Saturday, 11 January 2020

I Am C3PO

Author: Anthony Daniels
First Published: 2019
File size/Pages: 29249KB / 272pp
Ebook Publisher: DK
Ebook Date: October 2019

Something a little different for today's entry. A Christmas gift of the the inside story (pun intended I guess) of Anthony Daniels time as the golden Droid of the Star Wars franchise , C3PO. I do like to read non-fiction occasionally, and anything related to the movie business usually hits the mark, especially if it is science fiction movie-related to films I admire (I'd recommend checking out Future Noir, The Making of Blade Runner by Paul M. Sammon, a fantastic book).

Because Daniels book contains some content about the recent film, The Rise of Skywalker, it looks like he had to wait till that film had been released in case any keen Star Wars fans were able to discern a plot line out of it. Alternatively you argue he has timed its release to perfectly align with what looks likely to be his last appearance in the Skywalker saga (I wouldn't bet on him appearing in some other Star Wars related events though - because this book reaffirms just how much Daniels has done over the past forty years and I can't see him stopping somehow).

Wednesday, 1 January 2020

Sherlock Holmes versus Dracula

1979 Paperback edition
Author: Loren D. Estleman
First Published: 1978
File size/Pages: 1432KB / 224pp
Ebook Publisher: Titan Books
Ebook Date: November 2012

In a nice coincidence, the final pages of Sherlock Holmes vs. Dracula takes place at the end of the year, so it seems fitting that I should end 2019 with this book.

The novel was originally published in 1978, and is now available via a recent reprint from Titan Books in both paperback and eBook format. They have been reprinting old and new Sherlock Holmes pastiches via their "The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes" series for a while now.

I'm a great fan of Arthur Conan Doyle's creations, the consulting detective Sherlock Holmes and Dr John H. Watson M.D. I have been reading Holmes books since an early age, and have been actively supporting the publication of the fantastic MX books of new Sherlock Holmes stories via Kickstarter for a number of years. If you want to read new Holmesian fiction, check out their regular Kickstarter projects, you cannot go wrong.

Author Loren D. Estleman was born in Michigan, U.S. in 1952. Estleman first published novel was The Oklahoma Punk in 1976. The books for which he is most famous for, the P.I. Amos Walker series, launched in 1980 and currently runs to twenty eight instalments. He has also written Western books about Marshal Page Murdock and hitman Peter Macklin. He followed up Sherlock Holmes vs. Dracula with Dr Jekyall and Mr Holmes in 1979.

Tuesday, 24 December 2019

Star Trek - Log One

Author: Alan Dean Foster
First Published: 1974
Pages: 184pp
Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

It wasn't too long ago that I reviewed another book by Alan Dean Foster. Splinter of the Mind's Eye was his story based upon the intent of George Lucas to produce a lower budget sequel to Star Wars if it didn't do well in theatres. Well we know how that panned out, so Foster's Star Wars sequel remains a quirky novel in the expanded universe for fans of the franchise.

Before Lucas approached him, Foster also took on what was to become another science fiction cinematic and televisual franchise. Star Trek: The Original Series had been cancelled fours years previously (in 1969) but was proving immensely popular via syndication. This resulted in the shows creator, Gene Roddenberry, to decide to continue the series in an animated form. To the delight of fans, much of the original cast returned to provide voice-overs for their original characters. Show writers David Gerrold and D. C. Fontana characterised The Animated Series as a fourth season of The Original Series.

Star Trek: The Animated Series, aired as "Star Trek" and as "The Animated Adventures of Gene Roddenberry's Star Trek" from 1973 to 1974 consisting of 22 episodes over two seasons. Set in the 23rd century, with Earth as part of a United Federation of Planets, it followed the adventures of the Starfleet vessel USS Enterprise as it explored the galaxy.

Oath of Blood - Wolfs Head #1

Author: Arthur Frazier (aka Kenneth Bulmer)
First Published: 1973
Pages: 108pp
Publisher: New English Library

Any book that opens Page One with a man being skewered by the broken mast of a sailing ship in the middle of a storm has to be good right? Well, I'm happy to say Oath of Blood by Arthur Frazier lives up to its gory opening scene and delivers a fantastic little novel about the clash of the Saxons, Normans and Vikings during the 11th century (1066 to be precise).

Arthur Frazier was one of many pen names used by the prolific Kenneth Bulmer. He authored many classic novels and much-loved series such as the science fiction of Dray Prescot (as Alan Burt Ackers), the maritime exploits of Abercrombie Fox (as Adam Hardy),  Roman adventure The Eagles (as Andrew Quiller),  U-boat adventures (as Bruno Krauss), Falklands war novels (as Adam Hardy) and adaptations of the TV series The Professionals (as Ken Blake).

I have had mixed experience reading Bulmer recently. I wasn't impressed with Dray Prescot - you can read my review here. But I had a better time reviewing the Adam Hardy opener for Strike Force Falklands. I'm glad to report with Oath of Blood he has finally won me over with his writing - this is a tour de force of a novel, brimming with authentic detail and history of the period. He introduces us to characters that make an impression and seem very real. The action is bloody, visceral and dirty with maiming, decapitations, severed limbs and brain-splattering axe fights scattered throughout. But mixed into the mayhem is a story of love and friendship which promises an epic story to come.

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 published sci-fi story for the same magazine was called Black Destroyer* which 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".