Monday, July 08, 2024

CAPTAIN FUTURE - Lost Apollo

 

CAPTAIN FUTURE

Lost Apollo

By Allen Steele

Amazing Selects

160 pgs

 

For the past few years, award winning sci-fi writer, Allen Steele, has entertained lots of us diehard space-opera fans with his new exploits of the classic pulp hero, Captain Future. His last, “The Horror at Jupiter,” seemed to be the series finale what with its resolution of the conflict between Captain Future and his archenemy, the Magician of Mars, Ul Quorn. A fitting and exciting climax indeed but one that still left us readers saddened. Obviously not for long, as this review blatantly indicates.  

According to Steele’s own introduction in this volume, the series proved to be well received. Then, when fans began writing asking for more, it wasn’t all that difficult to nudge the powers that be into green lighting a second series of which “Lost Apollo” is the first.

In this new adventure they find themselves challenged by the eerie reality of inter-dimensional travel. As the tale opens, it is a year since the last book and Curt and Joan Randall of have married and reside, along with the Futuremen, in the Captain’s hidden moon base. When an unknown spacecraft mysteriously appears in space nearing the rocky satellite, the Futuremen are called to intercept and determine its identity. What they discover is a 20th Century Apollo spacecraft manned by three astronauts. They somehow flew through a time warp as they were about to begin their final approach to the moon thus depositing them in the 23rd Century.

As if that wasn’t enough of a puzzle, i.e. finding exactly how the time-hole occurred, upon questioning the astronauts, they learn their mission is Apollo 20, whereas Curt’s research of history indicates there were only seventeen Apollo flights, with the proposed eighteenth and nineteenth having been cancelled. So where exactly did this crew come from? Answer, an alternate earth which did in fact continue the Apollo moon flights beyond seventeen. Not only do Captain Future and his allies have to send these stranded fliers back to their time period, but also their alternate earth.

In the end, Curt’s mentor, the cyborg Dr. Simon Wright, the Brain, recommends they recruit the insane genius criminal Tiko Thrinn to assist them in customizing their warp capabilities to include shifting alternate dimensions. From this point, the action begins picking up speed and never lets up. Again, Steele proves himself a master space thrills and his deft handling of Grag, Otho, the Brain is spot-on. In reading “Lost Apollo,” we could easily imagine Edward Hamilton applauding loudly. This is space opera the way it was always meant to be.

Finally, kudos to Michael Kaluta’s cover and M.D. Jackson’s wonderful interior illustrations. Consider them frosting on the cake.

Thursday, July 04, 2024

THE ROCKETEER - Jet-Pack Adventures

 

THE ROCKETEER

Jet-Pack Adventures

Editors Jeff Conners & Tom Waltz

IDW Publishing Company

409 pgs

 

As a comic publisher, IDW was fortunate to land the rights to the late Dave Stevens’ great retro hero, the Rocketeer. In the past ten years they’ve done some truly wonderful mini-series by various creators; all who loved and respected Stevens’ work. Then years ago they took a major plunge by assembling a prose anthology entitled, “The Rocketeer – Jet-Pack Adventures.”  

The book features ten truly fun stories starting with “The Red, White, and Grey,” by Yvonne Navarro. In it, Cliff and Betty fly to the island of Catalina to spending a romantic getaway vacation. They end up staying at the mansion of the famous western writer Zane Gray. Among his other guests are four German ex-patriots said to have fled the Nazis regime and now living in Brazil. Still, there is something about them that Cliff is not comfortable with and so decides to do a little detective work on his own.  

Next “Nazis in Paradise” has Cliff discovering the hidden city of Shamballa for Howard Hughes and encountering a deadly Nazis agent determined to steal all the science found there. Echoes of James Hilton’s “Lost Horizons,” this is a fun story. This is followed by “Farewell, My Rocketeer,” by Gregory Frost in which Cliff finds himself somewhere in the Arizona desert uncovering a lost Aztec treasure. Simon Kurt Unsworth’s “Atoll of Terror,” has Betty and the Rocketeer battling flying monkeys on a distant Caribbean island. Can things get any weirder?  

In “Sky Pirates of Rangoon,” Cliff finds himself in Burma delivering ammunition to former Army Air Corp General Claine Chennault for his Flying Tigers allied with the Republic of China Air Force against the invading Japanese. Along the way he crosses path with a beautiful bandit aviatrix.  Then Nancy Holder brings him back to Los Angles in “Rockets to Hell,” the first tale pitting the Rocketeer against supernatural forces of evil. Luckily, he gets some help from a certain movie Tarzan. Staying with the Hollywood connection, Nancy A. Collins turns in “Codename : Ecstacy” wherein Cliff uncovers a nest of Nazis agents after they plot a scheme to kidnap a very famous movie star and steal her amazing invention.

Writer Robert Hood’s “Flying Death” has Cliff encountering a double from an alternate world who challenges for Betty’s affection while paving the way for a German invasion. In “Mask of the Pharoah,” Nicholas Kaufmann has Cliff helping a homicide detective solve a murder on a movie set where Betty is working. Little do they realized the killer is obsessed with ancient arcane Egyptian magic. The collection ends with Lisa Morton’s “The Rivet Gang,” having Cliff and Betty hunt down an all-female robbery crew.

Overall this is a solid anthology, though be forewarned, several of the stories are open-ended. I.e. there’s no solid resolution as the villains manage to escape making us wonder if there was a planned second volume that sadly never came about. One final kudo to artist Jay Bone for his wonderful cover and interior illustrations. They lots of fun to an already good book.

 

Tuesday, June 18, 2024

THE REMBRANDT STRATEGEM

 

THE REMBRANDT STRATAGEM

From the Case Files of Bishop Kincaid

Kellie Austin

Atomic Press

278 ps

 

When readers ask us our definition of “pulp,” we give this answer. Any fast paced, action adventure story, regardless of genres, having exotic locales, a larger than life hero and a truly heartless dastardly villain. That pretty sums it all up. Which is why we are over the top impressed with writer Kellie Austin’s first pulp novel; it has every single one of these elements.   

Whereas they are all mixed together in a crazy goulash that definitely requires an index to know who’s who as the book opens. Of course Bishop Kincaid is our protagonist with a past, though we aren’t exactly quite sure what he is? A vampire? A god? An elemental force? Whatever the answer, one weird trait with him is the fact that different people “see” him as different personas. Within the first early chapters, it is quite clear we are not in our world but a totally different earth known as “the green.” Here all manner of beasts and myths exist. Include a mysterious entity from Kincaid’s past seeking to destroy him via a giant worm, torturing his former allies and in the end transforming his true love, Dani, into a blood sucker.  There are also airships galore, if all that wasn’t enough and a rocket car called the Blue Racer driven by an intelligent Neanderthal.  

Honestly, if after all that, you aren’t the least bit curious, there’s nothing more we can say. “The Rembrandt Stratagem” is pulp fiction unchained. It’s a no-holds-barred romp guarentteed to delight most fans and mostly annoy the others. How’s that for an original pitch? Bravo, Kellie Austin, you have us cheering.