parrot.

3 out of 5

Guards! Guards! - Terry Pratchett

The eight discworld book is a definite improvement on the last couple, and certainly funnier. Much as with everything else in the discworld, the cops are useless, and really don't want to have to work too hard or do much at all. Turning up, having lunch, or supper, or whatever, and then going home is fine with them.

Cults and dragons get in the way, though, and they have to do some policing while Pratchett happily spoofs the cop genre.

4 out of 5

Pyramids - Terry Pratchett

Pyramids is almost a complete standalone discworld book, with just small references here and there to the occasional other person.

This is his take on the whole Egypt and pyramid worship and the whole thing about the shape and construction of pyramids doing weird things with preservation and time.

3 out of 5

Wyrd Sisters - Terry Pratchett

In a comedy series that goes this long and has witches it was going to be pretty hard for Pratchett to resist the urge to do a Shakespeare spoof. He takes a crack here, and it is not too bad. For fans of the Death and Rincewind type of antics though you may well not enjoy this one as much.

Some amusing lines, but only average, to me.

3 out of 5

Sourcery - Terry Pratchett

An ensemble cast, you could say, perhaps. Pratchett comes up with the whacky sourcerers, throwing that into the whole discworld and the number eight thing, with the eighth son of an eighth son of an eighth son type deal.

Rincewind, Death, the Librarian, and others have to deal with one of these guys to again stop the discworld being no longer a discworld.

3.5 out of 5

Mort - Terry Pratchett

Terry Pratchett here came up with one his three best characters. Ok, he didn't make him up, but the earnest deadpan characterisation, and the use of capitalisation to signify Death speaking works wonderfully well, and is a lot of fun.

Throw in one of his other best characters, the Librarian, and guaranteed to be decent.

A seemingly useless young boy becomes Death's apprentice. Silliness and adventure ensue.

4.5 out of 5

Equal Rites - Terry Pratchett

This Discworld book didn't interest me as much, but it is ok. It is your girl sort of ends up wanting to be a wizard, but the all male faculty at the Unseen University don't really know how to deal with the whole situation, and don't necessarily want to, either.

Enter the hard-nosed grandma witch of the girl to sort of all the bumbling robe wearing conjurers.

3 out of 5

The Light Fantastic - Terry Pratchett

While not as funny as the first Discworld book, this follow-up is still pretty funny, and some of the Cohen the barbarian bits and other things like that definitely get a laugh.

Pratchett is continuing his Douglas Adams style fantasy rift, and it is pretty enjoyable, overall.

4 out of 5

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

The Conquering Sword of Conan - Robert E. Howard

This comprises of the stories Red Nails, The Black Stranger, Beyond the Black River, Queen of the Black Coast, The Servants Of Bit-Yakin and the Man-Eaters of Zamboula

Download Conan - Red Nails

Conan is travelling, finds a dead woman, and then encounters Valeria of the Red Brotherhood. After trading some insults, they have the misfortune to stumble across a dragon.

Then they have fun in an abandoned city full of crazed warriors, two evil leering royals, and a third undeed type one. Capture, bondage, slayage, all the great stuff in this tale of a fantastic partnership.

5 out of 5

A tale of three brigands, that starts slow, and then rip-roars along. With multiple pirates, you know there has to be a treasure map. This time, to the Treasure of Tranicos.

Add in a mystical demon warrior, a bunch of raiding Picts, a couple of sieges, three pirates that can't trust each other, a beautiful woman, and Conan, and all hell will break loose.

4 out of 5

http://gutenberg.net.au/ebooks06/0600741.txt

Conan is working around a fort on the border of Aquilonia, when many tribes of Picts, united by the wizard Zogar Sag, combine to attack.

Conan takes out a scouting party to see what goes on, but they are ambushed, and most captured and killed, except one man, that he rescues. The wizard summons beasts by virtue of the powers of an old god, whom Conan is familiar with. With the help of an old dog, Slasher, Conan and his companion try and get the settlers to safety, while the fort is overrun.

Zogar Sag makes a mistake when he sends a fleshly avatar to try and destroy Conan. The barbarian kills the avatar, which destroys the wizard, and the Pictish invasion is over.

4.5 out of 5

Download Queen of the Black Coast

One of the classic Conan stories. The barbarian goes a-reavin', and finds another of the rare women that can match him. Belit has fire, and presence, and command, but again, it does not end well. Highly recommended.

4.5 out of 5

http://gutenberg.net.au/ebooks06/0600761.txt

To quote Mr. Howard - "Conan was basically a direct-actionist. Such subtlety as he possessed
had been acquired through contact with the more devious races."

and when a woman tries some subterfuge, about being a goddess :

"Why, you sacrilegious little hussy!" rumbled Conan. "Do you not fear
the gods? Crom! Is there no honesty anywhere?"

For military reasons, Conan has to get the Teeth of Gwahlur from their hiding place in a mystic castle before his political and military opposition.

He decides he can get the girl Muriela to run the same scam she tried on him, on some others. The only problem is that the real goddess Yelaya shows up! Then it is time to scarper, sharpish.


4.5 out of 5


http://gutenberg.net.au/ebooks06/0600791.txt

Conan is in Zamboula, and amazingly enough, comes across a girl, and she needs, and is also not what she seems. Royalty, serpent priests, and huge god-servants need some Cimmerian whup-arse, here.

3.5 out of 5


In other words, a top notch selection of Conan adventuring.



5 out of 5

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

The Thing In the Crypt - L. Sprague De Camp

A young Conan has been fighting wolves, and they are still after him. He finds a door in a rock wall, but it leads him to an encounter with a skeletal mummy thing. He learns why DnD clerics use maces against the undead, and manages to get out of there.

3 out of 5

Delcardes' Cat - Robert E. Howard

Kull is being harassed over whether one particular noblewoman can marry down, so to speak. He couldn't care less, and says whatever.

A more sinister plot involves an ancient cat that can apparently talk, and foretell the future. It gives Kull some advice, and he goes off searching for Brule the Spear-Slayer, who is apparently in monster trouble.

Not the case though, as Kull encounters an underwater civilisaiton, some monsters, and no sign of Brule.

Returning home after adventures, he realises the talking cat is a dupe, and the ventriloquial masterpiece is performed by none other than Thulsa Doom.

4.5 out of 5

The Anubis Gates - Tim Powers

An entertaining adventure of time travel and magic. In the past, Egyptian sorcerors are plotting against the British, trying to destroy them in the future.

In the future/present, a wealthy man discovers the key to some time travel secrets, via the use of gates. Hiring an academic, he tests one out, but the guy is stuck in the past, and gets tied up in the whole Egyptian sorcery thing.

Plenty of other wild stuff in this book, too.

4 out of 5

The Extremes - Christopher Priest

A somewhat underwhelming and slow novel. A female agent is taking a break for her job, mostly for psychological reasons, after her husband has been killed in an operation goes wrong.

She goes to a town in England where a crazed gunman ran wild, and starts exploring virtual reality situations through sophisticated and probably illegal software that replicates violent situations and training.

Somewhat pointless end, too.

2.5 out of 5

The Mask of Caliban - Michael Pryor

The Mask of Caliban is the story of a young man, in a broken down society, who must try and work out who and what he is, because he has some pretty serious memory issues to deal with.

Along the way, he meets a girl and they become travelling companions, and help each other out.

2.5 out of 5

The Darkest Road - Guy Gavriel Kay

They realise they have a bit of a problem with the Maugrim character. The enemy is from outside their reality, so is just may not be possible to kill him.

Lancelot and Arthur have monsters to fight, and Arthur has to make a stand against his on this world's version of Camlann. Diarmuid steps in for Arthur and sacrifices himself.

Darien comes up with a sneaky trick to get rid of Maugrim.

Some of the people from Earth stay, some go home.

4 out of 5

The Wandering Fire - Guy Gavriel Kay

The group are wandering ever deeper into Celtic and Arthurian mythology.

The Wild Hunt, a sacrifice to the goddess to stop a magical freezing winter.

Kim realises she has to try and get help from Arthur in the coming conflict, and travels to their Stonehenge to raise the spirit of Uther Pendragon.

Jenny realises that she is really a Guinevere type.

Arthur is awoken, and they learn what he did that wasn't so nice. He, in turn, realises they will need Lancelot, and does a similar thing to that used to get him back.

4 out of 5

The Summer Tree - Guy Gavriel Kay

A Canadian academic tells a small group of students that is a bit more than they thought he is. He lets them know he is a mage from another world, and offers them the chance to journey with him back to this place, for a celebration.

Dave, one of their number, is a little suspicious and breaks away, ending up being transported to another place, and learning to be an axe-wielding warrior type.

There is a bit of a Wounded Land thing going on, because their king, clinging to power, doesn't want to present himself as the usual ritual sacrifice to keep things going.

Paul, one of the students, does the whole tree ordeal thing in his place.

4 out of 5

The Stainless Steel Rat Is Born - Harry Harrison

The origin of the Stainless Steel Rat. Back in the day, a young Jim was not so clever, not so talented, and just a little on the naive side. He decides that to learn to be a super criminal, going to mail is a good idea, to pick up a few skills.

Errr, no. However, it sort of all turns out ok for him, it seems.

3.5 out of 5

The Stainless Steel Rat Gets Drafted - Harry Harrison

When you need to stop a war, the Stainless Steel Rat is the man you turn to. Not that he is that keen to be your average grunt type stuck on a planet with a crazy warlord, etc.

However, given the man who killed his teacher is there, he is more keen than you would expect to give it a shot.

3.5 out of 5

The Stainless Steel Rat For President - Harry Harrison

Another amusing installment of the Stainless Steel Rat series. When Slippery Jim di Griz is on holiday with his easy on the eyes spousal unit, he deals with the local politician, who keeps himself in power though skullduggery.

The Rat is a master of this, and decides to go into politics and beat him at his own game, and much entertainment is had by all.

3.5 out of 5

The Stainless Steel Rat Wants You! - Harry Harrison

This book is much funnier, and the situation certainly helps. War is looming with an alien race, and yes, they are pretty much bug eyed monster types. The Stainless Steel Rat and relatives have to do something about it.

Infiltration is tricky, but all undercover super thief/spies are good at disguise. He can even do alien sexy. Pretty funny.

4 out of 5

The Stainless Steel Rat Saves the Wolrd - Harry Harrison

This was not as good as the previous two books in the series. Another adventure for him, a strange antagonist, and some time travelling that seemed a bit out of place. France? Jim has to stop people messing around with time.

Anyway, it is ok, but there are definitely better books in this series.

3 out of 5

The Stainless Steel Rat's Revenge - Harry Harrison

What sort of woman would a rogue and a thief and now a secret agent super-operative type be interested in? Well, in the case of Slippery Jim di Griz it appears that the woman is an uber-version of his old self, and he did end up pursuing in more ways than one.

The Rat was not a violent man, the one who set his hormones aflutter didn't mind a bit of shooting. After a bit of readjustment, they married, save the universe, and have kids.

Amusing, again.

3.5 out of 5

The Stainless Steel Rat - Harry Harrison

The Stainless Steel Rat is a character that is most definitely in the Arsene Lupin mold, although perhaps not quite so flash. A rogue and a super-thief if you like.

He runs into a problem when he meets an organisation of ex-super thieves and rogues just like him, and they beat him at his own game.

Co-opted, he has no choice but to help them out.

4 out of 5

Conan the Usurper - Robert E. Howard

There are four stories in this book. The Black Stranger, Wolves Beyond the Border, The Phoenix on the Sword and the Scarlet Citadel.

A tale of three brigands, that starts slow, and then rip-roars along. With multiple pirates, you know there has to be a treasure map. This time, to the Treasure of Tranicos.

Add in a mystical demon warrior, a bunch of raiding Picts, a couple of sieges, three pirates that can't trust each other, a beautiful woman, and Conan, and all hell will break loose.

4 out of 5

This is pretty much a Conanless Conan story. Conan is away fighting in Aquilonian and we follow a man in the Westmerck near the Picts as he encounters shapeshifting and beast magic.

2.5 out of 5

http://gutenberg.net.au/ebooks06/0600811.txt

King Conan is bored. Politics and statecraft and maps, and all that stuff.

In a dream, a man magically enhances his sword, and that certainly comes in handy later when the odd traitor and demon relieves the tedium of the ruling class.

3.5 out of 5

http://gutenberg.net.au/ebooks06/0600821.txt

King Conan's army of Aquilonians has been smashed by a far superior force, led by a wizard. Conan refuses to sign over his kingdom, and the wizard throws him in a dungeon.

He escapes an assassin and a monster, and rescues a wizardly rival that Tsotha had imprisoned. This wizard, please, summons a flying steed to bear Conan back to his kingdom, to take revenge.

4.5 out of 5



4 out of 5

Stranger To the Sun - Jeff Marriotte

Wesley ends up comatose after opening a package with a magical powder payload designed for angel.
In an odd interlude, Wesley appears to be back in time, stuck in a mine cave-in involving his great grandfather.

A vampire closing on 200 years old displays a lack of astronomical teaching in his youth when he concocts a magic spell to tilt the planet on its axis and make one half daylight, and one half night, which supposedly somehow lets vampires rule the world.

Ok, yep, he is stupid. His cronies fight ok though, and it is rough work for Angel, Gunn, and crew, and Cordelia makes up the magical research as she goes along, concocting a vile potion.

"You do all that stuff," Gunn said. "Fight crime, right wrongs, the whole bit. YOu think maybe it'd be easier if you traded in the black duster, got some kind of costumer, maybe a scary-ass name like Dark Avnger or The Stomper or something? Because, as names go, I'm sorry, man, but Angel ain't all that scary."

Marriotte is definitely good with the references.

3 out of 5

The Black Stranger - Robert E. Howard

A tale of three brigands, that starts slow, and then rip-roars along. With multiple pirates, you know there has to be a treasure map. This time, to the Treasure of Tranicos.

Add in a mystical demon warrior, a bunch of raiding Picts, a couple of sieges, three pirates that can't trust each other, a beautiful woman, and Conan, and all hell will break loose.

4 out of 5

Monday, January 15, 2007

The Altar and the Scorpion - Robert E. Howard

An evil wizard type, about to sacrifice two youths who are desperately waiting for Kull to save them, is felled by an arachnid.

3 out of 5

A Stroke of Midnight - Laurell K. Hamilton

Meredith's Sidhe bodyguards, of all types and flavors are keen to have
sex with her as much as possible, as if any of them win the faerie bun
in the oven lottery, prestige awaits.

Also, it appears that doing so, brings back long unused and dormant
powers from the time when the Sidhe were top dog, not the humans.

Apart from this, they have to solve the murder, in public, at a press conference, of two people, and the Sidhe are involved.

3 out of 5

Seduced By Moonlight - Laurell K. Hamilton

It is not just the packet of life savers five fruits colored Sidhe bodyguards that the princess has to romp around with, you can add goblins into the mix as well. Those goblin types like eating people too, so this can be a little problematic.

Then there is the whole possed by powerful Sidhe god types, as well. This could all really leave one woman sore.


3 out of 5

A Caress of Twilight - Laurell K. Hamilton

A large part of the whole Sidhe political conflict is the issue of succession. This means that whoever of the next generation that can produce a child is likely to get to be the boss, or at least, stay alive.

It doesn't really look too good for Meredith, because she has copious amounts of faerie meat in her bed, but none of them knock her up. Pretty likely, the problem is hers.

We get to see a few Sidhe powers and other information as the Grey agency helps out an actress who is really Sidhe.

3 out of 5

Cerulean Sins - Laurell K. Hamilton

Anita has a falling out with the head of the local paranormal crimes unit, and traps him into admitting his prejudices against them, and being recorded. This is a distinct change in character from the first books, where she would be agreeing with him, most likely. More evidence of her completely distancing herself from normal humanity.

Even more so when she has to deal with the ruler of Jean-Claude's vampire line and another even more powerful female vampire ruler.

How do you fight this problem. Yep, you guessed it. Vampire threesome! Anita sandwich, or whatever you want to call it.

Still, a semblance of a plot here, as well.

2.5 out of 5

Narcissus In Chains - Laurell K. Hamilton

Back to the erotica themes. The adversary in this one basically runs a deadly supernatural BDSM club of an often particularly nasty kind.

Anita discovers that she has Jean Claude's sex you up, give you the horn and sex slave you vampire ardeur powers.

She also adds being master of a vampire to her ever growing list of supernatural abilities and titles, and gets herself yet another boyfriend, a new male wereleopard in town.

There is just enough of a plot in there to keep some interest.

Threesomes abound for this chick.

2.5 out of 5

Obsidian Butterfly - Laurell K. Hamilton

This is a welcome change from all the weresex angst and the vampsex angst from the previous couple of books. You can easily point out the reason for this, too. Edward. Yep, Edward is back, so some monster hunting is to be done.

She travels to New Mexico to look at the goings on at a club there.

4 out of 5

Blue Moon - Laurell K. Hamilton

Anita discovers it is tricky to have all those supernatural powers and supernatural leadership responsibilities. So much so, she has to get lessons from others, and help from a witch to deal with some of it before she is overwhelmed.

Throw in werewolf shagging and her having to deal with the jealousy of the situation with Richard, who reckons if she can do whoever, so can she. He, of course, has some hot wolf girls after him, considering he is the boss.

3 out of 5

Burnt Offerings - Laurell K. Hamilton

Somebody has decided that vampires are toasty, or good to toast, or burn prettily. Anyway, vampire torchings are what Anita has to investigate in this book.

It is also becomes public that she is doing the head vamp of her city.

Because she bumped off their boss, Anita becomes responsible for the wereleopards in town, as if she doesn't have enough to do.

Yes, she is now a vampire hunter/necromancer/vampire servant/female werewolf leader/wereleopard queen.

She still has a fuzzy penguin, though.

3 out of 5

The Killing Dance - Laurell K. Hamilton

Anita becomes more and more involved in the supernatural world, and it is actually spelled out here, where her relationship with the vampire and the werewolf is given, and the mutual defence pact that is undertaken.

Some of the human characters point this out, too, and her change in attitude towards vampires and others.

This book makes a beginning of a change of focus for the series, as Anita decides to give into to the whole vampire horizontal mambo mating dance.

More werewolf politics as Anita disposes of some she doesn't like, and Richard becomes the boss of the local lupines.

She has basically decided she likes the dead guy and what he can give her more than the one that is human most of the time.

After this, you will see the titles of the books becoming 'softer', presumably as an indication it is moving away from the monster stomping theme as a focus, and more towards erotica.

3.5 out of 5

Bloody Bones - Laurell K. Hamilton

In Bloody Bones Anita heads out of town, to do a necromantic gig. She has young Larry, a fellow employee along for the ride, and is trying to teach him enough to stay alive.

She has to work out whether vampire serial killings are happening, and what the strange, deadly supernatural force is, and what to do about it, while dealing with yet another different bunch of supernaturals in fae types.

4 out of 5

The Winds of Limbo - Michael Moorcock

This book is also called The Fireclown, and that is the first version that I saw. The Fireclown is a force for change, a chaotic agent with an agenda all his own.

He comes into a static situation politically, and shakes it up, bigtime. Not too many appreciate him for what he is.

3.5 out of 5

The Lunatic Cafe - Laurell K. Hamilton

Anita begins to get over herself, then finds out the sweet teacher guy she wants to shag is really into the turn furry and howl at the moon thing.

The were side of Richard draws her into the lycanthrope society more and more as time goes on and she discovers what really happens there.

Porno snuff films are not what you would really expect to come up with when you think werewolf, but there you go.

Some investigating and bad guy stopping to be done.

4 out of 5

Circus of the Damned - Laurell K. Hamilton

There is a dose of politics in this one, both the human kind, and the vampire kind. The human issue is one of separatism, basically, as the Humans First organisation wants more information on and the ability to get rid of, the vampire power structures in the city.

This book again has Edward, which is always good.

Imagine if the Executioner or the Punisher got bored with hunting and killing crims and decided on something trickier, and you have a bit of an idea what Edward is about. Except that he is not so keen on the girls as the Executioner.

Another powerful group of supernaturals also roll into town, and there is a nice, big, battle, which is action packed and a lot of fun.

4 out of 5

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Exile of Atlantis - Robert E. Howard

Kull is musing about his origins and of the city of Valusia with some comrades. That night, he dreams of being king. A local group is putting a girl to death by burning her at the stake, and he does her a favor by swiftly stabbing her, killing her mercifully.

Needless to say, he has to bail.

3.5 out of 5

The Laughing Corpse - Laurell K. Hamilton

The laughing corpse is a dodgy club in a dodgy city.

A dodgy guy offers Anita a lot of cash to do a dodgy job. This job is to raise the dead in a way that is a no-no. She refuses, but someone else does it.

Then the dead bodies start turning up, and the police and Anita have to investigate.

She still has human friends at the time, too.

4 out of 5

Guilty Pleasures - Laurell K. Hamilton

The start of an interesting series. Anita Blake must balance her life between being a vampire hunter, and a legally licensed one at that, a private necromancer, and her own repressed catholic schoolgirl self.

With all this to do she finds it hard to have healthy relationships, but she is good at solving crimes that relate to the supernatural population, and putting an end to their unlives permanently, if necessary.

4 out of 5

The Children of Asshur - Robert E. Howard

Kane comes across an armoured warrior, who attacks him, they fight, but both lose consciousness. When he wakes, he is a prisoner in a strange offshoot tribe of Assyrians perhaps, and is stuck there for some time.

When another tribe attacks them later on his gaolers are distracted enough that he can overpower one and make a break for it, pausing to rescue a girl from a lion.

3 out of 5

Hawk of Basti - Robert E. Howard

Solomon, wandering, runs into an old acquaintance. Jeremy Hawk, your over the top pirate type, who tells him of the horrors he has seen of the locals at Basti.

He tells Kane that a couple of guns and two stout men could take over the place.

3 out of 5

Every Which Way But Dead - Kim Harrison

More demonic dirty deeds are to be seen here. Rachel encounters one of her demon's past slaves, and it turns out she is an elf. Suddenly there are elves everywhere, ex demon-slaves are elves, the super villain and annoying henchmen are elves. These guys are supposed to be gone, what is the story, etc.

Mysterious elderly next door neighbour, as well.

With arguments with her boyfriend, and the amusing pixie going on, this perhaps runs the risk of turning into a crazed supernatural fest, with no human characters left, despite their overwhelming majority numbers in the city.

3 out of 5

The Good the Bad and the Undead - Kim Harrison

Let's see. You have dead vampire and live ones. That is one problem. Rachel has both kinds that want to shag her, bite her, do both, or some combination of them. This includes her roommate and her roommate's boyfriend. There is also a demon that wants to do considerably worse things than that.

She ends up helping the human investigator types deal with a case that is out of her league, by going undercover to witch school, basically.

3 out of 5

Dead Witch Walking - Kim Harrison

This has one of the funniest concepts lurking in the background of anything I had read in a long time. Attack of the Killer Tomatoes. Literally. I can't believe she put that in there, as a tomato strain kills normal people, but not the supernatural types, of which the heroine is one.

This can leave people deathly afraid of pizza suace. Very amusing.

This is solidly entertaining. Harrison manages to prevent a degeneration into 'girly romance', although that is definitely an element.

An ex-government sponsored bounty hunter leaves her job, which may not be the greatest idea. She tries to set up on her own and navigate the world of vampires, withces, werewolves, and ex-managers with a grudge.

A partnership with a cool female vamp and a few pixies helps out. Conflict with the supervillain of the piece doesn't.

3 out of 5

The Book of Jhereg - Steven Brust

Am omnibus edition containing the first three Vlad Taltos books.

The first book of Brust's most excellent Vlad Taltos series. Vlad is making his way in the world as an assassin and low level crimelord in the House of the Jhereg.

What is unique about him (apart from being an assassin and crimelord) is that he is a human, not one of the long lived Dragaerans, and he practices witchcraft, not sorcery. His familiar is a highly intelligent flying lizard named Loiosh. He can talk to him because of the bargain he made with Loiosh's mother to care for him if he became his familiar.

This is the beginning of a cycle, and ever so slowly at first Vlad gets drawn into events and happenings involving the powers structures of the Dragaeran empire.

5 out of 5


Yendi delves into the backstory of Vlad Taltos, as he details how he came to be a player in the House of Jhereg, and bits and pieces about how he grew up and his life.

He gets involved with a conflict with another Jhereg, Laris, and even worse than that Vlad and his associates discover that there is a plot by Sethra the Younger and the Sorceress in Green to put a Dragon Emperor on the throne, thus elevanting their own position.

Vlad also falls had for Cawti, a human female thief with a dragonlord partner.

Luckily, Sethra Lavode and Morrolan, with Vlad, Cawti and Norathar's help have the power to overcome.

5 out of 5


Vlad's marriage is becoming strained, and Cawti has fallen in with a revolutionary group, who, basically, want a better deal for the working classes. This leaves her husband in political opposition to his wife, and struggling with what to do.

Cawti has put herself in danger from both the Jhereg and others because of her new connections, and Vlad has to decide what to do, which side he is on, and who to act against. A very different tone than the first two books, perhaps dealing with Brust's own personal state.

3.5 out of 5




5 out of 5

The Book of Athyra - Steven Brust

This is an omnibus containing two books, Athyra and Orca.

Vlad has been living the wandering life for a couple of years, not being an assassin and just generally trying to keep himself together.

He meets a young apprentice, and decides to teach him a few things, for his own reasons. However, his past Jhereg life catches up with him, and he and the boy Savn are put to the test to get out of it alive.


3.5 out of 5

Kiera the Thief is friends with Cawti, Vlad's estranged wife. She wants to know what he is up to, so Kiera fills her in, and a large part of the book has to deal with Kiera, and who she really is.

Vlad is trying to get help for Savn from a local woman named Mother. She agrees, if Vlad will look into her own problem.

He takes her up on the deal Vlad ends up in a private investigator type role, looking into some Orca financial skullduggery that could have very serious ramifications. This he does with Kiera's help.

4 out of 5

The Book of Taltos - Steven Brust

This is an omnibus containing Taltos and Phoenix

A novel in three parts, or streams. Vlad is involved in some heavy duty witchcraft, is looking back at his earlier life in some greater detail than in earlier books, and is also showing us how he met Morrolan.

As far as the latter goes, a complicated sorcerous plot leads Vlad and Morrolan on a decidedly dangerous mission to Deathsgate Falls and the Paths of the Dead.

A couple of the important magical artificats appear : Spellbreaker, for Vlad, and Aliera's Great Weapon.

4.5 out of 5

Vlad gets himself into quite a lot of poo owing to his desire to keep his estranged wife Cawti from being executed as a revolutionary.

Before that, though, he makes a deal with his patron goddess of witchcraft, and the two end up being related via the kingdom of Greenaere, some 'work' and possible war.

Vlad ends up on the lam from the Jhereg because he testifies about their goings on to the Empress.

4 out of 5



4.5 out of 5

Issola - Steven Brust

Vlad is still on the lam, when, to his surprise, the Lady Teldra turns up. Aliera and Morrolan have vanished, and the high and mighty of Dragaera again need Vlad's help. They go off to visit the mightiest, Sethra Lavode.

They trace Morrolan thanks to Spellbreaker, and find out the Jenoine have him. When Teldra tries to make a deal, they agree. They are happy to let them go, as long as Vlad kills the goddess Verra.

In this book, we learn the nature of reality and why Dragaera exists, and the forces that are at work around it.

The book ends in a serious battle, as the gods, Sethra, Vlad, Morrolan, Teldra and others have to face the Jenoine, and the battle doesn't go too well, in one respect.

Vlad does gain a Great Weapon.

4.5 out of 5

Dragon - Steven Brust

A conflict is at hand in the house of the Dragon. It appears that it is all to do with a group of magical weapons that Morrolan has in his possession. He hires Vlad to help with his security.

Vlad agrees, but one of them ends up going missing anyway. This leaves Morrolan at war with another dragon, and Sethra Lavode becomes involved.

She talks Vlad into joining the infantry, which he does, fighting as a grunt, and also using his 'work' skills to do a bit of special forces type work in the dark.

A conversation with a Serioli, Morrolan, and Vlad tells us more about the Great Weapons and Spellbreaker, and Aliera and Sethra the Younger become involved, both wanting a weapon, at the end.

4 out of 5

Orca - Steven Brust

Kiera the Thief is friends with Cawti, Vlad's estranged wife. She wants to know what he is up to, so Kiera fills her in, and a large part of the book has to deal with Kiera, and who she really is.

Vlad is trying to get help for Savn from a local woman named Mother. She agrees, if Vlad will look into her own problem.

He takes her up on the deal Vlad ends up in a private investigator type role, looking into some Orca financial skullduggery that could have very serious ramifications. This he does with Kiera's help.

4 out of 5

Athrya - Steven Brust

Vlad has been living the wandering life for a couple of years, not being an assassin and just generally trying to keep himself together.

He meets a young apprentice, and decides to teach him a few things, for his own reasons. However, his past Jhereg life catches up with him, and he and the boy Savn are put to the test to get out of it alive.

3.5 out of 5

Phoenix - Steven Brust

Vlad gets himself into quite a lot of poo owing to his desire to keep his estranged wife Cawti from being executed as a revolutionary.

Before that, though, he makes a deal with his patron goddess of witchcraft, and the two end up being related via the kingdom of Greenaere, some 'work' and possible war.

Vlad ends up on the lam from the Jhereg because he testifies about their goings on to the Empress.

4 out of 5

Taltos - Steven Brust

A novel in three parts, or streams. Vlad is involved in some heavy duty witchcraft, is looking back at his earlier life in some greater detail than in earlier books, and is also showing us how he met Morrolan.

As far as the latter goes, a complicated sorcerous plot leads Vlad and Morrolan on a decidedly dangerous mission to Deathsgate Falls and the Paths of the Dead.

A couple of the important magical artificats appear : Spellbreaker, for Vlad, and Aliera's Great Weapon.

4.5 out of 5

Teckla - Steven Brust

Vlad's marriage is becoming strained, and Cawti has fallen in with a revolutionary group, who, basically, want a better deal for the working classes. This leaves her husband in political opposition to his wife, and struggling with what to do.

Cawti has put herself in danger from both the Jhereg and others because of her new connections, and Vlad has to decide what to do, which side he is on, and who to act against. A very different tone than the first two books, perhaps dealing with Brust's own personal state.

3.5 out of 5

Yendi - Steven Brust

Yendi delves into the backstory of Vlad Taltos, as he details how he came to be a player in the House of Jhereg, and bits and pieces about how he grew up and his life.

He gets involved with a conflict with another Jhereg, Laris, and even worse than that Vlad and his associates discover that there is a plot by Sethra the Younger and the Sorceress in Green to put a Dragon Emperor on the throne, thus elevanting their own position.

Vlad also falls had for Cawti, a human female thief with a dragonlord partner.

Luckily, Sethra Lavode and Morrolan, with Vlad, Cawti and Norathar's help have the power to overcome.

5 out of 5

Jhereg - Steven Brust

The first book of Brust's most excellent Vlad Taltos series. Vlad is making his way in the world as an assassin and low level crimelord in the House of the Jhereg.

What is unique about him (apart from being an assassin and crimelord) is that he is a human, not one of the long lived Dragaerans, and he practices witchcraft, not sorcery. His familiar is a highly intelligent flying lizard named Loiosh. He can talk to him because of the bargain he made with Loiosh's mother to care for him if he became his familiar.

This is the beginning of a cycle, and ever so slowly at first Vlad gets drawn into events and happenings involving the powers structures of the Dragaeran empire.

5 out of 5

Cowboy Feng's Space Bar and Grille - Steven Brust

This novel is about what it is like in a bar that ends up travelling around the universe to escape nuclear destruction.

Also a bit of a gentle homage to playing in your average garden variety pub band, as well, and what happens to your life when you hang around doing that a lot.

3 out of 5

Agyar - Steven Brust

A fairly mundane vampire tale, as one of these supernaturally afflicted types meanders his way around an American university town, trying to work out what to do, as do other characters in the book, whether academic types, or other denizens.

Some of the law enforcement types do become involved when death turns up.

3 out of 5

The Lord of Castle Black - Steven Brust

As well as following the adventures of the intrepid club of youth, The Lord of Castle Black takes an enjoyable detour into the history of the young dragonlord Morrolan, and how he became involved with witchcraft, a floating castle, and obtained a great weapon from Sethra Lavode.

Throw in a war, the Necromancer and plenty of other shenanigans and a good time is had.

4 out of 5

The Paths of the Dead - Steven Brust

Paarfi the Historian continues his writings, and this time, his subject is the events of the period of approximately two centuries after Adron's disaster blew up a whole lot of Dragaera.

For those that have read any of Vlad Taltos' books some of this will be more familiar, with Zerika, Sethra Lavode, and others.

The starring roles go to the next generation. Khaavren's son and his friends are bored, they think no more adventure is ever going to happen.

A war for the empire and the various machinations of deities and sorceresesses soon show them that things are not so dull after all.

4 out of 5

Five Hundred Years After - Steven Brust

The continuing adventures of Khaavren and his friends Pel, Tavendra and Aerich, who, in and of themselves, are not particularly dissimilar to Athos, Porthos and Aramis.

This intrepid group of adventurers must again join forces to prevent bad things from happening.

Khaavren is now a long-established member of the Guard, so he is just a little more privy to what goes on, and a tad more clueful.

4 out of 5

The Phoenix Guards - Steven Brust

This is the story of Khaavren and friends, as told by Paarfi the historian. The books are set about 1000 years before the events in the Jhereg series.

That the character of Khaavren, a somewhat naive young man who fancies himself with a sword is rather similar to that of Dumas D'Artagnan, is, of course, completely intentional.

4 out of 5

Bloodstone - David Gemmell

This is definitely the least interesting book of the Jon Shannow stories. Shannow is basically retired, living in peace under a different name.

However, a crazed Deacon and his band go around trying to impose their own insane morality on people going happily about their business.

When they try some of their tricks around Shannow, the Jerusalem Man returns. Shannow's life is spoiled, and he gets angry.

3 out of 5

The Last Guardian - David Gemmell

Jon Shannow has learned that he is not just a man. When an Atlantean king out of the ages appears to him in dreams and tells him of his mythic heroic destiny, and tells how he, Pendarric, loosed the bloodstones upon the world.

An upstart gunslinger is looking to make a rep for himself by coming after Shannow, reliant on his speed.

That is a minor problem, when a mystic time gate opens, letting loose all sorts of problems.

Easily fixed. Easy, that is, if you call finding the Sword of God easy.

3 out of 5

Wolf In Shadow - David Gemmell

The setting for this series is a post apocalyptic type old West, based on the premise that very bad things happened when the planet shifted its axis, causing devastation.

A satanic cult of Hellborn is out to rule, using bloodstone sacrifices and other nasty power tricks.

They shouldn't have sacrified Jon Shannow's woman, though, because now they have the deadliest of enemies : The Jerusalem Man.

3.5 out of 5

Midnight Falcon - David Gemmell

Bane is the bastard son of Connavar, Demonblade. His father made a deal with the goddess Morrigu so that he would live.

Involved with the gladiator world, the teenaged boy sets out on a quest. He must come to terms with who he is, and with his own people (not to mention relatives), to aid them in their coming fight.

3 out of 5