Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Highlander: The Element of Fire by Jason Henderson

Highlander: The Element of Fire
by Jason Henderson
1995, Aspect

An original story set in the world of the Highlander TV series. We get both Duncan and Connor MacLeod and their run-ins through time with the immortal pirate Khordas, who refuses to participate in The Game and instead starts a salamander cult.

I don't know how the rules of this stuff work since the original movie, or why there are still immortals around, and know just enough to know that there are no good answers and the franchise gets more confusing the more they try to explain it.

Decent fight aboard a burning ship at the end, but the rest is aimless and uneventful.

Paperback from Amazon

Sunday, August 29, 2021

Series Showdown: Falcon vs Wolfshead

Wolfshead might have stood a better chance if I'd started from the beginning, but Falcon had less filler and more/better action. Flacon cleaves Wolfshead in twain and moves up the rankings.

Thursday, August 26, 2021

The Killers 3: Night and Fog by Klaus Netzen

The Killers 3
Night and Fog (aka Mission into Auschwitz)
by Klaus Netzen (aka Klaus Nettson) (Laurence James)
1974 Mayflower

There seems to be a line of British World War II fiction written from the perspective of the Germans, which have the conceit that these are just taken from history or that the professional soldier class was apolitical and actually despised Hitler and the Nazis, but for the most part are just pro-Nazi warporn.

Based on the pseudonym and cove imagery, I assumed the Killers was of this ilk, but happily it is not.  It's still exploitive trash, but explicitly anti-Nazi exploitive trash.

The Killers are a Dirty Dozen style collective of criminals and con artists who have turned their skills against the third reich. In this volume, leader John Standish infiltrates Auschwitz to rescue a Polish scientist who has invented a new method of aiming bomb drops.

Some massive tonal shifts likely to give you whiplash and wanting a long shower. The Killers are brutally pragmatic, willing to snap the neck of an elderly woman or murder Jewish captives if they threatens their plans. Scenes of the worst atrocities known to man interspersed with goofy puns and the occasional Ilsa-esque sex scenes.

Not especially action packed, nor does it have the depth of spycraft in classier fare, but makes up for it in sheer sleaziness.

The British originals used the name Netzen while the American reprints used Nettson - strange that the Americans would be more squeamish about how German this was branded, but here we are.

Thursday, August 19, 2021

The Black Berets 1: Deadly Reunion by Mike McCray

The Black Berets 1
Deadly Reunion
by Mike McCray (John Preston and/or Michael McDowell)
1984, Dell

A special forces squad from Vietnam are called back together by a sketchy CIA operative to rescue POWs from Laos. Led by the cold blooded native American Billy Leaps, we've got cocaine addicted pilot Cowboy, Greek bar owner Harry, professional skin peeler Rosie, and wacky demolition expert Applebaum.

After a quick shooting at the beginning there is no action until the very end, the rest spent getting the band back together and training. The action itself is so-so, punctuated by cartoonish levels of gore with various organs flying around.

I've kind of lost (or found) my moral compass for hardboiled fictional characters these days. I don't mind my main characters being absolute scum of the earth, and I recognize there are different moral expectations between fiction and real life, but I have a hard time telling whether the leads are supposed to be presented as actual heroes doing the dirty job that needs to be done, flawed anti-heroes who occasionally cross the line, or straight out psychopaths.

I may be reading too much into who the authors were, but this installment leans so much into the characters being psychotic I wondered if they either were being ironic or were writing to market - these readers want their insane war criminals, let's give it to them.

Well written with good characterizations, but too little actual story and action. Hopefully later installments will be more action packed, now that the introductions are out of the way.

Paperback from AbeBooks

Thursday, August 12, 2021

Wolfshead 3: A Light in the West by Arthur Frazier

 Wolfshead 3
A Light in the West
by Arthur Frazier (Kenneth Bulmer and/or Laurence James)
New English Library 1973

Much of this is on me for my short attention span and starting in the middle, but I could not follow this one. Medieval people spend the first half talking, though not enough to recap the story or anything.  Finally figure out that a Norman and a Saxon don't like each other and the rest of the book is one chasing the other through the forest.

The story feels like a longer epic split into parts rather than episodic installments, and you may have better luck starting at the beginning. When there is action it's brutal and sleazy, but overall it couldn't keep my attention.

Tuesday, August 3, 2021

Alien Nation 1: Day of Descent by Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens

Alien Nation 1:
Day of Descent
by Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens
1993 Pocket Books

Alien Nation was a 1988 film about an alien slave ship that lands in the Mojave Desert. About 300,000 Tenctonese slaves, called Newcomers by earthlings, are assimilated into Los Angeles. The film and subsequent TV series is about human cop Matthew Sykes and Newcomer cop Sam "George" Francisco. The series was developed by Kenneth Johnson of V fame, and explores social issues like racism, cultural assimilation, and immigration.

The series ran for one season, ended on a cliffhanger, and was continued in 1994 as a series of made for TV movies. In between, this book series came out.  This first book is a flashback to before the ships landed, though with a wraparound of events just after the last episode. The other novels are based on the original scripts that eventually became the films, creating the unusual situation of the novelizations coming first.

Day of Descent has two separate stories that kind of combine at the end. In space, we see George and his family and their involvement with the rebellion that causes the ship to land on Earth.  On Earth, Sykes investigates his first case as detective - an astronomer is murdered after discovering an object heading to Earth.

Both are excellent, especially the half in the ship, though the pacing is a bit off.  Both stories wrap up and we switch gears to the story of the Newcomers' first days on Earth, something that felt like a brand new story.  The voice of the characters matched the series well, down to George's son Buck being a piece of crap.

My opinion of the book went down a notch or two a week later after watching the eighth episode of the series, "Contact".  The Sykes storyline is a direct lift from this episode. Again, the book isn't a novelization of that episode, nor is it in it's own continuity. It even has a forward where the stories fit in the chronology of the series.

Aside from that bit of business, this does what the best of tie-in novels do - add depth to the fictional world while keeping true to the original.

Paperback from Amazon

Sunday, August 1, 2021

Series Showdown: Dying Earth vs Imaro

Dying Earth was more imaginative, but with no narrative to carry it along. Imaro was more out-of-the-box, but with better characterization. Imaro hacks and slashes his way to the next round.