Rat Pack: Guns, Guts and Glory

Coming from the pages of the UK comic BATTLE, we have Gerry Finley-Day and Carlos Ezquerra’s RAT PACK: GUNS, GUTS AND GLORY, a fine collection that is a more violent version of DC’s THE LOSERS: a group of men sent on suicide missions, more or less, but always pull it off. The main difference between the two series is that the Rat Pack is made up of four convicts and their commander.

The book starts out with an interview with Pat Mills, who would later go on and create 2000 AD and a whole slew of characters. It seems to be an interview from a few years ago, since he references Quentin Tarantino starting work on a “remake” of Enzo G. Castellari’s INGLORIOUS BASTARDS and explains how he wanted a strip that was a smaller version of THE DIRTY DOZEN.

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The Best American Comics 2012

THE BEST AMERICAN COMICS 2012 is both the same as and different from the six previous annual editions: same in that is contents are rich enough to be consumed in one sitting; different in that this year’s guest editor has made some notable changes to the otherwise unchanged format, and all for the positive.

That guest editor is none other than Françoise Mouly, who certainly knows about editing comics. From the days of RAW magazine to the LITTLE LIT volumes, she’s been a driving force in making — and keeping — comics respectable and viewed as a valid form of literature. Her guiding hand here is so simple, yet helpful, one wonders why series editors Jessica Abel and Matt Madden didn’t seek her out sooner.

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The Martian War

What if H.G. Wells had based his classic novel WAR OF THE WORLDS on events that actually happened to him? That’s the idea behind THE MARTIAN WAR, an under-the-radar gem by Kevin J. Anderson, who explored similar speculative territory, albeit with Jules Verne, in 2002’s CAPTAIN NEMO.

But don’t dismiss MARTIAN as a mere rewrite of WAR from a different point of view; rather, that’s just a small part of the planet-hopping account, with lots of other storylines, characters and themes from other Wells works tossed in, including Dr. Griffin, who’s created an invisibility potion, or Dr. Moreau, who performs the world’s first alien autopsy (and organ transplant) – heck, even the FIRST MEN IN THE MOON and the giant rats from “Food of the Gods” are here.

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Liminal States

Zack Parsons has done the impossible: He’s come up with an original idea. Unfortunately for both him and the reader, he promptly squanders the opportunity by releasing the half-baked novel LIMINAL STATES.

LIMINAL STATES is billed as a stand-alone sci-fi novel that is part of a multimedia project encompassing video, music, artwork, blogs and websites involving characters of the novel — all of which is surely designed to make the reader care for or understand the characters, because the novel fails to do either.

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Live by Night

In his 2008 period-piece novel, THE GIVEN DAY, Dennis Lehane introduced us to Thomas Coughlin, the prominent but quietly corrupted Boston police captain, and focused on his son, Danny, in the years following World War I.
LIVE BY NIGHT, Lehane’s latest, returns to the Coughlin family, but concentrates on Joe, the errant youngest son who follows a markedly different life path from both his brother and his father in the years of Prohibition. It’s an often compelling story, rich in historical and period detail, but would have benefited from deeper character insight.

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BOOK WHORE >> Fall 2012 Tie-In Special

book whoreShe’s back each Tuesday, pimpin’ out notable new releases to place on your radar, so let the tempting, publisher-provided plot descriptions begin!

SPARTACUS: MORITURI by Mark Morris — Batiatus and Solonius vie with each other for the favor of one Marcus Licinius Crassus, an Equites who aims at the Praetorship. Thrilled by the bloody violence of the fights, Crassus decides to set up his own gladiatorial school. In the arena, the Batiati are ground down by injury and death, while Crassus’ numbers never seem to shrink. Can the ludus survive against such odds?

RESIDENT EVIL: RETRIBUTION by John Shirley — In this official novelization, Alice fights alongside a resistance movement in the continuing battle against the Umbrella Corporation and the undead.

SUPERNATURAL: RITE OF PASSAGE by John Passarella — Thirty years ago, Sam and Dean Winchester lost their mother to a demonic supernatural force. Following the tragedy, their father taught the boys everything about the paranormal evil that lives in the dark corners of America … and how to kill it. Laurel Hill, New Jersey is beginning to look like one of the unluckiest places on Earth when a series of mishaps hit the town. But Sam and Dean suspect it’s more than just bad luck. Along with Bobby Singer, the brothers soon realize that a powerful Japanese demon is encouraging the chaos. But the demon has bigger plans and they are going to need to make their own luck to stop it.

Buy them at Amazon.

Other Worlds Than These

World-building — where an author creates a completely different world than the one we live in (but sometimes with notable similarities) — is one of the many popular attractions of science fiction and fantasy. Now veteran editor John Joseph Adams has gathered together the finest world-building short fiction from the past 15 years in Night Shade Books’ OTHER WORLDS THAN THESE.

As Lev Grossman notes in his foreword, world-building has a rich and varied tradition in fantasy, including Dorothy’s adventures in Oz, the Wonderland of Alice, Narnia and several others. More recent examples include J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle Earth, of course, as well as Roger Zelazny’s AMBER works, the DARK MATERIALS novels of Philip Pullman, right up to the satirical DISCWORLD novels of Terry Pratchett.

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Achin’ for Aix: A Well-Read Diner’s Guide

M.L. Longworth’s new mystery, MURDER IN THE RUE DUMAS, is set in a small university in the idyllic town of Aix-en-Provence in the South of France. The charming novel revolves around a dumbfounding murder that nearly stumps the handsome chief magistrate of Aix, Antoine Verlaque. In this essay, the author offers a few tips on where to dine, should you be fortunate enough to visit the book’s real setting.

Aix-en-Provence has golden stone buildings, medieval winding streets, dozens of ancient fountains, and beautiful people. But it doesn’t have good restaurants. Is it because the beautiful people don’t care about good food? Or is it because Aix has always been a big tourist and student town, so local chefs have never had to make an effort at filling their restaurants?

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A Fistful of Collars

Spencer Quinn (a pseudonym of Peter Abrahams) has carved out a comfortable niche for himself in the mystery genre with his Chet and Bernie series. In the fifth book, A FISTFUL OF COLLARS, the story is written — as always — from the point of view of Chet, a 100-pound, rough-and-tumble mutt of a dog who is insanely positive and has an endearingly goofy happy-go-lucky attitude.

His partner in the stories and in the Little Detective Agency is Bernie Little, the ostensible owner of the agency, who happens to be human. They work as a private investigative team solving minor crimes, doing occasional divorce work, and trying not to admit that they’re really in love with the local newspaper reporter, Suzy.

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Lenore: Swirlies

Roman Dirge’s fourth LENORE collection, SWIRLIES, is the first to feature some of the new issues recently published. Don’t quote me on that, however, because the book doesn’t make that clear. I just remember one of them looks like a single issue that arrived last year as we were moving homes and got put in a box of books that made it to the new house … but not past the patio which then got rained on that night. Sorry, issue.

My wait was worth it, because as with the three previous hardback collections — NOOGIES, WEDGIES and COOTIES, for those keeping track — the bizarre adventures of Lenore, the Cute Little Dead Girl, are as satisfying as they are twisted.

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