Previous month:
November 2009
Next month:
January 2010

January Sales

Tip, avoid the high street. Here's a few from around the webbernet:

  • Art Meets Matter have designed a stunning board game around the quest for Penguin Books.
  • The Signed Page (worth following them on Twitter as well) got their paws on a stack of signed classics - if you like George RR Martin or Terry Brooks (that is, if you like high fantasy), head over.
  • PS Publishing, the foxy British small press, have a 3-for-2 sale on their website. It impacts all current titles
  • A one-off collection of modern mysteries has shown up at VJ Books - including some of the earliest Grafton, Evanovich and Connelly books. Worth a browse for a bit of gawking.
  • And, just in case you forgot a gift for that special someone (like me!), a signed manuscript copy of H.P. Lovecraft's The Unnamable has surfaced on eBay

Underground Reading: Captain Ironhand by Rosamund Marshall

Captain IronhandCaptain Ironhand (1957) is a not-so-dashing, not-so-thrilling adventure of the high seas. Set in 1772, Captain Ironhand features James Challoner - a faux pirate - and Lady Artis Grantley - a faux heroine. 

The book starts with Challoner out of work and out of sorts. He's a Navy man, but false accusations of rape from a sex-starved Countess had him stripped of his commission (reader, please note, "women = bitches"). His luck changes when a patriotic coalition of Lords, Admirals and Christian businessmen select him to lead a mission of Great, Manly Daring.

Flying in the face of conventional wisdom (that is, "don't give boats to sex criminals"), the coalition gives Challoner a state-of-the-art warship, a handpicked crew and a blank cheque to equip the lot. In turn, Challoner is given a fancy fake name, the "Ironhand" of the title, and sent forth to prey on pirates. Set a thief to catch a thief seems to be the vaguely-conceived plot. 

This cunning strategy falls apart a bit when Challoner is instructed that: a) his mission is to get intelligence of pirate activities and b) never to report back.

Continue reading "Underground Reading: Captain Ironhand by Rosamund Marshall" »

Unexpected Reviews: 24 (Season 7)

[Jared's note: Although I'm a big fan of 24 (even the horror that was Season 6), I'm still not the biggest Bauer nut that I know. Fortunately, I scored a review from the most persnickety member of the Pornokitsch team - Mr Pickles.]



/horks hairball the size of a Buick


/thoroughly cleans butt with tongue



/eats own body weight in chicken


/vomits in satisfaction

Underground Reading: Purple & Black by KJ Parker

KJ ParkerKJ Parker might as well change his/her pen name to "The Enigmatic". Not only do the official blurbs refer to the author in this fashion, but virtually every review does the same for his/her books. "KJ Parker" is a pseudonym (supposedly of someone that's already famous in another genre), but the cryptic reputation is reinforced by his/her chosen stylistic territory.

Parker, as I've pretentiously noted in the past, writes epic fantasy with the tone and flair of the great existentialists. Imagine Camus (beret / chain-smoking / small coffee / derisive look) secretly going home and reading Tolkien under the covers. The closest modern comparison is Andrzej Sapkowski, who also lends a certain stark & philosophical bent to his work. (Although the 'stark' could be the result of the translations).

Purple and Black is a limited edition novella from Subterranean Press, who have defied the 2009 malaise by putting out some stonking short fiction over the past 12 months. 

It is, first and foremost, a stunning book. Subterranean pulled out all the stops - even printing it in mixed purple and black text. A short (120 pg) book, this is a quick read, but by no means a light one.

The novella takes place in a world vaguely analogous to the late Roman empire, although, like in The Company, world-building details are kept deliberately abstracted in favor of character-building. And, despite the short span of the book, there's plenty of character. An epistolary novel is tough to write, but Parker manages to bring both letter-writers to life. The idealistic young Emperor Nico and his cynical friend Phormio are both astoundingly empathetic - all the more impressive as we only know them from their own words.

Nico has appointed his friend as General. The Empire is under attack, but the young Emperor is afraid that if he appoints one of the 'steelneck' old guard, he'll soon be facing a civil war. Instead, he trusts the security of his empire to his old school friend. Phormio is woefully unprepared for the task, but, as the reader discovers, is willing to give it the old college try.

There are quite a few twists and turns throughout the course of the book - not all of which are unexpected. In order to pull off the final 'ah-ha!', Parker throws in a bit more explanatory backstory than I would have preferred, but, overall, the book stays closely focused. Like The Company, this is a look at the horrors of war, but from a different angle: can ambition and trust ever live alongside one another?

The "enigmatic" (there you go!) Parker is one of the finest writers at work today - each new volume of philosophical, introspective, dark fantasy is a treat. Purple and Black is a highlight of 2009 - don't wait until 2010 to read it.

Graphic Novel Round-up: Groom Lake, Punisher, Doktor Sleepless

Garth Ennis, Ben Templesmith and Warren Fucking Ellis - a Round-up with three of the best.

Groom LakeGroom Lake (Lyall / Templesmith): This goofy novel gives the Templesmith treatment to the little gray men from outer space. The wide-ranging, fast-paced story touches on conspiracies, invasions, awkward penetrations and the media perception of the wacky fellows. The hillbilly protagonist and his Federal/spook lady counterpart are pretty lackluster, but the real star is the chain-smoking, fun-seeking alien, Archibald.

There's a plot, but mostly it is an excuse to watch Archibald go bonkers and the other characters swap clips. If nothing else, this is an excellent vehicle for Templesmith's art - the man does more than vampires, you know. 

Punisher: War Zone (Ennis / Dillon): Ennis has written the Punisher from every perspective - slapstick to sinister. This is the sequel to the earlier, slapstick volume of adventures (now re-released in a massive trade collection that should grace every geek's shelves). Ma Gnucci is back from the dead... again. Or is she? The Punisher is being stalked by one of his old adversaries (maybe not the one you think). Ennis' work is always a delicate balance of style and substance. The more gothic Punisher work is forgiving of missteps than the comedic ones. Although enjoyable, this veers slightly too much towards poop jokes & degradation. I wanted this to be great, but it was only so-so. 

Doktor Sleepless: Engines of Desire (Ellis / Rodriguez): Ellis always shines when writing an episodic series for a longer title (NEXTWAVE, Fell, Global Frequency...) and this is no exception. It allows him to play with the wonderful, perverse, far-seeing ideas in his head, but within the form and structure of established characters. The closest comparison to Doktor Sleepless is his work on Transmetropolitan - a vicious, anarchist protagonist strives to rearrange society with the tools at hand. And the good Doktor has many, many tools indeed. Quality Ellis is like some sort of Lovecraftian manuscript - it may hurt your mind, even as it broadens it.

New Releases: Dragon Keeper by Robin Hobb

Dragon Keeper Robin Hobb's Dragon Keeper is the latest entry in the series of books that started with the Farseer Trilogy and followed with two other trilogies.  Although it follows the first nine books chronologically, Dragon Keeper takes place in a new location - the remote backwoods of the Rain Wilds.

Dragon Keeper begins with the hatching of hundreds of new dragons - the first such occasion for centuries. This event should be the dawn of a new era. Not only are dragons returning the world in numbers, but this time they'll be befriended/shepherded/loved by humanity. 

Unfortunately, nothing goes to plan. When the dragons hatch, they do so as malformed monstrosities. Their wings don't work, their bodies are stunted - even their racial draconic memories are fuzzy. 

Equally unfortunately, the book doesn't quite go to plan either.

Continue reading "New Releases: Dragon Keeper by Robin Hobb" »