BOOKS OF THE DAY: THE BEST OF FANTASY! From Charles Saunders to Robert E. Howard

Fantasy can be, for whatever reason, a difficult sell for me. I’m not really an elf and faires fan, which is seemingly 99% of fantasy fiction.

This article then is about the other eloquent, less trope filled, yet still imaginative, 1% of Fantasy that I am a fan of:

ROBERT E. HOWARD- I Find his Solomon Kane to be the far more interesting of Howard’s creations. If you’re going to pick up one Robert E. Howard book, you would be hard pressed to choose a better one than the Gary Gianni spot-illustrated THE SAVAGE TALES OF SOLOMON KANE.The Savage Tales of Solomon Kane

CHARLES SAUNDERS- At the risk of sacrilege someone who did and does the noble warrior and tribal civilizations and fantastic action, better than just about everybody else, past or present, is Charles Saunders. Much in the way Howard was pretty much overlooked while he was writing, I really think Charles Saunders is similarly an incredibly overlooked talent. His IMARO series, is required reading and I think would make both Burroughs and Howard go… “Damn! This guy’s good!” Four books have come out in the series and by all reports the fifth book is on the way.

The original out of print DAW paperbacks are striking, with gorgeous cover art (at least one if not more by artist James Gurney), and are worth having just for the art alone, add the great stories and it’s win-win, but the new revised/improved editions are must buys.

Particularly because Saunders is another Fantasy writer who unfortunately goes out of print way too quickly, pick up the whole series while prices are reasonable.
Imaro: Price your Copy Here

Purchase Link to all In-Print Imaro Books

The only negative I’d lay against this series is the cover art for book #4 (and to a lesser extent book #3)is not good. See for yourself here:

While we all bandy about the saying ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’, I really am (like most of us) inclined to great looking covers. So a great book with a lousy cover is like shooting yourself in the foot. Pay the money, get a decent artist to do your cover. Make it easy for people to recommend your books, get that great cover art.


“Charles Saunders is one of the most innovative writers in the so-called Sword and Sorcery field. He was in the second wave of pioneers. Those who actually made what Robert E. Howard invented move into a new and equally exciting arena. I always loved his ground-breaking novels and stories. And it’s good to see him back.”
-Joe R. Lansdale, author of Sunset and Sawdust and The Bottoms

“Lord knows, the field needs the fresh and discerning insights that only Charles R. Saunders can bring to it.”
-Charles de Lint, author of The Blue Girl and Someplace to Be Flying


KARL EDWARD WAGNER- The Midnight Sun: The Complete Stories of Kane- Let me get on the bandwagon with saying the short fiction of Karl Edward Wagner and his tales of the immortal and amoral Kane/Cain is the way to go. Unfortunately getting this sadly out of print edition is going to set you back, quite a bit.

The Midnight Sun: The Complete Stories of Kane

GEORGE R.R. MARTIN- Martin is seemingly everywhere these days, particularly with the critical and commercial success of the television adaptation of his GAME OF THRONES. He’s now on his fifth book in the series.

NNEDI OKORAFOR-MBACHU- Her novels set in the Sahara of the coming dawn, are among some of the most imaginative and innovative and fresh fantasy of the last couple of decades and her The Shadow Speaker is an essential read.
The Shadow Speaker:Price Your Copy Here

STEPHEN R. DONALDSON- His series of Thomas Covenant, the Unbeliever is required reading.
Lord Foul’s Bane (The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever, Book 1):Price your copy here

“Since its first publication in 1977, Stephen Donaldson’s best-selling Thomas Covenant trilogy has become an indisputable classic – acclaimed around the world as the most compelling work of epic fantasy since Tolkien’s ‘The Lord of the Rings’.”— Voyager

STEVEN BARNES- Steve Barnes masterfully jumps genres from science fiction to fantasy to historical fiction, and while you can make a strong argument for keeping him in the former rather than the latter I just think his work is too rich in all camps to exclude from any camp. An amazingly prolific writer, he’s a writers writer. There’s a ton of places you can jump in and enjoy his work. Check the upcoming links!

STEPHEN KING- Speaking of writers writer, I personally ran out of interest before finishing King’s multi-book Dark Tower series. And by all reports I’m not the only one. That said, on rare occasions adaptations can improve on the source, can perhaps focus and streamline it. Zack Snyder’s 300 film being an improvement of Frank Miller’s 300 Graphic Novel. With the DARK TOWER that seemingly works in reverse, the collected graphic novel omnibus seems to be hitting all the right notes, garnering a level of satisfaction even from those less than satisfied with the original prose wrap-up. Wherever you fall on this you cannot deny the huge mythology that King has created.

Dark Tower Omnibus

MINISTER FAUST- A great moniker for an elegant and irreverent writer. His work tinged a bit with that gonzo element of social satire that marks the work of one of my favorite writers, Ishmael Reed . But Minister Faust jettisons most of the baggage of our every day world, skewing toward fun and fantastic fantasy.

The Coyote Kings of the Space-Age Bachelor Pad

“If Spike Lee, Quentin Tarantino, William S. Burroughs and H.P.Lovecraft were to collaborate on a novel, the result might be The Coyote Kings. Pick up a copy. You’ll be glad you did.”– Sci-fi Dimensions

J.K. ROWLING- There is nothing you can say to add or detract from Rowling’s HARRY POTTER series, love it or hate it, it is an undeniable success. However, I tend to be a contrarian and have a knee jerk reaction against the uni-mind of culture, when everybody’s reading the same thing, I worry about the books that aren’t getting attention and aren’t getting read, because the media has eyes only for its chosen flavor. That said you cannot deny the books place or their popularity, and they should be sampled for familiarity’s sake if no other reason.

NALO HOPKINSON- SKIN FOLK is one of the best debuts, and best anthologies in years, and in a genre of stale Dragons and insipid elves and tired tropes it is that rarest of things… something new and good.

Skin Folk

MERVYN PEAKE- The Illustrated Gormenghast Trilogy. Do I really need to say anything else? Not only is this volume a work of literature, it’s also a work of art.
The Illustrated Gormenghast Trilogy


Well that’s it kids, some of the greatest Fantasy writers!

Support the writers (or their memories) and buy the books. Support this blog, and purchase through the handy dandy links. Your Karma will thank you. 🙂

Audio Book Review: David Morrell CREEPERS and Joe Hill 20TH CENTURY GHOSTS & HEART-SHAPED BOX

Audio Book Review: David Morrell CREEPERS and Joe Hill 20TH CENTURY GHOSTS & HEART-SHAPED BOX

An Audio Book when done well, by a great reader, can enhance a good story, or make finish-able an underwhelming story. When done poorly, an audio book can take away from a good story.

All of my reviews are of unabridged readings (the full book is read, nothing is cut out) unless otherwise stated. Okay onto the reviews:

**********

HEART-SHAPED BOX- Stephen Lang of MANHUNTER, TOMBSTONE and AVATAR fame is one of my favorite character/bit actors, so his name as much as anything else spurred me to give this book a try. And he is a fantastic reader, and this Joe Hill novel starts off strong and interesting but by disk two, with the protagonist going in and out of reality, just gets plodding and annoying and uninteresting. The whole dream sequence plot, completely loses me, and even Stephen Lang can’t salvage it. The dialog circles itself into tedium, over explaining things into the ground. By the time the same anecdote was retold for the third time, somewhere around disk five, I was done with the book. You get the impression early on, that this is a short story/novella, that the writer is desperately trying to pad out to novel length. A common failing of some other horror writers, padding a story till it feels like they’ll never get to the point. This however emphasizes the strength of a good reader, I’ll listen to a good actor finish a lackluster story, that I would have long ago stopped reading (grown bored of) in book form. All in all great read by Stephen Lang (B+), and at times well written, particularly the beginning, but unfortunately overlong and plodding story by Joe Hill (D).

Heart-Shaped Box CD

2OTH CENTURY GHOSTS- This audio book of Joe Hill’s Short story collection, read by David Ledoux is an example of how a poor reading can torpedo an otherwise interesting book. The slightly nasally sounding reading, seems rushed, and lacks any gravitas in the voice, and generally wears out its welcome quickly. Had to stop listening, that’s how problematic I found the reading, on the wrong side of annoying. D-. So avoid the audio book for this one and pickup the book instead, because the short story collection (avoid the over descriptive introduction) itself I quite like, and succeeds where I felt Joe Hill’s HEART-SHAPED BOX failed. Joe Hill is an elegant writer, and here in the short story format he can show off his subtle, understated, beautifully worded tales.

20th Century Ghosts Hardcover

20th Century Ghosts Audio Book CD

CREEPERS- David Morrell has had a long and surprisingly successful career as a writer of thrillers, and more, for his work being often and well adapted into a variety of mediums, from television to films. CREEPERS is a very cinematic read, wonderfully read by Patrick Lawlor, that you can perceive making a very good film. While some of the twist and turns are relatively well telegraphed to any fan of thrillers, the buildup is riveting. I do find the final act a bit cliche ridden, but that excused it moves at a fast clip, very well paced and keeps you turning pages, or in audio book terms, plopping in CDs. Grade: B+.

Creepers

A Storm of Issues: On Farscape, Wrightson, and Software Patents

The above is my poster of the day, a beautiful Polish 1sheet for one of my fav flicks JERIMIAH JOHNSON. Okay… onto the post…

Hey just thought I’d shoot out a quick midweek message.

In between an insane work week, I’ve found time to finish Farscape. Despite some uneven moments, that is one, really great show. And the season 4 ending… wow. And the commentaries… double wow.

Come’on guys there has got to be some Farscape fans out there, because I really want to get a group watch going and discuss these shows. Makes me want to start my own web show . 🙂

On the book front, I’ve been reading a few books. One particularly is Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley’s FRANKENSTEIN gorgeously illustrated by Bernie Wrightson with an introduction by Stephen King. I read a chapter a night… it is good, and the art… drool worthy great. And the quality of the paper, the binding…

This is the reason digital, for me will never replace the lavish, joy of a real tactile book.

Have you seen this book? Published by Dark Horse, Wrightson’s FRANKENSTEIN is AMAZING!!! I mean you can get the book for like $30 retail, and it is designed like a $300 book. I tell everybody, you want a good investment, forget the stock market, invest in books.

Because of a storm of issues, real books, and real DVDs, anything you can physically own, anything that’s not streamed, and hosted on corporate servers, and locked down with encryption, will become (if we don’t fight against the Microsofts and Apples and Software patents) in the next couple of decades increasingly a niche item, and increasingly rare… which translates into increasingly expensive.

So definitely pick up a copy while you can:

Bernie Wrightsons Frankenstein

Ligotti vs Ligotti: Comparing Subterranean Press’ vs Carroll & Graf’s GRIMSCRIBE editions

Ligotti vs Ligotti: Comparing Subterranean Press’ vs Carroll & Graf’s GRIMSCRIBE editions

So I just received in the mail, the now Out of Print, Subterranean Press’ 2011 HC edition of GRIMSCRIBE. Now I own the original 1991 Carroll & Graf edition, but my interest was piqued by the sold out nature of previous Subterranean Press editions, the wonderful cover art as well as the description of their Grimscribe edition as being revised and definitive.

Here’s the description:

“Grimscribe
by Thomas Ligotti

Dust jacket by Aeron Alfrey.

Limited: (sold out)
Trade: (sold out)
ISBN: 978-1-59606-409-6

Grimscribe: His Lives and Works is the second volume in a series of revised, definitive editions of the horror story collections of Thomas Ligotti. First published in 1991 by Carroll & Graf in the United States and Robinson Publishing in England, Grimscribe garnered significantly more recognition than Ligotti’s first collection, Songs of a Dead Dreamer, which was issued two years earlier by the same publishers.”

So biting the bullet I picked up one of the sold out Subterranean editions (sold out in less than 3 months, which is pretty darn impressive), thankfully for not too much more than cover price (it’s now, in the brief 2 weeks since I purchased it, climbed to the 3 figure range) and having perused it today I have to say, my initial impression upon taking it out of the box is… I’m a bit dissapointed.

I mean I really am disposed to like imprints such as Centipede Press and Subterranean Press, that in this day of digital are trying to make the hardcopy something attractive and special. My problem is for the price, I’m not even talking the marked up reseller’s price, I’m talking Subterranean’s retail price, GRIMSCRIBE when finally seen is underwhelming.

I mean for the money I don’t think a slipcover done to quality, embossing on the cover, and maybe spot illustrations and a ribbon marker and gilded pages are too much to ask. Look at books such as Dark Horse’s FRANKENSTEIN illustrated by Bernie Wrightson, which sells for a fraction of the price of Subterranean’s books, but in terms of quality there is no comparison. Dark Horse’s FRANKENSTEIN is a work of art. Something you’re going to be treasuring and proud to have on your shelf for a long time.

Bernie Wrightsons Frankenstein

I can’t say that for Subterranean’s GRIMSCRIBE.

The first thing that strikes me is it’s a smaller, less imposing/less impressive book than what I was expecting. Just average HC trade dimensions. And the slipcover which boasts imaginative art by Aeron Alfrey, unfortunately undermines that art quite a bit with a muted, even muddy looking printing, and cropping/shrinking the image rather than allowing it to take up a respectable amount of the cover.

But getting beyond the slipcover the book itself is just an average brown coated HC, with blue type on the binding. The interior however does offer large, legible, and attractive type.

Now onto the heart of the matter, the “revised, definitive” nature of this new version. Is it or isn’t it, an improvement over the original?

Well comparing the two versions there are minor differences, what Ligotti described thusly:

“One thing I did not do is deliberately seek out changes. Of course there would be errors that needed corrections and phrases that needed to be polished. But I didn’t look to shorten or lengthen the stories or any part of them, or to make my prose leaner or more baroque, or to in any way alter the tone of a given story. I just read the books carefully from start to finish and keep on the lookout for additions and deletions that would enhance each story, at least to my mind.”—- see full article here.

Okay, a writer can change his work if he wants, I mean it’s his work. But sometimes you can’t go home, and sometimes a writer or a boxer or an actor’s best work is behind him rather than in front. Frank Miller’s great comics are all decades in the past, his current work a poor shadow of him in his prime. Bernie Wrightson is one of the most hailed and influential artists of the 70s and 80s, but his work in the 21st century (while still head and shoulders above most artists) for a variety of reasons, cannot compare to the artist he was. I’m saying the changes a 21st century Thomas Ligotti makes are perhaps not an improvement on the writing of a 20th century Thomas Ligotti.

Examples, changes are small, but they are I think telling, a tendency to the dumbed down, and often clumsy phrasing rather than the lyric poetry and embracing of the extremes of youth:

THE LAST FEAST OF HARLEQUIN

Original:

“At certain times I could almost dissolve entirely into this inner realm of awful purity and emptiness. I remember those invisible moments when in disguise I drifted through the streets of Mirocaw, untouched by the drunken, noisy forms around me: untouchable.”

Revised 2011 Subterranean version”

“At certain times I could almost dissolve entirely into this inner realm of purity and emptiness, the paradise of the unborn. I remember how I was momentarily overtaken by a feeling I had never known when in disguise I drifted through the streets of Mirocaw, untouched by the drunken, noisy forms around me: untouchable.”

Again the changes aren’t many and aren’t drastic, I just don’t think they improve on the original and for the most part I find them to be the clunky exposition of age, rather than the fertile and frenetic choices of a visionary.

I find his earlier word choices, in almost every case, to be the stronger, more poetic, more memorable. The mating of differences, terms like “awful purity” and “invisible moments” wonderful baroque phrasing of the original, that are missed in this revised edition.

THE SPECTACLES IN THE DRAWER

“Without an author whoever lived in this world, if you will recall what I told you about it.” that is a clunky, and unwieldy sentence in the revised version.

In the original it is:

“Without a living author, if you will recall what I told you about it.”

Original:
“Plomb had done nothing less than multiplied these visions into infinity, creating oceans of his own blood and enabling himself to see with countless eyes. Entranced by such aspiration, I gazed at the mirrors in speechless wonder. Among them was one I remembered looking into some days– or was it weeks? –before.”

Revized Suibterranean version:
“Plomb had done nothing less than multiplied these visions into infinity, creating oceans of his own blood and enabling himself to see with countless eyes. Entranced by such aspiration, I gazed at the mirrors in speechless wonder. Among them was that tilting mirror I remembered looking into not so long ago.”

Again, not a major change, a few words, but they tend to be poorly chosen, and a bit boring and pedestrian compared to the original.

And such ‘improvements’ run throughout the stories in the 2011 Subterranean collection.

The only thing the Subterranean version has going for it is the slightly flawed slipcover, which flaws and all is a 100 times better than the pathetic slipcover on the original 1991 HC. Unfortunately a slipcover is not enough. So my recommendation, save yourself the dough on Subterranean’s “revised, definitive” edition and get the original HC instead and have your own nice slipcover made for it(all of which can be done for less than the price the Subterranean books are going for).

Grimscribe: His Lives and Works

Grimscribe: His Life and Works

Book Review: Edgar Allan Poe: Masters of the Weird Tale

“Nothing will teach you more about the human heart, than Murnau’s SUNRISE. Not the living of it, and not the leaving of it. If that simple, supple, nuanced tale does not move you. Indelibly move you, then you are something I prefer not to know. For its day there was no bigger, more sumptuous, more lavish spectacle. And technically, SUNRISE, with its use of various compositing effects, and camera effects, was both innovator and game-changer.”
— Heroic Times on MURNAU

Sunrise [Blu-ray]

Edgar Allan Poe: Masters of the Weird Tale- Centipede Press is the producer of high end tomes containing work by some of the standout writers of the fantastic, among them H.P. Lovecraft, Clark Ashton Smith, Robert E. Howard, August Derleth, Fritz Leiber, Ray Bradbury, Stephen King to name a few. True to the title, EAPMOTWT concentrates on collecting all the work of foremost writer of Dark Fiction, Edgar Allen Poe. At 900 pages, the book also contains many illustrations done for Poe stories.

Edgar Allan Poe: Masters of the Weird Tale

Aware of the giant over-sized art retrospectives done on HP Lovecraft and Stephen King respectively, and led by the dimensions listed on the on-line purchase page, 14″ by 10″, I bought this item. However, once received, actual dimensions are 7″ by 10″, which is comparable to regular book size.

The good? is it is 900 pages, contains all the Edgar Allen Poe stories, sports large type, illustrations and spot illustrations sporadically through the book. Comes in a slipcase, with quality cover, paper and binding.

The bad? As stated it is not oversized, it is regular sized. The artwork is sporadic at best, so not an art book in the sense of Centipede Press’ phenomenal and large enough to bludgeon the odd badger, KNOWING DARKNESS: THE ART OF STEPHEN KING. It’s more a book with various spot illustrations tossed in, all pretty turn of the century and stock. The best of the illustrations are the handful done by Virgil Finlay. And while these sporadic illustrations are pecfectly fine if this book was priced say at $40, this book retails for nearly $300!!! Even getting this deeply discounted online, you’re still looking at $180 to $200!?! A lot of money for what really amounts to a hardcover book with some spot illustrations. This is not an art book. You can get any number of books containing all Edgar Allen Poe’s stories, for a fraction of the cost of this tome. I recommend this one:

The Complete Edgar Allan Poe Tales

My recommendation… pass.

You can decide for yourself… here.

Edgar Allan Poe: Masters of the Weird Tale

MASTERS OF HORROR: DVD Season 1 Season 2 Collection Review!

For two seasons, fall of 2005-winter of 2007, a most unusual series landed on fine cable channels everywhere. Grandly titled MASTERS OF HORROR the show was the brain-child of Mick Garris, known mostly for two Stephen King Adaptations.

Being not a cable guy, I didn’t catch the show on first airing, so catching up with it on DVDs, as is my way with all television these days.

So out of the 26 episodes, here’s my take on the ones I’ve seen:

Season 1, Episode 1: Incident on and Off a Mountain Road
Original Air Date—28 October 2005- An interesting episode to open the series on. Mixing Survivalist Drama, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Abusive Husband, Racist Militia, and Female Empowerment. Lot of ideas in less than an hours running time, helmed by Phantasm director Don Coscarelli. But I felt the parts didn’t mesh together for a decent whole. The mutant antagonist, ala WRONG TURN, just struck me as uninteresting. So not an episode I’ll watch again.

Season 1, Episode 2: Dreams in the Witch-House
Original Air Date—4 November 2005- Now this Stuart Gordan episode based loosely on HP Lovecraft, about a house and what lives behind the walls, is more like it. Stuart Gordon of REANIMATOR fame, helming a disturbing, Gothic, and sexy tale… of the diabolic. I re-watch this one often, Strongly Recommended. One of my favorite episodes.B+/A-.

Season 1, Episode 4: Jenifer
Original Air Date—18 November 2005- Dario Argento is one of the most influential horror directors, making his name on genre defining films of the 70s such as BIRD WITH THE CRYSTAL PLUMAGE, SUSPIRIA, DEEP RED. But it is clear his films of the last three decades, are not of the same quality as his early work. To be blunt they are not very good. So I was very happy to find JENIFER an extreme, but well crafted, and well performed, and engrossingly written tale.

A lot of the credit to this has to go to star and writer Steven Weber, who adapts the source material, a short Bruce Jones comic story, into a very engrossing and powerful tale of eros and thanos. Steven Weber’s strong writing reigning in Argento’s tendency to go off the rails when left to his own writing/devices. Huge kudos to Carrie Flemming who is immortalized as both the beauty and the beast. Another favorite episode. B+.

Season 1, Episode 5: Chocolate
Original Air Date—25 November 2005- A Mick Garris written and directed episode. Based on other Mick Garris properties I’ve sat through, and feedback on this episode from sources I trust I have no interest in seeing this episode. Mick Garris is to be applauded for putting the show together, and getting this talent under one roof, and by all reports is one of the nicest guys, and universally liked by juist about everyone, he’s a great networking guy/producer, but I think he really needs to leave the writing/directing to others based on the following:

Season 2, Episode 8: Valerie on the Stairs
Original Air Date—21 October 2006- I went into this episode thinking people were unfairly giving Mick Garris a hard time.

I mean an episode based on a Clive Barker story, and starring Tony Todd and Christopher Lloyd how can you go wrong? And the major complaint I could garner was people didn’t like the female nudity. So I went in with an open mind.

The episode starts off with good camera angles, nice dolly movements, nicely shot. The beginning is creepily effective, and I’m thinking.. “What the hell are people complaing about?” and then we get into the meat of the story, and it goes off the rails quickly.

Uggh where to start.

Stupid dialog, annoying protagonists, stupid plot contrivances, and an antagonist, Tony Todd, that rather than look frightening, looks pathetic. Poor, poor makeup job. I like Tony Todd, but seriously, do some pushups before you take a role where you are going to be sans shirt. The whole sagging man boobs, uhhh… not good. And the sex scenes, and I have no problem with sex scenes, are not sexy, they are just disgusting and pathetic. And the plot, I say that loosely, is just abyssmal.

The only saving grace of this episode is Christpher LLoyd, bringing real acting chops, to what amounts to a thankless role, and almost salvaging the poor dialog. An hour long episode that felt twice that length. And the final ending…just atrocious. Mick Garris may be the nicest guy in Hollywood, but he really needs to leave the writing and directing to others. You would need to pay me to watch this again. Awful.

Season 2, Episode 6: Pelts- Now sticking with Dario Argento, we jump to his 2nd and final MOH episode… PELTS. Now this shows Dario Argento when he doesn’t have a great writer to reign him in, or give heart to his splatter. Starring Meatloaf this episode is quite frankly just a mess. Cursed pelts, ya, ya, ya. It is just awful. Written by Mick Garris, it’s a preview of what can be expected in Mick’s own episodes. Just awful.

Season 1, Episode 8: John Carpenter’s Cigarette Burns
Original Air Date—November 2005- I’m a huge John Carpenter fan. but was strongly underwhelmed. While this one has a lot of hype surrounding it, I found it to be a haphazadly designed and poorly written episode, that unfortunately Carpenter couldn’t save. Not recommended.

Season 1, Episode 9: The Fair Haired Child
Original Air Date—6 January 2006- William Malone is a director whose features tend to underwhelm, so imagine my surprise when this episode turned out to be one of the creepiest, most disturbing and visually inventive of the first season. Great performances by a cast that includes Lori Petty. B+.

Season 1, Episode 10: Sick Girl
Original Air Date—13 January 2006- A praised episode by some. I found this Lucky McGee episode very by the numbers, unengaging, and almost immediately forgettable.

Season 1, Episode 12: Haeckel’s Tale
Original Air Date—27 January 2006- By the numbers episode with not an engrossing bone in its body. Forgettable.

Given the above hit and miss nature of the series, I can see why it only lasted two seasons. But the ones that work, are definitely worth your time.

Well, wrapping this up, that’s all the episodes of MOH I’ve seen to date. Come back often as I’ll be adding to this review post periodically. Till then… be well. 🙂 .

GIRLS:THE COMPLETE COLLECTION OVERSIZED HARDCOVER by The Luna Brothers

Greatness following greatness, in addition to receiving the gorgeous ABSOLUTE JUSTICE HC, I also received the stunning, sumptuous oversized GIRLS:THE COMPLETE COLLECTION OVER-SIZED HARDCOVER written and drawn by the amazing Luna Brothers.

I’m going to be brief. If you don’t own this… I feel great sympathy for you.

It’s brilliant.

Absolutely brilliant. As much as I like and adore ABSOLUTE JUSTICE, superhero books are an acquired taste. GIRLS is something else all together, a dark, disturbed, and at times cackle out loud funny, fantastic fable, as at home sitting beside Poe as it is King. No one is going to dismiss this gorgeous $100 tome… as kid’s entertainment.

A masterful work by the Luna Brothers, that you really should own before it sells out. Check here to purchase it.

Highest Recommendation.

MISTER B GONE by Clive Barker: A Review

“I have seen the future of horror, and it is named Clive Barker.”

Of all the lines and soundbytes and selling blurbs to help a new writer get noticed, that Stephen King has written, the above is arguably the most memorable, for the simple fact that the books he said the above quote about… going on 3 decades later, Clive Barker’s introduction to the horror field, the apt named BOOKS OF BLOOD still live up to the hype.

They still, much as Poes tales of the macabre, or Harlan Ellison’s DANGEROUS VISIONS, remain watershed moments in a field that is particulary hard to stand out in, the field of short horror fiction. The crowd being massive and the competition fierce.

I’ve praised the BOOKS OF BLOOD series previously, suffice to say it remains 3 decades later an oft reread perrenial favorite.

However that said, I have continually found Barker’s attempt at longer fiction, to consistently fall short of the glory (I add the caveat I have not read his Abarat novels, which I understand are quite popular with children and their parents).

And unfotunately MISTER B GONE is no exception. I won’t belabour the premise since that’s never the point of my reviews, but this tale of a demon, told not just from a 1st person perspective, but told from the physical book’s perspective is a nice conceit, is a nice experiment.

I like how Barker is not afraid to play with the form, the expectations of the genre, in this case making the book resemble an aged tome. Like stated, a nice conceit, surrounding an interesting premise.

It is one that would have made a good short story, but padded to novel length it quickly becomes tiresome, repetitive… tedious.

Only the fact that I also acquired the audio book at the same time even enabled me to finish the book.

In rare cases, just like a good director can improve a just okay book (Michael Mann in MANHUNTER, Zack Snyder in 300) a good Audio Actor can make listenable an oft tedious read. And that’s what happened here with Doug Bradley’s unabridged compelling reading of a less than compelling book.

Because when I say repetitive, I mean repetitive, the book is largely very one note, the book as a character and the book under review. Indeed the bulk of the book consists of three words repeated, requested, demanded, over and over and over.

“Okay I get the point! Get on with it.” I muttered more than once, while reading/listening to the book.

It quickly is an exercise that outlives its welcome. And when finally we get to the reveals of the book, they are all pretty darn underwhelming. And even the climax, the attempt to give import to the war being waged in the pages of the book, is just not a remotely novel (novel as in new) or interesting premise.

It’s just… not good. So yeah, I hate to give a thumbs down to yet another Clive Barker novel, but not everyone can sustain a story, keep it inventive and interesting, for hundreds of pages. Just as very few can do what Barker did in the BOOKS OF BLOOD, in a few pages deliver a gripping, memorable, complete tale. You have people who are great at short stories, you have people who are great at novels, and in a far smaller camp you have people who are great at both (Percival Everett, Stephen King, Chester Himes, etc).

Clive Barker from my experience is not in the latter camp. Your mileage may vary, but for me MISTER B. GONE gets a big good riddance. D-/F.

My purpose of this blog is to bring you honestly the things I Love, and occasionaly the things I feel deserve a warning, dissenting, but I hope never cruel or frivolous, opinion. And because I never like to leave a review on the negative (when I can avoid it), I offer the following:

In prep for this review I explored Barker’s website, and he has quite a few works that I didn’t catch upon first release, that sound very interesting. Particularly his art book, VISIONS OF HEAVEN AND HELL. So looking forward to sampling that, from what I’ve seen so far it’s quite impressive.

“Calling you excrement would be an insult to the product of my bowels.”
–MISTER B. GONE

That is a fantastic line, and honestly is so good it almost, but not quite, saves the book for me. Makes me chuckle. 🙂

Richard Matheson’s HELLHOUSE: An Audio Book Review

hellhouse
It was the film THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING MAN that did it, put the name Richard Matheson on my radar.

I don’t know if any writer can claim to be as hauntingly adapted to film as Richard Matheson. Sure there are more oft adapted writers (Stephen King- speaking of who, you can see a definite similarity between the two writers. Matheson a definite influence on King’s introspective style ), there are even better adapted writers (Cornell Woolrich), however there is something in the viewpoint of Matheson’s writing, in the nature of it, that lends itself to filmmakers and films, committed to making us ruminate long, and dig deep.

His I AM LEGEND in all its forms has been cinema gold. That lone THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING MAN film remains a timeless masterpiece, a 50s scifi property of somehow existential dread and implications.

I mean what it is it about a Matheson property that sets it as clearly distinct from the herd? In the oft predictable genre field, Matheson’s work while not ignoring the cliches, somehow side-steps them, somehow is always intimate and personal dissections of us. If for Shakespeare the play was the thing, for Matheson it was the people. It was what they said of themselves, and what they said of us.

Despite the premise, it’s always character that carries the day in a Matheson property.

The character of people, even the character of a house.

Which brings us to… HELLHOUSE. HELLHOUSE in all its various forms captivates. The successful THE LEGEND OF HELLHOUSE starring Roddy McDowall being an example (which bares a striking similarity to the Robert Wise film/Shirley Jackson novel THE HAUNTING). The film is such an erudite genre film, informed and informative, and passionate about us, an atypical ghost story to be sure.

Which brings us to the audio book. Narrator Ray Porter does an excellent job of convincingly occupying the diverse cast of characters, creating for us a compelling world. However that said, Matheson’s main protagonist, the scientist Dr. Barrett, becomes so pig headed, and stupid, that by the third part of the 8 part audio drama, I couldn’t take it. I wanted to reach into the audio book, and kill the guy. UrrrrGGHHH!

To hold onto his preconceptions and prejudices in the face of staggering evidence to the contrary, what Barrett does, is not science. It is in many ways dogma, something very akin to religious mania, but just supplanting blind faith in a God, with blind faith in scientific process (God by another name). Dude is crippled, but in the head, rather than the body.

Seriously the guy was so frustrating, like these idiots in slasher films who stay in a haunted house, or makeout at a grave yard. You’re like… “yeah you’re too stupid to live.” So by the third chapter it was frustrating me too much to continue listening to it. I might try finishing it later, but any book that loses me in midstream like that, I can give you my take on now. Cause even if the remaining 5 chapters are brilliant, it is not going to help. Once I lose interest or concern or even compassion for the characters… I’m done.

So a well read book, Porter’s delivery is completely compelling, and it moves from scene to scene without padding, without fluff, but my praise of Matheson’s characters aside, it is the character of Dr. Barrett that loses me.

I can’t keep company with staggeringly pig headed people. Not even for the length of an audio book.

So definitely worth a listen, but if you have a temperament like mine, you may want to skip out on buying (especially if it is an encrypted WMA file. Screw that nonsense). Try it out at your library for free, or borrow it from a friend.

Upcoming Richard Matheson Audio Book reviews will be I AM LEGEND and DUEL.