The Dervish House

Ian McDonald’s last several masterpieces (RIVER OF GODS and BRASYL) set an incredibly high bar for any author with aspirations of becoming better with every book that he writes. But though both of those novels were works of genius, they weren’t books I could convince my friends who aren’t well-versed in science fiction to read.

They’re dense, demand a lot of faith in the story and the author, and require some hardcore intellectual gymnastics for readers to internalize the masterful cultural prognostications that McDonald makes with his future India and time-muddled Brazil. But McDonald’s somehow managed to outdo himself with THE DERVISH HOUSE.

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The Cold Kiss

The debut novel from John Rector, THE COLD KISS, is a well-crafted tale set in the middle of nowhere during a snowstorm — in other words, a great setup to a pretty solid thriller.

Young couple Nate and Sara are on their way to Reno to start anew, but as they progress in their travels, they pick up a traveling companion named Syl, who is about to change everyone’s life. From the outset, Nate is unsure about Syl, especially since their first encounter is in a truck-stop bathroom, with Syl looking like warmed-over death, but offering a nice amount of money for a ride to the closet major city. Sara figures they could use the cash and head off. But then a snowstorm blocks their progression, forcing them to stay at a rundown motel off the highway.

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And Party Every Day: The Inside Story of Casablanca Records

I love cocaine.

Well, let me rephrase that: I love the idea of cocaine. If pop culture has taught me anything about Sweet Lady Nose-Toot, it’s that it is always a great way to get any party started; a couple of quick lines off the floor of a rest-area toilet lid and in no time at all, you’ll be spinning an endless number of Giorgio Moroder 12-inch, white-label promos in assless leather chaps while a 12-year-old Thai lady-boy wearing only angel wings gets a nosebleed and passes out under Truman Capote’s ball sack.

And, even more tempting, don’t forget all that unwashed disco-trim you’ll be soaking in! Hedonistic honeys in humid hot pants will do the most unspeakable of sexual acts for just a little snort off of your flaccid shaft. Talk about a “blow” job!

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Code:Breaker Volume 1

Let’s get one straight right off the bat: CODE:BREAKER VOLUME 1 isn’t about codebreakers. Instead, Akimine Kamijyo’s manga is about a mysterious new guy in school who wears a glove on one hand.

He doesn’t do this because he emulates Michael Jackson (although we know that Asians sure do love that so-called King of Pop!), but because said hand has the power to burn. And I don’t mean sizzle your skin, but painfully turn you into a pile of ashes in a matter of seconds. For reals.

Popular girl in school Sakura is initially intrigued by this handsome stranger, but finds herself repulsed by his scorching of an entire gang. Even though, like DEXTER, he lives by a code that insists he only do away with the bad guys, she thinks it’s immoral.

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Hard Rain

The contemporary political thriller is a slave to innumerable clichés, most of which are somewhat subtly subverted by David Rollins’ entertaining, but traditional HARD RAIN, the third in a series of novels that have received some acclaim from the airport- and beach-reader crowd.

He’s got specialized military knowledge (check); a hard-driving, wisecracking bear of a man with a heart of gold (check); an equally wise, but softer female interest who goes back and forth between loving and despising the bear (check); the possibility of a mole (check); some measure of shame that can be tied to the U.S. government (check — in this instance, depleted uranium plays that particular villain); and an improbably vast Bondian scheme that would require immense wealth and influence, with an outcome that will change the world forever (check and double-check).

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Ripley’s Believe It or Not!: Enter If You Dare!

Like a carnival funhouse, RIPLEY’S BELIEVE IT OR NOT!: ENTER IF YOU DARE! dares you to come in, and you totally know you’re going to, no matter how many warnings are posted.

My kids love this series of hardcovers, because the photos are huge and capture all sorts of wondrous, gross, weird, disgusting things from the world over, such as six-fingered hands, a guy with 240 body piercings, a girl with an elephant face, people whose skin looks like overgrown tree bark, eyeball tattoos, sword swallowers, fried grasshoppers, cheese maggots and sculptures made entirely of hair.

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BULLETS, BROADS, BLACKMAIL & BOMBS >> Hammer of the Gods

bullets broads blackmail and bombsSince last week’s column was dark, let’s lighten it up a bit with three collections all dealing with mythology — Norse mythology, to be precise. Yes, it’s another column filled with three comic collections, but what collections they are! We have some old-school comic fun, so it’s pretty safe to say if you pick any of these up, you won’t be disappointed. But if you can only get one, that will be a tough decision.

THOR: TALES OF ASGARD by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby — If those two names don’t tell you what you are about to read, you lead a sheltered life. This is a 2010 collection of all the TALES OF ASGARD backup strips that appeared in both JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY and THOR.

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Night of the Living Dead: Behind the Scenes of the Most Terrifying Horror Movie Ever

It’s nice to see Joe Kane — aka The Phantom of the Movies — emerge from the video aisles with another book. Instead of covering hundreds of titles this time, his third tackles just one, but it’s a goodie. NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD: BEHIND THE SCENES OF THE MOST TERRIFYING HORROR MOVIE EVER covers George Romero’s 1968 classic from idea to influence, but really, it doubles as a Romero career retrospective.

Even by watching all the numerous DVD documentaries and commentaries on NOTLD, you won’t get quite a complete a picture of the making of the low-budget classic than you will by reading. Through interviews with the principals, Kane details virtually every aspect of its inception and production, warts and all.

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Jade

JADE is the latest episode in Gene O’Neill’s chronicles of the post-apocalyptic West Coast he calls Cal Wild, as depicted in THE BURDEN OF INDIGO and more recently in DOC GOOD’S TRAVELING SHOW. Like many of the earlier entries, it is a thoroughly gratifying story with a surprising amount of empathy and inventiveness for such a slim volume.

Jade lives with her adopted aunt and uncle in the San D Ruins of southern Cal Wild. Although burdened with a hunchback — a “quasimodo,” in the slang of the novella’s period — the feature that most people notice about Jade are her wide, round, beautifully green eyes. But she is known locally for her “special ability,” a talent for communicating with and influencing the behavior of almost all sorts of animals; she is often hired by farmers and herders to correct problems with unruly strays.

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BOOK WHORE >> 7.27.10

book whoreShe’s back, pimpin’ out notable new releases to place on your radar!

CURSE OF THE WOLF GIRL by Martin Millar — Kallix, a morose, laudanum-addicted, unschooled, slightly anorexic werewolf is still on the run. The youngest daughter of the Thane of the MacRinnalch Clan of werewolves, held responsible unfairly for the death of the Thane, and justifiably responsible for the deaths of a great many other werewolves, remains prohibited from returning to Scotland in order to maintain the uneasy peace that temporarily prevails in court, despite the endemic debauchery and degeneracy always threatening to again spiral out of control. Frankly, things aren’t much better for her in London than in Scotland. Strong as she is when enraged, it’s becoming ever more dangerous to be her.

THE GENEVA DECEPTION by James Twining — A reformed art thief on assignment for the FBI, Tom Kirk is in a Las Vegas casino with $20 million to purchase a Caravaggio masterpiece unseen for nearly half a century — a transaction that’s brutally cut short by gunfire. A shattering assassination rocks Kirk’s world, plunging him and unorthodox Italian detective Allegra Damico into an international web of evil that encompasses the Church, politicians, the police and the Mafia. The road Kirk and Allegra must now follow is twisting and treacherous, winding through Vatican secrets, blood oaths, and Swiss betrayals. And death surely waits at the end.

DISCORD’S APPLE by Carrie Vaughn — When Evie Walker goes home to spend time with her dying father, she discovers that his creaky old house in Hope’s Fort, Colo., is not the only legacy she stands to inherit. Hidden behind the old basement door is a secret and magical storeroom, a place where wondrous treasures from myth and legend are kept safe until they are needed again. The magic of the storeroom prevents access to any who are not intended to use the items. But just because it has never been done does not mean it cannot be done. And there are certainly those who will give anything to find a way in.

QUEEN OF THE NIGHT by J.A. Jance — Every summer, in an event commemorated throughout the Tohono O’odham Nation, the Queen of the Night flower blooms in the Arizona desert. But one couple’s intended celebration is shattered by gunfire, the sole witness to the bloodshed a little girl who has lost the only family she’s ever known. To her rescue come Dr. Lani Walker, who sees the trauma of her own childhood reflected in her young patient, and Dan Pardee, an Iraq war veteran and member of an unorthodox border patrol unit called the Shadow Wolves. Joined by Pima County homicide investigator Brian Fellows, they must keep the child safe while tracking down a ruthless killer.

Buy them at Amazon.

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