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