Sunday, September 28, 2008

Review of Land of Ice, A Velvet Knife - Wm. Michael Mott's sequel to Pulsifer: A Fable

If possible, this sequel to "Pulsifer: A Fable" is an even better story. Rogue Pulsifer scams even when he would do better not to, blunders sometimes, outwits his foes at other times, fights heroically when he has to, runs away when he can. The only thing he is never guilty of is being boring. Author Wm. Michael Mott has created a great character, and set him in a finely realized imaginary world that I found just as interesting as Jack Vance's Dying Earth or Clark Ashton Smith's Hyperborea and Zothique, all of which Temudoth somewhat resembles, but Mott interjects much that is original. I consider these Pulsifer books among the best fantasies I've read this year, keeping company with works by Neil Gaiman, Charles R. Saunders, and Manly Wade Wellman. I recommend them to any one who likes the fantasy genre, but a warning, Pulsifer grows on you, but he is by no means a hero or even likeable, he is totally into whatever he can do for himself, even at the expense of others, but his adventures are too interesting to stop reading (at least, they were for me). 5 Stars easily.

Review of Karl Edward Wagner edited anthology "Echoes of Valor III"

Here's a review I've posted on of the fantasy anthology Echoes of Valor III, edited by the late Karl Edward Wagner and published back in 1991. EOV III is still worth having for any serious fan of fantasy, especially heroic fantasy or "sword and sorcery" as some call it, as well as any student of the Pulp Magazine Era authors:

Echoes of Valor III Echoes of Valor III by Karl Edward Wagner

My review

rating: 5 of 5 stars
The late Karl Edward Wagner edited three Echoes of Valor anthologies for TOR fantasy books. Volume III was published in 1991 and unfortunately was the last in the series. All three of the EOV books are worth seeking out and purchasing if you are a serious fan of fantasy, especially of the heroic or "sword and sorcery" variety.

This volume contains stories by Robert E. Howard, Henry Kuttner, Manly Wade Wellman, Jack Williamson, and the little known Weird Tales Magazine great Nictzin Dyalhis. While all but the Dyalhis stories have recently been reprinted in collections of these authors works, this book is still highly valuable just for Karl Edward Wagner's editorial comments and introductions to each author alone. Wagner, in addition to being one of the all time great American fantasists and horror writers of the 20th century, was also a very erudite fan of the fantasy, horror and pulp writers who came before him. Volume III contains information on Wellman and Dyalhis especially that I have never seen printed anywhere else. For this reason alone the book should be recommended, however in addition, all of the stories chosen are excellent (something that can't always be said about these types of anthologies).

The stories represent the authors chosen at some of their best. The Howard tale is the introduction of the real "Red Sonya", not to be confused with the Marvel Comics chain mail bikini clad version "Red Sonja". The two Kuttner stories feature his fantasy hero Prince Raynor, whose adventures take place in a prehistoric empire in Asia. Manly Wade Wellman's story is one of my favorites, wherein his Cro-Magnon era hero Hok "the Mighty" visits Wellman's take on Atlantis. Possibly the best story in the book is Jack Williamson's story "Wolves of Darkness" and the book winds up with two rousing stories by the obscure Dyalhis.

I give this book a well deserved 5 stars.

View all my reviews.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Review of Pulsifer: A Fable, by Wm. Michael Mott

This is a really good read. The main character is a "rogue" in the model of other literary rogues such as Jack Vance's Cugel the Clever and George Macdonald Fraser's Harry Flashman. Many of his adventures and misadventures are the result of his own machinations. Despite this, I found myself caught up in the story and actually caring about what Pulsifer did or what happened to him, which to me is the mark of a good storyteller.
The fantasy world in which the action takes place is a continent surrounded and threatened by encroaching ice, where magic works, and science has been forgotten. The story is reminiscent of Clark Ashton Smith's Zothique and Jack Vance's The Dying Earth series, high class company indeed, but Mott pulls the whole thing off with his own imagination. I highly recommend this one to anyone who enjoys fantasy and adventure.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Best Books I've Read (or maybe re-read) in 2008

This has been a really good year for me for discovering new authors, especially in the areas of fantasy and pulp magazine type fiction. I started the year out by reading Imaro and later Imaro 2: The Quest for Cush, both by Charles R. Saunders. These two novels chronicle the adventures of the eponymous hero in an ancient alternate Africa. At the same time I was reading Imaro's coming of age adventures, I was perusing a copy of pulp era author Manly Wade Wellman's Hok the Mighty, another eponymously named collection, this time about a Cro-Magnon hero of the Stone Age, whom Wellman posited as the basis for many of the Hercules legends. Reading the two of these authors and their take on their heroes was an interesting study in contrasts and I highly recommend both to anyone who likes adventure with a little touch of fantasy thrown in.

I was aware of both of these authors before 2008 and had read a few short stories by each, but Paul Malmont, author of The Chinatown Death Cloud Peril, was totally unknown to me until I came across his book while browsing my local Barnes and Noble. His book was one of the most exciting I've read in years, and I recommend it to just about anyone who loves to read, regardless of genre preferences. His protagonists and characters are fictionalized versions of real pulp authors of the 1930's, several of whose names will ring a bell even for those readers who aren't big fans of pulp magazine era fiction, but you don't have to be a pulp fiction fan to enjoy this wonderful book. Malmont has a new book coming out on Jack London (a historical fiction novel in the same vein as TCDCP) and I'm planning on being one of the first to buy a copy when it comes out.

Anyone who has ever seen my bookshelves knows that two of my favorite authors are Robert E. Howard and Jack Vance. Author (and internet correspondent and friend I happily disclose) Wm. Michael Mott has taken some of the best elements of each writer and added some highly creative touches of his own to pen two of the best fantasies I've read in decades in his Pulsifer: A Fable and Land of Ice, A Velvet Knife. In their own way both these novels set in a vividly realized fantasy world are just as memorable and good as some of the masterpieces written by Vance in his "Dying Earth" series. I consider these two novels tied for the best fiction I read so far this year, along with Neil Gaiman's American Gods and Anansi Boys, and I don't say that without serious thought. I'd really love to see what Mott could do if he were able to write full time.

As for the aforementioned Gaiman, I admit that I foolishly ignored people telling me I should read him for years, only just picking up American Gods this year. I was blown away, and quickly followed that worthy book with Anansi Boys, Coraline, Stardust, and am planning on starting the Sandman series of graphic novels next, along with his short story collections. I'm now officially a Gaiman convert, and eagerly await his next works.