Tag Archives: Pastiche

Review: “Wanted” by Mark Millar & J.G. Jones

Title: Wanted
Writer: Mark Millar
Artist: J.G. Jones & Dick Giordano (Flashback sequences in issue #6)
Rating: ****
Publisher/Copyright: Image Comics, 2007

Every once in a while you run across a book like Wanted. Well written, excellent art, genius premise, a smart story and interesting characters….and a stated goal of offending every sensibility you have. In that, Wanted certainly succeeds. Am I recommending you go read it? That depends on who you are and how easy you are to offend. This one’s not for everyone. It’s been billed “Watchmen for super-villains,” if that tells you anything.

Wesley Gibson is the ultimate loser. His girlfriend is cheating on him with his supposed-best friend, he has a dead-end job with a boss who chews him out regularly, he’s a hypochondriac, and to top it all off he seems to be a clone of Eminem. But all that changes when a woman named Fox upends his life. It seems that Wesley’s father was the Killer, one of a cabal of super-villains who have secretly run the world since 1986. Now the Killer is dead, and Wesley stands to inherit not only his worldly possessions but also his place in The Fraternity. Before you know it, Wesley is a whole new person with a whole new set of…well, maybe not friends. Associates might be a better word. Tensions are rising within the Fraternity. After years of peacefully keeping the world subjugated, certain members are getting tired of living behind the scenes. Civil War seems eminent, and there’s no better time to be the Killer….

Imagine suddenly having the ability to do whatever you wanted, with absolutely no consequences. Blow away a restaurant full of people? Police have no suspects. Make your “friend” who’s cheating with your girlfriend disappear? Doesn’t even make the news. Whatever your fancy, it will be covered up. How? Because the super-villains are ruling the world. Do you remember the Heroes? No, of course you don’t. They’ve been relegated to cheesy TV shows and comic books. They never really existed. Or at least, that’s the story now. Turns out that in 1986 all the super-villains – ALL of them – teamed up and took down the mighty Heroes, rewriting reality so that they never even existed. A certain pair of caped crusaders now think they just played those characters on TV, and the world’s greatest hero spends his days in a wheelchair staring out the window at a world that has forgotten him, wondering just what he’s trying to remember. The gang’s all here, given a gritty update and with their names changed to protect the author from lawsuits. Some of them are recognizable, others less so. Remember Bizarro? The failed clone of Superman that turns everything opposite? He’s been translated into [REDACTED]*, a “Down’s Syndrome copy of the world’s greatest hero.” Clayface? Try [REDACTED]*, a creature made up from the feces of the world’s six-hundred and sixty-six most evil beings that have somehow become sentient. There’s more in the same vein. Fox is clearly Catwoman stuck in Halle Berry’s body. (No, I have no idea whether that’s a coincidence. The comic was released first, but I don’t know how far back the casting for Catwoman was announced.) Mister Rictus is a darker take on the Joker, a former priest who died for a few moments only to find that there’s nothing waiting on the other side. Now? Now he does whatever he wants, eats what(or who)ever he wants, fornicates with whatever he wants. Currently? He wants to take America from his old rival Professor Solomon Seltzer….

The content here is over the top offensive. There’s the obvious profanity, sexual content and gore, but there’s also adapting DC’s Bizarro to have Down’s Syndrome (and then making fun of him), or putting not-Superman in a wheelchair….just like the guy that used to play him in the movies. At the same time, the premise is genius. The characters are all incredibly well executed. The plot is a purposeful inversion of Campbell’s “Hero’s Journey” theme. This is an incredible piece of work….except for how offensive it is. So, should you read it? I’ll let you decide.

CONTENT: R-rated profanity throughout. Explicit sexual content, including references to rape and bestiality. Strong, gory violence. Not for children!

*I keep this blog PG, even when the works I’m reviewing definitely aren’t. Redacted names contain profanity.

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Review: “Hellboy Vol. VI: Strange Places” by Mike Mignola

Title: Strange Places
Writer & Artist: Mike Mignola
Series: Hellboy
Rating: ****
Publisher/Copyright: Dark Horse Comics, 2006

“Don’t mess with me, lady. I’ve been drinking with skeletons.”

Seriously, how many characters do you know who could deliver that line in all seriousness? Pretty much just Hellboy, which goes quite a ways towards explaining his appeal. The entire series is so….over the top, ridiculous, ambitious….not really sure of the best word to sum it up, but you have to admit it’s pretty great. This time around in The Third Wish, Hellboy is pitted against the Bog Roosh, an undersea witch who wishes to save the world….by ending Hellboy once and for all. Sure, Hellboy has rejected his birthright as Anung Un Rama, the Right Hand Of Doom and devoted his life to saving the world, but so long as he exists someone could use the power of his hand to loose the Ogdru Jahad and burn the world. The Bog Roosh would end this threat once and for all. Then, in The Island Hellboy washes up on a forsaken island and is given a lesson in the origins of the world and all things that culminates in his death. Kind of. Maybe. Guess we’ll have to wait for the next book to see how that works out.

I won’t pretend that I understood everything that happened here, but I don’t think you’re meant to. Mignola is giving you an inside look at the creation of his world, true, but what is left out is as relevant as what is shown. We’ll see where the path Hellboy is set upon leads, I suppose. The book is filled with scattered moments of Hellboy being delightfully himself, and that is most definitely worth the rest of what is undoubtedly one of the darker entries in this series so far.

Content: Minor language, some stylized violence and gore. Little to no sexual content. A fair amount of occult content, however. In Hellboy’s world, everything supernatural would seem to exist in….well, not harmony, but a unified worldview. This includes the Christian God and the Devil as well as more Lovecraftian things such as the Ogdru Jahad. God and the Church have power, but there are other things abroad in the world that have power as well and were old long before Christ was born in his manger. Hellboy is brought to Earth from another plane–implied to be Hell–in a dark ritual performed by Grigori Rasputin. He later tries to use Hellboy as the focus of another ritual to free the Ogdru Jahad (similar to H.P. Lovecraft’s Great Old Ones) and bring an end to the world as we know it. One of the short tales implies that Hellboy himself is the son of the Devil and a mortal witch. Ghosts, vampires….the Beast of the Apocalypse…..

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Review: “Hellboy Vol. IV: The Right Hand Of Doom” by Mike Mignola

Title: Hellboy Vol. IV: The Right Hand Of Doom
Writer & Artist: Mike Mignola
Series: Hellboy
Rating: *****
Publisher/Copyright: Dark Horse, 2004

As I mentioned ages past, I love Hellboy. And my library finally got another volume! Just a single one, for now, but that’s okay. I eagerly devoured it. This volume was another anthology set, collecting a number of shorter pieces along with a couple longer one-off stories. As I stated last time, I think this shorter format really gives the character his best workout… The stories included here are:

  • Pancakes (New Mexico, 1947). Young Hellboy is a picky eater. This one was done as a joke so that the Dark Horse people would stop asking for stories about young Hellboy. It was a surprising success…
  • The Nature Of The Beast (England, 1954). Hellboy faces down a dragon in the English countryside. But not all is as it seems…. Apparently this one was knocking about in Mignola’s head since he was first created, and he only got around to putting it on paper much later.
  • King Vold (Norway, 1956). Hellboy goes on a research mission with an old friend of Bruttenholm’s. Obviously, things don’t go as planned. This particular story was written up specifically for this collection, so that’s always fun.
  • Heads (Kyoto, 1967). Hellboy investigates reports of a haunted house in the Japanese countryside. They prove to be all too true….
  • Goodbye, Mister Tod (Portland, 1979). Hellboy deals with a medium who, shall we say, ventured a little too far into the open waters of the spiritual realms….
  • The Varcolac (Yorkshire, 1982). Hellboy tracks down a vampire he’s long hunted, only to find a bit more than he bargained for….
  • The Right Hand Of Doom (Sometime after Wake The Devil). Hellboy meets the son of one of those who most fear him and his potential, and recaps the important story beats thus far….learning a bit more about himself in the process. This is mostly Mignola poking his readers and asking them why they aren’t more curious about Hellboy’s stone right hand.
  • Box Full Of Evil (Soon after The Right Hand Of Doom). A troubling burglary leads Hellboy to a cult trying to raise the devil. Well, A devil, anyway….but with such ambitions, what might they do once the Beast of the Apocalypse is within their reach?

Content: Minor language, some stylized violence and gore. Little to no sexual content. A fair amount of occult content, however. In Hellboy’s world, everything supernatural would seem to exist in….well, not harmony, but a unified worldview. This includes the Christian God and the Devil as well as more Lovecraftian things such as the Ogdru Jahad. God and the Church have power, but there are other things abroad in the world that have power as well and were old long before Christ was born in his manger. Hellboy is brought to Earth from another plane–implied to be Hell–in a dark ritual performed by Grigori Rasputin. He later tries to use Hellboy as the focus of another ritual to free the Ogdru Jahad (similar to H.P. Lovecraft’s Great Old Ones) and bring an end to the world as we know it. One of the short tales implies that Hellboy himself is the son of the Devil and a mortal witch. Ghosts, vampires….the Beast of the Apocalypse…..

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Review: “The Book Of Apex Volume IV,” Part 4

This post doubles as one of the “stops” on the Book Of Apex Blog Tour organized by the Little Red Reviewer, where we all read and discuss The Book Of Apex: Volume IV Of Apex Magazine (*****). This anthology collects all the stories published in Apex Magazine issues #30-#44, the first fifteen issues since Lynne M. Thomas took over as editor for the magazine. In my first post, I looked at some of my favorites from the anthology. This time, I’ll look at some more of those that didn’t make the cut. Not that they’re bad, some of them are great, they just didn’t “do it” for me like those others did. The great thing about Apex Magazine is that their stories are all available online, so if you are intrigued by a story you can just click the title and it will link you to that story on their website! I’d be interested to hear your opinions as well, so feel free to leave a comment telling what you thought of a particular story…..

Also, the giveaway is still running at the first post in this review series! Check that out here!

  • Coyote Gets His Own Back, by Sarah Monette. (***)
    This one is really too short to describe without rendering it moot. I wasn’t really a fan of this one, just didn’t connect with it. Doesn’t mean you won’t. CONTENT: Violence, some gruesome content. No sex or language.
  • Waiting For Beauty, by Marie Brennan. (***)
    An incredibly disturbing take on Beauty And The Beast. I wasn’t a fan, but maybe you will be. CONTENT: No explicit sex, violence, or language, but it is pretty disturbing nonetheless. I can’t tell you why, because spoilers.
  • Murdered Sleep, by Kat Howard. (****)
    This almost made my best-of post. As with most of the other times I’ve said that, I’m not sure why it fell short. Perhaps partially because I’m not at all certain I understood it. I think I got it, but I could be mistaken. Anyway, this was an excellent tale of a young woman who receives an invitation to an endless party in the land of dreams…and the costs inherent in accepting such an offer. CONTENT: Some violence. Mild sexual innuendo. No language.
  • Armless Maidens Of The American West, by Genevieve Valentine. (****)
    In the woods surrounding town, there’s an armless maiden, still covered in blood from where her father went mad and chopped off her arms. She lives out there, pitied and feared, with no human contact until one day a grad student comes to town looking for data for her project entitled Armless Maidens Of The American West. It would seem that this is not an isolated phenomenon…. Faintly disturbing, but I really loved the writing style here. CONTENT: Some implied violence. No profanity, and no overt sexual innuendo. There are a few speculations about why her father did what he did, and you could take that train of thought in a sexual direction if you wanted to, but the author will give you no help there.
  • During The Pause, by Adam-Troy Castro. (****)
    Our world is about to end. There is nothing we can do to stop it. Our world will end, and we will suffer endless torment as a result. Not even death will offer an escape, except for one brief moment moments/eons into our torment…and in that moment, we will have a choice to make. I won’t say I enjoyed this story all that much, but I definitely admire Mr. Castro’s imagination and craftsmanship. The entire story is crafted as a message from another world in the path of the wave of destruction, warning us of what is to come. It was actually fairly chilling…. CONTENT: No explicit sexual content, language, or violence, although the descriptions of what is to come can be a bit disturbing.
  • Always The Same. Till It Is Not, by Cecil Castellucci. (****)
    Here we have a challenging tale about what happens after the zombie apocalypse, told in first-person POV by an ex-zombie. I really enjoyed it, and I have to say it was really well done. I can’t say too much about it without giving things away though, so I’m gonna shut up. CONTENT:  No profanity. I don’t think the characters even know any. There is, however, a fair amount of evocatively-rendered violence, as well as some moderately explicit sexual content.

This is the fourth post in a series of reviews of individual stories from this anthology. The other posts can be found as follows:
Part One (My personal favorites….)
Part Two
Part Three
-Part Four
Part Five
Apocrypha (The reprinted stories from the relevant issues, not included in the anthology)

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Review: “Fables–1001 Nights Of Snowfall” by Bill Willingham

Title: 1001 Nights Of Snowfall
Writer: Bill Willingham
Artists: Various
Series: Fables (Standalone Graphic Novel)
Rating: *****
Publisher/Copyright: DC Comics, 2006

I know I’ve touted Bill Willingham’s Fables series before, but I’m doing it again. 1001 Nights Of Snowfall is a standalone graphic novel set long before the main Fables series, in which Snow White travels to the Arabian Homelands in an effort to enlist their aid against the Adversary. As you may be able to guess from the title, she ends up entertaining the Sultan night after night with tales of the Homelands and the origins of the various characters we’ve grown to know and love over the course of the main series. Each tale is illustrated by a different artist, for a patchwork effect that I thought was awesome. Some I liked better than others, of course, but that’s simply a matter of taste and style. You would probably pick different favorites. Some of these tales are tragic, some are hilarious, some are both in turns, but every tale here will tug on your heartstrings one way or the other. So come, get to know your favorite characters a little better, from King Cole to Frau Totenkinder and all stops in between….

CONTENT: The language is a little toned down here from the rest of the series. The violence and sexual content, on the other hand, are not. Several of the stories contain bloody violence, another several contain nudity or sexual content of some kind, and several more are fairly disturbing. The rape and murder of Prince Ambrose “Flycatcher’s” wife and daughters, for example, or Frau Totenkinder’s backstory. (Given that her name is literally “dead children” in German, you have to know it’s going to be disturbing….) There’s magic as well, though in a fairy tale setting, so I wouldn’t consider it to be objectionable on occult grounds.

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Review: “Anno Dracula: Johnny Alucard” by Kim Newman

Title: Johnny Alucard
Author: Kim Newman (His site here.)
Series: Anno Dracula #4
Rating: *****
Publisher/Copyright: Titan Books, 2013

At last! The long awaited final* novel in Kim Newman’s excellent vampire pastiche series is here! And it was superb, let me tell you. Only the original novel was better, in my humble opinion. Maybe it was because I got more of the references this time without resorting to Google, given that I’m not an expert on WWI literature and films or post-WWII Italian cinema whereas this time the action was mostly set in the USA and within the last forty years. Still not really my era (I wouldn’t even have been reading yet when the novel ends), but the setting was still much more familiar than the last couple have been. The format this time was a little different, instead of doing a straightforward novel Mr. Newman has been teasing his fans for the past decade with shorter novellas carrying the story forward. Now they’re finally gathered in one place, ostensibly edited a bit so they fit together better, and with the last couple finally seeing the light of day. Or night, if you’re nosferatu.

In Anno Dracula, that vampire prince forcibly pulled the nosferatu out of the shadows of the world forever when he seduced and married Queen Victoria. London became a veritable safe haven for the undead, and they flocked there from the far corners of the world. Newborn nosferatu swelled in numbers, spurred not only by Dracula himself but by countless other literary and film vampires, from Orlok to Lestat and everyone in between. Eventually Dracula’s reign was ended, and he was forced to flee the country, landing in the Austro-Hungarian Empire where he became a close adviser to the Kaiser. During WWI he engineered a program to transform The Bloody Red Baron and other German flying aces into an unbeatable vampiric air force before being thwarted by the Allies and once again fleeing his pursuers. During Hitler’s purge of all nosferatu whose bloodlines he deemed “tainted,” Dracula forged an uneasy alliance with his former enemies and fomented revolution in Transylvania in order to open up another front against the Axis. For his services, he was given a castle in Italy after the war and forced to quietly accept his exile. In Dracula Cha Cha Cha (1959) Dracula was destroyed on the eve of his wedding, seemingly ending the epic saga of his life and leaving the world to wonder who if anyone would assume his mantle as unofficial (yet undisputed) leader of vampire-kind. Many have tried, and thus far all have failed. Johnny Alucard (as he will come to be known) intends to succeed…but not quite how anyone expects.

Whereas previous entries to the series have focused in tightly on one event or short period of time, Johnny Alucard covers a broad range, tracking the course of Johnny Alucard from 1976 in Transylvania to 1991 in Hollywood. Observe with Kate Reed Francis Ford Coppola’s seemingly-cursed attempts to forge a big-budget Dracula film in a third-world country!** Catch up with Genvieve as she assists Philip Marlowe in rescuing a young girl from the cult of Scientology Immortology! Revisit Penny in New York as she serves as assistant to the infamous artist and vampire Andy Warhol! Watch with the world as Kate Reed enters the besieged Transylvanian embassy, overtaken by terrorists/freedom fighters who want to see Transylvania become a dedicated homeland for the undead! See Orson Welles’ doomed attempts to make his own Dracula film! See the US military’s vampire corps unseat the Ceausescu regime! See the climax of Johnny Alucard’s machinations as the world watches events transpiring at the Concert For Transylvania! Featuring cameos (as well as more substantial roles) from such historical personages as Coppola, Warhol, Welles, and countless Hollywood folk, as well as literary and film characters from “The Dude” to Blade and Hellboy. Like I said above, I really enjoyed this entry in the series, more than any of the two previous sequels. To explain further would be to spoil the overarching plot (all that above was mostly backdrop), and I’ll firmly resist that urge. Just ask yourself, how does Dracula constantly keep coming back in the movies despite being destroyed at the end of each?

CONTENT: R-rated language. Strong violence, vampiric and otherwise. Quite a bit of sexual innuendo (not usually explicit), including prostitution. Drug content, if that offends you. Also…vampires. Some would consider that occultic, although Newman’s vampires have very little magic about them aside from some telepathy and an inexplicable lack of reflection.

*So far, anyway…I’m not convinced we’re done. Or maybe that’s just wishful thinking….
**Yes, this replaces Apocalypse Now, complete with all the attendant disasters on set.

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Review: “Anno Dracula: Dracula Cha Cha Cha” by Kim Newman

Title: Dracula Cha Cha Cha
Author: Kim Newman
Series: Anno Dracula #3
Rating: ****
Publisher/Copyright: Titan Books, 2012

This is a shorter review I did a while back on Goodreads, before I really found my footing on this reviewing thing. I’d like to think I could do better now, but it’s in that awkward spot where I’ve read it too recently to want to reread it, but too long ago to review it properly.

The third installment of Kim Newman’s Anno Dracula series! I really enjoyed this, for the most part. Still not as good as the first, original entry in the series, but at the same time it was better than the second book which I thought fell a little flat. Newman once again populates his world with a host of borrowed literary, film and historical characters, this time drawing heavily from Itallian horror and crime films in addition to the Bond franchise. (That’s right–Bond! With that cover, are you actually surprised? But I’ll get to that….) A lot of the non-Bond characters and references went right over my head, not being all that into Italian cinema, but that’s not too big an issue.

The year is 1959. World War II is over and behind us, and Dracula has settled his exiled house in a Roman castle given him by the Allies in recognition for his aid in defeating the Nazis. But now it seems Dracula is no longer content with his exile as his marriage to the undead princess Asa Vadja is announced. This is obviously viewed with concern by Charles Beauregard, now over a hundred years old and nearing his end, also in Rome where he can keep an eye on his old enemy. Genvieve and Kate are also concerned, but their main focus is Charles’ failing health as he refuses to turn and join them in undeath. Charles’ old firm, the Diogenes Club, has sent one of their top operatives to Rome to investigate the proceedings–“Bond, Hamish Bond.” (Yes, Hamish is the Scots form of James….) Many 007-related references ensue, from other literary characters descibed as Bond’s classic villains (Frankenstein’s Monster is both Jaws and Oddjob, for example) to phrases and titles being worked in (“You only live twice,” says Bond on his experience turning vampire). And against all this, someone is flamboyantly killing vampire Elders…..

CONTENT: Mild language. Sexual innuendo, not too overly explicit. Some violence, vampiric and otherwise, perhaps a little disturbing at times.

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Review: “Libriomancer” by Jim C. Hines

Title: Libriomancer
Author: Jim C. Hines
Series: Magic Ex Libris #1
Rating: *****
Publisher/Copyright: DAW, 2012

About a year ago, I was walking about in Barnes & Noble killing time and looking at books when the cover of Libriomancer caught my eye. Now, I’ve seen a good deal of criticism of the cover art on the internet, and I’ll admit that there are perhaps a couple issues with it on closer examination, but it served its purpose and got my attention. I snapped a picture of it with my phone, intending to check it out from the library (Hey! I was broke!) and promptly forgot about it. Months passed, and I found The Little Red Reviewer’s blog where she gave the book a glowing review (which you can find here). With it back on my radar, I tracked down a copy…which sat in my to-be-read stack for far too long. Oh well, I finally got around to picking it up, and I have to say that this was a truly incredible ride.

Most of us (at least if you’re reading this) know that books are magic. How else are you able to travel faraway lands and have exciting adventures without ever leaving your house? Books have a magic all their own. But for those with the gift, this magic goes even deeper. According to Mr. Hines, there are two factors when dealing with magic: access and form. Access is the innate gift–either you’ve got it or you don’t. Form, now that’s the hard part…you’ve got to have an incredible amount of willpower to form even the simplest object. Or you did, until Johannes Gutenberg hit on the idea of harnessing the collective belief of the masses. Get enough people reading the same book and so long as you have access you can form whatever you want from its pages. So long as it will fit through the book, at least. Then of course there are items deemed far too dangerous to be allowed to be accessed, their books “locked” to prevent Libriomancers from accessing them. No Rings of Power, no time turners, no zombie plagues. Gutenberg runs the Porters as a benevolent dictator, granted immortality by the Holy Grail before he locked it away, and the Porters try to protect the world from the effects of magic run amok, concealing the existence of vampires, werewolves, and any number of other creepy-crawlies. Gutenberg’s Automaton golems serve as his personal enforcers and cops, keeping anyone from causing too big an issue. It’s a system that’s worked for hundreds of years…but now it may be falling apart at the seams.

Isaac Vainio is a Porter, pulled from fieldwork after proving he lacked the control necessary to operate safely without endangering himself or others. These days he works as a librarian, cataloging new books and their magical potential for the Porters. It’s not what he’d like to be doing, but he can’t really complain. At least until a couple of “sparklers,” an upstart vampire race more properly known as Sanguinarius Meyerii, crash his library and start demanding to know why the Porters are hunting vampires. The legitimacy of your complaints aside, attacking a Libriomancer in a library? That’s a really bad idea, even if he’s a little rusty. Isaac never was one to leave well enough alone, and he soon discovers that he’s not the only Porter to be attacked. In fact, someone has it out for Porters and vampires alike, hoping to start a war between the two. To make matters worse, Gutenberg is nowhere to be found, and some of the destruction could only have been caused by an Automaton…. Isaac is out to discover just what’s going on, joined by Lena Greenwood, a nymph with her own scores to settle, but with the entire magical world in an uproar there may be little they can do–and few people they can call for backup….

I really enjoyed this book, in case you couldn’t tell. It’s a little pulpy at times, but with more quality than you can reasonably expect from a genre experiencing such a population boom as Urban Fantasy is having at the moment. There were echoes of The Dresden Files in there, but not in a ripped-off sense. Inside this book you’ll find well-written characters, a convoluted plot, heroes, villains, moral ambiguity, mild philosophizing, snarky dialogue, and a narrator who is as big a Sci-Fi geek as I am. And that’s saying something!

I see a lot of reviewers on the internet, Goodreads in particular, who have a mistaken understanding of what Mr. Hines was doing with the character of Lena Greenwood. Lena is a dryad, born out of a cheap Gor knockoff. Are you unfamiliar with Gor and its reputation? Count yourself lucky. Short version, it’s a long-running sci-fi/fantasy series by John Norman in which he reveals his fantasies, writing about (and if Wikipedia is accurate, actually advocating for) a society where women are all subservient to men, especially sexually. Lena was pulled from one of the many knockoffs of this series, and being a fictional race is subject to the rules set forth in her novel. Essentially, she’s hardwired to be submissive to the desires and preferences of her lover. Her likes, dislikes, personality, and even to some degree her physical appearance will shift to align with what her lover wants her to be. Bad enough under normal circumstances, but her current lover has been captured by the vampires…. Now, I see a lot of reviewers expressing outrage over how Lena is written, but they’re all missing the point. Unlike with John Norman’s fantasy-fulfillment exhibitionism, which I get the impression was never meant to be anything but, you’re not supposed to be okay with how Lena was written. You’re supposed to be horrified for her, to sympathize, to see what that kind of writing would entail if pushed to its logical extreme. Mr. Hines isn’t being sexist, he’s exposing and protesting against sexism. Don’t believe me? Look up his Wikipedia article, especially the section linked here, and then tell me that I’m reading him wrong.

CONTENT: Violence, sometimes a bit disturbing. R-rated language. Sexual content and themes that, while not explicit, are most certainly not meant for younger audiences (See above).

UPDATE: Here’s a short story detailing Isaac’s first encounter with Smudge the fire spider, in which Mr. Hines refers to himself as a “midlevel hack.”

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Review: “Anno Dracula: The Bloody Red Baron” by Kim Newman

Title: The Bloody Red Baron
Author: Kim Newman
Series: Anno Dracula #2
Rating: ****
Publisher/Copyright: Titan Books, 2012

This is a shorter review I did a while back on Goodreads, before I really found my footing on this reviewing thing. I’d like to think I could do better now, but it’s in that awkward spot where I’ve read it too recently to want to reread it, but too long ago to review it properly.

This second book wasn’t quite as good as the first one, but that’s to be expected. I thought Genvieve should actually appear as a character instead of remaining absent, a change the author himself apparently wishes he had made based on his commentary. Still, it was most definitely worth reading if you liked the first book, and I am a devoted fan of this series. In fact, I’m reaching the conclusion that I’m a great fan of Kim Newman’s writing across the board….

Here we have the world we left in at the end of Anno Dracula, twenty-odd years later and embroiled in a world war with vampires serving on both sides. New technologies are being tested, from chemical warfare to the newfangled aeroplane. Dracula serves as the Kaiser’s right hand, some say ruling from behind the throne. Charles Beauregard is back again to oppose the designs of the chief vampire, joined once more by stubborn war correspondant Kate Reed as well as the Diogenes Club’s newest addition, the young operative Edwin Winthrop. Will these intrepid heroes be able to discover Dracula’s designs in time to foil them? Or will Dracula and his vampire flyers led by the Bloody Red Baron himself, Baron Richtofen, triumph over the Allies?

CONTENT: Violence, including vampirism. Mild sexual content, not too explicit I don’t believe. Mild language.

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Review: “The Book Of Cthulhu II” edited by Ross E. Lockhart

I’ve been on a bit of a Lovecraft kick lately, first reading the man himself, then Alan Moore’s disturbing homage. And it all got its impetus from The Book Of Cthulhu II (*****), which I won via the Goodreads FirstReads program. (My review is not influenced by this fact, for the record.) I figured I should read the real thing before picking up either of the derivatives. Sad to say, I haven’t had any luck finding a copy of The Book Of Cthulhu I, but oh well. Most of these are authors I’d not heard of before, and all save a couple are ones I’d yet to sample. Kim Newman wrote the stellar Anno Dracula series, among other things, and I am a Neil Gaiman devotee. I’ve not read all of his work yet, but not for lack of trying.

This is an anthology of Lovecraft-inspired works from a wide range of authors. I’ll list and comment below, only commenting on plot when I think it necessary. Its a bit tough to mention plot for a short story without spoilers, so….

  • Neil Gaiman, Shoggoth’s Old Peculiar; I had read this one before in a collection of Gaiman tales (don’t remember which one), and it didn’t make much sense then as I had never read HPL. Now I have, and I had a much greater appreciation for the story. That said, not nearly as great as A Study In Emerald.
  • Caitlin R. Kiernan, Nor The Demons Down Under The Sea; The writing style here was a bit confusing at first–Ms. Kiernan is not afraid of a sentence fragment masquerading as a full sentence if it helps set her scene. But once the scene was set this proved a very evocative tale.
  • John R. Fultz, This Is How The World Ends; Fultz sketches a brief vignette of Cthulu’s rise from the deeps to swallow the world, and I must say his vision is frankly terrifying.
  • Paul Tobin, The Drowning At Lake Henpin; Most of these are Lovecraftian, but this is the first one I’ve seen that could have been written by Lovecraft himself.
  • William Browning Spencer, The Ocean And All Its Devices; I’m still not completely sure I understand what Spencer is saying about what lives in the water just offshore from this beachfront hotel, but I know I don’t want to meet it.
  • Livia Llewellyn, Take Your Daughters To Work; This one succeeded in disturbing me. That’s all I’ll say.
  • Kim Newman, The Big Fish; I love Kim Newman. Newman is a past master of the literary pastiche, here presenting a sequel to Lovecraft’s Shadow Over Innsmouth while at the same time doing a Sam Spade-type character (maybe Spade himself, the protagonist is never named….did Spade live in San Francisco?) AND roping in his recurring characters Edwin Winthrop and Genvieve Dieudonné from the Diogenes Club stories.* Which I am just reminded that I should get around to reading…..
  • Cody Goodfellow, Rapture Of The Deep; A corporate investigation into a potential source of endless energy on the seafloor turns to terror when an ex-Soviet psychic and his unwilling protegé take an astral visit to sunken R’lyeh….
  • A. Scott Glancy, Once More From The Top; An aged Marine recounts the horror he and his fellows experienced at the Battle Of Innsmouth. I quite enjoyed this one….though I don’t recall the Deep Ones having Shoggoths in the original story. Maybe that came from one of HPL’s stories I haven’t read yet…..Anyway, gonna try and track down the anthology this originated in.
  • Molly Tanzer, The Hour Of The Tortoise; An exiled young lady returns to her ancestral home, thought cursed by the surrounding villagers, to find her illegitimate father on his deathbed and something amiss about the house….
  • Christopher Reynaga, I Only Am Escaped Alone To Tell Thee; Christopher Reynaga recasts Moby Dick as a tale of Captain Ahab hunting Cthulhu in order to buy the world more time before his rise.
  • Ann K. Schwader, Objects From The Gilman-Waite Collection; A creepy though not unpredictable tale of a man entering a museum exhibit featuring the coral and gold jewelry from Shadow Over Innsmouth.
  • Gord Sellar, Of Melei, Of Ulthar; I’m still not sure I understand this one. Melei is visiting other worlds in her sleep, one of which appears to be post-Cthulhu New York. I can’t figure out, however, whether she exists in the far-distant past or the regressed future….in either case, it was an intriguing tale.
  • Mark Samuels, A Gentleman From Mexico; This was an outstanding idea, and I literally laughed out loud when I realized what was going on. I didn’t find the ending as strong as the middle, but it was very like what Lovecraft himself might have written as the ending.
  • W.H. Pugmire, The Hands That Reek And Smoke; Very creepy. Not really my thing, but creepy.
  • Matt Wallace, Akropolis; Behold, the Great Old Ones are returning, and they have sent their emissaries to prepare the way for them…..A great story here.
  • Elizabeth Bear & Sarah Monette, Boojum; This was one of my favorites, a real surprise find. Living spacecraft, starfaring pirates, evil aliens who collect human brains for their own sinister purposes…..it’s all here. Quality science-fiction! I’m going to track down the anthology it was originally written for….I was a bit hazy on most of the Lovecraft connections in this one, as I’d not read the relevant tales.
  • Jonathan Wood, The Nyarlathotep Event; Agent Arthur Wallace of MI37 goes up against Nyarlathotep, an ancient entity from a dimension representing humanity’s collective fears, and he does it with a snarky sense of humor and a hilarious narrative voice. I literally laughed out loud several times while reading it, and plan to track down the author’s other stories featuring the same protagonists.
  • Stanley C. Sargent, The Black Brat Of Dunwich; A surprising tale here, as Sargent turns the entire HPL story The Dunwich Horror on its head. Very fun, and HPL himself might be a fan of this one, but it would help to have read the original tale first.
  • Fritz Leiber, The Terror From The Depths; I actually forgot for a while that this wasn’t actually a Lovecraft story. I don’t think I’ve ever seen (by HPL or anyone else) so comprehensive and cohesive an ode to the Cthulhu Mythos….Well done.
  • Orrin Grey, Black Hill; A quick read, a mite predictable, but decent nonetheless.
  • Michael Chabon, The God Of Dark Laughter; A small-town sheriff investigates the ritual murder of a clown, possibly uncovering ties to an ancient and unholy cult. I really enjoyed this one, and I think I may have to look up more of Michael Chabon’s work.
  • Karl Edward Wagner, Sticks; An incredibly creepy tale of an artist who discovers an ancient abandoned cottage that continues to haunt his dreams….Again, I really enjoyed this.
  • Laird Barron, Hand Of Glory; Less actually scary, not incredibly Lovecraftian, but a good story nonetheless. Mobland hitman Johnny Cope has a problem. It seems that an old enemy of his father has sent goons to kill him. They weren’t incredibly successful, but they did manage to get his ire up. Now Johnny wants to know why….

On the whole, I loved this collection. A lot of the stories were excellent, but like with any collection you’ll have some that were better than others. I love Neil Gaiman, but given my choice I’d put in A Study In Emerald over Shoggoth’s Old Peculiar. Its simply a better tale–though, I’ll allow, perhaps not a better tribute to the original Lovecraft. Some of the stories I flat-out disliked, but that was probably a matter of taste. Certainly they are different than the ones cited by other reviewers as having fallen flat for them. A few of the stories, good as they were on their own, probably would have been enhanced by a more thorough knowledge of Lovecraft’s works. I’ve only read a very small selection as of this writing. I plan to remedy that in the near future….I very much recommend picking up this book if you ever get the chance. And in case you are interested, you can find the official website of Ross E. Lockhart, the editor of this book, here.

*Technically, the Diogenese Club stories happen in a separate world from the Anno Dracula novels, but they are mirrors of each other and feature the same characters. The prime difference seems to be that in the Diogenes Club stories Dracula was actually defeated as scheduled in his original book, whereas in the Anno Dracula world he was triumphant.

Content: This is a horror anthology, so from the get-go you know its not going to be appropriate for children. Bloody horror violence. Sexual references, including the implication that a couple characters are lesbians. The protagonist in another tale makes her living as a writer of Victorian-era pornography, and mostly non-explicit excerpts of her work are included. She also refers to several sexual encounters of her own, in generally non-explicit but incredibly suggestive terms. Language varies from story to story, but some at least are R-rated.

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