We’ve got three hardback copies of Evelyn Waugh’s 1945 classic BRIDESHEAD REVISITED to give away, to tie in with the new movie from Miramax Films starring Matthew Goode, Emma Thompson and Greta Scacchi.
There is something indefinable missing from the tales of Erast Fandorin, the 19th-century Russian detective who is the protagonist of Boris Akunin’s series of mysteries. He is a collage, of course — a mix of the Pink Panther (with his Asian servant, with whom he practices the martial arts) and Sherlock Holmes (with his less brilliant but sometimes inspiring and always devoted sidekick) — and he has the seemingly requisite collection of quirks and superior capabilities (master of disguise, strong as a bull, etc.). But it doesn’t always jell into what one would expect to be great mystery fiction.
The new book, SPECIAL ASSIGNMENTS, is actually a collection of two novellas, THE JACK OF SPADES and THE DECORATOR. I applaud both author and publisher for committing to the format and resisting the temptation to stretch each story into a full-length novel.
Jack Taggart is back in his no-compromise style of police work in Don Easton’s ANGEL IN THE FULL MOON. For those unfamilar with the Jack Taggart series, I highly endorse the two previous entries; it’s actually best that you read them before tackling this novel. That has nothing to do with carryover, but more to get a feel for the type of person Taggart is, especially for the dark secret he has hidden until now.
The story opens with a young Vietnamese girl named Hang who is told she is going to live in America with a wealthy family. They way she is sent to North America will make readers quite aware of what really awaits her: that she is just the newest victim in the white slavery ring where she’ll end up working in massage parlors … or worse.
Because time isn’t always kind: economic reviews in a world full of waste!
One of the standouts of the post-millennial space opera boom, Scott Westerfeld’s THE RISEN EMPIRE is a lot more fun than the jacket text would have you believe. Equal parts action and intrigue, a starship commander and a politician do battle with both a fanatical cult of computer-worshipping commandoes and the protagonists’ own government, which is ruled by an immortal emperor. The cover by Stephan Martiniere is outstanding, but it conjures up images of books that are far more dull than this one. If it grabs you at the beginning, pick up the second half of the series, THE KILLING OF WORLDS, right away, because you’ll want it on hand as soon as the first novel is over. —Ryun Patterson
Without the benefit of color, it’s hard to tell the characters of SHOWCASE PRESENTS LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES: VOLUME 2 apart. Actually, with color, it’s still tough to do that, because they’re all so cardboard and interchangable, with the exception of Superboy, of course. In this 500-plus-page collection, the teen heroes of the 30th century continue to rely on the same story templates: auditioning more team members, testing others with impossible missions, figuring out the traitor among them. Other tales show more ingenuity: Lightning Lad loses an arm to an alien whale named Super-Moby Dick, or the blob Proty II being initiated into the Legion of Super-Pets by the likes of Streaky the Cat and Super-Monkey. And there’s a villain named Starfinger. Really? Starfinger? Yes! It all adds up to super-silly 1960s comics goodness.
Matthew Randazzo V’s RING OF HELL: THE STORY OF CHRIS BENOIT AND THE FALL OF THE PRO WRESTLING INDUSTRY isn’t so much about the troubled, meth-using Benoit — who killed his wife and kid before hanging himself in June 2007 — as it is about the industry in general. Randazzo clearly has axes to grind, but you may be helping hold the handles as he dishes details on WWE boss Vince McMahon, provided they’re true. According to the author, McMahon reaps millions while refusing to pay for his talent’s insurance or travel, despite keeping them on the road 300 days a year. Although full of questionable passages — calling Hulk Hogan’s latest movie a “shit sandwich” isn’t exactly a line that aims for credibility — RING is a sex-and-drugs-fueled exposé and a scandal-sheet treatment of a true tragedy. Perhaps Randazzo’s biggest bombshell is suggesting there’s no evidence Benoit’s child was retarded, but McMahon made it up to deflect attention from his corporation’s indirect involvement.
DEFENDERS: INDEFENSIBLE collects the first five issue of Marvel’s recent reboot of the super-team title — a loosey-goosey, dysfunctional group that included Doctor Strange, Hulk, The Sub-Mariner and The Silver Surfer. They’re all here, with wonderful semi-parody artwork from Kevin Maguire, yet a script by Kevin Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis that recklessly shoves 250 pages’ worth of words into 120, flat-out ruining an otherwise welcome reunion. At least they get one thing right: having their heroes bicker and needle each other. A de-Hulked Bruce Banner gets off the best line, directed toward Prince Namor: “Y’know, I’ve been meaning to ask you — did you ever actually find Nemo … or are you still looking? … Wings on the feet are a trifle fey, don’t you think?” But that’s early on, and then all the lines fall prey to overexplanation and utter boredom. —Rod Lott
Our monthly depressing look at the search terms that bring pervs to BOOKGASM!
In that gray area includes these bizarro search terms with (thankfully) low numbers …
Read more »
INCANDESCENCE, the latest from physicist/author Greg Egan, is an ironic title. Rather than offering warmth or enticement, it is instead a rather cold and distant reading experience.
“Hard” science fiction is uniquely challenging. The author must not only accomplish the usual suspension of disbelief, but also incorporate extrapolated scientific facts or theories in ways that enhance the story and keep it entertaining. In experienced hands — Ben Bova, Greg Bear and Gregory Benford, to name a few currently active — the results are exciting and open new worlds of science to explore further. Egan is definitely a hard sci-fi author, but in this work, the science pretty much strangles the fiction to death.
Unlike the previous comics collections in the MAMMOTH line, THE MAMMOTH BOOK OF BEST CRIME COMICS features a ton of big names instead of unknowns and never-weres. That’s no slam against the others, but it’s amazing to see rare graphic work from the likes of Ed McBain, Mickey Spillane and Dashiell Hammett under one roof, not to mention alongside Will Eisner, Max Allan Collins, Neil Gaiman and Alan Moore.
At nearly 500 pages and less than 20 bucks, this is one of your better book values of the year. Edited by comics historian Paul Gravett, the heavy tome of heavies is a colorful tour of black-and-white stories from the gutter, dating as far back as the 1930s.
You got to know when to hold them and know when to fold them. Case in point: The original start-off book to this week’s column was going to be Don Von Elsner’s THE JAKE OF DIAMONDS, but I could not make it past chapter two — it was that tedious, and I was even warned that the novel was like a wheelchair in molasses. So decided to go with something we all know and love.
JOKER IN THE DECK by Richard S. Prather — Shell Scott is back is this 1964 novel — one of his “everything’s fun until someone gets killed” adventures. Now this is more like it for a Shell Scott story: It’s light enough with a nice mystery to go along, as Shell is invited over to a friend’s home to watch some movies. Afterward, they decide to play strip poker. But the party is over when it turns out the host’s brother is found dead, killed by a bullet.
There’s a reason Stan Lee pops up in a cameo in all those SPIDER-MAN movies, while the webslinger’s co-creator is nowhere to be found. Actually, there are several reasons, and they’re all detailed in STRANGER AND STRANGER: THE WORLD OF STEVE DITKO, Blake Bell’s bold and fascinating biography for Fantagraphics.
One of the few creative talents to survive the near-death of the comics industry in the wake of the Dr. Frederic Wertham-led witch hunt, Ditko remains one of its all-time greats, even if he’s not so comfortable being in the spotlight. The man simply wants his credit and his art — not awards or accolades.
In Steve Fisher’s NO HOUSE LIMIT — a 50-year-old novel now enjoying a second life thanks to Hard Case Crime — independent casino owner Joe Martin finds his beloved Rainbow’s End under assault. Aiming to bring it down is a professional gambler who goes by the name of Bello, who’s being paid $75,000 by “the Syndicate” to play craps until he takes Martin for everything he owns, including “the cloth off the table.”
It’s a dicey three days for Bello, who throws bones like nobody’s business, and Martin, who’s determined to keep an all-hours vigil even if it kills him. Now, if you’re thinking that a craps game isn’t enough meat to fill a novel, you’d be absolutely correct.