Sunday, July 10, 2011

Conan, Vampires and Frankenstein

CONAN THE BARBARIAN, Robert E Howard, Del Rey, $7.99, 286 pages, ISBN: 9780345531230, reviewed by Barry Hunter.

There is a new Conan movie on the horizon that may reboot the franchise for a new generation. But for the purists that may still be out there, Del Rey has released a volume containing the six major stories from Weird Tales that made Howard and Conan so popular in the 1930s and has kept him popular for 80 years.

Here are “The Phoenix on the Sword”, “People of the Black Circle”, “Red Nails”, “The Tower of the Elephant”, “Queen of the Black Coast” and “Rogues in the House” in their original form. All of the adventures feature fierce fights, strange creatures, sorcery and nonstop action.

Here, too, are his companions – Red Sonja – who would not allow a man to touch her unless he defeated her in battle, Belit – the pirate queen, Valeria – the thief, and the others who aided him on his quest to become the best warrior and ultimately a King over his own lands.

The stories hold up well and it is a tribute to Howard and the other writers of the pulps that created the model of what has become the fantasy genre that it is today. Pick this one up and see if the image Howard reveals in his writing is not better than the movies that have been inspired by his words.

V IS FOR VAMPIRE, Adam-Troy Castro and Johnny Atomic, Harper Collins, $16.99, 64 pages, ISBN: 9780061991868, reviewed by Barry Hunter.

In this follow-up to Z IS FOR ZOMBIES, Castro gives us the run of the alphabet with a breakdown of vampiric lore and illustrations to help us sink our teeth into the subject matter.

From arterial spray to eternal youth and hypnotism to tombs of the budget-conscious, Castro and Atomic give us a comic and informative look at our blood sucking friends. Leave this on the coffee table next time Bill (or Eric) and Sookie come over. It will surely get a conversation started.

ANNO FRANKENSTEIN, Jonathan Green, Abaddon Books, $9.99, 334 pages, ISBN: 9781907519451, reviewed by Barry Hunter.

Imagine if you will a steampunk world with a time traveling secret agent who goes back to stop modern technology from being given to Hilter. Now imagine that he meets his father and ends up at Frankenstein’s castle where Nazi scientists are “building” the perfect soldier.

Add Jekyll and Hyde, a vampire, characters named Hercules, Jinx and Cookie, a werewolf and other assorted folk to create a marvelous romp in an alternate universe that seems like it might be a fun place to live.

This is another adventure of Ulysses Quicksilver in the Pax Britannia series that is an absolute hoot to read. I know I’m being vague on the story line, but suffice to say it’s more fun going into this without too much foreknowledge is a good thing. Just take my word for it that it is a rare treat and one to be savored page by page.

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