Thursday, November 30, 2006

The Vampire Staffel - Robert J. Hogan

Amen Sikh is not a nice man. That is probably being overly generous. He wants to destroy the world by plague, well, the Northern Hemisphere anyway. This forces G-8 and the Germans to work together, as Berlin, London, Paris or wherever, it doesn't matter to him.

2.5 out of 5

The Rocketeer - Peter David

I read this before I ever managed to find Dave Stevens' original comic version, so this may have influenced what I thought of that, originally. A tale of a young man, a rocket pack, a voluptuous girlfriend, a good-hearted mentor, nazis, mobsters and a crazy rich guy.

Throw in lots of aerial antics and flying around, and you have a fun pulp adventure.

3 out of 5

The Last Crusade - Rob MacGregor

Indy has a father that is still alive, and he is the block for the old chip, so to speak. He does wear hats that haven't been beaten to hell, however. With his dad, Jones must first uncover and make sure that the Holy Grail does not fall into the wrong hands. To do that, though, a whole lot of surviving and dealing with devious females and relatives must be done.

3 out of 5

The Temple of Doom - James Kahn

This is a bit more like, short, fast paced action. Here we have the annoying kid sidekick, the more annoying woman, a crazed death cult, monkey brains, magic artifacts, dangerous fights, monsters and all the sort of other crazy pulp adventure things that you want to see in a story like this. Kahn has done a pretty reasonable job.

3 out of 5

Zealot - Donna Letlow

This Highlander novel is perhaps a little more complicated, with multiple immortals. A museum caretaker, Methos, MacLeod, and an exhibition of Immortal gear. MacLeod had a sword for him, from one of the K-guys he dealt with in the past.

Both MacLeod and the museum guy, Constantine had encountered a Hebrew immortal named Mordecai in the past, and now he was back in the present.

3 out of 5

The Measure of a Man - Nancy Holder

Everyone knows MacLeod is a decent, honest, honorable man, even if he does his share of head lopping and violence. Machiavelli, presumably, was a tad more on the pragmatic sword. What if he was an Immortal? He would likely be pretty sneaky.

That is the possible scenario spunky Dunky has to face in this book.

3.5 out of 5

Scimitar - Ashley McConnell

MacLeod gets to play around in the desert in this one, particularly in the past. When he and Joe come across an Arab sword, it brings back some memories or a time when he was not quite as with it, and did some silly things.

Politics, skullduggery and swords in the Middle East, and some running away.

3.5 out of 5

Highlander - Garry Kilworth

The novelisation of the most excellent Highlander movie. The plots are the same, but here we get more detail on Connor's relationships with the various minor characters, so they are more understandable.

From his meeting with the Kurgan, and training with Ramirez, to his love, and the girl he takes in, and even the grotty detective he encounters

4 out of 5

The Lazarus Heart - Poppy Z. Brite

A man is on death row. He didn't do what he has been convicted for, being the murder of his lover. Being a photographer of kinky stuff didn't really help his cause.

However, The Crow is lurking, and realises that there is a wrong to be avenged. When Jared comes back, the outfit and places they go will be right up his alley, though.

3 out of 5

The Price of Fear - Randall Boyll

In the third Darkman novel, Darkman again comes across a crazy. This one has even large delusions of grandeur, and again is using children as part of the insanity.

To gain immortality, a group are doing a bit of the human sacrifice thing, but using kids. Darkman finds out when a friend's relative goes missing, and he tries to help.

2.5 out of 5

The Gods of Hell - Randall Boyll

In the third Darkman novel, Darkman again comes across a crazy. This one has even large delusions of grandeur, and again is using children as part of the insanity.

To gain immortality, a group are doing a bit of the human sacrifice thing, but using kids. Darkman finds out when a friend's relative goes missing, and he tries to help.

2.5 out of 5

The Hangman - Randall Boyll

The first of a series of Darkman books, The Hangman is pretty ordinary. A significant amount of time has passed since the events of the movie, and Westlake is still working on this skin technology, and it still has the same limitations and problems, so he isn't getting very far, and it is affecting him psychologically.

He does use it and his abilities to help get some local kids out of trouble, though.

2.5 out of 5

Darkman - Randall Boyll

A scientist is working towards helping burn victims, by developing artificial skin. After a criminal attack, Westlake himself is left horribly scarred and disfigured, but with this, comes some new abilities.

He now has a ridiculously high pain tolerance, and enhanced strength because of it. With his artificial skin technology, he can create limited time disguises to cover his scary visage.

He sets out to hunt down Durant, the man that attacked him.

3 out of 5

Gamma Quest 3 Friend or Foe - Greg Cox

If the Leader and friends and Gamma Sentinels weren't enough of a problem, how about some teammates being take over and used against you. Wolverine you wouldn't expect, and wouldn't want to face, the Scarlet Witch is scary, and Rogue's mind is a little fragile to start with. Then there is still the Hulk to worry about, speaking of unstable.

3.5 out of 5

Gamma Quest 2 Search and Rescue - Greg Cox

The other bonus with this series is that George Perez has done some interior illustration work.

With the Hulk, the X-Men and the Avengers have worked out that the Leader is up to no good. He isn't the only one, and what the hell are Gamma Sentinels?

3.5 out of 5

Gamma Quest 1 Lost and Found - Greg Cox

After the Avengers and the X-Men both suffer a spot of mutantnapping, what they find in their search leads to something else they need to look into. With two teams involved, and especially the X-Men, there is definitely a misunderstanding.

Did anyone mention The Hulk?

3.5 out of 5

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Black Trump - George R. R. Martin

A somewhat manic finale to the Card Sharks trilogy, as it all comes to head, with important parts to play for different people all around the globe. We also see the continuing maturation of Billy Ray. There are crazy people galore in this, the Nur, Barnett, the Black Dog terrorists.

Hartmann, Croyd, and others must work to stop the Sharks and their deadly Black Trump virus, and Mark Meadows finally finds himself and rediscovers The Radical from so long ago.

4 out of 5

Jokers Wild - George R. R. Martin

The repercussions of the battle with The Astronomer continue in Jokers Wild. It is the fortieth anniversary of the release of the Wild Card Virus (scientically known as Xenovirus Takis-A), and The Astronomer is out for blood.

Fortunato is his main target, being his most powerful opponent and directly responsible for his previous defeat. He recruits killers, including Demise, and a woman that kills men with sex, to start taking out his enemies.

5 out of 5

Galactic Alarm - Kurt Mahr

Perry sends Tako Kakuta, the incredible mutant teleporter, to try and make a covert and identity unrevealed deal for a lot of the parts needed to make the Arkonides a ship that is capable of returning home, while Rhodan himself travels with Khrest to the Moon to see what is salvageable from the Arkonide tech there.

The intelligence enhancing treatments on Bell and Rhodan continue in the meantime, and they discover they were crazily dangerous, but, of course, work, to a level not realised - the two Terrans now point out some errors in spaceflight technology, allowing hyperspace travel improvements.

A recalcitrant Thora is still causing problems, and sets off an alert that allows aliens to discover where they are, and leads them to Earth. This forces Rhodan to contact the head of International Intelligence at great risk to himself. Being an intelligent and pragmatic empath powered spy, Marcant believes him, and sets out to broker a hasty deal between the major Terran political entities and the Third Power.

After destroying the alien threat, mistakes cause the problem to repeat, forcing the uneasy alliance to continue for the protection of Earth.

Thora realises now that Rhodan and Bell at least are worthy of respect, and while she still won't deign to shag the former (even though everyone can tell she wants to, even Perry, who uses it to manipulate her somewhat), will not cause further problems.

Tako's mission is no longer necessary in the same way.

Starting slowly as corporate intrigue, as the various corporations and Tako manoeuvre, this one packs it in during the latter half of the book!

3.5 out of 5

Base On Venus - Kurt Mahr

Rhodan takes a ship to Venus, to investigate setting up a mutant power base there. His team gets a few shocks from the wildlife, but more amazing, a robot inhabited base of Arkonide origin, that even Khrest and Thora do not know about.

3.5 out of 5

Mutants In Action - Kurt Mahr

Rhodan tries to buy time by using his two space fighters, more advanced than most of the Topide fleet, to harrass them. They lose one, but the pilot bails, as is lucky enough to meet up with the Ferron resistance.

Rhodan plots to take over the battleship by using the psychic ray to get his captive Topide officer to do what he wants, convincing the cruise to come and range, and allowing Rhodan, the resistance, and most importantly the mutants and teleporter Tako Kakuta to attack.

While all this is going on and accomplished, Rhodan is bargaining for new transmission technology from the Ferrons, with the promise of aiding them in their war. He is a somewhat specist Peacelord of the Universe.

4 out of 5

The Sky Road - Ken MacLeod

This is a solid book, but a pretty quick read. One nice highlight is that one of the two main threads is centered around Kazakhstan. That certainly doesn't happen very often. Some funny computer jokes at the expense of the characters in the other section, and something that we, of course see coming, but the protagonist, does not.
Then he throws in one sneaky, very political AI, and it is not a bad story, along with being hopeful, even with a bit of the good old nuclear destruction.

3.5 out of 5

The Light Ages - Ian R. MacLeod

Jane Austen meets Charles Dickens, with magic electricity by gaslight. Very dull. The drama and conflict is very understated, not enough for me to care. Read Perdido Street Station, instead. There is a good hearted thief, a researcher, a bit of political journalism, but very tame, all in all, very forgettable.

1.5 out of 5

The Ring of Five Dragons - Eric Van Lustbader

No ninja. I think that sums up the problem. The suspense, pacing and writing are just not there. This is presumably aimed at a completely different audience, of course, but it completely missed me.

Obviously a non European fantasy, but no way was I going to slog through multiple books of this, having little interest in the characters from the start.

1 out of 5

The Burrowers Beneath - Brian Lumley

Titus Crow is your old style scientific adventurer, and no spring chicken, either is his friend Marigny. They have been fighting supernatural elements here and there for some time, but have realised they are coming into heavy contact with the CCD. Or, Cthulhu Cycle Deities.

They are men of letters, so some of this novel is communicated in letters, communiques, etc.

A report from a miner leads Crow to suspect some of the CCD are coming for some of their eggs, to hatch them! The aforementioned miner had some, as does Crow.

Crow has a significant library of the occult, a partially translated Necronomicon, among other things, and works out neither he nor his friend are safe where they are, so they repair to a houseboat he has access to.

A Shoggoth attacks, and luckily they have defenses enough, with the aid of some new arrivals, who it appears are from the Wilmarth Foundation, from Miskatonic University.

They, in an organised fashion, do what Crow and Marigny dabble in, and invite them to take part. They are pretty much completely focused on the Cthulhu deities, vast alien intelligences, and their underlings.

This is quite short, and a set up for more, but explains how some of the Old Ones, like Azathoth, are actually terms for the nuclear force, or communication, as opposed to actual physical beings like Cthulhu, which is an interesting twist.

Some adventuring and endeavouring to limit the Cthulhu presence in the UK ensues, and it is not without casualties.

After a time, they grow ambivalent, and less watchful, and Cthulhu gets sneakier, so at the end, we find Crow and de Marigny under siege, trying to find a desperate escape via an ancient travel device.

3 out of 5

Necroscope - Brian Lumley

Necroscope has parallel threads running in the novel : the protagonist/antagonist and their coming of ages stories, but the meat of it is a scary Eastern European vampire and some psychic secret agent type stuff. It was, indeed, quite good, and certainly a different spin on it. Necromancers and spies, as opposed to the girls and flouncy sleeves variety.

4 out of 5

The Transition of Titus Crow - Brian Lumley

This is a grand, sweeping work, it perhaps suffers from being disjointed. However, that is deliberate, as a lot of the narrative is told under the artifice of 'recovered audio cassettes and papers' from what remained of Miskatonic University after The Fury unleashed by Cthulhu levelled it.

Henri de Marigny returns from travelling via the four dimension clock with Crow, but Crow does not appear with him, and when he wakes up in hospital, it is ten years later.

Eventually, with the aid of Mother Quarry, he realises Crow's plight, and aids him in his return.

Crow and the audio fragments and papers recount to Marigny, while in hospital and talking to him, what went on.

Titus has returned looking 25 years younger, and is a post human now. A robot intelligence rebuilt his body in android form, he has a mastery of time and space travel and mental powers beyond the minor telepathies he employed before.

He has travelled through all earth's times, to alien galaxies, and alien places, and taken a fated alien lover, and met one of the 'good' Elder Gods. Not to mention cavorting with lisping dragons with Hawkman anti-gravity harnesses. The Hounds of Tindalos have been pursuing him, as have elements of Cthulhu and Hastur, but his now developed abilities enable him to avoid being killed, or pulled into black holes, even.

All this in fragments, through a short book. A transitional information phase almost, and what is unfolded here may be too rapid and overloaded for some people to want to keep up with.

Crow takes off again, leaving de Marigny behind, with the devices and guidance to undertake a journey similar to that Crow has undergone.

The form of the novel is a hybrid type version of The Time Machine and The Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath, with a dash of Burroughs or Moorcock.

2.5 out of 5

That Hideous Strength - C. S. Lewis

Try and do a Jules Verne type story. Take the fun and adventure out. Make it boring and unappealing. Voila. You have C.S. Lewis's planet trilogy. This is a textbook case of how to not do a planetary romance type tale, but rather than philosophical mouthpieces rambling on, crying out for you to close the book.

1 out of 5

Perelandra - C. S. Lewis

Another book that you could use as a cure for insomnia. Try and do a Jules Verne type story. Take the fun and adventure out. Make it boring and unappealing. Voila. You have C.S. Lewis's planet trilogy. Characters should seem a little bit like people, in general, if they are supposed to actually be human beings.

1 out of 5

The Gaia War - Mark Leon

A quite poor attempt at a story that has been done before.

1.5 out of 5

Sword of Orion - Sharon Lee

I presume this is supposed to be a kid's adventure novel, with the 2 main characters being kids on the run with an uncle, parents were rebel leaders, etc., etc. Good enough for that, but very lightweight otherwise, barring a few gates and some fun ways to take out a space fleet. A few too many aliens talk like they just came off the set of the Dark Crystal, though.

1.5 out of 5

Agent of Change - Sharon Lee

Pretty ordinary secret agent type on the run story. The fun bit is that he gets probability calculations of his likely demise along the way. Basically, Lee is no Fleming or Ludlum.

Should appeal more to those that like a romance/action story in a different setting.

2 out of 5

Unnatural Selection - Tim Lebbon

Not as dark as the last book, this is more of an action story. In a big way! Liz has to fight a Phoenix, Hellboy gets dumped by a dragon, and Abe turns crocodile hunter, where crocodiles have heads like four wheel drives.

It gets worse, too, as the beasties start appearing in groups.

An old scientist magician the BPRD was keeping track of has been using an ancient mystical tome to bring back the 'Memory' of ancient beasts.

Partly this is for revenge, as a government agency had his wife assassinated, and partly for environmentalist reasons, as Dragons don't pollute like planes.

A kraken takes out a cruise ship, mermaids a beach, a flight of dragons an airport. The BPRD have to find his base, and stop him - with the help of a werewolf that is one of his escaped creations.

The target of their attack is a global summit of world leaders in London.

The politicians of course don't believe or trust Hellboy, so he is inclined to go help ordinary people first, but the BPRD bosses talk him round into trying to save the day.

3.5 out of 5

The Paradise War - Stephen R. Lawhead

A solid fantasy trilogy, with the often useful hook of placing a modern man into the setting - with the twist that he becomes one of the great Celtic heroes, but not quite how you expect. The other thing is that he is an arts grad student nerd, too, so even more surprising. Not remarkable though, certainly would not read it again. A grad student and friend go on a wild trip, and find a supposedly extinct prehistoric ox, then follow it, and end up in a Celtic mythic Albion, and have to adapt fast.

3 out of 5

The Endless Knot - Stephen R. Lawhead

A solid fantasy trilogy, with the often useful hook of placing a modern man into the setting - with the twist that he becomes one of the great Celtic heroes, but not quite how you expect. The other thing is that he is an arts grad student nerd, too, so even more surprising. Not remarkable though, certainly would not read it again. Everything ends mostly happily.

3 out of 5

Captured By the Engines - Joe R. Lansdale

A short novel, and given it is by Lansdale, there is no surprise it turns weird. Other than Batman, the protagonist is a sheriff in a small town outside Gotham, and he is an Indian from a tribe that is dying out.

Basically, this is just about a horror novel. Take Christine and The Howling, and combine then. Add Batman, and there you have it. Bound to be weird with this writer.

3.5 out of 5

The Dragon Lensman - David A. Kyle

The Dragon Lensman, is, of course, Worsel of Velantia. David Kyle apparently was a friend of Doc Smith's and had had discussions about possible future Lensman story directions, and eventually these were published.

Worsel, at the start, is investigating some strange leftover machine intelligences, to find out if they are sentient. At this stage you aer wondering if you are reading a Lensman book, as he enters into somewhat of a theological discussion with one of them.

Some afterwards though, a young lensman is in trouble in space, his ship is attacked, and the space axes come out while fighting a rearguard action.

Worsel helps out here, and there is more to come. Another young Lensman with advanced power in the elector-psychic realm appears, as does the existence of a cyborg Lensman.

Attacked by a bunch space robots, Kinnison and the fleet turn up to help, and there is a Boskonian influence.

A young Lensman is actually a girl, and she is the key to finding what may be their worst nightmare, a Black Lensman. The situation is crucial enough even Mentor makes an appearance.

What starts as a scientific expedition ends in another Lensman style adventure, so that is ok.

3 out of 5

Z-Lensman - David A. Kyle

Nadreck of Palain IV is the feature Second Stage Lensman in this novel. In the beginning it details how he helped an Arisian stop Gharlane of Eddore, and be invited to become Second Stage.

The rest of the book involves the machine entity A-22 found in Dragon Lensman, the young female Lensman Lalla Kallatra, and working out what do do with both A-22, and how to stop the Eichwoor from gaining a further hold.

A pair of Clouds are influential in this, both Storm Cloud and a new Lensman Cloud, with it all coming to a head at a ball, thanks to a little subterfuge by Worsel.

3 out of 5

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Mythos - Carol Lay

Although a Wonder Woman story, there are parts to play for others in the JLA, Flash, Green Lantern, Superman, et. al. WW finds an island of reverse Amazons, so to speak, and other oddities in the course of this adventure.

If the Bermuda Triangle is in a story, it is also pretty much a given that there will be some sort of mystery.

3 out of 5

These Our Actors - Dori Koogler

The title of this Buffy novel might be a giveaway that it has been written by a theatre nerd, and a student theatre nerd, at that. Or at least co-written, anyway, if you look at what it says about the writers in the back.

Willow is studying drama, and something odd is going on at the theatre. It is even more odd when she discovers Spike knew her drama lecturer, Addams, back when he was still breathing involuntarily.

3 out of 5

Exterminators - Christopher Golden

The culmination of the Justice League of America series finally brings us to the mega-teamup novel.
For some reason, ordinary people around the globe are being given super powers.

Finally, the JLA realise that there is an alien influence, and what is happening may be because of a very bad mistake they made in the past.

It takes a friendship made by The Flash and Green Lantern over a beer or two with one of the new metahumans to help resolve this crisis.

4 out of 5

Kingdom Come - Elliot S. Maggin

It was an incredibly pleasant surprise when I saw this novel in a bookshop, Kingdom Come and Elliot S. Maggin's return to superhero novels. This had to be good.

It was, no doubt about it. The comic was good, and so is this. An extra treat (apart from smashing up Booster), is the inclusion of some art pieces by Alex Ross throughout the book.

4.5 out of 5

Tiger Hunt - Robert Lynn Asprin

The A. A.s (Asprin and Abbey) have written a pretty short Catwoman novel. The title has a double meaning. A man named Tiger has got just a little bit too close to Catwoman's usual haunts. Given that he is into killing and using wild big cats for fun, that is just about guaranteed to make him her number one hate target.

Batman, as ever, is lurking in the shadows.

3 out of 5

Knightfall - Dennis O'Neill

Dennis O'Neil shows he is a more than able novelist. This book, again, I read before I got anywhere near most of the comics for the Knightfall storyline, and again, a fine retelling of this that is far more than just adequate. Not quite as epic or tragic in scope as No Man's Land, so Knightfall is quite a bit shoter.

Definitely worth the effort.

4 out of 5

No Man's Land - Greg Rucka

I had not read No Man's Land in comics when I read this, and was very impressed. At times a highly emotional story Rucka has performed admirably. A decent novelist in his own right, he has produced a Batman novel that is sometimes horrifying in its own right. It is also fairly lengthy for a hero novel, being closer to 500 pages, than 400, because of the epic it is covering, and not large print and lots of spacing, either.

Really good.

4.5 out of 5

Batman and Robin - M. J. Friedman

The worst of the Batman movie novelisations from the 1990s, as they try to shoehorn even more into the screenplay. Three villains and two sidekicks, no less, so hard to do any of this justice in a scant 200 pages. There are a few photos of the famous tight leather outfits with their anatomically pseudo-correct additions to keep you happy and amused though.

3 out of 5

Batman Returns - Craig Shaw Gardner

Another competent Batman novelisation, which again suffers from the original script itself. Trying to whack two villains in together in that short a space doesn't really do justice to one or the other, and in this case it is the Penguin that draws the short straw.

That being said, the rest of it is decent enough, and you can certainly get it very cheaply now.

3.5 out of 5

Batman - Craig Shaw Gardner

The novelisation of the big 1989 movie. It also includes a photo section in the middle, as lots of those sort of books of the time did. It is competently handled, even asking "Have you ever danced with the devil by the pale moonlight?"

Batman faces off with Jack Napier as he becomes the Joker, and discovers the links to his past. He also has to deal with the prying of Vicki Vale.

3.5 out of 5

Blood and Fog - Nancy Holder

This one is pretty full on. Quite a bit more of the horror feel about this. Jack the Ripper is actually a Sidhe half-breed, son of a Tuatha de Danan and a Fohmoire. Jack himself is crazy, and wants to be a god. Spike has run into him before, and seen a Slayer die, when Jack was involved. There are more flashbacks here to the 'bad' vampire quartet roaming around London.

All sorts of crazy stuff happens in a battle at the end where Buffy goes all blind monk warrior.

A few good quips, too :-

..."it was a tall, thin man, bluish white, with blond hair and blue yes.
"Look. It's Elric," Buffy quipped, then looked at Tara's puzzled expression and said, "Xander loved those books in high school."


"...row upon row of Tuathan warriors yodeled high and shrill, a cross between Xena and something scary, fierece, and deadly--okay, like Xena--..."

3.5 out of 5

Monday, November 27, 2006

The Bloody Red Baron - Kim Newman

Time has moved on in the Anno Dracula world, and a World War has started. Dracula, fiend that he is, is fighting for Germany. At least by proxy, anyway, as shapeshifting vampires like the Red Baron really don't need too much in the way of planes.

Edwin Winthrop is the protagonist here, and the new agent must lead the charge to stop The Bloody Red Baron and friends. G-8 and mates would be very handy, here.

Others must try and counter the pen of the vampire Poe, also working for Germany.

4 out of 5

The Quorum - Kim Newman

Horror that just not keep your interested over the years of the story. A bit of perversion here or there, and that is about it.

The book is also used as a device to look at London society through a few decades. That part of it was not particularly interesting.

1 out of 5

Anno Dracula - Kim Newman

An excellent book. Kim Newman puts his own spin on a turn around a Wold Newton style universe. He also has a bunch of sneaky 'now who was that' style cameos, a la John Myers Myers' Silverlock.

Dracula has found another way to be in charge in England, by marrying in to the royal family. To prevent problems, he has had the Great Detective thrown in a prison camp.

So when a serial killed called Silver Knife is killing vampire whores, it falls to the Diogenes Club to investigate. Vampires heal normal wounds, but not silver. The investigation uncovers a lot more than just a chain of killings.

5 out of 5

'Salem's Lot - Stephen King

A particularly creepy vampire tale. My favorite King by far, I think. The protagonist goes back to a crappy small yank town that he came from, and it pretty much all goes downhill from there. He is not the only other arrival. The problem is that the other one is not alive. The scene at the window is particularly memorable, especially for kids.

4.5 out of 5

Escape To Witch Mountain - Alexander Key

Fun persecuted superhumans on the run story. Two kids, a boy and a girl, are most definitely more than human, and when people find out about that, they usually don't want you roaming around free. So they bolt, looking for a safe haven, and have the usual sort of adventures on the way. Not too bad, will be a bit dated-American now.

3.5 out of 5

Polar City Blues - Katherine Kerr

A classic detective story, with telepathic baseballers. Highly enjoyable tale. A woman is good at the investigating stuff. Her boyfriend has a secret.

An old ex-friend has information she needs, so should she mend fences? Politics, money and murder, with a wise old aunt type.

4 out of 5

Polar City Nightmare - Katherine Kerr

Not quite up to the standards of the first novel, but it has interplanetary sports leagues. That can't be bad. The usual suspects from the first novel pretty much return. A detective, her baseball playing boyfriend, who has the dirty secret of being a telepath, her mentor, another smart operative.

3.5 out of 5

Midgard's Militia - Steve Jordan

Highly enjoyable superhero prose. If all your superheroes die in space fighting an alien menace, what do you do with the supervillains?

If John Varley's Those Who Walk In Darkness is The Shield, then this a lot lighter in tone than that, but with some similar themes, plus alien monsters.

The only heroes left include a now grown up Bucky sidekick type, for one, a cop, and a DocBatSavage.

3.5 out of 5

Dragon's Fists - Jim Dennis

Some good kung fu action. However, here, Dragon is less of a mystery figure, but more of a bored dilettante that suddenly became unbored when he tried to nick an artifact from a guru, who, of course, then made him look silly. Quite brutal. Definitely not one for the women in refrigerators crowd, although, of course, it was written in the early 70s. Also, hilariously, there is an almost-Bruce Lee on the cover, presumably meant to be the hereo. Dragon is white, his enemy in this is Swiss, his best friend is black, and the Japanese woman who he is trying to rescue in the novel is presumably meant to be the underwear clas unconscious white woman on the front?

Flashbacks abound, obviously meant to be a setup for further books. They were not quite sure where to take it - kick arse comic book action, world weary, nihilistic action junkie, etc. Hence, no more books. It certainly didn't deserve it.

One of those 170 pages stretched double spaced types. too.

1.5 out of 5

Reckonings - Carla Jablonski

Basically, this book boils down to
1) Don't change into a cat until you know what you are doing
2) Don't take advice from random leathergirl witches, if it involves body alteration
3) Teenage logic will work with the king of fairyland
4) Be sympathetic to god types with bloody annoying wives

It all ends well for now for teenage uber-magician, Tim Hunter, and his girlfriend, who seem a lot more concerned for each other than your average 13 year old types.

3 out of 5

The Road To Mars - Eric Idle

Not very interesting sf, and mostly not at all funny comedy. Therefore, this book is a waste of time. Unless it is aiming to be something else entirely, and I completely missed that in the middle of Red Dwarf ultra-lite, and other elements like that, to notice. For something like that though, you would be much better turning to Ben Elton and books like Stark.

1.5 out of 5

The Iron Man - Ted Hughes

A kid's story, with a large robot monster and an alien invader. What is not to like? Doesn't insult the intelligence of the child, either. The Iron Giant turns from super villain, when laying waste to places, to super hero, when he saves the area from a giant fire breathing space monster, and perhaps gains a friend.

3.5 out of 5

Arthur War Lord - Dafydd ab Hugh

So-called terrorists, a time travel experiment, guess what happens? Yep, one guy goes back, gets chased by another 'good' guy, and helps Merlin out with some of his 20th century science/engineering skills, among other things.

The actual story gets even more complicated, as back in the present time, who is actually a terrorist or bad guy, or not, is a very murky thing to have to decide.

3.5 out of 5

Battlefield Earth - L. Ron Hubbard

This is so bad it is laughable. I mean, this is Ed Wood Plan 9 from Outer Space bad. The plot has holes you could drive either a Vogon Constructor fleet through, or perhaps even one of the Galactic Patrol's anti-matter planet weapons. To be avoided at all costs. Just rubbish. You are far better off with a novelisation of the V tv series, or something, for this sort of story.

0.5 out of 5

Floating Worlds - Cecilia Holland

Rather disappointing dragging out of the affair, after a promising start. In amidst warring planets, a woman is attempting some diplomacy. As such, she gets dragged into an alien culture, its social mores, problems, treatment of the genders and all those other issues.

The main character, Paula, has to be strong to survive.

2 out of 5

Mythago Wood - Robert Holdstock

The only good thing about this book was the title. A tedious creeping fantasy. A pity the Myth part didn't refer to an Asprin comedy. The fantasy wasn't too interesting, and it didn't go far enough in the Lovecraftian direction for anything else. Too roundabout for me, I think, even though it certainly sounded like something I would enjoy.

1 out of 5

The Journals of Rupert Giles - Nancy Holder

Another Buffy book that adapts television episodes, which, it appears, come out to around sixty pages each, give or take.

Here, wrapped up in some entries in Giles' journals, are three stories of Buffy on her birthday. At 18, Giles betrays her to the Watchers' Council, undergoing a hellish test. At nineteen, and old dodgy acquaintance turns Giles hellish, and at twenty, it is a hellgod that is after them.

3 out of 5

Ace of the White Death - Robert J. Hogan

This book is a lot of fun. A french agent has made a terrible discovery about a new German weapon, and G-8 is ordered to go and find out what it is.

He does, and ends up having to sneak back into Germany through No Man's Land to find out what is up. What follows is almost a Black Adder style comedy of capture, jail, running around it mines, etc.

It gets more serious when G-8 desperately needs to escape to avoid a firing squad, and get news back to the Allies about the undetectable new 'White Death' weapon.

Bull and Nippy fly in, and we repeat some of the earlier events, but with shooting, dead people and dogfights.

4 out of 5

Purple Aces - Robert J. Hogan

A pilot arrives, dying, and a strange purple stain spreads on his face, with an Ace of Spades.

Two other pilots, twins, exhibit bizarre behaviour changes.

When G-8 investigates, there is much dogfighting. The trail leads him to a castle in a dungeon, through a swamp, past a cemetery, no less, and he counters the perfidious influence of Herr Doktor Krueger, and a scientist named Zwantag.

Krueger had been using Zwantag's work on behaviour modification via his purple substance to look at making Allied pilots attack their own.

3 out of 5

The Bat Staffel - Robert J. Hogan

Imagine if Biggles was American. Ok, well, not quite that cheesy, but certainly in the 'hey chaps, let's go blow the shit out of some jerries', world war one style.

Replace the british slang with American, and there you go. G-8 is a combination of Biggles and James Bond, and a master of disguise.

The opening scene could be from a Bond movie, he infiltrates a German science facility to get to a scientist to find out what he is working on, and how to stop it. Giant bat monsters with disintegration breath, it seems, even if it is mechanical.

After an escape worthy of Dr Nikola, he gets a hand from two Spad pilots that he teams up with later, one a magician, one a half-back, in the American football sense.

The evil plot must be stopped, to stop many Frenchies being disintegrated! Top notch fun, with complete with an acerbic butler type, so a little tongue in cheek, at times, as well.

4 out of 5

House of Walking Corpses - Robert J. Hogan

The Key
The Doctor
The Bishop

Six supposedly unindentifiable men, at least after The Doctor finishes removing their fingerprints, in this book.

Here we have a Haitian zombie type plot, but with Mayan Indians, and a wealthy American salad err... family, the Waldorfs, involved.

After a senior Waldorf is found dead with a strange black mark on his throat, The Secret Six get involved.

There is of course a good looking daughter for King to flirt with, who happens to be a capable pilot.

Off they go to the Yucatan to find out what is going on, after they realise Waldorf the senior is not dead, but under the influence of either Black Magic, or something else no-one knows about.

Captures, brushes with human sacrifice, violence, and other fun and games with artificial bat monsters ensue.

The rotter behind it all, of course, is one of the salads.

2.5 out of 5

On Earth As It Is In Hell - Brian Hodge

This book is considerably longer, and perhaps the better for it, with room for more characters. It is much longer than the two preceding Golden works, and does not have the dozens of illustrations those had, either, so a story with some more depth and background.

While the other books have been a little more action oriented, this is more introspective and melancholy. Given that it literally depicts a battle between the forces of heaven and hell, with the BPRD caught in between. In clear and present detail you see the effects of their jobs and fights upon their own psyches, as well as the victims.

This is based around the struggle for The Masada Scroll. This document was written by Jesus as a septuagenarian or thereabouts, shortly before a certain Roman officer had a landscaping party at the Masada fortress, forcing a mass suicide.

It comes to light in the mid 1900s, and is buried in the Vatican. Found again, the Opus Angelorum faction send seraphim to destroy it, while the demon Moloch is plotting to other ends.

Hellboy is swallowed by Leviathin, a rookie psychometric has to read a demon after Liz battles angels, and the veteran field team end up in Tartarus.

Pretty hardcore. Not a lot of light hearted wisecracks and jokes to be found here, just stressed out black humor and nasty choices.

Never read anything else by Brian Hodge, but certainly worth looking him up now, I think.

4 out of 5

Shaman's Crossing - Robin Hobb

A by the numbers fantasy that doesn't really grab you.

Much the same as Tad Williams' latest effort.
This could just be your everyday book about a soldier with very few changes. In fact, that would probably be an improvement. A terrible disappointment after the wonderful Farseer series, indeed. Hope she can come up with another series after this that is more interesting.

1 out of 5

Urshurak - Gregory Hildrebrandt

Pretty enjoyable standard sort of fantasy novel, with some characters that actually seemed to be people.

3 out of 5

The Summer Country - James Hetley

Very much to the supernatural romance end of the spectrum, complete with knights in flanno. Not cheesy though, think Amber style skullduggery throughout, with magic, not platonic reality warping superpowers. It is bearable inasmuch as it is not of the 'so girly your teeth will rot' style, by any stretch of the imagination. A little of the horror thriller, almost, at times.

3 out of 5

Dune - Frank Herbert

One of the all time great sf novels. The story of a boy who becomes a man, while both the women around him try to manipulate him, and the political and economic powers try to do away with him.

Cleverly manipulating religion on Arrakis, and using his own gifts from being the end of a long breeding program to produce a superhuman, Paul Atreides refuses to be cowed, and takes the fight to his enemies, changing the galaxy forever.

5 out of 5

House Corrino - Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson

Interesting backstory, but Herbert the younger is no Herbert, by any stretch of the imagination. Books that you only want to buy cheap. However, if you are interested in the history of, surprisingly enough, House Corrino, and how that relates to the story of the Dune Universe as a whole, then you will probably want to read it.

3 out of 5

House Harkonnen - Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson

This isn't too bad. Anderson is still a fairly pedestrian writer, but
some insight into the Bene Gesserit manipulations and body control, and what happened to the Baron Harkonnen mean this volume is a bit better than some of the others.

Do not try and manipulate those who have been master manipulators
for thousands of years. Raping and torturing them is not a good idea,
either, as the Baron finds out to his eternal cost.

3.5 out of 5

The Battle of Corrin - Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson

A little bit of an improvement on the last book in this series. I suppose some people may like these more than the denser Frank Herbert works. Maybe someone from Dimension X, or a Martian algae-beast. Again, interesting for the details, but that is probably about that, as we finally see explained what actually happened here. Corrin itself is of course referenced in the main series many times.

3 out of 5

The Road To Dune - Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson

The introduction and excerpts from Dune and Dune Messiah were fascinating, as was the process of the first book actually being published, but only serially to start with! Again, the younger generation's works I can take or leave. However, they do explain how
they were working from a ton of material that Frank left, and how they went through it, scanned it so they could search it, etc. If you don't like any of the other 'new' sequels, this one is certainly worth checking out.

It also includes a 'proto' Dune novel, much shorter, that Herbert shelved and turned into his masterpiece.

Certainly worth a look.

3.5 out of 5

The Number of the Beast - Robert A. Heinlein

Marginally better than Friday. Although that is not saying a lot. I bought this at a second hand bookshop discovered while camping by the beach as a teenager. Luckily, there were plenty of other distractions of various types, as if this was the only entertainment things would have been very bad indeed on that holiday.

1.5 out of 5

Job : a Comedy of Justice - Robert A. Heinlein

More Heinlein drek from the era of his that you Just Should Not Read. This book, however, does have one or two amusing bits in there, but not enough overall to save it, or make it worthwhile, I think. Travelling around, bits about god, all that sort of thing. Not sure if it is supposed to be Twainish, or what.

1.5 out of 5

To Stalk a Specter - Simon Hawke

Where Captured by the Engines is a horror novel, this is a thriller, as Batman plays Bat and Mouse with an assassin, or more like big ugly nasty rat than mouse.

Specter is an international assassin of spectacular success. No one can catch him. He is hired to deal with an informer who is a key witness at trial to put away a South American crimelord.

The first part of a book deal with some police and FBI politics, and recaps Batman Year One.

The rest is the law enforcement types desperately trying to find this man Specter. Batman kidnaps the witness to keep her safe in the Batcave, and calls for help from people he has saved in the past, taxi drivers, an Asian citizen vigilante group, his sensei, and others.

This allows the good guys to catch a break.

Specter, however, as well as blowing people up to cause chaos is hunting Batman.

This ends in a confrontation, and the female witness is involved.

3 out of 5

Dead As a Doornail - Charlaine Harris

Lightweight, disposable, but enjoyable almost mystery about a telepathic waitress with a taste for highly exotic boys. Definitely something you can read while doing two other things at the same time. The female protagonist comes across as a pretty normal woman, stuck in a waitress job at a garden variety American standard bar/burger joint, that is quite recognisable.

3 out of 5

The Gathering - Traci Harding

I could take one of these books. Three is just going way too far for this super immortal magic girl and her super immortal magic friends and family. I read this before I had ever heard or seen of the Dragonball Z stuff, but this fits right in with that, but aimed at girls. A book that was really only skimmed.

1.5 out of 5

The Dark Age - Traci Harding

Starts off ok, then ends as too much of a romance novel, not enough the adventure. I suppose if you get in trouble in England, you should avoid all fairy rings, standing stones, old elf circles, ley lines, or other things like that, and break out a tent, or sleep in your car. Then you don't have to teach low level martial arts to sweaty men at arms!

2 out of 5

An Echo In Time - Traci Harding

The chances you will like these books if you are male are a lot lower than the reverse, I believe.

Modern girl on a power trip? I suppose you could call these books an adolescent female power fantasy, or even an adolescent female romance power fantasy, in the sense that superheroes are termed the same thing as far as adolescent males go.

1.5 out of 5

Judas Unchained - Peter F. Hamilton

Ok, he's done it again. Another great book. Taking the creepy politico-mystery from the first book, and mutating through that to an out and out action thriller by the end. Just great fun. Put Mr. Hamilton down as still on the list of 'will read anything he writes'. Highly recommended. Really, really, long, and could be used as a weapon, in hardback! :)

4.5 out of 5

Incubus Dreams - Laurell K. Hamilton

If she wants to write what someone on a forum I saw somewhere called Fangfuckers, that is fine.

Don't dress them up as monster hunting books though, and call a spade a spade, and throw in the erotica word. Will that hurt sales that badly? If she put out a line of books purely focused on women shagging monsters, can't imagine she wouldn't do really well with it, as she seems to have some talent in that area.

The plot here is of the thin crust variety, no doubt about it. Personally, in a ghost busting or monster hunting book, I want some stuff to happen.

2 out of 5

The Comet Kings - Edmond Hamilton

Someone is destroying commercial ships, and it is possible it is just meteor problems, until checked out, then, it seems, there is no evidence of ships or meteors. Untold thousands of dollars of damage are caused!

When a woman Captain Future is fond of goes missing, the Planet Patrol call him in. He and the Futuremen end up in a desperate quest, first tracking down, then imprisoned on the planet of the Cometae.

Captain Future leads a prisoner revolt Conan would have been happy to be in the middle of, in true crazed sword-wielding maniac style.

Extra-dimensional cthulhoid energy beings called the Allus are a tad tricky to deal with, you could say, even more so when it seems Joan has joined them.

Desperate measures of transmogrification are needed. This one is really wild.

4 out of 5

The Face of the Deep - Edmond Hamilton

A short-staffed Planet Patrol asks Captain Future to help out on a prison ship that contains a wretched hive of scum and villainry.

We all know how those work out. Mutiny and shipwreck on a planetoid that will explode in weeks. They basically have to build a ship from scratch, deal with prisoners to get their co-operator, the old volcano, and hostile telepathic sentient cacti.

Not too easy.

2.5 out of 5

Inheritance - Devin Grayson

I read this last night. It is definitely good. They should let Ms Grayson do some more. I even laughed out loud at some bits. She went over some backstory I didn't know about. Batman is on the cover, and appears, but it is not a Batman story, so to speak, basically more like this :-

Nightwing-Arsenal-Green Arrow-Aqualad

with appearances by Batman and Aquaman that are more cameos, or referenced, rarely from a protagonist point of view.

Humor, action, psychology, the occasional fan reference like a Suicide Squad line.

She clearly has a Nightwing thing, unsurprisingly, using Green Arrow as a sly hot boy joke reference, at times, which is quite amusing.

4 out of 5

The Blackmail Ring - Maxwell Grant

This book opens slightly differently. The Shadow is at his desk, researching a situation, girasol ring flickering as usual.

A complex web of men involved in corporate affairs are involved in deception and blackmail, ending in murder, where necessary.

The Shadow decides to learn what is going on, with the help of Mann and Vincent. Harry 'professional captive' Vincent figures in the final showdown, which could be out of a G-8 story, and takes a bulllet in the shoulder.

The Shadow has made sure many of the bad guys don't consume any more oxygen.

3 out of 5

The Crime Cult - Maxwell Grant

A strangler is a work, along with a couple of mobsters named Flash and Dip. A little on the dull side, this adventure.

The Cult in question have a thing for Kali and a bit of Thug methodology.

Plenty of agents running around, Burke, Burbank, Rutledge, Marsland, and poor Harry Vincent gets knocked out and captured.

2.5 out of 5

Double Z - Maxwell Grant

A mystery that hooks you right from the start. A worried man has an unexpected visitor, a newspaper columnist with a pseudonym, The White Owl. The worried man is a Judge in hiding.

He had been threated by a murdered named Double Z, when he wouldn't do what he wanted, and went on the run instead.

The journalist tracked him down, and calls his newspaper with a breaking story, the newsman on the other end hears shots!

Time for a new Wise Owl.

A lot of work for the Shadow's agents in this one, so much so he recruits another, Rutledge Mann.

Some very nervy work by Cliff and Harry lead The Shadow to stop Double Z's Chinese henchman, Loy Rook.

With the estimable Joe Cardona's help, The Shadow manages to set up a confrontation with the man he knows is Double Z. A strangler is a work, along with a couple of mobsters named Flash and Dip. A little on the dull side, this adventure.

The Cult in question have a thing for Kali and a bit of Thug methodology.

Plenty of agents running around, Burke, Burbank, Rutledge, Marsland, and poor Harry Vincent gets knocked out and captured.

4 out of 5

Hands In the Dark - Maxwell Grant

A racketeering mystery at the heart of this. Who is forcing multiple
industries into price fixing and paying protection? The latest target
appears to be the Theatre Industry, and it so happens Lamont Cranston has investments here.

The Shadow is also creeping around, attempting to find out what is happening, by both guild and action.

To this end, he recruits an agent, Cliff Marsland, a man just out of
Sing Sing for what is probably a crime he was not guilty of. Using his
charm, he befriends Killer Durgen's moll, and gains valuable

Cranston is also busy investigating, and towards the end, bullets
start flying, as the muscle for the racketeers get involved, along with
Durgen, The Shadow and Marsland.

The very last part is even more frantic. All in all, an excellent adventure.

3 out of 5

Mobsmen On the Spot - Maxwell Grant

A racketeering mystery at the heart of this. Who is forcing multiple
industries into price fixing and paying protection? The latest target
appears to be the Theatre Industry, and it so happens Lamont Cranston has investments here.

The Shadow is also creeping around, attempting to find out what is happening, by both guild and action.

To this end, he recruits an agent, Cliff Marsland, a man just out of
Sing Sing for what is probably a crime he was not guilty of. Using his
charm, he befriends Killer Durgen's moll, and gains valuable

Cranston is also busy investigating, and towards the end, bullets
start flying, as the muscle for the racketeers get involved, along with
Durgen, The Shadow and Marsland.

The very last part is even more frantic. All in all, an excellent adventure.

4 out of 5

The Black Master - Maxwell Grant

In the beginning, terrorism has hit New York. Lots of stuff and people get blown up.

Big news and a hunt for those responsible ensues. It is not that simple, as The Black Master is at the heart of it. The Shadow ends up working with a foreign criminologists to try and solve the case.

Habitually Hammered Harry falls victim to the Black Master's mental powers, which even The Shadow has trouble resisting.

The Black Master manages to imprison The Shadow, after duping Detective Cardona to be at the wrong location, rather than assisting The Shadow, so that was new. Luckily he still has a trick up his sleeve.

The Black Master reveals he was blowing stuff up to pin the blame on some old enemies (or people he didn't like), to get them executed.

He is also nutty enough to try blowing himself up along with The Shadow.

3 out of 5

Saturday, November 25, 2006

The Silent Seven - Maxwell Grant

Plenty of action here. A secret society of super villains, and there are not a secret six of them, but a Silent Seven! A pleasant change. A couple of murders, a death trapped drawer, and The Shadow in the frame.

Detective Joe Cardona confronts The Shadow, who convinces him there are other forces at work here. The two men use their own respective methods to uncover the mystery men.

Harry Vincent, human bondage dummy, is captured again, while working for The Shadow.

A bloody confrontation ensues, between the police and the Seven, with The Shadow assisting as he does. There are several casualties.

4 out of 5

The Death Tower - Maxwell Grant

A little slow, at times, involving a curse purple sapphire to begin with. The majority of the first half of the book is from the point of view of a new agent of The Shadow, Clyde Burke, and him learning what is going on and who actually has hired him to be a newspaper clipping service.

The antagonist is a particularly nasty piece of work, a Doctor Palermo that likes to collect brains, and from subjects that have neglected to pass away first.

Palermo finally makes a mistake, sending his girlfriend to try and cloud The Shadow's mind, in his George Clarendon identity. Not a good plan, as she is turned.

Harry Vincent appears later, and again manages to get himself captured!

There is quite a bit of point of view action involving the Shadow in the last quarter of the book, he beards the villain in his lair.

Palermo finally makes a mistake. A crooked detective is involved, and a shadowy organisation known as The Silent Seven is introduced.

The game is up for him, then, as even though he captures Vincent, who has been dressed as The Shadow, he reckons without The Shadow's autogiro, and explosive entrance through his window many floors up, to effect a rescue.

Harsh justice for Palermo, given his crimes. He is given the option of confession and suicide, or letting The Shadow shoot him. He chooses the former, stalling for time as The Shadow fires a warning shot.

Purely by happenstance, The Shadow kills Palermo's Chinese bronze dwarf henchman, and has already dealt with his Arab assistant, Hassan. Startled, however, Palermo attacks, and a struggle ensues.

Given how high up they are, Palermo ends with a severe case of defenestration, and with Burbank's assistance again, The Shadow melts into the night.

3.5 out of 5

Gangdom's Doom - Maxwell Grant

Batman stole the Shadow's idea here, in War Games. Both times, this sort of plot ended up having a serious cost. The Shadow loses an agent at the beginning of this story, however. He is not pleased.

The Shadow decides to clean up Chicago's crime scene, moving out of New York. Masquerading as a ferocious gunman, he manipulates various mob gunment and bosses into working against each other, quite cleverly.

Harry Vincent, torture dummy, gets captured again. The extreme no-goodnik, Steve Cronin, also turns up again, working for the Chicago kingpin. Scratch one enemy of The Shadow along with one ally.

A lot more tension here, and a faster pace throughout.

4 out of 5

The Red Menace - Maxwell Grant

Some old friends return, and an old acquaintance from Russia, in Prince Zukor. Along with Bruce Duncan, the recipient of some jewels in an earlier book from the aforementioned czarist. Harry Vincent encounters an of course conflicted babe in that not very salubrious den of iniquity, The Pink Rat.

There is a game of plot and counter-plot between The Shadow and the Red Envoy, with Duncan, Vincent, and Vic Marquette caught in the middle. A nasty sojourn on Death Islands awaits a couple of these worthies, with the mysterious Professor Whitburn.

This one definitely keeps you guessing, until the end.

3.5 out of 5

The Shadow Laughs - Maxwell Grant

Interesting start with The Shadow and Cranston and an offer he couldn't refuse. Slower in the middle, and yet again Harry gets himself in a death trap and won't talk. The Shadow is also sneakier than the again very sneaky Chinese bad guy.

A lot of Shadow action at the end that improves things, with a fight in some tunnels, and guns abounding, as the Shadow deals with his major enemy, Isaac Coffran.

3.5 out of 5

Eyes of the Shadow - Maxwell Grant

Not as good as the first, as a little slow in the middle, however, the start is interesting, sinister bad, guy, death trap, and the Shadow fights an ape-man at the end, on a ledge. An interesting SF note is that The Shadow uses television, in 1931, so watch some of his assistants, to improve on his 'portable wireless set'.

We also get to see him in his Lamont Cranston identity and see that it is pretty definitely him.

3.5 out of 5

The Living Shadow - Maxwell Grant

A fabulous, atmospheric opening to this book, when The Shadow appears and rescues the despondent Harry Vincent and gives him a new purposes. Multiple threads run throughout, from the points of view of both the protagonists, and the antagonists. There is also a Shadow point of view, but only observational. Throw in a death trap, an excellent car chase, a fun punchup in a lunch wagon, of all places, and a not so obvious denoument, and this is a very pleasing experience.

4 out of 5

Last Sons - Alan Grant

This is first and foremost a Lobo story. So, not a book for the little kids. Much slaughtering of unsavory types and innocent planetary populations ensues (the latter not by Lobo, but by what turns out to be the remnants of the Coluan computer tyrants). If that is more your thing, you will like it a bit more. The Manhunter guest stars, so to speak, and Superman is really only a cameo participant, by and large. Some deliberate cheesy character naming - Taran Quarantino, as a bounty hunter's pimp, basically, and K'Baal the dark magician bounty hunter.

2.5 out of 5

The Stone King - Alan Grant

One of the weaker novels in the JLA cycle. There are other Batman novels you can get before this one, unless you are getting this whole series. An enjoyable little add-in at the end though.

3 out of 5

Challengers of the Unknown - Ron Goulart

This is a very jocose versio of the Challengers. Telling the best jokes, or making the best wisecracks or sarky remarks seems to worry them more than a band of rejuvenated nazis, double agents or corrupt South American generals and politicians.

An alien swamp monster does worry them a little, however.

3 out of 5

On Alien Wings - Ron Goulart

More of Vampirella causing problems for Chaos Cults. One problem with these is they are so sort, probably due to being quickly whacked together from other stories, so not a lot of character time. This is more Pendragon's point of view, than anything. Faustisan Dr. Moreau twist at the end.

3 out of 5

Bloodstalk - Ron Goulart

Not a great writer - one of the lines early in the novel may have been a sly one though, the sort that could be in one of those 'worst possible' competitions. Atmospheric though, getting the Vampi vibe right - derelict, exceedingly creepy carnies, warlock shrinks, demon cults, dead half wit sons, etc. Adam Van Helsing and Pendragon seem right, too.

3 out of 5

Monster Island - Christopher Golden

Someone is bumping off hybrid demons in Sunnydale. Buffy tries to find out why, and comes across mention of something called The Coalition For Purity.

Yep, nazi type demons. Attacking in Sunnydale, she learns of their plans to attack Los Angeles as well, so she takes some of the gang to help Angel.

It turns out there is a Monster Island off LA, a retreat for demons that mean no harm, and General Axtius, a Brachen demon, intends wiping them out. The other twist is that he is Doyle's father.

Buffy and Angel must convince Monster Island to let them help, and set up a defense.

Much blood of various colors is spilled and killing of various demons, until an Old One enters the fray.

A fun bit is when Gunn is joining out with his crew, and a secret password is "Sweet Christmas". A saying used by someone they all used to look up to in the neighbourhood...

3.5 out of 5

The Bones of Giants - Christopher Golden

This is a significant improvement. Mignola even states in the introduction, 'Chris is a better writer now than he was 4 years ago'. This would certainly seem to be the case. Perhaps a better editor, too. Gone are the dumbed down kindergarten sentences. The characters are handled better.

Oh yeah, and Hellboy becomes HellThor. That is pretty groovy. Mjolnir, Frost Giants, dwarves, and lots of running around in Sweden, which is certainly a pleasant change of setting.

If you were put off by The Lost Army, don't be - this book is considerably better.

3.5 out of 5

The Lost Army - Christopher Golden

A bit on the flat side. A lot of short, stilted, sentences at times, that read like it has been dumbed down for 5 year olds to read. Perhaps it had been butchered down to size by editor and/or writer to fit in plenty of Mignola artwork, and for a novel, there is plenty.

Avoid anyone in the Middle East area called Hazred, and don't go on away team missions with Hellboy.

Evil sorcerers, giant spiders, jackal-men amulets, and 50,000 desert zombies. Even if you are a super-competent MI5 field agent, or allied soldier you are in for a world of hurt in this sort of scenario.

2 out of 5

Prophecies - Christopher Golden

Having the usual problems juggling uni and slayage, Buffy comes across some odd vampires on patrol. Tattoos of bats on their faces, they seem to drain energy, work together, and run away.

With some research help they discover the existence of a bat god named Camazotz, who uses these special vampires, called Kazchiquels, as servants.

Trying to discover what is happening, Willow summons Lucy Hanover, the ghost of a slayer, who brings with her The Prophet - when she possesses Buffy, she is sucked into what seems to be the futre, is several years older, and is in prison.

A girl is thrown into a cell with her, and tells her Faith has just been captured, as well, so with no Slayers free, the new girl, August, needs to kill Buffy to activate a new Slayer to stop Camazotz's rule spreading.

3 out of 5

Original Sins - Christopher Golden

In the middle of the raging, multi-front conflict, Oz realises, as a half-wolf, he smells Angel. Buffy and her old friends head there to find out what is going on, and find a trap, and Camazotz.

The rest of the Council teams are head pressed, even using the young Slayer Anna and Wesley as relief troops, and Buffy must face Giles alone so the others can go back and try and save some of their people.

After this, Buffy and Willow realise Buffy needs to go back to her own time to the right moment where she makes the fatal mistake and allows this future to happen.

Working this out, with the help of Lucy Hanover, she comes back, but again a desperate battle when her, the Scoobies and Camazotz and his Kakchiquel must be fought at the harbour.

3.5 out of 5

The Dark Times - Christopher Golden

The young slayer, August, refuses to stop fighting until either she, or Buffy, is dead, so another Slayer will rise to continue fighting.

She loses, and Buffy uses her body as a distraction to break out of her cell next time they come to feed her.

She is horrified by what is out there, but manages to contact the Council, who tell her they will send an extraction team.

It is a grown up version of her friends, but the bad news is what happened to Giles.

In her own time, Willow realises the Prophet has taken over Buffy's body, and that there is little they can do to stop her.

3.5 out of 5

King of the Dead - Christopher Golden

n the future California, Spike is not happy that Giles separated him and Drusilla, given Drusilla became a flaming torch, courtesy of Buffy and her extraction team.

Confronting Giles, he gets the defenestration treatment, and hence goes to give the Council information. Bad move for him, as they torture information out of him, and Xander dusts him in revenge for the death of Anya.

The Council, prepared with this intel, decides to move on Giles and his vampires.

3.5 out of 5

The Snake - John Godey

Ordinary monster in the city tale. One of those cheap supermarket 50c books.

2 out of 5

Hotter Blood - Mick Garris

Not as good as the first collection.

3 out of 5

Hot Blood - Jeff Gelb

Not bad, not outstanding. Don't look here for porn though, it is what it says. Dark tales of vampirism and other associated themes, that happen to have erotic elements, to whichever degree, and doesn't mean that it is sexy, or nice, or anything like that necessarily, either. Horror is supposed to be nasty, some of the time.

3 out of 5

Too Many Magicians - Randall Garrett

A magic detective, a nice premise and style. Definitely enjoyable.

3.5 out of 5

Backstage Lensman - Randall Garrett

Randall Garrett has written a Lensman, story and changed the names for satirical reasons. A few examples should give you the idea, as he adds
something extra to a Doc Smithian line or paragraph, to push the story into farce.

About the Lens: "...thus it is both pretty and useful."

When a bunch of Ginnison's Valerians are doing the Space Axe Mambo:

"Heads fell; arms were lopped off; gallons of gore bled all over the expensive carpetry."

Throw in something Hitch-hiker's like :

"Like the Bergenholm, the negasphere can never really make up its mind about gravity."

and there you have it.

Quite amusing.

3.5 out of 5

Good Omens - Neil Gaiman

One of the funniest starts to book, ever. That is a good enough reason to read it. As far as I am concerned, this is Gaiman's best prose work, I suppose that fact that he had such talented help on the comedy front might discount that somewhat, if you do not know who actually did what. Anyway, this is often hilarious.

4 out of 5

The Dogs of War - Frederick Forsyth

People with no reason to worry about continued living can make very bad opponents, as those who go up against Cat, the protagonist in this mercenary tale, discover.

Cat is tasked with putting together a mercenary operation in the pursuit of what? Lots and lots and lots of wealth, as it turns out.

4.5 out of 5

Ultimate Warriors - Jaide Fox

Erotica, porn, call it what you like, this is pretty much very well towards that end of the genre. A bit on the softer side, though, so more erotica than porn, if you want to be technical, most definitely. It is also an at times amusing superhero satire, and at others straight superhero tales.

An example of the former is the tryout for new heroes joining a superhero group has a decidedly important sexual component.

An example of the latter is when a female superhero must come to terms with an incubus type demon, and realise they can work together to stop a common problem. Not to mention do a bit of shagging.

Unique : Ultimate Warriors - Jaide Fox
Ultimate Warriors : 1 Demon Huntress - Jaide Fox
Ultimate Warriors : 2 With Great Power - Brenna Lyons
Ultimate Warriors : 3 Heroes Incorporated - Joy Nash
Ultimate Warriors : 4 Silk - Michelle M. Pillow

A girl's demon doing dreams lead her to the therapist Dr. Savage and some hybrid realisations.

2.5 out of 5

A hero on thje job has a substantial insubstantial relationship.

3 out of 5

A raunchy Justice League spoof as they try and recruit the previously unknown daughter of a deceased hero.

3 out of 5

Her father's formula is the cause of a conflict between and young superhuman and some others.

2.5 out of 5

2.5 out of 5

Twice Shy - Dick Francis

Interesting one that I read to start with, revolving around a computer prediction program. Little did I know at the time about what reading about computer programs to predict horse racing would lead to. Definitely a good yarn, this one, certainly would recommend it to others that like this sort of story.

3 out of 5

Outland - Alan Dean Foster

Pretty decent. In this case, the book is probably better, and makes slightly more sense than the movie.

3.5 out of 5

Splinter of the Mind's Eye - Alan Dean Foster

A fairly decent story, with your expected heroes stuck on a squalid, muddy planet, with quite a few problems. Vader, of course, is hovering. A bit darker than the adventure stories of the 3 movie books. You learn that there is more than one trick that the funky lightsabre device can perform, amidst all the squalid violence and hunting for mind altering artifacts.

3.5 out of 5

The Last Starfighter - Alan Dean Foster

A fun space adventure, aimed at the younger crowd, but with enough depth (and videogames) to prevent it sinking.

3.5 out of 5

A Year In The Linear City - Paul Di Filippo

Any transport is slow, in this city. Or, what happens when it takes
years to travel around the city you live in? Quite interesting, but
short. The main character is actually a SF writer. The other odd thing
thrown in, is that there is an actual avatar of Death, so something you
don't want to see. With a city that is millions and millions of blocks
long, achieving political nogoodnikness is quite problematic.

3 out of 5

Sparks - Cherie Bennett

It is Chloe's turn to have the meteor freak thing happen to her. During a fireworks display, one of those green meteorites lets a few particles fall that head Chloe Sullivan's way.

The effect is not overly serious, except for the fact that every guy around wants her. Even a famous artist friend of Lex's. When it wears off, he still wants her badly enough to kidnap her.

1.5 out of 5

Friday, November 24, 2006

Black Lightning - Robert Sidney Bowen

Captain Dusty Ayres is The Speed Ace, and his plane the Silver Flash is the fastest flying machine going.

As such, the US Armed Forces command have a job for him. The Black Invaders army has almost taken Europe, and their command 'Fire-Eyes', self-styled Emperor of the World, is heading for America next.

With spies everywhere and communications jammed, General Horner needs Ayres to personally carry a defense plan message to all his commanders.

He has lost contact with Agent 10, their last foreign agent alive.

Dusty has a whole bunch of problems, gets captured, escapes, finds Agent 10 and escapes again with his help, and leads a riad on some Black Invader ships to top it all off.

3 out of 5

Faerie Tale - Raymond Feist

A wonderfully creepy 'urban' fantasy. Probably his best book after Magician. A family moves to a house near a strange location. They get in out of their depth and need expert help when something that should not be real comes calling, and injures one them. An example of this sort of tale handled expertly.

4.5 out of 5

Flesh - Philip Jose Farmer

A ship captain returns to a very different earth. A quite amusing religious satire, with the odd sport joke, too.

A strange Earth religion has started, with priestesses holding the power. Other political systems do exist, including one that is very straitlaced and rejects this new, female based, sexual worship.

3.5 out of 5

Tarzan Alive - Philip Jose Farmer

This is great. Almost mind-boggling the effort that Farmer has put in, here. Try and find the men with grey eyes. :) G-8 became schizoid after a breakdown, becoming The Shadow and The Spider. That is just fabulous.

5 out of 5

The Adventure of the Peerless Peer - Philip Jose Farmer

Highly amusing tongue in cheek romp by Farmer. An over the hill Sherlock is brought out of bee-keeping retirement to hunt down an arch-villain with a potential food destroying super virus, during World War I. With trusty off-sider, of course.

Holmes has a significant problem in that he has never been in a plane before, and they have to cross the world to chase the bad guy. Much air-sickness ensues (and no cocaine). However, their pilots turn out to be Richard Wentworth and Lamont Cranston!

Then of course, there is their African connection.

Light, fast, and entertaining foray through Farmer's Wold Newton imaginings.

3.5 out of 5

Doc Savage : His Apocalyptic Life - Philip Jose Farmer

There is a wealth of knowledge here for the Doc Savage fan. This is on top of another fabulous excursion by Farmer into creative mythography. the Wold Newton family tree is expanded herein, as well.

5 out of 5

Invasion From Space - Walter Ernsting

Mercant and Rhodan are forced to combat more agents of the Mind Snatchers, who are now attempting political and economic destabilisation.

Khrest is involved with training the Mutant Corps. Tamo Yoshida is dealing with the twin abilities of telekinesis and transmutation, and Miss Ishi is a televiewer.

Rhodan uses Ernst Ellert's teletemporal abilities to see what the aliens are up to, but Ellert is lost in the timestream, while doing so, and a housing facility is built for his body, which is still alive.

3 out of 5

When Gravity Fails - George Alec Effinger

A really pleasant change of milieu, the setting for this excellent cyberpunk novel. Well worth a try. The characters in this novel are living in a Middle Eastern type setting, which is definitely different, so the chancer dodgy main character and the crime boss he is in trouble with, and others, are not what you are used to in this sort of book, by any stretch.

4 out of 5

Myths For the Modern Age - Win Scott Eckert

This is a further exploration of the relationships in Philip Jose Farmer' s Wold Newton Universe, as seen in books like Tarzan Alive, Doc Savage - His Apocalyptic Life, and the Other Log of Phileas Fogg.

Myths for the Modern Age is worth it for the Captain Nemo is Moriarty piece alone, not to mention the fabulous cover, complete with Modesty Blaise!

Here you have a collection of essays that inter-relate various characters, families and other information, by several different authors, including a compatriot, as well as Eckert himself, not to mention Farmer himself, so you could call this an anthology.

Please be aware that this is not a novel, if that is what you are looking for.

Eckert has a passion for this stuff, yes, you could call it obsessive monomania, but that is what collecting really is, which is really what this is all about, 'collecting' characters into universes and relationships, and utter, utter, fandom.

He is also a Philip Jose Farmer expert, to boot.

This is just fantastic stuff. Check out his and Farmer's various websites too, they are great. There are also related mailing lists that are worth it, if you are interested to this level.

Something else I have found : if you ask these authors a question, or anything like that, they will answer. They are completely devoted.

Outstanding book, in presentation, content, and participation. I am sure Farmer is quite pleased.

5 out of 5

Venom Factor - Diane Duane

Just another fun superhero romp. Venom being evil crazy venom and all that. I am not a huge Spider-Man fan, but I am happy to read Diane Duane Spider-Man books, no problem. Venom as big slobbering fanged crazyman, with a bit of a thing for wanting to indulge in arachnid appetisers is what you find here. Hell hath no fury like a black alien bodysuit symbiote scorned.

The Lizard Sanction - Diane Duane

A fun Spidey romp by Ms Duane. Spidey fights the Lizard, natch, swamps involved, that sort of thing. Very competent.

After going to his friend Curt Connors for help, Spidey realises that Curt is having a few problems of his own. He tries to get the good Doctor's family somewhere safe, and then go and try and find the Lizard.

Hammer's Slammers - David Drake

This has never appealed, I can never quite pin down why, and recently having delved into Fiends of the Eastern Front again, I have nothing against tank battles, or anything like that, in general, whether in prose or graphic novel form. Just one of those things, I guess.

2 out of 5

Strangers - Gardner Dozois

Humans have peaceful, if ineffectual trade relations with the alien humanoid race on Lisle. They know next to nothing about their biology, a closely guarded secret.

This all changes when a human falls in love with one of their women, and finds out that their evolution and reproduction has a great cost.

A reasonable, short, and dark toned book.

3 out of 5

Bane - Joe Donnelly

An intriguing horror story, that starts off slowly and builds into creeping then pretty much zombie fighting. Not at all schlocky though, well worth a look for the handling of some mythological elements and the refreshingly non-American setting.

3.5 out of 5

The Runes of the Earth - Stephen Donaldson

Yet another annoying differently sized paperback. This one is over-wide. So, annoying to hold and to read, with more sideways eye movement needed. Definitely detracts from the enjoyment. A large amount of italicising of names of other races, groups, clans, or whatever, that got to be a real pain, as it was done continually.

Before I started this I guessed 'ok, with thousands of pages written already, what else can he do? Oh, I know, make the Haruchai antagonists'.

Yep, that is what he did. Bah.

This feels a bit padded. Also had 2 words I had never seen before in the first 150 pages, so I think Donaldson has been playing with his thesaurus for a while. Donaldson is clearly a talented writer, but he may be over indulging a little, here.

One good point - a much needed recap of the other six books that I found very useful, and it seemed in the case of this book, the editing was very good, as far as a lack of typos, etc., compared to a lot of publications recently.

The plot throws Linden Avery back into The Land, after 10 years in the real world, running a psychiatric instutition that has Joan Covenant as a patient. Covenant's son turns up, violence ensues, and it is off they go back to fantasy land, so to speak.

The thing I didn't pick beforehand is that they start playing with time travel.

So, yet again, Lord Foul gets up off the mat, the Staff of Law is nowhere to be found, etc., etc. Throw in some new magical conditions, another group of humans, some magical horses and there you go.

Presumably there are two more, but Reader's Digest versions might do me.

3 out of 5

Valley of Evil - Frank Dirscherl

The second Wraith novel is an improvement, I think. Right from the start Dirscherl throws you into the middle of crazy action.

Recovering from his injuries, The Wraith has to deal with not one, but two crime lords battling for control of the city.

There is yet a third force, though, Natalya Blackova, former right hand woman of The Cobra. She, is of course a supervillain with powers of man control by pheromones. It seems she enhances this effect by dressing like Evira.

Her insanity leads her to introducing toxins into various parts of the supermarket supply chain, killing a lot of people, thus keeping the police, The Wraith, his wife and assistant too busy to deal with her actual target.

None of this is obvious to the reader, neither are the parts of the first scene, where The Wraith infiltrates crime lord #2's mansion to remove a supply of narcotics, with a bang. All is not what it seems there, either.

The Wraith's wife, Leena, is developing into a capable solo character in her own right, so he entrusts some tasks to her.

Car chases, plane chases, capture by alluring superwomen, oh yeah, and a mass of ninjas! Is mass the collective noun for ninjas? :) If you are captured by a crazy superwoman, of course she will make you fight to death in the arena versus your ensorcelled comrades, both old and new.

Same thing with the ninja crowd though, all is not what it seems there, either. I guess I forgot to mention the Zombie Powder, too.

The possibility appears to exist that The Wraith will gain a new assistant, as well.

This book is a whole lot of superheroic pulp fun, and the good news is there seems to be more to come, as there is an afterword by the author detailing his plans to write one Wraith novel a year, with the next due in 2007 based around an Aztec theme.

I look forward to some more of the same.

3.5 out of 5

The Wraith - Frank Dirscherl

A short, pulp, superhero novel. Metro City is a worse-than-Gotham cesspit apparently built for political reasons. Michael Reeve is an honest cop.

A confrontation between The Wraith, and a crimelord goes wrong, and The Wraith ends up on his doorstep.

Next thing, he wakes up in a different house, in a different body - and Reeve is then apparently the wraith. Presumably transferred by the mystical 'Eyes of Judgement' amulet. The Wraith is a Batman-level hero, with this added Ghost Rider/Spirit of Vengeance power to make people experience all the evil they have done.

There is a grieving girlfriend, and some other honest cops out to solve his disappearance.

When The Wraith appears again, crimelord Latham hires a super-assassin to deal with him. Nasty methods has this man, as he starts an assassination campaign to bring out The Wraith, and kills anybody he feels like.

Amusingly, The Cobra has a henchman named Khan.

There is a final desperate confrontation, on an airship.

Clearly more adventures to come wit how this is set up.

3 out of 5

Talons - John DeChancie

This starts off as a pretty much straight forward cop story, with the occasional Witchblade mention. Things start to accelerate after that, with Romanian grandmothers, a werewolv, a Mah Johngg white snow dragon, and that is just in the slower middle part of the book.

Ther e is a crazy confrontation at the end, fueled by a magic sentient computer, a Kabbalah-hacker-artiste, a dragon, a two page cameo by Dracula, for no apparent reason, who also fails to keep his head, Nottingham, the magic summoning teleportation of a police captain, a fire extinguisher, some bird alien race through the portal of a computer, a god, and some deific temptation for Sara.

She says no, and discovers that just possible the sneaky entity on her wrist was behind it.

Fairly straightforward, but madcap ending, perhaps somewhat rushed, not sure if there was a word count mandate?

3 out of 5

What Savage Beast - Peter David

A little bit longer than some other books like this, so perhaps slightly more complex. This is a just post Pantheon Hulk, stuck in reverse, intelligent and green, or mindless savage and human.

A younger relative Major Talbot reforms the Hulkbusters and fails, the Banners are forced to move a couple of times. Betty gets pregnant.

Siamese twins, enter Dr Strange in a complicated surgical procedure to try and save them.

Enter the Maestro, taking one son.

The Hulk follows through the Crossroads and dimensions, to track him down. A planet with a stuffed Rick Jones, and an elite unit of Hulks, including WolvaDeathlok Hulk, Thing Hulk and Elric Hulk. The Hulk's son is now a grown half-Hulk, too. In a nasty twist,t he name of this unit is also the Hulkbusters.

All in all, one of those crazy Hulk stories with the lot, tragedy, Hulkbusting and bashing.

The Hulk and Major Talbot discuss Les Miserables, and Banner and his son have an argument about Nietzsche! Didn't see those coming. Something here for everyone almost, and really, a 3.75 I'd say.

3.5 out of 5

The Return of Swamp Thing - Peter David

This is pretty mundane. A little of Swamp Thing, a lot of Arcane and his crazies, and some of the blonde Abby.

The bad guys find out it is pretty hard to fight someone who can be any plant, anywhere around. Some nutty feds run into Arcane's monsters early, some inbred swamp scum and some kids encounter Swamp Thing, later.

Alan Moore is the desk clerk at the Wein motel, making cryptic precognitive type comments throughout.

2.5 out of 5

Batman Forever - Peter David

A solid Batman story, it only suffers from the fact that it has The Riddler shoehorned in as a second villain, when it does not seem to be necessary at all. This cramps the room for the other characters, who aren't too bad at all. Alfred is Alfred, Chase Meridian is intriguing as a psychiatrist, and the hot headed teenaged acrobat Robin isn't too horrible.

Batman here is having problems with these two new people in his life, and his mental state becomes fragile.

3.5 out of 5

The Ill-Made Mute - Cecilia Dart-Thornton

I could not make myself finish this. Horribly twee, with too much forced floweryness. You could give it a rating of 5 florids out of 5, perhaps! Anyway, it is possible younger girls may enjoy this, but for a fantasy of kid hidden away, must escape and do great things after being a servant, then it is pretty easy to find dozens of more worthwhile books, whether for young people or adults.

1 out of 5

The Secret of the Time Vault - Clark Darlton

Rhodan manages the hyperjump in the Arkonide space sphere. Communicating with Earth starts some frantic shipbuilding activity.

Returning to Ferron, with more of the Mutant Corps and reinforcements enables them to demoralise the Topide fleet, causing them to fight among themselves, and leave. Teleporters, telekinetics, telepaths, hypnos, telescopic vision, x-ray vision and other talents being employed all turn out to be a bit much for them.

Rhodan learns that it was aliens that brought the matter transmitter technology to the Ferrons, and there is a secret vault they have never been able to penetrate, in one of their bases, holding some secrets to the technology.

Combining several mutant talents to see what is going on inside the vault, Rhodan is able to talk Ras Tschubai, a teleporter, through the process of retrieving a box containing technological information, and perhaps a key to finding the planet of eternal life, something the Topides were also interested in.

3.5 out of 5

The Third Power - Clark Darlton

Pure politics.

Earth still stands on the brink of World War III. Rhodan and the Stardust, sitting invulnerable in the Gobi desert, destabilise this station further, as the nuclear powers panic, and decide to attack.

Some high level intelligence officers work to undermine the damage this will cause, as does the Arkonide technology, as nuclear attacks are ordered on the Stardust.

All fail, and the Western, Eastern and Asiatic powers call for a desperate conference, to work together.

Rhodan's plan begins, at the cost of one of his crew, but the succesful obtaining of an expert doctor and scientist to treat Khrest's medical problems.

3.5 out of 5

Twilight of the Gods - Clark Darlton

Desperate for a way to get to Rhodan, the military alliance on Earth figures the only way to get to him is from undernearth, by drilling up and nuking him.

However, The Third Power are gaining abilities, and allies. Khrest uses a mind teaching machine to raise both Rhodan and Bell to somewhere near his own intelligence level. This also gives them hypnotism abilities.

Things are developing outside, and we are introduced, literally, to some X-Men. People with mutations caused by rising atomic radiation levels after World War II.

Those in the espionage community sympathetic to Rhodan's cause continue to help him surreptitiously.

John Marshall, a telepath, joins Rhodan, who ventures outside The Third Power, with a personal forcefield.

It appears that Allan Mercant, the head of International Intelligence, is an empath. Useful, for a spy.

Anne Sloane is a telekinetic, the various governments have recruited her to get to Rhodan, as she looks like one his dead crew's wife.

Ras Tschubai is a teleporter, as is Tako Takuta, who is involved with the team attacking Rhodan from below. He is instrumental in warning them, so Thora can defeat the attack technologically.

There, this story ends.

3.5 out of 5

Disclosure - Michael Crichton

Fairly ordinary mundane sf thriller, with the main element being a nutso boss sexually harrassing one of her tech manager types. After getting shagged and being dumped she then goes way too Fatal Attraction on him. Meant to be a bit on the titillating side, I suppose, but pretty tame for all that.

2.5 out of 5

Rising Sun - Michael Crichton

An ok cop tale, partly based around some American Japanophobia. Throw in the beginnings of the technology for faking video evidence, and some corporate stuff. Then there is the auto-erotic asphyxiation gone just a bit too far problem for one of the visiting business types. Naturally one of the main characters is a Japanese liasion expert, throw him together with a garden variety cop type and there you go.

3 out of 5

Blood Enemy - Greg Cox

This is your standard boy meets girl, girl gets incinerated by vampire father for breeding a super supernatural story. With a fun siege scene, and a sneaky statue. While 300 pages, not very dense at all, it won't take you long.

3 out of 5

The Silver Spike - Glen Cook

No tv in the world that these guys inhabit. If there was, and they had seen a few B horror movies, they would never, ever, ever have contemplated what they did in a sheer fit of idiocy. The rest of the book is the bad things that happen to them afterwards. Mostly obvious to us, and somewhat amusing. Plus some Darling and her entourage, and what happens to them.

3 out of 5

Water Sleeps - Glen Cook

Another of the weaker Black Company novels, as the Company is still in a bad place. If you had not made it this far in the series, you could be excused. If you are enjoying it, you will still like this book, and it does get better later. Perhaps for completists, but I still liked it, and if it was possible would give it a 3.25.

3.5 out of 5

Shadows Linger - Glen Cook

A bit of a change of pace, here. There is a major focus on a character in a town that it turns out is harboring Raven, who is doing some organlegging, and also Darling.

Plenty of the usual undead wizard nastiness, as well. There is basically part of the two camps of wizards storyline, as an attempt is made to bring back The Dominator (again). Yet another L v D epic.

Needless to say, there is a battle, and why a career in the Company is maybe not that great an idea.

3 out of 5

Soldiers Live - Glen Cook

A very neat little twist indeed, contained in this story for that grumpy old man Croker. Very apt use of the title, and I was pleasantly surprised by the end. I really thought I wouldn't like this much at all. Cook has done well to finish the series very far from anything you thought might happen, but in a very satisfying manner. Nicely done.

3.5 out of 5

Bleak Seasons - Glen Cook

One of the weakest Black Company novels. If you like the others though, this is still good enough to read, as the whole sordid saga continues. Sordid from the point of view of the Company, anyway, and the conditions they have to endure to survive. That seems to have always been the case. Here, they do have one or two small advantages that keep them going, however.

3 out of 5

Dreams of Steel - Glen Cook

Perhaps the weakest of the Black Company series. The Lady, her kid, and lots of action with local politics and the rise and antics of a thug or thuggee type cult of assassins and their death goddess worship. They want to use and/or worship this child to bring about really bad things. Naturally most other people oppose this vehemently and violently.

4 out of 5

Shadow Games - Glen Cook

After this, the series starts to lose its way a little, but this installment is still quite good. There are some nasty problems with more than one shape shifter, and of course, those undead wizards are still highly problematic for those in the company.

4 out of 5

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Skin Game - Max Allan Collins

One of Manticore's less successful experiments, and a nice joke 'Chameleon Boy', has become a serial killer. Evil and twisted Ames White ends up behind it. The Freak Nation has to investigate the case before the army moves in on them, after White's media manipulation.

Thanks to a decent cop, and two ex-subordinates of White's who dislike him about as much as everybody else, more, in their cases, as he was trying to get them bumped off--Max manages to work it out, but not without casualties and kidnappings.

All in all, a decent handling of the characters, again.

3.5 out of 5

Before the Dawn - Max Allan Collins

A nice solid prequel story, detailing how Max gets to Seattle, meets Original Cindy, and Lydecker learns that she may be there, along with learning what Logan is up to, and why.

3.5 out of 5

After The Dark - Max Allan Collins

Max Guevera, mayor? Seems unlikely, but the defactor head of Terminal City is what she has become, it appears. She is also a big fan of Jonathon Swift.

Things start looking up, as the serial killer in the last episode, a shapeshifter, actually ended up taking out Logan's virus.

However, a gang then kidnaps Logan, and things go crazy.

It seems that the problem with centuries-spanning breeding cults, is, well, that they are a cult. Made up of people. With politics, power plays, etc.

The transgenics do not have this issue, and are able to use factional splits, and even Ames White, via his missing son, to cause a lot of problems for the Familiars.

Freaky prophecies about comets bringing death plagues are perhaps not too likely, either, they should keep in mind for the future.

A fun book.

4 out of 5

Silverfinger - Glen Chase

This series is meant as an Executioner spoof, and that is really exactly how it reads. Cherry Delight is not as much a hardcore weapons fanantic as Mack Bolan, but uses seduction and sex quite a bit more. Bolan gets lots of action, Delight gets extreme amounts of action. Quite a bit of this is part of her job.

That is not to say this book is plotless, by any stretch. She is still tracking down, infiltrating and killing mafia types, as that is what she does. It really doesn't go way past what you will get in a lot of thrillers, just a bit more frequent, so presumably the authors were trying to get a bit of a balance.

3 out of 5

The Saint Meets the Tiger - Leslie Charteris

Insouciant adventurer seeks new pleasant accomodation, fortifications a plus. Must have exciting local diversions, such as hunting genius assassins, readily available.

All real estate with personable young women as neighbours, along with esteemed after dinner drinks companions will be viewed highly favorable. Seaside air an added bonus.

3.5 out of 5

The Hounds of Avalon - Mark Chadbourn

This is his sixth book set in this version of our world, I have read the first four, but not the fifth, as yet - one of the characters from the fifth appears in this novel - and it seems her story is the fifth novel, but might not be that interesting.

Anyway, this was good, and more in the vein of the third novel of his 'first' trilogy. However, the ending perhaps cheesily sets up yet another likely to be trilogy about what happened to Church from the first 3 novels, when he went back into the past. That was a bit annoying. Presumably that will hopefully end the whole thing back in the present time.

3.5 out of 5

Domination - Michael Cecilione

Vampires with a thing for S&M clubs. Likely to disturb quite a few people. Much nasty shagging and use of sex as a weapon, and plenty of blood and torture.

1.5 out of 5

Thongor Fights the Pirates of Tarakus - Lin Carter

Good pirates vs bad pirates, with a heroic barbarian king, an evil wizard, a young princeling, plus weather creating machinery, for the hell of it. Completely as expected, with the odd extra sea monster. The princeling of course gets the girl, as the heroic barbarian king already has one and is married. The girl, however, is an arse-kicker, herself.

3 out of 5

Champion Mountain - Scott Christian Carr

At the start of this novella by Scott Christian Carr a man who does not get along with his family, and is somewhat of an itinerant drifter, is called by his sister, who begs him to come home. She doesn't say why.

His car is totalled by a truck at a rest stop, and a little girl is killed. This slows him down. He finally makes it make to the family home, which is a fortified, secure base on top of a mountain, colloquially titled 'Champion Mountain'.

He is told his grandfather died they day before. It also appears his family can all fly, and are a super team called Team Justice. His grandfather was an Iowa farm boy who found a strange meteor, and gained superhuman powers. He passes it on to his descendants, but in diluted form each generation.

His funeral is problematic as his body is indestructible, and when our early protagonist Michael discovers an empty coffin at the funeral, after a gunpowder laden-by-idiot-drunk-younger-brother funeral pyre explodes and blows up the house, violence erupts between him and his martinet father.

Underlying all this is a post-apocalyptic undercurrent. The farmers union, being ignored by the government, and by Team Justice, gain a nuke by way of terrorists, and Team Justice screw up again, and it is detonated.

The funeral is years later, and Michael's father has been controlling the other children's access to information, which amazes Michael.

So, all in all, a scary bunch of supermen on one hand, and a drifter on the other. A news helicopter spots the fight between them, and Michael bails into the air, in Superman flight speed.

The second part is about the grandfather, John Justice, and him growing up, and his journey into the sun on his funeral path. How literal this is, is perhaps hard to tell, and whether he is really dead.

The emotional relationships are at the heart of this, not action or villain bashing, so rather more in the Squadron Supreme vein. How do superhumans retain their humanity and humility, the reason for Michael being on the road. The writer handles this tone very well.

3.5 out of 5

Red Prophet - Orson Scott Card

Dull, mormon wish fulfillment just fantasy. Card may have come up with some clever and complex science fiction, but he has also accomplished some terribly turgid fantasy. A suggestion and loaned from a friend, the stinking rotter. :)

1.5 out of 5

Prentice Alvin - Orson Scott Card

Yet more boring mormon wish-fulfillment fantasy. In this arena, David Gemmell he is not. If that is what you are after, then by all means get it, otherwise something like The Jerusalem Man will be much more appealing. You could, however, use them as a cure for insomnia, or sever lack of schmaltz.

1.5 out of 5

Seventh Son - Orson Scott Card

Boring mormon wish-fulfillment fantasy. In this arena, David Gemmell he is not. If that is what you are after, then by all means get it, otherwise something like The Jerusalem Man will be much more appealing. You could, however, use them as a cure for insomnia, or severe lack of homey American pastoral romanticising. You will know pretty quickly whether this holds any interest at all.

1.5 out of 5

The Monster's Room - Ramsey Campbell

Almost a Kid Eternity style deal, but the young man in question is still among the living while delving into the history of these figures.

A kid's book.

3.5 out of 5

Synners - Pat Cadigan

It is interesting to see the language Cadigan was using in this book, circa 1990 : war porn, food porn, etc., being used in exactly the same way now.

A cyberpunk ahead of her time, for sure. Apart from that, an interesting tale of what happens when things go bad in a network sense, especially if you are too closely connected, particularly organically.

While her books never blow you away, it seems, she is consistently good, and real.

4 out of 5

Dervish is Digital - Pat Cadigan

Not bad, but not as good as the first novel, Tea From an Empty Cup. This is pretty much a stretched novella, I presume. The book is more of the same theme, exploring the problems of policing virtual worlds, especially when they can be in any country at any time. Then those doing the policing have to work out what is a crime, to start with.

3 out of 5

Dawn - Octavia Butler

This odd series I didn't find too interesting. Maybe I would if I was an invading alien sex therapist. This is almost a horror story, with how creepy it is in parts. Condescending aliens treating people at times how people treat animals, which perhaps it part of the point?

1.5 out of 5