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

Essential Marvel: 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.

<em>Phantom</em> by Jo Nesbø

(hb;  2011, 2012: ninth novel in the Inspector Harry Hole series. Translated from the Norwegian by Don Bartlett .) From the back cover...