10 Reviews (3 New)
A Dark and Scary Place
The London Folio Society releases Pierre Boulle’s classic novel Planet of the Apes in hardback, with strong slipcase. La Planete des Singes was first published in 1963. It was first published in Britain the following year – translated from the original French by Martin Secker & Warburg – and given the title Monkey Planet. This book follows the 1964 edition, with minor emendations. It is translated by Xan Fielding, with illustrations by David De Las Heras, and an introduction by Frans De Waal. There are 172 pages of good quality thick paper, and wide outer margins.
Ulysse Merou, Professor Antelle and his assistant Arthur Levain, a physician, travel to the star system of Betelgeuse and, when investigating an interesting planet called Soror, their shuttle craft crash lands, stranding them there. A group of naked humans approach the men with curiosity, but seem animal-like in their reactions. None of them can speak. A hunt suddenly ensues; several people – including Arthur – are killed, and many others caged and sent to different areas by gorillas in uniform, who are intelligent and speak with authority like men. Ulysse loses touch with the professor, but is caged with a beautiful but primitive woman. He soon learns about a hierarchy of supercilious orang-utans, the more articulate and reasoning chimpanzees, and the mostly brusque and brutal gorillas. He builds-up a rapport with Zira, a female chimpanzee behavioral scientist. His goal is to be on an equal footing with the simian race, but when Nova – the woman he had been caged with – falls pregnant and gives birth to a son, it quickly spreads fear of a potential new race of intelligent humans.
When I was young, it seemed as though Planet of the Apes was on TV all of the time. In fact, this series had only around 13 or 14 episodes, but there were five feature-length films which used the same award-winning make-up effects. If nothing else, check out the original Planet of the Apes film, starring Charlton Heston. It’s not only a science fiction classic, but an all-time film classic. It is phenomenally good. Of course, that film deviates in some respects from this book, for the sake of dramatic impact.
The book begins with a, frankly, superfluous scene in which a couple are enjoying a holiday away from it all in a small spacecraft. They collect a message in a bottle drifting in space, which contains the written accounts of Ulysse. It is read by the male, with constant interruptions and debate about the content. This section is messy and difficult to get a handle on. The only reason it exists is for an extra revelation at the conclusion.
Once the book settles down to a first person account of Ulysse’s plight, you are drawn straight into the action. It’s a real page-turner. It’s not all shouting and charging about though. There are periods of poignant introspection: on the treatment of other animals, the moral dilemma of investigative surgery, and the question of authority over cognizance. Very soon I found myself dismissing the imagery of Charlton Heston and Roddy McDowell, and appreciating the original book on its own merits.
The ending is also very different to the film. Our hero and his new family make it back to the orbiting spacecraft he arrived in (wouldn’t the orbit have decayed over this period?), only to encounter another shock. Charlton Heston’s character doesn’t even get to leave the planet before he is met with an astounding and quite different revelation (I won’t spoil it for those who haven’t seen the film).
This is a good classic to add to your collection. London Folio should be commended for bringing so much addictive literature back to the masses in such an attractive style. The illustrations are simple but strikingly effective. I love the uniformed gorilla on the front cover of the book, with a back view on the reverse cover. If I have a niggle, it’s that there is nothing printed on the slipcase. I realise it’s there primarily to protect the book, but the title on the spine would have been nice, because now the book has to be displayed on a shelf open-ended, so that you can see the title on the spine of the book.
(Review originally written by Ty Power for reviewgraveyard 2020)
After winning the custody of her two young children from her ex-husband, Lily Blake is assaulted in the middle of the night and narrowly escapes being burnt alive. Her children are kidnapped and, when the FBI fail to find them, turns to John Shooks, a shady Native American Private Investigator. He in turn takes her to George Iron Walker, a Sioux shaman, who summons up a hunter forest spirit called a Wendigo. For payment he demands a piece of land sacred to the Mdewakanton Sioux, which the company Lily works for is selling for development. Too late, she discovers that the Wendigo is effectively cannibalistic and kills her ex-husband. She tries to call the deal off, but once the spirit is set on its path it can't be stopped. When she fails to secure the piece of land too, the Wendigo begins to attack everyone close to her. With no other choice, Lily is forced to go on the offensive, but the Wendigo exists in only two dimensions, so it can turn edgewise and seem to disappear...
Graham Masterton is a prolific writer of thrillers, short stories, historical fiction and even non-fiction (allegedly!) sex manuals, but is best known for his horror fiction - and with some justification. I have been an enthusiastic follower of his work in this genre since the heady days of The Manitou (his first offering in this field which was published to great acclaim in 1976 (I have the Star paperback from 1977) and hit the bestsellers list. Since that time Masterton has authored a veritable plethora of high-quality horror tales. His foremost skill, I believe, is the enviable ability to take a legend with supernatural qualities and place it in a modern and believable setting so that the whole feels entirely convincing. Unlike Stephen King, who can bore the pants off you with pages of pointless descriptive passages, Masterton utilises vivid metaphors so that you can picture exactly what he means in one or two sentences.
With Edgewise, Graham Masterton returns to familiar territory with the use of Red Indian (or Native American spirits and human guides (or Shamen) both good and bad. There are some similarities to the aforementioned The Manitou, with a vengeful spirit and an even more powerful entity waiting to enter from the sidelines and take its revenge on the white man for betrayals and so many deaths. However, this is an individual tale in its own right which motors along at a cracking pace, with characters which rise from the page with a life of their own. There's only one other writer I've come across who can consistently conjure relatable players in this way, and that is Raymond E. Feist. This book also benefits from at least two false endings, so there is no fizzling out at the conclusion.
A new paperback division of Severn House is welcome indeed. With many of Masterton's books in recent years appearing in hardback format for library distribution only, people such as myself, who like to own each title for their collection, have found it difficult to locate a copy outside of the publisher or major outlet. I long for a return to the days when I can walk in to any good book shop and simply pick-up one of his new books. Manitou Blood and the latest Night Warriors book were exceptions. Perhaps this new trade paperback division from Severn is the result of public opinion.
In short, a highly enjoyable read (if a little over-priced), with a comfortable writing style and edgy plot. Graham Masterton has come home (no, he really has; he's returned to live in Britain!).
(Review originally written by Ty Power for reviewgraveyard 2007)
Titan Books publishes X-Men: Mutant Empire – A Marvel Omnibus, comprising the trilogy Siege, Sanctuary, and Salvation – all written by Christopher Golden (author of Snowblind, Ararat, and Of Saints and Shadows). Main X-Men villain Magneto plans a global Mutant Empire. His first step in doing so is to take over a top-secret government establishment which houses the Sentinels, which are mutant-hunting robots. The X-Men, who wish to build a world where humans and mutants can live safely together, must prevent Magneto from utilising this dangerous technology. To achieve this they are obliged to team-up with old enemies, but the line between heroes and villains becomes somewhat blurred. The book format is paperback, and incorporates 688 pages of reading material. More than enough to keep the average Marvel fan happy.
No matter how anyone feels about the comic book characters of the late great Stan Lee, we cannot have failed to notice the swathe of high-quality big-budget Marvel movies which have practically swamped the cinematic world over the last decade and more. Their success has given the origin stories a well-deserved respected status and revitalised subsequent comic book sales. Consequentially, spin-off merchandising has rocketed, with detailed collectible figures, T-shirts and books such as this one making their mark in an adult as well as child demographic. When I first received this doorstop of a book for review, I made several assumptions about the content: that it was written for a young or teenage market; that it would have very wide margins and a large print font; that it would incorporate many sketches to take up space; and that the characters would act like over-enthusiastic children.
I’m happy to report I was wrong on all counts. The font size is average for a paperback, so you could be reading this omnibus for weeks (perhaps the ideal reading material for the holidaying Marvel aficionado – when he’s not donning his spandex to save the world). The aspect of this book which impresses me the most is the depth of characterisation. Considering there are so many individuals, it’s amazing just how relatable they become – and not just because of their mutant abilities. All of the main players have back stories; they feel, they rebel, they hurt emotionally. They have real problems as well as superhero ones (undoubtedly down to Stan Lee’s great early writing).
Batman and Spider-man (and Daredevil, to a certain extent) were my favourites as a child, and I still love the characters. If this had been a novel about them I would probably have been sucked right into it by the standard of writing, which is pretty good. However, because I’m not as invested in the X-Men, I found it somewhat more difficult to immerse myself in the situations. However, I will finish by saying that, if you’re a follower of the X-Men, the chances are you will love this book aimed at a normal adult audience.
(Review originally written by Ty Power for reviewgraveyard 2019)
I must confess to having been a mite apprehensive upon hearing the news that a Spider-Man book was on its way for review. As an avid reader of the comics as a kid and an admirer of the character concept in general, I was cringing at the thought of yet another movie tie-in with big glossy pictures of nothing in particular as a cheap and exploitative gimmick. Boy, was I wrong!
This is an attractive-looking trade paperback-size book crammed with interesting and informative interviews in small but comfortably readable print. The idea is that Tom DeFalco, himself an integral cog in this constantly turning industry wheel, has interviewed many of the big names who have been involved in the writing and artwork of this much loved Marvel hero. Among these names are Stan Lee, the creator, John Romita, Mark Bagley, Gerry Conway, J.M. De Matteis and many more.
Aside from Stan the Man, for me the person who had the most dramatic influence on the story development and particularly the artwork was Todd McFarlane, who went on to create Spawn and now runs a handful of media and toy companies of which the Movie Maniacs line is most impressive. He changed the look of the character by enhancing the spider side of his nature and redesigning the webbing so that it could be fired dramatically toward the reader. You could say that this was the point when superhero comics grew up and began to aim for a more mature young market and older collectors.
If you're looking for a "How To..." book, forget it; this is more about how each individual stamped his mark on Spider-Man and made the comic series his own. They do talk about some of their techniques, and also their friendships or conflicts with each other, but this more closely explores how they got into their profession and what point of the character continuity they influenced.
Sprinkled among the text at random intervals are the histories and origins of the family, friends and villains of Peter Parker, landmark Spider-Man publications and popular storylines. There are some nice design sketches and unused covers, but with no colour photos taking up room this book can concentrate more on the people behind Spider-Man, rather than the Web-slinger himself.
The appeal for me here is the discussion of plot lines and layout. You get the feeling this is the type of book Tom DeFalco himself wanted to read, but the truth is Comics Creators on Spider-Man from Titan Books will appeal to those interested in graphic design, the multi-layered character of Spider-Man or fans of comics in general. Highly recommended.
In the Introduction DeFalco apologises for the exclusion of Babylon 5 writer/creator J. Michael Straczynski who was too busy to meet the deadline, and artist John Romita who is interviewed extensively in Artists on Comic Art, also published by Titan. Perhaps these minor oversights can be rectified in a future follow-up to this book. I recently bought two Spider-Man graphic novels simply because Straczynski had scripted them. It was simply the greatest pairing of storyteller and artist I have seen in a long time.
(Review originally written by Ty Power for reviewgraveyard 2004)
Most Reel Art Press releases Frankenstein – The First Two Hundred Years, by Christopher Frayling. It is an 11 x 9 inch full colour hardcover book chronicling the classic patchwork monster in all forms of media. There are more than 200 images, many of them full page.
Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein – like Bram Stoker’s Dracula – is an ageless horror/science fiction/moral tale which has resounded through the ages. Ask anyone to name a well known horror novel and this one is likely to get a mention in most cases. It first saw the light of day in 1818 but it wasn’t until the tale was adapted as a stage play that it captured the public imagination. Since then there has been more than ninety adaptations alone between 1931 and 2016.
Of course, the iconic image most people still relate to is the Universal Pictures black and white version starring Boris Karloff. But that is just the tip of the iceberg; this book covers Universal sequels, Hammer Films, and more modern representations. Furthermore, stage plays are covered, as are advertisements and even pastiche. Some people might have forgotten The Munsters, for example; but who could forget The Rocky Horror Picture Show which incorporates Frank N Furter (played brilliantly by Tim Curry) who creates a muscle man in his laboratory.
The first thing that draws me to this book is the smell. There is nothing like the smell of a newly printed hardback book. Other true bibliophiles will agree with me, I’m sure. The history of the Frankenstein scenario is a compelling one. Even so, it could very well have been heavy-going. I was ready to dip in and out of it, as you might with most reference works. However, the narrative doesn’t bog you down, preferring instead to offer only the facts. It’s a lovely touch to see Mary Shelley’s original handwriting for the creation scene.
Where this tome really succeeds though is through the quality of its images. Full page glossy photos of Karloff’s Frankenstein monster, Bride of Frankenstein, Der Golem, Robert De Niro’s creature from the Kenneth Branagh directed Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, The Curse of Frankenstein with Christopher Lee as the monster, Mel Brooks’ Young Frankenstein, the 2011 stage play with Benedict Cumberbatch, and even Abbot and Costello Meet Frankenstein. A very well presented book.
(Review originally written by Ty Power for reviewgraveyard 2017)
Following the Frightfest Guide to Exploitation Movies, and the Frightfest Guide to Monster Movies, comes the third in the series from Fab Press: the Frightfest Guide to Ghost Movies. This volume is written by Axelle Carolyn – film set and review journalist, short story and screenplay writer, and director of shorts and her first feature, Soulmate. She also penned the very enjoyable It Lives Again! – Horror Movies in the New Millennium. There is also an introduction by Andy Nyman, co-writer and co-director of the British release Ghost Stories, based on the popular West End play. This is a large format softback book incorporating 240 pages of full colour glossy paper. 200 of the most memorable ghost movies from around the world are ‘surveyed’ here in an uncomplicated but precise manner – beginning in 1921 with The Phantom Carriage and ending in 2018 with The Lodgers and Winchester (starring Helen Mirren).
This is a book which is appealing to the eye for many reasons. A striking image from John Carpenter’s The Fog adorns the cover, and inside the sheer number of quality photographs and representations of film posters or DVD covers is impressive. Of course, this means there is less room for text, as there is generally one film per page covered. I have heard some criticism of the first two books that there is too little information on each movie, but I think this book is targeted just right, as the horror film buffs, like myself, will use this as a reminder and reference for cast and crew. Less seasoned viewers will surely find this a delight, as a pointer towards those films worth seeking out. Newcomers to the genre will not want to be bogged-down with excessive data which they can find elsewhere if need be.
Doing this allows more films to be covered. They’re not all here, but every ghost or supernatural tale committed to film – which is ground-breaking, unusual or just popular is honoured with basic credits and a paragraph or two of text. A few of my favourite films make an appearance here, including the aforementioned The Fog (1980), the science fiction chiller Event Horizon (1997), and the original Pang Brothers version of The Eye (2002). That’s inevitable, I suppose. Popular films covered in this category include: Poltergeist, The Shining, Insidious, The Others, Sleepy Hollow, The Frighteners, and Ghost. Light-hearted examples include: Casper, Ghostbusters, Beetlejuice, and ParaNorman. All time classics include: The Sixth Sense, The Entity, Ghost Story, The Changeling, House On Haunted Hill, and Dead of Night. Foreign stunners include: Ring, Fragile, The Grudge, The Eye, The Devil’s Backbone, and Diabolique – to name but a few.
This is an attractive and well-presented book, which has made me think about possibly seeking out the other two volumes. Those of you who appreciate a good hardback can order a limited copy directly from www.fabpress.com
(Review originally written by Ty Power for DreamWatch Magazine 2018)
In all honesty, my expectations for this release were not great. To a certain degree, when reviewing a programme guide, you can only reiterate. Providing all the relevant information is included and correct, they are much of a muchness.
However, rather than merely The Twilight Zone, this book is a Rod Serling guide, encompassing the entire surrounding field. It comprehensively incorporates Night Gallery, Serling's involvement with other television and the publishing world, as well as his contributions to the film industry. There is a section on Twilight Zone: The Movie, and an additional episode guide for The New Twilight Zone, spawned by its relative success.
The outstanding segments of the book - what sets it aside from just another episode guide - are the profiles and interviews with integral personnel at the latter end. These include, Buck Houghton, the original Twilight Zone producer; Richard Matheson, the most common writer after Serling himself; Frank Marshall and Joe Dante, involved with the movie; and Wes Craven (of A Nightmare on Elm Street fame), Philip DeGuere and Alan Brennert, all important individuals regarding The New Twilight Zone. It would have been interesting to read the brief comments of actors whose careers have been helped along by The Twilight Zone - particularly William Shatner - but the line has to be drawn somewhere, Perhaps the restrictions of space prevented such a move.
Personally, I feel there is no need for the indexes of Episode Titles, Creative Personnel, and Actors at the rear of the book, the space for which (34 pages) would have been better utilised elaborating on the episode plots, which are extremely brief. But there you are; you can't please all of the people all of the time. Aside from the omittance of a Rod Serling interview (okay, so he died many years ago; but there must be one somewhere that could have been used!), this is probably the best TV programme guide I have seen.
The Twilight Zone has a considerable history, so it is pleasing to discover the appropriate credits and other data collected together in one place. This is an indispensable read for anyone with a healthy interest in the series, and the casual reader may be surprised to learn that the 1985 series benefited from adaptations of works from such classic science fiction writers as, Joe Haldeman, Harlan Ellison, Arthur C. Clarke, Theodore Sturgeon, Robert Silverberg and Greg Bear; and horror masters, Stephen King and Robert McCammon.
(Review originally written by Ty Power for DreamWatch Magazine 1995)
Let me start by saying that Blake's 7, the television series which ran from 1978 to 1981, was complete and unadulterated claptrap. I just thought I would get that out of the way first. What do you mean, "Don't you like it, then?" It was cheap and amateurish with many loose scripts which incited overacting by certain cast members. Am I being too harsh? Is this a case of memory cheats, listening to excessive pointless jibes aimed at the show from over the years? Nope. Even a recent BBC rerun on Saturdays proved that my opinion has not changed in 20 years. After little more than ten minutes viewing, washing dishes and Hoovering took on a new appeal.
Blake's 7 most assuredly deserves all the criticism of wobbly sets wrongly aimed at Doctor Who by casual viewers who watched a science fiction series and associated with the long running Time Lord's adventures. Okay, Doctor Who had its duff moments, but not for virtually its entire duration. No, that was Blake's 7. I still find this amazing, as so many behind-the-scenes people worked on both shows.
However, this is a review of a book about the series, not the series itself, and I'm going to surprise everyone now by stating that this is a very well structured and presented guide. Argh! What am I saying? But it's true. Blake's 7 aficionado Alan Stevens, along with Fiona Moore, has collected together everything you could possibly wish to know. There's a background and genesis, before an in-depth breakdown of each of the three seasons. Each episode contains a detailed synopsis and analysis, as well as cast information, transmission date, viewing figure and chart position. Afterwards a couple of fiction books are examined, and then it's on to the two official BBC Radio 4 plays, The Sevenfold Crown, and The Syndeton Experiment, both written by well-known Doctor Who producer/writer Barry Letts. The final section explores the Independent Audio productions, many written by Alan Stevens himself.
Of course, many of us will already know that Blake's 7 was devised by Terry Nation, whose greatest claim to fame was creating the Daleks for Doctor Who (although not designing them - hello Ray Cusick). He also originated The Survivors, and wrote numerous scripts for popular TV shows of the sixties and seventies. What comes through most strongly reading this guide, particularly early on, is how well-intentioned and determined Nation was that Blake's 7 should effectively display his intended hard-edged political and oppressive atmosphere. Whether it actually happened like that, I'm probably not the best person to say, but it is obvious that when Nation relinquished this project to Chris Boucher due to work commitments elsewhere, the format somewhat lost it's way. Don't ask me if it was better or worse, because to me whatever was intended it failed to materialise on screen.
Telos Publishing deserves credit here for this reference book packaging with quality paper and a computer generated cover image (I can understand how photos of the original model work might turn away prospective purchasers; this was experimenting as you go, as it was for Doctor Who). I have no idea if the wealth of information here is accurate, but it certainly looks good.
(Review originally written by Ty Power for sci-fi-online 2003)
The Oxford University Press publishes Sleeping With the Lights On: The Unsettling Story of Horror, by Darryl Jones – Professor of English and Dean of the Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences at Trinity College Dublin, where he teaches nineteenth century literature and popular fiction. His other books include, the Oxford World’s Classics M.R. James's Collected Ghost Stories, and the previously reviewed Arthur Conan Doyle’s Gothic Tales, and Horror Stories: Classic Tales from Hoffmann to Hodgson.
Unlike the latter two releases, this one is not simply edited by Jones but an exploration of the horror phenomenon in all its forms. And therein lies the rub. Any non-fiction text or auto/biography hinges decisively on how the information is put across. For example, an autobiography might describe I went there and I did this, which is dull compared with a series of interesting and humorous anecdotes which place you squarely in the action. Similarly, here I feel I’m being dictated to. Jones is a lecturer, so I suppose that’s only to be expected. However, rather than mixing it up and dealing with horror as a whole, this book pigeonholes everything. We get separate sections on Monsters, the Occult and the Supernatural, Horror and the Body, Horror and the Mind, Science and horror, and Horror Since the Millennium.
I think that many devotees of the fiction horror genre will know much of this information already. Those parts which might otherwise come as a revelation are written in such a stiff manner that you might subconsciously put up a mental wall and not take it in anyway. Of course, there are some writers (Kim Newman being one of them) who I feel are much more interesting in person than in print – Darryl Jones could be one of them.
I have inferred that this is a case of design over substance, and the design is very nice. It’s a pocket-size hardback book. Much of the front cover is cut out in the shape of a light bulb to tie-in with the title. Through the cut-out you can see a silhouetted zombie scene in black and red. The page are very nice quality, too. With such a nice presentation, I feel this book is a missed opportunity to make it a more saleable release.
(Review originally written by Ty Power for reviewgraveyard 2018)
Ex-journalist Tom Maitland is still trying to get his life in order after the unexpected loss of his beloved wife, when he learns that his grandfather is in hospital near death from a stroke. He has no love for the man, but agrees to meet his mother (the sick man’s daughter) at a café. She persuades him to check that his grandfather’s bungalow is secure. Once there he catches a glimpse of a boy who simply vanishes. But this is just the start of a bigger mystery. News clippings are discovered dating back to when his grandfather led the police investigation into the deaths of two young boys and a third who was still missing. Curiosity piqued, Tom’s journalistic instincts take over to the point it begins to take over his life...
This is an 108-page novelette written by Paul Lewis (comedy sketch writer and author of The Savage Knight) and published on good quality paper by Telos. The prose makes for comfortable reading, and the story avoids convoluted plot strands. Thankfully, it keeps to the point and concentrates on characterisation; namely, the protagonist and his mother. I would say that the witnesses and the all the answers he seeks fall comfortably into Maitland’s hands, without the requirement to venture very much out of the local area of his grandfather’s bungalow. Additionally, certain elements of the tale are somewhat predictable. However, I did get drawn in by the human element, and was only half right when predicting the ending.
It’s an enjoyable but regrettably short book, which may well cause people to balk at the £9.99 RRP. A nice saving grace is that my copy is one of a limited number of signed copies by the author.
(Review originally written by Ty Power for reviewgraveyard 2017)
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