Happy New Year from BOOKGASM

free alcohol wine make your ownHope everyone has a fun and safe New Year’s celebration. Remember, drink just enough to stop caring.

With 2005 at a close, BOOKGASM pauses to thank everyone who’s supported it in this first year: authors, publicists and, most importantly, the readers. We have fun doing it, so if you have fun reading it, tell people about it.

We hope you’ve enjoyed our week-long year-end coverage. As promised, we’ll return next week to begin unloading our stockpile of reviews, spotlighting new books in horror (BERSERK, THE UNDEAD: ZOMBIE ANTHOLOGY), sci-fi/fantasy (CHILDREN OF THE COMPANY, RETURN TO QUAG KEEP), mystery/suspense (NIGHT WALKER, A MEAL TO DIE FOR, THE LAST TEMPLAR) and even comics (FABLES: HOMELANDS, SWAMP THING: SPONTANEOUS GENERATION). Plus, we’ve got interview with Ray Morton, author of the new KING KONG: THE HISTORY OF A MOVIE ICON FROM FAY WRAY TO PETER JACKSON, and ROAD TO PARADISE’s Max Allan Collins. Until then, * clink! *

Fun with Bookgasm (and King Kong’s breasts)

king kong download dvdIt’s time once again for our monthly roundup of the most popular incoming search queries at BOOKGASM, so pop quiz, hotshot! Which of these search terms is not like the other?
a) “linda lovelace dogs”
b) “graphic torture drawings”
c) “sexy bosoms”
d) “nero wolfe memorabilia”

Did you pick “d”? Too bad, because the answer is “c”; we here at BOOKGASM love the sexy bosoms. And so do you, judging from the usual wealth of lovely lady searches. But giving unclothed actresses a run for their residual money is ol’ King Kong. That big, dumb ape made quite the showing this month – no surprise, given he’s got a new movie out. Too bad not everyone is as crazy about it as they are Googling him. Oh, and to answer the guy who wants to know how to cite H.G. Wells’ THE WAR OF THE WORLDS? Verrrry carefully.

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10 Books I Can’t Wait for in 2006

To be honest, my list for this year’s anticipated titles already numbers in the dozens, but these 10 currently stick out, for various reasons. In no particular order…

book of the dead preston child reviewTHE BOOK OF THE DEAD – Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child promise to tie up all the loose ends of BRIMSTONE and DANCE OF DEATH with this concluding chapter of their Agent Pendergast trilogy, which they say was really like one big book broken into three. That’s made the wait even harder. I have yet to read anything these guys have written that I didn’t love. (June 6)

DEAN KOONTZ’S FRANKENSTEIN: BOOK THREE – We don’t know its subtitle. We don’t know who’s co-writing it. We don’t even know when exactly it’s coming out. But given that we loved BOOK ONE and BOOK TWO, we know we’ll eat it up just as soon as it arrives. Quite possibly my favorite book series of this decade. (Summerish)

stephen king cell reviewCELL – Because it’s about cell phones that turn people into zombies. But mostly because it marks Stephen King’s return to his pure-horror roots. (Jan. 24)

TWISTED – As you may have read, we found Jay Bonansinga’s chilling FROZEN to be the best paperback original of the year. TWISTED will continue the strange, supernatural-science investigations of FBI profiler Ulysses Grove, this time involving a hurricane (timely, no?). (Summer)

thriller james patterson coverTHRILLER: STORIES TO KEEP YOU UP ALL NIGHT – It’s no secret I love a good anthology, and this one has a lineup that makes me salivate: the aforementioned Preston & Child, F. Paul Wilson, David Morrell, Ted Bell, Lee Child … damn, we’re going to be spoiled. Even if it weren’t the first all-thriller anthology as it proclaims itself to be, it’d still be special. (May 22)

THE SOLOMON KEY – Here’s the one book I wouldn’t be surprised get pushed to 2007: Dan Brown’s sequel to THE DA VINCI CODE, a small novel that has quietly struggled to find an audience. Little is known about SOLOMON, except that it’s another adventure for DA VINCI’s Prof. Robert Langdon and involves Freemasonry. Even in the face of all the recent backlash, I’m not ashamed to say I loved DA VINCI for the fun, fast ride that it was. (Before Christmas)

seven soliders of victory vol 1 morrison reviewSEVEN SOLDIERS OF VICTORY: VOL. 1 – I have to put one graphic novel on this list, and hands down, that honor goes to Grant Morrison’s SEVEN SOLDIERS OF VICTORY. Because I don’t buy single-issue comic books, I’ve missed out on Morrison’s bizarro-fantasy-epic-mythology-revisionist project, comprised of seven four-part limited series, each focused on a different character, including such obscure DC characters as The Bulleteer, Mr. Miracle, Zatanna, Shining Knight and Frankenstein. This will collect the first bunch of issues. I’m anxious to see how it all plays out, especially since a stand-alone issue #0 kicking off the series introduced a bunch of characters, only to kill them off on the last page by a giant spider. (Jan. 11)

THE MYTH HUNTERS – I’m a little leery when authors say, “Here’s Book One of my new series!” After all, what if no one bites? As with any, that could happen with Christopher Golden’s THE MYTH HUNTERS, but I doubt it. It just sounds too cool, a dark fantasy melding of murder and myth – in this case, Jack Frost. (Jan. 31)

grimm reapings r patrick gates reviewGRIMM REAPINGS – This is R. Patrick Gates’ long-awaited sequel to GRIMM MEMORIALS, a horror novel so whacked-out and out-there that I’d call it the best horror novel of 2005, if only it weren’t originally released 15 years prior. I’m not sure how he’s going to pull off another one, but with all that haggard witch sex trickery from the first time around, I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. (February)

HORROR: THE BEST OF 2005 – So long overdue it hurts. (February)

And what about you?

BOOK WHORE >> 12.27.05

savage messiah robert newcomb reviewJust a couple of notable titles sneaking their way to new release shelves in hopes of catching those post-Christmas giftcard dollars…

• One is SAVAGE MESSIAH: THE DESTINIES OF BLOOD AND STONE, Robert Newcomb’s start of a new trilogy set in the world of his previous trilogy. Make sense? It’s a fantasy with lots of magic, which is not something I look for in a novel, but I do so love that cool cover.

• Meanwhile, Matthew Reilly’s latest thriller, SEVEN DEADLY WONDERS, has a crappy cover but a decidely more high-concept premise that sounds readymade for a summer movie: Various countries race across the globe to find pieces of the Great Pyramid capstone hidden in the seven wonders of the world, broken up and scattered there thousands of years ago by Alexander the Great. Reviews haven’t been too kind, but Reilly – the author of SCARECROW and AREA 7 – certainly has his fans.

BOOKGASM’s Best (and Worst) of 2005

geographer\'s library fasman review3 BEST BOOKS OF 2005
1. THE GEOGRAPHER’S LIBRARY by Jon Fasman – Overlooked and unfairly pegged as a DA VINCI CODE rip-off, Fasman’s debut is an expert mix of post-collegiate angst and decades-spanning adventure – a combo that, in theory, should mix as well as oil and water.

2. TRANSGRESSIONS edited by Ed McBain – It’s strange that an anthology almost became the best book we read, but consider the talent behind it: Joyce Carol Oates, Lawrence Block, Stephen King, Jeffery Deaver, Donald E. Westlake and so many others, all given free reign to write whatever the hell they want, and most of them respond at the top of their game.

3. THE HISTORIAN by Elizabeth Kostova – Hype or no hype, Kostova’s first novel – a decade in the making – breathed new life into that moribund genre of vampire fiction by, ironically enough, going old (as in Gothic). Highbrow horror thick enough to, um, sink your teeth into.

ghost john ringo reviewWORST BOOK OF 2005
GHOST by John Ringo – This decision was a no-brainer. So’s the book, because it thinks only with its dick. Don’t be fooled by the cover or the intriguing jacket copy: This is not an action thriller; it’s misogynist pornography. Ringo himself warns readers that they may hate it, so one wonders why he didn’t channel all that hatred and aggression into something worth reading. And this may be the worst I’ve ever read. DISHONORABLE MENTION: THE BEST AMERICAN NONREQUIRED READING 2005 – Get over yourself, Eggers & Co.

BEST PAPERBACK ORIGINAL
FROZEN by Jay Bonansinga – This supernatural-infused police procedural is so suspenseful, so well-plotted that we still can’t figure out why it didn’t debut in hardcover. Oh, well. At least it’s the start of a series. We’ll settle for that.

BEST MOVIE TIE-IN THAT’S BETTER THAN THE MOVIE
KING KONG: THE ISLAND OF THE SKULL by Matthew Costello – Seriously. Even without Kong, it’s more rewarding than the three-hour epic now lumbering in theaters.

NOT BAD, BUT CERTAINLY DISAPPOINTING
A tie between THE TRAVELER by John Twelve Hawkes and ANANSI BOYS by Neil Gaiman – The former disappoints because it’s cool upfront and then meanders wildly; the latter because it’s so light and fluffy compared to its predecessor. Even standing on its own, I’d have to consider it a lesser work for Gaiman, to whose work I always look forward.

BEST COMICS
BIGFOOT and DOOMED – This may be the most subjective category, but I’m going with these two titles from IDW Publishing. Though both horror, they couldn’t be more different. BIGFOOT is here because it’s so balls-out crazy; DOOMED because it succeeded in resurrecting the ’70s black-and-white comics magazine for adults and left us thirsting for more.

BEST GUILTY PLEASURE
MR. SKIN’S SKINCYCLOPEDIA: THE A-TO-Z GUIDE FOR FINDING YOUR FAVORITE ACTRESSES NAKED – Or should we say biggest? For its pun-laden descriptions of the breast that cinema has to offer, it’s as invaluable a reference as those penned by Webster or Roget. RUNNER-UP: Paperbacks from Leisure Horror. I only wish half of them didn’t suck.

BEST THING TO HAPPEN TO BOOKS IN QUITE SOME TIME
The Hard Case Crime line. Whether they’re reprinting a lost classic or minting a new one, it’s comforting to know that each and every month, you’re guaranteed at least one book that absolutely knocks it out of the park. Runner-up: Leslie S. Klinger’s three-volume THE NEW ANNOTATED SHERLOCK HOLMES. There are so few books so treasurable that you know you’ll never part with them. This is one … er, make that three of them.

friday the 13th hate kill repeat reviewBEST TITLE, REGARDLESS OF HOW THE BOOK IS
FRIDAY THE 13TH: HATE-KILL-REPEAT by Jason Arnopp – Everytime I go to the bookstore, I have to look at this cover just to assure myself I wasn’t dreaming it.

BEST LOWBROW TITLE FOR A HIGHBROW BOOK
MEMORIES OF MY MELANCHOLY WHORES by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

BEST BOOK SENT TO US WE DIDN’T FEEL QUALIFIED TO REVIEW, SO WE DIDN’T
MORE BODY, MORE SOUL: BEAUTIFUL BLACK MEN by Duane Thomas

NUMBER OF USED BOOKS I BOUGHT OFF AMAZON MARKETPLACE
4

NUMBER OF THOSE WHOSE CONDITION WAS ACCURATELY DESCRIBED
1

Contributing reviewer Mark Rose weighs in with some bests and worsts of his own…

BEST BOOK REVIEW PUBLICATION
Bookforum. It’s inexpensive (which is why the Times Literary Supplement loses out), it’s readily available at most newsstands and it consistently reviews the most interesting books in the world of art, architecture and literature.

WORST BOOK REVIEW PUBLICATION
The New York Times Book Review. It’s stodgy, pretentious and unbelievably biased towards a certain world view … much like its parent company.

WORST NEW DEVELOPMENT IN BOOKS
Bravo ran a comedy special on December 15 called CELEBRITY AUTOBIOGRAPHY: IN THEIR OWN WORDS, where comedians read aloud from books “written” by Elizabeth Taylor and N’Sync. It’s bad enough the books are published, now they’re being read aloud to me. At least I didn’t mention Pamela Anderson in STACKED.

state of fear michael crichton reviewMOST DISAPPOINTING BOOK
Michael Crichton’s STATE OF FEAR. A riveting good action adventure novel that treats hardcore environmentalism as a fundamentalist religion would be a great read. Too bad Crichton didn’t write a book like that. Instead, he chose to include page after page of graphs and make all his characters about as deep and as nuanced as shirt cardboard.

BEST WRITER TO NOT HAVE A BOOK IN 2005
Nicholson Baker. Come on, Nicholson! Stop it with the sex fantasy books and write something like THE MEZZANINE or THE SIZE OF THOUGHTS again, please? Oh, and as much as I appreciate THE WORLD ON SUNDAY: GRAPHIC ART IN JOSEPH PULITZER’S NEWSPAPER (1898-1911), it’s not quite what I was looking for.

BEST E-BOOK PROVIDER
Electricstory.com. No, I don’t own stock in this fantasy and science-fiction e-book provider. But they do a nice job and have great authors. And they publish my own little e-zine, so you gotta love ‘em!

BEST ONLINEBOOK PROVIDER
Shout out to amazon.co.uk. The Penguin design book (mentioned above) was water-damaged when it arrived, though the other book in the shipment was mysteriously undamaged. An e-mail to customer service and the very next day, they tell me they’re shipping out a new book and no need to return the damaged one because it would be too expensive for me. I’m still gobsmacked.

CHEAPEST BOOK I BOUGHT IN 2005
DUNGEONS & DRAGONS HEROES: PRIMA’S OFFICIAL STRATEGY GUIDE. I don’t get how this works. I bought a used copy of this from Amazon Marketplace for 28 cents. How does anyone make money off this?

AUTHOR WHOSE BOOKS I BOUGHT THE MOST OF IN 2005
This surprised me, but it was Harry Matthews (with three titles bought this year alone). Matthews is the only American member of the Oulipo literature movement. Basically, Oulipo sets very difficult writing tasks for themselves and then attempts to create art through those tasks. For instance, perhaps the most famous is Georges Perec who wrote LA DISPARITION, a novel that does not contain a single letter “e” in its text (yes, I know, it’s been done before). Matthews’ MY LIFE IN CIA: A CHRONICLE OF 1973 was published in 2005. You should buy it.

8 Great Sci-Fi Books of 2005

woken furies review1. WOKEN FURIES by Richard K. Morgan
The third – and final, at least for now – novel in Morgan’s Takeshi Kovacs body-swapping cycle brings our protangonist to his home planet, where he has to confront the remnants of war and ghosts from the past. Morgan is at the forefront of science fiction right now, along with Charles Stross and Jon Courtenay Grimwood, and he shows it off at full force here.

2. ACCELERANDO by Charles Stross
Originally serialized in Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine, the author of the superb SINGULARITY SKY and IRON SUNRISE takes another look at the future of man. While there are more ideas and theories in here than are necessarily comfortable in a book this short, ACCELERANDO is hardcore and not for readers afraid of technospeak. If you want to try it out, it’s available for free on the Web.

3-4. PASHAZADE / EFFENDI by Jon Courtenay Grimwood
It’s hard to include these books on a list of 2005’s best, but I think it illustrates the absolute insanity of science fiction publishers. These awesome Raymond Chandler-style cyberpunk detective books set in a future Ottoman Empire were released in the UK starting in 2001 and, extremely limited U.S. releases notwithstanding, they haven’t seen the majority of U.S. shelves until this year. Still, the books haven’t lost any of their impact or appeal. Much like his earlier classics REMIX and REDROBE, Grimwood hasn’t let us down yet. The two books he has released this year, STAMPING BUTTERFLIES and 9TAIL FOX, aren’t widely available on these shores yet, and that is a crying shame. The third book in his Arabesk trilogy, FELAHEEN is just now out.

5. THE NARROWS by Alexander Irvine
A master of alternate history and the lives therein, Irvine takes a micro rather than macro focus in THE NARROWS and paints a stunning portrait of a man constantly pestered by outside forces who just wants to spend time with his family.

6. OLYMPOS by Dan Simmons
Simmons’ SONG OF KALI is the scariest horror book that has no monsters. CARRION COMFORT and SUMMER OF NIGHT one-up the best themes of Stephen King, and his Hyperion cycle stood out as a beacon against derivative science fiction in the 90s. With ILIUM and the sequel OLYMPOS, Simmons mixes Shakespeare, Homer and post-singularity man with great results. A bit dense and sometimes a little too easy to figure out, these books nonetheless are science fiction from a different angle and a refreshing change of pace.

7. MARKET FORCES by Richard K. Morgan
Morgan does without trademark anti-hero Takeshi Kovacs in this one in favor of Yuppie “greed is good” executives who travel up and down the corporate ladder by means of morning commute MAD MAX-style auto battles on the freeway. While the symbolism might be a bit obvious, and the BONFIRE OF THE VANITIES plot might be seen as off-putting, they can also be seen as necessary evils and a means to which the reader gets to witness much automotive ass-kickery.

8. THE TRAVELER by John Twelve Hawks
Let’s look at this book in Joseph Campbell/George Lucas terms: Reluctant hero? Check. Mysterious “force” that empowers some? Check. Hokey religion? Check. The list could go on forever. The enigmatic Hawks mines archetypes and stereotypes for a week of Sundays (and adds a generous helping of Big Brother paranoia), but THE TRAVELER is surprisingly fun to read. It moves at the right pace – quick – and the twists and turns are unexpected enough to provide some drama, even if the large shape of the novel is given away in the first couple of chapters.

8 Highly Anticipated Books I Couldn’t Afford to Buy in 2005, but Will Discounted in 2006

historian elizabeth kostova review1. THE HISTORIAN by Elizabeth Kostova
I really, really wanted to read this book. I love vampires (the threatening kind, not the wussy romantic kind with long blond hair) and I love thrillers, and this promised to be a Reese’s “two great tastes” moment. But alas, no cash.

2. ANANSI BOYS by Neil Gaiman
Once again, I drooled over this books for weeks at the bookstore that sits right on my way to work each day, but no such luck. Even thought I hear it isn’t as good as AMERICAN GODS, I really want to read it. Library schmibrary.

3. FIFTY DEGREES BELOW by Kim Stanley Robinson
FORTY SIGNS OF RAIN was one of the best science fiction books I’ve read since his previous effort, THE YEARS OF RICE AND SALT. Climate change enthusiasts who got put off by Michael Crichton’s FOX News-style STATE OF FEAR should give it a try.

4. CENTURY RAIN by Alastair Reynolds
I honestly don’t even know the plot of this, but I wanted it. Reynolds is the “hard SF” voice of the new breed of writers. Science-heavy and thick. He’s always worth the trouble even though Reynolds distinctly doesn’t know the usage difference between “that” and “which.”

5. SEEKER by Jack McDevitt
McDevitt writes really nice procedural-style mysteries in the guise of space opera. They’ve got a real nice flow to them, but seriously, they’re not worth $25.

6. TRANSCENDANT by Stephen Baxter
The first book of this trilogy, COALESCENT, thrilled with the depiciton of an evolutionary offshoot of the human race that lived under Rome. The second, EXULTANT, took us far into the future to an interstellar war, and there’s got to be an ending that can tie this stuff together.

7. DANCE OF DEATH by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child
I’ve loved these guys ever since I listened to THE RELIC unabridged on a solo drive from Oklahoma to Wisconsin in 1994. Unafraid to introduce the supernatural into otherwise mainstream work, I loved BRIMSTONE and the Agent Pendergast character especially. Can’t wait for the paperback.

8. COLLAPSE: HOW SOCIETIES CHOOSE TO FAIL OR SUCCEED by Jared Diamond
Diamond’s GUNS, GERMS, AND STEEL was an adventure book that happened to be nonfiction. I think it’s safe to say that COLLAPSE is more of the same. Great stuff for pondering or to show your intellectual heft at the office water cooler.

Leisure builds solid horror lineup for 2006

conqueror worms brian keene reviewFollowing a lackluster couple of months, Leisure’s two-a-month horror paperback line looks far more promising in the coming new year, with novels about zombies, poltergeists and, yes, even giant worms.

January brings Tim Lebbon’s corpse-laden BERSERK and Ray Garton’s creepy-kid tale THE LOVELIEST DEAD, while in February, a writer faces supernatural terrors in Mark Morris’ THE IMMACULATE and J.P. Gonzalez’s extreme horror outing SURVIVOR – about a snuff film – is unleashed to the general public. March offers AFTER MIDNIGHT, another Richard Laymon novel, and DEATHBRINGER, Bryan Smith’s zombie-filled follow-up to HOUSE OF BLOOD.

Later in the summer, giant worms invade in Brian Keene’s THE CONQUEROR WORMS and Jack Ketchum’s infamous cannibal tale OFF SEASON finally gets back in print, and uncensored at that! If you’ve read his equally notorious THE GIRL NEXT DOOR, you know exactly the kind of shocks to expect.

You can preview six of the titles’ covers after the jump.

Read more »

FREAKONOMICS, POTTER top 2005 most-blogged-about books list

harry potter half-blood prince review downloadAs reported by The New York Times, Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner’s best-selling FREAKONOMICS: A ROGUE ECONOMIST EXPLORES THE HIDDEN SIDE OF EVERYTHING and J.K. Rowling’s HARRY POTTER AND THE HALF-BLOOD PRINCE were the books most discussed on the 5,000 most-trafficked blogs for 2005.

Other hot-button titles on the non-fiction-heavy list include Malcolm Gladwell’s BLINK: THE POWER OF THINKING WITHOUT THINKING, Thomas L. Friedman’s THE WORLD IS FLAT: A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY, Michael Crichton’s STATE OF FEAR, George Orwell’s 1984 and Dan Brown’s ominprescent THE DA VINCI CODE. You can read the list in full here.

Merry Christmas from BOOKGASM

santa claus coke coca colaThat’s right, we said it: Merry Christmas! Damn these politically correct times! But not to exclude our friends celebrating Hanukkah, Kwanza and any other difficult-to-spell holiday. Whatever you’re celebrating, we hope you have a good one. (Except all the online casinos who’ve been trying to spam this site – all three dozen of you can go to hell.)

In the spirit of the holidays, we’re taking a little break for the rest of the week, but come back next week for several days of year-end coverage, including our roundup of the year’s best and worst books. Then, as 2006 officially rolls around, we’ll be back with the usual slew of reviews, including THE LAST TEMPLAR, A MEAL TO DIE FOR, MURDER AT THE FOUL LINE, ALREADY DEAD, WOLVERINE: WEAPON X and TALES BEFORE TOLKIEN, just to name a few.

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