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Starwolf (Review) PDF Print E-mail
Written by Administrator   
Sunday, 28 October 2012 00:00

These days, scifi is a pretty black and white affair, vast  black  space and dusty white lifeless planets. Nothing got that across for me than Ark, showing what happens when you are lucky in launching a desperate colonization effort. And there was Flying to Valhalla. Same deal.

But Starwolf is old school scifi. Written as a three-book saga in the early 60’s and reprinted as a collection in the 80’s, it’s a bold splash of color. Space is stuffed with golden nebulas and Christmas-light stars. Who cares that dead worlds somehow have an atmosphere? Who cares that the party lands on a cinder of a dead star to mine critical elements? It’s just fun space opera, a nice break from the eight-year drags that modern scifi holds interstellar travel to be.

I loved the beginning of the story. We meet Morgan Chane, former starwolf and now fugitive. See, the starwolves are heavy-world feline/human stock. Chane was the son of missionaries who came to the starwolf homeworld and slowly died in its heavy gravity. But Chane lived, grew immensely strong, became a brother to the wolves. He joined them in their raids. Hated by the rest of the galaxy for their piratical actions, starwolves are immediately executed when captured. And Chane is running from a squabble over booty that ended with him killing a clan-brother.

And that means he’s hunted by everyone in the galaxy.

Nice start.

I found it really strongly written. When I was supposed to be creeped out by the bio-engineered horrors on this one world, yeah, I was. And when the hero got really pissed about nearly being killed by a slow-working agony ray used by a bunch of Nob Hill art-swiping outsourcing aliens, I got pissed along with him. It was a fun quick read, the reason I like old paperbacks, good used bookstores and long rainy evenings. This is one of those gems that an avid reader can blow the dust off of and savor. Good fun. Gets my recommendation.


Last Updated on Thursday, 25 October 2012 18:00
299 Days : The Preparation (Review) PDF Print E-mail
Written by Administrator   
Sunday, 21 October 2012 00:00

So, to its credit, 299 days made me think. At its core, it's a book about independent preppers who get ready for our country's coming collapse with guns, food, guns, a bolt-hole, guns, like-minded friends, and guns. So, am I going to get a dozen guns, a prepped hiding place and enough food for a year? No. But I am looking at my total lack of preparation and reconsidering that. I think my wife and I will organize bolt-bags (gym bags with a few pairs of clothes, critical medicines and copies of important paperwork). We made it through the aftermath of Hurricane Charlie and that wasn't anything compared to a real disaster. I think I’ve heard it said that, statistically, every human on earth lives through one huge global/political/societal/local upheaval in their lives. Best to be ready to go, I suppose.

As for the book’s negatives? I’ll be brief: two points…

1)      Show, Don’t Tell – If you are going to tell a story, describe scenes and identify characters their dialog and actions. Don’t just say, “He grew up in rural poverty” or “The attorney was a weasel”. Don’t tell me that the main character and his wife had another fight. Put in the dialog. Put in the color. Otherwise it’s like second-hand news. Dull.

2)      Don’t insult your readers – Here’s a gem…

This demonstrated to Grant that the left-wing people running everything [sic] were intolerant bullies [sic] who had some deep hatred [sic] of people like Bill and Grant.

So as a lefty, why am I supposed to keep reading? Calling your casual readers (i.e. the un-prepped) “dumbasses”, “grasshoppers” and “sheeple” doesn't’t make me want to hunker in your bunker, you know? It was like a parade of straw men, dull and endless.

Not my sort of book. And not recommended.


Last Updated on Sunday, 21 October 2012 00:17
The Regulators (Review) PDF Print E-mail
Written by Administrator   
Sunday, 14 October 2012 00:00

I fled into the world of The Regulators (by Richard Bachman / Stephen King) after a friend's suggested book proved so dry and badly written that I had to balm myself with enjoyable, cutting fiction. And really, through people hate to admit it, King is a solid writer. It might feel clever to say he isn't, but his prose is hard and sharp and imaginative, and his stories horrifically fun. And this one was no exception.

The book explores the ironic zone between the peaceful world most of us live in (suburbia) and the brutal popular culture that flies through the airwaves and down into our homes, through our antennas. How many of us sit in our comfy little houses, sealed off from the world, while imagines of pain, horror and death flicker from our televisions?

So here we are on Poplar Street, in eastern Columbus, Ohio. It's a lazy summer's day, with car washing, Frisbee tossing and paper delivering going on. How idyllic. How nice.

But in 247 Poplar, a small child is gathering power. For inside him grows some creature named Tak, picked up in a family outing out west, an outing that ended with his entire family being gunned down in a drive by. His aunt has become his plaything. His uncle, sucked of all life force, has been discarded. And now he's going to cut lose, to bring to life all those images the young boy has watched, of cowboys and Indians and van-driving cartoon action-figures. And all these things are coming to Poplar street.

We start with a lot of characters, almost too many. I kept referring to the street map in front to remember who was how. But in King fashion, that's not an issue. First, King has distinctive character types; you know them on your own street. And secondly, they start to die in horrifically nasty ways. The field is culled down until its easily remembered.

It's a good story, solid King, modern-horror delivered piping hot. Just the thing I needed when reading a private press libertarian fantasy that goes down like a mouthful of oyster crackers. I do know (from poking around) that this was one of a two-set companion book deal with a mirror novel named "Desperation". Apparently its the same characters, the same monster, just in a different setting. I'm not sure what the point is in that - it seems a bit too much a gimmick for me. Besides, once you have someone blown into gravy by a barrage of shotgun shells, what's the point of having them back alive again?

Anyway, it was a lot of fun. Now, back to that self-righteous political pulp...


Last Updated on Monday, 08 October 2012 10:23
RailSea (Review) PDF Print E-mail
Written by Administrator   
Sunday, 07 October 2012 00:00

You cheated! Cheated! I hate you! I refuse to accept! I won't win any way but my way! You've ruined my reputation, do you hear? You I hate! You and your hair that's always combed, your suit that's always white, your car that's always clean! I refuse to accept! I challenge you to another race!

-Professor Fate (The Great Race)

I hate China Mieville. I hate that he's one of those guys who can actually look cool in leather, with a shaved head and silly earrings. I hate that he lives (and works) in London. I hate that he's a very successful writer. But most of all, I hate his writing.

I hate that his prose is always funny, that his imagery is always startling, that his worlds are weird and his characters always cool. I hate that he can present a strange world and pull it off, and that he can actually mock (faintly) the ideals of western storytelling while he's writing a western culture story. He just shines in this book, one of his best since Perdido Street Station, The Scar and Iron Council.

Just hates him, we do.

So, aside from all this, what is RailSea? Well, just turn off your disbelief firewalls. Just accept a planet like Dune, where there are great seas of dirt surrounded by human settlements on rocky highlands. And that stepping on that sand can get you ingested by something nasty pretty quick. Now, supposedly this planet was part of a huge galactic federation at one time, and economies were different and strange. Railroads were built. Lots and lots of railroads, competing with parallel tracks. Railroads that double, triple, and quadrupled their mainlines to handle the loads. So now the sands are covered by a shimmering sea of rails in the form of yards, switching junctions, intersections and the like.

And over these vast tangled rail networks set out trains. Some of them are salvagers, seeking ruins from the past. Some are moliers, hunting the meat and pelts of huge moles. Some are wartrains of various nations. And some are pirates.

Get where this is going? It's rather like a sailing yarn with trains rather than ships. It's an obvious lampoon, one so faint that the author even mocks it. Many captains have lost limbs to distinct creatures, and these creatures they pursue are called their philosophies. Captains brag about their pursuits, inquire about specific monsters, then chug out of port (with harpoons gleaming), hot on their latest lead. It's a wonderful combination of Moby Dick, Treasure Island, Kidnapped, as well as your routine pirate novel. And as you read it (hell, as you savor it), the author stands behind you, joking, quipping, and doubling his adventure back on itself. Even given my love of sailing stories, even given my love of trains, this book stood out as a gem.

The strange thing was when I went to pick it up - Barnes&Nucklehead didn't have it on their new arrivals or scifi shelf. So I asked. It was way across the store in young adult. Really? A book who's first line reads...

This is the story of a bloodstained boy.

Not that I don't think young adults would enjoy this - I think they would. But really, its better suited for adults, and best for adults who are true readers.

Check it out. Maybe you'll end up hating it too!


Hatred comes in all forms...

Last Updated on Monday, 08 October 2012 10:22

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