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January 2009
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Underground Reading: Calculated Risk by Charles Eric Maine

Calculated Risk Calculated Risk is a disaster novel written by Charles Eric Maine (David McIlwain), the dominant name in British apocalyptic fiction (well, behind Wyndham. And Wells. And...). 

Maine specialised in a specific sort of science fiction - he'd take a single scientific fact (or premise) and then extrapolate it until it reached the most dismal possible conclusion. As a result, over the course of 25 years, he destroyed the world in a thousand innovative ways.

The protagonist of Calculated Risk is Phil, a scientist from the distant future. He lives in the radioactive squalor of post-Armageddon London with his mistress, Kay. Fortunately, Phil has an escape route. Using quantum chicanery, he transports the minds of Phil and Kay into the past (1960s London). Two mid-century Londoners are brutally ejected from their own bodies, and Phil and Kay take over.

Brilliant - and quantum - so what could possibly go wrong?

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All-PI Team

Duncan Pride, a creation of Andrew Frazer (Stephen Marlowe), was the #1 draft pick of the St. Louis Rams at Quarterback. He played one game (2 TDs thrown, plus one rushing).

Travis McGee (from John D MacDonald) played Tight End for several pro seasons.

I know there are others.

Updated:

Lew Archer (Ross MacDonald): High school football. Position unknown.


 


1985 by Mark Millar and Tommy Lee Edwards

Marvel - 1985The profitable Mr. Millar is one of the biggest horses in the Marvel stable and a prince of the modern British invasion. Still, he hasn't done very well in Pornokitsch reviews. I like to imagine that he's furious about this. However, this little daydream has come to an end: Millar's 1985 is almost - but not quite - a work of brilliance.

Like Wanted or The Ultimates, 1985 takes place at the meta-intersection of comic books and reality. However, whereas the previous two take place in the Marvel, comic book world, 1985 takes place in our own.

Happily, Millar never gives in to the temptation to explain anything. There's a big portally thing (a glowing plothole, essentially) and a bunch of Marvel villains dive through it. Ostensibly there to 'take over', the villains immediately devote themselves to acts of senseless and horrifying destruction. 

Our hero is a kid who, alongside his deadbeat dad, realize that there's something very wrong going on (First hint: Ultron blowing up the mall). Thanks to their geeky knowledge of the Marvel universe (plus some courage + purity of heart stuff), they save the day.

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Underground Reading: The Cold Cash War by Robert Asprin

The Cold Cash War The Cold Cash War (1977) was Robert Asprin's first book. Mr. Asprin was later to establish a name for himself with humorous fantasy - the Myth Adventures series probably being his most impressive and longest-running contribution to the genre. However, in 1977, Mr. Asprin seemed to have a much grimmer look at things.

In The Cold Cash War, corporations are using military operations as a bizarre way of settling contract negotiations. Armies - all wearing special suits and using non-lethal weaponry - muck around in the wilderness (mostly Brazil).

By employing armies of mercenaries to zap one another in this advanced form of lasertag, the corporations resolve their disagreements without having to deal with things like 'courts' or 'laws'.

The book starts with a conflict between a communications conglomerate and an oil company, but its focus quickly expands. A negotiating tactic results in non-military personnel (e.g. 'Jan in Corporate') becoming fair targets. Fake warfare immediately becomes real assassination.  It doesn't take long for the government to notice the sudden spate of dead executives, and fake warfare soon becomes dangerously real...

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Graphic Novel Round-up: Panzers and Wish Fulfillment

War Stories

The last round-up of January's graphic novels: Bryan Lee O'Malley's Scott Pilgrim's Precious Little Life, Andi Watson's Slow News Day, Judd Winick's The Adventures of Barry Ween, Boy Genius and Garth Ennis' War Stories.

War Stories (Ennis / Various): The first volume of War Stories collects four unrelated tales of World War 2. They are intentionally reminiscent of 'old time' war comics. As brutal as many the episodes in War Stories are, Ennis still returns to the basic values of heroism, patriotism and valor. Essentially, these folks sure swear a lot, but they're all heroes at the end of the day.

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Underground Reading: The Treasure of Atlantis by J. Allan Dunn

The Treasure of Atlantis The Treasure of Atlantis was first published in 1916, a lengthy part of "All Around" magazine's December issue. The same magazine also published works by Haggard and Burroughs. Dunn's yarn of Amazonian/Atlantean exploration is a fitting companion.

The plot - especially to those familiar with Haggard - is predictable. 

Evidence of a lost (white) civilization in some remote (non-white) part of the world falls into the hands of an uber-masculine British lord/explorer and his quirky scientist companion. The two men - one bored, one insane -  jump at the opportunity to prove some sort of madcap theory by exposing themselves to tremendous physical danger.

In this case, they're off to Brazil, to prove the existance of some sort of inexplicable Cretan land-bridge. The lord - Samuel Morse - and his companion - Gordlan Laidlaw - stomp around (very briefly) in the wilderness, and quickly uncover the lost city of Atlantis.

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