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

Download Arsene Lupin

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

Download On Basilisk Station

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