It is one of the hottest Julys on record in Worchestershire. In a time before air conditioning became common in Britain, the people are roasting in th...moreIt is one of the hottest Julys on record in Worchestershire. In a time before air conditioning became common in Britain, the people are roasting in the summer heat. So they are more bemused than frightened when it suddenly begins snowing. English weather, isn’t it funny?
Except that it doesn’t stop snowing. For days. As the temperature starts to drop, it becomes all too clear that this is not a natural phenomenon. And as the snow starts to pile up, it is noticed that it’s also radioactive. Britain is under attack by an unseen, unannounced foe with an inexplicable weapon; can science find an answer before it’s too late?
This 1955 novel is a quick read, positing a science fiction device that causes a massive environmental disaster. (J.G. Ballard would later work in the same vein to better effect.) The author works out the details of what a steady fall of snow for weeks on end would have on the infrastructure and society of 1950s Britain.
The government officials depicted in the story are remarkably competent and sensible for the disaster novel subgenre; even the American general is calm and reasonable. The memory of the Blitz is resonant in this story, as people try to muddle through as best they can (though late in the novel, the commoners start going feral.)
The main hero of the story is William Barnaby Garrett, Doctor of Science. He’s a bald, middle-aged scientist who has a thing for his secretary Mary, but more importantly, he used to work with the mad scientist the government is pretty sure is behind the snowfall. Thus, his line of research might hold clues as to how to stop the disaster.
One of the more chilling aspects of the novel is that while everyone becomes reasonably sure Hans Bruderhof, a deformed Austrian with a hatred of humanity, is responsible, he never actually appears, it is never positively proved that he did it and his accomplices if any are never figured out. There are no villainous monologues, no demands made, only a cold silence, freezing fog and the never-ending snow.. In the end, the British government is forced to have the Americans drop an atomic bomb on the presumed source of the problem. The snow stops, but Bruderhof may not have been there, and the plans for the device may still be in the hands of Britain’s enemies.
Mary, alas, is in the book mostly to be a plot device, someone to show Garrett’s humanity by having him emote to and about her. She’s not really even able to be an exposition person, as Garrett’s work is too secret for her to be kept in the loop.
There’s a lot of stereotypical British stiff upper lip going on, although some people do fold under pressure.
This would make a good summer vacation read, with its descriptions of cold and snow, but moving quickly. It’s not something I’d recommend for serious reading, and it could stand some serious expansion of the subplots (better use of the female characters for a start.)(less)
One of the fun things about fan fiction is the “crossover.” That’s where two separate fictional worlds are combined in the same story, which is genera...moreOne of the fun things about fan fiction is the “crossover.” That’s where two separate fictional worlds are combined in the same story, which is generally impossible in the source material. Having the Enterprise crew battle the Daleks, Sailor Moon teaming up with the Brady Bunch, Bella Swan falling in love with Dracula, or any other bizarre combination the fan writer can think of.
Combine this with a public domain (mostly) character like Sherlock Holmes, and you can even do professionally published crossover fan fiction. And thus this book. Each story teams Holmes with other fictional characters or real people from the time period of the stories. Some of the tales just barely qualify as crossovers with a quick reference at the end, while others pile on the characters and cameos.
There are fourteen stories, most of which are only available in this volume. “Sherlock Holmes and the Lost World” by Martin Powell, which guest stars Professor Challenger, has appeared in another anthology. Other notable tales are “The Adventure of the Fallen Stone” by Win Scott Eckert, which goes full-on Wold-Newton (a fan theory that ties together many fictional heroes with a mysterious meteorite), and “The Adventure of the Imaginary Nihilist” by Will Murray, which guest stars Richard Henry Savage, a real life person who inspired parts of both Doc Savage and the Avenger.
I particularly liked Barbara Hambly’s “The Adventure of the Sinister Chinaman”, which guest stars the Wizard of Oz…or a delusional man with a similar name. “The Adventure of the Lost Specialist” by Christopher Sequeira lays on the crossovers thick with an outright science fiction premise, but as Watson himself admits in the introduction, it’s not much of a traditional Holmes tale.
There’s also “The Folly of Flight” by Matthew P. Mayo, guest starring French thief Arsené Lupin. Lupin’s author, Maurice LeBlanc, was one of the first Sherlock Holmes crossover fan fiction authors; Sir Arthur Conan Doyle did not appreciate the compliment, so Lupin’s clashes with Holmes were rewritten with a slightly different name, and a bit more mocking of a tone.
This is a fun book, but not for Holmes purists.(less)
In an alternate history version of Japan, disaster strikes during the reign of Shogun Iemitsu (circa 1630). A plague that becomes known as the “red-fa...moreIn an alternate history version of Japan, disaster strikes during the reign of Shogun Iemitsu (circa 1630). A plague that becomes known as the “red-face pox” sweeps the islands, with a fatality rate of 80% among boys and young men. Within a couple of years, the gender imbalance among the younger generation has reached crisis proportions. Less important to the people, but vital to our story, all the male heirs to the shogunate fall victim to the plague.
It is decided that the country, already turning topsy-turvy as yong women have to take up the jobs normally reserved for men, cannot be allowed to have turmoil at the top as well. Iemitsu’s daughter Chie is forced to masquerade as her father for years. After the people who originally controlled her are dead, and the country has more or less stabilized in its new male-scarce society, she reveals herself to the court. Until a male heir survives to adulthood, women using men’s names will have to fill in.
Naturally, a female shogun needs men to help her produce an heir, so handsome and/or noble fellows are brought to the Ooku, the “Inner Chambers” in a reversal of the harems of our history. Most of the story involves these men, trapped in the Shogun’s palace, and trying to find meaning in their lives.
In the volume to hand, #9, the reign of the seventh female shogun, Ieharu, begins. Ieharu realizes that the rest of the world has advanced while the Japanese hid themselves away to conceal their lack of men. Therefore, one of the men she secures for the Ooku is a half-Dutch fellow named Gosaku, who has been trained in Western medicine. He is renamed Aonuma (“blue pond”) after his eye color.
Thanks to records concealed in the Inner Chambers, Aonuma is able to piece together information about the red-face pox and its origins that have new meaning with his special training. There might even be a way to prevent it! However, prejudice against his foreign appearance and the schemes of a woman who believes that she should have been shogun instead may doom these efforts.
This series is an interesting sideways look at Japanese history–what would change if the gender roles were partially reversed, and what would stay the same? The target audience in Japan is josei (young women), so romance both fulfilled and tragic is a large part of the series. Unfortunately, so is rape, and there’s some frank depiction of prostitution, so the American edition is rated “Mature.”
The art is quite good, but often the minor characters are hard to tell apart, particularly the handsome young men of the Ooku, who tend towards same-face. The student of Japanese history will be able to spot certain character traits from clothing styles that are lost on most of us foreigners.
I’d recommend this to historical romance fans and people interested in exploring ideas about gender roles.(less)
Between the late 1940s and somewhere in the 1990s, one of the most pervasive fears of the American public was atomic war. For the first time in known...moreBetween the late 1940s and somewhere in the 1990s, one of the most pervasive fears of the American public was atomic war. For the first time in known history, humans were truly capable of destroying all civilization, perhaps all life on Earth. One of the ways people dealt with this fear was science fiction. After all, the SF writers had forseen the possibility of annihilation well before such a thing was actually possible–and their stories would tell us the ways things might fall out. At DC Comics, this became a loose theme called “The Great Disaster.”
Unlike other Showcase volumes, this one collects not one series or character’s appearances, but a thematically linked set of stories, dealing with the aftermath of atomic war. As such, it provides a wide array of notable comics writers and artists.
The volume opens with a couple of stories about people traveling from after the Great Disaster to the present, or vice versa. This is followed by a collection of short-shock stories all titled “The Day After Doomsday”, presenting varied scenarios for what life after the Bomb might be like. Perhaps the most effective of these is the “Adam and Gertrude” trilogy.by Len Wein and Jack Sparling, but they all have their charms.
Then we have the feature event, the “Atomic Knights” stories. These were all by John Broome and Murphy Anderson. World War Three began in October 1986, and lasted less than a month, but wiped out much of human civilization, leaving a world without many animals or plants, and only a few pockets of humans struggling for survival. Into this world comes Sergeant Gardner Grayle. When he joined the Army, they discovered he was exactly average both mentally and physically, but during the War he was trapped in a bomb shelter that collapsed from a near-hit. The experience gave him traumatic amnesia, and only months after the disaster does he come to himself.
Grayle happens to be near a town named Durvale that was relatively untouched by the war, which is to say it’s a total wreck. It’s come under the thumb of the Black Baron (so named because of his hair color) who has managed to corner the local food supply. By coincidence, Grayle and a local school teacher, John Herald, discover that the suits of medieval armor in the museum have become resistant to most forms of radiation, including the ray-pistols used by the Black Baron and his men. There are six sets of armor, and soon Grayle and Herald recruit twin ex-soldiers Hollis and Wayne Hobbard, as well as scientist Bryndon (who is feared and despised for being one of those who made the bombs that ruined the world.) The last suit is deemed too small to be usable by any combat-ready man, so the Atomic Knight five set off. John’s sister, Marene Herald, who is small enough to fit in the last armor, takes it upon herself to follow them, and helps out in a tight situation.
The Atomic Knights became the new force for law and order in the post-apocalyptic world, fighting bizarre radiation-spawned monsters, evil dictators, the remnants of Atlantis and the mysterious mole people (who it turned out had actually caused the war.) Bit by bit, they began to make Earth liveable again.
These stories were all about the cool ideas, and were aimed primarily at children, so scientific plausibility and deep characterization were generally skipped. Bryndon being reluctant to discuss his pre-War research and the Hobard brothers being jazz fans was about as much as we learned about them as persons. Speaking of jazz, the early 1960s habit of only depicting white people in comics was on full display on a visit to New Orleans, where names of black performers are dropped, but there are no people of color in town. Marene, of course, is often excluded from dangerous missions and seems to have no particular skill set beyond “being feminine.” She even muses to herself that she’s “just a woman!” Perhaps appropriately, the last official Atomic Knights story from 1963 has her disguising herself as a boy and demonstrating some athletic talent.
Next up are stories of the return of the gods. There’s a one-shot about Atlas by Jack Kirby that doesn’t tie into anything in particular, but shared a resemblance to his Kamandi series, also set after the Great Disaster. The Kamandi series lasted long enough to get its own Showcase volume, so the next set of stories are Hercules Unbound, which ran 1975-77.
We open with Hercules bound to a rock, as he has been for the last millenium or so. Suddenly, the chains holding him snap–could this mean that Ares, who treacherously bound Hercules there, is dead? No time to think about that, as a blind boy and his dog are battling sea monsters nearby. Kevin, the blind boy, explains that he was in Greece when World War Three broke out, and he set out in a sailboat to see if he can get to his father, an ambassador to the Vatican. As it happens, Ares is in Rome, and very much alive, pitting the remnants of armies against each other for his own amusement. While Hercules triumphs against Ares’ champion, the opening chapter ends in tragedy for Kevin.
Hercules and his companions begin wandering the post-apocalyptic earth, encountering mad gods and mutants. There’s one person of color, a loincloth-clad hunter named Cerebus (not the aardvark) who is repeatedly referred to as “Nubian.” Yeah. The new-fangled “Women’s Lib” is mentioned a few times, mostly in association with Jennifer Monroe, a woman who was a model before the war, and mostly serves as a damsel in distress for Hercules.
Over the course of the series, it ties into OMAC, Kamandi and the Atomic Knights, despite these series not precisely being in continuity with each other. The last couple of chapters return to the question of why Hercules was chained to that rock in the first place; it answers some lingering subplots, ignores others, and flatly contradicts some of the earlier characterization. (The series had changed writers more than once in a dozen issues.)
After that are a few back-ups from Kamandi, and one last “The Day After Doomsday” shock story. To close out the volume, we have a Superman story from 1983. By this time, it was looking less and less likely that we would actually have an atomic war in 1986, and even if we did, it wouldn’t have the future-Fifties design aesthetic and cultural behavior seen in the Atomic Knights series. So when Superman suddenly finds himself in the Atomic Knights future, he is quick to point out the scientific implausibiliy of the scenario. Yes, this is hilarious coming from Mr. “The laws of physics are just mild suggestions.” Turns out it’s a virtual reality scenario gone horribly wrong, with the moral being “The task before man-kind isn’t to survive an atomic war! It’s to work in this world we’re living in to make certain such a war can never begin!” The story is also notable for giving Marene Herald a much more important role.
All together, this is a mixed bag with something for many comic book fans, including rare stories. It’s well worth a loan from your library, and if you’re a collector, consider buying it.(less)
Moonstone Books is a publisher that specializes in new material about pulp magazine characters. This is their third anthology of stories about Richard...moreMoonstone Books is a publisher that specializes in new material about pulp magazine characters. This is their third anthology of stories about Richard Henry Benson, the Avenger, and his organization, Justice, Inc.
For those who have not heard of the character before, Richard Henry Benson had his wife and child taken from him in a bizarre midair disappearance. The shock of this and the claims that they had never been on the plane in the first place drove Mr. Benson to a nervous breakdown. When he recovered his sanity, he found that his skin and hair had lost their pigmentation, and his face was now frozen.
In the process of tracking the criminals responsible, Mr. Benson became the Avenger and began assembling his team.
The fourteen stories in this volume are mostly inserted into the “classic” period of the original series, before “Murder on Wheels”, which changed the premise somewhat. Some of the stories are very precisely placed indeed. This means that Cole Wilson, who only joined Justice, Inc. at the end of “Murder on Wheels”, is absent from most of the book. Perhaps fittingly, then, “An Excellent Beauty” by C.J. Henderson is a solo outing for this agent, with a twisted focus on his distinguishing feature of being “handsome.”
The most famous author in this anthology is Will Murray, whose “The Moth Murders” leads off the book. It’s an appropriately creepy story, with a horrific murder method, a bizarre antagonist and an almost plausible explanation to end the story.
Another standout story is “The Box of Flesh” by Barry Reese, in which two seemingly unrelated investigations converge at the crossroads of stage magic and folklore. It’s almost as creepy as the title makes it sound.
Most of the stories stay within the customary adventure pulp limit of “almost plausible,” but a couple do go straight into the science fiction genre. There are also a number of references to other pulp characters, with the Domino Lady making a full guest appearance in “According to Plan of a One-Eyed Trickster” by Win Scott Eckert, which follows on from his stories in the two previous anthologies in this series.
While the stories are generally good about explaining who the characters are (and thus can get a little repetitious in this area), for best effect, a reader should already be familiar with the Avenger characters; I recommend looking up a reprint of the first two or three stories in the original series. Also, the book could have used another proofreading pass, as there are a couple of obvious typos.
If you are already an Avenger fan, or know one, this is a fun book. You might also consider looking at the previous two volumes.(less)
The kaiju (giant monsters) subgenre is a pretty good fit for comic books. With an unlimited “special effects budget” they can pack monsters and mayhem...moreThe kaiju (giant monsters) subgenre is a pretty good fit for comic books. With an unlimited “special effects budget” they can pack monsters and mayhem into a story that would be prohibitively expensive to shoot on film.
This series takes advantage of that, but because printing costs are the limitation, the pages are in black and white. The story (no relation to the Toho movie of the same title) begins in media res, with three giant robots battling monsters in a ruined Paris. In short order we are introduced to the robot pilots, Dressen of England, Akemi of Japan, and Spencer of America (who is missing his legs.)
Our protagonists manage to defeat the monsters, but damage to one of the machines means they have to stay in Paris while a mechanic is airlifted in from their home base in Africa. We learn that the atomic tests of the 1950s apparently spawned these giant monsters, and mankind has been fighting a losing battle with them ever since. Only the protagonists’ mysterious benefactor Rashad has been able to come up with machines that can fight the monsters on their own terms.
While ruined, the city of Paris still has inhabitants of a sort, and mysteries begin to unfold. Meanwhile, a subplot advances concerning a self-aware robot named Archer, which is meant to assist…or replace? the human pilots.
There’s plenty of slam-bang action, a little hard to follow at first until we learn who the players are. The robots are all distinctive, and it’s fairly easy to tell the cast from one another.
The series is marketed for young adults, although none of the focus characters seem to be in that age group. If your kids enjoyed Pacific Rim or the latest Godzilla movie, this should be safe and enjoyable for them.
The second volume is not yet out; if you prefer closure, you may want to wait for that one to be published.(less)
Disclaimer: I received this book in a Goodreads giveaway on the premise that I would review it.
It is the year 2022, and commercially viable virtual re...moreDisclaimer: I received this book in a Goodreads giveaway on the premise that I would review it.
It is the year 2022, and commercially viable virtual reality equipment is now on the market. Of course, one of the first applications that comes to mind is Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games (MMORPGs), and the first one out the gate is Sword Art Online. Kirito (his online handle, real name Kazuto Kirigaya) was one of the lucky beta testers, and is looking forward to the full launch of ten thousand players.
Except that shortly after the game begins, all the player characters are summoned back to the beginning town, remodeled to look like the players themselves, and unable to log out. A figure who claims to be the game’s designer, Akihiko Kabaya, announces that they’re all trapped in the world of Aincrad, and won’t be able to log out until the 100th level of the game is beaten. Oh, and the respawn feature has been disabled, so if you die in the game, you die in real life.
And in case you were hoping for rescue from the outside? If anyone removes the VR gear or tampers with it, it will automatically kill the player, and this has been announced to the media.
Realizing that the area around the Town of Beginnings will rapidly become too overhunted for him to level up quickly, Kirito decides to go solo, as his beta tester knowledge allows him to punch above his weight, so he can go to the next town even at first level. He does invite along a noob (new player) named Klein, but Klein won’t abandon his friends, and Kirito doesn’t think he can protect more than one ally.
The story picks up again about two years later. with the Aincrad dungeon about three-quarters cleared, at the cost of four thousand deaths. Kirito has been very successful as a solo player, but suffers stigma as a “beater” because his character level is so much higher than most people’s that he triggers monster encounters that are lethal to anyone near him.
It’s at this point that Kirito runs into a girl named Asuna, who is known as “the Flash” for her superior sword skills, is highly placed in the powerful Knights of the Blood guild, and happens to be one of the few skilled cooks in the game. Oh, and she’s very pretty. Asuna won’t leave Kirito alone, and they’re soon in a relationship.
However, the already lethal world of Aincrad is about to turn it up a notch, and there are secrets not even the beta testers know.
This manga is based on a light novel series, which has also been turned into an anime. (One of three so far where the basic plotline is a person being unable to log out of a virtual reality game.) It adapts the first storyline, the Aincrad world.
This version of the story trims out many minor characters, including most of the women (which makes the gender imbalance even more noticeable.) It also has a tendency to make good characters good-looking and bad characters less so; the most prominent minor villain doesn’t even look human, and remember, that’s his real face.
The main villain is a real piece of work; in addition to what’s already been mentioned, it turns out he’s disabled another important player safety feature, but left it able to feel their pain. (It’s likely he didn’t realize the full implications of this particular act, he’s very low-empathy.)
This volume is mostly aimed at teenage boys; the female characters are all defined by their relationships to Kirito, and there’s a sequence of Asuna in her underwear with no equivalent scene for any of the male characters. (We also learn that it’s possible to alter the “moral code” setting to allow in game sex, but it’s not clear if the characters actually do this.)
Kirito is a loner with deep manpain through most of the story, though he lightens up a bit towards the end when he falls in love with Asuna.
The art is generally good, but many of the fight scenes are poorly choreographed, resulting in the manga equivalent of “shaky cam”.
If you are already a Sword Art Online fan, this is a perfectly good addition to your collection. I’d also recommend it to teenage boys who like online gaming. Other people might want to flip through it in the library to see if the art style takes their fancy.(less)
**spoiler alert** This is rather an odd book by the author of On the Beach and A Town Like Alice. It starts as the story of Roger Hargreaves, an aging...more**spoiler alert** This is rather an odd book by the author of On the Beach and A Town Like Alice. It starts as the story of Roger Hargreaves, an aging Anglican priest in Northern Australia in the 1950s. In the course of his parish duties, Father Hargreaves meets a colorful local character, an old drunk named Frankie. Frankie may have some sort of precognitive abilities, or maybe he just got a lucky guess. Still, there’s more to Frankie than meets the eye.
During the rainy season, (as the locals call it, “in the wet”,) Hargreaves receives word that Frankie is dying. Along with a local medical woman, he hurries to the remote cabin Frankie is staying in. They lose their medical supplies in the floods, and the lamp fuel is almost gone. There’s not much to be done for Frankie but allow him to smoke opium to dull the pain. To distract Frankie, Hargreaves asks the dying man to tell the priest about himself.
But the story Frankie tells is of Wing Commander David Anderson, an Australian test pilot who is asked to become a member of the Queen’s Flight (kind of like Air Force One for us Yanks.) As the story continues, it becomes clear that Anderson lives in the 1980s, a time of crisis for the Commonwealth.
After this paragraph, I’ll be going into SPOILER territory, and also some racially charged language. For those who don’t want to see that, I’ll say that this is an interesting book, but On the Beach was better. Some very nice sketches of North Australian life in the 1950s at the beginning and end, though, and the aviation scenes are excellent.
1980s Britain is not, in many ways, like the one in our timeline. For starters, there’s still food rationing. Rosemary Long, our hero’s love interest, has a good job at Buckingham Palace and can afford her own good sized sailboat, but has never seen an intact pineapple before, let alone had enough meat to worry that it might spoil. (In real life, rationing officially ended in 1954, with many items being derationed well before that.
Also, Britain is largely Socialist, with Labour having been in power almost uninterrupted for the last thirty years. (Evidently, Mr. Shute did not have confidence in Winston Churchill’s ability to hold onto the Prime Minister job. In real life, he was able to swing the voting to the Conservative party for quite some time.) This has resulted in the Prime Minister, Iorweth Jones being a barely disguised Communist, (Communism having gone out of favor after “the Russian war”) with a class warfare mentality. Also, the Secretary of State for Air is so out of touch with the state of aeroplane technology that he is unaware planes have things called “radios” now.
One thing Mr. Shute did get right was that Queen Elizabeth II is still on the throne, with Charles as the Prince of Wales. Charles is married and has two sons. Well, he does on page 111. A daughter pops up as well on page 181.
We don’t get much information about the Russian war; it was a few years ago, Commander Anderson spent most of it in the Philippines, it evidently did not go nuclear, and there’s no mention whatsoever of the Soviet Union. As mentioned above, the end of the war discredited Communism as a viable government style.
Britain is also undergoing a population crash, due to heavy emigration (in our timeline they mostly had immigration from the former colonies and Commonwealth.) Things have gotten bad enough that the government nationalized housing after the 1970 crash and hasn’t given it back since. Rosemary has never seen a new house being built, to her memory.
Meanwhile, Australia’s been doing great, thanks to the new multiple vote system. Every adult gets one basic vote. if you get higher education, you get a second vote (Anderson got his for officer school.) Working outside the country for two years gets you the foreign travel vote (Anderson admits this is pretty much a racket so military veterans get an extra say.) Getting married, staying married and spawning two children who you raise to at least fourteen gets you a family vote. (Divorce, widowry or your kids dying or disappearing means starting all over.)
There’s also a business vote for anyone with an earned income over a certain amount (and it’s substantially high) and a religious vote for anyone holding an office in an approved Christian church. That last one would never fly in America! Finally, there’s the Queen’s Favour vote which you get in much the same way you would a knighthood. Thus a truly dedicated person can have up to seven votes; somehow this has led to Australia getting a better class of politicians.
By the end of the book, England is looking to install the same voting system. Notably, England had had a similar thing called plural voting up until 1948 in real life, when it was reformed for a one person one vote system. Instead of multiple voting, real life Australia went with “preference voting” instead, where you rank candidates in order of how much you like them.
In other political oddness, the Queen seems much more involved with ruling the Commonwealth than the largely figurehead role she had in the real 1980s. She even moves the Royals to Australia, and appoints a Governor General for England as it’s clear Parliament can’t handle the job.
Oh, and what will be truly horrific to some of you, rock and roll never caught on, and ballroom dancing with live orchestras is still the thing.
And then there’s the racism weirdness. Mr. Shute was against racism, especially Southern United States style racism, but it’s expressed oddly here. Commander Anderson is mixed race, being one-quarter Aborigine, and apparently is light-skinned and fine-featured enough that most people assume he just has a tan. He goes by the nickname “Nigger,” and insists all his friends call him that.
You can sort of see that, as a way of “reclaiming the word” and apparently Commander Anderson’s worried that people will think he’s trying to “pass” if he doesn’t bring up his ancestry directly. But it’s still very jarring. Especially when he uses the phrase “nigger in the woodpile” unironically. It’s clear that most of the characters consider his deeds more important than his ethnicity, and indeed, he’s the only one to ever bring it up.
The sections set in the 1950s have more obvious casual racism. There’s a bit of author blindness to sexism; the Queen rules but all the other speaking women in the 1980s are secretaries, telephone girls, stewardesses and maids. Rosemary majored in history and paid special attention to the suffragette movement, but otherwise seems content with a 1950s style romantic relationship.
If you’ve read the book and have some comments, by all means let me know.(less)
This collection of “tales of future Mars” was first published as an adjunct to a conference on possible first contact and the planet Mars.; the storie...moreThis collection of “tales of future Mars” was first published as an adjunct to a conference on possible first contact and the planet Mars.; the stories had individually appeared in Analog and Asimov’s magazines. When the author realized he’d written them from furthest in time to closest, he decided on a framing sequence involving alien archaeologists excavating Mars in the very far future when Sol has become a white dwarf.
The stories are:
“Morning on Mars”: Humans are now unthinkably old, and a new species is on the brink of succeeding them. There is time, still, for a celebration of life.
“The Day of Their Coming”: Humans make first contact with intelligent aliens. Some of the Martian colonists discover that they may have more in common with the aliens than their fellow humans.
“Comet Gypsies”: A family is nearly done harvesting a comet for terraforming materials, and the oldest child will soon have to leave the only home she’s ever known. No one in the story is Roma, I suspect the author was unaware of how problematic the word “Gypsy” is.
“A Life on Mars”: A medical emergency sparks a trip on a dangerous experimental ship. But even if a life is saved, can a family be put back together?
“Martian Valkyrie”: A tale of the first expeditions to Mars. Sexism and nationalistic rivalries may doom everyone. But the beginning can wrap around to the end, and the collection’s title has more than one meaning.
The stories take place in a relatively hard SF universe; there’s no faster than light travel or communication. Despite my quibble about the title, I liked “Comet Gypsies” best, for its balance of science and human drama.
As with many small press books, there are a couple of proofreading errors, a dramatic reveal is spoiled in one story because half the word is missing. There are a couple of non-explicit sex scenes,, which may be problematic for young readers or their parents.
This is a nice collection of decent stories, and deserves to be more widely known.(less)
The Thrilling Adventure Hour, it turns out, is a continuing theatrical performance and podcast in the style of old-time radio. As such, it’s full of a...moreThe Thrilling Adventure Hour, it turns out, is a continuing theatrical performance and podcast in the style of old-time radio. As such, it’s full of action, comedy and thrilling adventure. This is their first illustrated tie-in graphic novel.
The contents range from straight-up science fiction (Tales of the USSA) through superhero action (Captain Laserbeam) to space western (Sparks Nevada, Marshal on Mars.) My personal favorite was “Down in Moonshine Holler”, about a millionaire undercover as a hobo seeking his true love; in this chapter he and his fellow hobos arrive in Jacksonville during their annual lottery, but something seems off…..
The art is nice, featuring a variety of webcomics and small press comics artists. Between the stories there are fake ads for the show’s sponsors, Workjuice Coffee and Patriot Brand Cigarettes. The latter, and the feature “Beyond Belief” about perpetually drunk paranormal detectives, means that parents might not want to give this to small children.
This is rollicking good fun, and recommended to fans of anthology comics and old-time radio.(less)
Disclaimer: I received this book in a Goodreads giveaway on the premise that I would review it.
This volume is an anthology of speculative fiction shor...moreDisclaimer: I received this book in a Goodreads giveaway on the premise that I would review it.
This volume is an anthology of speculative fiction short stories, themed around dance clubs, loud parties, roller skates, sparkly light and glitter. They’re full of sex drugs and disco music. I’ve never been much of a party person myself, not being fond of noisy crowds, deafening music or flashing lights. So I can’t speak to the authenticity of the party scenes.
That said, there’s a fair mixture here of fantasy, SF and horror; as well as a couple of less genre-specific pieces. The characters are a diverse lot, men, women and less defined genders, of multiple sexualities and races.
The stories I liked best were two straight-up roller derby tales: “Apex Jump” by David J. Schwartz, about a small town derby team that gets invited to an away game that’s out of this world; and “Bad Dream Girl” by Seanan McGuire, which ties into her InCryptid series (which I have not read, but this story makes look promising.)
The introduction by Amber Benson comes off as overly pompous, and is quite skippable. There are a number of interesting tidbits in the author bios in the back, which should help you if a story makes you want to read more of a particular writer. This book, by the way, was a Kickstarter project, and the sponsors get their own thank you pages. I am pleased to say that some of that money seems to have gone to competent proofreading and book design.
Trigger Warning: The protagonist of “Subterraneans” commits rape by deception, and is not one whit repentant.
Overall: There are a couple of standout stories, several quite decent ones, and a handful of clunkers. If you’re much more into the dance party scene than I am, or are a big Kickstarter fan, you’ll probably enjoy this one enough to pay full price. Everyone else should consider getting it from the library(less)
House of Secrets started its publication history in 1956 as a “weird menace” title. You couldn’t really do horror comics as such under the Comics Code...moreHouse of Secrets started its publication history in 1956 as a “weird menace” title. You couldn’t really do horror comics as such under the Comics Code, but short tales tinged with the supernatural where evil was punished and good rewarded? Sure. It also had a number of psuedo-superhero types, like Mark Merlin, Prince Ra-Man and Eclipso. The last of these, (“Hero and Villain in one man!” went on to be a player in the DC universe, and has his own Showcase volume. The Silver Age run ended with #80 in 1966.
After a three year hiatus, it came back as *The* House of Secrets. The Comics Code had eased up some, and it was possible to do horror comics in the mainstream again. #81 started by introducing an actual House of Secrets, which seemed to be both intelligent and malevolent, killing its then-owner in the first story of the issue. A new caretaker was hired, the pudgy and rather cowardly Abel, who loved to tell scary stories. (His nastier brother Cain did the same over at the House of Mystery.)
Each issue, Abel would introduce a few short tales of horror, often having a small adventure of his own in between. The quality of the stories varied widely from trite to quite good. A particularly well-received story was “Swamp Thing” in #92. It was so liked that the main character was slightly updated and given his own series, which went on to become famous. Another standout is “The Ballad of Little Joe” in #86, about a puppet that comes to life. What makes that story special is that one of the “villains” is clearly a philosopher at heart, rather than the conqueror his culture wants him to be. ”You can twist form–but can you ever change a man’s love?”
Then there’s “There are Two of Me…and One Must Die!” in #91, which puts a new twist on the stock DC plot of spotting the fake person by a tiny clue. I do have to say that reading a bunch of these stories in a row can make them a bit samey, and they’re mostly quite tame by today’s horror standards.
The art ranges from workmanlike to excellent–the lack of color does not hurt most of the stories, and in some cases enhances the feel. (The four-color process sometimes detracted from the mood of stories.)
I would recommend this volume to DC fans of a certain age, and those looking for horror stories that are spooky, but not too horrific. I’ll leave you with one of the epilogues…
“Silence sounds like green vines creeping…dry boards scream like blind men seeking…for these are the signs…of secrets lurking…”(less)
This is the first novel by Samuel R. Delaney, published in 1967. He was one of the first successful African-American science fiction authors, as well...moreThis is the first novel by Samuel R. Delaney, published in 1967. He was one of the first successful African-American science fiction authors, as well as one of the first openly gay SF writers, and certainly the most successful person so far to be both. He’s associated with the New Wave movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s, although this particular novel is closer to the old model of SF.
Geo, a poet, his sailor friend Urson, and a Strange One thief nicknamed Snake are recruited by the White Goddess Argo to travel to the semi-mythical island of Aptor and steal a jewel from the Dark God Hama. Along the way they are joined by another sailor, the “Negro” Iimmi who has been to Aptor before. Soon they are dealing with monsters, cults and ruined cities. And of course, the quartet has not been told the entire truth about just why Argo wants those jewels.
While the setting looks at first glance like fantasy, it is indeed science fiction, as is made clear by a ruined city with a cracked nuclear reactor in it. Some things don’t quite make sense in the history timeline, and that’s a plot point.
Some points in the novel are suggestive if one knows the author’s history; “Black Dude Dies First” is inverted, with the first person on the voyage to die being a pale-skinned man named “Whitey.” Iimmi turns out to be well-educated for a sailor, being on sabbatical from his college studies. And there’s a distinct lack of the kind of perfunctory hetero romance subplot that often got shoved into science fiction stories of the period.
Oh, there’s a pretty damsel, but by the time our heroes finally meet her, she’s in the middle of her own escape, not very much in distress at all. Much more time is spent on the men’s strong friendships. Still, most of the time it’s a fairly conventional fantastic adventure story. (You can even see traces of The Lord of the Rings.)
A confusing prologue is referred back to at the end, with a bit of the changes in thinking caused by paradigm shifts that would become a major theme of Mr. Delany’s work.
Like many first novels, it’s not quite up to the standards of the author’s later work, but it’s good of its kind and well worth looking up at your library.(less)