Thursday, 5 December 2019

The Man with a Thousand Names

Author: A. E. Van Vogt (aka Alfred Vogt)
First Published: 1974
Pages: 141pp
Publisher: DAW

Well this was an interesting read. Something a bit, er, different from what I was expecting. If you have never read a Van Vogt science fiction book, be prepared for a Marmite experience!

 A. E. Van Vogt, was born Alfred Vogt, in Manitoba, Canada in 1912. Raised by descendants of Dutch lineage, he became one of the most recognisable names in Sci-Fi literature and influenced such writers as Philip K. Dick and Harlan Ellison. During the course of his writing career he became one of the most popular figures of the 20th century's Golden Age of science fiction.

However, this was not the genre that Vogt began with. His first foray into the literary world started with true confessions stories for pulp magazines such as Tue Story. He changed track by the end of the thirties and inspired by the Astounding Science Fiction magazine and James W. Campbell, submitted a story entitled Vault of the Beast which was rejected. However, with encouragement and a further submission, his first sci-fi story for the same magazine was called Black Tiger and appeared in the July 1939 issue.

Vogt quit his job and went full time as a writer in 1941. His most famous novels were written in a purple patch between 1941 and 1944. Most of these appeared in serialised form in various magazines before being released in paperback. He moved to California in 1944, and took on his pen-name as his legal name whilst applying for American citizenship.

Saturday, 30 November 2019

Eye of the Zodiac (Dumarest of Terra #13)

Author: E. C. Tubb (aka Edwin Charles Tubb)
First Published: 1975
File size/Pages: 561KB / 176pp
Ebook Publisher: Gateway
Ebook Date: September 2011

Disclaimer: I have the DAW paperback version (pictured left) of this novel, so did not actually purchase the eBook).

So after picking up a few Dumarest of Terra books quite cheap at a used bookstore I decided to give one a go. I had heard that you could plunge into any of the books in the series without necessarily reading them in publication order, or in having any knowledge of the overall arc.

E. C. Tubb was born Edwin Charles Tubb in London, England in 1919 and never moved during his lifetime. He began writing in his youth, contributing to many science fiction magazines over the years. The Dumarest Saga is the most well known creation out of the 140 novels he published, however he also had a considerable contribution to the novelisations of the Gerry Anderson's television series Space: 1999, adapting eleven of the scripts into three paperbacks, and most significantly authoring three completely original novels,  Alien Seed (1976), Rogue Planet (1976) and Earthfall (1977) set within the first season continuity. Under other names Tubb was also the author of eleven western novels, a detective novel and a Foreign Legion novel. His other science fiction series of note was the Cap Kennedy series, this did not fare as well in his native land as it did elsewhere, and only six of the seventeen books were published in the U.K. under the title banner of F.A.T.E. using the pen name of Gregory Kern.

Friday, 22 November 2019

Claws of Steel (SS Wotan)

Author: Leo Kessler (aka Charles Whiting)
First Published: 1974
File size/Pages: 1595KB / 192pp
Ebook Publisher: Benjamin Lindley
Ebook Date: December 2014

Disclaimer: I have the Futura paperback version (pictured left) of this novel, so did not actually purchase the eBook).

It's time to check in with our German comrades of the Assault Battalion 'SS Wotan' in Leo Kesslers' third instalment of the Second World War series. This book, Claws of Steel was the third to be published, but is actually the sixth book if you want to read them in chronological order (preceded by Forced March and The Sand Papers). This time we join Von Dodenburg, Shulze, Schwarz, Metzger, and their commanding officer Grier (The Vulture), recovering from their time out on the Eastern Front after facing the horrors of a bitter winter fighting the Russians. Unfortunately Hitler has further plans for attempting to thwart the Red Army so The Bodyguard, as they are known, are set for another terrible experience.

Claws of Steel opens with a scene set in the Wolf's Lair, involving Hitler and his senior commanding officers planning out their next steps in the counter-attack on the Eastern Front. It is 1943, and the Nazi line has been punctured by the Russians - The Fuhrer needs a response and he needs it desperately as it is looking like the Americans will be joining the fight in Italy soon. He comes up with Operation Citadel. An attempt to pierce the Russian line and flank their troops that have been ensconced in Pokrovka, Prokhorovka and Kursk. He will use the combined forces of Model's XI Army from the north and Hoth's IV Panzer Army from the south in a pincer move that her likens to "crushing the life our of the Soviet serpent with two huge claws of steel".

Wednesday, 13 November 2019

Swamp!


1985 Sphere edition
Author: Peter Tremayne (aka Peter Berresford Ellis)
First Published: 1984
File size/Pages: 1149KB / 192pp
Ebook Publisher: Endeavour Venture
Ebook Date: July 2017

Disclaimer: I have the Sphere paperback version (pictured left) of this novel, so did not actually purchase the eBook).

Peter Berresford Ellis is most famous for his bestselling Sister Fidelma historical mystery series. But before he came up with his Celtic-Nun fictional detective, Ellis wrote a number of books in the thriller and horror genre using the pen-names of Peter MacAlan and Peter Tremayne respectively. Beginning in 1977 as Tremayne, he expanded the Dracula and Frankenstein mythos with books like The Hound of Frankenstein and Dracula Unbound. He progressed into his own creations with his most famous book of the seventies, The Ants (1979), and followed up with titles such as Zombie (1981), The Morgow Rises! (1982) and Snowbeast! (1983). As you may notice some of his novels during this time seemed to be trying to corner the market in the "book titles ending with an exclamation mark" category.

The full list of these (a nice little sub-category all of their own) are as follows;

  • The Morgow Rises!
  • Snowbeast!
  • Swamp!
  • Angelus!
  • Nicor!

Saturday, 9 November 2019

Heirs of the Force (Star Wars Young Jedi Knights #1)

Author: Kevin J. Anderson & Rebecca Moesta
First Published: 1995
Pages: 217pp
Publisher: Boulevard/Berkley

This review is the first in a new category of occasional articles that will cover a paperback book that I think should be released as an eBook, or cannot understand why it isn't already an eBook. They will be tagged with the 'Paperback' label, and will be collected on the "Not Digital?" page. Our first entry continues my current interest in the early Star Wars fiction franchise.

I have a problem with Star Wars books. Most of the ones I've tried to read, I just couldn't get into. Try as I might, they just don't grab me in the same way that books from other science fiction franchises do, such as Star Trek or late 20th century Doctor Who. Over the years I've tried the odd book or two but far too many of them ended up abandoned and unfinished gathering dust somewhere in the back of the bookshelf and then eventually being taken to a charity shop or traded in at a used bookstore.

I think my issue is that I cannot sustain an interest in the main characters of Star Wars, Luke, Leia, Han, Chewie etc. I am fundamentally underwhelmed by their new exploits and the lack of engaging character development. I struggle with the new characters introduced in each book, including each new villain of the week (none on them seem as impressive as The Emperor or Darth Vader). I tried to read Timothy Zahn's The Thrawn Trilogy twice and never even reached halfway through the first part on each occasion. Then I attempted to read The Corellian Trilogy by Roger MacBride Allen and ended up falling asleep every time I sat down to read it.

Monday, 4 November 2019

Splinter of the Mind's Eye (Star Wars)

eBook cover
Author: Alan Dean Foster
First Published: 1978
File size/Pages: 6475KB / 306pp
Ebook Publisher: Del Rey
Ebook Date: June 2011

With the recent release of the final trailer for The Rise of Skywalker movie, I find myself thinking more and more about Star Wars. What will Episode 9 bring to the table? Will it be a fitting end to the Skywaker saga? Will it divide the fan base as much as The Last Jedi seems to have done, or will it bring them together once again?

Star Wars has always played a large part in my life. I was eleven years old in 1977, so you can imagine the impact it had on me as a yound person. I was the target audience in perfection. My father took both myself and my younger brother (who is still drawn to it as much as I am) to see the orginal Star Wars at our local cinema. My friends had already seen it and were so enraptured I had to watch it so I could join in on all the exciting discussions. I still have this amusing memory of our father announcing, "Well that's that all over then, put your coats on!" when Luke, Han, Chewie and Leia finally escaped the Death Star. "Dad! There's still more to go!" I shouted in response. So he had to sit there for at least another 20mins or more through the whole trench run scenes - he wasn't impressed. If it had starred John Wayne he'd have sat through another bloody two hours!

When I had sat through the film a couple more times (with friends only - parents weren't allowed to come with us during the next sittings as we'd had enough of them and only went to daytime showings), and when I had exhausted all the numerous magazines and comics available to me (anyone remember those strange magazines that unfolded into a poster?) there was a Star Wars void in my life. So imagine the excitement when a few months later Splinter of the Mind's Eye appeared on bookshelves. Wow! A new story about Luke Skywalker, with Darth Vader on the cover, I have to have that! Over the years since then the Star Wars franchise in fiction has grown into something called the 'expanded universe'. Many dozens of books followed Splinter. Then, when George Lucas sold his creation to Disney, they announced that everything was going to change and that the expanded universe was now not 'canon' and should be treated as stories that could be regarded as legendary tales, hence 'Legends' was applied to all the pre-Disney published novels and comics.

Thursday, 31 October 2019

Deathbell

eBook cover
Author: Guy N. Smith
First Published: 1980
File size/Pages: 473KB / 207pp
Ebook Publisher: Black Hill Books
Ebook Date: February 2011

When I finished reading Bamboo Guerillas, the first Guy N. Smith book to appear on Digital Bibliophilia, I really did not think I would be reviewing a third Smith book within five months. I was not very impressed with that first novel, however I gave Cannibals a chance and thought it was better, so I thought why the hell not give a him a third try. I'm glad I did, as Deathbell is a significant improvement on both those earlier novels.

Written in 1980, it would appear that Deathbell could have been written before GNS embarked on a crazy schedule of six books in the next twelve months. I fear (no pun intended) for the quality of those books - that is a lot of books for one person to release. However, 1980 itself consisted of three other novels; Thirst; Satan's Snowdrop and Caracal, so who am I to criticise!