Tag Archives: book reviews

CLIVE BARKER’S THE SCARLET GOSPELS (2015)

Scarlet GospelsTHE SCARLET GOSPELS (2015) – Written by Clive Barker, or I guess I should make that “Written by Clive Barker” (wink). I notice from other reviews of this disappointing novel that I’m far from alone in thinking Barker wrote only the Prologue and a ghost writer completed the work. Probably Damon Lindelöf. (I’m kidding!)

How do you go wrong with a novel featuring Barker’s recurring Occult Detective Harry D’Amour taking on the Hell Priest aka Pinhead (or “Lead Cenobite” as he was known to the ancients. Hellraiser fans will get it.)? How do you do it? With horrific writing that is worse than most fan fiction, that’s how.

Let’s start with the good: the Prologue. This prologue is so tantalizingly good that the jarring plunge in quality the rest of the way makes reading The Scarlet Gospels feel like some exquisitely refined brand of torture being pioneered by the Cenobites and their Order of the Gash.  Continue reading

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AVENGERS: KREE-SKRULL WAR CHAPTER LINKS

Marvel Comics continues to rule current pop culture. This year’s look at the Kree-Skrull War (1971-1972) was as big a hit as last summer’s examination of the Celestial Madonna Saga (1973-1975). Here are links to all the chapters for reader convenience.

Avengers 89I. THE ONLY GOOD ALIEN IS A DEAD ALIEN – Ronan the Accuser overthrows the Supreme Intelligence to take control of the alien Kree Empire. Meanwhile, the Avengers help the Kree officer Captain Marvel and Rick Jones stop Annihilus from escaping the Negative Zone after Mar-Vell and Rick break out. CLICK HERE 

II. JUDGMENT DAY – Ronan the Accuser comes to Earth to personally oversee Sentry 459’s attempt to kill the Avengers as well as to launch Plan Atavus, a project that will set back Earth’s evolutionary clock by millions of years. CLICK HERE 

III. TAKE A GIANT STEP … BACKWARD – With the De-Evolution Zone spreading at an alarming rate the Avengers (The Wasp, Yellow Jacket, The Scarlet Witch, Goliath, Quicksilver, The Vision and Captain Marvel) battle Ronan and the Sentry. Meanwhile the Skrulls launch a pre-emptive assault on the Kree Empire. CLICK HERE   Continue reading

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ANCIENT SCI FI: PSI CASSIOPEIA (1854)

Star by C I Defontenay betterPSI CASSIOPEIA, or STAR: A MARVELOUS HISTORY OF WORLDS IN OUTER SPACE (1854) – Written by Dr Charlemagne Ischer Defontenay, a French M.D. and author. Long before J.R.R. Tolkien churned out obsessive amounts of fine detail about his fictional Middle Earth, Defontenay produced this volume of history, poetry and drama from his fictional planets in the star system Psi Cassiopeia.  

The narrator of the story is supposedly translating alien documents which he discovered in an artificial meteor that crashed in the Himalayas. The documents were from a planet called (incongruously enough) “Star.”

Star by C I DeFontenayThe system where that planet is located is a three-star system. Ruliel is the large, white star at the center, around which orbit the two lesser stars Altether (green) and Erragror (blue). The planet called Star is orbited by large planetoids/ moons named Tassul, Lessur, Rudar and Elier. Throwing all science to the winds the planet is also orbited by a small red star called Urrias.  

Star and its satellites are inhabited except, of course, for Urrias. The translated documents cover a roughly 1,000 year period of events regarding these worlds. The ancient Starian humanoids formed a united world-wide culture which started as an Empire before becoming a socialist planet economically and politically. The documents also claim that their culture boasted beautiful architecture, incredible feats of engineering and awe-inspiring works of art.

At one point a plague swept the globe, reducing the proud Starian civilization to chaos. A Nihilist Cult formed as the plague kept whittling away at the population over the course of years. In the post-apocalyptic ruins the Nihilists formed a fanatical religion devoted to ending all life on Star. The zealots formed armies which exterminated millions of Starians with the intention of taking their own lives when all non-members of their cult had been wiped out. Continue reading

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AVENGERS: THE FINALE OF THE KREE-SKRULL WAR

FOR PART ONE OF THIS LOOK AT THE KREE-SKRULL WAR (1971-1972) CLICK HERE 

Avengers 97THE AVENGERS Volume One, Number 97 (May 1972)

AVENGERS ROSTER: THOR (Donald Blake, MD), IRON MAN (Tony Stark), CAPTAIN AMERICA (Steve Rogers), THE SCARLET WITCH (Wanda), GOLIATH (Clint Barton), QUICKSILVER (Pietro), THE VISION (Not Applicable), CAPTAIN MARVEL (Mar-Vell, Kree Captain)

NOTE: CAPTAIN MARVEL IS THE HERO THAT NICK FURY SUMMONED TO FIGHT THANOS IN THE POST-CREDITS SCENE TO AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR.

GODHOOD’S END

Avengers 97Synopsis: We pick up right where we left off: Rick Jones has just been transported back into the Negative Zone, the buffer dimension between the Matter Universe and the Anti-Matter Universe. He is being attacked by Annihilus, the Lord of the Negative Zone, who wants revenge on Rick for the way the Avengers prevented him from invading Earth back in Part One.

As Annihilus flies toward Rick as he floats around in the Negative Zone, Rick finds time slowing down for him. His mind begins to expand and – though he does not yet understand why – he begins to approach omniscience. His mind is filled with images of the perils faced at that very moment by the other Avengers and by the entire Earth:

… On the Skrull homeworld (name unpronounceable by a human tongue), Captain Marvel, the Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver are fighting against an entire army in the palace of Emperor Dorrek IV …

… On the flagship of a Skrull space fleet just outside our solar system Thor, Iron Man, Captain America and the Vision are fighting frantically to prevent that fleet from reaching Earth …

… On Hala, home planet of the Kree Empire, Ronan the Accuser watches his own fleet of spaceships depart for the Earth, intent on preventing the Skrulls from seizing the planet, even if that planet gets obliterated in the cataclysmic battle of starfleets …

… On a small Skrull spaceship hurtling toward Earth, Goliath, no longer possessed of his superpowers, stands unarmed against a squad of Skrull soldiers on a kamikaze mission to wipe out the Earth to prevent it from falling back into the hands of the Kree Empire … Continue reading

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AVENGERS: THE KREE-SKRULL WAR PART EIGHT

FOR PART ONE OF THIS LOOK AT THE KREE-SKRULL WAR (1971-1972) CLICK HERE 

Avengers 96THE AVENGERS Volume One, Number 96 (February 1972)

AVENGERS ROSTER: THOR (Donald Blake, MD), IRON MAN (Tony Stark), CAPTAIN AMERICA (Steve Rogers), THE SCARLET WITCH (Wanda), GOLIATH (Clint Barton), QUICKSILVER (Pietro), THE VISION (Not Applicable), CAPTAIN MARVEL (Mar-Vell, Kree Captain)

NOTE: CAPTAIN MARVEL IS THE HERO THAT NICK FURY SUMMONED TO FIGHT THANOS IN THE POST-CREDITS SCENE TO AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR.

Readers can’t get enough Marvel Superheroes. I’m glad to oblige since I still have a soft spot for superhero stories because reading them as a kid served as a gateway to two of my adult passions: mythology and opera. 

Avengers 96THE ANDROMEDA SWARM

Synopsis: This part picks up a few days after the Avengers defeated Maximus the Mad and restored Black Bolt to the throne of Attilan, the Great Refuge. With the Kree now prevented from using the Inhumans as super-soldiers in their war with the Skrulls, our heroes were allowed to rest, regroup and plot their next move.

By staying in the hidden city of Attilan they also avoided having to deal with the ongoing manhunt for them run by Senator Craddock and his reluctant S.H.I.E.L.D. allies. The Avengers have piloted their Quin-Jet to the S.H.I.E.L.D. helicarrier, which is in my opinion one of the dumbest things in the otherwise impressive Marvel Comics Universe. They should have at least dropped the absurd helicarrier bit for the movies.  

Nick Fury has agreed to sacrifice his job by letting our heroes steal an internationally- constructed ship capable of space flight … if it only had a power source. Again, really dumb. The writers could have had the Avengers use a ship created in Attilan since it has futuristic Kree technology.

Avengers Kree-Skrull WarAnyway, Thor, Iron Man, Captain America, Goliath and the Vision board the ship, named Bogie, in honor of Humphrey Bogart. (?) With Thor’s hammer serving as the nearly infinite power source for the spacecraft – just like it could have for a craft built in Attilan – the Avengers fly off.

First they shatter the Kree Nega-Shield which has been surrounding Earth ever since Ronan the Accuser was forced to return to the planet Hala back in Part Three. After that it’s off through our solar system, just outside which lies the Stargate which the Kree, Skrulls, Shi’ar and other alien races use to bop to and from our solar system to deep space.

The Avengers plan to free the Scarlet Witch, Quicksilver and Captain Marvel from captivity on the Skrull homeworld and then free Rick Jones from captivity on Hala, homeworld of the Kree Empire. Thor notices how tense the Vision seems, and Iron Man, who has gleaned that the android has fallen in love with the Scarlet Witch, begins to explain on the Vision’s behalf.  Continue reading

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AVENGERS: THE KREE-SKRULL WAR PART SEVEN

FOR PART ONE OF THIS LOOK AT THE KREE-SKRULL WAR (1971-1972) CLICK HERE 

Avengers 95THE AVENGERS Volume One, Number 95 (January 1972)

AVENGERS ROSTER: THOR (Donald Blake, MD), IRON MAN (Tony Stark), CAPTAIN AMERICA (Steve Rogers), THE SCARLET WITCH (Wanda), GOLIATH (Clint Barton), QUICKSILVER (Pietro), THE VISION (Not Applicable), CAPTAIN MARVEL (Mar-Vell, Kree Captain)

NOTE: CAPTAIN MARVEL IS THE HERO THAT NICK FURY SUMMONED TO FIGHT THANOS IN THE POST-CREDITS SCENE TO AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR.

SOMETHING INHUMAN THIS WAY COMES

Synopsis: This story picks up where we left off last time around. The scaled, amphibious Inhuman named Triton emerges from a manhole at Avengers Mansion while Thor, Iron Man, Captain America, Goliath, the Vision and Rick Jones are still fighting the Mandroids.

Those Mandroids – S.H.I.E.L.D. agents wearing high-tech combat suits designed to defeat the Avengers if they ever went bad – are trying to arrest our heroes for Senator H Warren Craddock. That Senator has special powers from the U.N. to deal with the ongoing crisis in which two alien races – the Kree and the Skrulls – are fighting over the Earth. The Avengers are wanted for failure to comply with Craddock’s subpoena regarding the heroes’ role in helping their Kree member – Captain Marvel – escape S.H.I.E.L.D.

The Mandroids seem to have the upper hand on the Avengers and Senator Craddock, observing the battle from his nearby command post, compliments Nick Fury on the performance of his agents in the Mandroid armor. Fury makes it clear that he’s only helping Craddock (a sleazy Robert Mueller-type abusing his authority) under orders. He also warns the Senator not to celebrate prematurely.

Fury turns out to be right as the Avengers suddenly turn the tables and defeat the Mandroids, thanks to a maneuver from Iron Man. Tony Stark – whose double-identity was NOT known back then – had designed the Mandroids and so Iron Man was finally able to exploit a weakness of theirs to knock out the men inside the armored suits with mild electrical shocks.

Rick Jones now helps the wounded Triton, who has been keeping out of the way while the battle raged. The member of the Inhuman Royal Family tells the Avengers what we readers learned last time around: Black Bolt, King of the Inhumans and ruler of Attilan, the Great Refuge, is lost in San Francisco with amnesia. His evil brother Maximus the Mad has taken over the Great Refuge and allied himself with the Kree invaders of Earth. Continue reading

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SOLO: BOOK REVIEW

SoloSOLO (1980) – Written by Jack Higgins. Solo is not exactly one of my favorite espionage novels but it is definitely my favorite by Jack Higgins. It’s the story of efforts to catch an international assassin code-named the Cretan Lover. Luckily that ludicrous codename is often shortened to just “The Cretan” throughout the novel. I’ll use the same review format that I used for my look at The Top Seven Robert Ludlum Novels.

TIME PERIOD: From approximately 1960 to the late 1970s.

MAIN CHARACTER: John Mikali, a Greek concert pianist of much renown who leads a double life as the aforementioned Cretan Lover aka The Cretan. Mikali is descended from a fictional naval hero of the Greek War of Independence in the 1800s. His family remains wealthy and prominent, with his grandfather being an erudite and outspoken critic of the Colonels who seized control of Greece.

Young John himself is a gifted pianist but after getting drawn into a vendetta against the man who accidentally killed his beloved grandmother he fled into the French Foreign Legion. Despite his fey background John Mikali thrived in the Legion AND in the Algerian War, proving to be a ruthless, cold-hearted man who could kill enemy soldiers or non-combatants with equal skill and nonchalance. Continue reading

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