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Gonji: Fortress of Lost Worlds by T. C. Rypel

Tuesday, July 29th, 2014 | Posted by Fletcher Vredenburgh

oie_2924853GW8NECCJBack in January, I reviewed the first three books of T. C. Rypel’s Gonji series. Though thirty-odd years old, the books are exemplars of what heroic fantasy should be: exciting, wildly inventive, well-written, and — above all — starring a heroic protagonist. Exiled half-caste samurai Gonji Sabatake, try as he might, is unable to avoid fighting evil or behaving courageously. This stuff is why I still read S&S.

While the first three books (actually, one big book chopped into three parts by the original publisher, Zebra) are a complete story, they are also the introduction to a much wider and wilder tale. Gonji’s adventures start anew in Fortress of Lost Worlds (1985), republished this past May by Wildside Press. The fifth book, A Hungering of Wolves, should be rereleased pretty soon by Wildside as well.

At the end of the previous book, Deathwind of Vedun, Gonji left his surviving companions in order to pursue the werewolf, Simon Sardonis. He had been told years before by a Shinto priest that his destiny lay with something or someone called the Deathwind, which he discovered to be Simon. But driven by his own fears and burdens, Simon wants little to do with the Easterner and cares even less for their supposed entwined fate, so he keeps moving to prevent Gonji from finding him.

Fortress of Lost Worlds’ main story picks up two years into Gonji’s trek to find Simon. He and his party of soldiers have been savaged and chased to the feet of the Pyrenees by an unknown band he calls the Dark Company. As his last companion is lost in the frigid night, the samurai makes his escape into caverns in the mountainside. While the caves possess magical properties that both warm the nearly frozen warrior and his horse and fill their bellies, they turn out also to have occupants: ogres.

That sets the stage for Gonji’s monster-filled journey from the mountains to the town of Barbaso. He’d been warned that evil was loose in the valley, but having decided to travel to Toledo to settle an old debt, the straightest route lay through the valley, and Barbaso.

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Amazing Stories Turns 88 and Celebrates with a Special Issue

Saturday, July 26th, 2014 | Posted by Derek Kunsken

amazing-2014Amazing Stories is one of those legendary magazines of the first fandom age. Launched in 1926 by Hugo Gernsback (ie: the guy the Hugo Awards are named after), it was the first magazine devoted to science fiction stories.

This forerunner status didn’t assure it success and the magazine suffered bankruptcy, changes in ownership, editorial style, legal troubles, and so it has had many incarnations.

In recent years, Steve Davidson and a small army have been making efforts to resurrect Amazing Stories as an e-magazine, at first as a magazine focusing on fandom, and now, more consciously approaching the role of a magazine that will be offering new fiction and a new editorial voice. But, as Davidson notes, baby steps is the key.

The 88th Anniversary issue features articles of science fact, articles about fandom, reprinted short fiction, and some new stories as well. It is a visually-powerful magazine, with some great interior and cover art, so it was beautiful to toggle through on my Kindle.

On the content side, I have strong feelings about the sf field and this magazine pulled those feelings in a couple of directions.

I’ll admit I floundered a bit trying to discern the editorial taste, until I looked at the first fandom context of Amazing Stories and the aura of nostalgia around the age and history of science fiction as a genre.

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Blogging Sapper’s Bulldog Drummond, Part Five – “The Final Count”

Friday, July 25th, 2014 | Posted by William Patrick Maynard

1189621421509Sapper’s The Final Count (1926) saw the Bulldog Drummond formula being shaken and stirred yet again. The first four books in the series are the most popular because they chronicle Drummond’s ongoing battle with criminal mastermind Carl Peterson. The interesting factor is how different the four books are from one another. Sapper seemed determined to cast aside the idea of the series following a template and the result kept the long-running series fresh, as well as atypical.

The most striking feature this time is the decision to opt for a first person narrator in the form of John Stockton, the newest member of Drummond’s gang. While Drummond’s wife, Phyllis, played a crucial role in the first book, she barely registers in the early sequels. One would have expected Sapper to have continued the damsel in distress formula with Phyllis in peril, but he really only exploits this angle in the second book in the series, The Black Gang (1922).

The Black Gang reappear here, if only briefly, and are quickly dispatched by the more competent and deadly foe they face. This befits the more serious tone of this book, which has very few humorous passages. The reason for the somber tone is the focus is on a scientific discovery of devastating consequence that threatens to either revolutionize war or end its threat forever. Robin Gaunt is the tragic genius whose invention of a deadly poison that could wipe out a city the size of London by being released into the air proves eerily prescient.

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The Ballantine Adult Fantasy Series: The Sorcerer’s Ship by Hannes Bok

Thursday, July 24th, 2014 | Posted by westkeith

The Sorcerer's Ship 001The Sorcerer’s Ship
Hannes Bok
Ballantine, 205 p., December 1969, $0.95
Cover Art by Ray Cruz

First, I’d like to apologize to John and everyone else who reads these posts for taking so long to get this one done. I was on the road quite a bit from the end of May up through the Fourth, but I thought I would be able to get this particular post done quickly. Then things started happening. Car repairs, then house repairs, and then more car repairs. (This has necessitated bank account repairs.) Then last night, one of the wires in my son’s braces snapped loose. If anything else happens, I’m going to snap.

I don’t mean to kvetch. As you can see, I’ve been a bit distracted and apologize for the delay. I’ve already started the next book I’ll read for this series.

Anyway, on to something a little different than what we’ve seen in the Ballantine Adult Fantasy series up to this point. Rather than something deep and complex, with complicated writing (The Wood Beyond the World) or bizarre imagery (Lilith) or even not-so-subtle innuendo (The Silver Stallion), The Sorcerer’s Ship is almost a children’s story.

It’s not intended to be, but this is one that might hold a younger person’s interest. There’s certainly nothing in it that most parents would find objectionable for a child capable of reading a book of this length.

Hannes Bok is best remembered for his art, but as Lin Carter discusses in his introduction, Bok was also a more than capable writer. Carter chose this volume and The Golden Stair for inclusion in the BAF line. The Sorcerer’s Ship was originally published by John Campbell (not the world’s easiest sell by any means) in Unknown in December 1942. After Weird Tales, Unknown is arguably the greatest fantasy pulp in the history of the field.

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Art of the Genre: Gandalf, Conan, and Gray Mouser review Tales from the Emerald Serpent Volume II: A Knight in the Silk Purse; moderated by Cthulhu

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2014 | Posted by Scott Taylor

Another Word for Rain art by Jeff Laubenstein and writing by Dave Gross

Another Word for Rain art by Jeff Laubenstein and writing by Dave Gross

Somewhere, in the labyrinthine halls of time and space, three figures sit in what would be considered a green room by the standards of the world we know today.  Each, in their time, was brought forth by the hand and mind of a great writer, but upon their passing, most of their tales came to an end, so what else is there to do but sit in the purgatory of licensing and read about other adventures that they can no longer partake.  So it is that these three immortal characters have come to discuss a new work of fiction, one that has a seed of commonality with the genre they so thoroughly understand.  And to keep them on track, the Great Cthulhu has been summoned from R’lyeh to moderate the affair.

Cthulhu: zzzzzzzz

Gandalf: Introductions you say, why yes, I am Gandalf, and Gandalf means me!

Gray Mouser: Seriously, if I have to hear him say that one more time, Cat’s Claw is coming out…

Conan: Nay, friend Mouser, stay thy hand that it can be put to better use on dark sorcerers like those of ancient Stygia and not this kindly grey-cloaked priest.

Gandalf: Priest! I dare say you misjudge, my heavily girded friend, but you do bring up a point of interest, that being the mage-craft and wizardry, something that appears in the tale Water Listens.  Now Cenote is indeed one of my kindred and has the grace of the Secret Fire and the flame of Anor certainly burns within her.

Gray Mouser: Flame?  Did you read as I did, Stormcrow? That woman is more reminiscent of Sheelba of the Eyeless Face, and there was no fire in her at all, but instead she seems filled with water as deep as the soul of Sea-King.

Conan: Tis true, Gandalf, yet she has friends of the flame, her slave Hunhau and the stout black, Tohil.

Cthulhu: zzzzzzzzzz

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Headed For a Watery Grave: The Adventures of Captain Marvel, Chapter Ten: Doom Ship

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2014 | Posted by Thomas Parker

Captain Marvel Chapter Ten BettyI’m glad to see that you’ve gotten here early — as we near the end of our saga, seats are going to be at a premium, and you’re fast running out of opportunities to see Frank Coughlan Jr. and Tom Tyler perform their mystic switcheroo. I mean, once this silly thing is out of the theater, it’ll be forever relegated to the realm of nostalgic memory — it’s not like anyone will be able to watch it at home sixty years from now! That would be magic…

And so, while we still have the chance, let’s join the ragged remains of the Malcolm Scientific Expedition in their struggle against the malific machinations of the sinister Scorpion in this week’s chapter of The Adventures of Captain Marvel, “Doom Ship.” Shazam! (Cough, cough…)

Pay close attention to this week’s title cards, recapping Chapter Nine; there will be a quiz after the main feature. “The Scorpion — Forces Doctor Lang to reveal the hiding place of his lens.” “Doctor Lang — Gives Betty the combination to his safe.” “Captain Marvel — Tries to warn Betty of a death trap at Lang’s home.” “Billy Batson — And Betty decide to get the lens.” Now to pick up where we left off…

Last week, we left Billy and Betty standing in front of the late Doctor Lang’s safe, unaware that two tommy guns were aimed at their backs, primed to fire as soon as the safe is opened. (They’re also unaware that Barnett and two other Scorpion men are watching them from hiding.) Just as Billy turns the safe’s dial to the last number, but before he can open the door, Barnett and his boys emerge from behind the drapes.

One of them shoves Betty out of the way. She slams against the wall and is knocked out (by the serial’s end, this woman will have suffered more concussions than Brett Favre) and then he slugs Billy on the head with a gun, laying the intrepid broadcaster out cold.

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The Start Of A Grand Adventure Goblin Moon by Teresa Edgerton

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2014 | Posted by Fletcher Vredenburgh

oie_2254425vQLXHqXWMatthew David Surridge reviewed Teresa Edgerton’s Goblin Moon (1991) here at Black Gate early last year, and here I am to write about it again. It’s a book that, though recently reprinted, I suspect most readers are unaware of, so I want to shine another spotlight on it. Also, since reading Tim Powers’s The Drawing of the Dark, my itch for swashbuckling adventure got itchier.

I read this when it first came out and my memory of it was very pleasant. I remembered loving the dry humor and also the tremendous detail. Now my friend Carl, on the other hand, said he hated any book that spent as much time as it did describing characters’ clothes. My response was, if I recall correctly, that he was missing the point or something like that.

On rereading Goblin Moon this past week, I was happy to find that, one, the book held up very well and two, yes, Carl missed the point or something. Actually, the point he missed was that Teresa Edgerton created a deliriously detailed world, down to the clothing, that is richer than just about any other in fantasy.

There are a host of things that make Goblin Moon a fun read. The elaborate world-building, the intricate plot, and the colorful characters, to name an important triumvirate, are exactly the sorts of things you want to find in a book with its roots in Stevenson, Thorndike, and Sabatini. Add a lively pace and clever writing and you’ve got the perfect way to while away several lazy hours amidst floating coffins, decadent diabolists, a vengeful fairy, and an interlude with pirates.

Goblin Moon opens with a pair of river scavengers, Jed Braun and his uncle Caleb, drawing a coffin out of the waters of the River Lunn. The casket bears the strangely undecayed body of a man and several tomes of dark magic. Their discovery leads Caleb back to an old companion, the bookseller and one-time alchemist Gottfried Jenk, and consequently leaves young Jed in need of a new way to support himself.

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Adventure On Film: Time After Time

Monday, July 21st, 2014 | Posted by markrigney

Movie fans will forever remember Malcolm McDowell for his simpering, ultra-violent turn in Aimages Clockwork Orange (1971), but actors aren’t the sort to rest on their laurels, and by 1979, McDowell felt ready to embody a genuine historical figure, H.G. Wells.

The film was Time After Time, not to be confused with the Cyndi Lauper song (or the infinitely better cover by songbird Eva Cassidy), and if there’s a more definitive origin point for the Steampunk movement, I’d like to know what it is.

At the helm is first-time director Nicholas Meyer, who must have a soft spot for science fiction. Only a few years later, and armed with a much heftier budget, he was tapped to captain Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan (1982).

As for Time After Time, it’s far from perfect –– the script contains several gargantuan plot holes, and we viewers (if I may be forgiven the mixed metaphor) must swallow hard to keep up –– but it does work in fits and starts, thanks especially to the looming presence of David Warner as a time-skipping and dangerously prescient Jack the Ripper.

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Too Grand a Vision: A Review of Jodorowsky’s Dune

Saturday, July 19th, 2014 | Posted by James McGlothlin

Jodorowsky Dune poster-smallFrank Herbert’s groundbreaking 1965 novel Dune is still rightly considered one of the greatest sci-fi novels ever. This majestic novel justly won the 1966 Hugo award and the first ever Nebula in 1965. As fans of Dune know, it’s a book (and a series) dealing with a host of interesting and complex philosophical and religious concepts.

If you haven’t read Herbert’s original novel, then perhaps you’re familiar with David Lynch’s infamous 1984 movie version of Dune. (Oh James, please don’t go there!) This was an early letdown — something that us genre fans are unfortunately far too familiar with by now — and was quite a bomb. (Personally, I think there are some elements of that movie that are quite good.)

One of the most interesting things about the theatrical version of Dune is its “development hell” history. For example, were you aware that after the Hollywood execs edited the movie the way they wanted, David Lynch refused to have his name attached to the movie and early cuts claim to be directed by Alan Smithee?

But even before any of that, you also may not know that Dune had been vigorously pursued as a possible movie by a Chilean surrealist filmmaker named Alejandro Jodorowsky.

Never heard of Jodorowsky? Few have. I personally was familiar with his name from behind-the-scene footage and documentary interviews on DVD extras. Jodorowsky’s name often comes up in discussions about the making of Ridley Scott’s 1979 movie Alien or his 1982 Blade Runner.

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The Series Series: The Night of the Swarm by Robert V.S. Redick

Friday, July 18th, 2014 | Posted by Sarah Avery

The Night of the Swarm Robert VS RedickIt’s one of the classic dilemmas all fantasy readers face: When the last volume in a series finally comes out, do you go back and reread from the start so you can reach the end with all the grace notes and loose ends fresh in memory as the author ties them off? Or do you dive in immediately because you’ve been longing to resolve the suspense of the last volume’s cliffhangers?

If you’ve been reading Robert V.S. Redick’s delightful series, The Chathrand Voyage, you face this decision again with the arrival of the final book, The Night of the Swarm. The opening volume, The Red Wolf Conspiracy, was Redick’s debut novel, so we’ve never seen him bring a series to closure before. The first three books were delicious, but will he pull off the conclusion well enough to justify the time it takes you to reread the whole set?

Yes. Do it. Go find your copy of The Red Wolf Conspiracy, or buy a new one if you’ve mislaid it. I’ve just finished The Night of the Swarm, which I dove into without reacquainting myself with the earlier books, and though it was immensely satisfying, I will definitely be rereading the whole series.

And if you’re a newcomer to The Chathrand Voyage, oh, you are in for such a treat. Get all four books at once, turn the ringer off on your phone for a few weeks, and set up an auto-response for your email, because you won’t want to leave the battered, glorious world of Alifros until you’ve seen its struggles through.

Our young heroes Pazel, Thasha, and Neeps — along with a ship’s company of fanciful, and sometimes frightening, supporting characters that Charles Dickens might have come up with if he’d been trying to adapt his favorite techniques from George R.R. Martin — have only been at sea for a year, but what perils they have weathered! They have resisted a madman whose army of followers worship him as a god, rescued Thasha from political assassination, fled by sailing ship across an almost unimaginably large and wild ocean, and rediscovered civilizations no one from their continent has seen in centuries.

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