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