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Book Reviews

Kal-El

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Sentinels of Fire, by P.T. Deutermann

Historically accurate and VERY technically detailed (a bit too much, at times).
Takes place before/during/after the Pearl Harbor attack, and features (among others) Jap kamikaze planes.
Kind of feel it glosses over action parts, and goes into much more detail describing the detail of the ships and its hardware.
Bit of a hard read if you're looking for more Pearl Harbor-style action and less of an A-to-Z tech sheet of that era's battleships.
6/10

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Vultural

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A Little Aqua Book of Creature Tails by David Schow

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Novella sized book of horror short stories.
Breaking with the current preference for bloodlust and incest, these are all vintage stories.
Haunted movie houses, showing uncut horror films with "lost" footage reinserted.
The local bar, where Frankenstein, Dracula and Wolfman gather yearly.
The sunny mansion where the Creature (Black Lagoon) negotiates new contracts.
By turns wistful and humorous.
Quick read, did not feel like I had to wash my hands afterwards.
 

Kal-El

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Now reading short novel Judge Dredd: Year One.

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Very good book on the first years of Judge Dredd's infamous career.
Also involves his brother Rico. You read all about everything starting up around him, the Psy-Ops division, the decay of Mega City, drugs being introduced, him not being as highly regarded as he will be in the future, ...

Definite must read for Dredd fans, same vibe and gore as the comics. Never feels off.
 

Vultural

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THE GHOSTS & SCHOLARS BOOK OF SHADOWS VOLUME 2
edited by Rosemary Pardoe

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Second collection of M R James related stories.
Ghost tales written in extended prose, typical of the late Victorian/Edwardian eras.
Familiarity with James not necessary, but patience is.
Narratives play out slowly, and resolutions are more often than not, disappearances.
These may read better for those whose imaginations can still create internal visions and scenes.
 

Vultural

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Noir City Sentinel #3 - edited by Eddie Muller

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Printed collection of the choicest articles from the ezine. #3 is from 2010.
Not an overview of Noir, nor an introductory book, and perhaps not the best for novices.
The publication assumes reader possesses passing familiarity with the genre.
Deeply entertaining for film buffs, covering a lot of interesting ground.
Articles include Brit-Noir, lesbian characters, the Whistler (OTR series),
Book vs Film comparisons, Greenstreet & Lorre, Modern Noirs ...
Packed with photos and drawings.
 

Vultural

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Anatomy Of A Killer by Peter Rabe

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Cold, remote story of professional hit that goes slightly askew.
The killer, perhaps too long in the game, has grown obsessive about procedures and habits.
When preliminary groundwork isn’t quite perfect his nerves start to jangle.
His employers, the Mob, Rabe shows as little more than sketches. No descriptions, just dialogue, as they realize their man has grown unpredictable, and perhaps a danger to the organization.

Rabe’s career bolted from the gate, and big things were predicted.
After a brush with death, however, his writing became more impersonal, and not surprisingly sold less.
 

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Easy Death by Daniel Boyd

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Action layered, tongue-in-cheek, robbery caper set during winter blizzard. Circa 1951.
Plus one, narrative told from multiple points of view and in jumbled chronological order - though with dates and times in each chapter to help guide the reader.
Plus two, intelligent characters, most with a droll sense of humor.
Plus three, the caper goes wrong in numerous directions and for almost all parties.
Negative, the lead character uses syntax akin to a hillbilly Yoda. Not affected dialect, just peculiar phrasing that was noticeable.
A romp of a seasonal story, nevertheless, that scatters in several directions but connects nicely by the end.
 

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The Terror by Dan Simmons

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Historical fiction of the doomed Franklin expedition, circa 1845.
Ships Erebus and Terror had sailed into Canada, searching for the fabled Northwest Passage.
Both ships were frozen in the ice for several years, before being crushed and destroyed.
All hands disappeared.
The submerged wreckage of HMS Erebus was discovered in 2014.
Simmons’ tale charts the story more or less chronologically, shifting points of view from various individuals. One chapter will follow Captain Fitzjames, then surgeon Goodsir’s diary entries, Captain Crozier, third lieutenant Irving, and so on.
Using actual members of the expedition lends the narrative an authentic touch.
Nevertheless, this is a Horror story, as trapped crewmen soon realize something unnatural is hunting and killing them.
Story circles and adds myths and legends from the native Esquimaux.

A lengthy read, over 600 pages, but perfect for this time of year.
Warning, the crew of the Franklin ran out of food and resorted to eating what was at hand.
Squeamish souls, consider yourself on notice.
 

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The Men Upstairs by Tim Waggoner

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Middle aged, divorced man notices young woman weeping on the floor of a movie theater lobby.
Misgivings aside (he realizes his grown daughter is older than the girl), he reassures her, then offers to let her stay at his place for awhile.
Before you can warn, “Dude, what are you thinking?” he realizes the girl is an exotic breed.
Her features are unusual and she is fragrant to the point of distraction.
And he is distracted, and drawn. He holds back, however, because she had been abused.
By a handful of men who soon move into the empty apartment upstairs.
Then the narrative turns, by shifts, sexual and claustrophobic.
Dark horror, brief novelette, that reeks of the bedroom and butcher block.
 

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A Gathering Of Saints by Christopher Hyde

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A few months earlier, I read Max Collins’ London Blitz Murders, fact based fiction about an actual serial killer, busy during WWII.
I grabbed Hyde’s book as a “travel book,” and once I began reading I experienced a bit of deja vu.
Once again, a serial killer strikes during attacks, once again Sir Bernard Spilsbury is a key player.
Fortunately, the narrative veers in different directions.
The victims are males, perhaps closeted homosexuals. Also, after a hundred pages, Spilsbury disappears from the story. In addition, there is no participation by Agatha Christie. In the last quarter of the book, the investigative team is aided by one Ian Fleming instead.
This is a solid thriller. Multiple agencies pursue the murderer: Scotland Yard, the SIS (later to become MI5), the budding OSS (later CIA), and a clandestine Nazi agent working directly for Reinhard Heydrich.
The action is tight, characters fairly well drawn. Wasn’t keen on the resolution - felt rushed - but enjoyed the book overall.

Being a “travel book” I finished it while on a trip and left it in Gate CE for someone else to enjoy.
 

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Watchers by Dean Koontz

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I had never read this blockbuster author before, who, in a long stretch of heyday, was often compared with Stephen King.
Main similarity I detected was that both could use an editor.
Way - way too many words to tell a pulpy yarn of science gone bad and conspiracy cover-up.

At the core is a smart dog (named Einstein - give me a break) who can fetch beer, play checkers, probably build an inter-galactic teleporter if given half a chance.
Yes, a magical dog.
There's a lonely, mopey Mister Downer who meets an insecure, emotionally abused Ms Downer.
Do they fall in love? Do they bloom into well-adjusted heroic types?
Sure - just like your cross-eyed relatives or pebble brained coworkers.
Best character - aside from the dog, for all you canine fans - is the hitman.
Koontz must have felt the same way as he succumbs to letting the character become a full bore wacko.
Law enforcement types are introduced, they amount to nothing.
Scientists = meals.
One of the lamer books I have read in awhile.
 

ThrowgnCpr

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well, I guess it's fitting to have an incredibly lame cover for a lame book. Seriously, who designed that turd?
 

Vultural

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A Little Purple Book Of New Orleans Stories by Poppy Z Brite

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Poppy was one of those dark horror flames, known in the genre, who never broke mainstream.
Her work was always too edgy, too alienating for the mob, and too sexual for the gorehounds.
Most of the sex was homo in a field that is determinedly hetero.
Hurricane Katrina had a profound impact on Brite, who wrote less and less.
Poppy transgendered to Billy Martin in 2010, around the same time he announced the creative fire was gone.

This is a nice gathering of his New Orleans themed stories.
Some are disquieting observations, others are funny (“The Devil You Know” shows the problems Diablo has with staff), a few are wistful memoirs.
Perhaps difficult to find, the edition suffers typos and poor typeface. An increasingly trend, I fear.
 

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Noir City Annual #7 by Eddie Muller

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Another packed issue.
Several articles devoted to Ray Milland.
Christa Faust contributes an essay on modern femme fatales.
Three reviews of “Silent Noir” were interesting, though a stretch as Noir began, more or less, in the 40s.
Numerous pages on “Western Noir,” equally intriguing, with more credibility since many Noir directors and actors worked in select grim, fatalistic Westerns.
Also interviews, DVD reviews, tributes, dozens of other essays.
As always, must read for Film Noir aficionados.
 

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Little Gray Book Of Grim Tales by Ray Garton

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Brief - very brief - book of Horror shorts.
I often roll my eyes at this author, thinking he is written out, but I keep buying.
This opens with a cat story, or rather, a cat lover story.
A man suffers a stroke and cannot move from the floor.
His loyal cats, eight or nine of 'em, meow anxiously, though after a few days they start getting hungry.
Another good story is what happens in a blissful neighborhood once resident discover one of the quieter members actually films Internet porn. Using their teenage children as "actors."
The final story is about missing pets, who eventually return ... infected.
Last one perhaps could have been expanded into a novel, though animal rights activists would holler plenty.
Quick read, and worthwhile for Horror fans.
 

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Deadlock by Tim Curran

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Card player, mid level gangster gets in debt to mob boss.
Boss offers a deal. Spend the night on this cargo ship I just bought and your $50000 obligation is gone.
Oh, yeah, the ship is supposedly haunted.
Haunted as in every crew has either disappeared or been found dead.
Still - $50K for one night? Easy money.

Sloppy writing mars the first third of this novella, with author Curran showing a stingy word selection.
The sentence structure is high school simple and relies on stock phrases such as,
“His stomach filled with butterflies,” or “he was sweating bullets,” or “his heart skipped a beat.”
Professors of English 101 read freshmen efforts like this and roll their eyes.
The narrative gradually improves as the claustrophobia tightens aboard a vast, empty ship.
That is a neat trick in itself.
Panic creeps in, as do erotic overtones.
Probably worth a read, though bear with the lame first act.
 

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How Music Got Free by Stephen Witt

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Fairly entertaining read of the decline and collapse of the music industry.
Circa 2000, the development of mp3 technology and peer to peer platforms such as Napster.
The first chapter is the most technical, laboriously detailing the struggles and frustrations of the mp3 code.
Not to mention competitive rivals who had inferior tech but more clout.
Another thread follows the fortunes of Doug Morris, a powerful exec I remember from WEA and later UNI.
The third story is of Dell Glover - who? - the pirate’s friend, a low tier drone who smuggled thousands of albums from the CD factory in North Carolina, ripped, converted to mp3, and lofted to a heady Scene group.
Witt is an acid tongued, snarky writer who does not hesitate to scorn popular sh!t of the day.
This ought to hold the interest of the curious, though insiders might appreciate more.
 

Rogue-theX

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I recently read this one:
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Pretty decent, loved the black and white illustrations:
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But I zipped through it in two hours, I wish it could have been longer to include more heart which the author has a knack for.


I also read:
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Holy shit! I NEED to get the 2nd book and find out what happens next, book one was flawless IMO.
 

The Scribbling Man

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This thread should be more active.

I just finished reading Colin McCarthy's No Country For Old Men.

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Review:
4.25

No Country For Old Men is a solid, pensive thriller. The dialogue is great, and the prose is economical but poignant. I probably would have given this a slightly higher rating if it weren't for two things:


A. Punctuation (or lack thereof). The absence of speech marks for dialogue will throw many off. I found it pretty frustrating, though I did get used to it. By the end of the book it felt much more natural to read that way, but there were still times where I had to double-take/re-read, and I feel like the author's intent to "declutter" the prose introduces about as many problems as it solves. It's kind of like when someone decides to tidy your house for you and make it all nice and tidy. And you agree... it is nice and tidy - but now you don't know where a damn thing is.

B. The end is indulgent. The last quarter or so of the book drags and feels unnecessary. The main narrative is over by this point, and so 60 pages of epilogue tested my patience.


Otherwise, it's very good. I've seen the film, but I'd forgotten about how anti-climactic (in a good way) the ending is (the ending before the ending). It's shocking and bleak and fits the thematic of the novel very well.

All in all, (mostly) good stuff.
 

Moe_Syzlak

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I read Blood Meridian not too long ago. I review it much the same as you e reviewed NCFOM. To me, McCarthy is about the prose more than anything.

I just started book three of the Wheel of Time series. I’m enjoying it so far, though it feels inconsistent.
 
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