Thursday, April 28, 2022

Thrill by Patricia Wallace

by Patricia Wallace
1990 Zebra

A billionaire opens a theme park, imaginatively called "The Park". At the end, several rides malfunction, causing several fatalities. In the middle, several hundred pages of nothing. Part of the problem is that the story is a disaster novel, like Towering Inferno or Earthquake, but it's written, and branded, as a horror novel. A story can be both, Jaws comes to mind, but this effectively is a mild drama until the last few pages, though with a foreboding sense that something bad is going to happen from constant foreshadowing that goes nowhere.

The Park itself is vague. There's a high ticket price, with the implication that this is an immersive interactive setup like Westworld, but it isn't  There are three levels. The first two are standard amusement park rides, though the ride cars are usually pods. A roller coaster, a whitewater ride, a dark ride, the usual. If you score enough points, somehow, you go to level 3, which is a paintball game in the woods with robots. The book is set in the future year 1992, and there are a couple of touches, like the guests' ID card doubling as a credit card, which I don't think Disney had by that time.

The story, such that it is, follows the billionaire, his young engineer genius, a nurse, some underprivileged children there for the grand opening, and a couple of guests. There are some minor injuries in the rides, mostly the guests fault. One of the guests gets himself killed (offpage) in an accident while attempting industrial espionage, which is the only horrific element in the fist 90% of the book. At the end the kids fight the robots, who malfunction and shoot lightning out of their hands instead of paintballs, and some guests are killed in malfunctioning rides, all but a couple off page.

Along the way we're teased sabotage, insect swarms, and the ghost of a murderous hermit as the face of the eventual horror. This don't come across as red herrings as much as foreshadowing scenes that never happen. In the end it's magnetic anomalies. Maybe, whatever. The book even runs down the lost threads, not to wrap them up, more to say "I didn't forget, I just don't care".

Unscary, nonsensical, unfocused, dull, and overlong.

Kindle ebook and paperback from Amazon

Tuesday, April 26, 2022

The Killers 2: The Churchill Mission by Klaus Nettson

The Killers 2
The Churchill Mission 
by Klaus Nettson (Laurence James)
also released as The Winston Churchill Murder by Klaus Netzen
1974 Zebra/Mayflower

Forger turned anti-Nazi operative John Standish foils a plot to assassinate Churchill. He parachutes into occupied Holland, murders a woman to keep her quiet, bangs a resistance fighter for a couple of weeks before receiving clues in a coded radio broadcast.

Standish follows the clues to an English army base, eventually tracking down the killer. The plot is a bit thin, or has the verisimilitude of an actual investigation, depending on how you look at it. Felt more grim than exploitive in this installment.

Paperback from AbeBooks

Sunday, April 24, 2022

Series Showdown: Michael Kane vs Imaro

 We've seen the entirety of the Michael Kane universe (unless you count whatever the eternal hero thing is with Moorcock), while Imaro has two more novels and some uncollected short stories left. Kane's first installment had the better story, while the second had more imaginative elements, while the last had neither. I didn't enjoy the Nyumbani Tales near as much as the Quest for Cush, but it's clear that the author enjoyed them, something I wouldn't say for Moorcock.

Imaro marks the forehead of Michael Kane and sells him into slavery, winning the throne of best Fantasy series of all time.

Thursday, April 21, 2022

Vietnam Ground Zero 2: POW by Eric Helm

Vietnam Ground Zero 2
by Eric Helm (Kevin Randle and Robert Cornett)
1986 Gold Eagle

Captain Gerber and crew set up an ambush for a Vietcong patrol only to fall into a trap themselves. Demolitions expert Sully Smith and Sgt. Krung fight their way back to Camp A-555 while Washington, Tyme, and Fetterman are captured and tortured by the sadistic Major Vo.

There is a little bit of a continuing story, in the form of the romance between Gerber and journalist Robin and the mysterious Chinese advisor from the first installment. The continuing characters aren't as specifically defined as they are in other war based Men's Adventure series, which feels more realistic and results in a story more driven by the war itself than the characters.

Great action and adventure. A great sequence with Sully using his remaining explosives to lay a trap for a VC patrol and the resulting carnage. The ending rescue was rushed, and the series did great harm to it's gritty verisimilitude by having Fetterman be a full blown ninja at the end. I'm not a military historian, but I'm willing to bet there was not a single casualty in the entire conflict from a shuriken to the forehead.

Available in Kindle ebook and paperback from Amazon.

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

Imaro: Nyumbani Tales by Charles Saunders

Nyumbani Tales
by Charles Saunders
2018 MV Media

A collection of short stories set in Nyumbani, the setting for the Imaro stories. While some have characters from the novels, Imaro himself doesn't make an appearance. Most are based on African folk tales, and have that medium's narrative structure more than that of heroic fantasy. Some warriors, witches, warlocks, curses, and monsters, including a blob monster like the Creeping Terror.

The last, and best, tale took me by surprise as it ended exactly like the film Dogville, but I found that both were based on Pirate Jenny from the Threepenny Opera.

A bit tricky to get these days, try Abebooks

Thursday, April 14, 2022

Michael Kane 3: Barbarians of Mars by Michael Moorcock

Michael Kane 3
Barbarians of Mars aka Masters of the Pit
by Michael Moorcock (as Edward P. Bradbury)

Kane and his companion Hool Haji fly over a city organized as a single mechanical unit, stricken with plague. To look for a cure, they fly to a cache of ancient technology, get captured by barbarians, travel over the ocean, get captured by Dr. Moreau style dog people, are rescued by Dr. Moreau style cat people, and return to find a plague stricken army seeking to further spread the disease.

Kane is mostly along for the ride, and things just kind of work themselves out. More of a science fiction feel to this one. Also felt like the author was bored with the series and was eager to wrap things up.

Paperback from AbeBooks

Tuesday, April 12, 2022

Series Showdown: Division Finals

84 novels later, we're finally in the Division Finals of the Series Showdown.

In Fantasy, Sword & Planet crosses blades with Sword & Soul, as Michael Kane and Imaro face off.

In Men's Adventure it's WWII vs Vietnam, as the Killers and Vietnam: Ground Zero meet on the field of battle.

In Novelizations, alien invaders meet alien immigrants, it's the Predator vs Alien Nation.

In Horror, dark horse Patricia Wallace summons supernatural forces against the Night Hunter

In Westerns, two foreigners in strange lands slap leather - it's a showdown between Captain Gringo and the Six Gun Samurai.

In Science Fiction, space fugitive meets space detective - Hook vs Mathew Swain

In Historical Sleaze, Norsemen and Crusaders battle for supremacy. The Vikings are under siege by the Falcon.

Seven division. 14 novels. Stay tuned!

Sunday, April 10, 2022

Series Showdown: Falcon vs Gladiator

Gladiator gave us some great colosseum sleaze, but Falcon had a little bit of everything. Flacon rams a boat oar up Gladiator's rectum, hoists it overhead, and flings it into the sea.

Thursday, April 7, 2022

The Gladiator 1: Hill of the Dead by Andrew Quiller

The Gladiator (AKA The Eagles)
Hill of the Dead
by Andrew Quiller (Laurence James and/or Kenneth Bulmer)
1975, Pinnacle

Starts off with some gladiator game sleaze. Criminals have their intestines ripped out by wild animals as noblewomen fap in the stands amongst pissing slaves. Flavius the gladiator thinks back eight years to when he was known as the Roman soldier Marcus Julius Brittanicus. Marcus' father was involved in some scandal and committed suicide, and he carries the burden of the family shame.

He escapes being killed by Jewish Zealots with the help of Samuel ben Ezra, and the two form an unlikely friendship. Marcus fights a gladiator slave for the entertainment of wealthy merchants, defends against a Zealot raid that could have been lifted from a Western novel, and eventually is assigned to run a reconnaissance mission at the fortress at Masada.

After some rock climbing, Marcus runs into Samuel, and Marcus is able to just wander back and forth between the Roman camp and the Jewish fortress relaying messages. Not a lot happening plot wise, but some brutal nastiness in the meantime.

I'm assuming Laurence wrote this one as it has what's become his trademark - introducing the main character by having him murder an innocent prostitute to keep her quiet. I'm assuming Bulmer wrote the second as the story went in a completely different direction. The second installment had Marcus on a quest of vengeance, taking out the men who disgraced his father. Here in the first, it's just character background.

Paperback from AbeBooks