Saturday, December 30, 2006

Captain Blood - Rafael Sabatini

Captain Blood is a classic pirate romp, entertaining and with plenty of action.

Blood, the main character, helps the wrong guy, and earns the enmity of the authority types. He becomes a slave in the Carribean.

He finds a hot chick, and escape to become the pirate Captain Blood.

3 out of 5

Scaramouche - Rafael Sabatini

Across the backdrop of the French Revolution, a man falls foul of the authorities because of his politics. Going on the run, he encounters some actors, leading him to take up the role of Scaramouche, a clown type rogue character.

Eventually, he settles in at a fencing academy, working for a master. Taking over after his death he puts his sword skills to good use.

2.5 out of 5

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Black Beauty - Anna Sewell

A story written to appeal to all those young readers, especially girls, that develop a thing for horses to the point of fascination beyond their use as work animals, transportation or betting objects.

It aims to show how the animals themselves can suffer because of what humans do to them, being somewhat fragile creatures for all their size. A fairly sentimental book.

2.5 out of 5

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Frankenstein - Mary Shelley

It is pretty surprising that something come up with almost on a whim to provide a diversion has come to be such an important text for two genres, both horror and science fiction.

Victor Frankenstein's obsession with the creation of life ultimately ends in tragedy and death for those around him.

4 out of 5

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Calling Justice Inc. - Emile C. Tepperman


Nellie Gray gets herself into a bit of trouble when showboating, and looking into a dodgy jewellery deal all by herself.

3 out of 5

Saturday, December 16, 2006

The Worm Ouroboros - E. R. Eddison

The Worm Ouroboros is a high fantasy adventure, and most definitely archaic in style. Some people will probably find that quite impenetrable, as opposed to amusing. It is certainly worth a look for those interested in the origins of the genre. Warriors and warlords abound, here. Eddison is an author worth taking a look at.

3 out of 5

Ten Years Later - Alexandre Dumas

Another of the Musketeers volumes, this one has a bit more to do with court and religious intrigue via king and cardinal, as opposed to the Musketeers running around, as most of them are off doing their own thing in positions of some authority.

One of their sons falls in love with the wrong girl.

3.5 out of 5

Twenty Years After - Alexandre Dumas

As the title says, it is twenty years after the events in the Three Musketeers. The four heroes are living their lives as they wanted, but are all slightly disaffected.

Cautiously, they agree to undertake a task for the Queen.

Complicating matters is the son of Milady de Winter, who is an anti-fan of these men, you could say.

The Musketeers must learn to work together again, even if their politics are aims are not all the same.

4 out of 5

Friday, December 15, 2006

Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom - Cory Doctorow

I will admit to being biased, I can't stand Disneyland, so that left me predisposed to dislike this book. As it turned out, that bit wasn't too horrible, but plenty of fetishising of a place you have to pay me to go to.

The society parts are interesting, where reputation is everything, and there is no need to work for subsistence as such, and you can check people's reputation on a network as it ebbs and flows.

Personality backup is also available, and there is the odd slaying in this book.

It also seems a bit like ghosts of ex girlfriends are haunting Doctorow here.

3 out of 5

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Tom Thumb - Anonymous Anonymous

This is the classic children's fairy story. A young boy has the
misfortune to be rather more than extremely vertically challenged. He
only manages inches, rather than feet. When misfortune and trouble
strikes, this littlest of humans must find a way to help everyone.

2.5 out of 5

Black Vulmea's Vengeance - Robert E. Howard

"Shut up!" growled the pirate. "I'm going to save you for the sake of the lady and the lass, but I don't have to talk to you!" With rare consistency he then continued: "We'll leave this trap the same way I came and went.

So, Black Vulmea is not always completely self-interested. :) Here, he does the right thing, even at risk to himself.

3 out of 5

Monday, December 11, 2006

A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens

The best of Charles Dickens' work. Ebenezer Scrooge is a bloke that pretty much anybody who came across him would classify as a miserable old bastard.

When he is particularly miserable towards an employee on xmas, a few spooky spectral spirits take him to task.

4 out of 5`

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Jimgrim and Allah's Peace - Talbot Mundy

Jimgrim is Major James Schuyler Grim. He is in Jerusalem, and is doing his heroic best to keep a lid on things. With all the factions and religions and races floating around the place, he definitely has his hands full. Enlisting the aid of an amateur or two, he wants to stop a nut that possesses a large amount of TNT before he destroys something

3 out of 5

Friday, December 08, 2006

The Last of the Mohicans - James Fenimoore Cooper

The Last of the Mohicans is an adventure story, set in America in the 18th century. Two girls are kidnapped, and Hawkeye, otherwise known as Nathaniel Bumppo. The British are fighting the French, and Hawkeye is a scout.

When two women are kidnapped, it will be his job to see what he can do about tracking them and their Indian captors.

3 out of 5

Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad

There is both a literal and a metaphorical heart of darkness here as man journeys from boring old England to the unknown Belgian Congo. That unknown is the physical heart of darkness.

The other heart is the psychology of the man himself, and the man that he meets there.

2.5 out of 5

Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll

When spinning a tale for a young acquaintance, Lewis Caroll produced something pretty nifty indeed. Talking rabbits, size changing, crazy playing cards and all sorts of weird animals, things and people. Highly entertaining to just about everybody is what Wonderland has become. Definitely a lot of fun to follow Alice's adventures.

4 out of 5

Thursday, December 07, 2006

The Green Shiver - Perley Poore Sheehan

Shadak Khan opposes another war lord, a nasty one called the Green Shiver.

2.5 out of 5

The Black Abbot - Perley Poore Sheehan

Captain Trouble runs across a group of men working for the Black Abbot - Lord of Death. A Tibetan wizard, it appears.

Shattuck must gather a force of men to oppose and depose him, after he does the avoiding death bit.

3 out of 5

Spider Tong - Perley Poore Sheehan

The Spider Tong see Shadak Khan as an obstacle to their power, and try and remove him, permanently, on multiple occasions.

3 out of 5

Where Terror Lurked - Perley Poore Sheehan

Captain Trouble has a run-in with the undead, the spirit of a Living Buddha, a bit of magic, and the lost underground tribe of the Agharti.

2.5 out of 5

Bride of the Serpent God - John Peter Drummond

You'd think Helene would prefer Ki-Gor to be kidnapped : "You lazy thing, Ki-Gor. Are you going to lie there all day eating
berries?" she asked, pouting lips as red and much more inviting than
the fruit which had occupied her Jungle Lord the past half hour."

He has a pretty good answer :
"Why, Helene, you know how healthful fruit is, and the fact it happens
to be hanging right at arm's reach from me has nothing to do with my
eating it," he righteously pointed out. "And you know also how very
good rest is to build a person up. That's the only reason I am lying

and if reasonable logical discussion fails :

"Put me down, Ki-Gor! Don't you dare throw me in that river!" Helene
cried, wriggling and kicking as she tried to escape. On he strode,
unperturbed by the rising din of her cries. At the very edge of the
bank, he halted, carefully putting his spear down. He appeared to
debate as to where to throw the laughing, struggling girl, and then
his solemn face breaking into a smile, he carefully set her down on
the bank.

"Now sit there, and don't go puddling around the river bank," he told
her, "because there are some very discerning crocodiles hereabouts who
would like nothing better than a red-haired, long-legged young lady
for dessert today."

Despite all this lollygagging, yet another minion comes on a steal Helene type jaunt, this one is Basru, a servant of the Serpent God. Once Helene is there, Dian, the voluptuous high priestess of the Serpent God Zaa decides to recruit the bloodnut woman, figuring extra employees could be useful.

So, deprogramming and rescue time for the Jungle Lord.

3.5 out of 5

Nirvana of the Seven Voodoos - John Peter Drummond

After a tiring bit of antelope hunting for dinner, Ki-Gor comes back and is attacked my a gorilla-man, who makes off with Helene.

There are not just gorilla-men to contend with, Ki-Gor finds he must get her back from Krishna, King of the Living Dead.

3.5 out of 5

Tigress of T'Wanbi - John Peter Drummond

"Upon payment of one hundred pounds of gold, five hundred tusks, one
thousand pounds of salt, and every tame elephant in your kingdom, I
will agree not to wage war against you during your lifetime. Failure
to make this payment will result in a lightning invasion of your
lands. The Sword of Hannibal as wielded by me, his descendant, will
fall on the Karamzili with unexampled ferocity, killing and enslaving!
The tribes subject to you will rise against you. Your power will be
shorn from you! And you, Dingazi, will be dressed in chains! Be
warned, Dingazi!-in time! (Signed) Queen Julebba-the Tigress of

Ki-Gor must provide a bit of generalship, and come up with something sneaky to get rid of the evil superbabe.

3 out of 5

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Wuthering Heights - Charlotte Bronte

Set on the moors, it is a pity that the Hound of the Baskervilles didn't get 'em. This would have saved a lot of characters a lot of grief.

An orphan is taken in, and the problems start there as he grows up, has his own problems and inflicts them on others.

The great detective has something to say about such places :

"But look at these lonely houses, each in its own fields, filled
for the most part with poor ignorant folk who know little of the law. Think of
the deeds of hellish cruelty, the hidden wickedness which may go on, year in,
year out, in such places, and none the wiser. Had this lady who appeals to us
for help gone to live in Winchester, I should never have had a fear for her. It
is the five miles of country which makes the danger."

2 out of 5

Robbery Under Arms - Rolf Boldrewood

A sterling adventure story as the charismatic bushranger Captain Starlight takes a couple of desperate young men under his wing and shows them the ropes. The older aboriginal partner of long standing becomes jealous, and ultimately will betray his boss, leading to the discovery of his secret hideout, and a desperate battle.

5 out of 5

Peter Pan - J. M. Barrie

An immortal boy who can fly? Sounds like fun. The androgynous young lad likes to hang around with girls in their sleepwear (no big surprise), and harrass pirates, as well.

Some fun adventures and activities in Never Never Land for Peter, Wendy, other youngsters and even a fairy.

3.5 out of 5

Monday, December 04, 2006

Aylmer Vance and the Vampire - Alice Askew and Claude Askew

"The walls of Blackwick Castle are impregnated with evil--every stone could tell its tale, of violence, pain, lust, and murder. What can one expect of those who have spent their lifetime between its walls?"

Hey, sounds like that was not a happy family. Multiple generations of vampires have made this a place of much badness, and when one of the latest occupants starts to fall prey to his wife, Vance counsels catastrophic renovation.

3.5 out of 5

The Epic of Gilgamesh - Anonymous Anonymous

More of academic interest, I suppose. If you are after a tale, you probably want to find a version that has been 'adapted' in some other way. There are some like this floating around, if you want something that is a traditional novel in a more modern style, otherwise, you are not going to want to get this.

2.5 out of 5

The Song of Roland - Anonymous Anonymous

Your average heroic stand type story. Recommended for those that like the knights, armor, chivalry thing. A knight of the super shining white variety, a stalwart of his boss in the royalty, makes a self-sacrificing effort to do what he believes is the right thing. This, of course, is not good for his bodily integrity.

3.5 out of 5

Aesop's Fables - Aesop Aesop

A handy collection from that bloke Aesop. A large number of stories seek to impart a moral lesson, while using a fantastic setting to disguise the impact, and enable them to be used on unsuspecting short humans, even. A little on the sneaky side, that Aesop character. Lucky he never met Basil Brush or Bart Simpson.

3.5 out of 5

Flatland - Edwin Abbott

Flatland is an exercise in science fiction geometry, if you like. It shows a denizen of a 2 dimensional world seeing what it would be like to exist in higher dimensions. An interesting mathematical and philosophical exercise. Some will definitely find this very odd, and rather quirky. If you don't know what a dimension means in this sense, give it a miss.

3 out of 5

Madame Midas - Fergus Hume

Fergus Hume's Madame Midas is nowhere near the book that the famous Mystery of a Hansom Cab is. It is a pretty mundane story, without the various interesting characters and situations that happen in the latter. Definitely check the other book out first, or try something else.

1.5 out of 5

The Big Hello! - Alastair Reynolds

Intergalactic malware, with a bit of Douglas Adamsesque humour to it.

4 out of 5

A Shambles in Belgravia - Kim Newman

Ms Irene Adler outwits Professor Moriarty. Professor Moriarty is quite impolite about it.

3.5 out of 5

Coppola's Dracula - Kim Newman

Kate Reed is in Romania, advising on a new production of a Dracula movie. Dracula is now Western royalty, so it could cause a few political problems. The other problem is that Romanians really, really don't like vampires, so when not working she really has to keep to herself.

3 out of 5

To Find A Dead Man - Emile C. Tepperman


A dead man tries to frame The Avenger for murder, and convince his daughter, into the bargain. The villain in this piece liked to run murder/insurance scams, and has even done one using his own person, it seems.

The Avenger must avoid the police, and find a dead man to clear his name. With some help from Nellie Gray and some fine shooting.

2.5 out of 5

The Serial Murders - Kim Newman

Apart from making fun of long running pommie soap operas, Jeperson has to deal with more of the supernatural on set of the sort of tv he loathes.

Liasing with a 'stunning' professor, as he thinks of her, helps to cheer him up somewhat, as he tries to solve a poltergeist problem on the set, and a voodoo problem off the set.

3 out of 5

Worms of the Earth - Robert E. Howard

One of Bran Mak Morn's subjects is being crucified while he is visiting some Roman commanders. This does not sit well with him or his aide, as he feels the punishment does not fit the crime, and the Romans are making a joke of doing what they will with the barbarians.

Bran has a plan for revenge on the Roman who gave the order, but Gonar cautions him against using mystic means. Bran ignores here, and seeks the Black Stone with the help of a were-woman. What he unleashes is a lot more than he bargained for.

3.5 out of 5

Armageddon 2419 AD - Philip Francis Nowlan

Anthony Rogers enters suspended animation in 1927 and wakes up in 2419.

He soon finds himself surrounded by some pretty cool technology, and in a military conflict. His military skills are still transferable to the present day, so he becomes an important player in the fight against the Han, especially with Wilma Deering by his side.

3.5 out of 5

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Treasure Island - Robert Louis Stevenson

A tale of pirates, peglegs, parrots, purloining and perfidery and old Blind Pew.

A lost treasure map is wanted by many, who are willing to kill to get it. These men are pirates, and a young lad, Jack Hawkins, and the odd other innocent get caught up in the struggle.

A source of much classic pirate caricature and pretty enjoyable.

3.5 out of 5

Varney the Vampyre - Thomas Peckett Prest

A compilation of a serial vampire story from the Penny Dreadful era. It is not that good, although Varney could perhaps be an ancestor of Spike's, from Buffy. It is worth a look for historical interest, and how it was done then, but modern angsty vampire fans aren't going to find much of interest here, I would think.

2 out of 5

Wings In The Night - Robert E. Howard

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

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

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

3.5 out of 5

The Chrysalids - John Wyndham

Here we have the book that most likely influenced John Wagner to some degree with Judge Dredd's Cursed Earth.

In this society there is much genetic deviation, and the chance of getting a baseline human birth is low.

Mutant or different children are supposed to be killed at birth, but this of course is not always the case, humans being what they are.

A group of such mutant children have developed superhuman abilities, and decide to flee. Far from being deformed, these children, by evolution, are superior to the 'norms', as standard humanity comes to be seen.

3.5 out of 5

The Hills of the Dead - Robert E. Howard

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

3.5 out of 5

The Moon of Skulls - Robert E. Howard

After winning a duel, Kane hears the loser confess to selling a girl into slavery. He sets out to track her down. The problem is that she is a prisoner of Nakari, the vampire queen of Negari, and due to be sacrified on the Black Altar in the Tower of Death because she is one of those useful pesky virgins.

4 out of 5

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Deirdre of the Sorrows - Anonymous Anonymous

The Irish mythological story of a tragic female figure.

3 out of 5

Ancestor Money - Maureen F. McHugh

How to obtain an inheritance in the afterlife.

3.5 out of t

Voice of Steel - Sean McMullen

A researcher's discovery of a talking sword from his period of expertise leads to discovering the past influencing the future, and vice versa.

4 out of 5

A New Light on the Drake Equation - Ian R. MacLeod

A story about a hermit-like SETI astronomer and his past relationships.

4 out of 5

The Man Who Loved the Faioli - Roger Zelazny

A certain type of alien likes to be with men just before they die. One man survives the experience.

3 out of 5

Light of Other Days - Bob Shaw

A sad story of a use for 'slow glass' technology that traps light for an extended period of time.

3 out of 5

A Spy In Europa - Alastair Reynolds

A spy and infiltrator gets a lot more than he wanted, and a mortal shock, when he agrees to a mission for a lot of money using severe body altering technology.

3.5 out of 5

Nighttime Shadows on Open Sand - Brian Herbert

A story from Liet-Kynes' time, when Rabban was ruling Dune badly.

3 out of 5

Adaptogenic - Neal Asher"

Hanging out at auctions leads to an interesting confrontation via shape-shifting technology.

3.5 out of 5

The Footfalls Within - Robert E. Howard

Kane is following a band of slavers, and is unable to help himself when he sees them stop and start to whip a girl to death. Despatching many, he is overcome by the dozens of others, and forced to march as a slave.

A nasty supernatural end awaits his captors, where his possession of the Bast-headed staff of N'Longa in the past is no bad thing.

3.5 out of 5

Skulls In the Stars - Robert E. Howard

Kane is tracking, and being hunted by a swamp fiend, and realises when fighting it:

"For man's only weapon is courage that flinches not from the gates of Hell itself, and against such not even the legions of Hell can stand."

He finds the man that created the fiend, and adds the man to its list of victims, to appease it.

3.5 out of 5

Red Shadows - Robert E. Howard

Kane comes across Le Loup twice in his life, once after he comes across a dying girl, one of his kills, and once at the temple of the Black God. He leaves him mortality challenged, and watches as his underling, Gulka the gorilla slayer finds a ape who is more than a match for him.

3.5 out of 5

Rattle of Bones - Robert E. Howard

In which Kane enters the Cleft Skull tavern, and finds that is most definitely lives up to its name.

Friday, December 01, 2006

The Murder Note - Johnston McCulley

A pretty mundane tale. An ex cop puts on a hood and gloves to go crimebusting, using some pretty standard methods. This time, he has been led into a trap, and barely manages to escape.

He realises he has become caught up in a struggle between two crime figures, and lets the police in on it, to turn the tables.

2 out of 5

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Grey Shapes - Jack Mann

Gees is a bored adventurer. When his administration person tells him he has a possible case, involving sheep, he is a bit sceptical, but isn't doing anything else, so goes to investigate.

Not quite as mundane as he thought, with a bet, some Norse mythology, and a shapeshifter or two to be sorted out.

3 out of 5

Farewell Nikola - Guy Boothby

Another Nikola tale that is a little on the quiet side. Richard Hatteras, his wife and a female acquaintance are in Italy, and so is Nikola.

When Hatteras realises this, he cannot quite work out why, but it is pretty sure that it is something dodgy. He wants to keep his young noble friend out of trouble, too, both of the female and Nikola variety.

3 out of 5

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

The Slithering Shadow - Robert E. Howard

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

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

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

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

4 out of 5

The Scarlet Citadel - Robert E. Howard

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

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

4.5 out of 5

The Pool of the Black One - Robert E. Howard

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

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

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

4 out of 5

The People of the Black Circle - Robert E. Howard

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

4.5 out of 5

The Phoenix On the Sword - Robert E. Howard

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

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

3.5 out of 5

The Jewels of Gwahlur - Robert E. Howard

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

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

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

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

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

4.5 out of 5

The Devil In Iron - Robert E. Howard

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

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

4 out of 5

Shadows In Zamboula - Robert E. Howard

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

3.5 out of 5

Shadows In the Moonlight - Robert E. Howard

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

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

4 out of 5

Gods of the North - Robert E. Howard

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

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

4 out of 5

Monday, November 27, 2006

The Soho Golem - Kim Newman

Jeperson and associate investigate the murder of a man literally smashed to death, and he suspects a golem. Soon enough, in sordid Soho, he comes across it.

It has literally been summoned by a magic stripper to tie up loose ends, but a bit of psychology puts paid to Pony-Tail.

3 out of 5

Who Dares Wins - Kim Newman

A Romanian noble has hostages in the Romanian embassy. Ruthven, back in the cabinet, wants Ceaucesceau out, so he is happy to indulge in some violence, here.

Katie Reed has been contacted to observe, but gets hauled inside the embassy, and this is the guy she is dealing with: "...the other held Meinster's two poodles. In the forest, Kate had seen Meinster kill another vampire for ridiculing his beloved dogs. They were vampire pets, little canine monsters with sharpened fangs, fattened on drops of baby-blood. They must have been smuggled into the country despite quarantine regulations designed to keep undead animals like them out -- a more serious crime than terrorism in the opinion of many Home Counties pet owners."

Meinster, sans poodles, leaps out the window with Kate, to avoid Commander Bond and his SAS-ninja vampires attacking the building. Bond is there to deal with Graf von Orlok, an associate of Meinster's.

Richard Jeperson is there to oversee.

4 out of 5

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Tanar of Pellucidar - Edgar Rice Burroughs

David Innes is ruler of Pellucidar, but there is still opposition. This includes a large bunch of pirates. During the conflict, young Tanar is captured by said buccaneers.

They want to learn the secret of the new weapons technology that they are faced with, and young Tanar's force of warriors is equipped with.

So, it is time for a bit of escapology.

3 out of 5

At the Earth's Core - Edgar Rice Burroughs

A man with a fancy machine decides to do a bit of drilling. Taking a friend along in his contraption, he didn't expect to end up on a journey to the centre of the earth.

They end up in Pellucidar, where things like time and space work just a little bit differently then they are used to. There they encounter the usual bad guys, beasts and babes.

3.5 out of 5

Out of Time's Abyss - Edgar Rice Burroughs

Another Caspak book, and another main character. A fan of 'B' names for this series, was Burroughs, as this one's name is Bradley.

Taking a trip out from Fort Dinosaur with a party of other men, things turn sour when they run into a tyrannosaur.

When they run into the winged men called the Wieroo they don't have too many fans, either.

3 out of 5

The People That Time Forgot - Edgar Rice Burroughs

The People that Time Forgot include Bowen Tyler, the protagonist from the earlier novel. A rescue mission is being organised to try and save him and anyone else that is stuck with him.

The mission is put together by one of Tyler's employees, by plane, and by ship. The plane used has a bit of a problem with pterosaurs, and is forced down.

Billings, the pilot, has to undergo his own prehistoric adventures, and more of the island's unique accelerated evolution is shown.

When he is in a whole pile of trouble, those he set out to rescue, become the rescuers.

3.5 out of 5

The Land That Time Forgot - Edgar Rice Burroughs

We begin with a bit of wartime sea action. Us versus the Germans sort of thing, as a desperate group of men take over a German submarine.

It is just the thing they need to get to a Lost Island via an underwater passage and establish a base called Fort Dinosaur! Those left are forced to work together, whether German or not.

The whole island appears to almost be an evolutionary experiment, so there are clashes with beast men, and other sorts of clashes with some of the more advanced local girls.

3.5 out of 5

The Lost World - Arthur Conan Doyle

Professor George Challenger is a man that does not like reporters. It is surprising, therefore, that he invites one of them, along with some other companions, on a trip to the Amazon, and Venezuela.

A lost plateau, full of dinosaurs and primitive men awaits our intrepid adventurers and heroes.

4 out of 5

The Scarlet Pimpernel - Emmuska Orczy

Set in France, the Scarlet Pimpernel is a pro royal, or at least anti-guillotine proto superhero, who leads the followers of Robespierre a merry dance as her rescues plenty of people from their fate.

He has his friends and helpers, this dashing Englishman, and it is through them that the French try and discover his identity.

3.5 out of 5

Ayesha - H. Rider Haggard

Leo has left, and Ayesha, he thinks, is dead. Do immortal antiheros with superpowers stay dead? Only sometimes, would be the answer to that question. This is most definitely not one of those times.

Leo is a pretty hot guy, it seems, as the Queen of Kaloon falls for him, and he is in danger of yet another woman scorned. He now, of course, only wants Ayesha. Mortal types, in the end, can't handle the heat.

3 out of 5

She - H. Rider Haggard

She is an immortal super powered ruler with a touch of the Doctor Doom complex about her. Old enough to predate the calendar, she presides over an underground civilisation and lost city.

A conflict develops between her and the on of a man she has encountered in the past. When She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed is not, she gets a tad on the grumpy side.

3.5 out of 5

King Solomon's Mines - H. Rider Haggard

King Solomon's Mines is a story of a man's search for his brother, and told from the point of view the famous hero and hunter, Allan Quatermain.

He is the man they turn to for help, and become is solid and steadfast companions. The search for the Mines, the battles, the evil witch woman and the African setting are all excellent.

4.5 out of 5

A Study In Scarlet - Arthur Conan Doyle

A lovely origin story. Dr. Watson, returned from a war and in need of lodgins is led to Baker Street. In this fine location resides one Sherlock Holmes.

They are soon on the trail of a mystery that involves a corpse, and a word scrawled in blood on a wool. Then there are dodgy mormons and a bit of wild west action.

4.5 out of 5

A Princess of Mars - Edgar Rice Burroughs

Take a brawny Virginian adventurer, and get him to the Red Planet. Have him captured by aliens. Let there be a beautiful woman with an exotic name for him to fall for. Add a castastrophic failure of technology that could doom the planet except for the slim chance that John Carter, our hero, can save the day.

Not to mention the odd battle or war.

4 out of 5

The Son of Tarzan - Edgar Rice Burroughs

Tarzan has overcome Rokoff, but Paulivitch still lives. He is sneaky, and gets Tarzan's son Jack to leave London. In Africa, Jack escapes, with the help of one of the esteemable apes.

Jack must now become his father, and create his own legend, becoming Korak the Killer.

3.5 out of 5

The Beasts of Tarzan - Edgar Rice Burroughs

Tarzan, back in civilisation, soon has to leave again. The dodgy Rokoff is now again a free man, and continues to give Lord Greystoke problems. This time it is a kidnapping, involving his own flesh and blood, and his wife.

Tarzan must become the ape-man superhero again, but he is not without allies, in the jungle animals, and the native Mugambi, a friend.

4 out of 5

The Return of Tarzan - Edgar Rice Burroughs

Tarzan decides it is best if he leaves Jane, and returns to Africa. He falls in with a couple of dodgy noble types, and ends up having some Arab adventures, joins the Waziri tribe, and eventually ends up reunited with Jane in Opar.

The only problem he has is that one of the powerful women of Opar wants his body, and is not too happy Jane has prior claims.

Revelation of his position, marriage and return eventuate.

4 out of 5

Tarzan of the Apes - Edgar Rice Burroughs

A sterling tale of tragedy and heroism. An English pair are abandoned in Africa. Not long after the child is left alone, and he is raised by a tribe of semi-sentient Apes, and must learn to compete with them to stay alive.

Such an upbringing builds one of the great and most influential heroes we have had.

4.5 out of 5

Friday, November 24, 2006

The Mystery of A Hansom Cab - Fergus Hume

An interesting enough plot, with the odd twist or too, and some funny dialectical dialogue, so to speak. :) Very refreshing to see somewhere you are familiar with feature. A nice, old fashioned style edition, complete with ribbonmark, and gumleaf chapter headings. A grey eyed detective versus a black eyed detective, in a race to see who can work out who killed the man found, and why.

3.5 out of 5

Black Colossus - Robert E. Howard

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

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

Carnage ensues.

4 out of 5

Kwa and the Ape People - Perley Poore Sheehan

Sobek the ancient crocodile is no match for Kwa, and neither is Anansi the wizard of the Spider-God. After insinuating himself into the hunting party of some credulous European noble types, Anansi causes some problems.

He fails to understand the relationship between Kwa and this hunting party, and this proves his doom.

2 out of 5

The Hampdenshire Wonder - J. D. Beresford

Victor Stott is the child of two intellectually unremarkable parents, but when born, people soon realise he is 'supernormal'.

He debates religion with clergy at the age of four, and this has unfortunate consequences later on.

A local doctor, with a huge library of 40-50 thousand books realise the boy's talents, and offers to assist with his education, and let him use the library. His recall and comprehension are prodigious, and he is a speed reader.

There are clashes with the authorities over the boy's education and lack of respect for them.

The end is a mysterious accident and tragedy, and a possible cover-up is suspected by the narrator of the book, but nothing is proved.

3.5 out of 5

Beyond the Black River - Robert E. Howard

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

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

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

4.5 out of 5

Death To the Avenger - Emile C. Tepperman


The town is stirred out, the Avenger has been seen at many places out and about, working. A mob boss has a man on trial, and has been working hard to get to witnesses and others to stop them talking.

The Avenger takes a hand, and faking a fire, and disguised as a fireman, steals the hood on trial away to make a deal for the life of a woman.

Nellie Gray is instrumental, and gets into quite a bit of trouble.

3 out of 5

The Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas

Daring escapes and dashing swordplay. More fun than at least three
quarters of a barrel of monkeys. A monomaniacal revenge fantasy on one
level, and a swashbuckling story on another. Wrongly imprisoned, a man
eventually escapes and sets out to bring wrack and ruin upon those who
wronged him. This, of course, does not come without a price, in the
end. While I prefer my musketeers, this is pretty good.

3.5 out of 5

Thursday, November 23, 2006

The Pilgrim's Progress - John Bunyan

You could possibly write something more boring than this, but you would have to try really, really, really hard. Subtlety and sledgehammer are certainly two words you could string together in a sentence when describing how this comes across when slogging through it. Definitely in that order, as well.

1 out of 5

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Rogues In the House - Robert E. Howard

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

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

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

3.5 out of 5

Triplanetary - E. E. Doc Smith

The introductory novel in the Lensman series is not that great, and perhaps is almost an afterthought prequel. It introduces the overarching conflict between the Arisians and the Eddorians, and jumps through ages of human history, including Atlantis, until getting to the current setting.

The Arisians have started programs to breed fine warriors on many planets, through subtle manipulation.

At the end of this prequel, the Galactic Patrol is formed, flight between stars is possible, and the First Lensman is given his Lens. The Lens is a jewelled band that gives the wearer great mental and enhanced physical powers. Only those in the Arisian breeding line are capable of wielding it, and becoming superhuman. This applies on any planet.

3 out of 5

The Galaxy Primes - E. E. Doc Smith

E. E. Doc Smith's Galaxy Primes are people with advanced mental abilities. In other words, they have psionic abilities, and the Primes are Psionic Primes.

The main group in this book do not quite get along as well as the fraternal types in the Galactic Patrol. Still fun though, space battles, mind blasting, all that good stuff.

3 out of 5

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde - Robert Louis Stevenson

A scientist events a formula that can bring out man's dual nature. His opposite number, in this case, is somewhat of super-powered wanton, who does whatever he likes. Free of the social restraint of his other half, he happily commits any crime that comes to mind as he feels like it.

Eventually, investigators begin to suspect something, and the hunt is on.

4 out of 5

The Adaptive Ultimate - Stanley G. Weinbaum

A scientist thinks he has uncovered the secrets to the adaptative powers of the animal kingdom, via the pineal gland. Tests on guinea pigs etc., go well. Their lab can't afford an ape, so decides on a human test.

A woman dying of turberculosis disagrees. It gives her amazing abilities, but, basically she immediately turns supervillain, killing someone for money straight away, and getting off in court by completely changing her appearance.

The bewitched, bewildered and disturbed scientists eventually decide they must stop her.

3.5 out of 5

Friday, November 17, 2006

Luthor's Gift - Elliot S. Maggin

A long way into the future, the day Lois dies, Superman leaves Earth and is reflecting on Lois and Lex while sitting on the moon.
Lex arrives in one of his ships, and tells him the story of how he helped Lois fall in love with Superman.

3.5 out of 5

The Lair of the White Worm - Bram Stoker

A shorter novel. An english uncle calls on an aussie nephew to come and help him out. Strange things are happening, you have a possibly evil hypnotist and the very likely sinister Lady March.

This is all pretty minor compared to the big-arse snake monster or intrepid traveller finds in a cave.

As it turns out, there is not much chance that Lady Arabella March is what she seems.

2.5 out of 5

Dracula's Guest - Bram Stoker

Dracula's guest employs some of the creep local folk tales and legends. The significance of a blue flame from the ground, the howling of wolves, that sort of thing.

Here, a coachman in a coach drawn by midnight black horses, picks up a traveller. He is growing increasingly freaked out all the time.

4 out of 5

The Lady of the Shroud - Bram Stoker

The story opens with a woman in white, a shroud, in a coffin on the water. A fairly odd sort of a both, that one. A bit of a gothic type of story, here.

This is one of those tales where the odd woman that might be a vampire turns up at your doorway trying out for a full length wet t-shirt contest. However, she only wants help, as she and others have been in an accident.

The protagonist does have a psychic aunt though, for some reason.

2.5 out of 5

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Tales From the Arabian Nights - Anonymous Anonymous

The stories told by Scherezade to keep herself alive and her ruler amused. These include the famous stories such as Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves, Aladdin and his Lamp, and the stories of Sinbad the Sailor.

A very nice and enjoyable collection of long lasting tales and legends from the area.

4 out of 5

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Gulliver's Travels - Jonathan Swift

A book that you can take on two levels, the straightforward adventure story, and Swift's social and political commentary. Max Guevara's favorite book, too apparently.

Lemuel Gulliver travels to different places, lands of small people, of giants and others encountering their foibles and quirks.

3 out of 5

The Suicide Squad--Dead Or Alive - Emile C. Tepperman

Hill City has a problem with political corruption and blackmail, for criminal ends, and a desperate officials calls in a favor, and ends up with The Squad.

The crime types have enough influence to have The Suicide Squad seen as outlaws, so they are on the run until they can try and do something about it, and shut the bad guys down, rescue one of their teammates, and a good looking redhead into the bargain.

3 out of 5

The Suicide Squad Reports For Death - Emile C. Tepperman

This is quite a bit more mundane, but there is a hell of a lot of shooting of said mundane gangsters with automatic weapons.

2.5 out of 5

The Suicide Squad and the Murder Bund - Emile C. Tepperman

The Squad are after a very clever notorious nazi spy and his femme fatale.

3 out of 5

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Arsene Lupin - Maurice LeBlanc

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Arsene is so confident in his skills, he sends letters to the Duke of Charlemarche, telling him that he may as well have the goods he wants delivered to him, to save everyone some trouble.

A master of disguise, this comes in handy when a detective that has been chasing him for a decade finally works something out.

Lupin gets in trouble near the end because of a woman, but still has a trick left up his sleeve.

3.5 out of 5

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Arthurian Romances - Chretien de Troyes

There are several examples of the French chivalrous tradition here, and all that courtly love stuff. Or, how to wear shiny armor, look pretty, do what your religion tells you, be nice to ladies but don't knock them off their pedestals.

Try to get really, really good at killing people and beating people up, too.

3 out of 5

A Connecticut Yankee In King Arthur's Court - Mark Twain

This book is amusing in some of the same ways that Captain Stormfield is amusing. A modern man of the time is placed in a different, strange, setting, and gets to make humorous observations about the natives, locals, functionaries and authority figures.

Here, the device is time travel, plonking a 19th century American in the middle of a fantasy version of King Arthur's court.

3.5 out of 5

Beowulf - Anonymous Anonymous

This is a good vs evil story, in one sense. You have a dwelling full of people having a good time, but a monster decides to cause a bit of carnage.

This causes much cowering and wailing, until the intrepid hero Beowulf decides to see if he can go and inflict some steel based damage upon the unfortunate monster, Grendel.

3 out of 5

Saturday, November 11, 2006

The Mysterious Island - Jules Verne

A group of civil war prison escapees manage to get wrecked on a strange island, after taking off in a balloon.

Being soldiers, they have a penchant for shooting things, breaking stuff and blowing things up. The characters do change over time and evolve in their outlook, while being limited by the knowledge of the time.

It all builds to an exciting climax.

2.5 out of 5

Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea - Jules Verne

A group of men come to misfortune at sea. They have the dubious misfortune to come to the attention of Captain Nemo and his highly advanced submarine, Nautilus. While this prevents them from drowning, they do get caught up with some of the odd Captain's other pursuits. Ned and company do certainly get some education in oceanography and marine biology along the way.

4 out of 5

Around the World in Eighty Days - Jules Verne

A book based around a bet. Two adventurers, one a gentleman, and one not so nice, make a not so small wager, on Fogg's ability to circumnavigate the globe in 80 days or less.

When something like that happens, of course there will be villainous nogoodniks trying to stop you from accomplishing your task, winning the bet, getting the girl and all the good grog, etc.

3 out of 5

Journey To the Centre of the Earth - Jules Verne

Lost races, dinosaurs, volcanoes, what more could a kid want? A scientist discovers some writing by an old explorer that greatly excites him. He puts together a cosmopolitan expedition of adventurers to go and check it out for himself. The expedition includes his young nephew, presumably so younger readers have someone to relate to.

3.5 out of 5

From the Earth to the Moon - Jules Verne

Unfortunately, From the Earth to the Moon always struck me as being on the rather dull side, so it took me a while to get through it the first time I read it. I can't really recommend this to many, except perhaps those interested in the history of science fiction, or really big Verne fans. The story of the first trip to Earth's satellite.

2 out of 5

Around the Moon - Jules Verne

This is the sequel to Jules Verne's earlier book, From the Earth to the Moon. Basically, we have a cartographic exploration of the lunar body, and exploration. Those aboard must also struggle to find a way back to Earth safely, so that they may continue to go on living, and not be the first human corpsicles on record.

2 out of 5

Ghosts - Kelley Armstrong

A short story with Jeremey thinking about werewolf politics and general treatment of each other, given one of his pack is on the run.

3 out of 5

Dr Nikola's Experiment - Guy Boothby

Nikola again plays a major part in this book. A down on his luck doctor is the other major character, and after travelling around the world, he looks for help from an old acquaintance. This man knows Nikola, who is in need of such a surgeon. However, the Chinese assassin is still on Nikola's trail.

A long voyage happens, to a castle, where love blooms and some rejuvenation experiments happen upon an old man, with only partial success. The assassin gets the castle owner, a friend of Nikola, but not our two main characters.

3 out of 5

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Blinky Bill - Dorothy Wall

A children's story, of course, this is the adventures or a mischievous koala. Definitely fun.

Bill gets up to the usual sort of things that kids get up to around the parents, but he takes it a bit further, in a Tom Sawyer or Huck Finn kind of level of mucking around.

4 out of 5

The Castle of Otranto - Horacle Walpole

A nasty accidental death is not a good thing to have happen on your wedding day, particularly when it happens to the guy you were going to marry.

After this unfortunate event, the father of the dead groom decides he needs to marry the now did not quite make it to widowed woman. There are financial reasons, for this, of course.

Plenty of supernatural and other sorts of suspense follow.

3 out of 5

On Basilisk Station - David Weber

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Honor Harrington, she of the unsubtle name is in one of those stiff upper lip type of space militaries. She annoys someone politically, and basically gets sent to Coventry. To influence female readers, perhaps, Weber gives her a companion, basically, a cat that is more intelligent than those annoying beasties. Somewhere between that and Steven Brust's Jhereg, Loiosh, but not as clever or fun as that flying lizard.

Her Coventry is Basilisk Station, and the ship she is given has an experimental weapon, that may or may not work, and no-one really actually knows how to use it in combat yet.

Fairly close to melodrama, but entertaining enough.

3.5 out of 5

In the Days of the Comet - H. G. Wells

More than a few people have used this idea over the last few decades. The people of Earth are going about their normal dodgy business, until they realise that a comet may actually strike the planet.

A most definitely political novel, this looks at the upheaval such a catastrophic event can cause, and what happens to the society as a result.

It seems here that humanity will improve in the face of such calamity.

3 out of 5

The Invisible Man - H. G. Wells

This novel is another story of a scientist. Here, a man named griffin
has invented a substance that can turn him invisible. This is a tale
exploring alienation and a man's role in society, and some of the
English class structure.

Griffin decides to use his new found ability to gain power and
wealth. However, his isolation due to his invisibility leads to severe
problems with his mental state.

4 out of 5

The Food of the Gods - H. G. Wells

A novel of science gone awry. Wells is quite scathing of scientists, in general, throughout this story. A process has been invented that can increase the size of organics. This goes everywhere from plant life and crops through animals, and eventually all the way through humans. Lots of over large products cause problems, and over large humans are put to work because of the abilities their superior size gives them. Such exploitation and differences lead to conflict.

3 out of 5

The Time Machine - H. G. Wells

It will come as no surprise that the protagonist in this story, the traveller, invents a time machine and uses it to venture into the future.

The society that he ends up in seems amazing for a brief time, then he realises that all is not as it seems. There is a large underclass that is terribly exploited to produce all this for the eloi, as they are called.

The underclass are named Morlocks, and it is here that the Time Traveler's sympathies reside.

The book can be a little slow, at times.

3.5 out of 5

The War of the Worlds - H. G. Wells

Humans are not alone in the universe, let alone in the solar system itself. Large tripod-like machines land, and they are most definitely not friendly. It is discovered that they are from Mars, information which is not particularly useful. With advanced weaponry and materials they set about a mission of destruction and conquest.

In the end, it appears that the biological sciences were not their strong suit, bringing about their downfall.

4 out of 5

The Shape of Things to Come - H. G. Wells

This book by H. G. Wells is only a sort of novel. He uses the device of
a man having, basically, prophetic visions of the future, to discuss
society at length.

The discussion is about the future, and the direction that mankind
is taking. Written towards the end of the Depression, this of course
influences the writing, as does the likelihood of further world war,
also a prediction in the book.

He continues on, as the book is divided into multiple parts, each looking at a different stage.

3 out of 5

When the Sleeper Wakes - H. G. Wells

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A nineteenth century nonconformist and activisit pulls a Rip Van Winkle, and wakes up a couple of centuries later. He discovers that he is now what he was actually agitating against, and is rather shocked. Wells was predicting the rise of the megacorporation, among other things, like the use of aeroplanes for travel. Most definitely a criticism of the large corporation way of life.

3.5 out of 5

The Island of Dr. Moreau - H. G. Wells

An Englishman is rescued twice, once from a shipwreck, and once from being abandoned by the captain of the ship who rescued him.

Dr. Moreau takes him into his home, and slowly it dawns on the horrified individual that Moreau is basically insane, and has been experimenting with enhancing animal intelligence. The relationship between the creations and Moreau is very warped, and a large part of the horror.

3.5 out of 5

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

The Canterville Ghost - Oscar Wilde

This, basically, is a comedy. A ghost inhabits a house, and a new modern, brash family move in and completely ignore him, and don't even want to believe in ghosts at all. I mean, the sheer nerve and effrontery of some of those mortals. They even get rid of evidence of ghostly and supernatural behaviour. Quite amusing.

3 out of 5

The Picture of Dorian Gray - Oscar Wilde

I would imagine that there is not a very large chance you would find this book in the waiting room of any plastic surgeon's office. An example of a story that suggests be careful of what you wish for. A young man makes a deal to keep himself young and youthful looking. Unfortunately there is a secret associated with this that is hard to hide.

3.5 out of 5

Monday, November 06, 2006

Eastern Standard Tribe - Cory Doctorow

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A couple of interesting ideas, here, but old girlfriends are best quickly ignored and forgotten, not written about, at length. :) Or at least, perhaps not to the point of being so obvious about it, and beating your readers over the head. However, some of the things his tribal consultant was talking about certainly seem to be happening. Sharing music between mp3 players, and that sort of thing. Doctorow is worth reading just for the futurology.

3 out of 5

In a Glass Darkly - J. Sheridan Le Fanu

Perhaps the origin of the 'psychic detective' or ghostbuster genre, with the use of Doctor Heselius as a framing character for these stories as being part of his history of cases. Carmilla is a fine, fine tale, with a disturbing female monster. Le Fanu is well worth investigating for horror fans that have not done so in the past.

4 out of 5

Dracula - Bram Stoker

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Why do I like this so much? Maybe because it is a classic? Hard to say why, just really enjoy how that is done, the cast of hunters, etc. It is the one I have multiple versions of, including a hardback annotated, so that certainly says something. The style, told in letters and journals to large degree just seems to work for some reason, when it can be horrible elsewhere. Highly recommended.

5 out of 5

Sunday, November 05, 2006

A Man Divided - Olaf Stapledon

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Another decent look at some work.

3 out of 5

Darkness and the Light - Olaf Stapledon

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This is ok, but you would certainly want to read several others, first.

3 out of 5

Last and First Men - Olaf Stapledon

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Stapledon's epic ages of man tour-de-force. This is by no means a detailed character study, but a study of a theme - the evolution of humanity, and its spread. You are not quite sure how one man could get his head around this at the time, but he managed, in a masterful way. Very influential and exciting, this book.

4 out of 5

Suicide Squad--Targets For the Flaming Arrows - Emile C. Tepperman

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Foreign bad guy criminals with large flaming arrows, vs a devil may care, death wish FBI squad with guns.
Pretty bizarre, really, but fun.

3 out of 5

Friday, November 03, 2006

A Coffin For the Avenger! - Emile C. Tepperman

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If you want to be a scary international superspy, what do you call yourself? The Black Tulip, that is right. A terrifying moniker. You also avoid having your nefarious plots foiled because of a little girl getting her dog run, allowing The Avenger to foil your evil plans.

2.5 out of 5

The Lust of Hate - Guy Boothby

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This book in the Dr Nikola series is not as interesting as the others, mostly because there is not a lot of Nikola in it. The protagonist in this case is more of an ordinary man, than leaning to the adventurer side of things, as in the previous works.

Gilbert Pennethorne goes to Australia after some problems, and ends up involved with a dying miner, who leaves a mine to him for his care. However, he falls ill, and is swindled out of it.

After such stress, and toll, he is a reasonably easy mark for Nikola, this time in evil manipulator mode, as he is after a serious amount of cash to fund a venture. Something a wealthy mine owner could provide. So, he offers to help solve the problem of the swindler, in a removal of bodily integrity type manner, for a pretty large fee.

Things of course go wrong for Pennethorne, as Nikola intended, but Nikola ends up with a snag, too. Pennethorne takes ship, and ends up shipwrecked, after saving a rich woman, more than once.

Her father offers him a job after he spurns his daughter's advances, with a murder hanging over his head. He ends up in a Rider Haggard style battle in South Africa, near the end, when Nikola appears again, for the denoument.

2.5 out of 5

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Miracle Monday - Elliot S. Maggin

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This one was as good as Last Son of Krypton, even if in a different way. The characterisations of Luthor and Superman were done in the same way, even if, due to the nature of the antagonist here, there was not the same amount of byplay between the two old foes. The plot centres around a time travelling post graduate history student, coming back to find out the events surrounding what they call Miracle Monday.

4 out of 5

Cargo of Doom - Emile C. Tepperman

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The Danes versus the Nazis, with The Avenger and Justice, Inc. in the middle.

A ship, with 90 million dollars on board that was going to be used to fight the nazis, is captured by the same due to its inability to dock anywhere.

A woman and her daughter desperately seek The Avenger's help, after the ship is given permission to dock in New York.

3 out of 5

Saturday, October 21, 2006

The Tower of the Elephant - Robert E. Howard

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

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

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

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

4 out of 5

Saturday, October 14, 2006

The Magic Pudding - Norman Lindsay

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Big tough talking penguins and talking never ending desserts, what more could you want? Ok, that, but this is a kids book, and one you should get if you have some (kids, that is, not talking penguins and puddings). There are the good guys, and there are the bad guys. Both are hungry, but the bad guys want to put out tasty pudding friend to nefarious ends, while the good guys just want enough dessert. Needless to say, the pudding is cantankerous.

4 out of 5

Friday, October 13, 2006

Castle In the Desert Anno Dracula 1977 - Kim Newman

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Amusing story, presumably featuring an elderly Philip Marlowe. Hilariously, in a diner, he runs into the Rubber Duck - who wants to partake of vampire girls.

3.5 out of 5

The McCarthy Witch Hunt - Kim Newman

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A brutal satire lampooning McCarthyism. They actually put Samantha Stevens on trial, apart from the Rosenbergs, with Jim Rogers as a local kid informant. e.g. Witch Hunt in this case, is literal.

4 out of 5

The Valley of the Worm - Robert E. Howard

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Dragonslaying, Norse reincarnation style. Not quite to the standard of his other stories, I think.

3 out of 5

Queen of the Black Coast - Robert E. Howard

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

4.5 out of 5

Moon of Zambebwei - Robert E. Howard

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Do not let possessed people near firearms!

3.5 out of 5

The Cairn on the Headland - Robert E. Howard

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Another reincarnation type horror, with a Norse flavor. Nice to be given necessary supernatural artifacts via the reapparance of centuries dead ancestors, when that happens, that is for sure.

3.5 out of 5

The Black Stone - Robert E. Howard

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A Cthulhoid type venture. Not somewhere you want to be. Fairly proficiently done.

3.5 out of 5

The Horror From the Mound - Robert E. Howard

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If an old priest tells you that the body in the tomb is an undead Spanish nobleman, and you happen to be a credulous cowboy, next time, believe him!

3.5 out of 5

The Fire of Asshurbanipal - Robert E. Howard

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If you suspect a priceless gemstone with a magic-type name may be connected to cthulhoid alien monsters, well, I would suggest that trying to rob your local jewellery store bare-handed is a less hazardous activity than the acquisition of such an artifact.

4 out of 5

The Fighting Fool - Perley Poore Sheehan

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If you are an adventurer in Asia, having the Sword of Kublai Khan as your personal weapon can go a long way. Captain Trouble is an apt title for this gentlemen. This story compares favorably with Howard's El-Borak tales, or, in other words, it is pretty good.

4 out of 5

The Red Road to Shamballah - Perley Poore Sheehan

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Bat Herders! I kid you not. Amazing what people come up with :

"They subsisted on bats. They herded them. They followed the bat swarms in their mysterious migrations from cave. to cave."

Another fine adventure tale, as Pelham Rutledge Shattuck, Shadak Khan, or Captain Trouble, has to go underground. Plenty of bats and problems for the adventurer in Asia. Much pulp fun to be had here.

4 out of 5

Beyond the Farthest Star - Edgar Rice Burroughs

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Another fun Burroughs romp, elsewhere than Earth. This time the main character is a pilot, and he ends up on an alien world (not a big suprise, eh?) and proceeds to go about having some Buck Rogers style adventures, getting involved in politics and war. This is made up of two different stories/novellas, or whatever you want to call them. If you like other Burroughs style books, no reason you won't like this.

3.5 out of 5

The Vampyre - John Polidori

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This is very ordinary, there are many vampire stories you should read before this one. If you are seriously into vampire books, or the history in vampire literature, then give it a shot, even if only for research purposes, no real reason to bother with it otherwise.

2.5 out of 5

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Ivanhoe - Walter Scott

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I loved all that knightly action stuff when I was younger, but I found this quite stultifying, and really had to force myself to finish it. Very, very dry. I may change my mind if I have a look at again, but given the time period, that is probably unlikely.

2.5 out of 5

The Black Arrow - Robert Louis Stevenson

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The Black Arrow is an ok adventure story with a couple of interesting elements. Not much to make you choose this over plenty of others out there though, unless you are a really big Stevenson must read type. Solid enough racing against the cloak, secret movement trying to save others type of thing.

3 out of 5

Sirius - Olaf Stapledon

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Olaf Stapledon has produced a moving SF tale of some superintelligent dogs, and one in particular. An experiment produces a dog that is smarter than people. Unfortunately this makes it hard for him to fit in anywhere, he can love a woman, and she can love him, but that can't work. He also still has a low level need to want to go and rip the throats out of animals, even though he knows that this is an animal instinct. He helps run a farm, but is hampered by lack of dexterity, gets tired of tests being run on him, among other things, not to mention getting a bit sick of the condescending farmer and/or creators.

A lot of pathos here.

4.5 out of 5

Odd John - Olaf Stapledon

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One of Professor Xavier's ancestors? Imagine if you crossed him with one of Nancy Kress' Sleepless! Of course, John is feared and misunderstood, and wants to go off by himself, and have a woman like himself he can relate to. He thinks differently, looks at problems differently, ages differently, all things that will set him apart.

4 out of 5

Star Maker - Olaf Stapledon

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A humanist galactic odyssey. This is one of those 'wow' books. If you are after stories involving a local character or person, I would not recommend this one. A tour de force of the imagination.

4 out of 5

Spring Heeled Jack - Anonymous Anonymous

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A legendary English figure, this version from an old penny dreadful. Jack builds himself a super leaping power, and becomes an anti-hero, of sorts, for family financial reasons.

3.5 out of 5

The Valley Of Fear - Arthur Conan Doyle

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This one has Moriarty, what more can you want? When you have the super detective himself, Sherlock Holmes, trying to get to the bottom of what his arch-nemesis, super villain Professor Moriartry is up to, the stage is set for a gripping narrative, as they try and outdo each other, and Watson tries doggedly to follow along.

5 out of 5

The Sign of Four - Arthur Conan Doyle

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Perhaps my least favorite of the longer Holmes works, at least the last time I read it, causing it to slip below the magic number. To be revisited at some stage. This in no way means it is bad, just not as beloved, or perhaps as brilliant as the others. You still can't go wrong with Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes. It does show Sherlock doing some drugs, and envolves a secret held by a group of four men who have been in India.

4.5 out of 5

The Hound of the Baskervilles - Arthur Conan Doyle

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I have lost track of how many times I have read this, or how many different adaptations I have watched, or listened to. I still enjoy it every single time. A true classic. Suspense, horror and sneakiness abound, particularly between the major characters. What is going on? It keeps you captivated all along, should not be too many people that don't like this. Large black ghost hounds, your Jane Austen type gentlemen in trouble, dodgy locals, and the brilliance of Holmes.

5 out of 5

The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas

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One stupid rookie farmboy with a nice sword, 3 veterans, evil religious types, wenches, enough beer and good swords means an outstanding good time, especially with the dry wit of Dumas.

Crazy swashbuckling superskilled heroes, an evil controlling supervillain, crazy henchmen, a black widow, stupidity, sarcasm, and anything else you could want. Classic adventure, give it a shot.

4.5 out of 5

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Territorial - Kelley Armstrong

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A story from her supernatural universe, with a non-aligned loner werewolf trying to get along with a werewolf pack leader who is the son of the man who killed his father.

He also happens to be a jewel thief preying on women.

The end leaves you wanting to find out what happens, so that is good.

3 out of 5

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

King of Claw and Fang - Bob Byrd

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Surprisingly enjoyable jungle adventure hero story, talking to lions, fighting evil leopards and sleazy white exploiters. All good fun stuff.

3.5 out of 5

Killer's Kraal - James Anson Buck

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Another jungle adventure. Definitely an interesting character, a strong woman in a male dominated jungle arena and her interaction with the obligatory anglo male she helps, and is of course the potential love interest. Not to mention being she is babe in animal skin gear, of course. This is handled fairly well thoughout, a lot more sexual tension and teasing than anything, while the adventure involves uncovering the plot of the evil witch doctors, of course.

4 out of 5

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Red Nails - Robert E. Howard

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

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

5 out of 5

Sunday, September 10, 2006

The Case of the Half-Demon Spy - Kelley Armstrong

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Short, and average, but with an interesting twist on succession planning and training operatives, so to speak.

A head of a supernatural council has children he needs to keep out of the way, each with their own witchy or demonic abilities. At least that is what the pair of teenagers thing.

2.5 out of 5

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

The Flames - Olaf Stapledon

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Stapledon's humanity can almost make you want to weep, at times, and not in a bad writing kind of way, either.

3.5 out of 5

The Laughing Cavalier - Emmuska Orczy

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Even more romping in the face of those dastardly Frenchie anti-royalist cranium removers. Fun adventure.

3.5 out of 5

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Doc Sidhe - Aaron Allston

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Imagine if there was a counter earth, stuck in the 30s, where, basically, elves and trolls are real.

The coolest thing, however, is that Doc Savage is real, too. Except for the fact he is a Daoine Sidhe sorcerer, and has a higher mortality rate for his crew.

A down on his luck kickboxer and his girlfriend end up there, via a conjurer's circle, and a plot to change the magical rules of relations between the two worlds.

Oh, and the evil villain is Doc's son. This is an excellent homage, a good urban fantasy, and a bit of the Untouchables, to boot. As in, it don't end happily for everyone.

4 out of 5

Monday, August 28, 2006

Dr Nikola Returns - Guy Boothby

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The antiheroic Nikola, it appears, is after some sort of amazing longevity discovery, known by a certain group of monks, who, of course, live in a mountain fastness.

An adventurer named Bruce falls in with him, and much impersonation of Asians and arduous travel through Asia ensues. On reaching the monastery, their ruse is finally discovered, and it appears they are for the long leap. Some fast thinking and clever work by Nikola, and a few secret ingredients gets them out, amazingly enough, with a book of information he was after.

A little Nikola cunning leads to their escape, but the pursuit is hot, and a close thing, but at the end, Chinese assassins are still on their trail.

3.5 out of 5

Sunday, August 20, 2006

The Hyborian Age - Robert E. Howard

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

4 out of 5

The Gland Men of the Island - Malcolm Afford

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A story by one of the few Australians to make it into the SF magazines of the time. A mad scientist is plotting to make supermen, always a good time to be had there.

2.5 out of 5

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Out Of The Silence - Erle Cox

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A quite sophisticated effort. A Victorian man living outside the town of Glen Cairn discovers an artifact, while looking to dig a water hole for his wine-growing property. Unlike the reader, he hasn't read the prologue, so does not know that an advanced human woman is contained within.

Amidst some highly entertaining social satire, she uses him to learn from, and looks to implement the weeding out of the 'inferior' races, as they had done in the past before they were destroyed. This past history is detailed through the later part of the novel, and is not dull.

The protagonist is basically incapable of thinking too logically about this stunning traveller through time, and it is up to his friend, and once-girlfriend to attempt to bring him to his senses. With the help of what is apparently, amazingly, an honest and brave politician, the Prime Minister, who is happily in Melbourne at the time, they manage to stall her for a time from bringing back to life her childhood friend, and superior! Who happens to be contained in a similar artifact, in what is now the Himalayas.

4.5 out of 5

Monday, July 31, 2006

The Man In The Iron Mask - Alexandre Dumas

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At times my favorite Dumas. World weary cynicism, mixed with heroism. A band of aging heroes must right a terrible wrong, and deal with upcoming youth at the same time. They have been betrayed and pensioned off by those they have bled and almost died for, and so set out to see what they can do to rectify the situation and the darkness surrounding the throne of France.

4.5 out of 5

Olga Romanoff or the Syren of the Skies - George Griffith

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An Amazon of the Air, even. An entertaining science fiction action adventure air war story. The more interesting thing of course, is that one of the female characters is a strong, military figure. She has a commanding presence and i snot being told what to do or protected by the males around her. Certainly something different for this turn out of the century type science fiction novel

3 out of 5

The Mirrors of Tuzun Thune - Robert E. Howard

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Introspection and philosophy are not cures for what ails a bored warrior-King. Neither are wizardly mirrors or Lovecraftian elder races.

Thankfully, the stout, pragmatic Spear-Slayer is there to remind him.

4 out of 5

Raiders of the Red Death - Curtis Steele

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Jimmy defeats an Aztec empire's death plans, treats his kid sidekick with disdain, barely touches his girlfriend while trying hard to resist an evil seductress, and saves his noble father, imprisoned, of course, by said Aztech empire. All in all, highly entertaining.

3.5 out of 5

A Week In The Future - Catherine Helen Spence

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A woman in 1888 Adelaide is told by her doctor she has a week heart, and only a year or two to live. She decides she would like to see what the future will hold, having a keen interest in the political and economic realm of the time.

She makes a request to the man capable of providing this service, to swap the time she has left, for the title of the novel.

What follows is an interesting, and at times insightful, if somewhat utopian-wishful look at future conditions in London, which is where she is transported to.

3.5 out of 5

Sunday, July 30, 2006

The Shadow Kingdom - Robert E. Howard

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There is evil treachery afoot in the time of Atlantis, the serpent priests are stirring, and a cunning old king brings them to the attention of a somewhat restless Kull. More pity them. With a stalwart Pictish spear-slayer at his side, he wreaks bloody havoc among them, and vows to take the war to them. No-one else would ever have copied this plot later on, would they?

3.5 out of 5

The Maracot Deep - Arthur Conan Doyle

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A scientific genius of the Doyle era comes up with a method for deep sea exploration, and gives it a try. Unfortunately, a cyclone wrecks the ship they are attached to.

Fortunately for them, not all the Atlanteans were destroyed, and they are rescued by some of the denizens of aforementioned remnant.

A fairly genial reception awaits the adventurers (who also find some hot chicks, it seems, at least the younger two do).

Initital verbal communication is established through classical Greek, as apparently said Atlanteans kept Greek slaves, from their war with ancient Greece.

Just to throw you for a loop, in the midst of all this scientific discovery, we have some reincarnated heroes.

A more than slight problem is discovered, as the advent of these gentlemen has led to the reawakening of the ancient nemesis of the Atlanteans, Baal. (Seems they can never get rid of the guy in Stargate, either).

Baal apparently is not the only powerful being with tricks left, as his ancient white magic enemy manages to possess Professor Maracot for a time, leading to his defeat.

Of course, they devise a means for getting a hopeful message to the surface world, to organise a possible rescue, and slip away from their hosts, complete with female companionship.

All in all, entertaining enough, and I didn't see the Baal coming, that is for sure.

3.5 out of 5

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Hammer of the Gods - John York Cabot

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A neanderthal type level band, in what presumably is a post-apocalyptic situations discovers a magic weapon. On it is written something very similar to 'grenade'. Nice, short, and sharp, this one.

3 out of 5

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Vandals of the Void - James Morgan Walsh

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An exciting space adventure. For a book from 1919 it has an interestingly pro-active, intelligent, and action-seeking heroine, in Jansca Dirka. Interplanetary Guard Captain Jack Sanders has influenced a lot of characters, as well, it would seem. A very enjoyable tale of solar system conflict.

This also pretty likely has the first ever depiction of an interplanetary space battle in a science fiction novel. Pretty good for an aussie. Highly recommended.

4 out of 5

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Captain Stormfield's Visit to Heaven - Mark Twain

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This was in a book I had as a kid that was quite influential. Still remember it vividly, so must be good! Slyly funny satire - angelic life is as boring as all get out, and you can't talk to dead Germans or cavemen when you don't speak the same language!

So, what else is a bored man to do? Trade in the harp and wings (no decent bands in Heaven either) and go off adventuring, chase comets, and do other fun things, not sit around and sing way too many high pitched notes.

4 out of 5

A Boy and His God - Charles Stross

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First, imagine Cthulhu as your pet, contained to a reasonable size. Then, imagine him on a skateboard. Sound way too crazy? Read this story, both happen.

4 out of 5

Friday, July 14, 2006

Printcrime - Cory Doctorow

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A chilling tale of the future when Z-Printers abound, and it becomes a crime for the common man to have one, for the typical fascist reasons. Then one of the protagonist's family, has an epiphany at the end of the story.

3.5 out of 5

Monday, July 10, 2006

Gladiator - Philip Wylie

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A modern Hercules literally struck down by a thunderbolt from Jove. The amusing part is seeing all the frat boys called 'birds'. Otherwise, a very modest superman, he was. Unsurprisingly, the text in a 50 year old paperback is a little on the dodgy faded side. Never, ever make a super cat.

4 out of 5

Saturday, July 08, 2006

A Bid for Fortune - Guy Boothby

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Dr Nikola is an enigmatic supervillain type, with his own strange code of honor. Unfortunately for him, he crosses paths with a bored adventurer on holiday, and life becomes more difficult for him. A fun, straightforward, clear adventure on one hand, with the enigmatic Nikola in the background.

3.5 out of 5

Friday, July 07, 2006

Dot and the Kangaroo - Ethel Pedley

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A change of pace here with a good children's bush tale, complete with violence and death, but, of course, a happy ending, with a conservation theme.

A little girl, Dot, gets lost. She is helped by some friendly animals, and a kangaroo appoints herself her minder. The kangaroo has a lost child to find as well, so Dot happily fits in her pouch, and can communicate with the wildlife after eating some useful magic type berries so she understands all their speech.

She also escapes being put on trial for humanity's crimes!

4 out of 5

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Kwa and the Beast Men - Perley Poore Sheehan

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Tarzan, this is not. The hero appears to be a bit closer to the ape level of intelligence. The names of some of the species are fun, though.

1.5 out of 5

A Honeymoon In Space - George Griffith

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Interplanetary romance, I suppose you call this. With skirts, shaperones, possibly caddish noblemen who are not, all that sort of thing. Anglo-American wedded rivaly is amusing, and it seems the heroine's intelligence is not ignored in this particular book. Sympathetic aliens, as well, even.

This would probably appeal somewhat to your Jane Austen crowd, as well as those who enjoy early science fictio tales.

3.5 out of 5

The Vampire Maid - Hume Nisbet

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If a really sexy girl is living by herself on a very creepy moor, in an old house, there is usually a reason.

3 out of 5

The Dualitists - Bram Stoker

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Whoa, that story is cold. If you are going to be put off by two evil psychopathic boys plotting to draw the father of two babies into blowing the heads off his babies with a shotgun, then stay well away.

4 out of 5

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

The Pierce Arrow Stalled - Kim Newman

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One of those stories about what happens if you change one moment slightly - such as a car starting, or not. In this case, it changes the prudish self-censoring 30s Hollywood that presumably from the context was scared titless, to a far more erotic version that ends up with one movie having Mae West doing a sword swallowing act with Errol Flynn. The doing away of fig leaves came before this, of course. A lot of onscreen one upmanship happens until a director called Welles comes along, and wants to make Gone With the Wind. Not really that interesting, to me, but again, his style of thing.

3 out of 5