Monday, April 30, 2007

The Green Lama - Kendall Foster Crossen

Very cheesy. The Green Lama's chant is not a patch on Green Lantern's oath, I am sorry. He is pretty annoying, so much so you are likely to be barracking for the Crimson Hand to win! No such luck with his mysterious orient tutors in his powers and abilities keeping him away from us, either.

2 out of 5

Blind Shemmy - Jack Dann

Casino gambling for organs, with players linked telepathically. Very hard-edged.

4.5 out of 5

Black Juice - Margo Lanagan

Singing My Sister Down

Execution by tar pit, with ceremony.

2.5 out of 5

My Lord's Man

Not much to see here. Woman off with gypsies.

2.5 out of 5

Red Nose Day

Well, actually a plot, how about that. Clowns can be creepy enough, but how about if all the rich people did the clown thing all the time? Going postal on them would certainly come to mind, and this is what happens here.

4 out of 5

Sweet Pippit

Heffalump hegira.

3.5 out of 5

House of the Many

Another dead sister. Doesn't like 'em much?

2 out of 5

Wooden Bride

Bride school is serious.

3 out of 5

Earthly Uses

An angel highlights a truth for a young man.

3.5 out of 5

Perpetual Light

The country is a bit more toxic, and this time grandma is dead.

3 out of 5


Monkey skinners and the monsters that find them tasty.

3.5 out of 5

Rite of Spring

Missing the mutt.

3 out of 5

A rather uneven collection, with a lot of it stuck in the middle and too wishy-washy to be one thing or the other. If you like style and atmosphere over plot and character this may well be your thing. Doesn't go together all that well.

3 out of 5

Rite of Spring - Margo Lanagan

Missing the mutt.

3 out of 5

Yowlinin - Margo Lanagan

Monkey skinners and the monsters that find them tasty.

3.5 out of 5

Perpetual Light - Margo Lanagan

The country is a bit more toxic, and this time grandma is dead.

3 out of 5

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Earthly Uses - Margo Lanagan

An angel highlights a truth for a young man.

3.5 out of 5

Wooden Bride - Margo Lanagan

Bride school is serious.

3 out of 5

House of the Many - Margo Lanagan

Another dead sister. Doesn't like 'em much?

2 out of 5

Sweet Pippit - Margo Lanagan

Heffalump hegira.

3.5 out of 5

Red Nose Day - Margo Lanagan

Well, actually a plot, how about that. Clowns can be creepy enough, but how about if all the rich people did the clown thing all the time? Going postal on them would certainly come to mind, and this is what happens here.

4 out of 5

The Cascade - Sean McMullen

A university student meets a woman involved with a radical planetary society, who have plans to deal with the current chickenshit version of space travel.

4.5 out of 5

Ad Nauseam - Adam Browne

Inescapable pervasive marketing.

3 out of 5

A Serpent In Eden - Simon Brown and Alison Tokley

A snake in the garden is a lot more than it seems.

3.5 out of 5

Saturday, April 28, 2007

The Devils of Langenhagen - Sean McMullen

Future people use past Earth wars as entertainment trips.

3.5 out of 5

The Pharaoh's Airship - Sean McMullen

An amazingly talented inventor of flying machines appears to have come to grief in an accident. The authorities are interested because it appears he may have been able to travel a very, very long way.

3.5 out of 5

While the Gate is Open - Sean McMullen

A pair of researches into the use of Quantum Effect devices for medical reasons start a relationship: "There are probably few things quite so preposterous as a pair of thirty-five years old virgin hypochondriacs trying to teach each other about sex."

They end up in South America where they can test some of their discoveries and theories on people, who, when ending up dead, won't be noticed like they would in the country of origin.

3.5 out of 5

The Queen of Erewhon - Lucy Sussex

Sexual politics in a civilisation in New Zealand after a technological crash.

4 out of 5

The Unlawful Hunter - Keith Taylor

A young Fal rides out on a cattle raid, it doesn't go well, and he gets a lot closer to a sorcerous hag than he would like.

3.5 out of 5

Spears of the Sea Wolves - Keith Taylor

A teenage princess and sorceress looks to lead and protect her Britons after her father dies in a naval battle with Jute raiders.

3 out of 5

Aotearoa - Cherry Wilder

Islands come and go, even New Zealand, in this alternate history.

"“The Land of the Long White Cloud,” said Hilda. “It sounds so beautiful. What is this island Aotearoa? Is it a magic place like Tir-nan-og, the island of the blessed?” "

3 out of 5

The Hunger - Stefan Vucak

A woman whom men find a very draining experience meets her match.

3.5 out of 5

Foundling's Father - Jack Wodhams

Conflict over land in a colony is brought on by new arrivals.

3 out of 5

Stormy Bellwether - Jack Wodhams

The perils of the videophone.

3 out of 5

A Greater Vision - Sean McMullen

A philosophical discussion between two people out iceberg harvesting int he Antarctic, about exploration.

"In general the Aboriginals studied and monitored the rest of humanity with detached interest. Beyond Australis the progress of technology and civilization had been much slower, but over the last three thousand years some new and frightening trends had been observed. Civilizations rose and fell in mere centuries, reaching unheard of levels of sophistication during their brief flowerings. Computer models predicted that there was a point at which the headlong leaps in progress would become self-sustaining, and would race past the painstaking progress of the Australis people in mere centuries. All that was needed was a new frontier."

3.5 out of 5

A Slow Famine - Sean McMullen

From Interzone 107.

A vampire hunter follows prey to 1850s Melbourne.

""Who are you then?"

I shrugged. "A raptor. One of a brotherhood of mortals dedicated to ridding the world of undead predators."

That was more of a lie. We raptors draw vitality from vampyres as we kill them, vitality that cures disease, heals wounds and reverses ageing. I am mortal, yet I once served at the table of William the Conqueror."

She finds more of them than expected, and not just vampires.

4 out of 5

Wang's Carpets - Greg Egan

A conservative transhuman polis sets out to search for alien life on other planets. The planet they find surprises them in a bit way, as the carpetlike inhabitants seem to grow by a pattern described by an obscure mathematician. Their nature allows them to perform as a Turing machine, and they are running one pretty impressive simulation.

A story you might just have to read a bit of twice.

5 out of 5

The Engines of Arcadia - Sean McMullen

A man, bored with his safe, controlled, present society, rustles up a time machine and goes far into the future. He is somewhat surprised to find a society of medieval mutant munchkins, that behave very differently.

3.5 out of 5

Contagion - Chris Roberson

A man's job is to carry retroviruses in his blood to pass information. Society is stratified into castes by what protection from disease they can afford. When he discovers what he is carrying, and what sort of people he has been working for, everything changes.

3.5 out of 5

Dinosaur Summer - Greg Bear

This is a bit of an odd sort of book. Now, dinosaurs are of course, cool, but this is a mixture of Conan Doyle pastiche and young adult sort of novel, so it only really comes off as average, as a boy and his circus type father look to repatriate a bunch of captive dinosaurs back to the plateau that Challenger originally discovered.

Things don't go smoothly, of course, to make it a bit of an adventure.

3 out of 5

World War Z - Max Brooks

You might think this looks pretty silly, but it is actually played pretty straight, not over the top zombie splatter horror with a lone band of survivors. More an alternate history.

If you remember a MASH episode or two where they did it interview style, this is more of the feel of the sort of thing you get here.

Brooks gets the tone of the different characters as the interviewer goes around talking to people in all different countries to gather accounts.

4 out of 5

Friday, April 27, 2007

Boori - Bill Scott

Boori is by Bill Scott, who has written quite a bit about Australian folklore and other such subjects, but this is a novel aimed at children, and also illustrated.

The young boy/man Boori has to go and do the heroic thing, in an aboriginal mythological setting, complete with faithful canine companion, of sorts.

3 out of 5

The Keepsake Purse - Jarrah Moore

The Keepsake Purse starts off about a purse, and if you think that isn't too interesting, then in this case, you'd be right, despite the supernatural elements and creepy family stuff later.

2 out of 5

Escaping Konakona - Carol Ryles

Escaping Konakona isn't bad, the start is good, and grabbed, having spent a large amount of time in Hawai'i. The rest is not as good, though, as a virtual world user sees his volcano goddess creating act differently to what he expects. A bit easier going than Madame Pele, it appears.

3 out of 5

Inside - Ben Payne

Inside by Ben Payne also starts off ok, but then changes tone and meanders on at length, after the would be anarchist types find themselves in a not so pleasant situation. Not interesting enough.

2.5 out of 5

The Lash of Senorita Scorpion - Les Savage

This is easily the worst of the Senorita Scorpion stories so far, as it is told from the point of a view of a marshal that has been sent to bring in the Scorpion for the murder of a senator. Again, of course, she didn't do it, and corruption and a cattle corporation are at the heart of it.

The marshal sent to bring her in is one of your honest lawmen types, that was the first mistake, the other not taking into account the fact she is a babe, and knows how to take advantage of the fact.

2.5 out of 5

The Return of Senorita Scorpion - Les Savage

Senorita Scorpion has to pretty much go it alone, as the combination of an Aztec cult getting its peyote concocting hands on Chisos Owens and Johnny Hagar being framed by nogoodniks that want to run the peons off their land for the water for big cattle spreads.

Elgera, with a little help from the locals via some diamondback poisoned weapons does a pretty fine job.

3.5 out of 5

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Ticonderoga Online 11 - Russell B. Farr

Escaping Konakona isn't bad, the start is good, and grabbed, having spent a large amount of time in Hawai'i. The rest is not as good, though, as a virtual world user sees his volcano goddess creating act differently to what he expects. A bit easier going than Madame Pele, it appears.

3 out of 5

The Keepsake Purse starts off about a purse, and if you think that isn't too interesting, then in this case, you'd be right, despite the supernatural elements and creepy family stuff later.

2 out of 5

Inside by Ben Payne also starts off ok, but then changes tone and meanders on at length, after the would be anarchist types find themselves in a not so pleasant situation. Not interesting enough.

2.5 out of 5

The Classic Reprint idea is certainly a nifty one, especially if they can cadge a story that is not already online out of someone, unlike 'Why my wife left me and other stories by Diomedes' - Simon Brown. I have read this before, and didn't mind it, with its look at war and relationships displaced by time.

3 out of 5 for me.

The editorial is fun. Proclaim your inner geekdom loud and proud.

4.5 out of 5

The interviews are ok. I like the Alisa Krasnostein one, about her projects. It seems as well as SF geekdom, she is an academic geek as well. Wonder if she likes football? Having come across the ASiF site recently, some of it is pretty cool, especially her forum guests.

7 out of 10

Doctorow's why you like reading off a screen article is also worth disseminating, and reading if you haven't already. One of the main points being about novels, and reading at length electronically.

4 out of 5

As far as reviews go, I don't really care for them, in general, especially long ones. All I want to know is what the book is about, and is it any good. Having already read Armageddon's Children, didn't need to bother with that one. This trilogy is a fabulous fantasy epic, is the start of the Simon Brown story. Stop right there. Next. I have read about Blackbeard before, and do not like Anne Bishop. The mainstream thriller looking book I am ignoring, as well, and I am not going to judge these.

Mike Carey's The Devil You Know is on my Super Reader list, being in the 'Ghost Buster' genre. Wasting a paragraph on conflict of interest is really annoying, though, and what I get from this a quick look at this review is that the reviewer is nowhere near knowledgeable enough about this sort of book for me to bother with finishing this one. Apart from wasting time and words with crap that could go at the end, or not at all.

1 out of 5

I took a look at the Carnies review. An order of magnitude better (at least in base 2, anyway:) ). The author, what it is about right there, at the start. Makes it sound intriguing enough to have a look at it, right from the start, particularly with a different Australian setting, and I really haven't read a horror novel like that for a long time, that I can recall.

3.5 out of 5

The other one of interest was the Bedford review, coming across that author online recently and asking him about the books, and this review also does its job well, and fast.

4 out of 5

Overall, it seems book reviewers, unlike those for video and audio often in general are scared of quantifying how good something is, and use adjectives instead. Allergic to numbers perhaps. Maybe they all know each other personally, or whatever, but as a reader, I don't care. Tell me how good it is, anybody else seems to be able to. If you are a reviewer, and you can't, well, enough said.

Fiction - 10.5 out of 20.
Non-fiction that I read - 24 out of 35, which overall gives:

3 out of 5

Eon - Greg Bear

Eon is about a cold war over an alien artifact, if you can call it that, of immense scope. The knowledge and power to be gained from such a device leads, of course, to one country wanting to hoard it, and not allow others to get to the 'terrible secret' at the heart of the information to be gained there.

Some mind-boggling technology to be found here.

5 out of 5

The Man Who Walks Away Behind the Eyes - Terry Dowling

A man subject to alien punishment by way of personality erasure, tries a mental technique to do them.

4.5 out of 5

Vaneglory - George Turner

This is another in Turner's somewhat connected Ethical series. This time, the two blokes are woken up from cryogenic suspensions as representatives of the past, or 'Gone Time'.

That not being all, it appears there may be some immortal mutants around, and of course everyone wants to get their hands on people like that. The hunt, therefore is on.

3.5 out of 5

Voices in the Light - Sean McMullen

This says it is book one of Greatwinter, which it is, but it also becomes half of a later book one of Greatwinter. Confusing? Maybe a little bit, it was for me when I stumbled across one earlier and one later book. If you have this and Mirrosun Rising you mostly have Souls in the Great Machine, although that is changed a bit, it is pretty much the same story, and still good. Collect 'em all. :)

4 out of 5

Chicken - Steve Wylie

The world seen through the eyes of a different lifeform.

2.5 out of 5

The Inscrutable Dragon - Richard Womack

A gentle satire of Australian politics, yellow peril style.

3 out of 5

Fifi Rebels - Stanislaw Wiatrowski

A nanointelligence disapproves of zombifying people as punishment.

3.5 out of 5

Hassen's Final Days - Grant Watson

Where do imaginary friends go when you die?

3.5 out of 5

Aspies and Auties and Long-leggedy Beasties - Alison Venugoban

Life seen through the eyes of one of the last non-autistic men to live on the planet.

3.5 out of 5

Here There Be Dragons - Alison Venugoban

It is unwise to call dragons liars.

3 out of 5

Position Vacant : Santa Claus - Valerie Toh

Interviews for the new guy.

3.5 out of 5

The Cat Story - Anna Tambour

A meta-writing joke about a feline tale.

3 out of 5

Job 38:4 - Terri-Anne Smith

Adam, the monitor of the solar system is overworked and needs an assistant.

3.5 out of 5

Heavy Metal - Richard Pitchforth

Armed drongo forges interstellar alliance.

3.5 out of 5

Rock and Roll Ain't Noise Pollution - Ian Nichols

An astronomer detects rock music from the stars, by artists from Earth.

3 out of 5

Chill of Eternity - Ian Nichols

Last mortal is still useful.

4 out of 5

Tradition - Russell McNair

Public transport not to be missed.

3 out of 5

Grace - Ian McHugh

A man brings back his dead woman as an android.

3 out of 5

The Alchemical Automaton Blues - Ian McHugh

Golems as pets.

3 out of 5

Ravensperch A Faerie Tale - Kirstyn McDermott

A half fey woman isn't having a lot of fun.

3 out of 5

Bomb Squad - Robbie Matthews

A depressed sorcerer and his werewolf best mate go to deliver his divorce papers. An explosive situation results.

3.5 out of 5

House In Love - Gail Kavanagh

A House gets maternal.

3.5 out of 5

The Old Oxford Charm - Christopher Johnstone

A young woman discovers that a knowledge of astronomy is useful if you encounter a troll.

3 out of 5

And In the Night Know Beauty - Robert Hoge

Aliens are harsh art critics.

3.5 out of 5

Depart Singer - Robert Hoge

In the future, technology is getting good enough to simulate performers, when the biggest star in the world wants to quit

3.5 out of 5

You'll Be Sorry - Mark Hodgetts

A remarkable pupil gets back at a teacher.

3.5 out of 5

Divorce - Edwina Harvey

A woman has the perfect husband, until he bought the wrong pet.

3 out of 5

Pixie Dust - Darren Goossens

Pixie dust is addictive. Want to know how it is made?

3.5 out of 5

The Truth About Alternate Dimensions - Darren Goossens

Mad scientist and lawyer grandson.

3 out of 5

Samhain Lessons From the Dead - Leslie Force

Dead friends are a real pain.

3.5 out of 5

Soo Lin and the Snow Eagle - Lee Emmett

A mountain quest.

3 out of 5

The Words - Renee Dillon

Mistake with a spell.

3 out of 5

Rambling With Rose - Robert Cox

A young man won't let his dead sister rest.

3 out of 5

Bytepals - Sue Bursztynski

Vampires have cottoned on to the internet thing.

3 out of 5

The Sword From the Lake - Sue Bursztynski

The Ladies of the Lake have a disagreement, Nimue acts on her own.

3.5 out of 5

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Clockwork Soldier - Stuart Barrow

A robot soldier wants to be free.

3.5 out of 5

Like Clockwork - Stuart Barrow

Little gremlins.

2.5 out of 5

Midnite - Randolph Stow

Kids book.

Midnite is pretty much a nice boy. Mad Dog Morgan resembles him in absolutely no way, shape, form, or even selection of accoutrements.

When Midnite has no-one smarter left around to give him advice, the local wildlife does it. No-one has ever suggested animals are brilliant, either, so they reckon being a bushranger would be good.

Silliness ensues.

3.5 out of 5

Despair Machine - Dave Luckett

Depressing literary fiction has a sinister reason for being.

3.5 out of 5

The Surly Bonds of Earth - Dave Luckett

Releasing a pilot.

3.5 out of 5

Seeking Befuddlement - Dave Luckett

Intoxicated aliens and bushfires.

3 out of 5

Trade Barrier - Dave Luckett

A girl watches the spaceships fly and dreams of something more than her not so flash area.

3.5 out of 5

Absolution - Barbara Robson

Religion as opiate.

3 out of 5

Pregnant - Barbara Robson

A woman desperate to get pregnant consults a witchdoctor.

3 out of 5

Delta Void and the Stray God - Tansy Rayner Roberts

Chicks, Chainmail, Carrie.

3.5 out of 5

Somewhere Over the Looking Glass - Tansy Rayner Roberts

Waitressing on the moon is crappy, too, but a woman's dreams lead to a change in career.

3.5 out of 5

Lucky Tart - Tansy Rayner Roberts

Vampires make mermaid pie.

3 out of 5

Instinct - Lee Battersby

Two law students walk into a Fey bar.

3 out of 5

Murderworld - Lee Battersby

Reality tv revolution. No, Arcade hasn't trapped anybody in this one.

4 out of 5

Through the Window Merrilee Dances - Lee Battersby

Statecraft, with dancing.

3 out of 5

Blake the God - Lee Battersby

Aliens really dig a young lad.

3.5 out of 5

Ecdysis - Lee Battersby

A cop discovers a dead body that is literally black. Further investigations reveals even more oddities.

3.5 out of 5

The Maxwell's Theorems - Brenda Carson

A university has some problems with advancements in science.

3.5 out of 5

The Return of the Queen - Bill McKinley

In an England ruled by Germany, the Germans want to use Tolkien as a propaganda tool. With the king no longer a factor, and thinking hard about the matter, he decides to deny them, and change the title of his book.

4 out of 5

Obituary Boy - John Dixon

A boy's research lets him predict times of death.

3.5 out of 5

The Secondhand Bookshop of Alhazred - Chuck McKenzie

Al finds a bargain when someone comes into his shop with a box of books. A truly monstrous publication.

4 out of 5

Butterfly - Kevin MacLean

Swordsman, dragon and witch = a bad combination of enemies.

4 out of 5

Father Harry - Kevin MacLean

A priest wants to die for christ, but events confound him.

2.5 out of 5

Bones - Stephanie Campisi

There was a skeleton on the toilet seat when I was there last night.

4 out of 5

Bianca's Birthday Present - Wendy Laharnar

Atavistic emotion is lethally discouraged.

3 out of 5

There - Ben Payne

Time and placeslips.

2.5 out of 5

Marco's Tooth - Trent Jamieson

A space emperor is worn out.

3.5 out of 5

Knight Wanted - Jessica Elizabeth

A highly accomplished knight finds the job market is pretty tough, even for heroes.

3.5 out of 5

Hamlyn - Paul Haines

Vampires in the Pied Piper's town.

3.5 out of 5

Tangled - Martin Livings

A man is pursued by spider-webs on the road and everywhere.

3.5 out of 5

Monday, April 23, 2007

Get Pookie - Brendan Duffy

Trying to save the canines and make cash.

3.5 out of 5

The Catling God - Trent Jamieson

A human on a cat world decides he wants his own, human god for the first time.

3 out of 5

The Eradicator - Ben Cook

A mad scientists builds a device, lets a friend use it

3.5 out of 5

Love in the Land of the Dead - Shane Jiraiya Cummings

Zombies. Brains. Schmaltz?

3.5 out of 5

Catbones - Sue Isle

A couple of people with despicable hobbies are surprised by a pet.

3 out of 5

Impractical Magic - Gillian Polack

Jewish mothers annoy even demon lords.

3 out of 5

Learned Instincts - Lyn Battersby

Female reptilian aliens begin to deal with their repressive sexism.

3.5 out of 5

The Memory of Breathing - Lyn Battersby

Capital necromancy and dead rights.

4 out of 5

Hades' Daughter - Sara Douglass

This book is too long and too messy, and for a fantasy book, none of the characters were interesting enough to put up with for that long.

A man and a woman, mythological and historical characters that you have probably heard of, but changed in this book, end up opponents down through the ages, a conflict that his its root in their original meeting.

The first part is not so bad, then, blah.

2 out of 5

Mirrorsun Rising - Sean McMullen

In this part of the Greatwinter saga, it is a case of duelling Calculors. With the Mirror Sun a rather deadly threat the Highliber and the Abbess have to work out what to do about it, as well as win a war on the ground.

Not the easiest of tasks, by any means, and the will certainly need help from some skilled agents on the ground.

4 out of 5

Beware the Picaroon! - John Cassells

The Picaroon is a poor man's Saint, that is, if the Saint was more of a bent crook with a liking for a lot more English breakfasts.

Ludovic Saxon is apparently 'The Man Who Plucks the Plucker'. Lucky he wasn't on Hey Hey It's Saturday.

Here, he is after a bunch of emeralds, and in the process decides to help out a woman from the not very nice man that his hands on the jewels.

2.5 out of 5

For the Witch of the Mists - David C. Smith and Richard L. Tierney

This is rubbish. Very disappointing after the entertaining Red Sonja series. This starts off ok, after a wizard makes a sacrifice and tells Bran what he needs to do it descends through ordinary to atrocious.

Bran is captured by a Roman sorcerer who then lets him go as a captive to Rome, to become, Holy Retarius, Batman! A gladiator. There he meets a Roman witch, and a wealthy shrewd gladiator runner who sees potential, yada yada.

Often a minor character in his own book, there are a lot of Romans running around you couldn't give a shagging stola about.

1 out of 5

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Cargo - Rick Kennett

Mysteries in space.

3 out of 5

The Last of Mr Benjimen - Rick Kennett

After a shipwreck, the disappearance of a man is investigated.

3 out of 5

Howler - Robert Hood

Monsters and the horizontal mambo.

2.5 out of 5

Fortitude Valley Station 2:15 am - Dirk Flinthart

Train station ghosts.

3.5 out of 5

Corpus Christi - Dirk Flinthart

The horrors in the basement are a bit too closely related to the protagonist and his work for comfort.

3.5 out of 5

Invictus - Dirk Flinthart

Pirate queen makes an entreaty.

3 out of 5

Static Shock - Stephen Dedman

Far future time travellers visit minds of famous people.

3.5 out of 5

The Whole of the Law - Stephen Dedman

A spaceship crew takes a job on anarchist planet. Robot and espionage problems.

2.5 out of 5

Acquired Tastes - Stephen Dedman

Time travel is useful for negotiation, and power.

3.5 out of 5

Mortal Nature - Stephen Dedman

Xenobiologist caught in an espionage situation.

3.5 out of 5

The Ghoul Goes West - Stephen Dedman

A female shootist in a bar recounts encountering a vampire with Doc Holliday.

3.5 out of 5

Demons of Fear - Jennifer Fallon

The facilitator of a support group for battered women is not what she seems.

4 out of 5

Reigning Cats and Dogs - Cat Sparks

An anti-feral animal group introduces a genetic virus that causes the introduced animals to grow to giant size.

4 out of 5

Polish - Kaaron Warren

A woman goes back to the country house she lived in with her girlfriend, the ghost is still there.

3.5 out of 5

Dying For Air - Sean Williams

Experimental biotech testing on humans.

3.5 out of 5

Otherling - Juliet Marillier

A singing fantasy.

2.5 out of 5

Kappas - Maxine McArthur

Japanese beasties do some media work.

3.5 out of 5

SVYAGATOR - Sean McMullen

The Russians cut some corners to get to the moon ahead of the Americans.

4 out of 5

The Mana Bar Kid - Geoffrey Maloney

The food situation in Africa is slowly reversed with the West thanks to some matter transmitter technology, and some addictive chocolate bars.

3.5 out of 5

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Our Lady of Chernobyl - Greg Egan

A man is hired to find a radiocative religious icon. The search turns deadly.

3.5 out of 5

Cocoon - Greg Egan

A private policeman investigates a bombing of a biological research centre looking into natal protection of babies, when he stumbles across the fact of the company moving anyone not died in the wool hetero away from the project, and realises they are also experimenting with preventing non-hetero births by controlling maternal stress factors.

4.5 out of 5

Reasons To Be Cheerful - Greg Egan

A boy discovers he has a serious brain tumour, and it was causing him to be amazingly happy. Removed, he becomes despondent, and undergoes a new and extensive treatment eventually, with a form of brain network, to try and get back to a more useful life many years later.

4.5 out of 5

The Autumn Castle - Kim Wilkins

The Autumn Castle is definitely a bit much of a romance novel for me, although it is better than your garden variety version of those.

A woman meets one of those faerie type guys, after hanging around in a bohemian type community for a while, and the human blokes aren't good enough for her.

Yeah, he ain't ugly, no shock there.

Misadventures in both worlds happen thereafter.

2.5 out of 5

Funnelweb - Richard Ryan

Too much radiation in Australian makes some not overly pleasant spiders much, much, much bigger. We ain't talking Eight Legged Freaks size here, either.

Much death and destructions follows, as the rest of the world watches, and some neighbours plot to invade and take over the spoils, or what is left anyway.

3 out of 5

Lucent Carbon - Russell Blackford


A cyberpunk tale of a future on the border between posthumanity and immortality, where the new generation is genetically modified by longevity and healthy, but strains of AIDS and other terrors inflict the old, enough for them to destructively scan and upload their personalities. A woman attends her friend and boss as he goes through this.

4.5 out of 5

The Sword of God - Russell Blackford


The Queen of Palmyra's domain is being slowly strangled by Aurelian, Imperator of Rome and his sun god priests. She hires the blood-fueled mage Simeon Africanus to help her turn the tide.

4 out of 5

The Interplanetary Huntress' Last Case - Arthur K. Barnes

An omnibus of the Interplanetary Huntress last two cases.

Trouble on Titan
Siren Satellite

Gerry's ego can't resist a challenge, and when they basically call her chicken, off to Saturn she goes, Strike and all.

She has to deal with a slimy, unctuous competitor, and ends up on Titan, where the natives aren't too bad at all.

3 out of 5

Gerry again can't resist a lure, and again runs into trouble because of it. This time, ambushed, bushwhacked, and threatened with being marooned on Titan.

Rumours of retirement false, she tells the media after marriage announcements.

3 out of 5

3 out of 5

The Interplanetary Huntress Returns - Arthur K. Barnes

An omnibus of Interplanetary Huntress adventures 4 and 5.

The Energy Eaters
The Seven Sleepers

A couple of blokes with a little problem on the moon with some beasties and their electrical abilities need the help of Gerry Carlyle, and try a little psychology to get her assistance.

3 out of 5

Some space walking around a comet, some chases and other hair rising situations for Gerry, Tommy and crew. All to do with the evil media, perhaps.

3.5 out of 5

3 out of 5

Interplanetary Huntress - Arthur K. Barnes

A collection of the first three Interplanetary Huntress adventures.

Hothouse Planet
Dual World
Satellite Five

When Gerry Carlyle goes to Venus on a hunt, Tommy Strike ends up going with her. She is no-nonsense, used to being in charge and being the boss.

However, Tommy knows more than a thing or two about interplanetary wildlife himself, some of which Gerry doesn't. That, and different operating methodology causes some friction.

3.5 out of 5

"That man of mine," said Gerry Carlyle. "He's gotten himself into a jam, I fear."

He has done, too. Tommy has gone to do a bit of exploring of the Venusian Lost Continent, ignoring some normal procedure, and looking to make some money on the side.

His ideas for getting themselves out of the situation aren't instilling too much confidence in Gerry's aide that is unlucky enough to be stuck with him.

Luckily, the Huntress herself is on the ball, and he deserves the abuse he gets.

3.5 out of 5

Tommy is none too happy that the paralysis ray Gerry wants used on the monster laying waste to those that go to Satellite Five is tested on him!

Off he goes, nonetheless. Gerry then finds out some information, and she is not averse to a bit of the old phone book and fall down the stairs type of police work to get it.

Hooking up with a hotshot French pilot, she is off to Satellite Five.

Tommy is holding his own, but she fails to believe that as well as asexual production, the creature adapts to weapons used against it in previous generations.

3.5 out of 5

3.5 out of 5

Friday, April 20, 2007

The Caress - Greg Egan

An enhanced policeman gets entangled in a billionaire's bizarre Dr Moreau creations as art and save the child schemes.

4 out of 5

Artifact - Greg Egan

A man is unable to deal with being in space, despite the unique opportunity of investigating an artificial structure around a black hole.

3 out of 5

The Facts of Dr Van Helsing's Case - Stephen Dedman

Explores Van Helsing's intellectual development and terrible dreams as he assists the military.

3.5 out of 5

Thursday, April 19, 2007

The White Abacus - Damien Broderick

Luddites in space. You would think that people that work in an asteroid belt wouldn't be anti-technology, but there you have it.

However, this particular part of society is definitely in the 'if you have to take me apart to get there I don't want to go' camp.

One of the leaders decides to cause a bit of trouble, and it is up to the protagonists, both human and machine, to stop him.

2.5 out of 5

Winter - Simon Brown

A mean streets of Sydney setting, and rather claustrophobic as everyone has to be there, because of the rather nasty outside. A bit of a post-apocalyptic thing going on as far as the weather goes, hence the title.

In this city, being a copy with a job that entitles you to be shot at and beaten up is actually a good deal.

3.5 out of 5

The Novice - Trudi Canavan

Sonea is now learning the magic arts, and has a sympathetic tutor, in general, but still has to deal with the rich kids, and boys who aren't fans of hers.

That is pretty simple compared to the fact that it seems the head of the whole joint is a dirty filthy human sacrificing black magician, and she is co-opted and cannot tell anyone.

All, however, is not as it seems.

3 out of 5

The Magicians Guild - Trudi Canavan

This is set in a world, or at least a city, in this case, where magic is the province of the wealthy and well connected, and those with talent and cash can be trained to become powerful.

So, of course, the heroine here is a poor kid, and a girl, at that, who seems to have more than just a little aptitude for this sort of thing. Along with a friend with a talent for the Thieves Guild, instead of magic, they get into more than a little trouble.

3 out of 5

Teranesia - Greg Egan

Mutants amok. Or there will be, by the end of this. A couple of kids grow up on their own idyllic not yet Island of Dr Moreau.

Their parents are top-line biological researchers looking intro strange goings on in the local butterfly population.

It appears evolution is going nuts, and mutations happen almost in reverse.

As far as people go, this can be bad things, man. I definitely didn't like this one as much as most of his other work.

3 out of 5

Quarantine - Greg Egan

Egan takes a slight change of pace here, as the setting is Earth, but an Earth that has been shut off from everywhere else by your good old bigarse forcefield bubble type idea.

A few weirdos don't cope with this too well, of course. However, there is a good old fashioned cop story involved here, as a detective has to solve a mystery, in this case, that of a disappearance.

That's not to say Egan doesn't quantum mechanic you, as usual, because he does.

4 out of 5

Permutation City - Greg Egan

Egan takes the Paul Durham character and scenario that he created in his story 'Dust' and takes it further, adding other characters and personalities to his exploration of looking at the simulation of people and running them, or living in, a virtual environment.

He explores what class differences will mean in such a world, while Durham works and schemes to continue his experiments with the help of others.

4 out of 5

Diaspora - Greg Egan

A castastrophic astronomical event means living on Earth is a no go. As in a black hole zapped my planet.

Thus created is the Diaspora, and humanity separates into people that live in different modes. In virtualities, as robots, or points on between.

The main thrust here is these extreme posthumans trying to work out what is still important. For example, do we make children - how do we make them, what do we make them? Things like that.

4 out of 5

Schild's Ladder - Greg Egan

To quote some country singer or other "baby did a bad, bad, thing". This is bad in the Sister Alice bad sense of the word.

As in screw up, destroy large chunks of galaxies.

The posthumans here have awesome technological capabilities at their fingertips, the ability to back up, live outside bodies, and all that stuff, but they still have to relate to each other.

They also have to come up with a way to stop this much greater than minor problem they have.

This one is mind melter taggable.

4.5 out of 5

The Way She Smiles the Things She Says - Greg Egan

A computer geek kid and robotics = girlfriend.

3.5 out of 5

Learning To Be Me - Greg Egan

A man learns to come to terms with the Jewel or Ndoli device - which is also mentioned in Border Guards, and has a bit of a different reaction with a glitch to others.

3 out of 5

Dust - Greg Egan

A man is running an experiment in the ability to change times and geography for a simulated personality to see if it will cohere. At least that is what he thinks.

5 out of 5

Silver Fire - Greg Egan

A CDC researcher looks into the agonising titular disease, and has to track it through a travelling dance and music scene, where a cult of sorts has grown up around it.

4 out of 5

Axiomatic - Greg Egan

A man who lost his wife in an armed robbery shooting, and is a complete believer in the sanctity of life wants to get a brain implant so he can do something about his wife's killer, now released from jail.

4.5 out of 5

Australian Science Fiction - Van Ikin

This contains

Introduction: The History of Australian Science Fiction • Van Ikin
The Monster Mine • P. G. M.
“Oo-a-deen”: or, The Mysteries of the Interior Unveiled • Anon
Human Repetends • Marcus Clarke
A Vision Out West • Barcroft Boake
Utopian Dreams from “Melbourne and Mars” • Joseph Fraser
The Red Sickness from The Germ Growers • Robert Potter
War from “Beyond the Ice” • G. Read Murphy
The Bunyip Dies from “The Last Lemurian” • G. Firth Scott
A Woman of Earth from “A Woman of Mars” • Mary Ann Moore-Bentley
The Invasion of Sydney from “The Coulored Conquest” • Rata
The Shadow Falls from “The Electric Gun” • Harold Johnson
Andax and Odi from “Out of the Silence” • Erle Cox
The Wreck of the Void from “Vandals of the Void” • James Morgan Walsh
Aubade from “Tomorrow and Tomorrow” • M. Barnard Eldershaw
Place of the Throwing-stick • Frank B. Bryning
Kelly Country • A. Bertram Chandler
One Way to Tomorrow • Wynne N. Whiteford
Re-deem the Time • David J. Lake
One Clay Foot • Jack Wodhams
In a Petri Dish Upstairs • George Turner
A Passage in Earth • Damien Broderick
Inhabiting the Interspaces • Philippa C. Maddern
The Gentle Basilisk • Dal Stivens
Limbo from “Displaced Person” • Lee Harding
The Words She Types • Michael Wilding
Report on the Shadow Industry • Peter Carey

This is really an indispensable book for those interested in the history of the genre in Australia, or in general. A compact, very nice book that is easy to read, and traces the history from early times to the 70s.

The bibliography in the back gives pointers to both earlier and later work.

I find myself pulling this out time and time again, and is the second copy I have owned.

5 out of 5

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

The Return of Conan - Bjorn Nyberg and L. Sprague de Camp

This is the book Conan the Avenger was retitled as later on.

Conan, an established king in Aquilonia gets married. His queen, Zenobia, is kidnapped by a wizard's sorcerous beast.

Asking a local sorcerer for assistance, he sets out to track her down, and retraces the paths of a few of his old exploits in the process. Piracy with the brotherhood, disposing of some Turanians, again rescuing the Devi, and more. Not much chat her, lots of sword.

3 out of 5

Conan the Avenger - Robert E. Howard and Bjorn Nyberg

Conan, an established king in Aquilonia gets married. His queen, Zenobia, is kidnapped by a wizard's sorcerous beast.

Asking a local sorcerer for assistance, he sets out to track her down, and retraces the paths of a few of his old exploits in the process. Piracy with the brotherhood, disposing of some Turanians, again rescuing the Devi, and more. Not much chat her, lots of sword.

This also includes the second part of The Hyborian Age.

3 out of 5

The Floating Coffins - C. K. M. Scanlon

Insidious incidents to be investigated at Indianapolis Inland rubber, after downed bombers crews keep dying when their life rafts fail.

Fowler suspects a fifth column is at work, and goes into action to root it out.

Stuck in a building with the ratzis, he and his mate Larry Kendal are outnumbered, when he suggests Kendal should be able to handle 6 or 7 of 'em, the retort is "who do you think I am, Superman?"

Not quite, perhaps, but good enough.

3 out of 5

The Ambassador From Hell - William O'Sullivan

This is really quite dull, and in general, Satan himself is a colourless and humourless bastard.

He has a cohort of masked men that he won't even give permanent weapons to, all with code names.

Layabout playboy by day, string of bank robbery scheme crimebuster dressed in black by night.

He gets a bit peeved when the gang robbing banks tries to frame him, though.

2.5 out of 5

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Glasshouse - Charles Stross

Starting with a backhanded, commentary on the nuttiness of data format changes for the sake of cash, you get some insight into the ability of this society to change their minds and their bodies.

Also the fact that this is lower-tech and less able place to live than what went before, because of a conflict.

This all ties into a supposedly sociological simulation experiment of a 20th century 'Dark Age' that they do not know much about.

The people in there realise it is a fair bit more than that, and groups at work tie back in to the war situation. You are given flashbacks and insight into this during the rest of the novel, through their experiences in the past.

Certainly not as brilliant as Accelerando or as amusing as Singularity Sky, I'd probably give it a 3.75 so far, but a writer like this certainly deserves some rounding up!

4 out of 5

Monday, April 16, 2007

Hell To Pay - Simon R. Green

Back on form here as John Taylor goes back to work after the events of the Lilith War. He gets hired by one of the filthy rich guys that are left, who also happens to be immortal, to find one of his descendants.

So, John goes around turning over rocks to see what crawls out. A few of the things that do are Jimmy Thunder from Drinking Midnight Wine, the Salvation Army Sisterhood Christian Terrorist Nuns, a Hand of Glory, and a Duke of Hell.

3.5 out of 5

Eye and Talon - K. W. Jeter

The third of these authorised sequels, and this one improved a bit, capturing a little more of the feel and ambience, I think.

Having a cool owl probably doesn't hurt, either. That is part of the focus of the story, is there a real bird of prey still around, or not? This is what has to be discovered as the inhabitants and focal characters of this novel continue to not have a good time at all.

3 out of 5

Replicant Night - K. W. Jeter

I suppose you could say this is bleak and getting bleaker. Replicant Night starts off with making a movie of Deckard's replicant hunting adventures, of all things.

Bizarre. Then there is the whole Tyrell woman love me or kill me scenario.

Presumably it is trying to bring into question whether anyone in the book, or even the reader, has any idea what is going on.

3 out of 5

The Edge of Human - K. W. Jeter

While it was perhaps interesting to see that there was a sequel of sorts to Blade Runner, it is only of sorts.

You are never quite sure why, or what milieu you are actually in, I think, in general, and while some of the elements are there it basically comes across as just ordinary.

3 out of 5

The Shockwave Rider - John Brunner

Shockwaver Rider is a cyberpunk precursor style of book, written before there were even personal computers, Brunner comes up with a very extensive multi-user system that everyone is connected to.

That is obviously open to abuse, and a talented rebel sets out to do something about what is happening.

3 out of 5

Shiva 3000 - Jan Lars Jensen

Shiva 3000 is a rather baroque novel, using the gods among mortals trope, but not gods as such. A man sets out to right a wrong, there is an unstoppable juggernaut, a woman, and other mythological bits and pieces.

It just didn't seem to work for me, but using Indian myths made it worth a look, fantastic archrs, or not.

2.5 out of 5

Biggles and the Pirate Treasure - W. E. Johns

Biggles is the too good to be true dashing war hero/sleuth/adventurer/agent written for boys. This book has a bunch of Biggles stories, where he solves bunches of problems, stops rotters, and all that sort of absolute boys own stiff upper lip sort of flying ace thing.

One such case does indeed involve a pirate treasure.

3 out of 5

V - Kenneth Johnson

A novelisation of the entertaining and advanced for its time tv mini-series.

Aliens come to Earth and offer what seems like a good deal, in turn for what seems like not a lot.

All is not as it seems, and there is one hell of a lot of snakes in the grass, as the hungry aliens take over.

A resistance forms to combat them.

2.5 out of 5

Eight Days of Luke - Diana Wynne Jones

An orphan kid gets sent to live with some relatives, because he needs a guardian.

They don't really give a crap about him, but have ulterior motives, so it is not a fun time for him.

He tries a curse, and gets quite a bit more than he bargained for. Some up close and personal time with some Norse mythology is in store for David as his slip of the tongue.

3 out of 5

The Ogre Downstairs - Diana Wynne Jones

Three kids are not particularly happy with the new man that their mother has decided to marry, as to them, he is not very pleasant. Hence the title, which applies to this bloke.

However, all is not as it seems, and the kids get some new ties, which turn out to be basically magical chemistry sets.

Hijinks ensure.

3 out of 5

Dogsbody - Diana Wynne Jones

The dog star Sirius has been a bad dog star. His punishment is that he gets to be an actual real life furry mutt, instead of the stellar variety.

Sent to earth, he ends up in the creek when a young girl rescues him, and raises the puppy as her own.

The dog star has a quest to fulfill and an item to find until he gets to be a star again.

3 out of 5

The Homeward Bounders - Diana Wynne Jones

Strange, supernatural game playing beings are at the heart of this book. They like to play games on a very large scale, as in planet to planet, and are not particularly nice.

A young boy gets involved, and is made into one of the participants. He meets others, and they decide to do something about it, as well as running into the Flying Dutchman, the Wandering Jew and Prometheus.

2.5 out of 5

Power of Three - Diana Wynne Jones

A pretty good kids book. The three children of a clan leader have psionic powers, or, at least, all come to discover that they do.

They also have to deal with the feuds between their clans and others, as well as with the different non-human races that inhabit the same area.

3 out of 5

Charmed Life - Diana Wynne Jones

Charmed Life is about some kids who go to study magic with one of the official guys in charge of magic. He has a couple of kids of his own, and they are the usual school age to have the school age disagreements and fights and not being nice to each other that goes along with that.

The eldest also gets a bit peeved at being thrown in with the young brats, too.

2.5 out of 5

Winter's Heart - Robert Jordan

Don't care any more after two dull books in a row. Perrin has to find his kidnapped wife, Mat actually does a bit of potential wife kidnapping.

Rand gets vengeful on traitorous elements among his magic dudes.

The Aes Sedai continue to bicker, like, well, violent sorceresses.

Sound familiar? Sounds long and drawn out and badly in need of editing, basically.

2 out of 5

The Path of Daggers - Robert Jordan

The chicks are doing the more interesting thing here, using the ter'angreal to do their own version of a weather control machine, or at least a weather fixing machine.

Rand is involved in yet another large armed conflict, and gets a bit crazy, which ain't good if you were a soldier there, on either side.

Easily the worst of these books so far, and a lot of pointlessnes

2 out of 5

A Crown of Swords - Robert Jordan

Rand has to fight a Forsaken he has fought before, who, in good supervillain fashion, just won't stay down.

A quest is also required to do something about the nasty weather that the evil Dark Lord has chosen to inflict upon them.

Aes Sedai politics continues to be a pain in the arse for a lot of people.

3 out of 5

Lord of Chaos - Robert Jordan

The Dark Lord guy stirs the pot a bit.

Rand also gets fed up with the sexist sorceresses and says, hey, you blokes can do magic too if you can, and establishes his own band of magic wielders with Mazrim Taim to lead them.

The females get upset at this threat to their power, and come after Rand.

Yet another power base, that of the army of religious fanatics also comes more into play.

3 out of 5

The Fires of Heaven - Robert Jordan

This fifth Wheel of Time book goes a bit more widescreen.

Mat, now being the general to beat all generals with his Bene Gesserit-general-specific type memory knowledge, is an obvious choice when you have a fairly heavy duty war to be fought.

The only problem is, there is likely to be more than one, and in different places.

Those sneaky Forsaken are still hanging around, too.

3 out of 5

The Shadow Rising - Robert Jordan

Rand is now super scary guy. Generally, a woman named Selene is going to be super scary girl. In this case, yep. She is one of the Forsaken. Whines quite a bit less than the rest of the women they have to put up with in this story, too.

Perrin and Faile go back home to beastie's town, and the Aes Sedai politics get violent.

3 out of 5

The Dragon Reborn - Robert Jordan

Rand now has his mojo going on. Therefore, he thinks he has a shot at doing over one of the demon lord types.

Along with Moraine, he travels to Tear, because, well, a magic sword never hurt anyone's credibility if you draw it in a big showy stunt and win a fight, even with help.

This allows him to start establishing a serious political power base.

3 out of 5

The Great Hunt - Robert Jordan

A couple of threads to this book. The party involved in going after the magical Horn of Valere, which the bad guys have nicked.

The females have to go and deal with the serpentine and savage politics of the sorceress types of the Aes Sedai, at their base, win the argument there, and stay alive.

Rand, by the end, is definitely not your rural village kid anymore.

3 out of 5

The Eye of the World - Robert Jordan

A pretty good fantasy novel.

It starts with a diversion into the past, which shows the problems with the corruption of magic and its dimorphic nature.

In the present, some monsters and worse appear to be after a group of your average farm boy and girl types, in your Nazgul after hobbits type scenario.

They bail, and a female magic wielder and her partner, who can handle himself in a fight, go with them.

A quest starts, and reveals who these seemingly unimportant rural types are.

4 out of 5

The Chinatown Death Cloud Peril - Paul Malmont

The death and funeral and reappearance of H. P. Lovecraft heralds an adventure for Walter Gibson, Lester Dent, and L. Ron Hubbard.

A Chinese warlord is involve, reminding Gibson of the Shadow, and plenty of cameos, most significantly by Doc Smith and Robert Heinlein, among others.

A decent book, although the Chinese political interludes certainly drag, at times. Certainly worth a look if you like hero pulp.

3.5 out of 5

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Hunters of Dune - Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson

Reasonable, but a little on the slow side. One of the main plot thrusts is the raising of gholas of several key figures from the time of Dune, and given they age normally to grow to be adults you keep getting small time jumps to deal with this.

"Taking the infant Paul into her arms, Sheeana spoke quietly. "To the
Fremen he was the messiah who came to lead them to victory. To the Bene
Gesserit, he was a superhuman who emerged under the wrong circumstances
and escaped our control.""

The no-ship continues to try and evade the enemy, until a simple trap lures them into conflict.

Murbella fights the renegade Honoured Matres, and eventually in Other Memory and through physical confrontation discovers the different face dancers from the scattering, gaining more clues to the actual Enemy.

""Remember, we still need the Kwisatz Haderach, according to our
mathematical projections," Erasmus cautioned.

"Omnius sounded miffed. "If we get a human superman, so much the better.
But even if we do not, the conclusion of this conflict is still clear.""

3.5 out of 5

Saturday, April 14, 2007

The Legend of Senorita Scorpion - Les Savage

This compilation contains the first three Senorita Scorpion adventures. It also gives some publishing history and detail on where, when and why it was written.

Senorita Scorpion
The Brand of Senorita Scorpion
The Secret of the Santiago

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

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

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

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

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

A pretty fair tale.

3.5 out of 5

Anse Hawkman has hired some men to pull a fast one, by pretending to be the mining engineer she has hired to come and deal with a contract for her.

Muscle comes along, and the Scorpion has to try and make a break for freedom to get help from Chisos Owens. A legal more-than-technicality also proves handy.

3 out of 5

The Secret of the Santiago involves a map divided into three pieces, and the hunt to find them all. People are getting quite violent over it, so it seems it involves a lot of gold.

Senorita Scorpion, and her two admirers and friends have to deal with Caballero Negro, the Black Horseman, and his black priest satanist accomplice in a race to stay alive and complete the map.

3.5 out of 5

3.5 out of 5

The Sting of Senorita Scorpion - Les Savage

Senorita Scorpion is being tracked by a marshal, for the murder of his brother. Unable to shake him she asks for time to prove she didn't do it.

At the heart of it is a hidden source of water, and she comes across the posse of man she suspects are behind the murder, and tries to find out what is going on, with the marshall not far behind.

3.5 out of 5

The Secret of the Santiago - Les Savage

The Secret of the Santiago involves a map divided into three pieces, and the hunt to find them all. People are getting quite violent over it, so it seems it involves a lot of gold.

Senorita Scorpion, and her two admirers and friends have to deal with Caballero Negro, the Black Horseman, and his black priest satanist accomplice in a race to stay alive and complete the map.

3.5 out of 5

The Brand of Senorita Scorpion - Les Savage

Anse Hawkman has hired some men to pull a fast one, by pretending to be the mining engineer she has hired to come and deal with a contract for her.

Muscle comes along, and the Scorpion has to try and make a break for freedom to get help from Chisos Owens. A legal more-than-technicality also proves handy.

3 out of 5

Sharper Than a Serpent's Tooth - Simon R. Green

Something John Taylor says sums this book up pretty well:

"..we have a biblical myth to kill."

It is war between John and his mother Lilith, with various Nightside residents from the future, those that have been trying to kill him for so long to stop this war from destroying most of everything, taking part.

Everybody is involved, and even the Authorities are exposed to the violence, as John makes a desperate run to Shadows Fall for a weapon that may give him a chance, with his friends running sacrificial inteference.

Lilith, the architect of the Nightside to give herself a haven from the powers of Heaven and Hell will not go easily, and they may even need another plan.

This book is a lot more Deathstalker than private investigator, with super powered beings, monsters, gods, zombies, and everything else being blasted, mastered and bastard all over the Nightside and the timeline.

3 out of 5

Paths Not Taken - Simon R. Green

Not really as good as the last few, because it really breaks the fantasy-noir feel to go on a time travelling adventure, for most of it.

John takes Suzie Shooter and Tommy Oblivion with him through time, to try and work out a way to stop the war with his mother Lilith.

Along the way you get Arthur, Mordred, Merlin, Nimue, Father Time, and a rather meaner version of Herne the Hunter than previously.

Lilith, of course, is still waiting for them, as the relationship between John and Suzie intensifies.

3 out of 5

Drinking Midnight Wine - Simon R. Green

As it turns out, I had read this, just didn't remember the author.

A bloke working in an eclectic bookshop follows the wrong woman off the train, and ends up in Mysterie.

Angels, a low-rent version of Thor, Luna, Gaia, Nichols Hob the Serpent's Son and others are there to help and bedevil him.

A few names dropped from the Nightside, too, it seems, along with Hob.

Basically, he becomes an important mortal element in a struggle between Powers and Dominations as Green likes to call them.

3 out of 5

Friday, April 13, 2007

Moon Called - Patricia Briggs

This was good. Despite the mechanic-as-pop-tart cover, this was not a romance novel, although the elements are there for it to degenerate into such if they decide that is what sells.

Werewolf pack leader next door, childhood werewolf boyfriend, itself.

The hero of the piece is a skinwalker, though, and a smaller variety of canine. She has a few guns, but does not have the fetish or aggressively obnoxious stance that Anita Blake does. Being a mechanic, not a cop-necromancer might have something to do with that.

There is a little more humour in these.

"Stefan's bus was painted to match the Mystery Machine, which said a lot about the vampire it belonged to. Stefan told me that he'd briefly considered painting it black a few years ago when he started watching Buffy, but, in the end, he'd decided the vampire slayer was no match for Scooby Doo."

There is some slight mention/foreshadowing of the fact that this woman is more powerful than she knows, so her superheroic antics may become more pronounced in future as she finds out about them, even though she handles multiple violent werewolves here.

"How did you break your arm, Mercy?" he asked.

A werewolf tossed me against a giant packing crate while I was trying to rescue a frightened young girl who'd been kidnapped by an evil witch and a drug lord."

4 out of 5

Hex and the City - Simon R. Green

We discover more about the Nightside, here, and learn that John was apprenticed to Carnacki the Ghost Finder.

After an auction for the Chaos Butterfly that does not go well, Lady Luck turns up and gives John a job. Given it is one he wants to do anyway, he is happy to stick his nose in, and go looking for the origins of the Nightside.

This is all tied up with who his mother is, the thing no-one will tell him. Taking a Sinner, Demon and Madman with him, he goes questioning the Powers, and has to go past the Lamentation, Herne the Hunter, the Lord of Thorns, Merlin, and Walker and the Authorities to get there.

Myths and Legends multiply it seems, in the Nightside.

Very interesting stuff.

4 out of 5

Nightingale's Lament - Simon R. Green

John Taylor might have a thing for lost daughters it seems, as he takes on another case involving such a woman. This time she is not lost in the physical sense, but mental, being a famous singer.

A fun tidbit in that the Nightside has its own transvestite superheroine.

We see here that the Nightside is a mixture of superscience and the supernatural, much like Grimjack's Cynosure, for another example, when John is called in at the start to look at the problems a power plant run by an old friend is having. What is at the heart of that is a plot used many a time in comics.

We also discover the newspaper is run by the World's Greatest Victorian Adventurer hero, who was sent through time by his old archenemies, the fate of whom no-one knows.

John, teaming up with Dead Boy, must work out what is going on.

These Nightside books are very entertaining.

4 out of 5

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Agents of Light and Darkness - Simon R. Green

Green certainly keeps you on your toes in this one. John Taylor is hired to find the cup Judas Iscariot drank out of at the last supper, also known as the Unholy Grail.

Many people are looking for this, including a bunch of angels.

He also comes across the Speaking Gun, which Merlin might just have made to kill angels.

He has a run-in with La Belle Dame Sans Merci, and when confronted by angels and others, calls on Merlin for help. Agents of the Morningstar have no pull with the Son of the Morningstar it seems. "bullies", he calls 'em.

The man known as Jude, a long time Nightside person has an important role to play in more than one myth and legend.

4 out of 5

Angel With no Hands - Stephen Adams

Gun Moll rescues a young, green FBI guy from the crazed terrorist crimelord Giselle Sans Mains. Playing her usual Huntress style game of gangster and good guy, she of course ends up in a final confrontation with the behooked madwoman.

3 out of 5

Solomon's Jar - Alex Archer

This is not as good as the first book, and Anja Creed rapidly hops from continent to continent at ridiculous speed, almost.

The ultimate goal is Solomon's Jar, thanks to some usenet help. It may or may not have demons in it. Along the way, she runs into one of her usenet correspondents, who turns out to be a decent bloke, rescuing her at one stage after a bitch fight with a crazed Brazilian supermodel.

She is a bit less than forthcoming about how she gets out of all her physical confrontations.

"I don't believe in superheroes...but you'd look smashing in a cape and tights." Is the quip her new friend Aidan comes up with.

Mad cultists and the Russian mafia make appearances.

3 out of 5

The Unquiet Grave - Peter Evans

Red decides she needs a break way from it all for a while. However, the immense length of time she spends in suspended animation wasn't really what she had in mind.

Upon awakening it seems she has been canonised for her role with the Strontium Dogs and mutants, and a lot of carnage has been carried out in her name.

She also has to deal with the pretty horrific problem of a planet-sized brain sucker, or Mindfeeder if you want to be more polite, as well as a high up rat in the ranks.

3 out of 5

Savage Membrane - Steve Niles

Cal gets called in to help, when, for the second time, dead bodies are found with the brain completely missing, taken out clean.

To him, this is very familiar. So he and Mo'lock have to investigate, and he has to fortify himself with enough substance abuse to prevent his own brain from being removed.

3 out of 5

The Mad Goblin - Philip Jose Farmer

As you may guess from the title if you have an interest in Doc Savage, this one stars Doc Caliban and crew for the majority, as they fight their way through the schemes and obstancles of the evil dwarf supervillain.

Wolves, a bear, and more. Doc's bear fighting approach is pretty novel, you would have to say. He ends up with a touch choice or two to have to make.

3 out of 5

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Lord of the Trees - Philip Jose Farmer

The second of the Lord Grandrith novels, with the same conceit. The book is part of his autobiography, changed a bit by the author to protect people.

Most of this is military, really, as a parachute jump and some squad level actions are made by Grandrith as they assault the Nine, with casualties on both sides, before meeting up with Doc for the final book.

3 out of 5

A Feast Unknown - Philip Jose Farmer

Lord Grandrith and Doc Caliban are servants of the Nine Unknown. Ancient immortal overlords, who supply them with immortality elixir.

No-one knows what their plans are, but they decide to put Grandrith and Caliban into violent competition.

It seems the exilir screws up your psychology of sex and death, so close combat violence gives both men the horn, in Doc's case, more like a tuba.

After a near fatal confrontation, where misunderstandings are cleared up, the two titans decide the bootlicking days are over.

3.5 out of 5

The Doomsday Brunette - John Zakour and Lawrence Ganem

I didn't find this book as much fun as the first one.

Zachary Nixion Johnson has problems in quadruplicate, in the form of four super powered sisters. One of them going the crazed evil super villain route.

He has a bit of a computer issue, as well.

All this means that his enhancer bracelets and other gadgets get a fair bit more of a workout in this book.

3 out of 5

Something From the Nightside - Simon R. Green

A decent short book, done in the PI type of style you would expect, if you add in a mythological city, ghosts, timewarps, monsters, and a very bad house.

The main character is a Nightside resident living in the ordinary world to be left alone.

A woman comes to him with a case and pulls him back in, which, for him, is very dangerous. Lucky thing is he has more than one superpower.

3.5 out of 5

Tokyo Purple - Chet Cunningham

First Penetrator book for me. From the intro:
"To the public, the Penetrator became a cross between a modern day Robin Hood and a real-life Superman..."

Not your average guy either, it seems. Some mystic Native American mojo going on, giving him some heightened senses, pain resistance, and other things.

He carries around a plastic Dick Tracy stickered dart gun, to get through airports.

In this story he is taking it easy, on holiday in Hong Kong, when he gets word of the disappearance of some nuclear scientists. They have been kidnapped by a Japanese gang to force them to complete some small atomic weapons, so they can sell 'em.

Penetrator to the rescue. This guy is a bit more Remo Williams than Mack Bolan it seems.

2.5 out of 5

The Space Vampires - Colin Wilson

It is not often you see this in a dedication, not in a story:

I must also express my warmest thanks to Count Olof de la Gardie, both for his hospitality at Raback, and for allowing me to inspect family papers relating to his ancestor Count Magnus.

Energy sucking vampires from space, you got it.

Some not too swift characters, as well :

"That's easily explained. We both had a session with the Prime Minister two days ago. He doesn't believe these vampires are dangerous. So neither of us trusts him."

It takes a lack of belief in vampires to not trust a politician? No wonder the space vamps went for your area.

3 out of 5

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Supergran - Forrest Wilson

Not an alien, not an android, not a mutant, not a demigod, no powered armour, no mutilated parents driving her to become a dark avenger.

Nope, Supergran gets her powers the good old fashioned accidental way, and sets up to protect the town from the odd dastardly nogoodnik. Complete with the odd kid helper, of course.

2 out of 5

Beneath A Blood Red Moon - Shannon Drake

A pretty mundane, pretty much died in the wood I would guess romance.

New Orleans vampires in the past, and present, circle around each other, as does a cop and a rich girl. Not too many interesting elements to be found here, and it is laid on reasonably thickly.

Easily avoidable, as far as the whole paranormal thing goes it is pretty dull.

1.5 out of 5

Conan the Rebel - Poul Anderson

A softer, more erudite Conan is to be found here. "My dearest wishes","My beloved".

This book lags a little in the second half, not coincidentally I think with the lack of Belit.

Conan goes in search of the Queen of the Black Coast's family for her, and ends up fighting yet another Stygian sorcerer.

Dumbest monarch of the year award to Mentuphera.

"Why, if the Sun Master can do no better than Conan, what is to fret about?"

These Set worshippers never learn, it seems.

3.5 out of 5

Monday, April 9, 2007

Valley of Silence - Nora Roberts

A pretty average and very light fantasy. It seems a group of vampire hunters from our world have gone to another to help a queen fight an evil vampire queen. Including a vampire nightclub owner, and a couple of other supernatural types.

For a war against an evil vampire queen, well, there really isn't much war. The evil vampire queen is pretty lame, too. Probably because she is a crazy girl that became a vampire, not really Lilith.

The battle at the end is over in about two eyeblinks. Pretty much it seems all this is kept out of it to have space for the romance parts.

Other than that, Roberts seems to be a decent enough writer, but I doubt she grew up reading about medieval warfare or monsters.

3 out of 5

The Queen of Sinister - Mark Chadbourn

Definitely the weakest book in Chadbourn's 6 books about the Fall, so far. This one is more of an aside, as the doctor that you meet in the 6th book crosses over to the Otherworld to find a cure for a plague that is ravaging her local area.

She has a few companions, is a Sister of Dragons, gets help from the Goddess in the form of the Morrigan, and still screws up.

3 out of 5

Sunday, April 8, 2007

Mir - Alexander Behser

A cyberpunk book of the slightly later variety. Live tattoos, jokes, and others. How do you feel if your girlfriend only loves you for you tatts?

A bit of espionage, industrial and otherwise, computer virus smuggling, dodgy underworld, dodgy characters, and more abound.

Think sort of a Charlie Stross or Ken Macleod flavour for the general tone. Probably a 3.25 this one.

3.5 out of 5

Return of the Jedi - James Kahn

Yes, Luke, he was your father. That makes the whole sister thing just a little bit on the squicky side, doesn't it?

Anyway, we find out Han Solo is still cool, Darth Vader isn't stupid, the Emperor is ugly, and no Ewoks bleed when they die.

Throw in some space battles and some force cheese at the end.

3 out of 5

The Bungalow Mystery - Carolyn Keene

Bungalows are deadly. Well, not really, she doesn't live in Midsomer.

However, accidents in boats can be a bit on the dangerous side, and this happens to the young chick.

Apart from that, she has to check out a couple of dodgy adults, look into some thieving, and stay dressed nicely.

2 out of 5

The Secret of the Old Clock - Carolyn Keene

I always liked the Hardy Boys better than Nancy Drew, which is perhaps not too surprising. The whole team adventure thing there is probably a bit more interesting, and perhaps a bit more freedome given to the young lads than Nancy, anyway.

Other than that, a pretty garden variety kids mystery story. With these books, the title does actually have something to do with it.

2 out of 5

The Cat From Outer Space - Ted Key

This is a kid's book, not surprisingly. The cat in question is actually an alien, although he looks pretty much like your garden variety useless housecat.

With the aid of some technology he can communicate with humans, and needs help to make it back into space. Without it, you have a lot of running around trying to get it back.

2 out of 5

The Shining - Stephen King

I didn't find The Shining too interesting as a book.

A broken-down recovering guy ends up trapped with the family in a hotel, that is not your average hotel.

Clairvoyant cooks, ghosts, and other not so nice things, like a possessed alky come up to play as the place goes stir crazy.

3 out of 5

The Regulators - Stephen King

A monster takes over a helpless young boy and uses his mind to bring to life all sorts of nasty characters to commence a slaughter of a small town.

The young boy is an orphan, taken in by his grandparents, and they do their best with him, and the horrors that start to happen in this situation.

3.5 out of 5

Cujo - Stephen King

If you had to pick a sick, rabid dog to be terrorising you, I am pretty sure that a Saint Bernard would be really really low on a lot of people's list, down near Rottweiler, German Shepherd, Doberman, etc.

The woman and kid in this book have the misfortune of being cornered by such an unfortunate beast.

4 out of 5

Pet Sematary - Stephen King

This is the creepiest horror novel that I have ever read. My wife tells me she heard an interview with him once that said he actually scared himself writing this. That has to be pretty hard to do if you are Stephen King.

I am not volunteering to read this book again, I think, as he just might have done too good a job with it.

4.5 out of 5

Cycle of the Werewolf - Stephen King

This is a short, not particularly interesting novel told in twelve parts. It also has some illustrations by famous comic artist Bernie Wrightson.

When the killings in a small town in yes, Maine, keep mounting up, the townspeople come to the conclusion a werewolf is at work. Redneck drunk hunters aren't too useful though, and a young crippled boy has to work it all out.

3 out of 5

Carrie - Stephen King

A girl is terrorised by her completely insane whackjob fundamentalist mother. This has caused her to be a sheltered, shattered wreck of a personality.

She has telekinetic abilities, and that is one reason for her mother's horrific treatment of her. As a reclusive nerd type at an American high school she is not treated too well.

When a prom night very cruel psychological and physical prank combination traumatises her, she has finally had enough.

4 out of 5

Misery - Stephen King

The monster in this book is human, not supernatural. A crazed fan, obsessed with her favorite creator type, decides to keep him all to herself.

This involves imprisonment, physical and psychological abuse, shackles, weapons, and even a little bit more. Not a nice lady. A look at what can happen to famous people when they get an obsessed stalker.

3.5 out of 5

Christine - Stephen King

A fair chance that Joe Lansdale had read this before he wrote Captured By the Engines, I think.

Christine is one big car that really does want to do her own thing.

A possessed demonic sort of automobile, nothing gets between her and her owner, or vice versa, or bad things happen to the in-betweener.

3 out of 5

Dolores Claiborne - Stephen King

This is a story about two deaths. Dolores Claiborne is the housekeeper for a wealthy lady, and the police are investigating her death.

There is the killing of a husband in the past, and the police suspect Dolores of causing this death, as well. The novel then goes into the backstory of the relationship between the two women, and what is really going on.

3 out of 5

The Talisman - Stephen King and Peter Straub

The Talisman is a pretty ordinary two world story. A boy, Jack, discovers he ain't your average kid, and can travel to another, fantasy (or horror) type world, depending on how you look at it.

In our world, his mother is a dying actress, there, she has a different role. This sort of thing continues with all the other characters.

3 out of 5

The Running Man - Stephen King

A nasty dystopia that is definitely a little bit closer today.

A completely stratified society has the whole bread and circuses thing going, with all sorts of deadly reality tv type entertainments to keep people occupied.

A young man of the underclass has a very sick child, and in order to get money to make her well, decides to try and enter one of these game shows.

He ends up in the lethal Running Man game, that no-one has ever come out of alive, and has to find a way.

3 out of 5

Mina - Marie Kiraly

Mina: The Dracula Story Continues by Marie Kiraly is really pretty ordinary. It focuses on her, not surprisingly, and how it affects her relationship with her husband and others, after having been in the thrall of a powerful vampire.

Because of this, Harker the female is certainly not your average housewife of the time. Not a whole lot of point.

2.5 out of 5

Playing Easy to Get - Sherrilyn Kenyon

Well, this is pretty much porn, and not very good at that. The almost complete absence of plot, etc. The Warlord story has valkyries who are supposed to kill vampires, etc.

So, the first thing the captured valkyrie does for him is a striptease. All parties are quite braindead here it seems, hormones overactive, even for immortals where that is not supposed to be a factor.

1 out of 5

Allan and the Sundered Veil - Alan Moore

In the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, as an added bonus, there is the prose 'Allan and the Sundered Veil', in which a not as dead as thought Quatermain goes in search of drugs, and in this state encounters both Randolph and John Carter, the Time Traveller, and a Great Old One. Perhaps, anyway. Even more ahead for him after that.

3.5 out of 5

Witherwing - David Jarret

Very, very bad. To start with, the main character could be straight outta Jokertown. Not that the sorcerous cursed to have a wing thing couldn't be interesting, with the advantages of moving around and not dying when falling from great heights.

However, the characters here are so wooden they'd keep two armies of carpenters busy. When the best guy is a two line throwaway city guard, you have problems.

The sidekick is a Scanner, basically, he can blow people's heads up. Communicates once for the whole book.

I can just imagine what Conan would do to someone whose main combat trick is to try a flapping wing distraction.

While that is bad enough, an unpardonable sin for a novel with the trappings of sword and sorcery is to be deadly dull, and this one is certainly that.

1 out of 5

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Quest of the Dark Lady - Quinn Reade

This starts better than it finishes. Wulf is imprisoned, condemned to die for supposedly leading a troop of men to their deaths against The Slimy Ones, cthulhoid horrors from the Terrible East.

At his trial, he would not say why. Now the king lies dying, his doctor reveals that he, too is a World Master wizard, and it is sorcery that ails him. The dying king calls for Wulf to go on the quest to find the Dark Lady.

Wulf agrees rather than be lopped, and takes his prison companion with him, a highwaywoman, and the Doctor goes for sorcerous support.

Sorcerous storms, mutant animals and slimy ones are passed to reach another kingdom of men, to their surprise, and the Dark Lady is there.

Pretty much all downhill from there. Bewitching sorceress needs the strongest kind in the land to be superpowerful. Sort of a 2.75, this one.

The setting is apparently some far future post-apocalyptic type world, much as Gemmell did later.

3 out of 5

Touch the Dark - Karen Chance

Not too bad. A girl grows up with vampires, and the vampire mafia no less, and eventually grows up enough to find out why all these supernatural types are interested in her more than any other run of the mill can actually do some fortune telling clairvoyant.

Good mages, bad mages, good fairies, bad fairies, vampires, wererats, satyrs, or whatever. It seems she is in line to be the uberoracle, and controlling her or having her on your side would be helpful. Especially as she she can do the slice, dice and slay pretty well now, too.

3 out of 5

Were Blood - Harry Turtledove

This is pretty decent, and actually part of a continuing story, as opposed to a stand alone series adventure, it appears.

Gerin the Fox is a border baron, and an intelligent educated man that didn't particularly want to be a warrior, but ended up in the role due to deaths of others.

He is dealing with a possible war against a crazy sorcerer, and travels to a gathering of local lords to see one chosen to be the husband of the host's daughter.

She is not so keen on the idea and makes Gerin honour a promise he made to her as a kid to help her, and she sneaks out of the place with him, and off they go, with his large stalwart warrior friend of mysterious origin.

3.5 out of 5

The Swarm - Arthur Herzog

There was a movie of this, too, from memory, I think. It seemed back about then there was a small craze for monster killer bee horror movies, and so a book was pretty natural.

A pretty garden variety nature as monster horror story, but, not so bad for all that, as far as those things go.

3 out of 5

Friday, April 6, 2007

The Stainless Steel Rat Goes to Hell - Harry Harrison

This is clearly the weakest Stainless Steel Rat novel The Rat most of the time treats this investigation as an extended family holiday.

He was really bored anyway on the stultifying planet of rich people getting rejuvenated.

He has plenty of backup. "As head of the Special Corps, the most secret of secret forces that defended the peace and protected the galaxy, his powers were awesome."

Jim is pretty confident in dealing with the alternate universe crossing, Hell creating, self-duplicating madman. "One super-agent of superlative talent and experiment, a lone wolf, he who slinks by night, lithe, hand-some, unbeatable--the galaxy's best agent."

2.5 out of 5

Blood Price - Tanya Huff

This is a really solid novel. Not even that much of a romance, I suppose it could be thrown in as a ghost buster.

An ex-cop who quit when she couldn't be the star detective anymore because of her eyesight is now a PI, and when a serial killer keeps working, she, her old lover and colleague, and the vampire she runs into have a demon to stop.

I'd happily read more. People that like your standard mystery books, the Night Stalker, things like that would probably find this ok too I think.

3.5 out of 5

Thursday, April 5, 2007

The Men From P.I.G. and R.O.B.O.T. - Harry Harrison

A Puffin, so a kids book. The Interstellar Guard, stretched with policing an ever-rapidly expanding volume of space turns to animals and machines for help.

The Porcine Interstellar Guard, and the Robot Obtrusion Battalion Omega Three.

A couple of examples are given of each, and one PIG crew has two 1000 pound mutant highly intelligent boars, for example. So pretty formidable. Two frontier backworlds with problems are visited.

3 out of 5

Children of the Night - Mercedes Lackey

A little bit ahead of its time, perhaps? Clearly all the paranormal romance type stuff descends from books like this. All, perhaps not the complete formula or enough porn for the girls today. Diana Tregarde is a lot more X-Men than Death Wish or Dirty Harry screwed up like Anita Blake though.

She does know karate, however, and likes to train in spandex, which is pretty funny.

Anyway, Diana Tregarde isn't your run of the mill psionic magic user, she is the superhero version, a Guardian. She saves people from Very Bad Things. Often in her lounge room, it seems.

In this book, we have Nightflyer. Everyone knows this is never good. Here, Nightflyers by George R. R. Martin. Not good. Nightflight to Venus...
errr.. ok, Boney M trauma aside, there is a monster for her to deal with.

She also runs into a real life vampire, which is a bit of a surprise. Especially as she fancies him, and he is old enough to have been rescued by the Scarlet Pimpernel. Still has ex-boyfriend problems, too.

You have to love a woman who thinks, when the chips are down, and the fight is on, nunchuks flying, thinks: "could try a psi bolt instead—" while going all kara-te.

In fact, if the X-Men needed a fill-in for Psylocke on a ten-day contract, she could give it a shot.

3.5 out of 5

Son of Porthos - Alexandre Dumas

Apparently Porthos had a bastard. This son is the hero of the piece. Not really a shock, eh?

Bizarrely, it is Aramis that is the antagonist. The rest of the boys are dead and buried, and Aramis is now a scheming spider with designs for the girl that the Son of Porthos has a thing for.

This is really pretty ordinary. Along the lines of 'what were you thinking'?

2.5 out of 5

The Blood Knight - Greg Keyes

The start of this book was very poor, extremely choppy. I suspect editorial butchery, and given that it ended how it did, there would seem to be pretty clearly more to come.

So this could be a case of hacking and slashing to fit it into the amount of books that the publisher wanted. Almost a rush at the end, as well, it seems.

A bit disappointing.

Anne has to grow up fast to deal with her small war, and noble relatives that appear to be on her side, as well as deal with the supernatural Faiths, Kept, Sefry and others, as well as keep her group of friends together and alive.

Aspar and Stephen have their own quests and monsters to deal with, big worms, evil priests and Sefry, that sort of thing.

3 out of 5

The Plutonium Blonde - John Zakour and Lawrence Ganem

"Hypothetically," I said, "if a superpowered android were to escape, where would it go?"

This is the problem for Zachary Nixion Johnson, the last private investigator on earth. A medium boiled PI, he has a lightly boiled supercomputer assistant named HARV, luckily for him. Imagine Orac with a personality, and Zach is a cross between something out of 2000AD and DC's Star Hawkins.

Given that the android double of the femme fatale he has to track down has 200 times the physical abilities of a normal human, and is nuclear powered, having help is good. He also has a genius scientist friend that has fitted him up with some nifty body armour.

Zach's girlfriend could probably enjoy drinks with the Stainless Steel Rat's wife, too.

Light, fast, and diverting.

3 out of 5

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Playing With Fire - Gena Showalter

A slacker waitress has an encounter with a scientist, and this leaves her with the beginnings of the development of elemental superpowers.

She then comes into contact with an agent for the OASS, who tells her what has happened to her, and what the story will be from now on. He, of course, is no normal guy, being a superhuman shapeshifter himself. Naturally, he also gives her the horn, but has an ex-wife and kid to complicate matters.

Showalter seems to be able to put a bit more depth of plot into her books than some, that makes it easier to take.

3 out of 5

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Tark and the Golden Tide - Colum MacConnell

While the cover claims it is in the tradition of Conan, it should rather more honestly say in the tradition of Fafhrd and the Mouser. One large barbarian, one small thief guy called something the something.

Similar swords, looks, and at the end, the barbarian is missing a hand.

Pretty mediocre book, and the best character is actually the princess Sharzia, a fine warrior and smarter than the rest of them.

Getting out of captivity on a mission, past pirates and a evil queen and her sea monster leads them up again the Golden Tide. Horde type warriors who ride big golden furred spiders. Tark himself goes in for fighting camels.

Princess Sharzia was bet by her father, probably the world's worst punter, on a spider race. When he lost, he topped himself and she bailed. The head of the Tide has gone for a gruesomely flamboyant gesture, spelling her name with the corpses of 30,000 slaughtered soldiers from her own forces.

I guess Tark figures a hand is a small sacrifice to win the duel with this genocidal maniac.

2.5 out of 5

Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine 28 - Zara Baxter

Grace, Ian McHugh
Sweet Potato Woman, Chris Barnes
Polish, Kaaron Warren
Rest Stop, Marissa K Lingen
The Dark and What It Said, Rick Kennett
The Eradicator, Ben Cook
The Bluebell Vengeance, Tansy Rayner Roberts
House In Love, Gail Kavanagh

As far as non-fiction goes, there is a good interview with Traci Canavan, and the Retro Review looks at the Dark Crystal and Space 1999, as well as the Weirdstone of Brisingamen

David Clements looks at the physics of the death of the Universe

Grace - Ian McHugh

SF - A man brings back his dead woman as an android.

3 out of 5

Sweet Potato Woman - Chris Barnes

Fantasy - A potato sends a man a message.

3.5 out of 5

Polish - Kaaron Warren

Horror - A woman goes back to the country house she lived in with her girlfriend, the ghost is still there.

3.5 out of 5

Rest Stop - Marissa K Lingen

Fantasy - The avatar of the City has gone AWOL.

3.5 out of 5

The Dark and What It Said - Rick Kennett

Horror - Two bush walkers find a strange car wreck.

4 out of 5

The Eradicator - Ben Cook

SF - A mad scientists builds a device, lets a friend use it

3.5 out of 5

The Bluebell Vengeance - Tansy Rayner Roberts

Fantasy - Good fairies and bad witches have conniving families.

4 out of 5

House In Love - Gail Kavanagh

SF - A House gets maternal.

3.5 out of 5

4 out of 5

I Thirst For You - Susan Sizemore

Another book of the largely lacking in plot variety. A Prime Vampire is the head tough male macho dude of a vampire clan. The one here is a bit stuck, and finds himself a woman because he needs blood.

He finds out she is psychically resonant of sorts, so ensues some bloodsucking, and lots of dream sex and the 'you bastard you captured me but you are hot take me now' sort of relationship.

In the second half, something actually happens. She starts to learn what is going on, gets away from him and into the hands of a vampire hunting group, including a human member of the one of the vampire clans that now has a bit of a grudge.

2 out of 5

King Arthur and His Knights - James Knowles

King Arthur and His Knights by Sir James Knowles is a nicely illustrated and approachable version of some of the Arthurian legends, with the younger reader in mind.

i.e. Have cool pictures of guys in armor with swords to go along with the writing. As far as that goes, reasonably well done.

3 out of 5

There Will Be Time - Poul Anderson

One of those books that had been bugging me for a very long time trying to remember the title. Damn you Poul Anderson and your time travel fetish, hiding this one in amongst all the others.

That being said, fairly good book. Some people have the handy innate ability to travel in time and live different lives. As always, people will try and use this to their advantage, and for power.

When Jack Havig is recruited to a cause, he eventually decides he doesn't like it, and ends up in opposition.

3.5 out of 5

Harvest the Fire - Poul Anderson

Harvest the Fire is a fairly short book. It is part of a series, and I have not read any of the rest of them, this one being part of a SFBC deal I think.

A future poet becomes involved with some revolutionaries that don't like machine intelligences being in charge of things. A pretty unmemorable novel.

Reasonable if you like the humans vs machines thing.

3 out of 5

The Golden Transcendence - John C. Wright

You are in danger of having your head hurt if you don't like the tech overload sort of thing, for the first 60-70 page. It even had me scratching my head for a bit.

Then Wright skewers that, literally, as near the end of that confrontation, out come the samurai swords!

He does slip in a few Golden Age references and jokes here and there, of course.

For example, in the last part of the novel, when the conflict between the Silent and Golden Oecumenae has been going and going : "Emphyrio took out a tablet from his garb, and held it up. “Here is my prophecy: This New College, at least for a time, is dominated by Dark-Grays and Invariants. A warlike spirit grows.

“The Bellipotent Composition forms again. Other war heroes, Banbeck and Carter and Kinnison, Vidar the Silent and Valdemar the Slayer, are recompiled out of archives, or constructed, or born."

Then, a lighter style prevails as before, while the machine intelligence infiltration situtation is sorted out.

Conversely, the last part, post conflict with the Nothing Sophotect might seem to drag a little bit, but it is worth getting to the end part. A handy appendix, too, explaining all the mental structure, stuff.

3.5 out of 5

Warrior of Llarn - Gardner F. Fox

I enjoyed this knockoff/homage or whatever you want to call it. Seems it was done in a pretty good spirit.

Alan Morgan, a bored lawyer, is out hunting, when a timber wolf takes serious umbrage at being shot at.

Luckily for Alan a Llarnian disembodied supermind from a planet in the Canopus system decides to hyperspace him the hell out of there at that time.

Adventures with princess of a different hue, psionicist-faux wizards, imprisonment, political struggles and more follow.

Luckily for Alan, he's a fencing champ. This, and his heavier gravity muscles make him the greatest swordsman on his new home.

3 out of 5

Monday, April 2, 2007

Hardwired - Scott Ciencin

Some very crappy editing hurts this. Optimus Prime and Megatron are kidnapped by techo-organic space whale aliens.

What is the obvious thing they would do? Make them fight dinosaurs in an arena. First thing that comes to mind, isn't it?

Spike is dealing with cybernetic government spooks and honey trap whores on earth, and the Autobots and Decepticons end up fighting in big tacky casinos in Vegas, which is fun. Complete with Grimlock the dinobot.

2.5 out of 5

Sunday, April 1, 2007

In Hiding - Wilmar H. Shiras

Magazine publication of what appears to basically be the first part of the Children of the Atom, where Dr Welles meets Tim, one of the first Children of the Atom, after working out what and who he really is.

3.5 out of 5

Nevlo - Kenneth Robeson

An engineer fired from a new electrical plant he designed is rather bitter. So much so, he becomes a supervillain, and decides to control the electricity supply of the USA, not to mention get turned into a superhuman gorilla-like figure in an accident with his technology.

The Avenger has to disguise himself as Nevlo to try and work against him, but this stratagem runs him up against the FBI.

Some good work from his Justice Inc. crew, and some Phantom-level shooting from his little gun Mike manages to get him out of that, to a final confrontation with Nevlo and his gang.

3.5 out of 5

Hunted - Amelia Elias

A cop has a car accident. She is rescued by--wait for it--a vampire who was a nobleman way back when. How come none of these guys were carpenters?

She isn't happy waking up in a strange bed in her undies. Apparently he is now bonded to her. Love tattoos at first site.

She resists, runs off, gets attacked by vampires of the kind he and his league run around slaying.

Mostly, she spends the book worrying if the clothes he bought her are too slutty and trying not to shag him.

A pretty pathetic excuse for a cop, this one.

2 out of 5