Tuesday, July 31, 2012


RecoilRecoil by Jim Thompson
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

For reasons unknown to him, Pat Cosgrove is paroled and remanded to the custody of a psychologist, Dr. Luther. Can Pat keep from violating his parole and Dr. Luther's wife long enough to discover why he was paroled in the first place?

Recoil isn't one of Thompson's well-known works. Still, I'm as hooked on Jim Thompson as Amy Winehouse was on crack so I had to give it a chance.

Pat Cosgrove is a clueless loser, as are approximately half of Thompson's leads. When Dr. Luther springs him from the pen, everyone including Pat knows he has something nefarious in mind. Sprinkle in a dash of Luther's hot young wife Lila and you have a recipe for a typical feel-good Jim Thompson tale.

Unfortunately, Recoil isn't the book I was hoping to read when I picked it up. Nothing much happens for great stretches. Luther's purpose for springing Pat isn't revealed until very near the end and received a resounding "did I just turn over two pages at once?" from me.

Recoil's kind of a dud, which sucks since all the winning ingredients are there: hot much younger wife, guy fresh out of jail, duplicitious psychologist. Still, Thompson's prose is still sharper than the tip of a hypodermic needle. That's the saving grace of the book.

Where Jim Thompson is concerned, there are three tiers of books. There are the first tier books like The Killer Inside Me and Pop. 1280, second tier books like Savage Night and A Hell of a Woman, and third tier books like this one. It's a 2, maybe a 2+.

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Monday, July 30, 2012

False Negative

False NegativeFalse Negative by Joseph Koenig
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Reporter Adam Jordan is fired for filing a false story but lands on his feet writing for Real Detective Magazine. When a beauty contestant is found murdered on the beach, Adam starts investigating. But will what he finds be worth dying for?

Like a few other reviewers have already mentioned, this book had all the winning ingredients. The writing was superb, the lead character a likeable scoundrel, and beauties turning up missing is a compelling tale. So why only a 2? I felt like something was missing. All the pieces never quite came together for me, like a soup that hasn't simmered long enough.

Still, it wasn't a waste of time. Joseph Koenig knows his way around a noir tale. I love the idea that a writer for a true crime pulp would solve a mystery. I'll be tracking down his earlier works. Hell, I caught myself enjoying False Negative just for the prose while it was meandering all over the place. It did have its moments, though. I didn't figure out who the killer was until sometime past the halfway mark. Koenig did a good job steering me all over the place.

So, yeah. I'm giving this a two. If it hadn't meandered all over the place and seemed unfocused, it would have been an easy three.

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Thursday, July 26, 2012

69 Barrow Street/Strange Embrace

69 Barrow Street/Strange Embrace69 Barrow Street/Strange Embrace by Lawrence Block
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

69 Barrow Street: Artist Ralph Lambert lives at 69 Barrow Street with a woman he both loves and hates. But what happens when they both get infatuated with the girl who just moved into their building...

Here we are, the first book in this Ace Double style Hard Case. Much like Hellcats and Honeygirls, these are books from Lawrence Block's early years writing smut, so if you're expecting the awesomeness of the marvelous Matthew Scudder series, you'll be disappointed.

On the other hand, if you like a bit of sleaze, you'll be entertained.

69 Barrow Street is the story of three people who live in the same apartment building in The Village. Ralph Lambert is an unemployed artist. Stella James is the buxom blond living off her inheritance and abusing Ralph as she sees fit in their twisted relationship. The applecart of their domestic "bliss" is upset when a lesbian named Susan Rivers moves into the building and Ralph decides to paint her.

Parts of the story are hilariously dated, like the talk of homosexual neurosis and early sixties slang. The tension builds as Ralph starts having feelings for Susan and Stella starts a bizarre relationship with another woman to cope.

There's a fair bit of smut as well, though it's fairly tame by today's standards. Still, it gets the job done. The relationship between Ralph and Susan is pretty well done, especially considering this was a smut paperback back in the day. The ending was good, heartwarming for one party and extremely twisted for the other. This story is a strong three, part Fatal Attraction and part Chasing Amy, and the ending makes it Hard Case worthy.

Strange Embrace:
Producer Johnny Lane's leading lady winds up dead, her throat slashed from ear to ear with a straight razor. Soon, the rest of the cast is getting threatening phone calls and Johnny is beaten up in an alley by thugs. Can he figure out who's behind the murder before his entire cast winds up dead?

Okay, if I had any doubts about this collection and its place in the Hard Case line, they went out the window with Strange Embrace. This one was a Hard Case from start to finish.

Even though he's a producer of plays, Johnny Lane makes a convincing and plausible detective lead. The cast, such as it is, are fairly well developed, especially since this was originally a lesbian smut paperback. I had an idea who the killer was but like he does to me over and over again, old Lawrence had me doubting myself on a couple occasions.

Like the first story, some things seemed hilariously dated but Block's writing improved quite a bit in between these two books.

Since I haven't already mentioned it, I'd like to say that while I normally don't care for Robert McGinnis's Hard Case covers, the two on this one were both top notch, although they didn't have much to do with the tales within. Be careful though, you probably shouldn't read these in public. One of the covers has nipples on display!

Four out of five stars based on pure entertainment value. If you're a fan of Lawrence Block, nab this now before you have to pay the jacked up prices Subterranean books normally command once they go out of print!

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Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Captain America: Winter Soldier Ultimate Collection

Captain America: Winter Soldier Ultimate CollectionCaptain America: Winter Soldier Ultimate Collection by Ed Brubaker
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Red Skull acquires a Cosmic Cube, only to be murdered before he can use it and the killer seems to be someone Captain America thought dead since World War II. Can Captain America and Agent 13 unravel the mystery of the Winter Soldier and the Cosmic Cube before whomever possesses the Cube gets a chance to use it?

Fresh off of reading Gotham Central, I was ready for more Brubaker and I sure got it! When I first started reading Ed Brubaker last century with A Complete Lowlife, I had no idea he'd be one of the top guys in comics.

Brubaker's run kicks off with a bang. The Red Skull is dead and Bucky is alive? Wow. Most of the rest of the story is Captain America coming to grips with the fact that Bucky is the Winter Soldier, an assassin working for the Russians, and searching for the Cosmic Cube.

I thought the flashbacks really helped make the story. Bucky kicking ass whenever he showed up, only to fade away again, helped build the suspense to the inevitable showdown with Captain America.

Any gripes? Only that the confrontation I waited twelve issues for was pretty quick. This is right on the edge of being a five star book.

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Green Lantern: Rebirth

Green Lantern: RebirthGreen Lantern: Rebirth by Geoff Johns
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Hal Jordan, possibly the greatest of the Green Lanterns, battles with the two entities bonded with him, The Spectre and Parallax, for a second chance. Will he return to the land of the living and, if so, what will be waiting for him when he gets there...?

First off, the very first super hero action figure I owned other than some Mego ones was the Green Lantern from the Super Powers collection. That being said, I only have a handful of Green Lantern comics in my collection. I picked this one up because I like Geoff Johns and I figure he must be doing something right to have Green Lantern rise in popularity enough to warrant a movie (I still haven't seen). Did it live up to my expectations?

Nah. It wasn't bad, though. It was cool seeing Guy Gardner in a GL outfit again and great to see Kyle Rayner and Green Arrow taking on Sinestro, and Kilowog and John Stewart back in the fold. I may even have gotten a nerd chubby when the assembled Green Lanterns recited their oath at the central power battery.

Still, those parts were partially negated by all the fanboy masturbation Geoff Johns aimed in Hal Jordan's direction. The same thing happened in Flash: Rebirth. I hate to say it but the 1970's weren't the pinnacle of comic book creativity. Just because Hal Jordan and Barry Allen were the versions of the characters people remember from episodes of the Super Friends in the 1970's doesn't mean it always has to be that way. Johns pretty much negated ten years of interesting Green Lantern stories by hitting the reset button and restoring the status quo.

And to top it off, Kyle doesn't have the crab mask anymore! Let's see how long it takes Terry to notice that...

I guess what I'm trying to say is that Green Lantern: Rebirth isn't bad. It was a lot of fun at times. It just didn't feel that necessary to me. They could have stuck to their guns and had Kyle Rayner step up and lead the Green Lantern Corps. and not brought Hal back. Still, it's a 3 star book.

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The Etched City

The Etched CityThe Etched City by K.J. Bishop
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Etched City is the story of gunslinger Gwynn and doctor Raule. Together, they flee the wasteland of the Copper Country and make their way to the city of Ashamoil. Raule starts treating the poor of Ashamoil, occasionally delivering crocodilian babies, while Gwynn gets a job as a guard for a slave trader and has a heated affair with an artist.

The Etched City is definitely atmosphere over action but when the action comes, it's hard and fast. Bishop knows how to build tension as well as create a realized fantasy city. While Ashamoil isn't as detailed as New Crobuzon or Ambergris, it's still great. The style is a mannerly kind of new weird.

Amazon recommended this one, based on my ratings for The Dark Tower series and Perdido Street Station. It did not disappoint. My only complaint was that it could have been much longer.

Observations from the July 2012 re-read:
1. Bishop makes the desert of the Copper Country interesting, giving it aspects of Australian and Middle Eastern desert culture while still making it feel like a Western.
2. Gwynn has a lot more dimension than I remember. He's a deadly mercenary of dubious morality but also kind of a dandy. I'd forgotten he played the piano.
3. Raule is tough!
4. BIshop's writing has a kind of poetry to it in places. Her use of similes and metaphors was something I'd totally forgotten about since my initial read.
5. Yeah, Beth's a little batshit
6. Deformed reptilian babies are creepy
7. Gwynn doing some huffing and then riding around looking for Beth while having a conversation with his horse reminds me of the shroom scene from Young Guns.
8. The gunfight on Memorial Bridge between the Society of the Horn Fan and the tax collectors is right up there with the OK Corral scene in Tombstone.
9. Gwynn having to kill Marriot was a powerful scene.
10. The man with a lotus flower growing out of his navel
11. Hart and his magical axe are pretty impressive.
12. While it looks simply like an odd fantasy story, it's really a story of love and obsession.
13. The twists at the end were well done and not expected.

In conclusion, this book is just as good the second time. I'm ready for K.J. Bishop to write another novel.

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Monday, July 23, 2012

Mastodon Farm

Mastodon FarmMastodon Farm by Mike Kleine
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

It's not very often that I have trouble reviewing a book. This one, I can't even seem to summarize. I want to say it's a commentary on the emptiness of Hollywood and the accompanying lifestyle. The use of the second person gives it a detached, dreamlike quality, as does the purposefully repetitive nature of the prose. James Franco and other celebrities are the characters. While I'm not quite sure exactly what it was I just read, it defeinitely made a favorable impression. I was tempted to write a jokey review in the second person but decided against it.

That's about all I can say. If you like Bizarro fiction, you'll definitely want to experience this one for yourself.

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A Coupla Shades of Taupe: A Parody

A Coupla Shades of Taupe: A ParodyA Coupla Shades of Taupe: A Parody by Court Burback
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

As a favor to a friend, Alexandra Aluminum interviews entrepreneur Pagan Taupe. Taupe soon introduces Alexandra to a sexual world she never knew existed...

First off, DO NOT try to read this in your cube while pretending to work. The laughter that replaces your usual muffled sobbing will be a clue that you're up to something.

Where do I start with this? Spray cheese sex? A clown chained to the wall of the sex chamber? A KKK themed restaurant (It's KKK-razy good!)? Disgusting sex acts like Dirty Sanchezes and pink neckties and Polish bike rides and Cosby sweaters?

Yeah, I'll just start by saying this is the funniest S&M themed book I've ever received from a female Goodreads author. Not only is it funny, it's very well-written. The laughs per page density is frighteningly high, mostly due to Court Burback's fantastic similes and comedic timing.

I don't want to spoil too much but here are a few quotes:

“Little Rock Abortion Clinic. No fetus can beat us. How may I direct your call?”

“Why don’t you meet me at my hotel room at eleven thirty? I’m in Little Rock on business this weekend. I’m staying at the Skundlebump Lodge.”
Damn, I think. That’s one of Arkansas’s finest motels. Or at least the only one I know of where the remote isn’t bolted to the nightstand.

"I’m sorry if I came off as a bit…controlling,” he says with a mischievous grin.
“But I’m a man that enjoys exerting control, you see. And I believe that there are those
that would actually enjoy relinquishing their will to feed my—” He sighs. “I don’t know how many other ways there are to insinuate that I like control, Miss Aluminum. But it’s important that someone, say, a bored, sexually frustrated housewife, understand that
we’re blatantly and unimaginatively setting up a future sexual dynamic here.”

"I cry and beg like a Mike Tyson girlfriend until he agrees."

"The wind pummels my face the way Charlie Sheen pummels things with ovaries."

I wanted to quote more but pretty soon I'd be quoting the entire book.

Any complaints? No! Now go buy this so Court Burback's self-esteem will be such that she'll write a full length novel!

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Sunday, July 22, 2012

Gotham Central Book Four: Corrigan (Spoilers)

Gotham Central Book Four: CorriganGotham Central Book Four: Corrigan by Greg Rucka
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Allen and Montoya cross paths with some dirty cops. Robin is found dead and the MCU is on the case. Supernatural horrors are afoot and the cops of the MCU try to get home to their families when the situation escalates far beyond their control. Crispus Allen investigates Jim Corrigan, the most corrupt cop on the force...

All good things must come to an end and in the world of graphic novels, few in recent memory were as good as Gotham Central.

With the departure of Mike Lark, the writing was on the wall and things kicked into high gear in this, the last volume.

Yeah, I'm marking this section as spoilers as well. Level Two spoilers, maybe?
1. I loved how Poison Ivy dealt with the corrupt cops.
2. The Dead Robin story was awesome, even though Lippman was being unbelievable dickish.
3. The Eclipso/whatever that magic crisis thing was with the Spectre seemed tacked on and unnecessary
4. Holy Shit! How about the Corrigan thing? Even though Crispus was dead in 52, I was still surprised the way he died.
5. Man, has Renee's life really spiraled out of control since the first book?

If Gotham Central was a television show, here's where the montage of moments from previous episodes would go.
1. Detective Driver was my favorite detective not named Crispus Allen or Renee Montoya
2. Stacy, the temp that turns on the Batsignal, is my favorite background player
3. My favorite line in the entire series was "Tell me you did not just shoot Batman!"
4. I think DC dropped the ball by not locking in Rucka, Brubaker, and Mike Lark to lifetime deals to keep Gotham Central going.
5. I could have used a bit more closure. I know the fates of Crispus Allen and Renee Montoya from 52. I can't remember if that's where Corrigan's hash finally gets settled as well, though.

That's it for me. I'm sad so see Gotham Central go since it's head and shoulders above most other comics. Five easy stars.

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Gotham Central Book Three: On the Freak Beat

Gotham Central Book Three: On the Freak BeatGotham Central Book Three: On the Freak Beat by Greg Rucka
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Montoya and Allen tangle with the Black Spider and a crucial piece of evidence goes missing. A televangelist turns up dead and it looks like Catwoman is the killer. One of Dr. Alchemy's old experiments transforms a cop and Montoya and Allen have to team up with some Keystone City cops and Dr. Alchemy himself to try to cure him. Business as usual for the detectives down at Gotham Central...

Brubaker and Rucka have wowed me again. Even this far into Gotham Central's run, they continue to impress me. This volume is just as good as the previous two.

The cases involved more superhuman elements than the previous one, including more Batman than the previous two volumes put together. Corrigan and MacDonald developed quite a bit as characters in this volume. Allen and Montoya's partnership is growing stronger and watching the two of them in action is one of my favorite parts of the series. It could have used more Detective Driver but you can't have everything.

Renee Montoya is my favorite GCPD detective by light years. You wouldn't think I'd latch on to a Hispanic recently-outed lesbian detective so quickly but I have. In a way, I wish I didn't know what 52 has in store for her once Gotham Central ends.

The Catwoman case was my favorite plot-wise, but Dr. Alchemy as Hannibal Lecter was the best character. Other parts of the book that stand out are the taking down of the Bat Signal and one of the Keystone City cops mentioning Detective Allen had a good last name for a cop in their town.

Gotham Central continues to be a home run derby of a graphic novel series as far as I'm concerned. Five easy stars.

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Manhunter, Vol. 5: Forgotten

Manhunter, Vol. 5: ForgottenManhunter, Vol. 5: Forgotten by Marc Andreyko
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Manhunter defies Bones and heads south of the border to investigate a mysterious pharmaceutical company, meeting Blue Beetle and the Suicide Squad in the process. But has she bitten off more than she can chew?

Okay, this is the end of the Marc Andreyko Manhunter series. It's a shame too since it reads like it was just getting started.

First off, I just didn't enjoy this one as much. Kate left behind most of the supporting cast I've grown to know and love when she went down to Mexico. Granted, Blue Beetle, the Birds of Prey, and the Suicide Squad give Kate many opportunities to showcase her personality but it's just not the same.

The subplots involving Cammie, Dylan, and Mark Shaw were all okay but I would have liked to have seen how things turned out. Luckily, there's a Manhunter volume 6 collection the 8 page Manhunter backup stories published after the series ended.

The two-part Whatever Happened to the Manhunter story in the back of the book was actually more enjoyable than the main story for me. Ramsey gay? Kate shacking up with a man fifteen years younger than her? Obsidian mentoring a young group of legacy super heroes? Great stuff!

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Manhunter Volume 4: Unleashed!

Manhunter, Vol. 4: Unleashed Manhunter, Vol. 4: Unleashed by Marc Andreyko
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

As Dr. Psycho's trial ends, Kate gets a new case: Defending Wonder Woman for the murder of Maxwell Lord!

First off, Dr. Psycho got what was coming to him in spades and I was glad Kate did the dealing.

In the previous three volumes, Kate's involvement with the DC Universe has been pretty minimal. Not anymore! She meets the entire Holy Trinity of the DCU, Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman! Her interactions with Superman and Batman go about as expected but I love the interactions between Kate and Wonder Woman, both in her civilian identity and as Manhunter.

Andreyko should be writing Wonder Woman now. Out of all the comics in my vast holdings, maybe five are issues of Wonder Woman. If Andreyko wrote WW, I'd buy them all. The way he portrays the Amazon is masterful. One of my favorite moments is Kate thinking "She's enchanted my son. Hell, even I get a little 'Ellen' around her."

The supporting cast continues to shine. I'm hoping the plot threads with Mark Shaw and the budding romance between Cameron and Dylan get a chance to bear fruit before the plug gets pulled on the series.

Marc Andreyko's run on Manhunter continues to meet and exceed my expectations. I'll be sad when I finish reading the series.

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Manhunter volume 3: Origins

Manhunter, Vol. 3: OriginsManhunter, Vol. 3: Origins by Marc Andreyko
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Kate Spencer gets a job with Mr. Bones of the DEO and one of her first clients is Dr. Psycho. Her son is kidnapped and her secretary begins dating Obsidian. Oh, and Kate's still trying to quit smoking...

While not quite as good as the previous two, this volume of Manhunter does a lot to develop Kate's supporting cast. We find out Kate's parentage, Dylan gets some, Mark Shaw starts training Kate, and Kate's ex-husband and his new wife are having a kid.

I love how Kate laments her D-List super villains. Andreyko does a great job of making Kate one of the more interesting characters in comics. Too bad it's hard to get the typical comic audience to plunk down their money on something other than two guys wearing spandex and punching each other.

The action is as good as always. I'm chomping at the bit for someone to settle Dr. Psycho's hash. The end of Kate's battle with her father is one of my favorites in recent comics.

There's a fair amount of comics nostalgia in this volume but not so much that I'd worry about new readers not getting it. Dr. Mid-nite, Phantom Lady, and the original Green Lantern make appearances. I love how the now 70-ish Phantom Lady talks about using her costume to distract bad guys in the 1940's. Great stuff.

Really, if you're not already aboard the Manhunter train, nothing I can say will change your mind. If you like well written comics and you don't read Andreyko's Manhunter run, you're missing out.

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Batman: The Court of Owls

Batman, Vol. 1: The Court of OwlsBatman, Vol. 1: The Court of Owls by Scott Snyder
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Court of Owls, a long rumored secret society from Gotham's past, makes its presence known in the form of a knife wielding assassin called The Talon. Can Batman hope to defeat an enemy even more familiar with Gotham than him?

For my money, Scott Snyder can do no wrong. Batman: The Court of Owls is no exception. At first glance, the tale looks like a combination of Batman: The Black Glove and Batman: Gates of Gotham but it's a better story than either so far.

I really want to gush about this but I don't want to ruin any surprises. It's not every day a body is found with Dick Grayson's DNA under it's fingernails. It's not every day you see a killing machine taking the fight to Batman or Batman being trapped by villains for days.

One thing I really liked is that Scott Snyder isn't afraid to show us Batman isn't invincible. I hate how in recent years, Batman is portrayed as a combination of Captain America and Reed Richards instead of the World's Greatest Detective, as he should be. Snyder does a pretty good job of stripping away some of that. I can't see his Batman building a Brother-Eye satellite, for instance.

Snyder's writing is superb, as always. I can tell he draws from a deeper well than many comic authors, one filled with historical fiction and conspiracy thrillers. Greg Capullo's art is good too, I guess.

The Court of Owls is an easy 4. I may even bump it up to a 5 once the rest of the story is told.

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Thursday, July 19, 2012

Chronicles of the Lensmen Vol. 2

Chronicles Of The Lensmen (The Lensmen Series, Volume 2)Chronicles Of The Lensmen by E.E. Smith
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The second Chronicles of the Lensmen is much meatier (for the lack of a better term) than the first volume. All the groundwork has already been established so Kim Kinnison, the Gray Lensman, gets right down to business.

One thing that stands out about the Lensman books is that it's clear Doc Smith had things well-planned when he started. While the repeated revelation that the supposed big bad isn't at the top of Boskone could have gotten tiresome, it feels rather natural. I also like the introduction of the Black Lensmen. Once again, pay up Green Lantern! Sinestro is a direct analog of the Black Lensmen.

The Lensmen books are actually fairly relevant in today's world. The Galactic Patrol is a lot like the United States and the Boskone, especially in the later stories, are terrorists who strike without warning. I'm sure Smith meant for them to represent the communist threat of the 50's but it still works today.

The end of Children of the Lens was as I expected. The Kinnison children fulfilled their destinies. I've heard that Smith had another story in his head featuring them but it was unpublishable due to the controversial nature. If you've read CotL, you have a pretty good idea of the story's next logical step.

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Chronicles Of The Lensmen

Chronicles Of The Lensmen (The Lensmen Series, Volume 1)Chronicles Of The Lensmen by E.E. Smith
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

George Lucas and the creators of the Silver Age Green Lantern both owe Doc Smith's estate some fat cash. Here's why:

The Lensmen are, to put it simply, a galactic police force armed with starships and most of all, the Lens. The Lens is a large gemlike object set into a wristband that allows the wielder to use telepathy, among other things.

The first book, Triplanetary, is mostly background material and setup for later stories although there are some good space battles.

Things really pick up with the second book, First Lensman. Virgil Samms receives the first Lens from Mentor on Arisia, Rock Kinnison runs for president, and the Galactic Patrol is formed.

The Galactic Patrol has more action than the previous two books put together. Kimbal Kinnison, grandson of Rock, traipses around the galaxy hunting the Boskone pirates, ascending to the next stage of Lensmanship along the way.

The Lensman stories lay the groundwork for lots of science fiction that came afterwards. I'm looking forward to the second volume in the series.

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Black God's Kiss

Black God's KissBlack God's Kiss by C.L. Moore
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Black God's Kiss: Joiry falls to a conqueror named Guillaume and Jirel goes to hell for a weapon to use against him.

The first story was pretty good. The writing reminds me of Michael Moorcock and the trip to hell uses the strange geometry Lovecraft made popular. The weapon she brought back was a surprise but probably shouldn't have been given the title. Jirel seems like one tough cookie so far, years ahead of her time.

Black God's Shadow: Tormented by the guilt of Guillaume's fate, Joiry returns to hell to put his soul to rest.

The second story wasn't as good as the first and felt like a retread. The setting was the same and the plot was very nearly so. It still had its moments, though.

Jirel Meets Magic: Jirel pursues the wizard Giraud into another realm, intent on killing him.

Yeah, it's pretty much the same story as the first two. Jirel goes to another realm to do something or get something, then kills her enemy. The writing is still good, evocative of Moorcock or Karl Edward Wagner, but the stories are getting tedious.

The Dark Land: On her death bed after a pike wound, Jirel gets whisked off to another realm to be the bride of Pav of Romne, Lord of Darkness.

Seriously? Another plot where Jirel goes to another realm and returns to have everything back to normal? Bleh. I realize the Jirel of Joiry stories weren't meant to be read back to back but come on! The stories are good but they're formulaic as hell.

Hellsgarde: Jirel goes to the ruins of Hellsgarde Castle to find the treasure the long dead owner died for, only to find it inhabited by his descendants. But what hellish purpose would cause them to live there?

At last, a story that breaks from the formula. Even though it's a fairly standard S&S tale, it's probably the best one in the collection.

Quest for the Starstone: Jirel teams up with C.L. Moore's other series character, Northwest Smith, in a tale that spans space and time.

Like a lot of team-up tales, this one failed to meet expectations. The Starstone was kind of a flimsy excuse to get Jirel and Northwest Smith together. Still, it wasn't bad.

The collection of Jirel of Joiry tales wasn't bad but I would have enjoyed it a lot more had I waited a week or two between tales. The first four were essentially the same plot. I can give it a 2.5 but not a 3.

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Sojan the Swordsman/Under the Warrior Star

Sojan the Swordsman/Under the Warrior StarSojan the Swordsman/Under the Warrior Star by Michael Moorcock
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Sojan the Swordsman: Sojan the Swordsman is the story of Sojan the Shieldbearer, a warrior odd among those of Zylor for his use of the a shield. Sojan experiences a variety of adventures, riding myats, rescuing a princess, and flying aboard airships.

While Sojan the Swordsman kept me entertained, it was obviously never meant to be a novella. It read like a hastily patched together collection of Sword and Planet short stories, several of which I'd already read in Elric at the End of Time. It was okay but not great by any means.

Under the Warrior Star: Former Olympic fencer and world class screw up Braxton Booker takes a trip into an artificial universe created by a government scientist. Can he free the people of Juna from the tyranny of the mantis-like Norwat, the ogrish Julon, and the tentacled horror known as The One and win the love of the beautiful Choona?

Now we're talking! Joe Lansdale wrote a love letter to Edgar Rice Burroughs and his ilk in this one. Instead of merely copying what Burroughs had done as Moorcock did in the Sojan story, Lansdale busts out a planetary romance all his own. While the plot is fairly standard for a planetary romance, Lansdale makes it his own with the entire adventure taking place atop trees of immense size with branches that dwarf redwoods. Organic swords, giant spiders, and a Cthulhu-like main villain make this story worth the price of admission.

All in all, I can only give this a three. While I loved the Lansdale story, the Moorcock one was only okay. Any fan of Sword and Planet/Planetary Romance will get a few hours of enjoyment out of this Planet Stories Double Feature.

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Sos the Rope

Sos the Rope (Battle Circle, #1)Sos the Rope by Piers Anthony
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Sos joins up with Sol of all weapons and helps him build an empire. But what will happen when Sos challenges Sol in the Battle Circle for his woman and the child she carries?

Planet Stories has dug up an odd story in this offering, Sos the Rope. Fantasy with a post-apocalyptic vibe has long been a favorite sub-genre of mine and this is one of the better ones.

After the Blast, the earth is populated by nomadic warriors and the crazies, men and women who study the ancient ways. Matters among the nomads are settled in the battle circle. Sos, called Sol at the beginning, loses his name and weapon to Sol. The main conflict of the book is Sos struggling with his friendship with Sol and his affair with Sol's wife, Sola. And of course there's a fair bit of gore but that's to be expected when there are trials by combat every day or so.

The book really takes an odd turn when Sos goes to the Mountain. That's when the book went from a 4 to a 3 for me. I didn't buy Sos's love for Sosa and didn't really care for what happened after that.

Sos the Rope is a good quick read and not like all the other fantasy novels out there. It's pretty original and definitely worth a few hours of your time.

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The Ship of Ishtar

The Ship of Ishtar (Planet Stories)The Ship of Ishtar by A. Merritt
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

John Kenton, WWI vet and archaeologist, gets a stone block from Babylon from a friend. Unbeknownst to both, the block contains the model of golden ship. Soon, Kenton finds himself transported to the ship the model represents, sailing the seas of an alien world and taking part in the agless battle between two Babylonian gods, Ishtar and Nergal. Can he win over the priestess of Ishtar and free the ship from Nergal's influence?

The Ship of Ishtar is way ahead of its time. The style is more akin to modern fantasy than that of its contemporaries, like Howard and Lovecraft. The easy reading and exciting story makes it a fun read. John Kenton goes from being an academic to being a musclebound warrior after spending time in the slave pits aboard the Ship of Ishtar. While Klaneth is a bit over the top in his villainy, Kenton's allies aboard the ship are well developed, from the Viking Sigurd, to Gigi and Zubran, the crew members who join forces with him to rid the ship of Klaneth.

The story has a little bit of a John Carter of Mars feel but the writing is far superior to Burroughs'. Sharane is a little submissive for my tastes but since Merritt was writing this in the 30's, I'll chalk it up to being a product of the times. I would be negligent if I didn't mention the setting. Most of the book takes place aboard the Ship of Ishtar. Because of a curse, the minions of Nergal have to stay on one half of the ship while Ishtar's priestesses have to stay on the other. Since Kenton is beholden to neither, he can move about freely, if he can escape the slave pits. How many fantasy stories are there where the hero is a slave for half the book?

While The Ship of Ishtar hasn't unseated any of my fantasy favorites, it's still really good. If you're looking for pulp adventure, you could find worse ways to spend a Sunday afternoon.

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Steppe (Planet Stories)Steppe by Piers Anthony
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Alp, a ninth century Uigur Warrior, is snatched from certain death to a time fifteen centuries in the future, where he takes part in a sinister game called Steppe, a game to which he is uniquely suited...

Steppe is an interesting book, to say the least. I've long been interested in Mongolian culture and Steppe fits the bill. The Game, as it is called, is a replaying of history with people playing the role of characters. The players of the Game are celebrities of a sort. As Chris Roberson says in the foreward, Steppe is a forerunner of both reality TV and virtual reality. It reminds me of Implied Space by Walter Jon Williams in that way. As far as stories go, it's a pretty good read. The writing style took me forever to place. It reminds me of Philip Jose Farmer when he's trying to be funny, like in Dark is the Sun or Green Odyssey.

So why only three stars? I'll tell you. Even though the edition I read was only 125 pages long, it still seemed about fifty pages too long. It felt like Piers was trying to stretch a short story into a novel. While I liked Alp and though his metamorphosis into Genghis Khan was well done, I felt like it was padded.

While I enjoyed Steppe, I'd call it good but not great. If you're into pulp fantasy with a Mongolian bend, you'll definitely enjoy it.

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Doc Sidhe

Doc SidheDoc Sidhe by Aaron Allston
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

My old review for this didn't thrill me so here's the one I wrote as Dangerous Dan for BlackPigeonPress.com.

It's no secret that the pulps get Dangerous Dan as hot and bothered as a hillbilly with a jug of moonshine and two eager cousins, and a twist on an old favorite puts a little extra spring in his step. Doc Sidhe is no exception.

Doc Sidhe (pronounced She, the Irish word for Faerie) has the classic elements of Doc Savage but with twists and the twists are all things Dangerous Dan likes in his fiction.

Slacker/screw-up as one of the protagonists? Check.
Parallel worlds? Check.
Writing that's descriptive without being overly wordy? Check.
Fantasy story that isn't a Tolkien rehash? Check.

Couple this with tons of action and a character modelled after Doc Savage but stripped of the things that annoy me about the original Doc Savage tales and we have a winner on our hands.

The plot is pretty straightforward. Harris Greene, a down on his luck kick boxer and the aforementioned slacker, sees some guys trying to abduct his recently ex girlfriend and intervenes, following them into an alternate world resembling 1930's Earth, but with magic instead of technology. Dwarves, elves, and assorted Fae abound. Doc Sidhe, leader of the Sidhe Foundation, is a powerful wizard and warrior, and leads a crew resembling Doc Savage's crew. It turns out Harris's girlfriend's kidnapping is part of a plot cooked up by Doc's arch-nemesis who wants to rule both worlds. Excited yet?

The author of Doc Sidhe is Aaron Allston, a trusted name in gaming circles. Allston has written assorted supplements for various RPGs, as well as novels set in the Star Wars universe. How does his writing stack up to Kenneth Robeson's, you ask? It's better. There, I said it. Allston's writing surprised the hell out of Dangerous Dan. It's descriptive without being overly wordy and suits the action perfectly. It's not as predictable as you'd think, either. Some of Doc's crew die, unlike Doc Savage's crew. The ending is satisfying and there's also a sequel, Sidhe Devil, and rumors of a second sequel abound.

Dangerous Dan gave Doc Sidhe an easy 4.25 out of five. If you don't believe Dangerous Dan, as if he'd ever lie to you, go check out the publisher's website, where you can read the entire novel FOR FREE! Don't say Dangerous Dan never did you any favors.

Doc Sidhe at Baen

That's it for Dangerous Dan. Until next time, keep your gun oiled and your lies simple enough that you can remember them later.

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Sunday, July 15, 2012


Larklight (Larklight, #1)Larklight by Philip Reeve
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Art and Myrtle Mumby live in Larklight, a house that orbits Earth beyond the moon, with their father, their mother having disappeared years earlier and thought dead in an aethership wreck, until one day, monstrous white spiders attack Larklight and send them scurrying. Can Art and Myrtle save their father, Larklight, and the entire British Empire?

First off, if I was thirteen, this would be my favorite book of all time. Larklight takes place in the 1850s, only it's an 1850's with Jules Verne-esque space travel and space is as it was thought in the Victorian era. The moon is covered with desert and giant mushrooms, Venus is a lush plant-world, and monstrous white spiders from Saturn's rings threaten to topple the British Empire of space. Interested yet?

Philip Reeve crafted one hell of an adventure tale here, fit for kids of all ages. The dry British wit kept the story going, even in the slower parts. I LOVE the world Reeve created for this book, from the pseudo-science of the aether ships to the hover hogs, pigs that thrive in zero gravity and get around by farting.

The characters are very much in the mold of those in Victorian literature: modest, prudish, and very dry. Except for Jack Havock and the space pirates, I mean. Also, Richard Burton, Warlord of Mars, is hardly prudish with his hot Martian wife.

Reeve draws from a lot of sources dear to my heart in Larklight, like Jules Verne, Edgar Rice Burroughs, H.G. Wells, and many others. I'm anxious to see what he draws from the well in the next two books. It also reminded me of other books, like Celestial Matters or Beyond the Moons. Steampunk fans also won't want to pass this up.

So what didn't I like? Not a lot, really. I found some of the twists to be predictable but that's owing to the fact I'm about double the target age for this. Like I said, if I was thirteen, I'd think it was the greatest book ever written. I'm giving it a four mostly out of sheer inventiveness and enjoyment level.

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Saturday, July 14, 2012

The Flash: The Dastardly Death of the Rogues

The Flash, Vol. 1: The Dastardly Death of the Rogues (The Flash Brightest Day)The Flash, Vol. 1: The Dastardly Death of the Rogues by Geoff Johns
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Mirror Master is found dead and it looks like The Flash is his killer. Only it's not any version of Mirror Master The Flash has ever encountered, and future versions of The Rogues have arrived from the 25th century to bring The Flash to justice...

First, the good stuff. Geoff Johns and Francis Manapul do a good job of finding cool ways to utilize the Flash's super speed, like rebuilding an apartment building, for instance. The future versions of the Rogues, the Renegades, were pretty cool. Commander Cold, Weather Warlock, and the rest were interesting antagonists. I liked how The Flash cracked the mystery of what actually happened to the Mirror Monarch.

So why only a three? I still feel like bringing back Barry Allen was a bit unnecessary. With minor tweaking, this could have easily been a Wally West story. It was a good Flash story but it was still mostly a Flash story, not a Barry Allen story, if that makes any sense.

It had its moments but I was not overwhelmed by awesomeness. I enjoyed it but if I wasn't already committed to reading Flashpoint, I probably wouldn't pick up the next volume.

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Manhunter, Volume 2: Trial By Fire

Manhunter, Vol. 2: Trial by FireManhunter, Vol. 2: Trial by Fire by Marc Andreyko
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Shadow Thief is on trial for the murder of Firestorm and it's up to Kate Spencer to make sure he's found guilty but some of his friends are on the way. Meanwhile, someone's murdering past Manhunters...

The second Manhunter volume is even better than the first. Kate learns more about her costume's capabilities, tries to quit smoking, and even works on her relationship with her ex. Also, there's a lot of great action. I can't say enough good things about the Kate Spencer character. She's tough and kind of a bitch sometimes but I'm quickly becoming attached to her. It's a shame she'll probably never make another appearance post-New 52.

I think the reason this book developed a cult following is much the same as Starman. Andreyko took a concept no one had done anything interesting with in years, Manhunter, and pretty much did what he wanted to with it while still showing respect for the past. Couple that with great writing and you have a winner on your hands. Too bad people ignored this book and Gotham Central in favor of the same old bullshit when it was being produced.

That's really about all I have to say. Anything else would spoil too many plot points. Like I always say with Starman, if you're looking for a super hero book that's about more than guys punching each other, give Manhunter a try.

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Thursday, July 12, 2012

Gotham Central Book Two: Jokers and Madmen

Gotham Central Book Two: Jokers and MadmenGotham Central Book Two: Jokers and Madmen by Ed Brubaker
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It's Christmas in Gotham and the Joker is picking off victims one at a time with a sniper rifle. The girl whose job it is to turn on the Bat signal has a crush on Batman. Two women are poisoned. A cold case involving the murder of an entire high school baseball team draws the attention of the GCPD AND ex-cop Harvey F'n Bullock! All par for the course down at Gotham Central...

So, yeah. Gotham Central had to be the best written comic book produced during it's entire run. I didn't think it would be possible for Brubaker and Rucka to top the first volume but they did, and Michael Lark pulled it all together with his art, which is understated but perfect for the tone of the series.

The individual stories were great. I love that Bru-Rucka doesn't give us nerfed versions of the villains just because they're going up against ordinary cops, not Batman. Speaking of the Bat, he's in this volume even less than the last one but I have to say I didn't miss him very much.

That's about all I have to say. Crime stories + Gotham City = Pure Comic Book Gold. Go out and get the Gotham Central omnibuses right now!

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Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Corum: The Coming of Chaos

Corum: The Coming of Chaos (Eternal Champion, #7)Corum: The Coming of Chaos by Michael Moorcock
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

June-July 2012 Re-read
The Knight of the Swords: Corum, Prince in the Scarlet Robe, leaves his home to visit others of his kind, the Vadagh. He is soon ambushed by the Mabden and maimed, losing his eye and hand. Corum finds allies and has his missing hand and eye replaced with the hand and eye of two dead gods. Even with his powerful weapons, can Corum hope to defeat the Knight of Swords?

The Elric Saga was one of my favorite fantasy tales around the turn of the century. The Knight of Swords, first in the Corum series, is a better written version of early parts of the Elric Saga.

Corum isn't Elric, however. He's from a gentle, peace-loving race, the Vadagh. The rise of men, or Mabden as they call themselves, parallels the rise of the Young Kingdoms in the Elric books.

Basically, Knight of Swords is the standard early Moorcock tale. You've got gods meddling in the affairs of mortals, an ancient but dying race, travel to exotic alien locales, and betrayal, sometimes at the hands of weaponry.

I actually found Corum to be a more well-rounded character than Elric, although the tale itself was a little weak. If I was rating the volume solely on this book, it would probably be a weak three.

The Queen of the Swords: Corum and Rhalina meet Jhary-A-Conel and go up against Xiombarg, Queen of Swords, with the fate of the world hanging in the balance...

Elric 2.0 continues as Corum and company go on a quest similar to some of the ones Elric has gone on. I have to say, though, I find Corum's abilities with his Eye and Hand to be a lot more interesting than Elric's and Corum to be a more likeable character.

The locales Corum visited in this one were pretty cool, like the River of White, the Plains of Blood, and the City in the Pyramid. Gaynor the Damned, enemy to many of the Eternal Champions, makes his first (to my knowledge) appearance and Jhary gives hints of Corum's true destiny.

Queen of Swords is a much stronger tale than Knight of Swords, upping this volume in my esteem. The "the end of the world is nigh" feel that's present in the later Elric tales is well represented here.

The King of the Swords:
The forces of Chaos have unleashed a rage plague on Corum and the forces of Law. Corum, Jhary, and Rhalina use a sky ship to search for Tanelorn and allies. But will they find them in time?

This one is for all the marbles. Corum and Jhary meet Elric and Erekose at the Vanishing Tower, much as they did in the Elric story of the same name, find Tanelorn, bad things happen, and the first saga of Corum has an ending of sorts.

So, how was Corum on my second reading? Both for nostalgia reasons and for the fact that I thought it aged better than the original Elric saga, I'm giving it a four. I still prefer the Elric Saga overall but Corum definitely has some marks in its favor.

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Tuesday, July 10, 2012

King of the Perverts

King of the PervertsKing of the Perverts by Steve Lowe
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Dennis hits rock bottom after losing his wife and his job, so when porn star Peter Oh'Tool approaches him to take part in a sexcathalon and potentially become King of the Perverts and win a million dollars, he jumps at the chance. But can Dennis find women willing to participate in ten of the most disgusting sex acts imaginable?

The King of the Perverts, as you can infer by the title, is chock full of hilariously disgusting sex acts. If such a thing disturbs you, this is not your book. If it doesn't, you're kind of a perv and should continue to read.

Still here? Cool. Steve Lowe's writing has come along quite a bit since Muscle Memory, his entry in the New Bizarro Author series last year. Dennis comes off as a sympathetic character, no easy task considering the golden shower, hot karl, and other depraved acts he engages in in an attempt to win a million dollars. The way reality TV is these days, it's not hard to imagine The King of Perverts as an actual show.

That's really about all I can say. The book is pretty slim and I don't want to spoil anything. A hilarious and disgusting effort from Steve Lowe is a good way to sum it up.

Well, Steve Lowe has more of my money now. How could I resist a book featuring the rusty trombone, dirty sanchez, and the donkey punch? I couldn't and neither can you!

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Monday, July 9, 2012


Wildspace, Sja1 (Advanced Dungeons and Dragons Spelljammer Adventure)Wildspace, Sja1 by Allen Varney
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Nerd Alert!
Back in the early to mid-nineties, Dungeons and Dragons was a favorite pastime of mine. Hundreds of hours were spent in imaginary worlds, killing monsters and stealing their gear. A few summers ago, I was feeling nostalgic and picked up a few adventures for some light reading. Wildspace was the one that caught my interest the most.

Spelljammer, an AD&D 2e setting in fantasy space, never really caught on despite having an intriguing premise. Wizards flying wooden ships through crystal shells and the phlogiston separating them? Sounds like a license to print money to me. I didn't even have to mention the Giant Space Hamsters.

Wildspace is one of those do or die adventures where if the PCs fail, their world will probably be destroyed. The setting of Wildspace is a massive hollowed out asteroid called The Hive. It's basically a dungeon of mammoth size with rooms miles across, a dungeon big enough to fly a spelljamming ship inside with no problems. Inside the dungeon is a beholder super weapon, the Ravager, a device capable of massive destruction with the power of thousands of beholders.

While I've never run or played this adventure, it looks fairly easy to follow. The maps are detailed and the plot is actually not too bad, a rarity in published adventures from that era. There is a little railroading via NPCs using charm spells but not enough to be a deal breaker. The rewards for completing the adventure won't unbalance things if it's played in an ongoing campaign. In fact, they're a little light if the heroes don't decide to use the Hive for their new base.

That's really all I have to say. Of the Spelljammer adventures I've read or played so far, this one is it.

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Sunday, July 8, 2012

Gotham Central: In the Line of Duty

Gotham Central, Book 1:  In the Line of DutyGotham Central, Book 1: In the Line of Duty by Ed Brubaker
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Detective Driver's partner is killed and the department wants to apprehend the killer before Batman gets called in. Only the killer is Mr. Freeze. An arsonist plagues the city and Driver and his new partner have to catch him and a missing girl is found dead. Detective Renee Montoya is outed and framed. All in all, a normal week at the GCPD.

When enough of your friends give a book high praise, sooner or later you have to stop being a stubborn asshole and give it a try. In this case, Gotham Central is the book and the stubborn asshole is me.

The core concept behind Gotham Central is a fairly simple one. If Batman was patrolling your city, how would the cops deal with it? They'd probably resent and respect you simultaneously, as is repeatedly shown in the pages of Gotham Central.

There isn't a whole lot more I can mention about the plot without spoiling too much of it. It's basically a series of crime stories set in Gotham City, centering on the GCPD.

Brubaker and Rucka knocked the ball out of the park and into the river in this one. The writing is superb and at times I forgot I was reading something set in Gotham City. I cannot recommend this enough to fans of comic books and crime fiction.

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Friday, July 6, 2012

Manhunter, Vol. 1: Street Justice

Manhunter, Vol. 1: Street Justice Manhunter, Vol. 1: Street Justice by Marc Andreyko
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Prosecutor Kate Spencer gets fed up with super criminals and takes the law into her own hands as... The Manhunter!

I'd been hearing about this series for half a decade before I finally plunked down some coin and picked it up. Did it live up to the hype?

Sort of. Regular people taking the law into their own hands is nothing new in comics. What is new is Kate Spencer. She's not hot. She smokes. She's divorced with a young son. Her ex-husband is a douche. Intrigued yet? What if I told you Kate took some super powered goodies from the evidence locker, like a Darkstar uniform, to help her fight crime? Yeah, I was interested too...

In this volume, Kate goes about the ropes, learning to be a super hero, with Copperhead and Shadowthief as her primary villains. She does a good job too, all things considered.

Other than Kate's ass-kicking character, the things I liked most about this book were her interactions with the rest of the DC universe, namely Batman and the Justice League. Seeing her gay assistant hit on Hawkman was possibly my favorite non-violent part of the book.

After reading this, I can see how Manhunter became a cult hit in its initial run. It's not like the other comics on the rack, it's very well written, and has a lot of unconventional things going on, especially for a super hero comic. Four stars!

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The Flash: Rebirth

The Flash: RebirthThe Flash: Rebirth by Geoff Johns
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Barry Allen, the Silver Age Flash that sacrificed himself to save the universe from the Anti-Monitor during the Crisis on Infinite Earths, has returned to life. But why? And why do the other wielders of the Speed Force keep having tragedy befall them? And what does The Flash's arch-nemesis, Professor Zoom, have to do with it?

First, a little history lesson. As I've mentioned in a couple reviews in the past, the first comic book I consciously remember picking out for myself was an issue of DC Comics Presents featuring Superman teaming up with Robin. What I've never mentioned before is that when I began getting comics second hand at flea markets and yard sales, they were issues of The Flash, many featuring art by Carmine Infantino. While I was young when Barry Allen sacrificed himself during the Crisis on Infinite Earths, I understood that Wally West picking up the Flash mantle was significant.

So why was I skeptical when I heard Geoff Johns was reviving Barry Allen much in the way he revived Hal Jordan? For one thing, I thought everyone on the planet had accepted Wally West as the new Flash. Barry had been gone for 23 years, rivaling Bucky's death for length of staying dead. Heck, I wasn't too crazy about Johns bringing Hal Jordan back either. Well, for nostalgia reasons, I gave The Flash: Rebirth a shot anyway and I'm glad I did.

The Flash: Rebirth is the story of a man out of time, much like Captain America was portrayed during the 1960's when he was first brought back. Barry knows he was brought back for a reason and thinks it's to solve his mother's murder and clear his father's name. Little does he know...

As I get older, super speed is one of the super powers I'd most like to have, and Johns and the artist, Ethan Van Sciver, know how to use it to it's fullest in a story, both visually and conceptually. I loved the revelation about the origin of the Speed Force and the murderer of Barry Allen's mother. Lots of speedsters past were brought back and used better than they have been in years. I expected Wally and the rest to be swept under the rug when Barry returned but they all got decent screen time.

That's pretty much all I can reveal without spoiling the core of the story. If you've ever been interested in the Barry Allen version of the Flash, this one isn't to be missed. It's an easy four for what it is.

Also, Kyle Rayner is a superior Green Lantern than Hal Jordan. Just sayin'.

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Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Shade the Changing Man: Edge of Vision

Shade, the Changing Man, Vol. 2: Edge of VisionShade, the Changing Man, Vol. 2: Edge of Vision by Peter Milligan
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Shade and Kathy find themselves drawn to Madness outbreaks, first in San Francisco then in New York. Shade and Kathy are separated and Kathy meets Lenny, a young artist. Shade, on the other hand, meets someone he never thought he'd see again...

Yeah, this is one of those times where I'm not exactly sure what I just finished reading. Peter Milligan's writing was top notch and Christopher Bachalo's art was good though still in its formative stages. I'm just not sure what they were telling me.

I loved that Lenny was finally introduced. I read the series from issue #35 on in the order I found them so I was wondering when some of my old favorites like Shimmy, Pandora, and Lenny would be introduced. I also liked that Troy Grenzer was brought back and that the American Scream still lived.

Still, I loved the art and I loved the characters. It wasn't as good as the first volume but does a good job of setting the stage for the next one.

Also, I want a coat like Shade's.

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Sunday, July 1, 2012

Master of the Multiverse: An Interview with Paul Melko

Today's guest is Paul Melko, author of Walls of the Universe and its frighteningly good sequel, The Broken Universe.

What was the inspiration behind Walls of the Universe and its sequel,
Broken Universe?
The first version of Walls was a novel that covered the same period as the
first half of the current novel.  It didn't work - too flabby.  I let it sit
for a while and brought it back out a few years later. I trimmed it to
novella length, cutting the slow parts and that ended as the novella of the
same name, published in Asimov's.  It went on to win the Asimov's Readers
Poll for Best Novella.  It was also on the Hugo, Nebula, and Sturgeon
ballots. (It lost all 3 of those awards, by the way.)  I realized that there
was a lot more to John's story after the end of the novella, so when I was
searching for a second novel to write, I took it up.

At the end of Walls, I wanted to take the story even bigger. Instead of two
Johns, I wanted ten.  I wanted to see where these characters took the device
and what they did with it.  The Broken Universe ramps up the scale.  The
third and probably final book ramps it up again. Any army of Johns?  Yes,

I've always loved parallel universe and pocket universe books. Philip Jose
Farmer's World of Tiers series is a person favorite.
Any rejection horror stories with Walls of the Universe?
The first version of the novel wasn't good enough to get published. It was
rejected, but that was the state of my career back then. It was what it was.
But the crux was good enough to get into Asimov's right away. 

Were you always planning to do more books in the same world after
Walls of the Universe?
Yes, as I mentioned above, I wanted the scope of John's problems and domain
to ratchet up in each book.
If there was a movie based on Walls of the Universe/Broken Universe,
who would you cast as John, Casey, Henry, and Grace? 
Walls has been optioned by the same production team that did the Shrek
movies.  A script is being written, so I'm excited to see what comes of
that.  I of course have no input into casting.  But it was funny when the
movie rights were being shopped around, I kept getting updates from the film
agents about who was interested and who they thought might play a lead.
There was even talk of Hayden Christensen as John.  The list of producers
they sent the book to was amazing. I chortled as I read the names.
As to who I would like to see, I really have no strong opinion.  I think the
role would be a meaty one, since they would get to play both John and Prime
One of the things that impressed me about the two Universe books is
the logic behind transferring universes. How much planning did you do
before putting pen to paper?
I'm an engineer, so I attacked the problem as an engineer. What would the
constraints of a transfer device be?  What problems would it pose?  How
would it be controlled and regulated?  When it broke, what would happen?

I wanted a device that was powerful and yet flawed. 

Will we be seeing more books in the Universe series in the future?
There will be at least one more!
Was there a book that made you realize you wanted to be a writer?
No one book made me want to be a writer, but the Heinlein juveniles were
what I started reading, and they influenced my love of science and
engineering greatly.  In Have Spacesuit - Will Travel, Kip calculates the
speed of the spaceship to Pluto using a sliderule. It blew my mind that such
a thing was even possible, to use physics to find a solution. I loved that

Who would you say your biggest influences are?
Heinlein, Farmer, Zelazny, Harrison.  I read those 4 with fervor.  Heinlein
and Farmer by far are the two writers who I feel I am most emulating in my
own work.

Who's your favorite author? 
These days, I'm a big fan of Dan Simmons, Neal Stephanson, and William
Gibson.  They are doing great stuff at the moment.

What's the best book you've read in the last six months? House of Suns by Alastair Reynolds.  It's seldom that I get a sense of
wonder that sends chills down my back, but that book did it for me.

Any words of wisdom for aspiring writers?
When I give writers workshops, my key piece of advice to aspiring writers is
that they strive to enjoy the journey.  I see too many would-be writers
waiting for that first acceptance, that first interest from an agent, that
first nibble from a publisher, thinking that it will change everything. It
won't. A writer still has to spend the majority of his or her time writing,
and if you don't enjoy that solitary time in your basement or at the coffee
shop, then maybe writing isn't for you.  The milestones are always going to
be few and far between and if you're waiting for those, you'll be
disappointed.  If you don't feel the soulful joy of writing when you put pen
to paper, look elsewhere for fulfillment.

What's next for Paul Melko?
I'm working on two hard SF middle-grade readers.  I noticed that my oldest
two children (12 and 14) had no problem finding fantasy novels to read.
Hard science fiction wasn't that prevalent in the libraries and bookstores.
I know how influential the Heinlein juveniles were on me, so I wanted to put
out some middle-grade books that weren't vampires and dragons.