Saturday, March 31, 2007

Ability Quotient - Mack Reynolds

An elite soldier is asked to take part in problem researching sophisticated physical and mental testing, and to take university coursework as their computers direct.

He finds out that more is going on than this, the creation of a mental and physical elite, going way beyond supergenius IQ into physical abilities and even immortality.


3 out of 5

Demon Seed - Dean Koontz

Demon Seed might be the title, but that is probably fairly misleading. There is actually an artificial intelligence, or computer, at work here.

The computer desires an existence beyond what it has, and as part of that, has a woman trapped, and basically, wants to have a child through her. A rather warped machine.


3 out of 5

Probability Moon - Nancy Kress

Humans have discovered ancient alien technology, and have also discovered current real live aliens that really don't like them at all.

In the middle of a war that isn't going too well an expedition discovers some possible useful technology.

However, the planet it is on has a strange society, their belief in their consensual reality is what drives them, and outsiders are ostracised and more.


3 out of 5

The Trigger - Arthur C. Clarke and Michael K. Kube-McDowell

A scientist invents a field that prevents firearms and other such weapons from working.

This makes him and his research a target for those that have a vested in interest in things that go bang continuing to function.

Once it gets out there and is working things go smoothly for a bit, until all the socioeconomic effects are worked out.

Then, there is just an arms race of different technology, looking for vulnerabilities and weaknesses in the device.


3 out of 5

Empery - Michael P. Kube-McDowell

Merritt Thackery is still touring around in space and time relative to those back on earth, trying to make people aware of the threats that exist, even by appearing to those who are far in his future.

All this travelling eventually leads him to discover something about the enemy, the Mizari, that is not quite what is expected.


3 out of 5

Enigma - Michael P. Kube-McDowell

In the second book of the 'Trigon Disunity' trilogy - a name that as far as I can remember doesn't really mean much, the scale expands.

A man named Merritt Thackery is given a fair tour of the whole galaxy and beyond thing by an advanced and powerful alien entity.

He shows that there has been civilisation on earth before, and it was crushed by a not so nice alien race. Something to be prepared for.


3 out of 5

Empire - Michael P. Kube-McDowell

Earth has pretty much run out of that fossil fuel stuff that people were so reliant on, and the technology level on the planet has dropped considerably.

The picking up of an alien signal along the lines of 'hi there, mind if we drop in for a visit sometime?' pretty much gets everyone to pull their fingers out and do something about it.


3 out of 5

The Society - Lilith Saintcrow

A young woman is more than a bit different. In fact, she has psionic abilities. This makes her of interest to two groups, the government Sigma agency, and a group of underground psionicists called The Society, that want to prevent such people being used as government tools for spook operations, etc.

Of course, the society is set up like a covert agency themselves, out of necessity.

The young woman is powerful, hence all the interest. Throw in the usual bloke that helps her out she will like, and a not too bad leave you wanting to find out what is going on ending and this book is ok.


3 out of 5

Friday, March 30, 2007

Dredd vs Death - Gordon Rennie

Supposedly this is based on a game story, so either that is really good, or Rennie, being a Dredd expert, has just done a fine job.

Dredd, Anderson and Giant are all here.

So is EverPet, a pet revivification company. This is very nasty. Not quite as nasty as the Dark Judges, though.

Death has found a weakness in one of the Psi-Judges on guard rotation, and is exploiting it.

This leads to a rise in the Church of Death, and an outbreak of vampirism via retrovirus. As such, Chief Judge Hershey is inclined to believe Anderson's precog warning.

Now, the senior Judges have to try and stop this before the bodycount gets to sixty million like in a previous encounter.

Clooney Memorial is struggling enough as it is.

A very well done Dredd book.


4 out of 5

Bad Moon Rising - David Bishop

Weather Control is out. The Judges are stretched as some alien residents are in temporary housing while new quarters are being built.

Dredd is running on empty when he is assigned to the alien sector and Sector Chief Caine. This Caine has a similar temperament and personality to Admiral Caine, from Battlestar Galactica, if you are familiar with that character.

Not helping the situation are a couple of xenophobic Judges on Caine's team, and past history between one of them and another.

Dredd and Caine don't get along, and the situation deteriorates.

Judges die, plots are revealed and it seems Chief Judge Hershey had a plan all along.


3.5 out of 5

The Octopus Agenda - Diane Duane

Doctor Octopus raids a factory and gives the people there quite a scare.

Both Spidey and Venom end up on the trail of some serious arms dealing, via talking to some Russian nogoodniks.

Serious, as in mini nuclear weapons. Doc Ock decides he wants to go nuclear on some people for their own good.

No-one with Spider super powers thinks this should be allowed.


3 out of 5

High Deryni - Katherine Kurtz

The Church vs State fuelled war that began in the previous Deryni novel continues here, with the king out at the head of an army, trying to put down an anti-Deryni uprising.

While he does that, his advisors are looking to come to some sort of compromise with the church, diplomatically and religiously so that they can concentrate on stopping the violence.


3 out of 5

Deryni Checkmate - Katherine Kurtz

Kelson is now a young king. It takes pretty much zero time before he has problems with those annoying church wankers.

An archbishop is up in arms, wanting one of the nobles to basically not be Deryni.

Threats of excommunication, conflict, and running around ensue, as well as magical stuffups, executions, and outright battle. Not a good time for all, by any stretch.


3 out of 5

The Devil in Green - Mark Chadbourn

A new trilogy following on from the Age of Misrule. It is set some time in the future, and some of the earlier Brothers and Sisters have aged or moved on.

There is a government, and some form of organised resistance, but this book centers around Mallory, your hard nut rogue crim type. He falls in with a band wanting to re-establish the Knights Templar. They, of course, are dodgier than they look.

Mallory has to deal with monsters and madmen as he discovers he has a higher purpose than the graft, to put together a new Dragon sibling superteam.


3 out of 5

Always Forever - Mark Chadbourn

Thomas the Rhymer, fancy mythological ships, and more, as the Brothers and Sisters stage a guerilla campaign to try and drive out the evil beasties and others that would like a big nasty void to happen.

Fighting a fimbulwinter with no technology is not a lot of fun, so they have to use their powers to see what they can do about getting some airpower support, in the form of large, flying lizards, who share the same magical source of energy.


4 out of 5

Darkest Hour - Mark Chadbourn

A multi-sided political struggle develops. Humans, the Tuatha De Danaan, and the Fomorii. These are all basically opposed to each other, but the Dragon sibling group seeks an alliance with sympathetic Tuatha to help them do something about the problems that beset them.

The problem they have is that some of the others are quite nihilistic, or don't really want to do anything. God psychology can be tricky.


4 out of 5

World's End - Mark Chadbourn

The world is slowly changing. People are starting to see strange things, monsters, ghosts, and other oddities.

Technology is starting to fail at random, and no-one is quite sure why. It gets worse, fast, as people realise myths are coming to life, and they really don't like humans.

A group of 5 people are drawn together, and discover that they each have some sort of skill or superhuman ability, as well as a calling to try and fight back for humanity. Thus begins a quest.


4 out of 5

Shadow Game - Christine Feehan

While this is considerably better than that Dark rubbish, a large part of it is still eye-rolling cornball with not a lot happening except for the two main characters having the telepathic horn for each other and shagging a lot.

A professor disappears, and his daughter is brought into the picture of his psionic research project. He had been making psychic soldiers, basically. Telepaths, telekinetics, dreamtalkers. It is discovered that she was also part of this project as they had been scouring the globe for talent.


2 out of 5

The Corpse Parade - Robert Wallace

Automobile industry business leaders are being killed, and it seems there is some Ethiopian styling to this, if you can believe the Phantom.

Arms being chopped off, dragged through streets on chariots. Ambulances and fire engines, being a big US city.

An actual Ethiopian-American plot it turns out to be, some would be arms dealers.

I believe it was the Batman that said criminals are a superstitious and cowardly lot. The head guy here sure is.

"Oh, you were clever, Phantom! ... You who are thought so superhuman will die like any other mortal!"

"Now listen, men!" the voice ordered. "You know how this room is built. It's a fortress--even tear gas can't get in! Let them attack! We can mow them down like dogs! We can still win! I'm going to leave. You're to cover me!"


3 out of 5

Rogan - Paul James

This is bad. The beginning is an initiation ceremony for an elite, with implications of psionic ability. The planet is called Regulo - so they are the Regulators.

It seems the society is somewhere between Apokolips and the Amtrak Wars. They incinerate one of the 10 chosen graduates at random for the hell of it.

As soon as they are through their finals tests, political squabbling at the highest level starts to use them violently.

There is some enemy called the 'Mal'. There is no description of them, or much of the society except that they don't breed, and used to be normal and non-stratified.

There are interludes back on Earth, with a strange spaceship arriving, and a battle.

Just near the end we find this is the Time Server - a mercenary of the universe, no less!

Rogan, the top new Regulator guy is sent to stop it. He does, surprises primitive earth types. The end.

At 112 pages, I think they forgot about a third of this book. Bizarre.


1 out of 5

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Kothar of the Magic Sword - Gardner F. Fox

This book is definitely an improvement on the second. Fox was getting the hang of it.

Kothar loses his sword to an emperor, and has to go on a quest with a thief to get the key to a dimensional portal.

All doesn't go well and he ends up chained to a dancing girl, fighting a giant bear.

A bit of otherworldly travel follows in that adventure.

In the second part, the witch Red Lori from the first novel has done a deal with a demoness to possess the daughter of a friend of his, and he has to agree to free the witch from her silver cage to release the girl.


3 out of 5

Kothar Barbarian Swordsman - Gardner F. Fox

Kothar the Cumberian. With a name like that you might suspect that this character is a Conan knockoff. Well, in this case, if you thought that, you would pretty much suspect-o correct-o.

He leads a defensive force against an invading wizard and narrowly loses.

One difference is that he has a magic sword. A lich offers it to him to use to save the queen whose army has just been destroyed. He'd rather keep the sword than have the princedom she offers him for rescuing her wizard.

He also gets paid to go treasure hunting, and finds a minotaur, and deals with a witch woman in a wood, and actually gets to go sword to sword with a sorcerous baron.


2.5 out of 5

The Demon of Scattery - Poul Anderson

Anderson has created a tale around the legend of a monster and a saint on the isle of Scattery, according to his appendix, which gives some detail of the situation.

A viking raider lands on the island, and a local woman is tasked with looking after one of his severely injured men.

The woman and the viking leader have growing feelings for each other, even though she is aiming to be a bride of god.

It ends with a curse and a sea monster.


3 out of 5

Thongor at the End of Time - Lin Carter

The Black Magician Mardanax of Zaar returns to Thongor's city at a holiday time, and using a weak local lord in a plot, strikes Thongor down.

The book takes a bit of a Moorcockian turn as Thongor, assumed dead, journey's in the land of shadows and talks to gods and travels through all the world's history.

Back in the land of the living, Charn Thovis, keeping a cool head, realises something has happened to the queen's state of mind, and takes her son away.

His airbot is downed by a giant flying lizard, and he ends up in the hands of Barim Redbeard and his pirates, bound for Tarakus.

An interesting appendix tells why Carter chose Lemuria as a setting, and where some of his information and characters came from. Apparently at a second hand book sale he found a rare volume about the Upa-Puranas, and also used some of Blavatsky's writing. He adapts the names to make them a bit more reader friendly.


3.5 out of 5

Conan of Aquilonia - L. Sprague De Camp and Lin Carter

This is a volume of stories by De Camp and Carter only.

The Witch of the Mists
Black Sphinx of Nebthu
Red Moon of Zembabwei
Shadows in the Skull


Conan is out with Prospero in the Border Kingdoms, along with his son. The latter runs into the Witchmen of Hyperborea, which is not so good. Dad does manage to find both him, and Thoth-Amon after Conn gives him some information.


3 out of 5


King Conan is on the move, looking for the black wizard Thoth-Amon. Chabela also makes a cameo appearance.

Luckily for Conan, when the magic goes down, he has a White Druid who has tapped into the heart of Ahriman by his side. Especially handy when big black monsters appear.


3 out of 5


King Conan, Count Trocero and forces are still pushing on against the Stygians.

A raid by wyverns, though, leads to the capture of Conan and his son by a Zembabweian ally of Thoth-Amon's.

Conan needs help to get out of an enchanted prison cell situation.


2.5 out of 5


The final confrontation between Conan and the sorceror Thoth-Amon.

Some divination in Zembabwei leads Conan and his forces to seek out the Great Stone Skull. He is assisted in this endeavour by Nzinga of the Amazons.

A dragon waylays them, and Prince Conn ends up in the lair of a serpent girl, but realises her seduction in time.

Conan and company, as Kull before him, go down to put an end to the worshippers of the Slithering God.


3.5 out of 5




3 out of 5

The Witch of the Mists - L. Sprague De Camp and Lin Carter

Conan is out with Prospero in the Border Kingdoms, along with his son. The latter runs into the Witchmen of Hyperborea, which is not so good. Dad does manage to find both him, and Thoth-Amon after Conn gives him some information.


3 out of 5

Shadows in the Skull - L. Sprague De Camp and Lin Carter

The final confrontation between Conan and the sorceror Thoth-Amon.

Some divination in Zembabwei leads Conan and his forces to seek out the Great Stone Skull. He is assisted in this endeavour by Nzinga of the Amazons.

A dragon waylays them, and Prince Conn ends up in the lair of a serpent girl, but realises her seduction in time.

Conan and company, as Kull before him, go down to put an end to the worshippers of the Slithering God.


3.5 out of 5

Red Moon of Zembabwei - L. Sprague De Camp and Lin Carter

King Conan, Count Trocero and forces are still pushing on against the Stygians.

A raid by wyverns, though, leads to the capture of Conan and his son by a Zembabweian ally of Thoth-Amon's.

Conan needs help to get out of an enchanted prison cell situation.


2.5 out of 5

The Charnel Prince - Greg Keyes

It is not as often that you get drunken Italian style swordmasters running around in your standard fantasy trilogy, but here you have one.

A princess with a magic destiny, scary witch nuns, and an undead would be king that wants to marry someone still alive.

A nasty church, a composer, and looming war.


3.5 out of 5

Black Sphinx of Nebthu - L. Sprague De Camp and Lin Carter

King Conan is on the move, looking for the black wizard Thoth-Amon. Chabela also makes a cameo appearance.

Luckily for Conan, when the magic goes down, he has a White Druid who has tapped into the heart of Ahriman by his side. Especially handy when big black monsters appear.


3 out of 5

Conan the Buccaneer - L. Sprague De Camp and Lin Carter

An interesting introduction about Sword and Sorcery here by Lin Carter.

"If you are one of those unfortunate few who have never before read a novel of Sword & Sorcery, you are in for a treat. A treat, that is, if you crave to escape for an hour or two from the above features of modern life into a gorgeous, impossible world. For Sword & Sorcery is sheer escapist reading, nothing more. It has no hidden meanings. It offers no handy, pre-packaged solution to any of the world's numerous ills. It has no "ism" or "ology" to sell, no message to put over. It is something remarkable and rare these days.

It is entertainment."

He also goes on to detail how De Camp came late to Robert E. Howard and others, and how Fletcher Pratt got him hooked.

This is actually a fun novel they have come up with. Conan has his own privateer crew, complete with letters of marque.

He has a punchup in a tavern with Black Zarono, and hence misses the priest he was to buy a treasure map from.

Zarono gets the map, and in league with the Stygian sorceror Thoth-Amon sets out to get some artifacts from the temple of Tsathoggu, as well as kidnap a Zingaran princess.

Yep, Conan chased by big froggy Cthulhoid monster in this one.

Piratical shenanigans lead them to the Black Coast, and Conan's old friend Juma. Capture by the black amazon queen, as well.

Of course, a final confrontation with the wizard is to come. Good stuff.


3.5 out of 5

If Angels Burn - Lynn Viehl

Yes, it seems vampires get sloppy with their spelling over the centuries to come up with a silly name for themselves.

A plastic surgeon is tapped by one of them to help out in the way plastic surgeons do, for someone that is in a bad way.

Female doctor, male head vampire, biting, bleeding, eventual shagging, you get the picture.
Doctor thinks the whole condition, after she gets it, might be some sort of disease, not the 'we are bad and got cursed' mindset that they have.

There is also a group of priests dedicated to fighting the fangers, but they don't seem to have much luck, and their history is apparently a bit of a fib as the vamps were the Templars, not them!

A bit of slaughtering happens.

A fairly average vampire novel, lighter on the mushy mushy than some, and Viehl calls a spade a shovel in that respect, not a 'manly digging implement'.


3 out of 5

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

The Boosted Man - Kenneth Bulmer

This is pretty bad, but some of the lines are so silly that it improves it as far as entertainment goes.

At the start, a nasty plague is turning people into fungus, Hook escapes into a ship and saves some others, abusing them all the way. Womb-regurgitant idiot being his favorite, it seems.

He is still not a fan of the Boosted Men, or Novamen as they call themselves, literally kicking the head in of one of them. That means "in death, the Boosted Man took his own personal superpowers with him."

The planet he ends up on has the Boosted Men using hypnotic conditioning to make workers docile and think they are living in luxury, not slavery, while working on a Boosted Women project.

Hook has other plans.

"He didn't like smashing things up -- well, not ordinary things belong to ordinary people. He'd smash up everything he could belonging to the Novamen."

Enough bits like that in the book to make you chuckle.


2 out of 5

Whirlpool of Stars - Kenneth Bulmer

Ryder Hook is apparently a galactic assassin in disguise. He is also not pleased when the spaceship he is travelling on decides to have a definite lack of operational ability thanks to some shoddy engineering.

He does manage to rescue a woman in the destruction, as a manly man does.

Apparently he has also gone through something called the Powerman Project, and is trying to stay out of the way of the Boosted Men.

It is not till much later on in the book we find out what is going on with them :

"He sat there, thrilling and jumping, his nerve-endings streaming billions of messages, his brain speeding into a near-superhuman level of activity. How he dreaded this experience! How he longed and hungered for this experience!

A Boosted Man had come within the sphere of mutual interrelation.
A Boosted Man was nearby!"

and

"The Boosted Men might know of Hook's existence. They might not. He didn't know if they were aware of him in the galaxy. All they would know was that he had been the first volunteer to go on RCI's Powerman Project from which he had been ignominiously turned out. They had followed him on that Project, and gone through to the end and been adapted into men who were no longer ordinary men.
Hook was only half a Boosted Man."

Nice to be a Boosted Man :

"What had been done to their metabolism had changed the Boosted Men's bodies into semi-human forms. Oh, they still looked like human beings, but their skeletons were near-metallic and their muscles and bodily functions had been souped-up to near-superhuman levels. And, gradually, these non-human aspects had taken over their minds. They had become a breed of men apart, the Boosted Men, and they had taken over RCI and Hook knew they intended to take over any and everything in the galaxy they could:"

not so great for Hook :

"Hook had participated in something of this process, the guinea-pig, the one who had taken the risks to see if the Project was viable. Even he was not aware of all the side-effects. But he had been thrown out. He knew he had lightning-fast reflexes and phenomenal speed in thought-processes. But, he was not a superman. He was an ordinary man; but extraordinary tough and determined, ruthless, possessed, cunning and skilful.
The extra powers conferred on Hook by his Boosting Process were absent at all times except when he came into proximity with another Boosted Man. This was akin to two tuned crystals vibrating when brought together. When he came within the orbit of a Boosted Man - Hook became a Boosted Man himself. It was an experience he feared and loved, that he detested and longed for.
Prometheus cast down out of flames into flames!"

Shades of the Mimic, indeed.


Given there is four books, you know who does better in this encounter.


2.5 out of 5

Doctor Who Full Circle - Andrew Smith

Time to get a new companion. On their way back to Gallifrey the Doctor and Romana end up in one of those sneaky rare space time phenomena, and in an alternate universe that they call E-Space.

They find a civilisation basically living in a grounded Starliner, and set out to find out why they have not left, and meet a young mathematical prodigy named Adric.


3.5 out of 5

Doctor Who Terminus - John Lydecker

Doctor Who - Terminus is part of the overall story of the Black Guardian trying to do not so nice things to the good old Doctor. In this case, the fifth doctor.

This is the middle book of those three.

The TARDIS has been sabotaged, which leaves Nyssa and the Doctor end up on a spaceship, which is en route to a space station called Terminus, supposedly at the centre of the universe.


3 out of 5

Band of Gypsys - Gwyneth Jones

Band of Gypsys seems to be somewhat of an interlude, until right near the end.

The Triumvirate have decamped to Paris, and are mostly happily hanging out there. Then they are talked into coming back to England to see what they can sort out.

As it turns out the current government has plans for them of the not so nice variety, and the rest of the world has plans for England.

Held as captive display ornaments, they are again together, until the government, desperate for magic weapons decides to have a crack at Sage's head. "You may not have realised this, but it is illegal to possess, or have in your possession, the precursors of weaponised magic.."

The rest of the UK wants nothing to do with the English nuts and is not going to share the technology.

Sage has done this to protect them. "...said Fiorinda, biting her lip. 'Because you went away, and he decided he was Superman and got his liver ripped out fighting a duel with my father. Now you see. You can't stop him either."

All this is moot, it appears, as the US and the Chinese have done a deal on what to do with the UK nuts.

Most of the book holding for what goes on in the next with the new state of the world, presumably.


3.5 out of 5

Doctor Who and the Daemons - Barry Letts

Doctor Who and the Dæmons is one of the creepier variety of Doctor Who stories. One of the small town in England has something very wrong happening there.

Especially when you need to get a local witch to help. A pretty cool character she is. Supernatural forces, aliens, spaceships, and the Master are enough to give the third Doctor plenty to do.


3.5 out of 5

Nightmare World - David Stern

Indiana Jones in space, is Ezekiel Jones, or sort of. Except no nazis, and the artifacts in question may just have been faked.

It is what Zed Bones is not connected to at the moment that is worrying him. He has to find a holo stand-in for his archaeology lecture so he can go and try and buy one of his crew back out of slavery, after she was suckered into a power play on an insect-alien world.

Fun and games with clan politics, deep sleep space trouble, ritual combat, and really big volcanoes follows.

Just barely a 3.


3 out of 5

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

The Conan Chronicles - Robert E. Howard and L. Sprague De Camp and Lin Carter

Yes, this was an earlier book called Conan Chronicles. A nice compilation of Conan, Conan of Cimmeria, and Conan the Freebooter. The first three Lancer Conan paperbacks put together by de Camp and Carter. A little bit higher quality I think, and the maps look better. This edition is from Sphere.


Conan


This compilation contains :-

Howard's Letter to Miller

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


The Thing in the Crypt

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


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


The Hall of the Dead

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 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


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


The Hand of Nergal

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


The City of Skulls

A pretty ordinary story. Conan's Turanian warrior band is destroyed by Meruvian raiders. He is taken captive there, with a friend and a girl. A spider-idol monster causes some havoc.

2 out of 5



3.5 out of 5




Conan of Cimmeria


This contains

The Curse of the Monolith
The Bloodstained God
The Frost Giant's Daughter
The Lair of the Ice Worm
The Queen of the Black Coast
The Castle of Terror
The Snout in the Dark

Conan, by dint of prowess is now a Turanian captain. He is sent on a mission to Khitai. The foppy type he takes along lures him into a night quest by promise of treasure.

Conan is none to pleased to learn he is to be a human sacrifice, instead.

Now, said magic using fop guy. Out of all the band, and people, he picks Conan?

What is Khitan for fracking stupid?


3 out of 5


Conan has deserted Turan, and is on the trail of treasure in the Kezankian mountains. Can't trust anyone in this bunch of treasure hunters.

The statue he is after is something he decides he definitely doesn't want, after all.


2.5 out of 5


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


Conan, uneasy after his encounter with the Frost Giant's Daughter, heads south.

He saves a girl from a pack of white hairy beast men only to lose her in the tunnel of the ice worm. He barely makes it out himself.


3 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


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


It all piles on the barbarian here. He has to leave his Bamulas warrior chief post due to racism.

Travelling through the Kushian grasslands a pride of lions decide he would be quite tasty, being so young and meaty. He fights off lions for a while, but runs out of arrows and has to run.

Amazingly, he comes to a black onyx tower, and the lions won't enter. Everything is dead around it.

He enters due to having no choice, but his superstitious barbarian self is worried, and he sleeps uneasily.

He is right, because a whole bunch of slavers turn up, and a hundred headed monster promptly appears and starts slaughtering them with its bare hands, head ripping off and all that good stuff.

He takes one of their horses and leaves, to take his chance with the lions.


3.5 out of 5


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



4 out of 5



Conan the Freebooter


This has

HAWKS OVER SHEM
BLACK COLOSSUS
SHADOWS IN THE MOONLIGHT
THE ROAD OF THE EAGLES
A WITCH SHALL BE BORN

A fun passage from the intro :-

"...If, on the other hand, you insist on realism in your readin--if you must have novels about introverts suffering in a brutal world--if your
meat is something "close to the soil" or concerned with psychopathology or the state of the world, then, my friend, this book is not for you.
You'd better find yourself a hole and read Crime and Punishment. But I won't be there with you--I have an engagement in the Hyborian Age, and
will be busy all evening.

John D. Clark, PhD."

One of the rewritten from another Howard story into a Conan story jobs.

In Shem, a local king has gone the whole extremely repressive Islam style no fun city thing. No drinking, gambling, women wandering around, etc., etc. Thinks he is a god, as well.

As such, Conan is not having a great time, and is more than happy to lend a hand in changing the leadership to a variety that isn't so insane.


2.5 out of 5


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


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


Another historical story adapted to a Conan tale.

Conan is now leading a Red Brotherhood band of pirates, and a general has been sent to clear them out. Bad luck for everyone, really.

A younger prince has been exiled into the care of a bandit, rather than killed.

Add in a somewhat too hasty woman, pirates, brigands, and soldiers, and some vampire monsters, and Conan is happy to leave for somewhere else.


3 out of 5


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



4 out of 5





4.5 out of 5

Conan the Freebooter - Robert E. Howard and L. Sprague De Camp

This has

HAWKS OVER SHEM
BLACK COLOSSUS
SHADOWS IN THE MOONLIGHT
THE ROAD OF THE EAGLES
A WITCH SHALL BE BORN

A fun passage from the intro :-

"...If, on the other hand, you insist on realism in your readin--if you must have novels about introverts suffering in a brutal world--if your
meat is something "close to the soil" or concerned with psychopathology or the state of the world, then, my friend, this book is not for you.
You'd better find yourself a hole and read Crime and Punishment. But I won't be there with you--I have an engagement in the Hyborian Age, and
will be busy all evening.

John D. Clark, PhD."

One of the rewritten from another Howard story into a Conan story jobs.

In Shem, a local king has gone the whole extremely repressive Islam style no fun city thing. No drinking, gambling, women wandering around, etc., etc. Thinks he is a god, as well.

As such, Conan is not having a great time, and is more than happy to lend a hand in changing the leadership to a variety that isn't so insane.


2.5 out of 5


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


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


Another historical story adapted to a Conan tale.

Conan is now leading a Red Brotherhood band of pirates, and a general has been sent to clear them out. Bad luck for everyone, really.

A younger prince has been exiled into the care of a bandit, rather than killed.

Add in a somewhat too hasty woman, pirates, brigands, and soldiers, and some vampire monsters, and Conan is happy to leave for somewhere else.


3 out of 5


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



4 out of 5

The Road of the Eagles - L. Sprague De Camp

Another historical story adapted to a Conan tale.

Conan is now leading a Red Brotherhood band of pirates, and a general has been sent to clear them out. Bad luck for everyone, really.

A younger prince has been exiled into the care of a bandit, rather than killed.

Add in a somewhat too hasty woman, pirates, brigands, and soldiers, and some vampire monsters, and Conan is happy to leave for somewhere else.


3 out of 5

Hawks Over Shem - L. Sprague De Camp

One of the rewritten from another Howard story into a Conan story jobs.

In Shem, a local king has gone the whole extremely repressive Islam style no fun city thing. No drinking, gambling, women wandering around, etc., etc. Thinks he is a god, as well.

As such, Conan is not having a great time, and is more than happy to lend a hand in changing the leadership to a variety that isn't so insane.


2.5 out of 5

Monday, March 26, 2007

The Rescue of Athena One - Mike Jahn

Steve Austin is hot and annoyed he is training another pilot to fly a mission to Skylab. The first female astronaut, no less.

Watching the operations isn't a lot of fun. "Love these new short countdowns, the old ones were like waiting for a ticket to the opera."

"You never saw an opera in your life," Goldman said.

"Not true. You made me go to one in Vienna once, remember? Damn near killed me."

He gets a hell of a surprise when taking a break and going for a walk in the nature reserve he stumbles across a family of aliens. After a telekinesis vs bionic super strength superpowered standoff, they get to talking.


Kelly Woods' mission lifts off ok, but an explosion in space injures the other astronaut, and they have to fly a shuttle mission up to operate, with some alien help, and take the surviving remaining female alien back to her mother ship, no less.

Dr. Wells gets to go along :

"You're certainly more physically fit than most astronomers. I mean, you ain't as young or good looking as Carl Sagan, but you'll do!"

It seems the visitors from Tau Ceti have been tuning in to the media. ".. would you like to know the results of the latest Test Matches?"

"God help us," Austin said. "The first visitors from another planet and they turn out to be Anglophiles."

Entertaining book, with some space geekery, and an actual detailed description of what they did when they bionicised Austin.


3.5 out of 5

Conan the Wanderer - Robert E. Howard and L. Sprague De Camp

This contains :

Black Tears
Shadows in Zamboula
The Devil in Iron
The Flame Knife

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


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


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


Conan is still beyond the Black River, fighting the Picts with the Aquilonians. Serpent sorcery and a traitorous General are causing lots of problems.

Conan's axework and fast thinking puts paid to this, and gets him a promotion.

In fact, he does so much damage with the aforementioned weapon that both Kull and Druss the Legend would be more than a little impressed.

4 out of 5



3.5 out of 5

Conan of Cimmeria - Robert E. Howard and L. Sprague De Camp and Lin Carter

This contains

The Curse of the Monolith
The Bloodstained God
The Frost Giant's Daughter
The Lair of the Ice Worm
The Queen of the Black Coast
The Castle of Terror
The Snout in the Dark

Conan, by dint of prowess is now a Turanian captain. He is sent on a mission to Khitai. The foppy type he takes along lures him into a night quest by promise of treasure.

Conan is none to pleased to learn he is to be a human sacrifice, instead.

Now, said magic using fop guy. Out of all the band, and people, he picks Conan?

What is Khitan for fracking stupid?


3 out of 5


Conan has deserted Turan, and is on the trail of treasure in the Kezankian mountains. Can't trust anyone in this bunch of treasure hunters.

The statue he is after is something he decides he definitely doesn't want, after all.


2.5 out of 5


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


Conan, uneasy after his encounter with the Frost Giant's Daughter, heads south.

He saves a girl from a pack of white hairy beast men only to lose her in the tunnel of the ice worm. He barely makes it out himself.


3 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


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


It all piles on the barbarian here. He has to leave his Bamulas warrior chief post due to racism.

Travelling through the Kushian grasslands a pride of lions decide he would be quite tasty, being so young and meaty. He fights off lions for a while, but runs out of arrows and has to run.

Amazingly, he comes to a black onyx tower, and the lions won't enter. Everything is dead around it.

He enters due to having no choice, but his superstitious barbarian self is worried, and he sleeps uneasily.

He is right, because a whole bunch of slavers turn up, and a hundred headed monster promptly appears and starts slaughtering them with its bare hands, head ripping off and all that good stuff.

He takes one of their horses and leaves, to take his chance with the lions.


3.5 out of 5


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



4 out of 5

The Castle of Terror - L. Sprague De Camp and Lin Carter

It all piles on the barbarian here. He has to leave his Bamulas warrior chief post due to racism.

Travelling through the Kushian grasslands a pride of lions decide he would be quite tasty, being so young and meaty. He fights off lions for a while, but runs out of arrows and has to run.

Amazingly, he comes to a black onyx tower, and the lions won't enter. Everything is dead around it.

He enters due to having no choice, but his superstitious barbarian self is worried, and he sleeps uneasily.

He is right, because a whole bunch of slavers turn up, and a hundred headed monster promptly appears and starts slaughtering them with its bare hands, head ripping off and all that good stuff.

He takes one of their horses and leaves, to take his chance with the lions.


3.5 out of 5

The Lair of the Ice Worm - L. Sprague De Camp and Lin Carter

Conan, uneasy after his encounter with the Frost Giant's Daughter, heads south.

He saves a girl from a pack of white hairy beast men only to lose her in the tunnel of the ice worm. He barely makes it out himself.


3 out of 5

The Bloodstained God - L. Sprague De Camp

Conan has deserted Turan, and is on the trail of treasure in the Kezankian mountains. Can't trust anyone in this bunch of treasure hunters.

The statue he is after is something he decides he definitely doesn't want, after all.


2.5 out of 5

Sunday, March 25, 2007

To Catch a Rat - Walter Harris

A major problem with this book is that a lot of it doesn't have the Avengers in it! It is almost like he wanted to write a spy story, and had to put them in.

When they do appear, it improves. I'd really give this a 1.75. 1.5 for the non-Avengers part, 2 for the rest. Will round this one down.

Yet another British spy traitor. Maybe they should just tell us in a story that they haven't found a mole recently, might be quicker.

Spying flying trapeze artists.


1.5 out of 5

The Amazon - Nick Carter

N3 gets sent to Amapa, where he ends up working with a local girl, who happens to currently be from Lausanne.

He saves her from a scorpion, she is highly physically greatful, and decides she likes the mature white super spy jungle nookie quite a lot.

She guides him well, and he ends up playing a game of jungle chess with Kolben and some Russians while looking for the high-tech computing device he has been sent to retrieve.

2.5 out of 5

Fantasy Lover - Sherrilyn Kenyon

A Macedonian warrior apparently ran afoul of the usual nogoodnik Greek godlings. As such, his curse is basically to hang out in limbo until the next airhead woman that wants a sex toy learns how to summon him.

This one, a bit more shy and retiring than the ones that just want to be shagged immediately, wants to find out what his story is, first. As he says, it is pretty rare for them to want to dress him.

2.5 out of 5

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Deathhunter - Ian Watson

Deathhunter is set in a society that has abandoned its fear of death. There is money in this, as well as in the prior religions, as a profession of 'death guiding' has sprung up to help people deal with oblivion.

The main character here, a man by the name of Todhunter, is one such professional. However, he has a bit of a different view, and his exploration of this milieu is the thing.

He starts asking philosophical questions like 'hey, what if you do get an afterlife, but only if someone slaughters you first?'. Tricky things like that.

3 out of 5

Swords of the Barbarians - Kenneth Bulmer

This starts off ok, as Torr and Tara Vorkun are just trying to get along, and get a chicken.

Trouble soon overtakes them, and she has her boots on. This is a problem, as her witchery only works when she is naked. Luckily Torr's magic flaming sword works ok, clad or otherwise.

They run into wizards, bird girls, arrogant warriors, and some problems with the Black Bodice.

2 out of 5

King of the City - Michael Moorcock

Moorcock here has written a book about late twentieth century London. It also a of a commentary on the political and media power structures of the time, as a rocker type guy seems to have uncovered evidence that a ridiculously wealthy industrialist named Begg is actually alive, and still plotting.

This leads to wanderings around the world to try and do something about it.


2 out of 5

Marathon Man - William Goldman

Not a fan. For a thriller, I would say this is too overblown, and it is not quite far enough to the other type of writing to get a good horror book, either. The bad guy being a killer dentist is close to that end of the spectrum, it would seem. Then there is a bit much of the whole running, running, running, theme throughout.

2.5 out of 5

The Fan Club - Irving Wallace

Four crazy guys abduct a famous actress, their obsession. Needless to say, she is not a fan of theirs. They are quite delusional in their thinking of how she will come to regard them after her kidnapping, just because of their level of worship.

Not being stupid, she works this out, and desperately tries to come up with a way out.


3 out of 5

Captain Moonlight - Ethel Mannin

Inept goodhearted didn't want to be one bushranger story for kids.

3.5 out of 5

Inca Gold - Clive Cussler

This is the only Cussler book I think I have read, because a friend had it while I was staying at their house for a while. Anyone, there are archaelogical adventures, kidnapping, now you have it, now you don't treasures, dodgy people who seem ok, and of course a decent sort of a woman to be rescued and be charmed.

3 out of 5

Beyond the Pale - Savannah Russe

A covert government agency makes a vampire woman an offer she can't refuse. Work for them, or don't do anything ever again.

They have some terrorists to stop, and her superhuman abilities will be needed.

She also has a problem in that after causing a serious problem for Byron, she has been celibate for a century or so. So, of course the first guy she meets and finally shags turns out to be a vampire hunter.

Apart from the bad guys she eventually gets the better of, it turns out her mother is involved with a secret group of super vampire agents called Team Darkwing. A bit annoyed by this revelation, she can't be too mad given they helped her out.


3 out of 5

The Winds of Gath - E. C. Tubb

Dumarest is searching, and no-one believes him when he tells them he is from a planet called earth that circles a star called sun.

However, he does raise the odd eyebrow when he beats a supremely good professional fighter, and catches an assassin animal with what appears to be superhuman, or at least completely subconscious and instictual reflexes.

He gets mixed up in the politics of the ruling class on Gath, and death follows in his footsteps, until he uncovers the cyber clan manipulators at the heart of it. He is little closer to his goal, though.

3 out of 5

Friday, March 23, 2007

I Robot - Eamo Binder

This seems to be a straight Frankenstein lift. Man makes robot, man dies, robot goes on.

Dog dies too.


3 out of 5

Ghostbusters : The Return - Sholly Fisch

Two years after the events in Ghostbusters 2 the boys are doing their thing, and at the moment, are pretty busy.

Spook activity is up, and in the form of ghosts of urban legends, which is pretty odd, as anything that wasn't real shouldn't have a ghost.

The Independent Party (yeah, that is what I thought) has a plan. Because the Ghostbusters make the incumbent mayor look good whenever they save the day, and the city keeps forgetting to pay them, they decide to recruit Venkman to run for them.

Add in the cause of the spook trouble, your demon lord masquerading as a ghostfinder, and you have a fairly amusing ghostbusters story.

3 out of 5

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Death Takes the Wheel - G. Wayman Jones

Bored playboy by day, grim avenger by night, is how Jimmy Gilmore describes himself.

Or at least he was while hunting down the nine men that killed his father, and then disappearing, presumed dead in a plane crash. His black clad and masked alter-ego Mr Death, anyway.

With the long suffering and faithful girlfriend by his side he is back to wreak some more havoc, and gets involved in a blackmail case.

Along with a reporter named Vail and his wife.

In one pursuit, he leaps off the roof, and some hoods exclaim 'what are we chasing, a flying squirrel'?

3.5 out of 5

Senorita Scorpion - Les Savage

When George Douglas is attacked by Comanches and his mine caves in, you have a classic hidden mine and lost property scenario.

200 years later, with the Douglas family finally having dug their way out, Senorita Scorpion starts raiding.

The blonde, blue-eyed, black masked bandida has a secret it seems, and there is a reason she is targeting the monopolistic land owner of the region.

...she's lightining with a knife or a whip or a gun. Tall, blonde, rides like fury... the monopolist tells Chisos Owens, the man he wants to hire to hunt her down, and a man whose land he also took in the past.

This, to me, doesn't read like it was written in 1944, which is probably why the magazine guys of the time edited his moder modern relationships.

A pretty fair tale. I definitely want to find some more.


3.5 out of 5

A Girl's Guide to Vampires - Katie MacAlister

Very light weight, and drags it out a bit. A desperate and dateless chick decides to go on a holiday to the Czech Republic after hearing about some weird vampire legends.

Of course she runs into a couple of guys that might be or might not be. Cue George Hamilton, etc. Ok if you like that sort of thing, very tongue in check and not taking itself at all seriously which wasn't too bad.

2.5 out of 5

Shield of Thunder - David Gemmell

He has done it to me again. I planned to polish this one off quickly, but no such luck. He soon sucked me into it at length each time I picked it up.

The decisions of all the leaders of the region are being made, and alliances formed of necessity, but most of the book focuses on characters other than Priam and Agamemnon.

Odysseus does feature, though, as he is the key figure, with his change from neutral status after Helikaon's delirious revelation to Prima.

Kalliades and Banokles again share page time.

The last third of the book jumps into the beginnings of the war in earnest, and perhaps is a little less interesting than the rest.

4 out of 5

Moon of Blood - L. Sprague De Camp and Lin Carter

Conan is still beyond the Black River, fighting the Picts with the Aquilonians. Serpent sorcery and a traitorous General are causing lots of problems.

Conan's axework and fast thinking puts paid to this, and gets him a promotion.

In fact, he does so much damage with the aforementioned weapon that both Kull and Druss the Legend would be more than a little impressed.

4 out of 5

Zorro Swings Again - Lee Dean

The novelisation of the amusing movie, Zorro Swings again, where Zorro is injured, and his flamboyantly colored brother must fill in for him, causing sightings of Zorro in puce, etc.

3 out of 5

The Sword and the Sorcerer - Norman Winski

A young woman's aunt has been working on a special battle suit, and gets her quite small niece to test it, as an economically sized subject for the amount of material.

When Marisa asks one of her other friends to get involved in the project, she acts strangely.

After coming across a couple of school bullies in trouble, Marisa uses the supersuit powers to save them, and her friend Natalie provides a startling revelation.

3 out of 5

I Was a Teenaged Superhero - Sherwood Smith

A young woman's aunt has been working on a special battle suit, and gets her quite small niece to test it, as an economically sized subject for the amount of material.

When Marisa asks one of her other friends to get involved in the project, she acts strangely.

After coming across a couple of school bullies in trouble, Marisa uses the supersuit powers to save them, and her friend Natalie provides a startling revelation.

3 out of 5

Rush and the Grey Fox - Jon Klement

This reads almost like it is supposed to be for kids, or some sort of young adult story. A young girl collapses, winds up in hospital. When she wakes up she finds that she has lost 80 pounds and gained super speed powers.

The old mother was in a secret government project and now black leather clad female assassins are coming to get me thing. Super speed comes in handy here, as does making friends with said assassins mentor, an ex-terrorist/assassin, who trained her - The Black Lotus, natch. Same thing for her best friend, Alex. The son of a super genius scientist.

The debut of Rush seems to herald an increase in the superpowered population, and this is seen in the second part of the book, reading like instalments/subplots of stories to be continued.

A giant rhino like man, A 6'8" Amazon warrior, a friction negater, and a couple of alien psychic vampires with a teleporting ankylosaurus! Lockjaw with spikes. Not sure how you think that one up, but points there. Throw in an evil Russian crimelord and a couple of cyborgs, and you have the potential for large amounts of future property damage.

According to the author's website, it appears there will be more, and the character comes from a webcomic, originally.

3 out of 5

Tarzan and the Abominable Snowman - Barton Werper

Jane is captured by a nasty Egyptian Queen. So, of course Lord Greystoke has to go off and rescue her. Jane was looking for Yeti, here Tarzan has to fight one in an arena!

3 out of 5

Hero's Quest - Dennis O'Neill

This one became interestingly philosophical. A nice thing to do, given how the Lanterns work, plus, it had Hal and Kyle, a neat trick. This does show the origin of Kyle Rayner as Green Lantern, and how hopeless he is to start with. He picks it up though, and later on he ends up in a thought construct with Hal Jordan, and another representation of a hero, which involves some more in depth discussion of being a GL.

3.5 out of 5

The Ultimate Evil - Andrew Vachss

A look through the eyes of the Batman at the horrendous world of the child sex trade, child porn and child abuse in parts of Asia.

This involves crime so nasty that it takes Batman out of Gotham and pursuing this particular bunch of criminals across the world. It has a few thing s to say about the politics and law-enforcement environments that surround such activities.

3.5 out of 5

The Harvest - Joss Whedon

The Harvest is a retelling of the story told at the start of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer tv series. A novelisation of the tv show, if you want to put it like that, taken from the Whedon script. There is a master vampire in Sunnydale, and on one particular night he is able to open a portal and summon an army.

Buffy has a new Watcher, and meets some new friends at her new school, after being booted out of the last one, and has to come to terms with all this and deal with Head Vamp into the bargain.

3 out of 5

The Cordelia Collection - Nancy Krulik

For a Buffy book, this is an epic. Quite long. People are starting to act very strangely in Sunnydale, and gain superhuman abilities on top of being whacky. When this includes Xander, Willow and Dawn, Buffy has a ton of problems. So many problems that she gets help from a group of vampires, because having a crazy diseased superhuman food source is not good for them, either.

Also, Buffy has to go all Ilyana Rasputin, as what the master AI digital type bad guy who is using nanites to control everyone wants, is the ancient Soulsword.

3.5 out of 5

Mortal Fear - Scott Ciencin and Denise Ciencin

For a Buffy book, this is an epic. Quite long. People are starting to act very strangely in Sunnydale, and gain superhuman abilities on top of being whacky. When this includes Xander, Willow and Dawn, Buffy has a ton of problems. So many problems that she gets help from a group of vampires, because having a crazy diseased superhuman food source is not good for them, either.

Also, Buffy has to go all Ilyana Rasputin, as what the master AI digital type bad guy who is using nanites to control everyone wants, is the ancient Soulsword.

3.5 out of 5

Ghoul Trouble - John Passarella

A couple of games of let's pretend are to be found here. A band of ghouls pretending to be a band of girls, as in a rock band.

A demon pretending to be a Daywalker, as in the Blade variety. A non-vampire demon, that is. The former likes to recruit new band members and eat blokes, the latter just likes to beat people with reputations to within a negative inch of their lives.

3 out of 5

Children of the Sun - Edmond Hamilton

Captain Future and crew have to talk down a Vulcanian scientist who has become rather enamored of the solar lifestyle.

3 out of 5

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

The Hand of Kane - Robert E. Howard

A compilation that includes :-

The Hills of the Dead
Hawk of Basti
Wings In the Night
The Children of Asshur

http://gutenberg.net.au/ebooks06/0600871.txt

This involves Kane's relationship with N'Longa, and how he came to possess his staff. Also, Kane, Zunna and N'Longa are involved in some vampire hunting and slaying.

3.5 out of 5


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


http://gutenberg.net.au/ebooks06/0600881.txt

Solomon Kane is deep in cannibal country, when he comes across even worse. Flying man-beasts that are too many for him to fight, and he is overcome.

When he wakens, he realises he is alive, even though he should not be, and is told of the akaanas, or flying-men, and realizes they may be the source of the Mediterranean harpy legend.

Kane has an advantage against them the others do not, he has firearms, and the staff of N'Longa. He sets out to deal with this menace methodically.

3.5 out of 5


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



3.5 out of 5

Farewell To Lankhmar - Fritz Leiber

This is the Knight and Knave of Swords, with a different name. The final adventures of Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser are to be found here, rebadged in a different edition. Fahrd begins by learning to get along without a left hand, a problem yet again caused by those annoying god types. Hanging around leisurely should be peaceful, shouldn't it? Not when they have two women around, and others that would like a little payback coming.

4 out of 5

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

The Cat Who Walks Through Walls - Robert A. Heinlein

An odd book, in that it is a bit of a discussion, and so tends to be dull.

It also has an odd cat, and that is usually not too good, unless you are named Seuss, or the cat is really, really big, Beastmaster.

However, a bunch of his characters from other books appear here, which does make it a bit more interesting.

2 out of 5

To Sail Beyond the Sunset - Robert A. Heinlein

The last Lazarus Long book takes a tour of the previous books, basically.

A little more tongue in cheek, this book, so definitely made it more entertaining to me.

Would you have sex with your hot time travelling immortal babe of a mother, if you could or didn't know? Good question?

That family is a bit complicated and definitely irregular as the subtitle suggests.

3 out of 5

The Birthplace of Creation - Edmond Hamilton

Another Captain Future story that starts a bit slow, and then Hamilton manages to pile it all on you on the end, to lift the quality.

Investigating, Captain Future discovers the power of the Birthplace tempts even him.

3 out of 5

Ensign Flandry - Poul Anderson

Flandry is fresh out of the military joint at 19, and shows some quick thinking and nereve in a confrontation between two races on an outpost world.

An old diplomat and spymaster recognises a possible super agent, when he sees one, and apparently there is a large shortish of such even in the massive empire, so he gives Flandry a job.

He uncovers a very big secret, on more than one front, and is sometimes on the run from his own side.

3.5 out of 5

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Moon of the Unforgotten - Edmond Hamilton

Captain Future sets out to help a sad friend, who has become involved with a 'Second Life' organisation, that appears to basically be using old fashioned regression type techniques.

3 out of 5

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Earthmen No More - Edmond Hamilton

John Carey wakes up and discovers he is no longer in his own time. Some serious culture shock awaits, and the Futuremen try and be gentle.

Eventually, they have to be a bit sterner and encourage him to 'look to the future'.

3 out of 5

Dark Prince - Christine Feehan

This book is terrible. For the first quarter, absolutely nothing happens except the head top Carpathian vampire guy sets his sights on a woman and finally shags her. That is it, for that much.

Boring as hell. Completely overwritten, turgid and melodramatic, and a complete and utter waste of time. Plenty of others of this sort of thing that are way more entertaining.

If you want something crappy and more gothic you might be interested, otherwise, forget it.

1 out of 5

Friday, March 16, 2007

Working For the Devil - Lilith Saintcrow

For a book that looks like it is supposed to be a romance type novel, it is actually pretty light on the mushy stuff, so much so that is is almost absent. More towards the early Hamilton or Harrison books, and fairly straight urban fantasy.

The main character is a Necromance. This does mean what it suggests. She is a very low rent necromancer. She carries a sword. Your average powerful wizard type doesn't need to bother.

The plot could be straight out of Hellblazer. Lucifer wants something done, the demons are trying to play each other over a mystic object and a breeding scheme for power.

She is hired to get in the middle, and ends up working with a demon partner.

3.5 out of 5

Crazy Hot - Tara Janzen

The guy in this in an ex-war hero and an excellent car thief, as well as being a crime busting secret agent. A fair bit of the Gone in Sixty Seconds thing going in here, except there is a lot of sex after the career of selling cars.

Lots of ok done shagging here, and when that happens, like most of these sort of books the plot gets pretty light. Here, there is one though, with two women who get involved with the Steele Street crew, and their grandfather, who is a palaeontologist.

Not many diamond smugglers would think of using a dig to smuggle stuff, but there you go.


3 out of 5

The Alien Years - Robert Silverberg

Aliens all of a sudden arrive on earth, and they are pretty cryptic, but brook no resistance. They do take over some people to use as agents.

A few resisters do hold out, particularly the Carmichael family in the hills over Los Angeles. However, are they really kidding themselves about what is really happening?

3.5 out of 5

The Killing of Worlds - Scott Westerfeld

Again, the second Succession books changes viewpoint from character to character by chapter, with each explicitly named at the start. That works fairly well.

Westerfeld has also come up with a society that seems politically realistic, although it is clear where your empathy is supposed to lie, with the Captain and the Senator.

As it goes on, the AI become more sympathetic, and the lie at the heart of the political system is revealed, which changes everything.

Quite enjoyable, and he found no need to stretch this out it appears, which is a pleasant change.

3.5 out of 5

Thursday, March 15, 2007

What Good Is A Glass Dagger - Larry Niven

The old Warlock still has the mana experimentation thing going on. A werewolf wants in, and he has a problem with a snail dragon as well.

So he goes for a low-tech sneaky solution, with a bit of subterfuge, as well as a bit of magical innovation.

3.5 out of 5

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Ghostbusters II - Ed Naha

The second Ghostbusters story isn't as good as the first one. Basically, putting the whole little kid thing in there isn't too flash, and I think perhaps it was almost too much of a jump in time.

That being said, the spook and slime parts are pretty decent, as it is up to the boys to save the place yet again, with no respect.

3 out of 5

Ghostbusters - Richard Mueller

"If someone asks you if you are a god, you say Yes!"

A highly original blast of a story is Ghostbusters, and the novelisation of the same is pretty decent.

When a few dodgy parapsychologist researchers stuff up in a university, they start their own business, little expecting they will soon be overalls and proton packs deep in spooks.

Very funny.

3.5 out of 5

The Risen Empire - Scott Westerfeld

Warhammer 40,000 and the Chronicles of Riddick vs The Culture and The Matrix.

Or something like that. In the Risen Empire the ruling class has functional immortality, but the catch is that they are dead.

Political opponents say this causes stagnation, and, indeed, other races and cultures are advancing a lot faster than they are, technologically.

The Rix exist to seed planets with AI minds, and the captain of a ship that failed to stop the kidnapping and killing of the Emperor's sister is ordered to try and stop the new AI incursion into their space from communicating with a battleship.

3.5 out of 5

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Pardon My Iron Nerves - Edmond Hamilton

Grag gets to visit a shrink, which is a bit silly. He is also sent to investigate why a whole bunch of machine workers are behaving oddly.

He finds a frightened scientist who has given them intelligence. Grag is also a little miffed when they call him puny, so to deal with the revolt he decides to get 'em drunk.

3 out of 5

The Conan Chronicles 1 - Robert Jordan

The first omnibus collection of Robert Jordan's Conan Chronicles. Unfortunately, this has a truly atrocious cover, compared to some of the individual books.

The guy on the front has hips like a girl, less muscles than I had at that age, and looks like a teenage lothario from a bad latin soap opera.

They must have had this lying around unused and paid for or free and thought it would work.

This book includes Conan the Invincible, Conan the Defender and Conan the Unconquered.

Conan's reputation as a thief in Shadizar has grown so much it is starting to cause him problems.

As such, he takes a job that offers the possibility of a big score, and ends up saving Karela the Red Hawk a couple of times, and mixed up with sorcerers, necromancers, soldiers, lizard men and more.

For a pastiche, a pretty good one.

3.5 out of 5


Conan is in a new city, and inflation is a bit of a problem. He runs into Hordo again, who is there working as a smuggler, and finds out the lay of the land.

He decides that the thing to do is start his own Free Company, rather than get tied up in a mult-year contract working for someone else.

He has a horse-archery angle that no-one else uses.

A poetess he takes up with is a revolutionary, and he gets involved in a struggle with the throne.

Eventually, he again runs into Karela the Red Hawk, who is in disguise.

3.5 out of 5


This book is not as interesting as most of Jordan's others. I think the supporting cast is a little on the bland side, or only appear fleetingly in and out of the book. No Karelas or Hordos to be found here.

Necromancer, evil femme fatale, good but naive girl he teaches a little bit of swordplay and shagging.

Just an average tale.

3 out of 5



3.5 out of 5

Conan the Unconquered - Robert Jordan

This book is not as interesting as most of Jordan's others. I think the supporting cast is a little on the bland side, or only appear fleetingly in and out of the book. No Karelas or Hordos to be found here.

Necromancer, evil femme fatale, good but naive girl he teaches a little bit of swordplay and shagging.

Just an average tale.

3 out of 5

Monday, March 12, 2007

Conan the Defender - Robert Jordan

Conan is in a new city, and inflation is a bit of a problem. He runs into Hordo again, who is there working as a smuggler, and finds out the lay of the land.

He decides that the thing to do is start his own Free Company, rather than get tied up in a mult-year contract working for someone else.

He has a horse-archery angle that no-one else uses.

A poetess he takes up with is a revolutionary, and he gets involved in a struggle with the throne.

Eventually, he again runs into Karela the Red Hawk, who is in disguise.

3.5 out of 5

Conan the Invicible - Robert Jordan

Conan's reputation as a thief in Shadizar has grown so much it is starting to cause him problems.

As such, he takes a job that offers the possibility of a big score, and ends up saving Karela the Red Hawk a couple of times, and mixed up with sorcerers, necromancers, soldiers, lizard men and more.

For a pastiche, a pretty good one.

3.5 out of 5

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Deryni Rising - Katherine Kurtz

In a Welsh type fantasy kingdom, magic exists, and, of course, runs in the blood of the nobility, hence they get to be in charge.

Their version of the Catholic Church is also powerful, so this is a cause for conflict, church versus the royals, and church vs magic.

This all leads up to a violent ritual confrontation over the right to be in charge, by the end, as a new prince has to establish himself after the dead of his old man.

3.5 out of 5

Swordspoint - Ellen Kushner

I suppose Swordspoint is supposed to be a fantasy, but the fantasy is pretty much just the 'different setting'.

Here, a professional swordsman and duellist gets a bit more involved in the politics and machinations of the place than he would like, and has to try and keep both himself and his lover safe while doing the right thing.

3.5 out of 5

A Wrinkle In Time - Madeleine L'Engle

A book for children, but not too bad for that. A bored girl, her brothers and others get mixed up in an adventure across the space-time continuum by way of some nifty tesseract tricks.

When a strange older woman comes visiting they set off to find the father of all these children, who is a prisoner of one of your standard supervillains, a giant disembodied telepathic brain.

3 out of 5

The Eye of the Ram - Timothy Boggs

When I looked this up the first time, just saw the American edition. The one I found is a puffin, so no doubt that it is a book for kids, from that, and from the length.

No need to bother with these, unless you are a kid, or some uber Herc-nerd.

Harpies, the odd Satyr, and Salmoneus' travelling theatre. The Eye of the Ram is a magic energy blastic rod held by your evil magician type that is part of Salmoneus' troupe.

2 out of 5

The Harpers of Titan - Edmond Hamilton

Simon Wright has been embodied again, thanks to a dead men. He has to deal with the overwhelming new sensations while working the Harpers' own sound trck against them.

3 out of 5

The Legend of Banzai Maguire - Susan Grant

This is a definite Buck Rogers riff, except that in this case Buck is Bree, or Banzai, if you prefer.

A military pilot of the USA variety gets into trouble with the rest of a patrol, and a few happenings later ends up in suspended animation and wakes up in 2176.

Then you have the Han empire and the UCE - e.g. the yanks or Buck's side, if you prefer.

She has to choose between the suave Han overlord and the somewhat scruffier UCE rebel. No prizes for guessing which, in this case.

Not too bad, but Buck and Wilma in this one are a fair bit less martial than in the original.

3 out of 5

Hal Spacejock : Second Course - Simon Haynes

There is a pilot named Spacejock
At flying he's a complete crock
He's such a spazz
A robot he has
To stop him from crashing in drydock

Bad limericks yes, I am sorry. Spacejock is just a bad limerick kind of guy, though.

The Spacejock books are remarkably consistent in tone and quality. All of them have been amusing, and all of them have had the same general feel throughout.

Hal, again, is useless unless he is making coffee or actually involved in bashing something.

In Second Course, Hal undercuts the head of a freight company for an important bank contract, and makes a deadly enemy.

Haynes then proceeds to lampoon plenty of things along the way, as the freight company head sends an immigrant in need of papers with the deadly combination of military and accounting training after Spacejock, to slow him down.

The bank contract neglects to point out the lawless and dangerous aspect of the destination.

Teleportation. Museums. Killer robots. Deadly dangerous Autochef concontions, and an AI briefcase.

Along with Clunk, you really don't need much more.

4 out of 5

Collision with Chronos - Barrington J. Bayley

A couple of time travel theories to get you thinking, here.

A particular society is very conservative and racist, and the Titanium Legions insist on strict racial purity tests.

An organisation opposes them, but it may all be moot, as an alien time wave, in opposition to their own, is coming, and when the two meet, the old 'poof', not there any more is a distinct possibility.

3 out of 5

Friday, March 9, 2007

The Turning - Jennifer Armintrout

A doctor, working in a hospital is attacked by a man who should be dead, given the injuries. It seems he was a vampire that came out on the wrong end of a fight. The attack changes her, as she slowly becomes a vampire.

She meets a man who tells her he is part of a movement of vampires dedicated to eradicating all those that don't follow their strict rules of non-violence towards human. She will also be judged, and if they are not merciful, he will kill her.

A tad stressed she ends up moving between the two, and finding out her original attacker has a father who is something much worse. The odd werewolf thing is involved, as well.

This started well, but drags a little bit in the back and forth between the two men.

2.5 out of 5

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Gradisil - Adam Roberts

Gradisil follows three generations of a family closely connected with the establishment of the 'Uplands'. This is a colony in orbit. Most of the book is about the middle generation, and the daughter, Gradisil.

The backdrop is a short US-EU mostly unbloody war, and political tensions due to the fact that the people in the Uplands are mostly very very wealthy and hence pay no taxes to anyone.

This brings the US and the Uplands into military conflict.

Given some of the plodding in the first two part and the start of the Gradisil section, the ending is a bit rushed.

3.5 out of 5

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Awaken Me Darkly - Gena Showalter

Mia Snow is a top cop with the Alien Investigation and Removal unit. She runs around dealing with illegal immigrants from a long way away, and extreme violence is good when it is necessary.

A partner is critically injured and she ends up in a relationship of sorts with an alien that reveals something about who she actually is, and why she can do what she can do better than other humans.

3 out of 5

Battlestar Galactica - Glen A. Larson

Your standard novelization type deal. The start of the series turned into a book, which is certainly fun for a kid wanting to go through it again.

Robots blowing everything up, robot dogs, cool space pilots, and all that sort of thing. Nothing really wrong with this effort from that point of view.

3 out of 5

The Fuhrer's Final Trumpet - Stephen Adams

The war is winding down, and the Soviets are knocking at the Germans' door. The female Captain America type, Victory Rose, is sent in on a mission to stop a strange weapon, and to try and prevent German weapon technology from falling into Soviet hands.

She manages to get caught and hung (which is where the superhuman abilities help), and things are bleak as she thinks she is no longer needed.

Rescue and mission work leaves her exhausted by the end of it.

3 out of 5

Passionate Thirst - Cameron Dean

Candace Steele has multiple things to do. Serve cocktails, assist with the security of a pop star, and kill the odd vampire in her part time.

An encounter with a man in her past that she fell for was more than she thought, when it turned out he was a vampire. His little love bites give her vampire detection powers and appear to have enhanced her just a little above a normal human. No zombie summoning or wereleopard control.

Set in Vegas, said old lover returns, causing a few issues.

This is very much in the Laurell Hamilton plot lite variety, without getting quite as silly.

Lots of shagging, with things finished in a rush at the end, apart from the vampire lover part of course.

3 out of 5

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

The Traveling Vampire Show - Richard Laymon

A couple of teenage boys are doing their own thing, when they get news that the circus is on town.

This one is a little bit different, in that it claims to have a vampire in tow.

As it turns out, the claim is correct, and the vampire babe leads to escapades and death.

It is really a bit on the slow side for a reasonable part of it.

2.5 out of 5

Arthur - Stephen R. Lawhead

A look at Arthur, and in a large part, his military life. The book opens with him leading a small war band, and continues with his military prowess increasing, particular when he has sage advice from the more experienced Merlin.

A different take on the Arthur story, but certainly interesting because of it.

4 out of 5

Merlin - Stephen R. Lawhead

Merlin goes through a considerable period of Myrddins life. He is the child of Charis of Atlantis and Taliesin the Bard.

From being a kid and showing his tutelage by various luminaries, to life as a young warrior, all the way through to becoming a kingmaker and installing Arthur.

3.5 out of 5

Taliesin - Stephen R. Lawhead

Lawhead here takes the figure of Taliesin the bard, and throws him together with a young priestess of Atlantis.

As far as that goes, it doesn't seem too incongruous, so points for that. Throw in some prophecy, impending doom, and a creepy young girl and you have an ok story.

3 out of 5

Mudd's Angels - J. A. Lawrence

This is one of those lighter type of episodes that shows throw at you now and again to change the pace.

In this book the appearances of Harry Mudd throw things into uproar, given he is an intergalactic con-artist, smoothing talking character, and charismatic dude.

A bit of playing around with the fuel supply causes some fun.

3 out of 5

The Night Manager - John Le Carre

The main character here is a retired soldier, working the night shift at a hotel. He meets a woman who has information about an arms dealer.

Because of this, he gets involved in a sting operation against the arms dealer, as he would like a bit of revenge after the woman is murdered because of the information she passed on.

A slightly different book, with a commentary on how all governments mostly ignore the arms trade as they make craploads of cash out of it.

3.5 out of 5

The Secret Pilgrim - John Le Carre

An old protege of George Smiley's is close to retirement himself, and is involved in training some new people for the British Secret service.

He asks his old mentor to come in and give some guest lectures, and these talks lead to reminiscences via short stories for Ned, himself a career spy.

4 out of 5

The Russia House - John Le Carre

The Russia House's protagonist is the head of a small English book publishing firm. As such, he often travels to Russia on business.

This leads him to getting a bit involved in some cover operations, and a Russian woman is to get him a manuscript from one her relatives. The book actually contains a lot of technical military information, rather than being an actual book.

3 out of 5

A Perfect Spy - John Le Carre

A veteran spy named Magnus Pym disappears. A lot of his former co-workers are pretty stressed about this, because they think it is pretty strong evidence that he has been a long time double agent.

The novel is mostly told in the form of memoirs, particularly from his father, among others.

He has to be tracked down to find out what has happened, and why.

3.5 out of 5

The Little Drummer Girl - John Le Carre

The Little Drummer Girl involves a conflict between Israeli and Palestinian spymasters, basically. The Israeli man choose an actress to use as an agent to further his ends, and the book follows her adventures and problems throughout.

The major problem with it is you are not quite sure why the woman is doing what she is doing, so doesn't hold up as well when that doesn't make sense.

3 out of 5

Smiley's People - John Le Carre

After being given the arse at the end of The Honourable Schoolboy, yet again they decide they have need of Smiley's talents after an old agent, a Russian, is killed.

They realise Smiley is the man for the job if they are to finally get to the Russian spymaster guru Karla by an operation designed to leave the man between a rock and a hard place.

4 out of 5

The Honourable Schoolboy - John Le Carre

This is the second of the 'Karla' books featuring George Smiley. Smiley has found the mole in the circus, and as a consequence, now finds himself heading the department, and has all the problems of rebuilding functionality and morale that this entails.

He also has to try and track down and deal with Karla, to prevent any further problems. As such, he reactivates a part-time agent, and this is where the book gets its title.

A complicated exercise follows, through Asia and elsewhere.

4 out of 5

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy - John Le Carre

George Smiley is an old spy that is called back to duty to look into a situation at the 'Circus'. The situation is the penetration of double agents into his former employer.

A situation obviously reminiscent of, and raking over the coals the Philby, Burgess, MacLean and Blunt years as the highly intelligent Smiley goes after these men.

4 out of 5

Call For the Dead - John Le Carre

A civil servant kills himself, and Smiley investigates. He realises that something more is going on here, and the suicide note itself is very suspicious.

The investigation draws him into contact with a German spy operation, the dead man's wife, and some of his own ex-agents.

3.5 out of 5

A Small Town in Germany - John Le Carre

A Small Town in Germany gets it title from somewhere that really isn't. In this case, Le Carre means Bonn, the capital of West Germany in this era.

A British government official journeys to said 'small town' to look into the disappearance of another official, and also perhaps the 'misplacing' of some important secret documents.

3.5 out of 5

The Looking Glass War - John Le Carre

While George Smiley only makes a brief appearance in The Looking Glass War it is still a worthwhile book.

The main thrust is an inter-departmental intelligence agency turf war, and also the possibility of Soviet missiles emplacements causing problems for the West Germans.

An old agent is reactivated and sent to look into the problem.

3.5 out of 5

The Spy Who Came in From the Cold - John Le Carre

The Spy Who Came in from the Cold is the story of a British Secret Service agent who leaves that organisation and basically defects to East Germany.

What he does not realise for a while is that he is actually being manipulated by his former masters as they play a complicated game of espionage with other assets in place in his new home.

4 out of 5

A Murder of Quality - John Le Carre

Smiley here investigates a death threat and subsequently a death. Basically a mystery novel and not a spy book.

It would seem that he is having some fun with his uni town into the bargain, as he delves into the academic upper crust society and its foibles to discover what is going on.

3 out of 5

Tehanu - Ursula K. Le Guin

Tehanu is a pretty pointless codicil to the original Earthsea trilogy.

The girl from the Tombs of Atuan married and had a couple of kids, and has now adopted a more supernatural child on top of that.

Ged, no longer with any wizardly abilities arrives . Naturally, given she had a crush on him earlier and is now lonely, they live together.

2.5 out of 5

The Farthest Shore - Ursula K. Le Guin

A little more interesting than The Tombs of Atuan, The Farthest Shore is a story of the older Ged. He is now an archmage, and has come to the realisation that magic is slowly disappearing, and that to ordinary people, this does not matter a whole lot.

Ged ends up on what to him is a quixotic quest, along with a young prince, to see what is going on.

3 out of 5

The Tombs of Atuan - Ursula K. Le Guin

The sequel to A Wizard of Earthsea is a little disappointing after the first book, and changes fairly significantly.

It shifts focus from the mature wizard Ged, to a young woman. She is a member of a matriarchal cult, and they end up trapping and imprisoning Ged after he comes there on a mission.

She has to come to realise what is more important.

3 out of 5

A Wizard of Earthsea - Ursula K. Le Guin

Easily the best of this series of books. A Wizard of Earthsea is the story of a young boy named Ged, who becomes a wizard.

Earthsea is a world of island archipelagoes, so a lot of boating and shipping goes on. Everything has a public name and a secret name, as knowing the names of things can give them power.

Ged, or Sparrowhawk must master magic, fight demons, and work out what his role is in life.

4 out of 5

The Word for World is Forest - Ursula K. Le Guin

Apart from the fabulous title, a pretty interesting book.

A planet of aliens that are similar but different to humans is a target of exploitation.

The forests hold the whole ecology together in a more important way than on Earth. The natives know nothing of violent conflict, but when brutality and violence is used by the invaders to try and get what they want, the locals learn quickly.

4 out of 5

The Left Hand of Darkness - Ursula K. Le Guin

Genly Ai has the role of ambassador of sorts, sent to invite a new world to join the Ekumen society, which is an alliance of different planets, of a sort.

The planet he is an emissary to has people he finds it pretty hard to understand for quite a while, with their fluid and changeable sexual characteristics and roles.

Misunderstandings and confusion abound, as well as political conflict when Genly and the prime minister he was cultivating end up on the run.

4 out of 5

The Dispossessed - Ursula K. Le Guin

Many years after a revolution, the moon-planet system in the Dispossessed has a society that is again calcifying into de facto power structures.

The protagonist in the novel is a scientist exploring the nature of time, whether linear, or more complicated.

The book looks at some of the political implications of anarchy, and utopia, and what realities actually get in the way.

3.5 out of 5

Planet of Exile - Ursula K. Le Guin

A group of humans is left stranded on an alien world. The native inhabitants are not that dissimilar, but genetically different enough that you can't breed hybrids.

Such a small population is suffering a slow decline, and each race minds their own business. A Romeo and Juliet situation and a serious threat causes some upheaval.

3 out of 5

Rocannon's World - Ursula K. Le Guin

A woman leaves a low tech spaceship to go into space to reclaim some valuables, not understanding the whole time dilation thing.

When she gets back, old age has done in the relatives. She meets a man named Rocannon, a human, and this odd planet with different races erupts into conflict.

They, of course, decide they like each other.

3 out of 5

You Slay Me - Katie MacAlister

This is pretty lightweight stuff, meant to be so, I believe. Sort of somewhere between Men In Black and Midsomer Murders.

A clueless girl finds out she is a Guardian, basically supposed to keep watch over a portal to make sure not too many demons and monsters come through. She has a few super powers to help with that she starts to learn, including demon summoning, which means she has a big black demon dog to follow her around.

Seems it is tricky as she has a dragon she wants to shag, as well.

2.5 out of 5

The Fall of Chronopolis - Barrington J. Bayley

Two fleets of ships war through time. The Captain of one vessel falls prey to one of his staff, a member of a secret cult. They both survive, and the Captain, exposed to the timestream and amnesiac is convicted when court-martialled. A capital crime, he will be used as a time courier.

Exposure to the 'strat' twice affects him differently, and he discovers that the conflict is definitely not as it seems, and there is a much greater battle raging.

3.5 out of 5

Polystom - Adam Roberts

A young member of the upper classes in a solar system that is only separated by some thousands of miles, and has atmosphere throughout is encouraged to marry.

It doesn't end well, and his uncle is then murdered, leaving him alone and in charge. On finding his uncle's scientific involvement in computer science led him into military work, Polystom decides to join the war on Mudworld and command a platoon.

What he finds there, in the way of computer science literally shakes his faith in reality.

A little reminiscent of [The Miocnene Arrow], but a lot simpler.

3.5 out of 5

Monday, March 5, 2007

Permanence - Karl Schroeder

A fairly straightforward space adventure. A girl from a small backwater joint escapes from her brother who basically wants to sell her into servitude.

While on the lam she stumbles across a rare alien spaceship, and meets up with a relative on another planet.

A mission to get to the ship and claim it turns into struggle and conflict between different political groups.

Schroeder satirises the rabid corporate copyright/drm/activation software mentality here by having one group actually live their whole lives like this, with their basic 'inscape' view of reality showing objects by their costs and rightsholding, so a rose would show it was worth 24.23 rather than look like a rose.

3 out of 5

Sunday, March 4, 2007

Red as Blood - Tanith Lee

Red As Blood contains a whole lot of fractured fairy tales, but not the Rocky and Bullwinkle kids' cartoon variety.

Instead, Lee takes them and makes them darker, or weirder, or more horrifying and strange. She is someone that quite likely has more than the odd weird dream it would seem.

3 out of 5

The Book of the Dead - Tanith Lee

The Book of the Dead is basically a horror short story collection. There is nothing particularly memorable about any of them, although the story about the girl getting the ability to go owl-woman isn't bad. Vampire owls though? That is a little on the whacky side.

For those that are pretty keen, only, although it is not bad.

3 out of 5