No Man’s World


Low Res Scan: Black Hand Gang, Pat Kelleher, 2010; The Ironclad Prophecy, Pat Kelleher, 2011; The Alleyman, Pat Kelleher, 2011.

Don’t bother reading Pat Kelleher’s No Man’s World trilogy.

Why shouldn’t you read it?

For exactly the same reason you shouldn’t watch one of those well-done science fiction tv series that lasted a season. You get enraptured with the mysteries, the struggles of the characters, and, as you get near the end, you realize, with a sinking feeling, that there is no way all the conflicts and plots and subplots are going to be wrapped up, the mysteries solved. Continue reading “No Man’s World”

Adventures in Reviewer Parallax: The Adventures of Captain Hatteras

On January 22, 2014, I was at a flea market in Texas.

I was in a hurry, and I’d heard the title of this Verne novel, saw it was polar story, so I grabbed it off the shelf without a closer look. I thought I was getting Verne’s sequel to Edgar Allan Poe’s The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym.

For the record, that would be Verne’s An Antarctic Mystery.

Review: The Adventures of Captain Hatteras, Jules Verne, trans. William Butcher, 1864, 2005.

Adventures of Captain Hatteras
Cover: “The Explorer A. E. Nordenskiold” by George Rosen

This was Jules Verne’s second novel and the first of his Extraordinary Journeys, a series that continued for 50 years and 63 more books.

It was popular in its day. Four English were done in the 1870s, but Butcher, as the back cover would have it, “the father of Verne Studies”, says none were subsequently done until his.

Real polar explorers found it one of the most accurate pictures ever written of life in the Arctic — or so a footnoted source says.

There’s no doubt Verne turned over a library for this book. He was a devotee of polar exploration though somewhat hampered by not reading English. However, many polar chronicles had been translated from English into French.

The plot of this two-decker novel has the ship the Forward departing Liverpool on April 6, 1860 with Richard Shandon, second-in-command, on board. The captain, whoever he is, will show up later. Shandon is known as a reliable and knowledgeable seaman with experience of Arctic waters. Dr. Clawbonny joins the ship later in the voyage. He’ll be an affable, steadfast character with an encyclopedic knowledge of polar exploration and the polar clime – though most of it is was learned through books. He’s looking for more actual experience. Continue reading “Adventures in Reviewer Parallax: The Adventures of Captain Hatteras”


Low Res Scan: Middlemarch, George Eliot, 1871-1872.1985fb54723a7a850be5cfda20c5e255

I’m not foolish enough to review an 800 page novel considered a classic and with so much attention already paid it. (I actually don’t know how long it really is. I downloaded an edition off Project Gutenberg and read it on my kindle.)

After hearing Jonathan Steinberg’s lecture on George Eliot and Middlemarch in episode 23 of the Great Courses’ series European History and European Lives: 1715 to 1914, I was curious about the novel. Also, there’s the nagging knowledge (but not guilt) that there’s a gaping hole from my English major days in regards to 19th century English novels.

The final impetus came from the weekly book club discussion on Luke Ford’s political podcast with Luke’s deadpan claim it was only 200 pages and you could read it in a couple of hours.

Is it worth reading? Very much so. I think you could make the claim that Eliot is as insightful, if not more so, about human psychology than Shakespeare. Continue reading “Middlemarch”

Science Fiction Trails #13

It’s time for another weird western review.

Review: Science Fiction Trails #13, ed. David B. Riley, 2018.

Science Fiction Trails 13
Cover by Laura Givens

To be honest, this issue was a disappointment. It was shorter than usual and a higher percentage of stories were ho-hum though there were a couple of bright points from two of the magazine’s old reliables.

I’m afraid the two newcomers don’t distinguish themselves.

Cynthia Ward’s “Six Guns of the Sierra Nevada” is actually a reprint of a story that first appeared 20 years ago in Pulp Eternity Magazine #1. It belongs to a time travel theme running throughout this issue. Carl Rhein seems to have been sent back in time by a shadowy cabal from the future in order to poison future American race relations by wiping out the Robin Hood Gang composed of all blacks. You have to be really good to get me to care about yet another story centering on what I’m told is the cause of all evil – racism, and this story isn’t, and its ending is a trifle murky.

There’s some racism in Paul J. Carney’s “The Warden of Chaco Canyon”, but it’s main problem is just that it’s kind of bland. It takes place in an alternate American West where prospectors have been hunting meteors with “star iron” – sought because of its use in protective amulets and bullets that will penetrate anything. However, the strikes have petered out after five years and prospector Hewitt wants to know why. He falls in with an Indian shaman who has his own ideas about what to do with “star iron”, and there are the ghosts of the town wiped out in the first meteor strike. Continue reading “Science Fiction Trails #13”

Deal or No Deal?

Review: Deal or No Deal?, William Meikle, 2017.Deal or No Deal

Derek Adams is Meikle’s favorite series character. Like Meikle, he’s a Glasgow man. He smokes a lot, drinks a lot, and doesn’t really try for the women. He’s a private eye with old school methods: legwork, a few phone calls, and a lot of talking to the more dubious elements of Glasgow in pubs.

He’s also a magnet for the weird.

I enjoyed Adams’ boozy, cynical, sarcastic voice in The Midnight Eye Files, the most complete collection of Derek Adams tales.

The series works best at longer lengths, but, while this is only novella, it’s long enough to put Adams’ voice in your head and provide a satisfying tale.

And it’s an old story: selling your soul to the Devil.

The usual bargain is a soul for wealth, knowledge, or sex. Here it’s three beers and a packet of crisps.

At least that’s the story Fraser McDougall, Adams’ latest client – and a well-paying one he is – tells him. And McDougall wasn’t the only who sold his soul thirty years ago in a drunken night at the pub. Continue reading “Deal or No Deal?”

Operation Antarctica

In the depths of last winter, I read this one on the heels of Infestation.

Review: Operation Antarctica, William Meikle, 2017.Operation Antarctica

I liked this S-Squad novel better than Infestation, and for almost exactly the opposite reasons.

The squad, with an all Scottish contingent this time, gets sent in to Norway’s slice of the Antarctic to see why there are signs of activity around an old Nazi base there.

What that they find, as you might guess from the cover, is Nazi ice zombies and a flying saucer. And a menace first encountered by occult detective Thomas Carnacki. (I have no idea if Meikle worked in a free standing Carnacki tale of his since I’ve never read any of his Carnacki pastiches or any of the original Carnacki stories by William Hope Hodgson.)

I thought the setting a bit less atmospheric than the Arctic wastes of Infestation, but I liked the squad’s supernatural enemy here more than the giant bugs of the earlier novel. Bullets prove a lot less use than magic.

It’s 138 pages of straightforward action. I suppose I shouldn’t expect any treacherous S-Squad superiors or turncoat team members in future installments, but that’s ok. Meikle has come up with a winning formula to devour between reading longer books.


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