TV’s 24 hits the books

24 declassified operation hell gate book reviewFox’s Emmy-winning series 24 starring Kiefer Sutherland is my definition of “appointment television.” It sits atop the list of Season Passes on my trusty TiVo. I’ve loved it since it debuted four years ago.

So how in the hell did this news skip me by?

I was at the bookstore this morning and happened upon the brand-new paperback 24 DECLASSIFIED: OPERATION HELL GATE by Marc Cerasini. Of course I had to buy it. I’ve already started reading it, so check back next week for a full review.

This is the first of an original series of novels (not novelizations) which will begin rolling out in fairly quick succession. Here’s the schedule thus far:
24 DECLASSIFIED: VETO POWER by John Whitman – Nov. 2005
24 DECLASSIFIED: TROJAN HORSE by Marc Cerasini – Feb. 2006
24 DECLASSIFIED: CAT’S CLAW by John Whitman – March 2006
24 DECLASSIFIED #5 by Author to Be Named Later – April 2006

The Pythagorean Solution

pythagorean solution book reviewPop quiz, hotshot: Does THE PYTHAGOREAN SOLUTION sound like: (a) a math textbook, (b) a DA VINCI CODE-esque thriller, or (c) a little of both? Probably (c), although in reality, it’s merely (b). It basically says so right there on the cover.

New in paperback, this Grecian-set thriller begins in 1945 with the sinking of a boat smuggling Nazi goods. Flash-forward to present day, when the downed ship is discovered by a local fisherman, who is then murdered because he Knows Too Much. Just before he dies, his body is found by newly divorced, visiting American John Hammond, to whom the old man gives a map. This map – which the bad guys will do anything to retrieve, naturally – presumably leads to the sunken treasure. Problem is, it’s coded with the Pythagorean Theorem.

And if that gimmick prompts your interest, join the club. But unlike DA VINCI CODE, where the code is woven through the length of the book, the whole deciphering in this SOLUTION comprises maybe three or four pages. But since this was first published two months after DA VINCI CODE, it can’t be a knockoff; I suspect the comparison has been emphasized by the marketing guys, who also likely retitled it to cash in on Dan Brown’s blockbuster.

So don’t look going for the next DA VINCI CODE. Instead, look for a mildly enjoyable action-filled read in which all the characters are cardboard and do exactly what you expect them to. (Will Hammond fall in love with the daughter of the dead man? Check!) Though I wouldn’t exactly classify it as compelling, SOLUTION is entertaining enough for those looking for cheap paperback thrills.

UNIVERSAL MONSTERS coming back to comics

universal monsters cavalcade of horror reviewIn the early ’90s, Dark Horse published four separate comics adapting the classic Universal films of DRACULA, FRANKENSTEIN, THE MUMMY and CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON. They’ve been long out of print, but now Dark Horse is collecting the four tales for a trade paperback.

Due in January of 2006, UNIVERSAL MONSTERS: CAVALCADE OF HORROR features work by Dan Jolley, Den Beauvais, Dan Vado, Steve Moncuse, Tony Harris, Arthur Adams, Jonathan D. Smith and Terry Austin. Since I never got to read the originals, I look foward to this; it’s up for pre-order here.

Bigfoot

bigfoot niles rob zombie corben reviewMany movies have been made surrounding the legend of Bigfoot, but I can’t think of a single one that is genuinely good. Leave it to the comics to absolutely nail the hairy monster.

BIGFOOT was a four-issue miniseries from 2004 co-written by 30 DAYS OF NIGHT creator Steve Niles and HOUSE OF 1000 CORPSES director Rob Zombie, and drawn by HEAVY METAL’s Richard Corben. The inevitable trade paperback edition collecting the full run was just released yesterday. As someone who doesn’t read comics in single-issue format anymore, I must say the wait was totally worth it.

The first issue begins in 1973, when a family camping trip to a national park in an unnamed state turns deadly. The parents experience a jarring case of coitus interruptus as Bigfoot bursts through their cabin unexpectedly and makes mincemeat of them. The only survivor is little Billy, who – setting the pace for the remainder of the story – grows up and plots his revenge, a full two decades later. Ironically, Billy’s only ally in his hunt for Bigfoot is the park sheriff, who covered up the parental slaughter all those years ago, blaming it on a bear.

BIGFOOT would only work as a straight-up horror tale, and this delivers in spades. The attacks are sudden, brutal and gory, with Corben’s colorful style just over-the-top enough to feed the frenzy. I’ve never read any of Niles’ work before, but I’m a fan of Zombie (as a filmmaker, not a musician), and his influence is palpable (just try and tell me that sheriff doesn’t look like Sid Haig). There’s sex. There’s violence. And none of the mayhem shies away from the hardcore bloody horror. This is both written and drawn cinematically, and would make one kick-ass movie. Until then, this’ll do just fine.

Happy Banned Books Week!

banned books sex drugs gay storiesThough I’m a little late in mentioning it, we’re right smack toward the end of the American Library Association’s Banned Books Week. Needless to say, we at BOOKGASM are all for freedom of speech and all down on censorship, so why not crack open a little Holden Caulfield and celebrate what it means to be an American?

For a list of the ALA’s 100 Most Frequently Challenged Books of 1990-2000, it’s after the jump. And remember, kids, if you absolutely, positively must burn a book, make it a LEFT BEHIND.

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Horror: Another 100 Best Books

horror another 100 best books reviewCan’t decide what to read next? HORROR: ANOTHER 100 BEST BOOKS will cure that ill several – perhaps even 100 – times over.

A sequel to 1988’s seminal HORROR: 100 BEST BOOKS, this is every bit as must-have. Like its predecessor, ANOTHER has 100 horror authors each contributing an essay on “one of the most spine-chilling books ever written,” in chronological order. It’s difficult to imagine how such landmarks as THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES or THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY got left out the first time around, so this second list – all 450 pages of it – is most welcome for correcting oversights and spotlighting newer works.

This volume showcases a surprising range of entries, including pulp (Sax Rohmer’s THE TRAIL OF FU MANCHU), speculative fiction (George Orwell’s 1984), anthologies (Modern Library’s definitive GREAT TALES OF TERROR AND THE SUPERNATURAL), Cold War sci-fi (Jack Finney’s THE BODY SNATCHERS), Brat Pack lit (Bret Easton Ellis’ polarizing AMERICAN PSYCHO), graphic novels (Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell’s FROM HELL) and even Internet-borne phenomenons (Mark Z. Danielewski’s post-post-modern HOUSE OF LEAVES). Modern-day classics like PET SEMATARY and THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS sit nicely alongside older influential gems like ROSEMARY’S BABY.

No matter what novel is being discussed, each essay is informative, insightful and entertaining, full of both opinion and historical perspective. The esteemed essayists include a who’s who of writers from the horror, sci-fi and fantasy fields, and it’s hard not to have their nostalgia and appreciation rub off on you. Given that horror fiction has survived several centuries, it’s a near certainty that YET ANOTHER 100 BEST BOOKS will pop up at some point. Until then, you’ve got a lot of catching up to do.

Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell

tom clancy splinter cell reviewSometimes after reading a couple of disappointing literary efforts back to back, it’s nice to read some pure escapist paperback crap. And TOM CLANCY’S SPLINTER CELL did the trick.

Not written by Clancy but by someone named David Michaels, it’s a straight-to-paperback novel based on the video game of which I have no knowledge. But the hero is Sam Fisher, a cool-costumed superspy for the National Security Agency. Terrorists. Kidnapping. Weapons. Explosions. Kung fu. Alright by me for a toilet read.

The inevitable sequel – TOM CLANCY’S SPLINTER CELL: BARRACUDA – streets in November. I’d hit it.

Finally! HORROR to get its own BEST OF anthology in ’06

best of horror 2005 reviewEver since I started reading like a madman again, I start each year looking at all the annual “best of” collections for sci-fi and fantasy on the bookshelves and wonder, “Why in the hell don’t they do one of these for horror?” I mean, hell, if “gay love stories” merits its own year-end compilation, why not one of literature’s oldest genres?

My prayers have been answered! iBooks will help make 2006 a kick-ass year by unleashing THE BEST OF HORROR: 2005, edited by HORRORSCAPE anthologist John Gregory Betancourt. From the cover – which gives me a major bookgasm, by the way – it looks like the contributors include the obligatory Neil Gaiman, WIZARD KNIGHT’s Gene Wolfe and Michael Swanwick (don’t know him, but I’ll give him a try).

You can pre-order it already here.

BOOK WHORE >> 9.27.05

school days spenser parker reviewThree novels comprise this week’s notable new releases.

SCHOOL DAYS is Robert B. Parker’s latest novel in his Spenser series. That’s Spenser as in SPENSER: FOR HIRE, the ol’ Robert Urich TV show. I’m ashamed (but not really) to say that I didn’t realize the show was based on a book for many, many years. But I never watched the show. Nor have I read any of the books. But Parker’s (or Spenser’s) fans are legion, and this one centers around an all-too-timely school shooting.

• If cyberpunk noir is your thing, Richard Morgan’s WOKEN FURIES is for you. The third of his Takeshi Kovacs novels, the book is sure to please fans of Morgan’s previous acclaimed works like ALTERED CARBON and MARKET FORCES. Look for Ryun Patterson’s review – as well as an interview with Morgan – soon!

• Finally, there’s HERETIC: THE TEMPLAR CHRONICLES from Joseph Nasisse. Though definitely of a lower profile than these other titles, HERETIC is not too be ignored. It’s a mish-mash of several genres wrapped up in a deliriously fun tale of knights, necromancers and religious artifacts. Even Clive Barker agrees with us. If you haven’t already read our review or our Q&A with Nasisse, by all means, click away and do so.

88 Men and 2 Women

88 men 2 women book reviewAs warden of the infamous San Quentin prison in the 1940s, Clinton Duffy presided over 90 state-ordered executions. 88 MEN AND 2 WOMEN – Duffy’s account of his 12-year tenure – is an interesting behind-the-scenes look at the incarceration and subsequent deaths of that era’s most notorious criminals.

Duffy’s predicament was that he didn’t agree with capital punishment. Despite this, his solemn nod to the executioner would cause the floor to drop out of the gallows. After the gallows were dismantled in favor of a more humane means of execution, his nod would prompt the unleashing of cyanide into a vat of distilled water and sulfuric acid within the gas chamber.

The book is Duffy’s attempt to garner support for his views regarding the death penalty. A second and unstated goal may have been to come to terms with the deaths that occurred on his watch. His arguments against the death penalty may have been considered fresh when the book was written more than 40 years ago, but today seem tired and old. Duffy has no better chance of changing anyone’s mind about capital punishment than the pro-lifers do about abortion. The rhetoric, thankfully, is brief and the book is surprisingly light despite its subject matter.

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