Holy hell, what a wonderful space opera. Perfect? No, but it's flaws are exactly those beautiful, high-energy imperfections that characterize the bestHoly hell, what a wonderful space opera. Perfect? No, but it's flaws are exactly those beautiful, high-energy imperfections that characterize the best, pulpiest pulp.
The Shattering collects a trilogy consisting of Lords of Fire, Sons of Terra, and Kings of Oblivion, three books that exist within the same universe as some of Plexico's other work. While his other books, as I understand, focus on the godlike beings that inhabit the galaxy of the future, this trilogy looks at the "boots on the ground" soldiers and generals who suffer the effects of the gods' various machinations. The only real gripe I've got is that since virtually all the characters in the book are soldiers and not civilians, you never really get a sense of what the future civilization is like that they're trying to protect.
I picked this up at Van's panel at DragonCon 2016 and started reading it in one of the endless lines for some other program. I don't often read a series straight through, but I did this time and I'm glad. The thing works as one gigantic pulpy novel and even though it wraps up all the plotlines it needs to, it drops enough hints about other goings-on in the past and future of Plexico's universe that I'm going to have to add the rest of his books to my reading list. Thanks, Van....more
Absolutely loved The Shadow Hero. Yang and Liew do a tribute to a forgotten Golden Age character who was likely the first Chinese super hero, and flesAbsolutely loved The Shadow Hero. Yang and Liew do a tribute to a forgotten Golden Age character who was likely the first Chinese super hero, and flesh it out with a wealth of Asian-American culture and heritage. But instead of making it a dry, preachy, "important book about the Asian-American experience" they instead go for a fun, pulpy, and frequently hilarious story. (The Green Turtle's mother carries most of the comedic weight in her attempts to engineer "accidents" to grant her son super-powers.) I don't know if there's a second volume in the works or not - The Shadow Hero stands on its own two narrative feet as a self-contained, cinematic adventure, but I'd love a sequel....more
A fun, if immensely disposable, collection of non-Judge Dredd stories from 2000 A.D.. The artwork is consistently good, but the writing is wildly incoA fun, if immensely disposable, collection of non-Judge Dredd stories from 2000 A.D.. The artwork is consistently good, but the writing is wildly inconsistent. One problem with the anthology is that the stories are arranged more or less in order of publication, putting two almost unreadable stories, "The Visible Man" and "Colony: Earth" right in the front and the better work towards the back. Grant Morrison is listed on the cover, but his contribution is one of the shortest in the collection. The best of the bunch, and the only one I'd be eager to re-read, is Paul Cornell's brilliant "Xtinct," especially the hilarious chapter told from the point of view of a frustrated velociraptor....more
A fun, if disposable, romp through the classic characters of ERB. The strength of this collection is in the enthusiasm of the contributing writers andA fun, if disposable, romp through the classic characters of ERB. The strength of this collection is in the enthusiasm of the contributing writers and the way it introduces the reader to the scope of Burroughs' work. I, for instance, have always been a John Carter fan but have never dipped into any of Burroughs' other series. Now I'm more interested in doing so.
The problem with tribute stories in which one author apes a classic writer's style is that it can lead to highlighting the classic author's weaknesses instead of their strengths. For straight ERB-emulation, Mike Resnick gets away with it better than all the others in the collection. In my mind, though, Burroughs' greatest strength was in his world-building, so the stories I enjoyed most in this anthology were those in which the authors let more of their own voice show through while expanding on Burroughs' creations.
In particular, my top pics for this anthology are the two Pellucidar stories - one by Mercedes Lackey and the other by F. Paul Wilson. Burroughs' Pellucidar books weren't previously on my to-read list; they are now....more
Now that was fun. The stories in this collection were published contemporaneously with the ones in the "official" first volume of Silverberg's collectNow that was fun. The stories in this collection were published contemporaneously with the ones in the "official" first volume of Silverberg's collected works, To Be Continued. The difference seems to be that the ones contained herein are stories that Silverberg likes, but is slightly embarrassed by, such as the two-part serial "Cosmic Kill" or the wonderfully titled "Vampires from Outer Space." Virtually none of these stories were originally published under Silverberg's real name, but instead appeared under a plethora of random pseudonyms shared with many other work-for-hire writers.
Frankly, I loved every page of it. Yes, it's bubblegum, but it's excellent bubblegum. I also found it to be the perfect antidote to much of the over-literary MFA short fiction appearing in SF today.
START RANT // Look, there's a ton of good SF short fiction being written right now, but there's also stuff that's so artsy it might as well be Vogon Poetry, and I swear to GOD that if I read one more short story written in 2nd Person instead of 1st or 3rd, I'm going to vomit. // END RANT
I'm looking forward to Vol. 2 of the "serious" Silverberg, but In the Beginning is an anthology I can certainly see myself returning to when I'm once again in a Retro mood....more
What. Absolute. Dreck. And such a disappointment too, since Campbell is so revered by other science fiction authors for his editorial work on AstoundiWhat. Absolute. Dreck. And such a disappointment too, since Campbell is so revered by other science fiction authors for his editorial work on Astounding. When I subscribed to it in its later incarnation as Analog, I eventually got tired of it when it seemed that it was nothing but fiction for engineers, by engineers, about engineers. Now I see the roots of that go deep.
So why is this book so bad? Imagine Star Wars if the scene where the rebel leader explains the Death Star plans went on for two hours and the rest of the movie lasted five minutes. That's what each of the three novellas in this book are like. Campbell has no characters, just mouthpieces to explain how the machines work. He has some interesting ideas, but he doesn't know which ideas those are and spends all his time on the wrong ones. For example: in the midst of a first contact situation on Venus, surrounded by an alien city on an alien planet, Campbell spends - I kid you not - three pages explaining how the Venusian elevator works. The elevator.
I plowed on in the hopes that the later stories would improve as Campbell grew as a writer, knowing that this was some of his early stuff. The stories do get progressively better, but Campbell never gets over his "machines are more interesting than people" fetish and the stories don't get good enough to warrant spending any time on them....more
Science fiction comics of the 1950s are something of an acquired taste for the modern reader, but if you've acquired it then this collection is a pretScience fiction comics of the 1950s are something of an acquired taste for the modern reader, but if you've acquired it then this collection is a pretty good vintage. Wally Wood was an artist of whom I was previously unfamiliar, but apparently every single "retro" science fiction image I've seen in my life is somehow referencing his original artwork, which was far more detailed and expressive than that of the generic aliens and flying saucer comics I'd previously enjoyed.
Yes, the writing is pretty lousy (god-awful in many cases) but that's not why you'd pick up a volume like this and you know it. Rockets! Alien worlds! Sexy space vixens! Jungles on Venus! Ice monsters on Pluto! Cavemen and dinosaurs, for crying out loud! And all without an ounce of irony or self-consciousness. Even for someone who wasn't alive in the Fifties, this collection cranks the nostalgia knob up to 11....more
"The Rocketeer" is an infuriating graphic novel, because it makes you realize two things: 1) Dave Stevens is dead, and 2) he didn't produce very many"The Rocketeer" is an infuriating graphic novel, because it makes you realize two things: 1) Dave Stevens is dead, and 2) he didn't produce very many comics when he was alive. As a period-piece pulp action adventure, the Rocketeer is astounding, and the artwork is breathtaking. This was truly one of the great hidden gems of the 80's independent comic scene - a little too well hidden, in my opinion. I was a comic book fiend when the movie came out in 1991, and I didn't learn until years later that it was actually based on a comic.
I see that a lot of reviewers on Goodreads complain about the lack of story. The problem is that collecting all the various Rocketeer strips into a single bound volume puts them in the wrong context - that of a unified graphic novel. These started out as 12-page backup comics that appeared in a variety of anthologies from an assortment of publishers, with an incredibly uneven and inconsistent publication schedule. In those conditions, Stevens had no way to know if the "next" chapter following any given issue would even see print, and had to assume that any given chapter was the first that an individual reader had come across. As such, he had to keep the narrative as simple as possible and throw everything he could into the art and the sense of adventure, which he did.
The Rocketeer ends abruptly, and it's obvious that Stevens had more stories to tell. Thank God and Dark Horse that the final chapter collected here finally did see print in 1995 (six years after the cliffhanger that led into it) or the Rocketeer may have truly been relegated to the dusty 25c-bins of history....more
Solomon Kane is arguably Robert Howard’s most original creation. Most of his others were boxers, cowboys, or barbarian kings, but 16th century PuritanSolomon Kane is arguably Robert Howard’s most original creation. Most of his others were boxers, cowboys, or barbarian kings, but 16th century Puritan swordsman Kane stands alone. Of all Howard’s characters he’s certainly the most selfless – but more than that, he’s an obsessive fanatic willing to scour the ends of the earth righting wrongs, which most of the time involves avenging the death of people who are total strangers to him. Unlike Conan or Kull, Kane seems to have no desires for himself, other than to walk the earth and kick ass. The stories in this volume are all good, rip-roaring pulp adventures; my only warning is that they haven’t aged as well as Howard’s other work because of the racism that comes through in the writing.
Let’s lay it out there: Howard was a Southern white guy from a small Texas town in the beginning of the 20th century. Of course he was racist. So were my grandparents, and (I suspect) many other writers of the era who are held in high reverence. However, whereas many writers of the day simply avoided having black characters appear in their stories at all, Howard takes Kane on an odyssey across Africa, and his portrayal of its inhabitants does not hold up to modern scrutiny. In a few instances the Africans are portrayed as villains, but more often they are the victims who Kane protects from oppressors.
Nevertheless, Howard for the most part depicts them as a “lesser race.” Whenever Kane encounters the ruins of ancient civilizations in Africa, they are always the work of non-African peoples, such as Atlanteans or Assyrians. The only black character who is portrayed as anything approaching Kane’s equal is the West African shaman N’Longa – but that character falls into the old “magical Negro” stereotype (google it) and is the exception rather than the rule.
The Solomon Kane stories do shine with originality and some of Howard’s best poetry, but every now and then he drops a race-bomb, such as this passage from the otherwise fantastic story “Wings in the Night” –
…the ancient empires fall, the dark-skinned peoples fade and even the demons of antiquity gasp their last, but over all stands the Aryan barbarian, white-skinned, cold-eyed, dominant, the supreme fighting man of the earth…
(slaps face and shakes head)
So – a good and necessary read for the Howard fan, but not the place to begin for newcomers. ...more