SEARCH ME >> 1.08

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search terms jan 2008


postsingular reviewRudy Rucker obviously has something up his sleeve. Throughout his literary career, he has explored a huge variety of times and places, and his speculative skills are honed to the point that I’m starting to think that they aren’t speculation: Rudy Rucker is a dimensional wanderer, able to explore the possibilities of the past, present and future on a whim.

Submitted for your perusal: POSTSINGULAR, Rucker’s latest novel. Science-fiction enthusiasts will be familiar with the concept of the Singularity, a technological change so swift and drastic that it makes society completely unrecognizable to those living before it came to pass. This concept is pretty much a double-dog dare to any futurist worth his salt, because the gist of it is that nobody (not even you, Rucker) can imagine such an event. Rucker is one of the very few authors – along with Vernor Vinge and Charles Stross – to shoulder this challenge and completely succeed.

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Showcase Presents Hawkman: Volume 1

showcase hawkman reviewHawkman swooped onto the scene in the first issue of FLASH COMICS in 1939. He was Carter Hall, an American collector of ancient weapons who one day discovered that he was also the reincarnation of an Egyptian prince named Khufu.

There was, of course, a lot of backstory generated between the debut of the character and the end of his first series of adventures in 1951, but none of it has much to do with SHOWCASE PRESENTS HAWKMAN: VOLUME 1, because the character – as presented in this collection – is the rebooted version from 1961.

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bullets broads blackmail and bombsdeath trick reviewDeath is the theme for this week’s cheery column. It’s all about being killed. Okay, actually it’s just a cheap reason to use three books with a death motif, plain and simple.

DEATH TRICK by J. F. Burke – What seems to be just a run-of-the-mill detective novel is even less that what it seems. This 1975 effort is the second of the Sam Kelly novels, which is a big problem since you are constantly hit over the head with reference to events of the first book. Not only does it assume you’ve read that one, but it keeps a key piece of information from new readers, certain to leave you confused until about the last third.

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Batman: Ego and Other Tails

batman ego other tails reviewThe inimitable Darwyn Cooke showcases the best of his work in the Batman world in BATMAN: EGO AND OTHER TAILS. Given that this collection contains his acclaimed CATWOMAN: SELINA’S BIG SCORE graphic novel in its entirety, plus several more stories should be all the reason you need to buy.

Not only his first Batman story, but also his first work for DC, the BATMAN: EGO one-shot kicks off the book. It’s an unexpectedly dark tale of The Dark Knight battling – at least verbally – his own ego, here rendered as a bat-eared shadow with horrendous teeth. Batman wonders if he shouldn’t just throw in the cowl and call it quits; his ego urges him to go the extra mile and end it all.

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The Body in the Ivy

body in ivy reviewIn a loving homage to Agatha Christie’s AND THEN THERE WERE NONE, Katherine Hall Page puts her series amateur detective, caterer Faith Fairchild, into a similar mix in THE BODY IN THE IVY.

Fairchild is called to the secluded home of an extremely wealthy and very famous author named Elaine Prince, who has decided to host a college class reunion for just a few of the students with which she graduated. Not friends, you see – because the host had a sister who committed suicide just before graduation, and Prince believes that one of the people she invites to her mansion actually is the murderer of her departed sister.

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A Hard Winter Rain

hard winter rain reviewHere’s another fine little mystery from the Canadian publisher Dundurn. A HARD WINTER RAIN is the second book by Michael Blair, and also the first of his Joe “Shoe” Schumacher series. This is the type of mystery I really enjoy.

The book starts out innocently enough, introducing us to a figure who will be the catalyst to the whole story. Of course, that person is a victim, shot within the first few pages in order to set the mystery into motion. His name is Patrick O’Neil, and he is waiting for an unnamed person to arrive, when some homeless person shows up and kills him like it was a professional hit.

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Money Shot

money shot reviewI don’t know if the porn-star revenge novel had been invented before Christa Faust’s MONEY SHOT, and I’m too lazy to check right now, so let’s just give her the credit. Besides, even if she hasn’t, I doubt any predecessor would turn out quite the cold-blooded carnival ride. Marking the first time Hard Case Crime has published a female author, the novel proves the girl can hold her own with the big boys, and even outdo them.

Angel Dare is a legendary porn star, now retired from performing and enjoying running her own business of a modeling agency for the triple-X set. One day, she gets a call from an old friend, the director Sam Hammer. He’s in the middle of shooting a feature with rising newcomer (two puns!) Jesse Black, and is without a bangee for his leading man. Would Angel do him a favor and do Jesse?

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Tales from the Crypt No. 2 – Can You Fear Me Now?

tales from crypt 2 reviewIt may not have you humming Danny Elfman themes, but TALES FROM THE CRYPT NO. 2 – CAN YOU FEAR ME NOW? –  Papercutz’s second collection of its revival of the E.C. horror comic – remains a step up from its first one. However, this isn’t evident until the last half of the book.

“A Murderin’ Idol” leads things off, with a would-be pop superstar on a (very) thinly disguised AMERICAN IDOL-type televised singing competition making a deal with the devil involving human sacrifices in order to remain on the show and proceed to the finals. Renaming IDOL host Simon Cowell as “Slymon Bowell” is this by-the-numbers tale’s attempt at cleverness.

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QUICKGASM >> 1.25.08

quickgasmBecause time isn’t always kind: economic reviews in a world full of waste!

grim lands reviewHaving already issued collections of Conan, Kull, Solomon Kane and Bran Mak Morn, Del Rey turns to a hodgepodge of here-and-there again for THE BEST OF ROBERT E. HOWARD, VOLUME 2: GRIM LANDS. Yes, you get various tales featuring the above characters – including my favorite Conan story, “The Tower of the Elephant” – but you also get lesser-known and non-series numbers of swordplay and sorcery, of pirates, knights and even boxers. Throw Red Sonya in there for good measure, and Howard’s bent for the weird Western tale is in full force as well. It’s nice to see these stories here rather than in overpriced editions, plus accompanied by beautiful little illustrations from Jim and Ruth Keegan. For me, though, the real find here is “Pigeons from Hell”; it may carry a trite title, but it’s a chilling horror tale. Cheers to Del Rey for putting Howard’s work back into widespread existence these past few years; all eight in the collection are worth owning.

manga bible reviewIf you’ve ever wanted to see characters from the Bible with big doe eyes, let there be light! Siku’s THE MANGA BIBLE transforms ye olde bestseller into a full-fledged graphic novel, moving quickly – too quickly, some will say – from the creation story to Jesus’ revelations in a tidy 200 pages. No doubt this will hold massive appeal to today’s manga-hungry teens, as it is true manga (except it doesn’t have to be read backwards, thankfully). The script by Akin Akinsiku updates dry text with present-day lingo; witness Cain and Able (“Whassup, bro? I’ve got something I wanna show you in my farm.” “Sounds interesting … what is it?” “Your death, you smug *$&%*!”) It’s not without humor – Jonah’s story is presented as a two-page “comedy short” – and works in present-day framing scenes to make the story relevant.

sacha baron cohen nudeNo allegations of Scientology tampering in this celebrity bio. Kathleen Tracy’s SACHA BARON COHEN – THE UNAUTHORIZED BIOGRAPHY: FROM CAMBRIDGE TO KAZAKHSTAN chronicles the maverick comedian’s rise from privileged scholar to British cult TV star to Oscar-nominated pop-culture tsunami. There’s nothing offensive about it, but nothing earth-shattering, either. It reads like Tracy just cherry-picked facts from People profiles and the like, which is both a blessing and a curse, meaning the read is an easy one, but also one that feels only skin-deep. The section on BORAT‘s filming and subsequent lawsuit-ridden release proves the most interesting; even though you’ve read it all before in countless news articles, it’s handy to have them assembled in one spot.

spider man monsters prowl reviewThe digest-sized MARVEL ADVENTURES SPIDER-MAN VOL. 5: MONSTERS ON THE PROWL pits Spider-Man against four monsters from Marvel’s stable of horror characters. In stories written by Peter David and drawn by Mike Norton, Spidey fights Werewolf by Night in a haunted house, spars with Man-Thing in the swamps, saves New York from a newly thawed Fin Fang Foom and rids his school’s Halloween dance of the presence of Frankenstein’s Monster. Hawkeye and Dr. Strange guest-star in these slight-on-plot but long-on-fun tales. Intended for all ages, they’re not exactly scary, but hey, monsters are monsters. Consider this a pint-sized version of the recent LEGION OF MONSTERS anthology. –Rod Lott

Buy it at Amazon.

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