Monthly Archives: September 2015

The Aeronaut’s Windlass is Rollicking Great Fun

Aeronaut's WindlassThe Aeronaut’s Windlass
Jim Butcher
Hardcover $27.95 630 pgs.
ebook $13.99

Before I get started, I’d like to thank Roc books for providing me with the review copy.

Now, in three words, my reaction upon turning the last page of The Aeronaut’s Windlass:

I want moar!

The Aeronaut’s Windlass is the first volume in Jim Butcher’s new series, The Cinder Spires.  It’s got airship battles.  It’s got bravery and derring-do.  It’s got nefarious sneak attacks and villains you’ll love to hate.  It’s got dueling.  I like dueling.  (I think we should bring it back.  One way or another, there would be fewer a******* wandering about mucking up the place.)

In short, it was a whole heck of a lot of fun.  Here’s the setup. Continue reading

Baba Yaga is Back, and She’s not Happy

51i9PlNNO8L._AA160_The Sweeper and the Storm
Alma T. C. Boykin
ebook short story $0.99

Alexi is back, but so is Baba Yaga. She’s a bit miffed about the way he ruined her plans in the previous story (reviewed here). This particular tale involves Alexi’s unit doing a disaster relief drill in rural Kansas in October. That’s not the season for either blizzards or tornados. But both show up.

Alexi finds that he has to stop more than just the old witch. There’s a darker power somewhere in the background. That’s where the real danger lies.

This is the second story in this series. It’s not a stand-alone, nor is everything resolved. There’s a bigger story-arc at play here. Boykin has obviously put some thought into where she’s going with her tale. In the previous story, we saw Alexi and his relationship to his Babushka. Now we see him interact with the rest of the men in his unit. We also see him struggle and overcome the situation in which he finds himself, although the resolution isn’t entirely happy.

There’s more than just Russian folklore involved. Native American elements show up as well, and I suspect that they will become more prominent with time.

Oh, and the last line made me want to read the next story in the series. I can’t wait to see how that plot line is going to develop.

Relive the Vietnam War in Of Bone and Thunder

21412311Of Bone and Thunder
Chris Evans
Simon and Schuster
mmpb $9.99, ebook $8.99

Of Bone and Thunder is a dark, graphic, gripping military fantasy, with dragons, dwarves, and a great deal of combat. But that’s not what the book is about.

It’s about Vietnam.

That’s not any big surprise to anyone who has read the cover copy. I read somewhere that a science fiction novel deals with three times periods, the one in which it is set, the one in which it was written, and the time period that it’s actually about. I’d like to modify that, with apologies to whomever said it, to a fantasy novel deals with three worlds: the one in which it’s set, the one in which it’s written, and the one in which it’s about. This novel is about what it was like to be a soldier in the Vietnam War. Continue reading

You Pay a High Price When You “Pay the Ghost”

Pay the Ghost“Pay the Ghost”
Tim Lebbon
Ebook short story $0.99

I became aware of “Pay the Ghost” when Tim Lebbon posted a link to it on Twitter.  I’ve been so distracted the last few weeks that I wasn’t aware of the Nicholas Cage movie coming out next weekend that’s based on it.

The premise is a man’s daughter disappears shortly after asking him if they pay the ghost while they’re taking a walk on Halloween.  He has no idea what she means by that question, but he’s going to find out.

I’ll not say more about the story because it is after all a short story.  It’s dark and creepy, and it has a bite at the end.  I read it yesterday afternoon while I was waiting on my son to finish an after school activity.  The chill it gave me was a nice relief from the nearly 100 degree heat.

I’ve not read much Lebbon, but what I have read has been good.  I’ve read a couple of shorter pieces set in his world of Noreela and intend to read more.

Here’s a clip of the movie.  Obviously there are some changes, but it looks like they kept the core of the story intact.



Autumn on My Mind

Blind VoicesSo it’s that time of year when the dry grass kinda crunches under foot, the Sun sets earlier, and the evenings are cooler less hot.  Classes have started.  Things begin to settle into a routine.  Orange decorations start to appear.

And my reading matter starts to produce more of a chill.

I’m not planning on doing a heavy Halloween related reading project this year, although there will be a few seasonal blog posts scattered among the things I put up here.  One of them will probably be about Tom Reamy’s Blind Voices.  It’s been years since I read it, but it’s one of those rare books that I can remember numerous details about years later. Continue reading

Kuttner Unkollected: “A God Named Kroo”

$(KGrHqZ,!i4E8VDJi4qGBPHe1IuBYQ~~60_35“A God Named Kroo”
Henry Kuttner
Thrilling Wonder Stories, Winter 1944, p. 13-43

Henry Kuttner was one of the most prolific science fiction and fantasy authors who wrote for the pulps in the 1940s, although he didn’t limit himself to those genres.  The winter 1944 issue of Thrilling Wonder Stories is an example.  He has three stories in this issue.  The one given top billing on cover is what we’ll look at today.  Oddly, the illustration is for a story not listed on the cover, “Venusian Nightmare” by Oscar J. Friend writing as Ford Smith.

The second story of Kuttner’s is “Trophy” as by Scott Morgan.  This wasn’t one of Kuttner’s more common pen names.  I’ll be looking at it on Futures Past and Present in a day or so.  The third story, “Swing Your Lady”, is bylined Kelvin Kent and is part of Kuttner’s Pete Manx series.  Haffner Press is going to reprint this one in a collection of Kuttner’s stories under his Kelvin Kent pseudonym, so I’ll hold off on reviewing that one.

Kroo was once a powerful, if minor, Tibetan deity.  He enjoyed worship, human sacrifices, the whole nine yards.  Now his only follower is a yak that wandered into his temple grounds one night looking for a place to graze.  As you might can guess, this isn’t going to be a serious story.  Kuttner was known for his dry and often sardonic sense of humor, and it’s on display here. Continue reading

Kuttner Unkollected

9630457No, that’s not a typo, it’s a deliberate misspelling.  It’s a weisenheimer attempt at alliteration.

About a decade ago, give or take a year, I had a little extra money from summer teaching.  So did I save the money or invest it wisely?  No, I didn’t.  I decided to try and obtain as many copies of Henry Kuttner stories that had never been reprinted at that time that I didn’t have, along with a few other unreprinted stories by people such as Eric Frank Russell.  Except for some copies of Weird Tales which were out of my price range, I managed to get most everything I didn’t have copies of.  Haffner Press has reprinted the Weird Tales material.  When pursuing a project like this, eBay is not your bank account’s friend an invaluable tool.   Continue reading

Take a Trip into A Lonely and Curious Country

unnamed-2A Lonely and Curious Country
Matthew Carpenter, ed.
Ulthar Press
Trade Paper, 234 p., $16.95

As Matthew Carpenter points out in his introduction, Lovecraftian fiction has become a mainstay of the fantastic and weird fiction genres, with some of the best-written stories being published on a regular basis.  A Lonely and Curious Country is no exception.  (Mr. Carpenter didn’t say that, I did.)

The seventeen stories here are perfect examples of what’s going on in the admittedly large subfield of Lovecraftian fiction.  They are disturbing, horrifying, Lovecraftian.  In some the Lovecraftian element is quite prominent; in others, you don’t realize you’re in Lovecraft country until you’ve almost finished.  I’m not going to try to give a one or two sentence summary of each one.  Rather I’m going to focus on the ones that stood out to me.  YMMV.  One other thing before I start discussing the stories.  Of the eighteen authors, I had only heard of three of them prior to reading this book (Webb, Price, and McNamee).  There are a lot of good writers out there that I need to keep up with. Continue reading