Return Home

Bloody Battles, Espionage, Dark and Beautiful Prose, & Lovecraftian Horror: A Review of Karl Edward Wagner’s Dark Crusade

Thursday, August 21st, 2014 | Posted by Connor Gormley

Dark Crusade Karl Edward Wagner-smallYou guys are going to love for me for this. So very much. Someone, somewhere might have mentioned this already, but whatever, now it’s my turn.

All of the Kane books, both the novels and short story collections, have been released on Kindle for four or five bucks each, which is a mere three pounds if you live in England. It’s kind of bittersweet actually, because it means all that time I spent rummaging around in the musty corners of used bookshops looking for Bloodstone (which I reviewed, by the way) has kind of gone to waste, and anyone that spent around 100 bucks for a copy of Gods in Darkness or Midnight Sun is going to want to curl up in a big ball over there in the corner and have a little cry. So whilst you do that, I’m going to get on with the review, if you don’t mind.

Dark Crusade revolves around the rise of the dark Cult of Sataki, its meteoritic domination of the kingdom of Shapeki, the brutal regime it establishes and its enigmatic and mysterious prophet Orted something or other. When Orted’s fanatical cult of peasants try to seize the southern kingdoms, they are swiftly and brutally quelled by a superior military force, and that’s when Kane, a mercenary, steps in to help.

Kane really is the star of the show here, as anyone familiar with the series will tell you, but for anyone not in the know, Kane is a prince cursed with immortality who has wandered the world for eternity, plumbing its secrets, learning grim and interdicted sorceries, seeking out mysteries and conflicts and battle and war, and just generally trying to entertain himself during the course of his unending life.

Read More »


The Long-Awaited Return of Bulldog Drummond

Friday, August 15th, 2014 | Posted by William Patrick Maynard

Dead Mans GateEven more than the sinister Dr. Fu Manchu, Bulldog Drummond has become more and more obscure with each passing decade. The original ten novels and five short stories penned by H. C. McNeile (better known by his pen name, Sapper) were bestsellers in the 1920s and 1930s and were an obvious and admitted influence upon the creation of James Bond. Gerard Fairlie turned Sapper’s final story outline into a bestselling novel in 1938 and went on to pen six more original novels featuring the character through 1954.

While the Fairlie titles sold well enough in the UK, the American market for the character had begun to dry up with the proliferation of hardboiled detective fiction. By the time Fairlie decided to throw in the towel, the long-running Bulldog Drummond movie series and radio series had also reached the finish line. Apart from an unsuccessful television pilot, the character remained dormant for a decade until he was updated as one of many 007 imitations who swung through a pair of campy spy movies during the Swinging Sixties. Henry Reymond adapted both 1960s screenplays for a pair of paperback originals, but these efforts barely registered outside the UK.

Fifteen years later, Jack Smithers brought Drummond out of retirement (literally) to join up with several of his clubland contemporaries in Combined Forces (1983). Smithers’s tribute was a sincere effort that found a very limited market to appreciate its cult celebration of the heroes of several generations past. Finally thirty years later, Drummond is back in the first of three new period-piece thrillers from the unlikely pen of fantasy writer Stephen Deas. In a uniquely twenty-first century wrinkle, the three new thrillers are being published exclusively as e-books by Piqwiq.

Read More »


Art of the Genre: When an Old School Mind Learns How to Play D&D 5th Edition

Wednesday, August 13th, 2014 | Posted by Scott Taylor

5E Players Handbook CI remember when I first played Basic D&D, then the first time I played AD&D, then 2nd Edition AD&D, and finally 3rd Edition D&D right around the turn of the millennia.  By the time 4th Edition came around, I no longer had a regular gaming group and didn’t care to reinvest my time, money, and shelf space in yet another iteration of Dungeons & Dragons.

Still, that didn’t stop me from continuing on with the hobby, from 3.5 to Pathfinder, and finally all the way back to my renewed love of the original Advanced Dungeons & Dragons some time around 2010.  When I heard that Wizards of the Coast would be rolling out another edition of D&D in 2014, this one initially referred to as ‘Next’ and now 5th Edition, I wasn’t much into the idea of vesting time in it, but after having skipped over 4th EditionI did feel a need to at least see what the new concepts were about.

Thankfully, I’ve had a chance to first preview the content of the 5th Edition Starter Set box and finally the initial release of both the 5th Edition Player’s Handbook and the first campaign adventure, Hoard of the Dragon Queen.

In today’s Art of the Genre, I’ll be looking over the Player’s Handbook as my well-aged brain tries to grasp what WotC and 175,000 test gamers thought D&D should look like circa 2014.

Read More »


The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes: Those Sweet Silver Blues: Garrett, PI

Monday, August 11th, 2014 | Posted by Bob Byrne

Garrett_BluesLast year, John O’Neill wrote a post about the Garrett PI collections by Glen Cook. The talented Cook is best known for his excellent dark fantasy series about a mercenary group, The Black Company.

The Garrett books are light years away in tone and style from those of The Black Company. However, they are identical in regards to quality of writing. Garrett is the pre-eminent fantasy PI (private investigator).

Cook has written a series of books that appeals to fans of the hardboiled PI, notably practiced by Raymond Chandler, fans of the humorous fantasy world best typified by Terry Pratchett’s Discworld and to those who have read Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe mysteries. The fact that Cook has masterfully combined all three of these elements is admirable in the extreme.

Garrett is a former Marine who spent five inglorious years serving in the seemingly endless war between his nation of Karenta and Venagata. They battle over a region called The Cantard, home to most of the world’s silver mines. And silver is the resource that fuels sorcery. And since Karenta is ruled by the magic using Stormwardens, no cost in human capital is too great to rule The Cantard.

Read More »


A Wizard is a Wizard is a Wizard — Except When He’s Harry Dresden

Sunday, August 10th, 2014 | Posted by Barbara Barrett

Skin Game Jim Butcher.-smallSkin Game, A Novel of the Dresden Files
By Jim Butcher
Roc Books (464 pages, May 27th 2014, $27.95 in hardcover)
Cover by Chris McGrath

Skin Game is the newest novel in the  Harry Dresden series, #15 in the series. I enjoyed it so much, I re-read it.

I’m a real Harry Dresden fan. He reminds me a little of Erle Stanley Gardner’s [aka A. A. Fair] detective, Donald Lam, a “brainy little bastard” who is always getting beat up, according to his boss Bertha Cool. Sounds like Dresden, but Harry has one up on Donald. Not only is Harry a detective, he is Chicago’s only professional wizard.

As if that’s not enough, he is also the Winter Knight to the Queen of Air and Darkness, Mab, who, in this book, loans him out to pay off one of her debts. Trouble is the group of supernatural villains he must help is led by one of his “most dreaded and despised enemies.”

Their target? They plan to rob the personal vault of the Greek god, Hades, and they need Harry’s help.

It’s action filled and lots of fun.

Read More »


Fantastic Science Fiction Stories, April 1960: A Retro-Review

Sunday, August 10th, 2014 | Posted by Rich Horton

Fantastic Science Fiction Stories April 1960-smallI’d rank this as a determinedly minor issue of this magazine, from fairly early in Cele Goldsmith’s tenure. It has a bland cover by an artist I’ve never heard of, Jack Faragasso. The feature list is slim. Norman Lobsenz’s editorial, very brief, is about an idea to put a ring of dust around the Earth so that it is always light. (What a dreadful idea!)

There is also the lettercol, with no contributors I recognized – the names are Miles McAlpin, James W. Ayers, Wesley Sharp, Billy Joe Plott, Frank P. Pretto (perhaps a typo for Prieto), and Michael W. Elm – and their usual small “Coming Next Month.” Interior illustrations are by [Leo] Summers, Varga, and Grayam.

So, what about the stories?

The cover story is “Doomsday Army,” by Jack Sharkey, an entirely too long story about a National Guard captain who ends up being the main intermediary to a bunch of (as it turns out) very small alien invaders. He’s portrayed as a fairly ordinary suburban husband, prone to taking shortcuts in solving problems his wife brings to his attention: so of course his solution to the alien problem will be a dangerous shortcut. And so it is, with an implausible solution.

There’s joke enough here for maybe 3,000 words at the outside, and this drags terribly at some 13,000 words. (I wonder if it was written to the cover, which does portray a scene from the story but in a very generic fashion.)

Read More »


A Must for Sax Rohmer Fans – A Rohmer Miscellany

Friday, August 8th, 2014 | Posted by William Patrick Maynard

Rohmer Miscellanysumuru-cover-final+flapsJohn Robert Colombo is a Canadian author and poet with over 200 titles to his credit. Apart from the acclaim his creative work has brought him, he is also a lifelong Sax Rohmer fan and collector, who has distinguished himself in this rarefied circle. A charter member of the now-defunct Sax Rohmer Society and early contributor to the society’s official publication, The Rohmer Review, Colombo never lost his passion for the weird fiction of this former bestselling thriller author. Rather late in his prestigious literary career, Colombo decided to contribute to Rohmerania by expanding the author’s catalogue in conjunction with Dr. George Vanderburgh’s Battered Silicon Dispatch Box imprint.

Colombo edited the definitive collection of Rohmer’s female variation on Fu Manchu with The Sumuru Omnibus, a massive tome which brought together all five Sumuru novels, penned during the author’s last decade, and preserved them in their original unexpurgated text. Colombo also compiled a monograph of Sumuru’s aphorisms direct from Rohmer’s original text with Tears of Our Lady. The unique feature of the monograph being that this same title exists within the fictional universe of the books and is referred to and quoted from frequently. Now, thanks to Colombo’s efforts, Sumuru’s fictional monograph exists as a real world collectible. Colombo and Vanderburgh also competed (unknowingly at first) with Will Murray and Altus Press in publishing the first book to collect all of Rohmer’s tales of The Crime Magnet. Still later, they teamed to produce the first anthology of Rohmer’s non-fiction articles and autobiographical essays, Pipe Dreams, spanning the author’s entire career.

Read More »


Goth Chick News: Adam Nevill Knows What Scares Us: The House of Small Shadows

Thursday, August 7th, 2014 | Posted by Sue Granquist

Anne Rice and her DollsSome years ago, when Anne Rice was still in residence in New Orleans, I had the opportunity to tour one of her Garden District properties. St. Elizabeth’s was a 47,000 square foot Catholic orphanage built in the 1860’s and after it was purchased by Rice in 1993, one of its many uses was to house Rice’s extensive doll collection. A devotee for nearly twenty years, Rice had dolls from all over the world, including one-of-a-kind antiques and commissioned works, numbering over 2,000 individual pieces.

Now, I have been to some decidedly creepy places in my travels. I’ve spent an embarrassing number of hours hunkered down in dilapidated buildings or picking my way through damp, dark places clutching one ectoplasmic sensing device or another.

But in the rooms of Rice’s 19th century New Orleans monolith, crowded wall-to-wall with black-eyed, porcelain-faced dolls, was by far the most skeeved out I have ever felt.

Dolls rank right up there with clowns, which is probably why the movie Poltergeist featured a clown doll.

It knew what scared us, all right.

And so apparently does UK bestselling horror novelist, Adam Nevill.

Read More »


Film Review: Guardians of the Galaxy is Space Opera at its Best

Tuesday, August 5th, 2014 | Posted by Nick Ozment

guardians of the galaxyI somehow missed the Guardians of the Galaxy comics when I was growing up, but I was steeped in that whole “milieu” — ragtag crews of strange and quirky characters of mixed planets of origin on interstellar quests and cosmic adventures, from Star Wars to Atari Force. On the fantasy side, you had ragtag crews of strange and quirky characters of mixed realms of origin on mystical quests and quasi-medieval adventures. Collectively, that pretty much sums up my pop-cultural background during those formative years in the late ‘70s and ‘80s.

That stuff was put down as escapism, then and now.

And, yep, it was.

When life got crappy, disappointing, or just boring, there was always the promise of derring-do on Barsoom, which we could pine for along with John Carter staring wistfully at the red beacon of Mars. The next wardrobe could be a gateway to Narnia, but in the meantime we could roll up characters and get down to an all-night session of Dungeons and Dragons with friends who had imaginations similarly primed for a little bit of escape. Safer than drugs, anyway.

Guardians of the Galaxy, the new Marvel/Disney film from director and co-writer James Gunn, is a love letter to us — to anyone who grew up with that wild-eyed longing to escape into other worlds, to spend some time with characters who were larger than life and carried the fate of worlds on their shoulders (and yet could still crack a good joke about it all), to boldly go where no man had gone before and discover that, once there, you had to fight a dragon-headed man to win the affections of the green lady. Or whatever. This movie was made for us by people who obviously are “one of us.” Gooble gobble we accept you

Read More »


Self Published Book Review: The Severed Earth by Chris Presta-Valachovic

Sunday, August 3rd, 2014 | Posted by Donald Crankshaw

Severed Earth coverIf you have a book you’d like me to review, please see the submission guidelines here.

After a weekend spent trying to fix my computer (status: still crashing at least once an hour), it was an open question whether I was going to get this done. Well, here it is, hopefully not too much the worse for the wear.

This month’s self-published novel is The Severed Earth by Chris Presta-Valachovic. The Severed Earth is what is sometimes referred to as a portal fantasy, where characters from our world are transported to another one and are forced to deal with some great event. Sometimes the characters are quite willing, crossing over freely — in this book, they are definitely not.

The rock band Karma is in trouble. Despite the success they’ve had, their ex-manager Izzy embezzled most of the money before dying, leaving the members deep in debt. They have one chance to produce an album and turn their fortunes around, but their lead singer, Vao, is having a crisis of faith, and thinking of quitting after the death of his mother. The guitarist, Rafe, is fed up with Vao’s moping and unreliability and would just as soon be rid of him, while Jonathan just wants to hold the band together. Ian and Dylan just want to make music, but they, too, are stuck in this emotional train-wreck of a band. But when the record rep turns out to be a wizard, the band members soon find themselves with other things to worry about.

King Faolan of Kern is missing, and whether by coincidence or magic — it’s not entirely clear — Vao bears a remarkable resemblance to the missing king. He and his bandmates are brought to the land of Kern, Vao to take his place as king, and the others to take the fall for kidnapping him. The others manage to escape with the help of the bard Sion, but Vao is brought to the Crown City of Kern, where he is expected to assume the role of king, and in the course of a month, bond with a woman he’s never met and seal an alliance with the nation of Chulain. The others have the task not only of avoiding being captured and charged with kidnapping and murder, but rescuing Vao and finding the way home. Except that Rafe isn’t so certain that Vao is worth rescuing, and as time passes, it’s less and less clear that Vao wants to go home.

Read More »


  Earlier Entries »

This site © 2004-2011 by New Epoch Press. All rights reserved.