Hell House (Richard Matheson)

Matheson really was a master of his craft. He took the conventional Gothic structure and threw it out of the window. Assaulting the reader with carnal, palpable terror, from its first page to the very end. Readers new to Hell House will be wondering how far are things going to go regarding the repulsive sexual shenanigans… What would have been shocking and new to audiences in 1971 has become a tad too familiar today, unfortunately. While this speaks volumes to the book’s cultural and literary impact – the fact that it has been copied and imitated by so many on film and on the page detracts from the book’s overall contemporary wow factor. I bet Stephen King used this as some inspiration for The Shining. [Read more…]

From The Earth To The Moon (Jules Verne)

What makes From the Earth to the Moon so enjoyable is it’s sheer earnestness. Entire chapters are filled with debates about figures and equations. Verne loves to write about all the details of his little thought experiment. This is very clearly his fantasy, and had he the money, I could imagine him attempting something like this. There are some charming details. For example, they launch from southern Florida, which at the time was a large swamp with forts to guard against the indians. Also, when packing their capsule for provisions, they load up 50 gallons of brandy, because that’s how a gentleman spaceman travels.  [Read more…]

The Wrong Quarry (Quarry #11 by Max Allan Collins)

What is it about “hit man” books that attracts some of us? I suspect it’s the lifestyle, the hunt, the tracking, etc. The Walter Mitty quality of it all. I think it would be great fun — except for the killing part. There I draw the line. Guess I’d be a lousy hit man. For those new to Quarry, he is a hitman with a difference – he is attractive, funny and mixes business with pleasure. (Btw, this tale is set in the early 1980s). You know he is invincible. It’s entertaining, smartly written, not at all challenging fare. Like a McDonalds Happy Meal for Adults. I just had to not read too fast, as I wanted to digest each part without missing anything essential. [Read more…]

Tau Zero (Paoul Anderson)

Author James Blish considered this book the ultimate hard science fiction novel. There is something to be said for that. Praise indeed… I have rarely read a novel with such rigorous scientific underpinnings. Anderson had a degree in physics and in other novels it is quite clear that he thought about the properties of fictional planets he created. Anderson had a degree in physics and in other novels it is quite clear that he thought about the properties of fictional planets he created. Anderson takes hard science fiction as far as it will go here.
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Dune (Frank Herbert)

In order to enjoy Dune you have to enjoy complexity. All authors create little worlds in their stories but Herbert created a world. He puts people on the planets, governments, conflicting cultures, conflicting religions & conflicting ways of life that are thought out to the Nth level above and beyond anything else I’ve ever read. You could write a sociology dissertation on the societal relations Herbert conceived for Dune. Most authors need more than one book in order to tell an epic coming-of-age story. Herbert did it in one. Part of his genius as an author was his ability to imply far more about his world than he actually showed.  [Read more…]

The Lady In The Lake (Raymond Chandler)

Raymond Chandler is not only one of the finest writers in the English language: he’s the gold standard for detective fiction. But sometimes when I read him I wish he could have found a way to break out of the formula and really let his imagination loose—let all the poetry and over-too-soon bit parts fill the page. He seems more interested in everything else than the so-called plot. On the other hand, maybe he hit it just right. The weirdness that is so compelling on the periphery of his writing might fall apart under the harsh light of center stage. Chandler’s passing-glance encounters always have the quality of real, observed life. One of the least fussy writers who ever lived, his descriptions are effortlessly evocative. [Read more…]

The Cellar (Richard Laymon)

Some say the best things in life are free while others say you have to pay an admission fee. Richard Laymon books are somewhere in between. Its nice to pick them up at the library but I don’t really mind paying either. Providing they are cheap and easy in some bargain bin…I love the fact that Laymon can make even the most overly used clichés seem new to the reader. I knew exactly what was coming, yet I didn’t. Stock characters are going to get themselves in over their heads in a creepy town with a history of people who ‘just go missing’. And yes, everyone’s gonna go into this demonic, evil house (at night) when they know they shouldn’t. [Read more…]

The McClane Apocalypse: Book One (Kate Morris)

I shouldn’t like this book. It’s like post apocalyptic chick lit. But for some reason I enjoyed this light hearted read. Maybe it’s because it reminds me a little of Little a House on the Prairie. The story is a family holed up together after the world goes to hell as a result of nukes, tsunamis and earthquakes. This take on PA fiction us more regarding the relationships of the characters rather than the world they live in. However there is plenty of action, just not as much of the gore filled section I am used to. It’s good to see a post apocalyptic storyline that still breathes a bit of hope optimism and plain old human decency. [Read more…]

Gateway (Frederik Pohl)

gatewaynovelThis first novel in the Heechee Saga won no less than 4 awards, and its easy to see why so many judges were impressed. Despite the fact that most of Freud’s methods and theories are no longer used by competent psychologists, the use of his theories in this book does not detract from its quality. Generally, it just feels quaint. Pohl’s ability to manipulate large amounts of plot arc at a surgical level is incredible and he creates vivid, realistic seeming worlds with real, living characters – none of the Isaac Asimov cardboard men here. [Read more…]

River God (Wilbur Smith)

river-god-coverSpoilers ahead…If you are tired of the same old same old, I suggest you give this first novel of a 4 part series a go and treat yourself to a read that will stir your imagination like few others can. This is bloody long though, too long. But for sheer imaginative scope, River God is enthralling. This chronicles a transitional period in ancient Egyptian history of approximately forty years. The story is narrated by the charming eunuch slave Taita, whose secret passion for queen Lostris surprises us. For all his protestations of being no soldier he manages to be in the front lines of many battles, and his tales of them will have you on the edge of your seat. [Read more…]

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