Monday, September 24, 2012


The Horn
By Peter Miller
Uchronic Press
58 pages

The Horn by Peter Miller is his second little novella published in digest form and featuring American Insurance Investigator Clark Tyler.  Using small sized text in only fifty-pages, “The Horn” tells a very speedy pulp actioner that is easily read in one sitting.

It is 1932 in Los Angeles and someone has stolen a priceless ancient artifact from a museum. Tyler is brought in to investigate.  It turns out the object taken might well be Gabriel’s Horn and should it be played could produced unimaginable devastation to the area in which it is sounded.  As soon as Tyler pieces this unbelievable story together, he then learns the most likely culprits are Nazi spies who intend to “blow” the horn at the Los Angeles Olympic Games in the hopes of killing thousands and discrediting America at the same time.

This short thriller moves rapidly and is a real page turner.  Tyler, whom we last saw in the first Uchronic digest, “The Zeppelin,” is a likeable hero and I hope Miller has lots more of these mini pulps coming our way. 

Sunday, September 23, 2012

HAWK -Hand of the Machine.

Hand of the Machine
By Van Allen Plexico
White Rocket Books
350 pages

Space Operas have been around since Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers first burst forth in America’s funny pages. They certainly had their pulp counterparts from E.E. Smith’s Lensmen series to Edmond Hamilton’s Captain Future series and many others.  Then with the advent of television American children were inundated with such TV series as Tom Corbett – Space Cadet, Space Patrol and dozens of others all culminating in the 1960s with Gene Roddenberry’s “wagon train in space,” Star Trek.  Of course the eventual jump to the big screen was never far off.  Sci-fi space operas had been around since the serials but none were so audacious and clearly proud of their comic and pulp roots as George Lucas’ Star Wars franchise.

Which brings us full circle to the advent of New Pulp Fiction and a classic genre that never really went away thanks to likes of Frank Hebert, Jack Vance and E.C. Tubb.  Now you can add another name to that list of extraordinary space opera creators in Van Allen Plexico.  From his ground breaking comic inspired Sentinels series to the Vance inspired, “Lucian - The Dark God’s Homecoming,” this writer has jumped into the deep end of the imagination pool with no hesitation as this new novel proves.

Long ago, in a galaxy far, far away (sorry, I just couldn’t stop myself) the known universe was looked after by a computer intellect that spanned space and was called The Machine.  To enforce justice and order it created, via cloning, a small group of unique warriors to command its military forces.  They were known as the Hands and chief amongst these were Eagle, Falcon, Condor, Raven and Hawk.  When an insidious evil appeared from nowhere to threaten the peace and security of the universe, the Hands were deployed to battle this mysterious foe known simply as the Adversary. Although the Hands were successful in thwarting their enemy, they did so at a tremendous cost none of them could have foreseen.  One day The Machine suddenly went silent and the elite members of the Hand were found cut off and isolated for the first time in their existence.  Some were betrayed, captured and destroyed while others vanished without a trace.

The universal empires began to collapse and a new Dark Ages descended throughout the realms of mankind.  Thus it would remain for nearly a thousand years until one day, on a distant space station, a new Hawk was awakened.  Unfortunately the process was interrupted before all memories could be downloaded and the revived warrior found himself suffering from amnesia while at the same time thrust into combat on a space station combating bug-like alien invaders.

Hawk manages to escape aboard a small space programmed to respond to his commands and during his flight the craft’s artificial intelligence attempts to fill-in the missing gaps to his actual identity.  As if doesn’t wasn’t trouble enough, Hawk’s travels soon bring him to the aid of yet another awakened Hand; this one a Falcon whose damaged body has been augmented with cybernetic parts.  Upon being rescued by Hawk, Falcon is at first suspicious of his savior unwilling to believe a “new” Hawk has been allowed to be cloned.  This particular attitude only piques Hawk’s curiosity all the more and he begins to pester his former ally about his mysterious past.

Soon the two become aware that Hawk’s rebirth is tied to various alien confrontations throughout this sector of the space all indicative that the once defeated Adversary is back and once again and eager to pick up with his quest for domination.  Mysteries continue to pile on while our duo attempt to piece together the secrets of the past in hopes they will somehow provide a solution to the threats now facing them.

Plexico’s ability to drive a narrative at light-speeds is unquestioned and even though the book comes in at a whopping page count, its pacing moves the reader along fluidly with each new chapter adding to both the plot and its inherent suspense all leading to a very satisfying climax.  An ending, by the way, with ample potential for sequels starring this great cast of characters. 

Still, the amnesia-plagued-hero seeking his identity is a plot Plexico has now used in several of his titles and is quite frankly becoming a bit too familiar.  As much as I admire his work and look forward to each new book, it is this reviewer’s hope that his next protagonist won’t be saddled with this same repetitive ploy.  That would be a real misstep in a stellar writing career thus far.  That said, “HAWK – Hand of the Machine,” is a solid space opera that is guaranteed to entertain you.

Friday, September 14, 2012

BOOKS - Old & New

BOOKS : Old & New

If you’ve been a follower of this blog for a while, then it is no secret to any of you that I love books.  I am a genuine book lover and have been most of my life from the time I first learned to read.  Books have been my magic carpet ride through thousands of amazing worlds and adventures.  And my taste is as eclectic as is my passion for reading. I love mysteries. I love biographies.  I love histories.  I love action and adventure.  I love science fiction and fantasy.  I love….well, I think you get the picture by now.  It probably would be better to simpler to state I do not like romance novels.  Sorry. Bodice-rippers are the exception to the rule that I simply cannot swallow.  But then again, as a sixty five year old male, I’m certainly not their target audience.  Ha.

So why this pause in our normal book reviewing now?  Only to take a few minutes to thank all of you who have stopped by here and shared my passion for reading.  We may not always agree on our opinions of certain titles but our mutual love of reading has made us total kindred souls in a very special and unyielding bond.

In the past week I’ve received nearly a dozen new books.  Several were sent by major New York publishers as I am listed on many of their reviewers’ lists.  Others, which I pay particular interest to, are sent from the authors’ themselves who have somehow tripped over this site and liked it enough to want me to see their wares.  Being totally honest here, that kind of flattery does earn these titles my interests over those randomly sent along by a book marketer.  Being a writer, I appreciate the effort to create something and applaud those writers working to realize their dreams.  Obviously I will never guarantee anyone a glowing review, only that if you send me your work personally, you can be confident I will get around to reading and reviewing it.

Which is a good segue into point number two here.  Getting hundreds (no exaggeration here) of books every year from dozens of publishers, it is impossible for me to read and review all of them.  Like all reviewers, I weed through what comes in to find those authors I’m somewhat familiar with and enjoy and new titles that catch my particular interest and curiosity; enough to put them on the TO READ stack.  The others eventually get donated to local libraries so that others can read and enjoy them.

And finally there are those books that I go out and buy for myself.  I do have favorite writers and regrettably I rarely get their titles from publishers.  The other day, while browsing through a local Barnes & Noble, I came across a copy of Robert Heinlein’s novel “The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress.”  I first read it in high school back in the mid 1960s and had relished it greatly.  Seeing that one single copy on the shelf, I instinctively picked it up and bought it to re-read it.  Considering its been over forty-five years since that last reading, I’m very anxious to see how I will react to it now.

Do you ever re-read favorite books?  It is like revisiting old friends, isn’t it?  I don’t often have the luxury to do so, but there are two I tend to go back to regularly as they resonate something new to me each time I pick them up.  One is “The Last of the Mohicans,” by James Fenimore Cooper, easily my all time favorite American classic.  The other is Frank Herbert’s “Dune.”  I consider “Dune” one of the greatest, most imaginative novels every written. And as stated before, with each re-reading, something new is revealed to me about the world we live in, our hopes, philosophies, adventures and dreams. 

In the end, as we move further and further into the digital age of Kindles and Nooks, more and more of my colleagues envision a day when there will only be electronic books. It is a day I pray never comes as I will always wish the tactile sensation of holding a book in my hands. I will always look forward to sitting back in my office recliner, taking a sip of coffee from my ceramic mug, then relaxed and ready, opening a new book and taking that first step into a new adventure.  I hope many of you will continue to join me. It’s been one hell of a ride thus far.

Monday, September 10, 2012


By Linda A. Cadose
100 pages
ISBN #978-1-4685-0807-9

More and more would-be writers are discovering self-publishing and realizing their dreams of being published.  Unfortunately most of them do not have the services of a  professional editor and a great deal of what we are seeing is rife with typos, grammatical errors and sadly devoid of any real literary styling.

Linda A. Cadose is a Registered Respiratory Therapist and teacher with a Master’s Degree in technical and professional writing from Northeastern University. That’s a very prestigious academic background but none of it is a substitute for good storytelling, something that is instinctive to good writers and cannot be taught.

Ms.Cadose’s first book is intended for the juvenile market which is obvious from the start and she narrates a good tale with very likeable characters.  Unfortunately she is falls into the teacher’s trap of assuming the book must be filled with lots of accurate scientific, geographical and historical facts.  All well and good, but not to the point of interrupting the story in long running exposition paragraphs that instantly pull the reader out of the fiction she is weaving.

Despite these faults, I did like this book.  I liked it because of the characters and the adventure they go on together.  Sure the writing was stiff and too “instructional” but it kept moving forward and there was an evolving plot that gradually produced a genuine mystery with a few legitimate surprises towards the end.  Still, I would have enjoyed delving a bit more into characterization, especially of the foreign players. 

Everyone in this book spoke too well.  Most people, even the highly educated, rarely speak in the same manner they lecture or write. They speak in short phrases, use lots of slang and colloquialisms. Every person has a unique speech pattern/rhythm that is discernable to an experienced writer and they use such to differentiate their characters from one another.  These are part of the writing craft that I hope Ms.Cadose will discover and she continues in her new writing career.  She does have talent; it’s crude, but still visible in this first outing. With a good editor, I’m confident her skills will mature.

I’ve a ten year old granddaughter who is a ferocious reader and I am passing along this book to her because I believe she’ll enjoy it.  Perhaps that’s the best thumbs up I can give “The Hidden Chamber in the Great Sphinx.”

Thursday, September 06, 2012


By Michael Panush
Curiosity Press Book
316 pages

Saying I liked this book would be one of the grossest understatements ever to come from my pen.  “Dinosaur Jazz,” by Michael Panush has leaped into the top three of my favorite pulp novels thus far this year.  Yes, dear readers, it is that good, as I’m about to explain.

The back story goes like this.  At the turn of the 20th Century, a massive island is discovered in the Pacific Ocean teaming with real dinosaurs.  Not only dinos, but wooly mammoths and saber-tooth tigers share this savage land together; creatures from different epochs. There is also a race of barbaric humans the early explorers of the island call Ape Men.  The island also contains half a dozen strange ruins completely alien to the world’s leading archeologist.  Called Archeron Island, it is the setting for Panush’s tale of high adventure.

The narrative kicks off several years after the end of World War One.  By this time colonists from around the world, especially Great Britain, have established cities along the island coast line and under the auspices of the League of Nation, an international administration sees to the day-to-day governing of this amazing land.  Still there are gangsters and smugglers who have made a lucrative business from all the natural riches Archeron offers. The protagonist is Sir Edwin Crowe, a dino guide/hunter and the son of the island’s discoverer, Lord Horatio Crowe.  Sir Edwin and his step-brother, an Ape Man named James and raised by Lord Crowe after his parents died, are content with their lives.  Edwin had fought in the Great War and his haunted by the memories of those days.

Their idyllic existence is unexpectedly turned upside down when a ruthless American industrialist, Selwyn Slade, arrives on Archeron leading an army of mercenaries and a coterie of lawyers. Slade wishes to buy all the land upon which the mysterious ruins rests and will do anything to possess them.  Then a rampaging army of Russian Cossacks and Mongols led by a sadistic former British General named Ironside appear in the jungles and randomly begin attacking some Ape Men villages while at the same time arming others with modern weapons and urging them to warfare.

Suddenly the land Sir Edwin calls home is about to erupt into battlefield that will leave it bloodied and scarred forever unless he can discover the truth behind Slade’s bizarre scheme and prove his connections to warlord Ironside.  From the swank jazz clubs of Victoria City to the frozen wastelands of the Aspholdel Heights, Sir Edwin, James and their colorful band of allies will battle desperately to uncover the truth and sacrifice all to save the most amazing island in the world.

Rampaging dinosaurs, sexy torch singers, airships, Tommy Guns, cavemen, pirates and a oriental Dragon Lady; “Dinosaur Jazz” has everything a pulp fancier could want and it’s all mixed brilliantly into a tale that is both original and marvelously entertaining.  It is the epitome of what New Pulp Fiction is all about and Michael Panush is a superior writing force to be reckoned with.  Enough of my prattling, if you love pulp fiction, “Dinosaur Jazz” is required readying. Do not miss it.