Tuesday, November 24, 2009


By Dean Koontz
Bantam Books
352 pages

Once again reviewing the last book in a series is often times a fruitless enterprise.
Then again, if you may have passed over this trilogy, allow me to point out the error of your ways with this brief encapsulation of what occurred in the first two books; FRANKENSTEIN - PRODIGAL SON and FRANKENSTEIN - CITY OF NIGHT.

Both Victor Frankenstein and the man he created from spare parts survived throughout the ages. The mad doctor, after centuries of working with other egomaniacs like Hitler and his kind, ends up in New Orleans as Victor Helios, a wealthy man with a reputation as a philanthropist. What no one is aware of is the fact that Helios has perfected the scientific process of cloning and is busy making what he calls the New Race. Built in cloning vats, they are faster, stronger and more durable than mere humans, the Old Race. Helios’ plan is the complete and utter annihilation of the Old Race, replacing it with his artificial people.

The only things standing in his way are two street savvy detectives, Michael Madison and his partner/lover, Carson O’Connor and Helios’ original creation, still alive and calling himself Deucalion. Over the centuries, Deucaulion has become a philosopher and realizes the true horror that is Victor Frankenstein. He has vowed to stop his creator and end his mad dream once and for all.

In the first two books, Decaulion and the two detectives began to unravel Helios’ master plan and learned that many of the city’s officials and law enforcement chiefs had been murdered and replaced by Helio’s cloned replicants. In this the third and final chapter, Decaulion sets out to infiltrate Helio’s clone factory and his ultra secret laboratories to destroy them. But to do so, he and his allies will have to face unimaginable horrors. At stake the very survival of mankind.

Spinning the old Mary Shelley classic on its head, Koontz has a grand time making the “monster” his noble hero and the scientist the immoral, heartless villain. He does this with amazing skill as it is one of the hallmarks of his fiction, inventing heartless, sadistic sociopaths who are worst than any monstrosity Hollywood could ever invent. Koontz understands that in a world of sinners and saints, we don’t need special effects to make monsters. Too many of them walk among us every day. FRANKENSTEIN – DEAD AND ALIVE may be a pulp an outlandish pulp nightmare, but its good versus evil theme is all too believable and scary as hell.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


By Steven R. Boyett
Ace Fantasy
389 pages

I generally tend to shy away from most fantasy novels as they seem frivolous and lightweight. It’s like having a vegetarian meal of tofu and other assorted veggies, when what you are really craving is meat and potatoes. Steven R.Boyett’s ARIEL is clearly a meat and potatoes variety of a fantasy adventure. There is nothing fanciful in his apocalyptic setting wherein the world we know, the world of science and technology, one day simply ceases to function. Just like that, all the laws of science are no longer valid and replacing them is the magic of ancient mythology.

Then one day the protagonist, a young man named Peter Garey, encounters a unicorn in his travels through this lonely, silent landscape. The snow-white unicorn’s name is Ariel and she an immature creature seeking direction and guidance. She is intelligent and can talk, able to learn from Pete. Thus the two quickly come to learn they need each other if they are to survive in this wasteland aftermath of what Pete calls the Change. Underlying the entire narrative is the sexual tension created by the fact that Pete can touch Ariel and share a bond with her because he is still a virgin. Ariel is purity personified and only virgins can make contact with her; others are painfully burned.

And that’s the entire set up. What makes it unique and original is putting such a fantasy pairing into a gray, foreboding world. Along their journey, they meet a sword wielding philosopher named Malachi Lee who warns them that a necromancer has set up shop in the ruins of New York and should he learn of Ariel, will make every effort to capture her for the magical properties of her horn. No sooner is this warning given then they are set upon by agents of that evil magician and blood flows.

Boyett, himself a student of martial arts, describes violent encounters with a clinical precision that is based on his actual fight training. There are some glorious sword duels throughout and when Ariel is eventually captured by the villain, Pete and Malachi lead a rag-tag army of Washington based survivors in an attack on the necromancer’s stronghold, the Empire State Building. This is not your kid sister’s fantasy, but a fast paced, thrill ride that culminates in a page-turning battle amidst the cramped halls and offices of this iconic landmark.

ARIEL was Boyett’s first novel and was released way back in 1983. It launched his career and became a cult favorite amongst sci-fi and fantasy readers. The book wraps up on an open-ended line that indicated there would be more adventures to come. Now, after twenty-six, a sequel has been delivered in hardback called ELEGY BEACH occasioning the re-lease of this new paperback edition of ARIEL. I’m eager to get to it, as ARIEL is truly a remarkable, entertaining adventure book that doesn’t disappoint. If you’ve passed it over all these years, undecided whether to give it a go, hesitate no longer. ARIEL is simply a terrific book.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

THE ROOK - Vol. Three

THE ROOK Vol. Three
By Barry Reese
Wild Cat Books
168 pages

He’s back, Atlanta’s own original pulp hero as created by Barry Reese, in another collection of six very exciting new adventures. The fun of Reese’s creation is how he is constantly pairing his beak-nosed avenger with classic pulp heroes from the golden days of the pulps. In this volume the Rook teams up with the Black Bat and criminologist Ascott Keane to take on the villainy of the red-garbed Dr.Satan.

Although the stories stand individually, they do form a narrative chain and in this volume the Rook takes on the growing threat of Hitler’s new super soldiers, each with his own unique scientifically altered abilities. But it is his confrontations with Dr.Satan that proved to me the most of fun this third outing. Reese clearly has fun with how he handles these old time baddies, giving each an obsessive drive to succeed in whatever their nefarious plans might be. They jump off the page and are truly part of the charm of his fiction.

There’s also plenty of action in the way of gun fights and knock-down, battering slug-fests between the minions of evil and the Rook and his own colorful allies. With this volume, Reese is three for three in the win column. His prose gets leaner and more confident with each new story he weaves, the sign of a real talent. Here’s hoping there are a lot more Rook adventures coming our way.