Saturday, August 19, 2017

Doctor Who and the Face of Evil by Terrance Dicks

(1978: twenty-fifth book in the Doctor Who series. Based on Chris Boucher's teleplay.)

From the back cover

"Setting the controls for Earth, the Fourth Doctor is surprised when the Tardis lands in a primeval forest. Has the Tracer gone wrong or has some impulse deep in the unconscious mind directed him to this alien planet? In investigating the forest, the Doctor meets and assists Leela, a warrior banished from her tribe, the Sevateem. Through Leela, it gradually becomes apparent that the constant war between the Sevateem and the Tesh has been instigated by the god they both worship, Xoanon.

"Xoanon, an all-powerful computer, is possessed by a desperate madness – a madness that is directly related to Doctor Who, that causes Xoanon to assume the voice and form of the Doctor, a madness that is partly caused by the Doctor and that only the Doctor himself can rectify!

"The Doctor must not only do battle with Xoanon, but also must escape from the savage practices of the Sevateem, and the technically mind-controlling destructive impulses of the Tesh."
 



Review

Face is an entertaining, word-lean, plot-swift and sometimes humorous science fiction novel that reflects its source television episodes. It is an excellent adaptation, one worth owning.

#

The four-part television serial this novel is based on aired on the BBC channel between January 1st and 22nd, 1977. Pennant Roberts directed it, from Chris Boucher's teleplay. 

Tom Baker played The Doctor. Louise Jameson played Leela. Brendan Price played Tomas. 

Leslie Schofield played Calib. David Garfield played Neeva. Leon Eagles played Jabel. Mike Elles played Gentek. Peter Baldock played "Acolyte". Roy Herrick provided the voice of Xoanon.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

In the Miso Soup by Ryû Murakami

(pb; 1997, 2003. Translated from Japanese to English by Ralph McCarthy.)

From the back cover

"It is just before New Year's. Frank, an overweight American tourist, has hired Kenji to take him on a guided tour of Tokyo's sleazy nightlife on three successive evenings. But Frank's behavior is so strange that Kenji begins to entertain a horrible suspicion: that his new client is in fact the serial killer currently terrorizing the city. It isn't until later, however, that Kenji learns exactly how much he has to fear and how irrevocably his encounter with this great white whale of an American will change his life."


Review

Miso is an unsettling, excellent and off-beat take on the serial killer theme, with an oddball villain (of sorts), personal and provocative notions of politics and culture, darkly engaging and repulsive points of views, with occasional displays of Grand Guignol splatter. This book is one of my all-time favorite serial killer reads, unafraid to break established horror structures.

Friday, August 11, 2017

The Drowning Pool by Ross Macdonald

(1950; second book in the Lew Archer series)

From the back cover

"When a millionaire matriarch is found floating face-down in the family pool, the prime suspects are her good-for-nothing son and his seductive teenage daughter. . . Lew Archer takes this case in the L.A. suburbs and encounters a moral wasteland of corporate greed and family hatred--and sufficient motive for a dozen murders."

Review

Drowning, like its predecessor (The Moving Target), is a tightly plotted and fast-moving P.I. novel. In this case, Archer finds himself in a tangled web of twisted family dynamics, greed and disturbing violence. As he separates and figures out the skeins of these elements of human darkness, his empathy, philosophical and sharply stated, provides a sense of justice in an otherwise tragic chain of events. It is excellent, worth owning.

Followed by The Way Some People Die.

#

The resulting film was released stateside on July 18, 1975. It was directed by Stuart Rosenberg, from a screenplay by Tracy Keenan Wynn, Lorenzo Semple Jr., Walter Hill and an uncredited Eric Roth.(Rosenberg also directed Paul Newman in the 1967 film Cool Hand Luke.)

Paul Newman reprised his role of Lew Harper, the cinematic version of Lew Archer. Joanne Woodward, Newman's real life wife, played Iris Devereaux. Melanie Griffith played Schuyler Devereaux. Andrew Robinson, billed as Andy Robinson, played Paul Reavis. Coral Browne played Olivia Devereaux. 

Murray Hamilton played J.J. Kilbourne. Gail Strickland played Mavis Kilbourne. Anthony Franciosa, billed as Tony Franciosa, played Broussard. Richard Jaeckel played Franks. Paul Koslo played Candy. Helena Kallianiotes played Elaine Reavis.


Friday, August 04, 2017

Feverish Fiction issue #5 (April 2017) edited by Michael Faun

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

Overall review

The fifth limited-run issue of Feverish continues in the pulpy, speculative vein of its previous periodicals. Of course, there are the usual female pin-ups in various states of undress, whose themes often reflect the works of the authors. It is worth owning, if you are an adult fan of small press magazines and bordering-on-bizarre sex works.


Stories, other works

Orlock’s Mirror” – Adam Millard: A Nosferatu-esque showman welcomes a fresh guest to his home. Fun, reader-as-said-guest story.

Blood Fetishist” – Lee Clark Zumpe: Bloodplay graces another versework – solid poem, some especially good word pairings.

Aleena the Pitiful She-DevilPart One” – Lucas Mangum: Action-impelled, exciting tale about a barbarian warrior [Aleena] fighting a horde of graveyard creatures.

Cosmic Auto-Trauma” – S.C. Burke: Stream-of-consciousness apocalypse work.

Beauties in Black” – K.A. Opperman: Solid, rhyming BDSM poem.

Monday, July 31, 2017

The Moving Target by Ross MacDonald

(pb; 1949: first book in the Lew Archer series)

From the back cover

"Like many Southern California millionaires, Ralph Sampson keeps odd company. There's the sun-worshipping holy man whom Sampson once gave his very own mountain; the fading actress with sidelines in astrology and S&M. Now one of Sampson's friends may have arranged his kidnapping.

"As Lew Archer follows the clues from the canyon sanctuaries of the megarich to jazz joints where you get beaten up between sets, The Moving Target blends sex, greed, and family hatred into an explosively readable crime novel."



Review

Moving is a lean, tightly plotted and fast-moving P.I. novel with snappy dialogue, underlying sexual tension and quick-sketch, sketchy characters. It is excellent, dark and worth owning. Followed by The Drowning Pool.

#

The resulting film, Harper, was released stateside on April 9, 1966. It was directed by Jack Smight, from a screenplay by William Goldman.

Paul Newman played Lew Harper, the cinematic counterpart to Lew Archer. Lauren Bacall played Mrs. Sampson. Arthur Hill played Albert Graves. Janet Leigh played Susan Harper.

Pamela Tiffin played Miranda Sampson. Robert Wagner played Allan Taggert. Julie Harris played Betty Fraley. Tom Steele played Eddie Fraley. 

Robert Webber played Dwight Troy. Shelley Winters played Fay Estabrook. Roy Jenson played Puddler. Strother Martin played Claude.

Eugene Inglesias played Felix. Richard Carlyle played Fred Platt. Harold Gould played "Sheriff".

Thursday, July 27, 2017

The Man From St. Petersburg by Ken Follett

(pb; 1982)

From the back cover

"His name was Feliks.  He came to London to commit a murder that would change history.  A master manipulator, he had many weapons at his command, but against him were ranged the whole of the English police, a brilliant and powerful lord, and the young Winston Churchill himself.  These odds would have stopped any man in the world-except the man from St. Petersburg."


Review

Petersburg is a good political thriller, with romance, political and social upheaval, history and assassination. It is set in England in the summer of 1914. Its beginning is solid, with a lot of character and story set-up. About the middle it becomes more fast-paced and exciting, with an ending that does not disappoint. Worthwhile read, this – it would not be a bad way to spend an afternoon at the beach (or wherever).

Sunday, July 09, 2017

Things I Do When I'm Awake by Will Viharo

(pb; 2016. Published by Thrillville Press.)

From the back cover

"Things I Do When I’m Awake is erotic horror noir distilled into a surrealistic mood piece, a series of confessional prose poems that are psychologically complex, sensually stimulating, and emotionally challenging, collectively conveying a seductive nightmare. . ."

Review

The back cover blurb is a good description of this short, intense work, which takes on bold themes of fractured-but-well-meant maternal instincts, rape (emotional and otherwise) and other forms of violence, while maintaining a plot pushing is-this-a-dream-state feel. Things is an experimental and more personal than usual novella (for the author), meaning this will not appeal to readers looking for something light and formulaic.(Viharo's works are not formulaic.) 

If you are willing to enter this distinctive darkness, and appreciate short, sharp and troubling kicks to the brain (entertainment-wise), chances are this would be a worthwhile purchase for you.

Tuesday, July 04, 2017

War for the Planet of the Apes: Revelations by Greg Keyes

(pb; 2017: prequel to the film/movie novelization War for the Planet of the Apes by Greg Cox)

From the back cover

"Driven from their woodland home, Caesar and his apes are still recovering from the takeover by renegade ape Koba. Caesar is desperate to avoid war with the humans, but this is a faint hope, as his enemies are about to receive military reinforcements headed by the ruthless Colonel McCullough.

"While trying to hold off McCullough's soldiers, Caesar sends his son Blue Eyes on a mission to the south to try to find a safe haven for the apes, despite rumors of terrible things happening there. Meanwhile, the supporters of Koba's revolt are spreading dissent among Caesar's ranks."


Review

Revelations is an excellent, entertaining and humane novel that bridges the timeline between Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014) and War of the Planet of the Apes (2017). It starts off as a steady build read and around the middle it kicks into high gear with plenty of oh no cliffhanger moments that continue on to the end of the book.  Revelations ends on satisfactory note, one pregnant with future drama and violence that will, no doubt, be shown in the next film/movie tie-in.

As with previous Ape titles, it has many of the characters from the previous film (as well as Rise of the Planet of the Apes, 2011). Eagle-eyed readers may spot a lot of references to the "classic" Apes films, e.g., Ursus, Armand, etc., which added -- for this reader -- to the enjoyment of Revelations.

Is this worth owning, if you are a fan of the Apes franchise? Heck, yes. Even if you are not, it might prove to be a fun read, one worth checking out from your local library. =)

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Splatterpunk zine (issue 8) edited by Jack Bantry

(2017; horror/speculative fiction zine)


Overall review

If you are looking for a zine that lives up to its title, this might be a worthwhile purchase for you. The writing is raw and engaging, in a viscous, splatterific and dark-hearted way. Not only that, there are interviews with authors Ray Garton, David Agranoff and Sean Leonard.


Stories

1.)  "Reprising Her Role" -- Bracken MacLeod: A porno shoot goes awry, leading to revenge and death. Solid story, well-written.


2.)  "NSFW" -- Nathan Robinson: Vivid and gory scene showing office sex taken to new, ultraviolent levels. Visually, it recalls the spirit of David Cronenberg's 1975 film Shivers. Readers who want to know the cause and backstory of events being shown may be disappointed, since "NSFW" does not provide that satisfaction -- it reads like a good first-draft writing exercise.


3.) "Two Blocks Down, One Block Left" -- Ryan C. Thomas: Excellent, intriguing work about a skinless man who hangs out near school yards. This is my favorite story in this issue.


4.)  "Dermatobia Hominis" -- Gabino Inglesias: A young man's sins inspire a slow, terrible punishment. Good tale, entertaining.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Quicksand House by Carlton Mellick III

(pb; 2013)

From the back cover

"Tick and Polly have never met their parents before. They live in the same house with them, they dream about them every night, they share the same flesh and blood, yet for some reason their parents have never found the time to visit them even once since they were born. Living in a dark corner of their parents' vast crumbling mansion, the children long for the day when they will finally be held in their mother's loving arms for the first time... But that day seems to never come. They worry their parents have long since forgotten about them.

"When the machines that provide them with food and water stop functioning, the children are forced to venture out of the nursery to find their parents on their own. But the rest of the house is much larger and stranger than they ever could have imagined. The maze-like hallways are dark and seem to go on forever, deranged creatures lurk in every shadow, and the bodies of long-dead children litter the abandoned storerooms. Every minute out of the nursery is a constant battle for survival. And the deeper into the house they go, the more they must unravel the mysteries surrounding their past and the world they've grown up in, if they ever hope to meet the parents they've always longed to see."



Review

Quicksand is an excellent mixture of mystery, science fiction, horror and bizarro fiction, one worth owning. What Mellick has that so many other bizarro authors lack is tight editing, good characterization (which lends itself to a strange sense warmth, bond between key characters) and a willingness to experiment with genre expectations. This is one of my favorite reads of 2017.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Feverish Fiction issue #4 (March 2017) edited by Michael Faun

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


Overall review

Any magazine whose "Editor's Note" is made up of the lyrics to The Kinks' "Welcome to Sleazy Town" is bound to be interesting (in a good way).


Of course, it comes as not surprise that the fourth, limited-run issue of Feverish Fiction is just as entertaining as its previous issues. A few of the B-flick horror/science fiction stories did not grab me, but it was a matter of personal preference, not faulty writing.  

In addition, there is the usual (semi-)nude female pin-ups, whose themes run between Seventies schtick and Hammer Film Gothicity. One of the high points of this issue is Terry Bizarro's colorful, gory painting ("Unigore Forest"), a memorable piece of art.

This is worth purchasing, if you are an adult fan of small press magazines and horror, science fiction and sex microfiction.


Stories, other works

1.) "Amidst the Mangrove" (poem) -- Lee Clark Zumpe: Solid, chatty "island of strange horror"-themed versework.


2.)  "The Occult Gate of the Comic Book Writer" (story) - Jerry Williams: A comic book writer's work inspires Lovecraftian consequences. Fun, entertaining work that made me think of the 1994 John Carpenter film In the Mouth of Madness.


3.)  "Automaton Word Wounds" (story) -- S.C. Burke:Stream-of-consciousness prose poem about typing, gore and other cerebral matters.


4.)  "The Penis Goblins" (poem) -- Justin A. Mank: Okay limerick about dangerous creatures with lusty, bloody hobbies.


5.)  "Planet of the Volcano Spiders" (story) -- Alex S. Johnson: Quirky, funny and sexy tale about a woman whose possible gig as a literal sacrifice impels her to practical action. This is an excellent read, with a heroine worth rooting for.


6.)  "Statue Playmate" (story) -- Donald Armfield: A freaky brutal rape by a dwarf is not the worst thing that could happen, as one woman finds out.

#

The sixth and final issue of Feverish Fiction is on sale now. If you are interested in buying a copy, best jump to it, because -- as noted above -- each issue is a limited-run work, and they sell out fast.

Friday, May 05, 2017

Lovecraft Country by Matt Ruff

(hb; 2016)

From the back cover

"Chicago, 1954. When his father Montrose goes missing, twenty-two year old Army veteran Atticus Turner embarks on a road trip to New England to find him, accompanied by his Uncle George—publisher of The Safe Negro Travel Guide—and his childhood friend Letitia. On their journey to the manor of Mr. Braithwhite—heir to the estate that owned Atticus’s great grandmother—they encounter both mundane terrors of white America and malevolent spirits that seem straight out of the weird tales George devours.

"At the manor, Atticus discovers his father in chains, held prisoner by a secret cabal named the Order of the Ancient Dawn—led by Samuel Braithwhite and his son Caleb—which has gathered to orchestrate a ritual that shockingly centers on Atticus. And his one hope of salvation may be the seed of his—and the whole Turner clan’s—destruction."



Review

 Lovecraft is an entertaining, mainstream and cinematic collection of event- and character-linked stories that seamlessly weaves Lovecraftian horror, leavening humor and racial violence into a word-efficient tale with a climax that brings together all the characters and plot strings that came before it. This is an excellent fractured novel, one of my favorite reads of 2017.

#

In May 2017, it was announced that Lovecraft will soon be the basis for a forthcoming HBO horror anthology series, produced by Jordan Peele, J.J.Abrams and Misha Green.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Chapterhouse: Dune by Frank Herbert

(pb; 1985: sixth book in the Dune Chronicles)

From the back cover

"The desert planet Arrakis, called Dune, has been destroyed. Now, the Bene Gesserit, heirs to Dune's power, have colonized a green world--and are turning it into a desert, mile by scorched mile."


Review

Chapterhouse is an okay book. Herbert maintains the word sly, character-based pacing of the previous Dune novels -- this time out, though, the slow-build storyline runs a few chapters longer than it should. The power struggles (altered by the events and characters of the previous book, Heretics of Dune) are still intriguing in parts and the finale is thrilling on all levels, but the middle section of Chapterhouse feels like a slog-through read, one that could have been as good as most of the other Dune entries.

This is worth reading if you are a Dune completist. (I would suggest borrowing it from your local library before committing cash to it.) If you are a casual fan, save your time and money for something better.


Followed by the first Prelude to Dune novel, House Atreides, by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson.

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.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Dog Eat Dog by Edward Bunker

(hb; 1996)

From the back cover

"Dog Eat Dog, Bunker's fourth novel, follows Troy Cameron, a reformatory graduate like Bunker. A terrifying and brutal narrative, the novel tracks his lawless spree in the company of two other reform school alumni, Diesel Carson and Mad Dog Cain. . ."


Review

Caveat: Do not read this book if you are put off by racial epithets (which ring character-true), sexism, graphic brutality, ex-con honesty and noiresque endings.

Dog
is a compelling, nihlistic crime thriller with fated, larger-than-life characters, raw language and violence, and other human-born darkness that contribute to the lead characters' certain doom. Its pace is swift, its prison-harsh rules ironclad and its bloodshed repentless (in regards to the characters inflicting said punishments). This is an excellent, rings-true read, one worth owning if you like your genre thrills gritty, wild and black-as-tar. Dog is one of my favorite reads of 2017.


#

The film version was released stateside on November 11, 2016. Paul Schrader (who also played Alex Aris, a.k.a. "El Greco") directed the film. Matthew Wilder wrote the screenplay.

Nicolas Cage played Troy Cameron. Christopher Matthew Cook played Charles "Diesel" Carson. Willem Dafoe played Gerald "Mad Dog" McCain.

Robert Maples played Jimmy the Face. Louisa Krause played Zoe. Reynaldo Gallegos played Chepe. Louis Perez played Mike Brennan. Magi Avila played "Nanny" [to Brennan's infant].

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Halloween III: Season of Witch by Jack Martin

(pb; 1982: movie tie-in novel. Based on the screenplay and film directed by Tommy Lee Wallace.)

From the back cover

"Do you know where your kids are tonight?

"The streets are quiet. Dead quiet as the shadows lengthen and night falls. It's Halloween. Blood-chilling screams pierce the air. Grinning skulls and grotesque shapes lurk in the gathering darkness. It's Halloween. The streets are filling with small cloaked figures. They're just kids, right? The doorbell rings and your flesh creeps. But it's all in fun, isn't it?

"No. This Halloween is different.

"It's the last one."


Review

Halloween III sports a fun, fast-moving storyline (as it should, given its source film). Martin, who also penned Halloween IIagain lays thick the Samhain dread, occasional gore and B-flick cheesiness -- and, for the most part, it works. (In the beginning of the book, Martin makes Challis's thoughts a bit too melodramatic -- I write this, bearing in mind that Challis is an alcoholic whose life is in lonely, sad freefall. . . thankfully, Challis's over-the-top self-pity and loathing of corporatism make up less than a quarter of III.)

This is worth reading and owning, if you can overlook the above criticism and enjoy unrepentant, sometimes wondrous B-movie cheesiness (in whatever form it takes).

III is followed by the barely-connected-if-at-all Halloween IV, another movie tie-in novel -- this one penned by Nicholas Grabowsky. (Note that the film's alternate title is Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers.)

#

The film, upon which the novel is based, was released stateside on October 22, 1982. Tommy Lee Wallace scripted and directed the truly-a-B-movie flick.

Tom Atkins played Daniel Challis. Stacey Nelkin played Ellie Grimbridge. Dan O'Herlihy played Conal Cochran. Michael Currie played Rafferty. 

Note: Series creators John Carpenter and Debra Hill had envisioned the Halloween films, whose first film centered around Michael Myers, to go beyond that iconic serial killer. The Halloween movies -- however many there were -- would revolve around the holiday in a creepy, thematic way, with different stories and different characters.

When Halloween became an unexpected hit, a sequel was expected by the studio that released it, so Carpenter and Hill, with much reluctance, caved to the studio's wishes and scripted the Myers-centric Halloween II.

Halloween III did not do well at the box office. Fans were confused by the absence of Michael Myers in this second sequel, so they did not go to see it. Or, if they did, they often bad-mouthed it. This put the kibosh on Carpenter and Hill's original vision. (Years later, Halloween III would be regarded by many as a cult classic.)

The next sequel, Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers, was released stateside on October 21, 1988. As indicated by its title, the series had succumbed to the unimaginative pressure of its short-sighted fans and its producers and every Halloween film since then has featured Michael Myers.

Sunday, April 09, 2017

Feverish Fiction issue #3 (February 2017) edited by Michael Faun

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

Overall review

The third, limited-run issue of Feverish Fiction is maintains the same high quality of the magazine's first two issues. Once again, there are BDSM-themed pin-ups and science fiction/horror-centric artwork, in addition to the B-flick entertaining writing. It is worth owning, if you are an adult fan of small press magazines and horror, science fiction and sex microfiction.


Stories, other works


1.)  "Mistress Daemona" - K.A. Opperman: Solid, if familiar-scenario BDSM versework about a Domme.


2.)  "Serial Serendipity" - Patrick Winters: Love the title. A serial killer, stalking his new victim, gets a surprise -- fun, well-written microtale.


3.)  "Saturday Night Cinema Club" - S.C. Burke: Nightmarish, hallucinatory take on movie theaters, with a commentary on society thrown into the horrific, viscous clusterfrak.


4.)  "The Black Light Glyphs" - Manchester Moore: Multi-section piece about a boy who may have disturbing, deadly predilections.


5.)  "The Old Spying Game" - James McLachlan: A fledgling supervillain's plan of global domination hits a snag when he gets an unexpected visitor. Good, genre-veracious parody of a 1960s spy thriller.

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.