Wednesday, October 28, 2015

**Michael Koenig's Like Venus was published on the Microstory A Week site

Michael Koenig's sex nasty, pulp-noirish Like Venus graced the Microstory A Week site today. 

This neo-pulp story, which details the machinations a porn-minded, scheming criminal, recalls the works of Gil Brewer and Donald E. Westlake.

 Next week's story: M.J. Iuppa's epigrammatic and analytical Defining Even.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Bone: Out of Boneville by Jeff Smith

(pb; 1991, 1994, 2005: graphic novel, collecting the first six issues of the comic book. First of nine graphic novels.)

From the back cover:

"After being run out of Boneville, the three Bone cousins -- Fone Bone, Phoney Bone, and Smiley Bone -- are separated and lost in a vast, uncharted desert. One by one, they find their way into a deep, forested valley filled with wonderful and terrifying creatures.

"Eventually, the cousins are reunited at a farmstead run by tough Gran'ma Ben and her spirited granddaughter, Thorn. But little do the Bones know, there are dark forces conspiring against them and their adventures are only beginning!"


Boneville is a fast-moving, word-spare and character-charming first collection of this children-friendly comic book, a work that had me constantly smiling and laughing. This is a great work, possibly landmark, with distinctive and equally charming artwork that further brought these characters and their world to life.

Boneville, the first of nine Bone graphic novels, is worth owning. Followed by Bone: The Great Cow Race.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Rama Revealed by Arthur C. Clarke and Gentry Lee

(1994: fourth novel in the Rama quadrilogy)

From the inside flap:

"On its mysterious voyage through interstellar space, a massive, alien starship carries its passengers to the end of a generations-long odyssey. For the great experiment conceived by the Ramans has failed. Rama III, with its carefully designed Earth habitat, as well as environments to house other intelligent species, has become a battleground.

"Instead of creating a utopia, the human contingent has brought forth a tyrant who seeks to conquer the other sectors of the vast Raman ark. Cosmonaut Nicole des Jardins, a lone voice for reason who is now jailed and awaiting execution, is aided in a daring escape by two tiny robots. On New York island, the dark, brooding and deserted city in the midst of Rama III's cylindrical sea, Nicole is reunited with her long-lost husband, Richard Wakefield, whom she'd given up for dead.

"Joined by their children and other rebels from the Earth sector, Nicole and Richard enter New York's labyrinthine underground aboard a ghostly subway hoping to find the ship's secret inner workings. What they find instead is the emerald-domed lair of the technologically advanced species that rules this fabulous subraman world: the octospiders. These arachnidlike creatures are luring Nicole and the rebels into their domain, but the Earth group is divided as to whether the octospiders are allies or enemies. . ."


Rama Revealed is a dystopian, violent and occasionally exhilarating read (especially when the octospiders, avians and other aliens are present) -- that said, there is a silver lining to this dark, sometimes horrifying fiction-themed novel, which runs chatty and long, especially in the first quarter and last twenty pages.

This is a mood-consistent, satisfactory (if often disturbing) finish to the Rama series. If you are a long-time Clarke fan, do not expect much of Clarke's usual optimism regarding humanity in this series -- except in Rendezvous with Rama, which Gentry Lee did not co-author.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

**Peter Baltensperger's Curvatures for Afternoons was published on the Microstory A Week site

Peter Baltensperger's cinematic-visual Curvatures for Afternoons graced the Microstory A Week site today. 

This is a romantic, atmospheric story, one you should check out -- and don't forget to check out next Wednesday's tale, Michael Koenig's nasty, pulp-noirish Like Venus.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Vampirella vs. Army of Darkness by Mark Rahner, Jeff Morales and others

(2015: four-issue comic book miniseries. Publisher: Dynamite.)


This is a fun, if plot-lite, read, with villains who are too easily defeated. The interior artwork is good (for computer-based art), the dialogue keeps with Ash's sarcastic tone and the boomstick/chainsaw action is plentiful. Vampirella vs. Army is worth reading, maybe owning, if you are easily entertained and do not expect too much from it.

There are variant covers for each issue. Some of the variants are relatively rare. Also, the graphic novel collecting this miniseries has not been published yet, as its fourth comic book issue was published this week.


Wednesday, October 14, 2015

**Terrance Aldon Shaw's Señor Gordo was published on Microstory A Week

Terrance Aldon Shaw's hilarious and dialogue-driven Señor Gordo graced the Microstory A Week site today. Gordo, which details the personality differences between a man and his penis, is an R-rated, for-mature-audiences story.

This is a fun, raunchy tale, one you should check out (if you are an adult with an earthy sense of humor) -- and don't forget to check out next Wednesday's tale, Peter Baltensperger's atmospheric and romantic Curvatures for Afternoons.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

The Skin Trade by George R.R. Martin

(pb; 1988: novella, published in the 2001 novella anthology Quartet)


Plot: Lycanthropic private investigator Willie Flambeaux and his partner Randi Wade investigate a series of grisly murders where the victims have had their skins flayed off in expert, swift fashion. The case leads them into the usual pulp-gumshoe themes of sex, corruption, old money and  past familial crimes.

Skin is a good, entertaining and fast-moving novella, with its sometimes humorous, sometimes bloody and violent storyline. The characters are familiar but infused with a werewolf themed twist or two, while the storyline does little else to surprise pulp-familiar readers.

The open-ended finish is satisfying in that it effectively concludes the tale, while indicating that there is much more to these characters and their stories than what is shown in Skin. Good read, this -- worth owning, if you are a fan of pulp and werewolf works.

Skin was published in the 2001 novella anthology Quartet.  I did not read any of the other works in this collection. Their titles: Black and White and Red All Over, Starport and Blood of the Dragon.


The Skin Trade is being developed as a cable series for Cinemax. Its title: George R.R. Martin's The Skin Trade.

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

**Kurt Newton's Black Dog was published on the Microstory A Week site

Kurt Newton's dark and cryptic Black Dog graced the Microstory A Week site today.
Black Dog tells the story of a wandering boy, his canine and their unusual relationship.

This is a good read, one you should check out -- and don't forget to check out next Wednesday's tale, Terrance Aldon Shaw's dialogue-driven, phallic-funny Señor Gordo.

Tuesday, October 06, 2015

The Garden of Rama by Arthur C. Clarke and Gentry Lee

(pb; 1991: third novel in the Rama quadrilogy)

From the back cover:

"By the twenty-third century Earth had already experienced two encounters with the massive, mysterious robotic spaceship from beyond our solar system -- the incontestable proof of technology that far exceeds our own. Now three human cosmonauts are trapped aboard a labyrinthine Raman vessel, where it will take all of their physical and mental resources to survive. Only twelve years into their journey do these intrepid travelers learn their destination and face their ultimate challenge: a rendezvous with a Raman base -- and the unseen architects of their galactic home. The cosmonauts have given up family, friends and possessions to live a new kind of life. But the answers that await them at the Raman Node will require an even greater sacrifice -- if humanity is indeed ready to learn the awe-inspiring truth."

The first half of Garden is Clarke's usual awe-inspiring, optimistic "hard" science fiction mixed with Lee's relatively darker and more detailed take on humanity. The second half, with its introduction of significantly more characters, becomes brutal, nasty and especially cynical (or, as I acknowledge, realistic) -- Lee's influence, I'm guessing. Fans of Clarke's work may be put off by this violent second half, but it is still well written and -- as I wrote before -- realistic, a cautionary tale that reads like current events.

Garden is an excellent follow-up read to the first two Rama books, if you do not mind its pervasive, timely darkness and its occasional glimmers of hope. Followed by Rama Revealed.

Friday, October 02, 2015

Up Against It by Joe Orton

(1967; screenplay)


Orton’s sly, madcap, sexual and plot-lite screenplay [written as a possible silver screen vehicle for the Beatles] subverts – and expands – mainstream mores with its pointed political jibes, episodic sketch-pieces and sexually suggestive, PG-fied post-coital scenes of threesomes and pre-marital sex. It reads like a distinctive product of the Swinging Sixties, and, as such, is a fast and giddy-fun experience.

I did not read Orton's 1971 posthumous novel, Head to Toe, that Against was paired with.

<em>Mother Night</em> by Kurt Vonnegut

(pb; 1961) From the back cover “ Mother Night is a daring challenge to our moral sense. American Howard W. Campbell, Jr., a spy du...