Review: Return From the Stars

Return From the Stars
Return From the Stars by Stanisław Lem
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

One of the best science-fiction novels I’ve read! And one of the best depictions of a dystopia, harmless though this one might be, since Aldous Huxley.

The story is pretty simple: Hal Bregg was a pilot on a ten-year mission to the stars, who returns home to an Earth over a century later (due to the space-time distortions of traveling at lightspeed), and to a vastly changed world. Explorers don’t exist anymore, as mankind’s baser natures have been conquered and controlled, making him and his shipmates complete outsiders. The tale follows Hal as he tried to make heads or tails of this new society, and try to find a place for himself to fit in.

This novel is well-written, as is any book by Stanislaw Lem, and at times both incredibly funny and incredibly poignant. It also is rather prescient, as Lem describes to a T the futuristic equivalent of a modern e-reader.

Recommended reading for any science fiction fan!

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Review: Superman vs. Mongul

Superman vs. Mongul
Superman vs. Mongul by Len Wein
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Excellent reprint volume featuring nearly all of Superman’s battles with Jim Starlin’s Mongul, basically a DC-fied version of Thanos (not that DC needed one with Darkseid, of course). Great artwork by Starlin, Curt Swan, and Dave Gibbons, with some great stories by Len Wein and Alan Moore.

My one complaint is that the book doesn’t reprint the final story in the initial Warworld arc from DC Comics Presents, which didn’t have Mongul in it, but let readers know what happened to Supergirl after she helped stop the giant killing planetoid.

Otherwise, this is a fun read for eighties’ DC fans.

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Review: Finding Home

Finding Home
Finding Home by Jackie Weger
My rating: 0 of 5 stars

I’m not much of a romance novel reader, but Finding Home is one of the better ones I’ve happened upon. Jackie Weger knows how to weave a good story, and knows how to make people talk like REAL people, in real settings. She has a style that really puts you into the story with her characters. If you sit back and recollect on it, you’ve got some stereotypical characters here – heck, it’s hard not to in any novel – but Ms. Weger makes you think you’ve encountered real people. Recommended!

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Review: Superman Vs. Shazam!

Superman Vs. Shazam!
Superman Vs. Shazam! by Roy Thomas
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Fun trade paperback featuring all the one-on-one team-ups of the Man of Steel and the Big Red Cheese. This includes the hard-to-find Limited Collector’s Edition (those huge comics with the pasteboard covers), as well as three issues and an annual of Superman’s team-up title DC Comics Presents.

These are proper old comic stories – lots of action, goofiness, and truth, justice and the American way. You get a quick lesson in Shazam’s history and meet half his proper rogue’s gallery in this volume. Rich Buckler, Dick Giordano, and Gil Kane provide some fantastic artwork for Gerry Conway and Roy Thomas’ tales.

Recommended for the old-school comic book fan!

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My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Reading a cozy mystery omnibus is normally an enjoyable and often interesting thing. I’ve read a lot of them over the years, and they grow on you, with either quirky characters or quirky mysteries. You need at least one, and preferably both to have a good series. They’re both missing in the books in this omnibus.

The authors appear to have put EVERY book they’ve ever written into this one. One might expect to see the variety of prose and story that they’ve come up with, and myriad character studies, and some interesting mysteries that make you think a bit. But you’d be wrong.

With one exception, the authors started every book the same way, with a scene right before the climax, like a bad Quinn Martin TV show, or a more involved teaser after the commercials of an episode of NCIS. She has a penchant for using numbered lists (in dialogue and exposition), and the word “breautufl” (sic). All the characters are cardboard and could be switched around like Colorforms and have no effect on any aspect of any of the stories. Which is sad, because adding my G.I. Joe Colorforms to my Peanuts set always made for some interesting adventures.

The formatting on the book was extremely mediocre; indents and centering are sporadic; one book wasn’t even listed in the Table of Contents, nor had a link to which it could be reached. If you bought it on a chance like I did when it was free, you wouldn’t even know the book was there. All the books in the collection could’ve used at least one more pass through a proofreader, as there were a bunch of errors.

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Review: Haunt Flashes: A Ghost Cozy Mystery

Haunt Flashes: A Ghost Cozy Mystery
Haunt Flashes: A Ghost Cozy Mystery by Leigh Selfman
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Finally, an interesting concept from this author. Sure, the ghost-wants-help-solving-own-murder trope has been over done, but at least the author tried to wrap it in something a bit more modern and (almost) believable. Unfortunately, the execution was a bit lame and hurried. I was hard pressed to even care about the ghost, much less any of the other one-dimensional characters in the story.

This was a stand-alone story, FYI. I don’t see any series coming out of this one.

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