Wednesday 28 October 2015

October Book Reviews at the Nameless Zine

The vast majority of my reviews are substantial ones of the sort of films that most critics don't cover and they're posted at Apocalypse Later. I'll also be posting shorter reviews here in weekly batches at Apocalypse Later Now! of films that I won't cover at Apocalypse Later but I still feel deserve comment. I'll post the first batch sometime during the next week when I figure out which day would work best for them.

However, I also write book reviews and ought to highlight that fact here, even if they're not strictly part of the growing Apocalypse Later Empire. I write them for the Western Science Fiction Association (WesternSFA), a non-profit fandom group based here in Arizona who post a lot of reference material online for local fans, both those who run things and those who show up to them. They've helped me and the Arizona Penny Dreadfuls a great deal, especially as we move towards non-profit status ourselves.

The folk behind the WesternSFA used to run an honest to goodness fandom newspaper, called Connotations, which was circulated around the valley rather well and I used to pick up whenever I could. Now they've shifted entirely online, where they cover much of the same material at The Nameless Zine, now in its fifth year and going strong.

I've been contributing reviews to the Nameless Zine for over a year now, mostly book reviews of new science fiction, graphic novels and a growing amount of Victorian adventures. They post monthly on the 15th of each month and I'm up to 70 reviews.

As the Nameless Zine follows a graphical indexing system, I also maintain my own index of what I've written at my own website, You can find it here at the Reviews at the Nameless Zine page.

October was a typically diverse month. I reviewed five books:


Fourteen is a self published science fiction novel by a local author, Colette Black, who promotes well, as I've seen her promotional cards at many local conventions.

I have a love/hate relationship with self-published novels, because there are some real gems out there but a far larger amount of crap. This leans far more towards the former, being that rare self-published novel that could be published by one of the majors, though it certainly has flaws. I'm looking forward to seeing how this world develops in the next two books, as this is the first in a trilogy.

I was also very happy to see that it has a really good layout, because that's even rarer in the self-published world than good writing.

For more, visit my review at the Nameless Zine.

The Captive Condition

A very literary modern gothic by Kevin P Keating, The Captive Condition is set in a midwestern town whose people are mad enough that Normandy Falls itself has picked up on it and now feeds the madness.

I got a major Edgar Allan Poe vibe out of this one (though the town is a Lovecraftian creature and there are other overt references to classic literature too, not all in the horror genre). I was rather surprised at how hooked I got, given how relentlessly downbeat it all is. There isn't a single character to really connect to and, by the end, we're happy that nobody really got out of the story well. That sounds vicious, but it's appropriate.

For more, visit my review at the Nameless Zine.

The Fall of the House of West

This short graphic novel, the second half of a duology that works as a standalone book, was written by Paul Pope and J T Petty and illustrated by David Rubín. It's set in the same universe as his more famous Battling Boy, which I haven't read but expect from this to be a male version of this female story.

It's a coming of age story where the heroine is a masked vigilante who fights monsters. I like the concept and the setup and it's all likable enough, but I found it too short, too insubstantial and too predictable for my tastes.

For more, visit my review at the Nameless Zine.

Human Body Theater

Possibly the most unique book I've reviewed thus far at the Nameless Zine, Human Body Theater, by Maris Wicks, is an anatomy textbook in graphic novel format.

I thoroughly enjoyed it, however densely it packs information into its pages. There's a lot going on here and I certainly learned a few things, but it's easy to just sit back and enjoy Wicks's style as both writer and illustrator. Have you ever read a textbook narrated by a skeleton who thinks himself a stage comedian? Here's your chance.

Like The Fall of the House of West, it's published by First Second, who I've found are a massively interesting publisher. Each book I receive from them to review seems to be completely different from the last and this one is the most different thus far.

For more, visit my review at the Nameless Zine.

Fear City

The biggest problem I've found in reviewing modern science fiction is that so many books that come up for review are later volumes in series that I haven't read. I don't want to start a series at book eight, so I often wait for the new series to come up so I can leap in at the beginning.

Fear City by F Paul Wilson is by far my least successful attempt at doing that. It's the third book in the Repairman Jack: The Early Years trilogy, itself a prequel to a set of Repairman Jack books that now number twenty-three. The only one I've read is the first one, The Tomb, over a quarter of a century ago. Fortunately, this is still a surprisingly accessible book and I was able to keep up easily without all the background those other books would surely provide.

It's a thriller more than a sci-fi or horror novel, but it does have a secret society in it and the wider series explores the supernatural and builds up to the end of the world. I was surprised to discover how mainstream this one is, but perhaps that's inevitable for a prequel. I enjoyed Fear City but found it a little to careful.

For more, visit my review at the Nameless Zine.

More book reviews next month!

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