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Christmas Loot!

Well, as always, I received some very nice books for Christmas (that’s almost always all that I want), most from my wishlist and a few surprises. Here’s what I received:

Fantasy:

  • Gilded Latten Bones by Glen Cook: The latest in the Garrett, P.I. series. I’m not a massive fan, but I am a Glen Cook completist (yes, I even own an extremely rare copy of The Swap Academy by Greg Stevens.
  • Surrender to the Will of the Night (Book 3 of The Instrumentalities of the Night) by Glen Cook: This is the third book in this series (I have seen a rumor that a fourth book with the proposed title Working the Gods’ Mischief. It’s not nearly as good as the Black Company series, but then again, decent Glen Cook books are better than most other fantasy novels on the market.
  • Towers of Midnight (Book 13 of The Wheel of Time) by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson: No, I’m not even remotely caught up on this series, why do you ask? And yes, I’ll be buying the next (final?) volume in the series, due in 2012, whether I’m ready for it then or not.
  • Science Fiction:

  • Wild Cards, Volume 1 (2010 Tor re-release), edited by George R. R. Martin: I’ve got this volume from the ’80s in the old SFBC edition, but this re-release contains three new stories. Woo-hoo! Let’s all cross our fingers that Tor continues reprinting the entire series and commissioning additional stories.
  • Horror:

  • Curse of the Bane (The Last Apprentice, Book 2) by Joseph Delaney: I couldn’t take it anymore and so I picked up this second volume in the series. I’ve read the first book in the series and liked it a lot.
  • I Luv Halloween (Ultimate Twisted Edition — Cabbage Poot) by Keith Giffen (art by Benjamin Roman): Very difficult to find color(!), hardback omnibus of the three volumes in this black comedy-horror graphic novel series. My dad got me a really nice copy that’s signed by Benjamin Roman, who also drew a picture of one of the main characters on the front endpapers.
  • The Cthulhu Mythos Encyclopedia (Third Edition) by Daniel Harms: I own the second edition and am going to have to do a page-by-page comparison to see what was added. Let’s hope a bunch of stuff.I do wish they had kept the Encyclopedia Cthulhiana moniker though.
  • Full Dark, No Stars by Stephen King: His latest, containing four novellas. I still anticipate starting my grand reading adventure of reading every King book (in publication order or so) in 2011.
  • BPRD: Killing Ground (Volume Eight): Can’t wait to see how the storyline progresses. I am woefully behind on my BRPD and Hellboy reading.
  • Lobster Johnson: The Iron Prometheus: Very much looking forward to this pulp-inspired graphic novel in the Hellboy universe.
  • Mystery/Crime:

  • Moriarty by John Gardner: Spotted this one in the remainder bin. No idea how it’s going to turn out. Some Sherlock Holmes pastiches and related books are lots of fun, others are clunkers. I have some of Gardner’s James Bond novels, but I haven’t read any yet, so no idea how he is as a writer.
  • The Mike Hammer Collection, Volume 1: I, the Jury; My Gun Is Quick; and Vengeance Is Mine! by Mickey Spillane: I have been wanting to check out Spillane’s Mike Hammer novels for a long while, and this omnibus of the first three novels in the series looked like a great place to start.
  • Berlin Noir (March Violets; The Pale Criminal; A German Requiem) by Philip Kerr: The first three Bernie Gunther novels set during the Third Reich. Looks pretty interesting.
  • The Black Lizard Big Book of Black Mask Stories, edited by Otto Penzler: A really thick tome. Appears to be a great set of noir/crime stories. Not the kind of book you plow through, but one story at a time should be terrific.
  • Non-fiction:

  • The Peninsular War Atlas by Nick Lipscombe: A very nice slipcover edition by Osprey (surprisingly enough) of what looks like an outstanding new atlas of my favorite of the Napoleonic campaigns.
  • Three political books by David Horowitz: Unholy Alliance: Radical Islam and the American Left; Reforming Our Universities: The Campaign for an Academic Bill of Rights; and The Shadow Party. None are particularly books I would have picked up on my own, but they’re all nicely inscribed by the author.
  • So that’s how I made out for Christmas. Some great stuff in there.

    Recent (pre-Christmas) acquisitions

    I anticipate getting a decent number of books for Christmas (what else would one give to the Bookworm as a gift?), but I’ve also acquired quite a few new ones this month due to travels, holiday sales, and complimentary review copies (which will be appearing here on the blog in January). I got to go to the warehouse location of Second Story Books in Rockville, MD, which I hadn’t been able to visit in years, so that led to some excellent finds. So here’s what I’ve picked up since the last acquisitions update:

    Fantasy:

  • Codex Derynianus by Katherine Kurtz and Robert Reginald: At long last, I have the companion to the classic Deryni series.
  • Two novels by Talbot Mundy: Caesar Dies and Tros of Samothrace, Volume 1: Lud of Lunden.
  • Two of the UK editions of Hugh Cook’s Chronicles of an Age of Darkness: The Wishstone and the Wonderworkers (Vol. 6) and The Witchlord and the Weaponmaster (Vol. 10). Very hard to find and very, very good.
  • Science Fiction:

  • Invasion! Earth vs. the Aliens (omnibus) by Robert Reginald: A modern retelling and expansion of H. G. Wells’ War of the Worlds.
  • Two by Jack Vance: Space Opera and The Killing Machine. I already owned copies of both, but not in these editions.
  • Swan Song by Brian Stableford.
  • Pulp:

  • The Nine Unknown (omnibus) by Talbot Mundy: I have been looking for this one for a long time and can’t wait to read it.
  • Tarzan, Lord of the Jungle by ERB: One of the last remaining Tarzans I didn’t already own.
  • Horror:

  • The Black Magic Omnibus, edited by Peter Haining, Prologue by Dennis Wheatley, Epilogue by Ray Bradbury: Obscure, a very nice find. I am very excited about plunging into this one.
  • Non-fiction:

  • Choice Words, edited by Robert Reginald: A collection of essays by writers writing about writing. (I’ve started reading this one already and am enjoying it.)
  • The Complete Jack the Ripper by Donald Rumbelow: I’ve always found the case fascinating, so this one goes into my small collection of books about Jack.
  • The Stephen King Universe by Stanley Wiater, Christopher Golden, and Hank Wagner: Looks like some interesting commentary on King’s work.
  • Spy Fiction: A Connoisseur’s Guide by Donald McCormick and Katy Fletcher: Only covers up to 1990, but this looks like a great guide to the genre.
  • Edgar Rice Burroughs: The Man Who Created Tarzan by Irwin Porges: Massive hardbound, coffeetable book-like tome on ERB and his work.
  • Role-Playing Games:

  • Three short supplements for the WWII-with-paranormals RPG Godlike: Will to Power; Saipan; and the Game Moderator’s Screen.
  • Dreadful Secrets of Candlewick Manor for the Monsters and Other Childish Things RPG (about creepy kids and their strange monster companions).
  • Two supplements for the Traveller science fiction RPG: Power Projection: Fleet and Project Steel.
  • Books for Christmas?

    Here’s a link to a video of a kid who gets books for Christmas and isn’t altogether pleased….

    (I’ve tagged this one as “comedy,” because it really is pretty funny, but it’s also pretty disturbing, especially how the parents aren’t particularly concerned about the child’s reaction. It reminds me of the story a friend told me years ago about some kids who were acting up in Walmart. Their mother shrieked “If you don’t settle down and behave, I’m going to make you go home and read!” The kids were horrified and aghast by this threatened punishment and immediately settled down.)

    Review of Slaughterhouse World / Knack’ Attack by Ardath Mayhar and Robert Reginald

    Remember the old Ace Doubles, each of which included two novels/novellas printed back-to-back and upside-down, each with its own front cover? I love those, and am happy to report that Wildside Press has started a new series using this concept. Wildside Double #7 includes two science fiction novellas set in the same universe: Slaughterhouse World by Ardath Mayhar and Knack’ Attack by Robert Reginald. Both are fun science fiction tales involving humanity’s battle against an implacable alien race, the Knackers, with whom we cannot effectively communicate and who view humans as a culinary delicacy. I’d consider both works to be in much the same vein as the old Heinlein juveniles, in that they would appeal to teen readers but can still be appreciated by adult readers.

    Minor plot spoilers follow.

    Slaughterhouse World: Ardath Mayhar’s novella describes the (mis)adventures of an ordinary grunt, Joel Karsh, who is one of the few survivors of a human military unit operating on the eponymous “Slaughterhouse World,” which is a planet the Knackers are using as a processing center and transshipment point for human flesh. Joel just wants to survive and make it back to his rendezvous point, but along the way, he may just find a way to give humanity the edge it needs to win the war.

    Knack’ Attack: I was initially concerned about the dialect in which this story is told – it’s a first person account by a fifteen-year old genetically-modified – in what way(s) we’re not sure, though she can’t eat “standard” food – human girl who has lived her entire life on a rural alien world. She speaks in kind of a “folksy” voice with lots of quaint expressions and contractions peppering her dialogue and thoughts, but it didn’t get in the way of my enjoyment of the story as I’d initially feared it might. As I read, I found myself mentally pronouncing each word phonetically and that worked just fine and didn’t slow me down. In any case, this is a coming of age story about a young woman thrust into a situation requiring courage, wisdom, and leadership far beyond her years if she and her fellow settlers are to survive the Knacker invasion of their world. We also learn more about the aliens themselves and what’s going on in the larger war effort.

    Despite the fact that the premise of both stories is one involving a pretty horrific situation – humanity is losing a war to an alien race that eats us – these are classic, fun, wholesome military SF tales. Since these are stories of courage, survival, and coming of age, I think they will especially appeal to teen readers.

    I enjoyed both novellas very much and recommend them to anyone looking for some fun SF adventures. Don’t expect convoluted plots or hard science. These are rousing adventure stories. I give this duo of novellas a very solid 4 stars out of 5 and am very much looking forward to more tales of the Human-Knacker War

    Review copyright 2010 J. Andrew Byers

    Review: Darkly Dreaming Dexter by Jeff Lindsay

    I should note that before I read this first volume in the Dexter series, I recently watched the first season of the Dexter TV show on DVD, and I enjoyed that very much. This first book covers the events of the roughly the first half or so of the TV show, which was relatively faithful to the book, though I like some of the subplots and nuances they added to the show (I won’t provide precise spoilers on what’s in the TV show vs. what’s in the book).

    This review will contain some minor plot spoilers, so be forewarned.

    You’d get this much from reading the back cover, but Dexter is a blood spatter forensic analyst for the Miami police department. He also happens to be a serial killer, though one who only hunts and kills other serial killers, which, I suppose, makes him an oddly likeable anti-hero.

    The problem with the book, in some ways at least, is that it uses a first person narrative structure throughout. On the TV show, the viewer sees Dexter on the screen, and he’s weird and awkward and clueless and maybe kind of stumbling and fumbling around when it comes to human interactions, but we see him as a person and want to like him, because he is so awkward. When the reader is inside of Dexter’s head in the book, we can see how truly alien his mindset is and how he rationally, coldly, meticulously calculates each and every one of his actions in public. And that’s both scary (which is all to the good I suppose) but it’s also distancing. I kind of like the Dexter of the TV show. I don’t much care for the Dexter of the book.

    I was actually kind of disappointed in this one. It’s not a terrible book by any means, don’t get me wrong, but it’s kind of meandering and the actual resolution of the plot – such as it is – is unsatisfying, particularly since the TV show took the same elements and wove them together in a much more satisfying manner. I hate to keep comparing the book with the TV show, but both concern the same characters and the same major plot points. And the TV show is just better, with some subplots and additional nuance added in that really enhance the story over the book version. I give this one a very lukewarm 3 stars out of 5. I wanted it to be much better. I don’t think I’ll continue reading the rest of the books, but I am looking forward to Season 2 of the show.

    Review copyright 2010 J. Andrew Byers