Review: Superman Archives, Vol. 1

Superman Archives, Vol. 1
Superman Archives, Vol. 1 by Jerry Siegel
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This initial volume in the DC Archives series covers some of the most important comics in history: The first appearances of Superman in his own title. Many of the stories initially appeared in Action Comics, starting with issue #1, but you won’t really mind. This is some pioneering comic book reading, featuring the first popular caped super-hero. And you can’t really go wrong with the Man of Steel … unless you’re modern DC Comics and their horrid New 52 crap, of course. That ain’t Superman.

And this probably isn’t the Superman you know either. The original Superman was much more of a mystery-man/pulp character than super-hero, and he hadn’t yet adopted his motto of “Truth, justice, and the American Way”; people get killed in these comics as a result of Kal-L’s actions; property is severely damaged, and lives are changed. He’s just out to do what he thinks is “good” for the “innocent”. With the coming of the War, Superman would become the hero we all know and admire, but here he’s a bit of a boor at times. But he does his best, as I’m sure cheated creators Joe Shuster and Jerry Siegel were as well.

Definitely recommended reading!

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Review: The Metal Monster

The Metal Monster
The Metal Monster by Abraham Merritt
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is another one of those novels that you have to read with an eye toward the era in which it was written – this is Platinum Age science fiction, the kind that rode in on the tails of Wells, Verne, Burroughs, and the like. The prose construction is more descriptiive and less character-driven than modern writing.

Considering this was nearly a Victorian-era novel, some of the concepts in it are surprisingly progressive and innovative. The descriptions of the Metal Monster and the inner world it inhabits are very intriguing, as is the implied relationship between Norhala and Ruth.

The writing is good, and I’m a fan of Merritt – he always reminds me of Wilkie Collins for some reason – but the book is definitely dated and a bit slow in places. Still, it is a decent read if you like this pioneering era of science fiction. I would say it is on a par with the previous Dr. Goodwin book, The Moon Pool.

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Review: Ubik

Ubik
Ubik by Philip K. Dick
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was definitely one of Philip K. Dick’s stranger novels, as you’re not quite sure what’s going on until the very end, and even then you have to wonder a bit, too. In a world in which telepathy and precognition are common, salable talents, Glen Runciter’s agency is hired to block some spying on a secret project on the colony on the Moon. From there on, things get a bit weird…and then Ubik shows up.

Well-written and amazingly detailed, this is good, proper science fiction the way it’s supposed to be handled. It’s also an excellent treatise on consumerism. Definitely recommended.

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Review: Atomic Dreams and the Nuclear Nightmare: The Making of Godzilla

Atomic Dreams and the Nuclear Nightmare: The Making of Godzilla
Atomic Dreams and the Nuclear Nightmare: The Making of Godzilla by Peter Brothers
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

An interesting, if a tad overblown, look at the making of the original Godzilla movie, covering both the original Japanese production and the US version with Raymond Burr. The detail the work goes into on the original film is amazing and welcome; I actually learned quite a bit that I hadn’t known about the genesis of the character.

As with the author’s other book on Japanese fantasy, the e-book has severe formatting issues; it’s readable, but many sections may give you a headache. The length of the e-book proper is only about 60% of the file, as there are numerous appendices, some useful (the shot list of both movies) and some pointless (complete credits for the file anyone could get off IMDB).

I can’t quite recommend the e-book, but I’m assuming the print book would be easier to read, so if you’re a kaiju or Japanese cinema fan, try that one.

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Review: The Guardian Bond

The Guardian Bond
The Guardian Bond by Jina Renee
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Boy, you can’t help but get intrigued by what appears to be several typos in a book’s title in an Amazon listing. Especially when it gets picked up by one of the various e-book promo services – it tells you a lot about what promo service NOT to use (Readers in the Know apparently doesn’t have the same standards as a lot of the places that actually get things done).

Be that as it may, one has to look at a title that has the phrase “The Oricle” (sic) in it as all kinds of wrong. It’s “The Oracle”. Sorry, but that’s just the way it is. After reading the book and finally encountering the “Oricle”, yeah, the situation “fortells” (sic) that yes, it should’ve been “OrAcle”. Person in mists giving advice? Yep. OrAcle. Spelling it “OrIcle” only makes your whole book look like a typographical error. LOTR, this is not, and the author certainly isn’t the revered Professor creating a new language.

According to the Amazon blurb, this book is “the first in a series, this Novel is best described as an Erotic fantasy-adventure,” I guess it might be. There are dragons, and strange creatures, an Oricle, and whatnot. “Erotic” it isn’t. It’s about an erotic as “The Shaggy D.A.” or an episode of “How It’s Made”. Rated G. And dull. You can have lots of things wrong with your book, but if it’s dull, there’s no way in hell to fix it. And this one, is dreadfully boring. Boring erotica. Wow. What a concept. How the fuck do you manage that? Even bad fucking is still fucking. The author here has managed to dilute any slight possibility of an erotic scene occurring into something you could read as a naptime story to a daycare center. I would actually suggest that, as it would definitely put the kids to sleep.

This book leaves you with that “I just watched a third grader try to write about Legolas fucking Conan” feeling. I’ll never get back the half-hour it took me to read it. And I need a shower. Not to cool down from anything steamy; but to wash the dregs of this thing from my mind.

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Review: The Variable Man

The Variable Man
The Variable Man by Philip K. Dick
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This novella is perhaps the closest thing to a normal science fiction story (is there such a beast?) that I’ve read from Philip K. Dick. But even “normal” means “top-notch” where he’s concerned. Well written tale of a dystopian Earth and a man from the past who throws a wrench into their carefully calculated plans for intergalactic war.

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Review: Visitors to the Inner Earth: True Tales of Subterranean Journeys

Visitors to the Inner Earth: True Tales of Subterranean Journeys
Visitors to the Inner Earth: True Tales of Subterranean Journeys by Professor Solomon
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is an interesting collection of stories from real people who have claimed to have visited the interior of the Earth and interacted with the inhabitants. Many are based on folk tales and legends, but it covers people right up through modern times. A lot of emphasis is given to the legendary Shaver Mystery (including a nice, but somewhat out-of-place history of pulp magazines) and the rather dicey work of Raymond Bernard, the writer of the Hollow Earth treatise.

The book’s padded out with promos for the author’s other books, and another out-of-place article, this time on “found manuscripts”. It’s an intriguing read though, especially if you’re a fan of this once popular genre of science fiction.

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Review: Inherit the Stars

Inherit the Stars
Inherit the Stars by James P. Hogan
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A very good hard science fiction novel, but it doesn’t live up to the promise of the title and the somewhat lurid covers I’ve seen; most average readers (and probably some genre readers as well) will find it a bit dull, as nothing happens, at least action-wise. There is some top notch exploration of what I would call speculative anthropology and archaeology though; In those terms, this book is right up there with Asimov and Clarke for the descriptive scientific extrapolation of an alien culture. It also pulls in a few cult or near-conspiracy theories about the moon in a very logical way.

The book is extremely well-written, but the characters are a bit boring and stereotypical. It’s the first book in a series, and I’ll definitely be giving the next book a try.

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