Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Book Review - JD Robb's Delusion in Death

Delusion in Death (In Death, #35)Delusion in Death by J.D. Robb
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I like to research what works and what doesn't in publishing so when I saw this on the B&N bargain table I grabbed it. I'd seen the name JD Robb but had no clue she was actually Nora Roberts. I don't think I would ever read Roberts even for research since she writes for a market I have no interest in. However her writing as Robb is interesting to me. She has created a believable near-future world and populated it with interesting characters coping with interesting problems. Not hard SF in any way, her stories are more character driven than tech and that's fine by me. That's the way I tend to write.

I knew when I started reading that I was jumping into the middle of a series but that didn't bother me; most authors will drop enough hints and tidbits of back story to let you catch up. I assumed the same for Robb but was disappointed - while she did refer to previous events she did so assuming everyone would know the story. I didn't so I was lost. Big problem.

I also found her attributions confusing at times. I read along assuming I knew who was talking only to discover several sentences later I was wrong. I had to go back then and re-read the dialog so it would make sense. Not something you want or need when immersed in a story.

The story itself was well told, the plot believable, the characters engaging. Perhaps someday I will go back and read the previous books and pick up what I missed.

If you like soft SF thrillers I recommend Delusion in Death.


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Monday, October 13, 2014

Movie Review - Flight to Mars 1951

A bunch of scientists and a newspaper reporter (yes, newspaper reporter) make the first manned flight to the red planet to discover Martians that look exactly like us.

Filmed in 11 days using sets, sound effects, and space suits from the more successful Destination Moon, this little film is, in my opinion at least, highly underrated. Sure the story is predictable, sure the acting is far from brilliant, sure the special effects are sad - but check out Marguerite Chapman! She alone is worth the price of admission.
Classic 50s Sci-fi Movie Babe Marguerite Chapman

Virginia Huston, girl scientist, and Cameron Mitchel,
intrepid reporter
Cameron Mitchell stars as the jaded war reporter chosen from thousands of applicants to accompany the first Mars expedition. Along for the ride is Carol Stafford, girl scientist (her words, not mine), played by Virginia Huston. Carol has a majorly huge crush on her boss, the leader of the expedition and who, inevitably, falls for the beautiful Alita (Chapman), daughter of the leader of the pro-Earth party. This of course leaves things wide open for the intrepid reporter to swoop in and pick up the shattered pieces of the girl scientist's heart.



Workman-like and plodding as it sounds this mess is the true plot of the movie. Oh, and the fact that the anti-Earth faction of Mars' leaders want to seize the Earth ship, reverse engineer it and use the technology to build a fleet of ships to invade Earth. But this at times seems more of a sub-plot, really.

Despite its many short comings I love this movie. Science fiction movies from the early fifties seem so innocent looking back on them from our 21st century vantage point. America's fear of the insidious commie and the constant threat of global annihilation at any moment seem silly to us. But people living through that era did not have the luxury of knowing every was going to work out in the end and the Soviet Union would die an ignoble death without a single nuke hitting Moscow. Those were scary times and little bits of fluff like Flight to Mars offered an overwhelmed public a few minutes of gee whiz escapism. No harm in that, eh?

Spaceship cockpit, 1950s style
Color space suits borrowed from Destination Moon

The Martian surface, including mysterious
Martian megaliths
If you love classic 50s sci-fi you'll love this Flight to Mars. Recommended.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Review - The Year's Best Dark Fantasy & Horror, 2013

The Year's Best Dark Fantasy & Horror, 2013 EditionThe Year's Best Dark Fantasy & Horror, 2013 Edition by Paula Guran
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The stories in this collection run the gamut from Neal Gaiman's The Man Who Forgot Ray Bradbury to Jim Butcher's hilarious Big Foot on Campus, touching on points in between. I won't even attempt to review every story here so I'll focus on what I consider to be the true gems in this collection.

The Man Who Forgot Ray Bradbury is a horror tale for our times. The narrator opens his tale with the line I am forgetting things, which scares me. With this simple sentence Gaiman takes us by the hand and leads us through the thoughts and fears of someone going through Alzheimer's or dementia, or maybe something else -- we are never really told -- but that's far from the point. Having your past wiped from your brain, memory by memory, is perhaps the scariest thing a person can face. Our past defines us, our memories make us who we are. If we lose those things where does that leave us? This story is no fantasy - what it describes is all too real, all too common, and that is what scares the crap out of me.

Big Foot On Campus - I don't want to give anything away here, so just let me say Harry Dresden is back and in fine form as his usual smart-alecky self.

Perhaps one of the creepiest tales in this collection is Robert Shearman's Bedtime Stories for Yasmin. There is nothing more innocuous than a story told to a child as she's being tucked into bed for the night, right? Not in this story. Enough said. You'll have to read it for yourself.

The Year's Best Dark Fantasy and Horror, 2013 lives up to it's title. Recommended.




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Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Walking the Edge on eBook Discovery

Walking the Edge
Eleven short horror and dark fantasy stories

Walking the Edge has been selected to appear in eBook Discovery's Action-Packed email this Friday, September 26th at 3:00 PM. Please feel free to subscribe here so you can see your favorite ebook shine!

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Book Review - The Manhattan Project

The Manhattan Project: The Birth of the Atomic Bomb in the Words of Its Creators, Eyewitnesses and Historians.The Manhattan Project: The Birth of the Atomic Bomb in the Words of Its Creators, Eyewitnesses and Historians. by Cynthia C. Kelly
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Told through letters, reports, documents, and oral histories, this book takes us from the first sustained nuclear reaction under a squash court in Chicago all the way to the destruction of two cities and thousands of human beings. The story of the Manhattan Project is simultaneously exciting, riveting and heart wrenching. The people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were not the only victims of the bomb; thousands of lives were consumed by this project, many were shattered, including perhaps the biggest hero of the story, J. Robert Oppenheimer.

Whatever your feelings about the bomb or nuclear energy The Manhattan Project is a fascinating read.

Recommended.


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Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Review: Eniac: The Triumphs and Tragedies of the World's First Computer

Eniac: The Triumphs and Tragedies of the World's First ComputerEniac: The Triumphs and Tragedies of the World's First Computer by Scott McCartney
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The story of Eniac, the world's first truly programmable electronic computer, is both inspiring and heart breaking. J. Presper Eckert and John Mauchly were true visionaries, ahead of their time in many ways, yet exactly in the right place at the right time in more ways. Their story is one of technological innovation and political in-fighting. Unfortunately for them victory, fame, and most of the money went to those who could play the game, leaving the creators of this world-changing machine under appreciated and, in Mauchly's case, broke.

Scott McCartney has written an engaging and well researched tale of creativity, invention, and betrayal.

Highly recommended.


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Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Starcrash

Starcrash 

1978

Caroline Munro, Marjoe Gortner, David Hasselhoff, Christopher Plummer


Oh my goodness, where to start?

First off, I love B movies. I love low budget films cobbled together by creative types with tiny budgets and nothing more than cardboard cut outs and blinking lights for special effects. Look at This Island Earth, It Came From Outer Space, The Beginning of the End. No big budgets here, but each of these films is packed with creativity and originality, concepts the makers of Starcrash were seemingly unfamiliar with. This is not a B movie, it's an F movie, and as much as I wanted to like it (Caroline Munro! What more does a movie need?) I found myself wanting to rip the director's arm off and beat him over the head with the bloody stump, shouting "Bad boy! No!"



Caroline Munro, trying her best to save this movie



Munro stars as Stella Star (no kidding); Marjoe Gortner as her psychic and seemingly immortal navigator, Akton; Christopher Plummer as the Emperor of the Universe; and David Hasselhoff (yeah, that David Hassellhof) as his son, Prince Simon. Munro is gorgeous but that's not nearly enough to save this mess. The real mystery is what the heck Christopher Plummer is doing here. Plummer seems embarrassed by the whole thing and it shows. Gortner, a former child evangelist turned bad actor, is so awful I couldn't look directly at him. Then there's the robot with the southern drawl. I won't get in that -- you'll just have to see it yourself.
Poor Christopher, we can see right through you
Gortner battling the vicious stop-action robots

Did you know?

The truly awful Marjoe Gortner and his robot pal
Stracrash was released in a hurry to cash in on the success of Star Wars. 

Christopher Plummer shot all of his scenes in one day. Like pulling a Band Aid off really fast, I guess.


The Star Wars rip off went so far as having Gortner swinging a light a pathetic toy light saber.

All the major actors dubbed their own voices back for the English version except for Munro. The producers didn't want to spend the money to have her fly in to do the work so Candy Clark did the work. Clark was married to Gortner at the time.

Gorgeous Caroline Munro is the daughter of the equally gorgeous Janet Munro (The Day the Earth Caught Fire, The Crawling Eye aka The Trollenberg Terror).

Marjoe Gortner, at four years old, was proclaimed "The world's youngest ordained minister."

The Hoff as Prince Simon

Starcrash is on the You Tube. You can see it here. Please don't buy it, watch it for free if you really feel you must. But be warned, this movie will change you, and not in a good way.


Sunday, June 22, 2014

The Long Dark Tea Time of the Soul


Douglas Adams

Enter the slightly off kilter world of Douglas Adams' London, where Norse gods run amok in the streets while Dirk Gently, a holistic detective who believes in the quantum interconnectedness of all things, tries to unravel the murder of a successful record producer, beheaded by a green demon from Valhalla.

Sound confusing? Welcome to the creative genius of Douglas Adams. Everyone knows Douglas for his brilliant Hitchhiker's trilogy (all four of them) but the Dirk Gently books are just as wildly imaginative. 

If you haven't had the pleasure of Mr. Gently's acquaintance go to your local book store right now and get them all. Go on! What are you waiting for?

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency

Douglas Adams was a bit daft; I like that in an author.

It's been years since I first read Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency and I must say it's a pleasure to reacquaint myself with Mr. Gently. In honor of World Towel Day I had decided to re-read all six volumes of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy trilogy but then I saw this volume on my shelf and decided to start my Adams adventure with Holistic Detective Agency followed by The Long Dark Tea Time of the Soul. Whether this is Great Literature is irrelevant -- it's a fun read and an insightful glimpse into the brilliantly creative mind of Douglas Adams.

If you only know Douglas from Hitchhiker's then you certainly owe it to yourself to read Dirk.

Out of five stars I'd give this book a twenty.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Blood From the Mummy's Tomb

Blood from the Mummy's Tomb
Hammer, 1971

Starring Andrew Keir and the voluptuous Valerie Leon. Based on the Bram Stoker novel, Jewel of the Seven Stars.


In my estimation this is one of Hammer's finest. It is both moody and atmospheric with a wonderfully manic performance by Leon.





A British expedition in Egypt uncovers the ancient tomb of the evil Queen Tera. When one of the archaeologists takes the ring from the queen's severed hand and gives it to his daughter for her birthday he unwittingly unleashes an ancient curse. Is the girl truly the reincarnation of Tera or is she simply a tool to be used by the unscrupulous Corbeck (played with relish by James Villiers)?


Production on Blood was plagued by the death of director Seth Holt of a heart attack five weeks into production. Holt actually died on set in the arms of cast member Aubrey Morris, who played Doctor Putnam. Michael Carreras finished directing the final week of filming, though his work is not credited. Peter Cushing was slated to play Professor Julian Fuchs but pulled out after only one day on the set when his wife was diagnosed with emphysema. Andrew Keir filled in admirably, though to be honest I would have preferred Cushing. Keir does a fine job, mind you, it's just I'm a huge Cushing fan.


Did you know...?
 
Andrew Keir played Dr. Bernard Quatermass in the absolutely wonderful Quatermass and the Pit (aka Five Billion Years to Earth).

Aubrey Morris (Doctor Putnam) appeared in the classics A Clockwork Orange (1971), The Wicker Man (1973), and the wonderful Lifeforce (1985). He was also the captain of the Golgafrincham Arkship B in the British TV series of The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy (1981).
Valerie Leon appeared in two James Bond adventures with bit parts in the awful James Bond fiasco Never Say Never Again as well as The Spy who Loved Me.

While she had no trouble appearing in skimpy outfits, Leon, like the gorgeous Caroline Munro, refused to do full nudity. A body double was used in the one very brief nude scene in Blood.










Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Home by the Sea

Kyle slipped through the unlit house with practiced precision, taking his accustomed place alone in the family room, the eternal Pacific below his only company. A storm was coming, Kyle could feel it.
The wind raced in from the sea carrying cold steel rain and sleet. But even in a storm the ocean calmed him as no drug ever did, brought him a relief no therapy could offer. He let the sound of the surf wash over him, cleansing his soul, carrying away sins real and imagined, carrying his nightmare far out to
sea to sink into the eternal abyss, never to bother him again. It was a pleasant thought, more of a mantra, really, repeated night after night all these years.

Home by the Sea, from Walking the Edge by Curt Jeffreys


Available on Amazon

Wednesday, May 14, 2014


Disconnected


Suddenly deflated, he drooped against the counter. Dead. His little brother was dead. It hadn't really struck him till now. He'd been too distracted with all the details, all the arrangements, to really let it soak in. But now, standing in this gloomy apartment staring into Kevin's fridge, everything snapped into sharp, painful focus. He was gone, really gone, not on vacation in some exotic locale, soon to return with a camera full of pictures and a head full of wild stories about the things he'd seen, the things he'd done. Life is full of surprises, Kevin used to say. You take what comes at you and make the best of it. Heck of a surprise this was.

Disconnected, from Walking the Edge by Curt Jeffreys. Available on Amazon, B & N, iTunes and more

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Good News Everyone! 

My collection of short horror stories is available on Smashwords.
Walking the Edge is a collection of eleven short horror/dark fantasy stories. All for only a buck ninety nine. What a deal!

Available from
Amazon Kindle
Smashwords
Barnes and Noble Nook
Apple iTunes