Small-press publisher Paizo is having a massive “Black Friday” sale that lasts through “Cyber Monday.” So what does Paizo put out that you might be interested in? Well, if you’re a role-playing gamer, you’ll know Paizo as the role-playing game company that puts out the Pathfinder role-playing game, and there are certainly plenty of RPG books on sale at Paizo. But even if you’re not a gamer, you might be interested in Paizo’s “Planet Stories” books that releases classic science fiction and fantasy. They have bundles of these books on sale, for half off or more by such luminaries as C.L. Moore, Henry Kuttner, Leigh Brackett, Michael Moorcock, Otis Adelbert Kline, and Gary Gygax. I have already placed an order, so what are you waiting for?
Here are the books I am either currently reading or will soon read. Note that I plan to review all of them, and will likely post most if not all of those reviews here. The exceptions being the reviews that I am writing for a publication (and so I cannot really post them online) or some non-fiction reviews that aren’t really quite the right sort of thing for this blog. Those I place on LibraryThing but not here.
- Calling Doctor Kill! (The Enforcer #2) by Andrew Sugar [I won't be posting a review of this men's adventure novel because y thoughts on the book will be incorporated into an article I am currentl writing on The Enforcer series for the British magazine Men of Violence.]
- Steampunk Prime: A Vintage Steampunk Reader edited by Mike Ashley
- The Rapparee by Jack Vance
- Slaughterhouse World / Knack’ Attack by Ardath Mayhar and Robert Reginald
- The Kennedy Detail: JFK’s Secret Service Agents Break Their Silence by Gerald Blaine and Lisa McCubbin
Chaosium Inc., publishers of the Call of Cthulhu role-playing game and many fine Cthulhu Mythos story collections now has a 25% off sale on all their products from now until early November 30.
If you’re at all interested in H. P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos — even if you aren’t a role-playing gamer — you owe it to yourself to take a look at their sale because they have a ton of great Mythos-related fiction collections available. And keep in mind that they also offer free shipping to U.S. addresses for all orders of $60 or more and overseas orders of $125 or more. For free shipping on overseas orders, use the I WANT FREE SHIPPING code.
Chaosium hasn’t done a sale like this in a while, and I’m thinking about picking up some of their monographs or fiction collections as an early Christmas gift to myself.
This collection contains eleven short stories and novellas from the popular urban fantasy Harry Dresden series. I’m a big fan of this series, which I consider to be light, fun, engaging reading. This isn’t great literature by any means, but it’s fun and I find the characters and setting to be interesting. I was happy to have these stories collected, as many have previously appeared in past anthologies, usually bundled with either paranormal romance crapola or stories from ongoing series with which I’m not familiar. Each story is preceded by a one-page commentary on the story by Butcher along with where it has elsewhere appeared, both of which I appreciated. The stories are presented chronologically, and we are told exactly where each story fits into the overall series chronology.
I won’t provide a lengthy analysis of each piece, but I’ll offer a few thoughts on each story.
A Restoration of Faith: The first Harry Dresden story Jim Butcher ever wrote, and he says it’s maybe the third or fourth thing he’d eve written. For such an early work, it’s not bad. Harry rescues a runaway rich girl who doesn’t want to be returned to her family and has a run-in with a bridge troll. He meets Murphy, which is fun, and he’s also working for a guy named Nick, who’s a PI specializing in child-related cases. As far as I can recall, Nick never reappears in the Dresden Files, which is too bad. Not a bad little story.
Vignette: A quick little piece Butcher wrote for a promotional insert for his publisher. It’s just Harry and Bob arguing over what will go on Harry business cards. Utterly pointless. Ugh.
Something Borrowed: Harry has to save the day when the werewolves Billy and Georgia are trying to get married. Sadly, the faeries interfere and Harry’s got to prevent Billy from accidentally marrying Jenny Greenteeth. A fun adventure.
It’s My Birthday, Too: A fairly long piece in which Harry is just trying to drop of a birthday gift for his half-brother. Who happens to be playing in a live-action role-playing game (LARP) in a mall at night when some Black Court vampires arrive for some vengeance. Good stuff.
Heorot: A nice piece where Harry and the enigmatic Ms. Gard (Marcone’s henchwoman) confront a “grendelkin.” Sure, the plot device for Harry getting drawn in is pretty flimsy, but it’s a fun piece with interesting creatures and a quick-moving plot.
Day Off: A fun piece where the stakes aren’t life or death, but instead just revolve around whether or not Harry is going to have a relaxing day off. There’s a nice scene with Harry playing a role-playing game with some of the Alphas (he, of course, plays a fighter and complains about the unrealistic magic system in the game) and I like the caricatured goth “villains.” Another one that’s short but sweet.
Backup: I previously read this one in the Subterranean Press limited edition hardback. It was far too thin a story to be a stand-alone work like that, but it works as a very nice little story here. The story is told from the perspective of Thomas, making it the first Dresden Files story we get from the perspective of someone other than Harry. Here, Thomas must save Harry without Harry even knowing that Thomas is involved. Also involves the Oblivion War, which is a cool concept that I won’t spoiler here. My one complaint is that, to be honest, Thomas’ voice sounds almost exactly like Harry’s; characterization could have been better.
The Warrior: A nice story about Michael and what happens to him after his injuries and retirement. Butcher always seems to struggle with presenting Catholic theology in his characters, but he tries pretty earnestly, so I’ll give him some credit. The story was well-done and enjoyable.
Last Call: A loose follow-up to the story Heorot, involving Mac and his beer once again. There’s a very nice scene with Murphy in it, plus it’s a good little piece.
Love Hurts: Harry, Murphy, a love spell, and the sad, poignant situation they must deal with. ‘Nuff said. This is a good one.
Aftermath: This is the only all-new, never-before-seen story, as well as the longest in the collection, and it’s probably the one most eagerly awaited because it’s set immediately after the cliffhanger ending (which I will not spoiler here) of Changes. I suspect many readers will want to read this story first, despite the fact that it’s the final tale in the collection. Again, no real spoilers here, save to mention that the viewpoint character is Murphy, and despite some facile (and a trifle annoying) remarks by Butcher on gender relations, works well. Murphy and Billy confront a major new threat, and that’s all I’ll say about the plot. You could cut the tension in this story with a knife. Very good.
All in all, this is a very fun collection. The stakes tend to be lower in many of these stories than we find in the novels and I think that works well, producing entertaining stories that don’t necessarily involve the fate of the world. I give it 4.5 stars out of 5. Obviously this is a must for all Dresden Files completists, but if you’re caught up through Changes, I think you’ll want to pick this one up.
Review copyright 2010 J. Andrew Byers
Here’s one: The Necronomicon!
This was the eleventh of the long-running Shadow pulp series, originally published in The Shadow Magazine in June 1932. I read the reissued version published by Pyramid as their fifth Shadow novel in 1975. To my knowledge, Sanctum Books has not yet reprinted this novel as of The Shadow #45 (January 2011).
Please know that some plot spoilers follow, though I don’t think I spoil any of the key plot twists.
The action begins with the police and the Shadow grappling with an unusual killer calling himself “Double Z” who sends letters to the police telling them about the future murders he is planning. His exact motives are hard to fathom because he is, effectively, warning the police that so-and-so is facing a death threat, and he’s not always correct, so it’s a bit unclear if he’s even the killer, or if he just catches wind about upcoming crimes from various thugs in the criminal underworld. Plus, some of the victims are criminals and others seemingly respectable citizens. Our old pal detective Joe Cardona is assigned to the case.
This story is important for the introduction of one of the Shadow’s agents: Rutledge Mann, an investor who has fallen on hard times. I particularly like the fact that Mann is literally saved from suicide by the Shadow, who offers him a second chance at life (some money, his self-respect, a chance to do some good) if only he will aid the Shadow — we’ve seen him do this before, but it’s well-done. The reporter Clyde Burke also plays an important part here, perhaps functioning as the Shadow’s chief agent in this case. Harry Vincent and Burbank also play minor roles.
An Asian criminal mastermind Loy Rook (Harry Vincent has finagled a job as Loy Rook’s personal secretary) is introduced about halfway through and seems to be behind the crimes. But is he? The middle of the story gets a little muddled as the Shadow has a lot of agents in play and there are a lot of named criminals and small-time hoods scheming and talking to each other – the action at times gets a little hard to follow. I ultimately found the denouement to be a little unsatisfying, as the final twist or two in the story aren’t well telegraphed and seem kind of tacked on.
I would give this Shadow novel a respectable 3 stars out of 5. It’s also missing some of the elements I think make for the strongest Shadow stories (a constant sense of menace and doom, the Shadow himself as a very active protagonist “on-stage,” and so forth), but it’s still fun nevertheless. Had the ending been a little better-done, I would have rated the novel higher.
Review copyright 2010 J. Andrew Byers
Ten days ago, I mentioned that Wildside Press, a nice small press specializing in science fiction, fantasy, and pulp (among other genres) is having a sale. Here is a coupon code for 20% off anything in their store that should be good through the end of November: ILOVETURKEY
They also have a really cool 2 books for a penny sale, good through the end of the year, that you can take advantage of if you buy at least $10 worth of books from them. You can specify 2 fantasy, science fiction, or pulp reprints, and can even select the exact titles if you call them. All the details on that are here.
I mention this again because I ended up taking advantage of both the 20% discount coupon as well as the 2 books for a penny sale. I ended up buying their latest “double novel”: Wildside Double #7: Slaughterhouse World by Ardath Mayhar/ Knack’ Attack, by Robert Reginald. It looks like a great compilation of two fun SF novellas and I can’t wait to read them. In response to the last posting, Robert Reginald mentioned that he is going to be working on a third story set in this universe which he is calling A Glorious Death. Go back and take a look at his previous comment if you’re interested in some of the other projects he’s currently working on.
Oh and as for the “2 books for a penny,” I selected two pulp reprints. They sent me The Golden Dolphin and Other Pirate Tales from the Pulps by J. Allan Dunn and Amazon Nights: Classic Adventure Tales from the Pulps by Arthur O. Friel. Both look great, and I had actually had Amazon Nights on my wishlist for several years, so that was particularly good news.
Great books, great sales, great prices, fast (and reasonably-priced) shipping, you can’t beat that! I am actually thinking about possibly picking up something else from Wildside before the end of the month.
Here’s a site that my wife passed along to me: “book lovers never go to bed alone.” It currently includes 289 (!) pages of photos of book store and library shelves. Lots and lots of gorgeous shelves of books. My one complaint is that it doesn’t provide annotations for the locations (at least not that I can spot). That’s mildly annoying because I’m pretty sure I’ve actually been in one of the book stores depicted on the front page (the one with the sign that says “More Books Downstairs.”)
In any case, enjoy!
N.B. There is, of course, no actual pornographic content on this site.
Edited to add: Through a little Internet research, my lovely wife (“biblioregina”?) has uncovered the identity of that bookstore we both recognized but couldn’t recall the name of. It is, of course, the very nice City Lights Bookstore in San Francisco.
This is Steven Jay Schwartz’ second crime novel about Hayden Glass, a Los Angeles detective. Glass also happens to be a sex addict, which adds a fascinating dimension to the story. This is actually the second novel about Glass, the first of which is Boulevard. While I haven’t read the first novel, I would consider Beat to be a stand-alone novel; even though some of the events of Boulevard are alluded to, at no time did I feel lost (and I usually hate to read book series out of order for this very reason). The only downside is that Glass is still dealing with trauma he experienced in the first novel and has a pre-existing relationship with a female character that becomes more important as Beat progresses.
Readers should be aware that this is a dark book, with graphic violence and sex throughout. Neither is gratuitous, in my view; both are central to the plot and the characters, after all, but this is certainly not a book for the squeamish.
Plot spoilers follow.
Glass has become obsessed with a young prostitute he’s fallen in love with. He’s met her online and he begins traveling to San Francisco to have sex with her in the brothel where she works. Just one problem: she works for a Russian mobster and finds out far too much about the mobster’s business arrangements, feud with his scumbag brother, and the corrupt cops involved with the San Francisco sexual underworld. Glass tries to save the girl, but she’s kidnapped by mobsters and Glass spends the rest of the book trying desperately to rescue her, all the while dealing with his sex addiction and getting in deeper and deeper with FBI and SFPD investigations into all concerned.
Glass isn’t subtle, and he is braver than he is smart, but Glass’ investigations proceed fairly realistically, and at no time is the reader’s intelligence insulted by a ham-handed or silly plot. My only real complaint in this regard – other than the generous gun collector friend-of-a-friend who has an arsenal of every gun ever invented and is willing to loan them all out – is that Glass early on receives a gunshot wound, goes to the hospital for treatment, then proceeds to get the stuffing beaten out of him another half-dozen times in the book by Russian mobsters. A normal human wouldn’t have been able to get out of bed for a weak after the initial injury, but hey, I guess the protagonist a little larger than life, so it’s not a huge deal.
I don’t know all that much about sex addiction, but it seems to be dealt with in a realistic fashion here. Glass certainly abuses alcohol as well, and may be a growing alcoholic as the story advances, so there were several occasions where it was initially unclear to me if he was imagining the events unfolding around him or if these represented reality. This very well may have been by design.
The book was good enough that I plan to seek out the first book about Hayden Glass. The hints and characters we hear about from the first book are intriguing enough that I definitely want to know more. I also think that Schwartz is an author to watch out for. Highly recommended, I give this one 4 stars out of 5.
Full disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book through the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program in exchange for a review. This has not influenced my review in any way.
Review copyright 2010 J. Andrew Byers
This is the 53rd in the extremely long-running Nick Carter, Killmaster men’s adventure series. The book was originally published in 1970 and was released in the U.K. as “The Slavemaster” which is probably a more accurate title. Given the title, I had been expecting the plot would involve some Middle Eastern biological weapon but that’s not quite what we get here.
The 261 Nick Carter, Killmaster books are always described as having been written by “Nick Carter,” which was used as a house name; the books were written by a wide variety of authors, as you might imagine, and the Spy Guys & Gals website lists the author of this one as Jon Messman, citing the reference work Action Series and Sequels: A Bibliography of Espionage, Vigilante, and Soldier-of-Fortune Novels by Bernard A. Drew (published by Garland Publishing in 1988). I have no additional information to either confirm or contradict this, but I do plan on locating this reference work because it has a lot of potential, though it has likely been superceded at lest in part by Brad Mengel’s Serial Vigilantes of Paperback Fiction: An Encyclopedia from Able Team to Z-Comm (McFarland, 2009).
Plot spoilers follow.
Nick Carter is Agent N-3 for a secret U.S. intelligence agency called AXE. He is a James Bond-type who is sent to Saudi Arabia because a long-term U.S. government operating in the region has become erratic and unreliable and has been deemed a security risk. It seems as though he may have become a double agent and Carter must figure out what’s going on. Carter uncovers a slavery ring operating in Saudi Arabia. As bad as this is, it turns out that the slavers have access to some brainwashing techniques which they use to control beautiful Western women who are in turn used to have sex with important Western government and business leaders, thus providing the slavers with plenty of blackmail material. The slaver is a Saudi man who is served by a half-dozen gigantic eunuchs straight out of Central Casting. Nick Carter, predictably, ends up destroying the whole operation. Oh and oddly enough, the book includes a swimming pool battle-to-the-death between Nick Carter and a half-dozen giant snapping turtles who are used by the slavers to dispose of bodies.
Carter’s operations are, as always (in my view) clumsy and about as subtle as an axe. Don’t read this one expecting to see even remotely plausible descriptions of how an intelligence officer might work in the field. The book is also a product of its time. All the Nick Carter books have, by 2010 standards, fairly tame descriptions of sex and this one is no different. One of the characters has been blackmailed by the slavers and photos of him are taken while he has sex with two women at once, in several different sexual positions, and the like. (Gasp, shudder, swoon, etc.) Carter and another character see the photos and remark how kinky and “far out” this is, and I just had to laugh. In any case, I don’t think contemporary readers will be too shocked by anything they read here.
I give the book 3 stars out of 5, but then again I’m not a particularly big fan of the Nick Carter books. They’re extremely fast reads but not terribly interesting. In any case, if you like the Nick Carter series, this isn’t a bad one, but it’s not all the great either. Middle-of-the-road in terms of quality and utterly forgettable.
Review copyright 2010 J. Andrew Byers