The Further Adventures of Beowulf: Champion of Middle Earth

further adventures of beowulf reviewAh, Beowulf, scourge of my senior-year Advanced English class. I remember you well, you “epic poem,” you. Supposedly about a hero slaying a monster, but so steeped you were in archaic verse, I could detect neither. However, if we had learned of you from the anthology THE FURTHER ADVENTURES OF BEOWULF: CHAMPION OF MIDDLE EARTH, I might have performed backflips. Maybe even while reading you twice.

Edited by Brian M. Thomsen (who offers up a brief history of Beowulf in his introduction), the book offers four new, standalone tales of the Conan precursor – a template for all literary superheroes to come – as well as reprinting John Earle’s 1892 prose translation. Seamus Heaney be damned – Earle’s text is accessible and even exciting, neither term I could ever place upon the work in its original verse form.

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FRAMES O’ REFERENCE >> The Rebirth of Caine

frames of referenceDiscussing books on movies … almost as good as watching them, and without the sticky floors!

kill bill diary reviewQuite some time ago I came to the conclusion that the one thing I wanted from any famous person’s autobiography was at least one moment where I got the sense that I could feasibly spend a second or two in a room with them. That’s not to say that I would expect it to be an interesting or particularly enlightening moment, but rather just one that briefly proved to me that this iconic personage was in fact a real, living breathing human being.

I remember that when I read Bob Dylan’s recent book, CHRONICLES: VOLUME ONE, I despaired that no such moment would ever occur. Here was a book by a man so guarded and protective of his privacy that not only did he barely mention his family life, but he couldn’t even be bothered to tell us his wife’s name. All he was willing to give us was the side of him everyone already knew, and I thought the book suffered because of it. But then, near the book’s end, he included a brief unnecessary detail in one of his descriptions that gave me the moment I was looking for and proved that the world’s most loved and hated singer/songwriter was just as mortal as the rest of us.

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Fun with Bookgasm (and zombie breasts)

wolverine marvel zombiesNow that November has come to a close (hell, didn’t it just open?), you know what we’re thankful for? That, for the second month in a row, more Internet searchers coming to BOOKGASM were looking for Evangeline Lilly nude shots than Charo nude shots. Next month, we’re hoping to see Charo drop off the list completely, and maybe people getting back to searching for actual books again. Like MARVEL ZOMBIES, making its first appearance on our incoming-search list. Glad to have you.

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The Cleanup

the cleanup reviewYou ever read a book and feel like you’re getting in on the ground floor? For me, that was the case with Sean Doolittle’s third book. You feel as though this guy has a lot more stories to tell, and you can’t wait for them. Take one part Leonard and a big chunk of Westlake, mix them up and you get THE CLEANUP.

Matthew Worth is a cop who pretty much shoots himself in the foot career-wise, when his wife runs off with another cop, one at whom Worth took a swing, with awful consequences: He’s stuck doing security detail at a supermarket during the night shift. While waiting for any potential robber to make an appearance, he becomes friendly with the workers, some of whom refer to him as “Supercop.” But he probably is closest to Gwen, a checkout girl he’s smitten with. But all is not right in Gwen’s world, and that’s what set’s the book in motion. Her boyfriend is a bit violent and his job is not what you would call legal: running drugs and cash payments to and from the Chicago mob a career choice.

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Days of Allison

days of allison reviewRight from the beginning of DAYS OF ALLISON, author Eric Shapiro makes his main character Louis come alive. The reader begins the journey with Louis – by all accounts an isolated loser – telling us by way of his internal dialogue, “My work and my books – that’s all I need.”

And that’s when I was hooked. Each of us has snippets in time when we feel like isolated losers, or at least I do. Louis’ mind continues to wander and explains, “If society ever relieves its inhabitants of the need to make money, then I’ll quite eagerly sign up to be a hermit, eating, sleeping, reading my life away.” I had a love- hate relationship with Louis within the first two pages – not an easy task for an author and Shapiro did it quickly.

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Dragonfrigate Wizard Halcyon Blithe

DRAGONFRIGATE WIZARD HALCYON BLITHE reviewRousing. You don’t see that word much any more, but it’s the perfect descriptor for James M. Ward’s fantasy series, the first of which was MIDSHIPWIZARD HALCYON BLITHE. After a handy promotion for Blithe, we get the second book in the series, DRAGONFRIGATE WIZARD HALCYON BLITHE. This is a rousing adventure of naval battles, dragons, magic, dwarves, evil demons and a budding relationship between Blithe and the mysterious Lady Teagan.

Blithe comes from a long line of old salts, a line that bequeathed to him his magical powers and a muddied heritage that is as much feared as respected. But Blithe is still just a young man at 16 years old, and his youth and impetuousness often get him into trouble. This may not necessarily be a good thing when you are at war.

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Bunny Tales: Behind Closed Doors at the Playboy Mansion

bunny tales reviewMysteries of the universe baffle me: Is there life on other planets? Which came first: the chicken or the egg? And how does someone as grandpa-looking as Hugh Hefner score all that young tail? Thanks to Izabella St. James’ BUNNY TALES: BEHIND CLOSED DOORS AT THE PLAYBOY MANSION, I can cross the latter off my “to ask God” list.

According to St. James, who was part of Hef’s live-in pussy posse for two years, it sounds like cold, hard cash is the reason behind the old man’s skill at roping in the breasty blondes, because any girlfriend who lives under his roof gets a $1,000 cash allowance every week, not to mention free plastic surgery. All you have to do for it is abide by his strict code of rules and occasionally service his aged member. Eww.

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BULLETS, BROADS, BLACKMAIL & BOMBS >> Gift Cards Rule

bullets broads blackmail and bombsThere is one gift I enjoy getting more than all others: the gift card. They are simple and it means my relatives won’t screw up what I really want. The best kind, of course, are the ones for bookstores. As most people can tell from this column, I’m usually grabbing things from the dusty old shelves of used bookstores, so when I get a chance to treat myself to new books, I make it a point to grab stuff I really want, and not just hardcovers that I hope are good. Also, I’m not a huge fan of shelling out more than $10 for a paperback, but with a gift card, that becomes moot. So this column runs through three picks I got for my birthday last month. I would have included a fourth, but Rod did a great job of reviewing it already, and I fully second his opinion.

dragon bones reviewTHE DESTROYER #145: DRAGON BONES by Tim Somheil – Notice how The Destroyer books no longer credit authors on the cover? If you’re wondering who writes them, just look at the copyright page. The “special thanks to” line is the true credit for whoever’s ghosting Warren Murphy and Richard Sapir’s creation. Now, I’ve stuck mainly with the earlier Remo Williams adventures, but this 2006 offering is the most current at this writing (and the last for Gold Eagle to publish, before Tor takes over in summer ’07).

This novel is a sequel to THE DESTROYER #92: THE LAST DRAGON. Don’t worry; the plot of that one is given to you in the first chapter, and this DRAGON is a total fun fest. We’re led to believe that a dinosaur – which, from the descriptions, looks like an overgrown reptilian cow – has some sort of chemical inside its bones that can prolong life, prompting scores of drug company-hired assassins all living outside of the dino’s residence at a zoo. This is a total riot – I mean, we all know drug companies are greedy, but to hire mercenaries to live in a singles complex while they spy is just a laugh and a half.

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Hollywood Station

hollywood station reviewReading Joseph Wambaugh’s HOLLYWOOD STATION is like listening to a cop share a bunch of his war stories: You get a lot of lingo, sometimes too much detail, but also an abundance of craziness and “holy shit” moments that make your day job all the more miserable by comparison.

The title refers to the men and women on the police force in the heart of La-La Land, all of whom have nicknames – cops like surfing-on-the-brain partners Flotsam and Jetsam; the detective Compassionate Charlie, known for being anything but; Budgie, the new mom returning to her beat despite painfully lactating breasts; and the Oracle, the longtime sergeant who holds the whole crew together. We meet them each slowly, and Wambaugh shares their stories. Halfway in, we’re still meeting characters, which makes you think his wholly freeform approach will result in mere vignettes than an actual plot.

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Swamp Thing: Infernal Triangles

swamp thing infernal triangles reviewMore of the late-’80s, post-Alan Moore run of SWAMP THING is collected in SWAMP THING: INFERNAL TRIANGLES, most of it written and drawn by Rick Veitch. This five-issue arc finds the former Alec Holland impregnating his wife Abby by taking control of the body of John Constantine for the deed. Once Abby is starting to show, Swampy shows sympathy symptoms of his own – and here’s where things get really strange – by giving birth himself … to himself.

But their happy tree home is threatened when Swamp Thing has business to attend to, and doesn’t return. Abby’s depressive situation isn’t helped by being taken hostage by an alien or encountering a rude Green Lantern. In a bridging story, Swampy becomes a computer virus with designs on taking revenge on Lex Luthor for an attempted murder (detailed in an earlier collection), but Superman won’t allow it.

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