Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Interesting Reviews

Hope everyone is doing well. I have found a few more interesting reviews for you. I hope you are finding something of interest.

Feel free to email me at barry@baryon-online.com with any comments.

Hope you are getting to enjoy the early Spring weather.

HOW TO LIVE ON MARS, Robert Zubrin, Three Rivers Press, $13.95, 206 pages, ISBN: 9780307407184, reviewed by Barry Hunter.

Zubrin is President of the Mars Society and offers this seriocomic look at everything you need to know about moving to Mars and having a successful life there without ending up dead.

We learn about the different types of suits, habitats, finding a non-lethal job, finding a mate, and all types of other necessities. There are different ways to get there and Zubrin goes over the options and explains why one is better that the other. He does this for all of the items that have multiple and expensive options.

This is the type of handbook that will be indispensable to early settlers on Mars. Too bad something like this didn’t come out while we were attempting to navigate the path of our lives. There are plenty of facts piled in with lawyers warning and some hard science as well. Read this to see how great a place Mars will be to move to. It’s never too late to learn, or too early, either.

LIKE A WISP OF STEAM, Steampunk Erotica, edited by Cecelia Tan and J. Blackmore, Circlet Press, www.circlet.com, 95 pages, $5.99, reviewed by Barry Hunter.

I had never thought of H. G. Wells and Jules Verne as steampunk. I tend to go with Rudy Rucker and Bruce Sterling. But after reading this and with further consideration, the title fits and whether you think of the fathers of science fiction in that way or not, I’m sure you will enjoy this collection of stories in the first of two planned steampunk anthologies.

“The Innocent’s Progress” by Peter Tupper – Miss Alwyx is auditioning for a part with the House of The Razor Lotus, a traveling performance group that performs plays written by The Bawd and then takes assignations from the Patrons to add coins to the coffers. This is an interesting look at the backstage happenings of the bawdy Victorians. It is also a tale of unrequited love.

“An Extempore Romance” by Jason Rubis – Shortly after the death of Queen Victoria, Mr Dodgson is taking photographs of Amelia Lessington and her fairies with his steam powered daguerrograph for her new volume of stories. The world is changing at a breakneck speed due to the invention of the cabriolets that speed through the streets and the chimerae, machines resembling humans, who are able fill all the needs one can have. Amelia and Dodgson end the tale on an interesting note.

“Hysterical Friction” by Thomas S. Roche – Victoria Barker’s husband has brought his wife to Dr. Fitzmartin due to his wife’s hysteria. She had not felt right since her wedding and she appeared to be suffering from a nervous condition. Clara, the doctor’s nurse, assures Victoria that the doctor will be able to help her and she will do her part to help as well. Victoria’s treatment is aided by a new electrical device and the treatment is a rousing success. Fitzmartin recommends treatments several times a week and Victoria appears to be a changed woman.

“In the Flask” by Vanessa Vaughn – Nicholas is aiding Dr. Aubrey in his laboratory while running animal tests on a new drug to repress sexual urges. Aubrey leaves Nicholas alone to mix the compounds on a strict schedule and to test it if he returns late. Nicholas makes a mistake and the resulting compound makes the animals more aggressive. When Nicholas tells Dr. Aubrey of his mistake, Dr. Aubrey suggests that Nicholas be the first human trial with interesting results.

“Steam and Iron, Musk and Flesh” by Kaysee Renee Robichaud – Trista and Cecelia are floating over Fort Detroit in a steam powered skyship spending too much time enjoying each other rather than paying attention to the ship as it crashes. Trista is thrown out of school and ends up in Chicago where she joins a Wild West Show. Trista’s job is to keep Benjamin, the world’s oldest steam powered man replica, up and running. Trista finds a kindred soul in Maggie Douglas, the Shooting Lady, who is a “confirmed maiden” and we follow their adventures. They run into Black Paul and his band of desperados who plan to use Benjamin to rob a bank. It’s up to Trista to save the day.

This is an enjoyable group of tales that solidly fits the bill as steampunk and erotica. It will be interesting to see how the second volume will improve on this one. For those who are unfamiliar with steampunk it is a splendid jumping in point. Of course the erotica only adds to the enjoyment.

MASTER OF THE MOORS, Kealan Patrick Burke, Necessary Evil Press, ISBN: 9780975363577, reviewed by Barry Hunter.

In the Brent Prior, Dartmoor moors, in 1888 Edgar Callow’s pregnant wife is missing and a search party is gathered to find her. It’s your typical foggy night with strange noises and a varied group of men out looking for her. One of them, Royle, has had too much to drink so they send him back to the village only to have his guide kicked in the head by a horse and killed. Royle is attacked by the Beast of Brent Prior and killed. Callow’s wife is found and we find out she managed to be alone at the moors.

Time passes until its 1904 and the village has never recovered from that horrible night. Mansfield, who discovered Callow’s secret has been in a coma ever since. His children, Kate and Neil, are being raised by the housekeeper and caretaker.

It’s time for the Halloween dance and a stranger has entered town and he seems to know too much about the inhabitants. It’s here that Burke pulls out all the stops and gives us the history of Callow and his wife and how the town is cursed and doesn’t even know it.

This reads like a true Victorian thriller and Burke makes it alive. Not many of these are being written today and it’s good to see Burke keeping the tradition alive.

Found You, Mary SanGiovanni, Leisure, Oct 2008, $7.99, ISBN: 9780843961102, reviewed by Harriet Klausner.

The Hollowers come from another dimension through a rip that allows them to enter other worlds. They have no features on their faces and thus can’t smell, hear, taste or see and they wear a fedora, a black trench coat and dark clothing and shoes. They look at humans as tasty meat though they never kill directly. They can feel a person’s fears and use those insecurities and trepidations to kill other humans or have them commit suicide. In Lakehaven six people actually killed a Hollower by studying its ways and learning what weapon to use (see THE HOLLOWER).

Of the sextet, Sally becomes a resident of the Oak Hills Assisted Living Center. One night she hears voices and sees changes in the facility. She believes the Primary Hollower is there to avenge the death of the Secondary. Detective Steve Corimar informs Sally’s brother, David, of her death. Steve knows that similar deaths have occurred by the Hollowers. Now others are targeted like Jake and Dorrie. Those survivors and the two new additions unite to fight the Primary Hollower who is much more powerful than the one they were barely fortunate to have killed.

This sequel is as scary as the original so after finishing the tale readers will leave lights on as the dark is too “noisy”. FOUND YOU is frightening from the opening message that the Primary whispers to Sally and never slows down. The tale is told by the multiple perspectives of scared individuals who know what to expect so are even more afraid but won’t turn away from this fight. Mindful of early Dean Koontz, Mary SanGiovanni is a horror writer worth reading (if you can afford the electric bill).

WHISPERS, Poems by Jonathan Russell, Peter E. Randall Publisher, $17.95, 172 pages, ISBN: 9781931807708, reviewed by Barry Hunter.

This volume runs the gamut from short to long, narrative to descriptive, and covers a plethora of subjects.

“The Richest Corpse in History”, “Ghost Ship”, “The Glowworm’s Honeymoon”, “The Riddle of the Middle Sex”, “No Second Spring (the toxic truth)”, and “The Sadness of Green” are some of the more interesting titles.

Russell has taken the poem and changed its form to meet his needs and has turned out a very interesting collection of verse. No rhyming, no iambic pentameter, just some unusual and well crafted verses to remind us that there is more out there to enjoy if we just look for it.

Crusade: Destroyermen, Book II, Taylor Anderson, Roc, Oct 2008, $23.95, ISBN: 0451462300, reviewed by Harriet Klausner.

US Navy Lieutenant Commander Matthew Reddy and the crew of the USS Walker still struggle to adjust to being on an alternate earth. However, he knows they do not have any time to understand how they were transported and how to get home. Instead he and his team train their local allies, the gentle peace-loving Lemurian, for war against the feral reptilian Grand Swarm of Grik.

However, the scenario turns even uglier for the displaced World War II Americans. A Japanese battle cruiser from their earth has arrived. The War in the Pacific has expanded to this alternate earth.

This is a terrific graphic sequel to INTO THE STORM as readers will believe they are part of Reddy’s crew with fully described sea, air and land battles and a typhoon to add to the overall chaos. The story line is filled with action, but the bottom line is Taylor Anderson’s deep look at the deterioration of unit and individual values in combat. Does for instance the seven modern day Army Values: Loyalty, Duty, Respect, Selfless Service, Honor, Integrity, and Personal Courage truly hold up when the enemy has overwhelming fire power that leaves your comrades dead, dying or severely injured?

KING OF NOD: Some Things Never Die, Scott Fad, Hooded Friar Press, $18.95, 590 pages, ISBN: 9780981760902, reviewed by Jim Brock.

The cover of KING OF NOD features a strikingly beautiful red-head and a banner touting it as “A Southern Gothic Epic”. The rest of the book backs up that claim.

Southern? Sweetpatch Island, the focus of the action lies off the South Carolina coast. Southern Gothic? Robert E. Lee Taylor (better known as Boo) returns to the island after 20 years away. This places him in the center of an ongoing drama of race and magic and murderous revenge. Boo has known since he was nine years old that he was adopted but now finds that his true origins have snared him once again in a dangerous situation that threatened him and others he loved but were lost to him in the past. Now back in Sweetpatch to bury his father, he regains one love he had lost but begins the frightening and possibly devastating journey to his ultimate fate.

Southern Gothic Epic? Three names come to mid while reading KING OF NOD: John Saul, Robert McCammon and Dan Simmons. So, yes, any author who conjures up those associations for me is a pleasure to read and recommend. And, Yes, Scott Fad’s KING OF NOD is truly a Southern Gothic Epic.

Freezing Point, Karen Dionne, Jove Books, Oct 2008, $7.99, ISBN: 051514536X, reviewed by Harriet Klausner.

Fresh water has become an increasingly scarce luxury for many people around the globe. Environmentalist Ben Maki believes he can fix the supply and demand issue by melting the Antarctic ice. However, many doubters think it can’t be done and skeptics feel the unregulated corporate world, which Maki, belongs to, will keep supply low in order to insure the price is exorbitant and water trickles down at the rate the market place deems profitable.

Maki and the world’s leading scientists and technocrats begin a trial run of his model. However, disease attacks the researchers killing several and Antarctic rat packs swarm all over the human bases. Maki’s dream is shattered as he and his peers struggle to escape the deadly continent.

When this well written engaging thriller focuses on the science and the related scientific ethics, FREEZING POINT is a great tale. When the plot switches to killing rodents, the sensationalism increases the excitement level at the cost of losing its prime focus point on humanity’s inhuman bottom line failures by turning into an inane horror tale. Still this is a fascinating and thought provoking work as the next great global war is not oil but over water.

THE WELL BUILT CITY TRILOGY: THE PHYSIOGNOMY, ISBN: 1930846533, MEMORANDA, ISBN: 1930846541, and THE BEYOND, ISBN: 193084655X, Jeffrey Ford, Golden Gryphon Press, $14.95 each, reviewed by Barry Hunter.

I’m really not sure if review is the right word to use for these books. I prefer to take my reading of Jeffrey Ford in small doses as in the short story collection THE EMPIRE OF ICE CREAM, also available from Golden Gryphon. Ford is one of those writers that twist my brain around itself until I take a break and untwist it. It’s like some of the Philip K. Dick stories did when I first discovered his writings forty years ago.

Ford is a wordsmith. He chooses his words carefully to create the perfect image that may seem imperfect until you absorb the thought he was getting across. It is much like the “spire rocks” in THE PHYSIOGNOMY. A “spire rock” is a miner of spire who has accumulated so much dust from mining that eventually they harden inside the dust and become statues. Physiognomy is the apparent telling a persons moral worth can be told by measuring their physical appearance. To this end our narrator is sent to discover who is a thief but discovers much more than he, in any violent, drug induced dream could ever imagine.

Other reviewers have called his work “in the manner of Franz Kafka”, “stunningly surreal”, and “unconventional”. I am definitely in agreement with those other reviewers and my only recommendation is that you read these for yourself and make your own decisions. I’m still untwisting my brain.

Prey, Melina Morel, Signet, Sep 2008, $6.99, ISBN: 9780451225412, reviewed by Harriet Klausner.

In New York City, werecat siblings Vivian and Marc Roussel own a successful Russian artifact import business. However, when someone breaks into their warehouse and steals a valuable icon, the Roussels know they need outside expert help in protection and security.

They hire Russian Blue werecat Pavel Federov to provide the security to their firm and their persons. Pavel is shocked by how deep his attraction is for Vivian; his brain keeps insisting she is just another client, but the rest of his body argues much more eloquently. Assailants abduct Vivian, but she manages to escape compounding their belief this is bigger than a break and entry. As the trio search for the icon and Vivian and Pavel fall in love werecat style, adversarial killers make deadly concerted efforts to obtain the priceless artifact and Vivian.

Romantic urban fantasy suspense readers will relish Melina Morel’s werecats in Manhattan thriller. The story line is fast-paced from the first moment that Pavel meets his new clients and never slows down as predators are everywhere. As with the fabulous paranormal horror thriller DEVOUR, PREY keeps the romance in line as foremost this tale is an excellent paranormal mystery.

SILENCED, Nicole Givens Kurtz, Parker Publishing, $10.95, 212 pages, ISBN: 9781600460374, reviewed by Barry Hunter.

In this new novel by Nicole Givens Kurtz, we are introduced to a private investigator that believes that her job is more about getting to the truth of the matter rather than the money she makes. Hopefully, this is only the first of many adventures featuring this well drawn and believable character.

It’s 2146 and the United States has dissolved into a group of city states with their own form of government and police force. Cybil Lewis is convinced by her assistant, Jane, to take a case for her aunt who is Mayor of Memphis. Seems that her daughter is missing and needs to be found.

The story is one of deceit, murder, political turmoil, long kept secrets, mayhem and murder. I sensed a CHINATOWN aura in this book, but it is more than that. There are plenty of twists but the red herrings are kept to a minimum which makes this a terrific read.

Congrats to Nicole Givens Kurtz for another well written novel. This is different from her science fiction titles – ZEPHYR RISING and BROWNE CANDIDATE, but the characters are all strong female leads. Be on the lookout for this one and hopefully more in the series. If you are not familiar with Kurtz’ works, seek them out, you will not be disappointed.

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