The Explorer

ExplorerJames Smythe’s second novel takes a familiar science-fiction circumstance and gives it an unexpected tweak. It proves to be one of several surprises in THE EXPLORER, a brief (under 300 pages), but often engaging story.
Cormac Easton, the near-future narrator, is a journalist who has been chosen to be part of the first manned mission into deep space. His job is to interview his shipmates, then send the videos and other reportage back to Earth to keep the public informed and interested.

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The Tel Aviv Dossier

telavivdossierThroughout part one of Lavie Tidhar and Nir Yaniv’s manic fantasia known as THE TEL AVIV DOSSIER, tornadic , sentient Things sweep through that city and sweep up all in their path, guzzling innards and spewing a “red rain” that blankets the streets and the few, crazed survivors.

The “dossier” here is a collage of testimonials — from a sociopathic fireman, a blogger, a motley crew of quasi-academic UFO investigators, an orthodox yeshiva student — that simply record the incomprehensible disaster fallen upon the city. The narrative stitches together these fragments, but there’s no meaningful objective, no clear plot or quest or point.

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Remaking Horror: Hollywood’s New Reliance on Scares of Old

remakinghorrorSomewhere before I’ve stated that I’m not automatically against horror remakes, because without them, we wouldn’t have such modern-day classics as John Carpenter’s THE THING or David Cronenberg’s THE FLY. It’s nice to know I’m not alone, now that James Francis Jr. has expanded my thought into an entire book with REMAKING HORROR: HOLLYWOOD’S NEW RELIANCE ON SCARES OF OLD.

It’s too bad the trade paperback’s cover captures Anne Heche in what appears to mid-salute to the Führer, but Gus Van Sant’s infamous, shot-for-shot redux of PSYCHO is one of four main examples the author explores. The others are, naturally, HALLOWEEN, FRIDAY THE 13TH and A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET.

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Falling Kingdoms

fallingkingdomsI really wanted to like FALLING KINGDOMS. The basic political conceit at the novel’s core is a good one, and author Morgan Rhodes is definitely going for epic fantasy in the royal intrigue and war on the horizon vein, so politics are important.

The book concerns three countries, Auranos, Limeros, and Paelsia: The first two are rich and well-off, while the the third has been ruined by the others feeding off its natural resources. It’s a situation not dissimilar to countless real-world examples, many concerning my own United States in the position of power, and this setup piqued my interest.

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PREVIEW >> James Bond FAQ

jamesbondfaqApplause Books’ release of JAMES BOND FAQ is filled with biographies, synopses, production stories, images and illustrations … and author Tom DeMichael’s own ranking of the six men who’s (officially) played 007 on the big screen. You can find that sure-to-inspire-debate list right here, right now, in the following excerpt.

Considering the six actors who donned the crown of Bond, here is one person’s opinion of how they rate, worst to first. Of course, you may believe differently (as is well your prerogative). Guaranteed to be a hot topic of conversation around the water cooler, but remember—this is not a competition so, please, no wagering.

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ratlinesRATLINES is Stuart Neville’s latest novel since finishing his “Belfast Trilogy” which began with 2009’s THE GHOSTS OF BELFAST, the stunning debut that garnered several major awards and instantly made him an international crime-fiction star. This newest work deals with several of the same major themes of the trilogy, but utilized in a historical novel focusing on a hidden part of Ireland’s past.

The year is 1963, and Ireland eagerly awaits a visit from America’s newly elected young president, John F. Kennedy, who is returning to the land of his ancestors. Dublin, however, is plagued by an odd series of murders of former German nationalists.

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TRAILER PARK >> The Mad Scientist’s Guide to World Domination

Prolific anthologist John Joseph Adams’ latest collection, THE MAD SCIENTIST’S GUIDE TO WORLD DOMINATION, doesn’t come out until Feb. 19, but you can experience one of its stories right now, with Hugo-winning author David D. Levine’s dramatic presentation of his own contribution, “Letter to the Editor,” a “press release” from Dr. Talon, “evil genius and implacable foe of Ultimate Man.”

Others among the book’s 22 featured authors include Diana Gabaldon, Daniel Wilson, Austin Grossman, Naomi Novik and Seanan McGuire.

Buy it at Amazon.

James Bond FAQ: All That’s Left to Know About Everyone’s Favorite Superspy

jamesbondfaqThere are many, many, many books available that cover the venerable James Bond film franchise. And now that we have SKYFALL, we have another in Tom DeMichael’s JAMES BOND FAQ.

Unlike other entries in Applause Books’ FAQ series I’ve read — ranging from KISS to The Three Stooges — this one does not live up to its subtitle promise of containing ALL THAT’S LEFT TO KNOW. If you’re a fan, you’ve long known most of this content already, and that’s thoroughly disappointing. (And if you don’t, this is hardly the best place to start.)

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timebombGerald Seymour’s TIMEBOMB is an old-school espionage thriller. It relies less on outrageous, nonstop, Hollywood-esque explosive action and concentrates more on the small details, the inner workings of a covert operation, the intricate skeins of multiple stories raveling and unraveling, and the motivations behind the lives of innumerable characters, from the lowly grunt far down the organizational ladder to the capo dei capi who happens to be planning a truly dangerous coup.

In the late 2000s, two dismissed Russian officers manage to steal a small atomic demolition munition, and their plan is to sell it to Reuven Weissberg and Josef Goldmann, two ruthless businessmen who haven’t handled something on this scale before, but now that the plan is in motion, there’s no going back.

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Cold Comfort

coldcomfortQuentin Bates is not a name you would initially associate with Nordic noir, but his book COLD COMFORT is actually the second in a series featuring Icelandic Sergeant Gunnhildur Gísladóttir, the follow-up to his acclaimed 2011 novel, FROZEN ASSETS.

In this installment, Gunna (as she is more popularly known) is investigating a prison escapee named Long Ommi who is a notorious violent criminal, and who is almost certainly involved in two vicious beatings. However, it’s only when a former female TV presenter is murdered, someone who tangentially knew Ommi, that the case really begins to get difficult.

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