Monday, April 24, 2017

Marvel Essential: Tomb of Dracula Vol. 3 by Marv Wolfman, Gene Colan & others


(pb; 2004: Collects Tomb of Dracula #50-70, The Tomb of Dracula magazine #1-4. These issues were originally published between 1976 and 1979.)

From the back cover

"Delve deeper into Marvel's Golden Age of horror with the Lord of the Vampires and his host of hated pursuers, including filmdom's superstar Blade! Follow Dracula through centuries of adventures, each darker than the last! From a cosmic clash with the Silver Surfer, to a fight in the streets as a mere mortal, to literal family struggles with his daughter, the Demoness, and his son, the Angel! Includes rare black-and-white tales unrated by the Comics Code Authority!"


Review

Tomb of Dracula Vol. 3 is an uneven read. While Dracula is a larger than life character, his personality -- petty and foolish, even for an arrogant undead regent -- is too over-the-top: this made me wonder how someone this emotionally erratic survived for so long. It appears that part of the reason for his survival is that many of his enemies (even those sworn to destroy him at any cost) have the plot-convenient habit of letting him go when they have the chance to eradicate the storied bloodsucker. (Oh, they have their justifications, but they read like the dying gasps of a comic book series that should have been a miniseries or two, at best.)

It should be noted that the four issues of The Tomb of Dracula magazine that close out this graphic novel have better stories (for the most part) than the twenty-issue series that precedes the magazine.


That said, Tomb Vol. 3 is a fun, park-your-brain (if character-inconsistent and melodramatic) storyline with excellent, spooky, nostalgic and action-oriented artwork. It is worth reading, if the above caveats do not put you off.

Wednesday, April 05, 2017

Thank You For Coming to Hattiesburg by Todd Barry

(hb; 2017: nonfiction / humor. First Foreword by Jesse Eisenberg. Second Foreword by Doug Stanhope.)

From the inside flap

"Hello. It’s Todd Barry. Yes, the massively famous comedian. I have billions of fans all over the world, so I do my fair share of touring. While I love doing shows in the big cities (New York, Philadelphia), I also enjoy a good secondary market (Ithaca, Bethlehem). Performing in these smaller places can be great because not all entertainers stop there on tour; they don’t expect to see you. They’re appreciative. They say things like “Thank you for coming to Hattiesburg” as much as they say “Nice show.” And almost every town has their version of a hipster coffee shop, so I can get in my comfort zone.

"My original plan was to book one secondary market show in all fifty states, in about a year, but that idea was funnier than anything in my act. So, instead of all fifty states in a year, my agent booked multiple shows in
a lot of states, plus Israel and Canada."Thank You For Coming to Hattiesburg is part tour diary, part travel guide, and part memoir (Yes, memoir. Just like the thing presidents and former child stars get to write). Follow me on my journey of small clubs, and the occasional big amphitheater. Watch me make a promoter clean the dressing room toilet in Connecticut, see me stare at beached turtles in Maui, and see how I react when Lars from Metallica shows up to see me at a rec center in Northern California."


Review

Before reading this wry-humored book, I would recommend watching some of Barry's standup routines. If his stage work does not elicit a laugh-out-loud (or otherwise appreciable) response in you, this is probably not a book you will enjoy. If you do enjoy his quietly spoken, sly humor, then you should consider -- at the very least -- checking out this concise and gentle-hearted offering from a comedian who is the top of his game.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Guardian Angels by Joseph A. Citro a.k.a. Joseph Citro

(1988: sequel to Shadow Child)

From the back cover

"Four years have passed since the slaughter that took place at the old Whitcome house. Four years since the tiny picture-perfect town of Antrim. Vermont was devastated by the ugliest event in the town's history. Now the bloodstained Whitcome walls have been painted over, the broken-down doors repaired. And a new family has moved in.

"Fifteen-year-old Will Crockett could have told his mother and stepfather that the bargain price on the Vermont house was too good to be true. But they never listened to him, anyway. Now weird things were beginning to happen: open doors that he knew he had locked; strange scampering sounds on the porch roof. A sense of being watched. His parents didn't believe him, but Will knew something was wrong -- something so twisted and evil that only a kid's imagination could conceive of its horror."


Review

Guardian is an okay follow-up to Shadow Child. While the characters are well-written, the storyline feels disjointed at times. Citro could have easily streamlined the novel's flow into a more smoothly-told tale by eliminating some of the set-up scenes which read a bit clunky. Not only that, it seems as if the Gentry have more powers than they did in the first book -- at one point, they are almost god-like with their magic.

The novel's saving graces are Citro's superb characterization, his deepening of the Gentry's mythological roots (as well as their collective role in the world) and the last hundred or so pages which explode with supernatural carnage, violence and other sexualized horror.

If you are interested in reading this, I would recommend checking it out from a library before buying it -- unless it is for a bargain-basement price or you are a fan of Citro's writing who must own everything he has published.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Heretics of Dune by Frank Herbert

(1984: fifth book in the Dune Chronicles)

From the inside flap

". . . the planet Arrakis--now called Rakis--is becoming desert again. The Lost Ones are returning home from the far reaches of space. The great sandworms are dying. And the children of Dune's children awaken from empire as from a dream, wielding the new power of a heresy called love."


Review

Heretics is a good, slow-build read. Leto II has been dead for thousands of years. The Bene Gesserit and the Bene Tleilaxu are still engaged in power struggles with each other whilst squelching insurrection within their own ranks. Other groups, including the wild and sexual Honored Matres, have entered this cautious lead-up to war. (The Honored Matres are intent on supplanting the Gesserit Sisterhood and the Tleilaxu.)

Not only that, a young girl (Sheeana) -- a possible descendant of Siona, who helped bring Leto II down -- and a recent Duncan Idaho ghola are showing signs of rebellion, whom the Gesserit and the other groups must control or kill.

Heretics has some interesting characters, Herbert's usual epic-minded writing and potent, series-changing twists, making this a worthwhile entry in the Dune series. For Dune purists who love the Atreides storyline but not the other group politics, I would suggest borrowing it from your local library first (if you are so inclined).

Followed by Chapterhouse: Dune.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Feverish Fiction issue #2 (January 2017) edited by Michael Faun

(2017; dark/horror/speculative fiction magazine. Published by Sleazy Viking Press.)

Overall review:

The second, limited-run issue of Feverish Fiction is even better than the first. The magazine has expanded its works to include an oddball, chuckle-worthy cartoon (by Justin A. Mank), as well as several pin-ups (in various thematic states of undress). And, of course, there are B-movie-esque stories and a poem to further entertain its readers. It is worth owning, if you are an adult fan of small press magazines and bordering-on-bizarre horror and sex works.

Stories, other works:

1.) "Canvasses" - Lucas Mangum: The phrase "living art" becomes a media-strange reality in this short, sexualized work. Good read.


2.) "A Virgin Among the Frankenwitches" - Alex S. Johnson: A woman (Leelah) discovers that being pursued by would-be rapists and murderers is not the worst imaginable fate. This appears to be a fun, fairy tale-esque hybrid-homage to Jess Franco's cinematic works (or at least one of them).


3.) "In the Dungeon" - K.A. Opperman: Lust, skeletons and BDSM highlight this sensory-intense poem.


4.) "Story of Spaceship, 12 Little Men Probed Today" - Joe Dorris: Amusing news story about a strange 1955 occurrence centering around an alien attack.


5.) "Other Me" - C.M. Saunders: The appearance of a man's doppelgänger presages his dark, twisty end.


6.) "The Happiest Place On. . . Well You Know" - S. Nycole Laff: Satirical take on the shambling undead and Disneyland -- funny and hues-close-to-nightmare-reality story. This is my favorite work in this issue.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Shadow Child by Joseph A. Citro

(pb; 1987: prequel to Guardian Angels)

From the back cover

"Eric Nolan is a man already too familiar with death. His brother's disappearance, the loss of his parents, and his wife's recent demise have left him near the edge. In desperation he returns to his boyhood home, his grandparents' farm in rural Vermont, now occupied by his cousin Pamela and her family. But Eric's solace is short-lived. Something terrible is going on in the woods nearby; its center seems to be a mysterious stone structure. The mystery deepens as people begin to vanish. As baffling incidents continue, it becomes harder to deny that a powerful malevolent force is at work in the Green Mountains. Eric must confront a reality he can neither accept not deny."


Review

Shadow Child is an excellent, fast-paced 'horror in a small Vermont town' novel that brings together fairy tale-esque terror, occasional gore and well-written characters. Given its familiar storyline and its other genre limitations, it is not a landmark work. It is, however, a top-notch genre work for its superb writing, mounting sense of menace and entertaining effect.



Fans of Gary Brandner's Howling trilogy and Stephen King's early works may want to check this out.


Followed by Guardian Angels.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Triple by Ken Follett

(pb; 1979)

From the back cover

"EGYPT -- where, hidden deep in the desert, a top secret project to build a nuclear plant that will give the Arabs 'the bomb' nears completion.


"ISRAEL -- where the Mossad's number one agent, Nat Dickstein, the master of disguise and deceit, is given the impossible mission: to beat the Arabs in the nuclear arms race by finding and stealing 200 tons of uranium without any other nation discovering the theft.

"RUSSIA -- where top KGB officials have decided to tip the atomic balance in Egypt's favor.

"ENGLAND -- where Dickstein makes what could be the fatal mistake of his career by falling under the seductive spell of Suza Ashford, the dazzling, dark-haired beauty who may be his dearest ally or deadliest enemy.

"THE HIGH SEAS -- where the Mossad, KGB, Egyptians and Fadayeen terrorists play out the final violent, bloody moves in this devastating game where the price of failure is nuclear holocaust."


Review

Triple is an entertaining and excellent political thriller. Its timeline spans from 1948 to 1968, with interesting [if familiar] characters and a swift-moving plot revolving around its central character, Nat Dickstein, whose key goal is to steal uranium for the Israelis. If you are looking for a deep-thoughts read, Triple is probably not the book you are looking for – however, if you are looking for a slick, well-written novel with a slam-bang James Bond-eseque finish, this is a book worth owning.