Book Reviews

13 Reviews (3 New)
A Dark and Scary Place

Marvel Year By Year - A Visual History (Updated & Expanded)


Authors: Tom DeFalco, Peter Sanderson, Tom Brevoort and Matthew K. Manning

Format: Hardback with Slip Cover

Publisher: DK

Published: April 2017

Well-known comics writers and historians Tom DeFalco, Peter Sanderson, Tom Brevoort and Matthew K. Manning, have come together to produce Marvel Year by Year: A Visual History – a quite staggeringly huge hardback book chronicling all the main events and major storylines at Marvel Comics (originally Timely Comics) over the last 77 years. In monthly order within chronological year all the heroes, villains and storyline major turning points are displayed in full colour and described succinctly. There is a foreword by Stan Lee (the man to whom Marvel owes nearly everything), an introduction by Tom DeFalco, and fantastic newly-commissioned cover artwork by Dan Panosian, which is also reproduced on two superb 10” x 8” art cards. This quality hardback from DK Publishing is updated and expanded, bringing the story so far up to October 2016. It retails for £35...

Aside from everyone’s favourite superheroes (including: Hulk, Iron Man, Spider-Man, Daredevil, Thor, Captain America, Prince Namor and countless others) and Super-Villains (such as Doctor Octopus, Doctor Doom, Loki, the Dread Dormammu, Kingpin and many more), this book explores the many other avenues Marvel has taken across the years, that count Westerns, Comedies, Cartoons, Teens (Millie the Model and Nellie the Nurse!), True Crime, Romance, War Stories and Weird Tales amongst their numbers. Particularly over the last few decades, however, it is super-powered beings that capture our imagination to the extent that Marvel has expanded regularly to the big screen and returning TV serials, such as Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. With over seventy years of storylines to plunder it’s not difficult to reason why.

In order to offer a fair and thorough view of a book I prefer to devour it from cover to cover. Unfortunately (or fortunately, if you look at it the right way), there is so much material here I doubt the review would be ready much before Christmas! That’s just as well, because this is a coffee table book (make sure you have a strong table) properly intended to be dipped into – or at least perused in small chunks, perhaps a year’s timeline at a time. Another massive plus for this tome is the very comprehensive index, so if you wish to follow the exploits of a particular character you can simply follow the page lists. Growing up, my favourite Marvel characters were Spider-Man and Daredevil, so my personal highpoint was discovering what happened to these heroes after I left them. Although I did briefly return to the former when Babylon 5 writer J. Michael Straczynski was writing for Amazing Spider-Man.

In addition to the titles and plotlines, we are also given information on movements behind-the-scenes, the comings and goings of prominent writers and artists, including the heady early days of Stan Lee (did you know he was made Editor-in-Chief at only 18 years of age!), Steve Ditko and Jack Kirby. So there is plenty to enjoy here, for long-time fans of comic books and those coming new to the back-history through the big-budget feature films. I can’t recommend this release enough. The four pedigree contributors here have made this as comprehensive as it’s possible to be, whilst keeping the information brief and concise.

Verdict: 9 out of 10

 (Review originally written by Ty Power for sci-fi-online 2017) 

New Fears - New Horror Stories by Masters of the Genre


Authors: Stephen Gallagher, Ramsey Campbell, Stephen Laws, Muriel Gray, Conrad Williams & others

Format: Paperback

Publisher: Titan Books

Published: September 2017

New Fears is a horror short story anthology, intended to be the first in a series of collections edited by horror writer Mark Morris. There are 19 tales across 400 pages. It is available in both paperback and eBook formats. The full content is as follows: The Boggle Hole, by Alison Littlewood; Shepherd’s Business, by Stephen Gallagher; No Good Deed, by Angela Slatter; The Family Car, by Brady Golden; Four Abstracts, by Nina Allan; Sheltered in Place, by Brian Keene; The Fold in the Heart, by Chaz Brenchley; Departures, by A.K. Benedict; The Salter Collection, by Brian Lillie; Speaking Still, by Ramsey Campbell; The Eyes Are White and Quiet, by Carole Johnstone; The Embarrassment of Dead Grandmothers, by Sarah Lotz; Eumenides (The   Benevolent Ladies), by Adam L.G. Nevill; Roundabout, by Muriel Gray; The House of the Head, by Josh Malerman; Dollies, by Kathryn Ptacek; Succulents, by Conrad Williams; The Abduction Door, by Christopher Golden; and The Swan Dive, by Stephen laws.

The Introduction is very entertaining as you might expect from the author of such novels as Toady, Mr Bad Face, and Longbarrow. Mark Morris reminds us of those days growing up with the Armada and Fontana horror and ghost story collections. I seem to remember even Marks and Spencer got in on the action with some hardback anthologies.

No doubt, the big names such as Ramsey (The Nameless) Campbell, Stephen (Valley of Lights/Chimera) Gallagher, Stephen (The Frighteners/Daemonic) Laws, and Conrad (One/The Unblemished) Williams will be the main selling point. The outstanding tales for me here are The House of the Head (in which a decapitated head terrorises the family in a little girl’s dollhouse), The Abduction Door (in which a hatchway appears within the walls of a lift and a man’s daughter is taken), and Shepherd’s Business (in which a new doctor on an island is confronted with a macabre pagan trade).

New horror shorts are always welcome. I have several author collections in my possession from the likes of M.R. James, H.P. Lovecraft and Edgar Allan Poe. Although a couple of examples in New Fears fall short of the mark (what on God’s Earth is The Embarrassment of Dead Grandmothers all about?!) I can confirm that this is truly a diverse set of stories. There is something on offer here to appeal to all followers of the genre  – and hopefully a few acolytes.

Verdict: 7 out of 10

 (Review originally written by Ty Power for reviewgravey 2017) 

The Djinn, by Graham Masterton


Publisher: Telos Publishing

Format: Paperback

Published: September 2010

Harry Erskine attends his godfather's funeral at a gothic-style old house near the seafront. Here he meets a mysterious and beautiful woman who seems as interested as him as to the circumstances surrounding Max's death. His Godmother, Marjorie, is determined to have the house burnt to the ground, as per her late husband's instructions. It seems Max was an avid collector of ancient Persian artefacts, and that one particular piece drove him to cut off his own face. The pot that Harry vaguely recalls from childhood visits has been heavily sealed within a turret of the house, and adorned with ancient spells and mystic symbols. Was Max insane, or simply being extremely careful? He  had been convinced that the vessel was that which Ali Baba had held contained the forty thieves - a powerful djinn which could unleash forty representations of gruesome death. Harry and the woman Anna must determine whether the danger is real - particularly as someone in their midst has selfish and ultimately catastrophic ambitions...

This is a reprint of a book first published back in 1977 by Star. It was only Masterton's second horror fiction release, following his debut bestseller, The Manitou. The key protagonist from that book was retained here; Harry Erskine is a charlatan clairvoyant, a sort of lovable rogue who obtains money from  vulnerable but rich old ladies, who are quite happy to be complimented and informed of impending good fortune. This was significant in The Manitou, because Harry is very sceptical of the  supernatural world, but his natural order is turned on its head by bizarre events. As far as The Djinn is concerned, it doesn't need to be Harry, as there is no direct connection to his unscrupulous trade, and he should be less dismissive of events beyond the natural order.

Graham Masterton has always possessed a smooth, flowing narrative which makes for comfortable reading. He often utilises metaphors to prevent the need for long descriptive passages. So his stories inevitably rattle along at a cracking pace. A particular skill he incorporates in abundance is the knack of selecting a nasty myth or legend from anywhere in the world and setting it very convincingly into a contemporary setting. His earlier books, like this one, settle on a central theme that doesn't allow itself to be diverted by pointless story threads. Consequentially, now we are a decade into the twenty first century, some people may consider it to be restrictive in terms of action and events. This could be referred to as gentlemanly horror, with a professor, an old-school doctor, and plans of strategy conducted in a posh restaurant. This scenario would certainly work well as part of a TV anthology series.

This new  edition of The Djinn is published by Telos, whose pages are always of  good quality, although the thin cover makes it prone to bending slightly out of shape unless you are very careful. The book contains an exclusive introduction from the author, describing the origin of the story and Middle-East Djinn legends.

Having appreciatively experienced every book in his extensive horror arsenal over the years, I was pleased at the prospect of revisiting a book I still possess but haven't read since its original publication. I can honestly report that I thoroughly enjoyed the read, and it immediately started me considering re-reading some others from his  early years. Perhaps Telos will be able reprint more. Charnel House  anyone? Or The Wells of Hell? What about The Devils of D-Day? Or perhaps...

Verdict: 8 out of 10

 (Review originally written by Ty Power for reviewgraveyard 2010) 

The Art of Horror Movies


Edited by Stephen Jones

Publisher: Applause Books

Format: Hardback

Published: October 2017

The Art of Horror Movies is a 256 page full colour hardback book, published by Applause Theatre & Cinema books. It is edited by Stephen Jones and contains a Foreword by An American Werewolf in London director Jon Landis. The creative team behind The Art of Horror has collected together more than 600 images depicting original film posters, plus commissioned representations via posters, books and magazines, and advertising – in differing artistic styles through the ages...

The moment I turned the first main page of this book I was met with an impressive full-page pallet oil painting of the Boris Karloff Frankenstein monster. Even better, we have a list of the 58 featured artists and, opposite, a quite stunning Creature From the Black Lagoon in acrylic and oils by Drew Struzan. This is even before entering the main body of the book. The volume is divided into nine chapters covering the silent movies period to recent years, each with a potted history feature by recognisable names. So we have 'The Sinister Silents' (Sir Christopher Frayling), 'The Thrilling Thirties' (Tom   Weaver), 'The Frightening Forties' (Barry Forshaw), 'The Fearsome Fifties' (David J. Schow), 'The Stylish Sixties' (Kim Newman), 'The Satanic Seventies' (Jonathan Rigby), 'The Evil Eighties' (Lisa Morton), 'The Nasty Nineties' (Anne Billson), and 'The 2000s Maniacs' (Ramsey Campbell).

But this is about the artwork, and there’s plenty of it. Standout examples include a Wes Craven and Freddy Krueger cover for Dark Side magazine by Rick Melton, a crazy psychedelic oil painting of Edward Scissorhands by Nicky Barkla, a stunningly good acrylic of Chucky from Child’s Play by Jason Edmiston (and an equally nice Michael Myers by the same artist), Vincent Price from Madhouse looking suitably menacing by Basil Gogos, and another Price from Masque of the Red Death by Frank Kelly Freas, a quite lovely oil portrait of Hammer regular Michael Ripper by Les Edwards, The She Creature by Vincent Di Fate, a quirky tribute to some of the 1950s B-Movie classics by Doug P’gosh, and a boy’s cinema reaction to that unforgettable moment in The Man Who Laughs by (again) Les Edwards. There are also some montages such as the lovely graveyard scene featuring Dracula, Frankenstein’s monster, Bride of Frankenstein, the Mummy, the Werewolf, the Invisible Man, Phantom of the Opera, Creature From the Black Lagoon, King Kong and many more (this one by Doug P’gosh).

These are just a fraction of what is on display. Many styles of artwork make this a very balanced representation of the genre and many decades covered. It’s interesting to study the many film posters; most are great examples of the respective era, and some are crazy cartoony images which bear little resemblance to the film being promoted. Most of this stuff is incredibly sophisticated and detailed work which can only inspire multiple wows of appreciation.

True fans of horror through the ages cannot fail to treasure this beautiful book. Buy it if you can; you won’t regret it. I can’t recommend this highly enough.

Verdict: 10 out of 10

(Review originally written by Ty Power for reviewgraveyard 2017) 

The Call of Cthulhu & Other Weird Stories, by HP Lovecraft


Publisher: The London Folio Society

Format: Hardback with Slip Cover

Illustrations: Dan Hillier

Published: 1928 (This Edition 2017)

The Folio Society of London has released two versions of this collection: the Limited Version which is bound in eco-simulated leather, blocked with a design by the artist Dan Hillier, who also produces six illustrations, eight mandalas. The version received for review is the Core Edition, bound in cloth blocked with a design by the artist. It is set in Italian Old Style with Goudy Forum as display, and incorporates 472 heavy pages and 18 stories, with a title page spread and six black and white illustrations inspired by the weird and bizarre and ultimately brilliantly dark stories of HP Lovecraft. Endpapers spot varnished with a design by the artist, gold gilt page tops, and a printed metallic slipcase 10” x 6.75”. There is a very entertaining and informative preface by author, comic writer and all-round eccentric Alan Moore.

There is something to be coveted about a quality, lovingly constructed hardback book (it’s better than coveting your neighbour’s ass!). This is a very nice book, and any new publication of the stories I know and love so well is always cause for celebration in my opinion. Lovecraft is easily in the top three horror fiction writers of all time, and I would even venture to say was quite possibly the greatest. He dubbed his own style as Weird Fiction, but is possibly better described as Cosmic Horror.

Now, you would think with a publication format as unique as this we might be expected to be offered the complete works of this great writer. Instead, we have what turns out to be a quite diverse collection of his tales. Every fan will undoubtedly have their own favourites and that’s to be expected; however, I have some reservations about some of the choices presented. Possibly, the notion is to vary the types of story to show originality of style and content. Nevertheless, certain more well-known examples are always going to have more impact on the untried reader.

The inclusion of those seldom represented in Lovecraft collections has to be commended, but Celephais (featuring a dream city which might just be real), and Facts Concerning the Late Arthur Jermyn and His Family (a potted history of relations involving a white ape race), may just leave newcomers somewhat cold without the context of other stories. Herbert West – Reanimator is more well-known because of the film, and this is precisely the reason why I’m not keen on the then contemporary variation on the Frankenstein theme.

I like the inclusion of The Outsider, Cool  Air, and The Statement of Randolph Carter – all effective stand-alone tales of the macabre. But the best examples are left until last: no collection should be without the mesmerising The Call of Cthulhu (uncovering the background to a small idol of the greatest and most terrible of the Ancient Ones), then we have The Colour Out of Space (wherein an object is uncovered which corrupts the land and anyone living on it – a keen personal favourite), The Whisperer in Darkness (correspondence to a man studying a frightening phenomenon), and The Shadow Over Innsmouth (I love this one too, in which a little sea port is overrun with humanoid sea mutants who worship or fear a god).

As the book contains large areas of blank page around the print, you wonder if more content could have been added. I realise At the Mountains of Madness is pretty much a novel, but it would have been nice to see the excellent The Strange High House in the Mist, The Shadow Out of  Time, and The Dunwich Horror. Still, any true book collector with cash to spare will lap this book up and perhaps see it as an investment. I very much enjoyed revisiting these timeless classics.

Verdict: 8 out of 10

 (Review originally written by Ty Power for reviewgraveyard 2017) 

The Exorcist, William Peter Blatty


Publisher: The London Folio Society

Format: Hardback with Slip Cover

Illustrations: Jeremy Caniglia

Published: 1971 (This Edition 2017)

William Peter Blatty’s The Exorcist novel gets a brand new publication courtesy of the Folio Society. This format is a cloth-bound hardback set in Warnock Pro with Mason Serif display. There are 368 thick white pages, and 13 full page colour illustrations by Jeremy Caniglia. The book is presented in a Spot UV slipcase.

This is a republication of the 2011 40th Anniversary Edition, which features certain refinements and additional material by the author. As Blatty admits, he was forced by the scriptwriting offer to rush his original ending. So this was his chance to put things right. Not that anyone noticed a lacking in its first release. It was a sensation and instant bestseller. As well as its expressive and graphic imagery this prose also emerged at a time that added to the overall impact. The end of the Summer of Love and the stark reality that was the Vietnam War woke up the populace to the fact that perhaps everything isn’t right with the world after all.

The extra material includes a new character, but it doesn’t upset the balance. It’s in the form of a dream wherein a priest/demon appears to Father Karras. It’s creepy and somewhat surreal.

I’m happy to report the effect of the book over the years hasn’t really lessened, as I feared it might. The only thing I would say is I couldn’t help picturing the film as I read it. This is unavoidable really; however, as the William Friedkin movie is one of the best ever made there is no real harm done.

I’ve always respected well-constructed books to the point of obsession – particularly nice hardback collections. This example is a beauty. The materials are good quality, it feels relatively heavy in your hands, and the illustrations – sort of sepia effect photographs with an eerie otherworldly aspect to them – are perfect for the subject matter. A very nice release for genuine book lovers everywhere. A timely decision too, as The Exorcist stage play hits the West End of London.

Verdict: 9 out of 10

 (Review originally written by Ty Power for reviewgraveyard 2017) 

Kim Newman's Video Dungeon


The Collected Reviews

Publisher: Titan Books

Format: Paperback

Published: September 2017

Kim Newman is a home grown writer, film historian and reviewer. His novels include An English Ghost Story, The Secrets of Drearcliff Grange School, and the critically acclaimed Anno Dracula. This release – subtitled The Collected Reviewsbrings together around 500 of his critiques of low-budget films originally written for Empire film magazine. It is published in paperback and eBook formats by Titan Books...

Being a long-time horror reviewer myself, I can’t miss the opportunity to say I already have three Graveyard Horror Reviews eBooks available (check out my website for details). Now I’ve blown my own trumpet I’ll move on by saying that, in my opinion, Newman is probably the most entertaining televisual film reviewer after the good Doctor himself, Mark Kermode. He has an eccentricity which is compelling. Each time I have seen him on TV or raving on a movie DVD documentary I couldn’t help but be drawn in by the sheer enthusiasm for his subject.

Therein lies the problem. It seems I have been spoilt somewhat by this personal view of how it should be. I realise that many of these films are awful (nearly all of them are awful); however, it doesn’t help that Newman’s reviews come across as dry. Yes, he points out their faults but it would have been so much better had he had a little fun with them. People want to read film reviews, and there are countless horror film fans out there; so how about making it less of a formal reference and more of a fun read?

The reviews are compartmentalised into ten chapter-categories: Confinements and Dangerous Games (Tied Up in the Basement or Hunted Through the Woods), Criptids and Critters (Bigfoot, Mermaids, Gill-Men, etc.), Famous Monsters (Frankenstein and Dracula), Found Footage, Hard Case Crime, High Adventure (Lost Kingdoms and Fabulous Voyages), Secret Agent Men (And Women), Serial Killers and Cops, Weird Hippie Shit, and Wildlife (Fish and Reptiles).

My view is that, while many horror fans will be happy to incorporate Serial Killer movies as a sub-genre, they would be less likely to pull Hard Case Crime and Secret Agents to their bosoms. With this many reviews I think the categories would have worked much better as alphabetical chapters, A to C, D to F, etc. For one thing it would mean not so many very similar films being encountered together (you can get sick to the ‘eye teeth’ of Dracula, and Frankenstein can become a ‘pain in the neck’), and the reviews would be easier to look-up via a single index rather than a categorised one.

In truth, I’d rather buy a DVD with which I can watch the charismatic Mr Newman telling me (like a mate down the pub) about these movies he’s seen.

Verdict: 6 out of 10

(Review originally written by Ty Power for reviewgraveyard 2017) 

Marvel: Absolutely Everything You Need to Know


Authors: Adam Bray, Lorraine Cink, John Sazaklis and Sven Wilson

Publisher: DK

Format: Hardback

Publication Date: September 2016

Marvel: Absolutely Everything You Need To Know is a large format hardback book with a textured cover showing a close-up up the left side of the Hulk’s face, with a speech balloon having him saying the title. The other side of his face is on the rear. Both eyes display gold foil. It contains 235 active full-colour pages depicting all of the most well-known heroes and villains, as well as many of the obscure characters and situations in double-page splashes of art and information. It is published by DK (Dorling Kindersley Limited) of the Strand, London, and retails at £17.99.

The book is divided into the chapters, Characters, Teams, Locations, Science and Magic, and Key Events. The most eye-catching of these is the first; each popular hero and villain gets his/her own double page of artwork from different eras amongst a number of inset fascinating facts. They’re all here: Spider-Man, Captain America, Prince Namor – the Sub-Mariner, Iron Man, Ant Man and Wasp, Thor, Hulk, Daredevil, and many more including Captain Marvel and Doctor Strange. A multitude of bad guys line up for attention, too: Thanos, Loki, the Red Skull, Norman Osborn, Doctor Octopus, Kingpin, and my personal favourite Venom – to mention just a few. Then there are the Teams, like the Avengers, X-Men, Fantastic Four, S.H.I.E.L.D. and Guardians of the Galaxy. Several Classic Clashes, Alternative Worlds, Iconic Artefacts and Locations will have even the most die-hard Marvel fans scrabbling for previously unknown titbits of information about their favourite characters.

The good thing about this book is that it will appeal to followers and casual readers of all ages who are curious about Stan Lee’s ‘babies’ and the plot lines and turning points in their existence. People will love the contrasting styles of artwork from across the years, but also accumulate brief fascinating facts without becoming bogged-down in decades of back story (much of it more than a little crazy). So, all in all a good place to start getting your Marvel general knowledge up to speed, before deciding which superhero path to go down.

Verdict: 8 out of 10

(Review originally written by Ty Power for sci-fi-online 2016) 

Marvel: The Avengers Vault


Authors: Peter A. David

Publisher: Aurum Press

Format: Hardback

Publication Date: March 2015

Following the success of Marvel’s Avengers: Assemble film comes the imminent Avengers: Age of Ultron. To tie-in with this much anticipated superhero extravaganza we get Marvel: The  Avengers Vault, a hardcover history of the much-loved fighting team, by Peter A. David, a writer with a twenty year connection with superhero books, comics and graphic novels (The Incredible  Hulk/Wolverine/Spider-Man/Supergirl/Aquaman). It is released by Aurum Press, an imprint of the Quarto Publishing Group UK, on very good quality full colour paper, at a RRP of £25.00.

I unashamedly love the Marvel live-action films, but I confess to knowing very little of the comic book history since I read them as a kid – and even then it was mainly my favourites Batman (admittedly DC) and Spider-Man. The only Marvel graphic novels I have read in the last decade or two are the Spider-Man tales written by J. Michael Straczynski, as I love his writing and characterisation. Although the movies require no pre-knowledge of the  characters and situations, this is certainly where a book like this comes into its own. The Avengers Vault takes us briefly through the main events of the Avengers comic book history, from its origins to shortly before the Avengers: Assemble movie. All the main players get a mention; the different writers and artists and what they did with the storylines and team line-ups. I have to say I had no idea just how many super-powered heroes had served a stint in one variation or another of The Avengers. I think most people would prefer that the main quartet of characters remain stable, with only the peripheral ones coming and going. This is what the next section of the book explores.

It starts with Captain America, a creation I don’t hold much affinity for – although the industrial espionage, intrigue and edge-of-the-seat action made The Winter Soldier a very fine film. Cap was created as a WWII hero to go up against Hitler and the Nazis, but later found himself floundering without a visible  enemy in a somewhat sinister cold war setting. Therefore, the  character was reinvented and brought into the sixties by (who else but) Stan Lee. Captain America has a most bizarre history, including no less than four versions which turn out to be imposters!

Next we move on to Thor, with a short but useful lesson in Norse mythology, and how this connects to Thor’s comic book origins and that of his hammer, Mjolnir. With Thor, Stan Lee created a different kind of hero. Being a god, he is obliged to answer to Odin and protect Asgard, as well as aid the Earth for the love of a human woman. The arrival of his mischievous half-brother, Loki, tests the patience of the moral, honourable and virtuous Thunder God. With three films following his exploits, weapons  industrialist and scientific genius, Tony Stark – otherwise known as Iron Man – is almost certainly better known. Again, we get a description of the rather conceited character’s history and  background. Then it’s The Hulk, who is probably the most well-known of these central characters, just because of its beautiful Jekyll and Hyde simplicity.

The last section of the book explores The Avengers  on film and TV – particularly the animated series bringing it up-to-date post-Civil War storyline. There is some quite simply gorgeous artwork from different time periods, and plenty of covers shown from ground breaking stories or first time issues. In addition, there are some pockets concealing layouts, artwork and early  sketches. So, if you can afford the £25 price, and you’re a fan of Marvel and/or The Avengers – particularly if you’re not aware of  the comic timelines – then this is the book for you.

Verdict: 8 out of 10

(Review originally written by Ty Power for sci-fi-online 2015) 

Something Wicked This Way Comes, by Ray Bradbury


Publisher: The London Folio Society

Format: Hardback with Slip Cover

Illustrations: Tim McDonagh

Published: 1962 (This Edition 2019)

The Folio Society, London publishes the classic Something Wicked This Way Comes, by premium Science Fiction, Fantasy, Horror and Mystery writer Ray Bradbury. Originally published in 1962 by Simon & Schuster, this luxury 2019 reprint by permission of the Bradbury Estate is presented in hardcover, with good quality paper and wide margins. There are seven hauntingly beautiful red, yellow and black full-page illustrations by Tim McDonagh which are spaced throughout the book – including a skeletal carousel horse which adorns the hard slip case. There is an introduction by comedian, actor and Bradbury fan Frank Skinner, and an Afterward by Bradbury from 1999 called Carnivals, Near and Far.

William Halloway and James Nightshade are 12 year-old neighbours and best friends. They spend all their time together and know each other implicitly, but are as different as chalk and cheese, the sun and the moon. When a lightning rod salesman turns up and warns the boys of an approaching storm, it seems to be a portent of things to come. The atmosphere becomes palpable as a dark carnival arrives just out of town. The boys witness a man riding the carousel backwards and becoming a young boy himself. The friends’ teacher is enticed and lost in the Hall of Mirrors. They have seen too much. Mr Dark, The Illustrated Man sends the Dust Witch and then brings the carnival parade to town with the sole intention of finding the hiding boys. How can they win through against the dark powers of The Skeleton, Mademoiselle Tarot, The Dwarf and Demon Guillotine? Perhaps they need an unexpected ally…

Ray Bradbury (1920-2012) is one of my top ten favourite writers of all time. His output was prolific and highly impressive. Furthermore, he couldn’t have been a better ambassador for the profession. Best known for short story collections such as Long After Midnight, The Small Assassin, The October Country, Dark They Were and Golden Eyed, I Sing the Body Electric, and The Golden Apples of the Sun (to name but a few), he also wrote a handful of timeless novels including Dandelion Wine, Fahrenheit 451, The Silver Locusts (The Martian Chronicles), and Something Wicked This Way Comes. The last time I read this book (I still have the paperback) I was in my teens or maybe early twenties. Around that time I couldn’t get enough of Bradbury, and devoured everything that was available. To my young and enquiring mind Bradbury’s prose was full of magic and poetry of phrase. Everything was wondrous and bright, and mystical and dark.

In Dandelion Wine and certain short stories Ray Bradbury created a boy character called Douglas. To all intents and purposes Douglas was Bradbury himself, remembering his young and innocent days when everything was larger than life. You could say that in this story Bradbury is Will Halloway, the wide-eyed, sensible and cautious opposite to his neighbour and best friend, Jim Nightshade (the excitable and reckless half). They absorb everything around them as if seeing it for the first and last time. To modern day readers the first few pages will seem slow, but Bradbury is quickly setting the scene in his favoured month of October in a small town, and introducing the partnership of Will and Jim while things still seem mundane – so that the coming oddities will appear that much more pronounced. It soon takes off and a series of set piece events sweep you along for the ride. The Hall of Mirrors, the Dark Carousel, Will’s clash with the Dust Witch, Mr Dark and his mysterious Freaks, and particularly Will’s dad’s novel defence against the Dust Witch, and his marked bullet when he volunteers to shoot as part of a fixed stage performance; there are so many tense, exciting and sometimes humorous moments that it’s difficult to do justice to the whole. But it is in no way complicated or forced. Magical is the word.

You might think this is solely a children’s book, however, the inclusion of Will’s father serves as a link between the generations, bridging the gap. So we get the thoughts, opinions and reactions of Charles Halloway as well as the boys. This is a book which spans any age gap. It is highly recommended for the Folio Society’s tribute to Bradbury and one of his major works.

Verdict: 10 out of 10

(Review originally written by Ty Power for sci-fi-online 2019)

Terror Tales of Cornwall


Edited by Paul Finch

Publisher: Telos Books

Format: Paperback

Published: April 2017

Terror Tales of Cornwall  is a horror anthology of sixteen short stories invoking various myths and legends surrounding the South West of England. It is edited by Paul Finch, with two-page inserts between each describing the research into individual accounts of strange sightings or experiences. It is published by Telos on good quality paper, incorporates 283 pages and has very nice cover art by Neil Williams.

We Who Sing Beneath the Ground, by Mark Morris: A new teacher at a rural school becomes worried for the welfare of an unusual pupil when he fails to turn up for a few days. Failing to contact the parents, she drives out to the remote farm where they live and makes an astonishing discovery. Mark Morris excels at this type of story. Curiosity is progressively cranked-up throughout the tale by revealing just a little more at each stage. Clever writing.

In the Light of St Ives, by Ray Cluley is a tale which has a young woman visit her sister in hospital after the trauma of a major house fire. Here she will learn about the supernatural qualities of paint seepage.

Trouble at Botathan, by Reggie Oliver sees a man encounter an invisible barrier preventing his entering a certain region. Then in a library he finds a hidden journal.

Mebyon Versus Suna, by John Whitbourn witnesses a born and bred Cornishman being forced to move to Devon when his wife gets a promotion. Red dots appear before his eyes which effectively end his job as a proof reader. But then larger eyes block his way; something is driving him back to Cornwall. Although the main character is rude, his words and actions read as very humorous, making this an enjoyable tale. It’s left ambiguous as to whether the eyes are real or in the protagonist’s head.

The Unseen, by Paul Edwards has a horror fan buy a black market DVD called Black Remote, and strive to track down a finished or uncut version. This is a great premise that becomes rather predictable when the horror buff does something ridiculously foolhardy, which 99 percent of the population wouldn’t even consider without much more information.

Dragon Path, by Jacqueline Simpson sees a man, ridiculed for his ideas, take ‘friends’ to see the Cheesewring Stones, thereby exacting his revengewith devastating force. But he misuses the power of the Druids. It’s always good to have nasty people get their comeuppance.

The Old Traditions Are Best, by editor Paul Finch sees a couple bring a young offender to Padstow to supposedly show him better ways. But when he shows signs of his old urban character, he finds himself running from the ‘Obby Oss’ - Cornish legend defender of Padstow.

The Uncertainty of All Earthly Things, by Mark Valentine has a man take over as curator of a small museum in a remote part of Cornwall, and is shown how to look through the eyes of the Triple Headed King.

His Anger Was Kindled, by Kate Farrell describes an old priest from a decrepit church defending his parish from the developers, and perhaps receiving a little help from a saint. This is one of the best of the bunch.

Four Windows and a Door, by D P Watt has a couple take their two young children on holiday to Cornwall; but after seeing an ancient house on the way to Fowey their little girl is never the same again.

Claws, by Steve Jordan sees students working the holidays in a seaside amusement arcade being plagued by murderous Piskies.

A Beast By Any Other Name, by Adrian Cole has a well-to-do man found torn apart in the grounds of a house on the edge of Bodmin Moor. It is blamed on a black panther, but a stranger believes it to be a cover for murder.

Moon Blood-Red, Tide Turning – by Mark Samuels sees a man attend a low-key theatre play. It is still going on when he leaves… and when he returns to Cornwall twenty years later.

The Memory of Stone, by Sarah Singleton has a man stalking a younger woman to the point that it destroys his life. But who or what is playing with his mind all these years later?

Shelter From the Storm, by Ian Hunter (not the guy from Mott the Hoople, I’m guessing!) sees a group of walkers straying from the track and being forced to take shelter in a half-ruined church. A church which harbours a years old secret.

Losing Its Identity, by Thana Niveau has an elderly woman exploring a cove she  and her dead husband had come to love, when freak weather conditions draw away the sea to reveal a mythical old town...

The stories are interspersed with descriptions of Cornish legends such as Piskies, Mermaids, the Bodmin Fetch, Witches, the Hooper, Jamaica Inn and many more. I was particularly pleased to discover the origins of the Cornish Ale name, Doom Bar. Okay, a couple of the tales peter-out before they really get going, but I read this book from cover to cover and enjoyed it immensely. It kind of took me back to much-loved childhood holidays in Cornwall, and those little local books about hauntings and suchlike, which were always available in the local shops. Highly recommended.

Verdict: 8 out of 10

(Review originally written by Ty Power for reviewgraveyard 2017) 

The Time Machine & The Island of Doctor Moreau, by HG Wells


Publisher: The London Folio Society

Format: Hardback with Slip Cover

Illustrations: Grahame Baker-Smith

Published: 1895 (This Edition 1919)

The London Folio Society republishes seminal science fiction writer H.G. Wells’ classic novel The Time Machine, first published in 1895. The format is hardback, with a protective slip-case. It is bound in blocked buckram and set in Founders Caslon. There are 288 pages on good quality heavy paper. The book contains an attractive Frontispiece and seven illustrations by artist Grahame Baker-Smith. There is also a new introduction by well known science fantasy writer Michael Moorcock. The Island of Doctor Moreau – also by Wells – is included in this edition. These are two of the most ground-breaking novels in history, for their sheer originality and talking points.

In The Time Machine, a Victorian scientist builds a machine which takes him to the far future date of 802,701 AD. The peace-loving Eloi are descendants of the human race, but they are afraid of their own skins and particularly the darkness below ground. Here dwell the Morlocks, the other half of the old human race. When his time machine goes missing he is obliged to enter the darkness. This is a great story, well told. It originated the phrase ‘time machine’ and began endless debates surrounding the actual depiction of time, whether it can be manipulated, and the possible consequences of doing so.

In The Island of Doctor Moreau (1896), Pendrick survives a sinking ship when he is picked up by another vessel taking supplies and animals to a remote island. Here he is abandoned to confront the disgraced Moreau, who attempts to justify extreme vivisection experiments on people and animals. Alongside Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, this is the ultimate science versus morality tale, which remains highly relevant today with cloning and genetics a reality.

Herbert George Wells was born in Bromley, England (not a million miles from my humble abode). He was known as the Grandfather of Science Fiction. He studied under the renowned biologist Henry Huxley. He also wrote The Invisible Man (1897), The War of the Worlds (1898), First Men in the Moon (1901), and The War in the Air (1908). Additionally, he wrote a number of fiction short stories. Less known are his manifestos about society and maintaining peace. He died in 1946, pleased I’m sure that he got to see the end of World War II.

The two novels depicted here undoubtedly made the most impact in terms of getting the world talking. I love the formal and gentlemanly prose of the late 1800s and early 1900s. No latter day whizzes and bangs here. But then that really is the point. They are classic and shouldn’t be changed. This is a very well-presented book. The fact that only one illustration represents The Island of Doctor Moreau makes me think this second story was added as an afterthought. I’m simply glad it was added at all.

Verdict: 8 out of 10

 (Review originally written by Ty Power for sci-fi-online 2019) 

Wonder Woman, by Landry Q. Walker


The Ultimate Guide to the Amazon Warrior

Publisher: DK

Format: Hardback

Published: May 2017

To tie-in with the new live action feature film comes DC Comics Wonder Woman: The Ultimate Guide to the Amazon Warrior, a 200-page large format hardback book celebrating 75 years of the character. It covers the original Golden Age, the mid-point Silver Age, the new millennium’s Bronze Age, and the recent Rebirth. Incorporating major villains, reluctant allies, and storylines, this is the perfect way to get the background on this newly re-emerging fighter for justice, equality and truth. It is published by DK Books on high quality, full colour paper.

If, like me, you’ve picked-up only a passing knowledge of Wonder Woman, you might be surprised at what you didn’t know. I had no idea the Amazon island from which she originates is called Themyscira. I had no idea her enemies include Cheetah, Giganta, Circe, Doctor Psycho and Ares God of War; or that the Olympian Gods are still so prominent. I also learned about the strengths of the Golden Lasso of Truth, the Royal Tiara (thrown as a weapon), the Sword of Hephaestus, and the Bulletproof Bracelets. Choice quotes are dropped in throughout the book which display the conviction and empathy of Diana.

Let’s be honest; Wonder Woman hasn’t got the appeal or depth of character that Batman (whom I love) and Superman (not so much…) have. Just looking at the timeline in the book shows that Wonder Woman has been relaunched from the beginning not once, but twice, with many of the same events having taken place again. The more recent storylines explored include: Dark Age (which involves other heroes too), Flash Point (which is the Flash’s story), Darkseid (which is a Justice League joint story), and Wonder Girl (not Diana at all, but another young Amazon). So, you see the problem. Hopefully, the new Wonder Woman movie, along with the upcoming Justice League project, will take the character in new and innovative direction.

However, this is about the book. It’s very well laid-out, with some lovely artwork – and I’m not just talking about the more recent examples. People often forget that the early artists had only a handful of colours, whereas nowadays artwork is more commonly done on computer using millions of colours.

Verdict: 7 out of 10

 (Review originally written by Ty Power for sci-fi-online 2017)