Themes: / parallel universe / urban fantasy / superheroes / detectives / noir / airships /
The Fissure connecting the alternate New York to its counterpart has vanished, plunging the city into a deep freeze. The people are demanding a return to Prohibition and rationing as energy supplies dwindle. Meanwhile, in the real 1954 New York, the political dynamic has changed. Nimrod finds his department subsumed by a radical new group, Atoms For Peace, led by the mysterious Evelyn McHale. Their goal is simple: total conquest – or destruction – of the Empire State. Adam Christopher returns with the thermonuclear sequel to Empire State – the superhero-noir fantasy thriller set in the other New York.
The Age Atomic continues where Empire State left off. Some time has passed since the events of Empire State but the fissure has disappeared from the Empire State. Since the fissure in Battery Park is the source of sustenance to The Empire State, the climate begins to edge toward an ice age as time goes on. While this is happening, Rad Bradley uncovers a plot involving robots. On the other side of the fissure in New York City, a mysterious blue woman made purely of energy (I’m looking at you Watchmen) heads up a secret organization that seems to be researching Empire State technology for no good.
It would be hard to comment on this book without comparing it to Empire State. The Age Atomic is a little lighter on the detective noir and heavier on the robots, airships, and odd superheroes. I found the story much easier to follow than it’s predecessor because the plot was a bit more direct and the character’s loyalties weren’t in such a state of flux. I enjoyed the book more because of these differences – especially the more straight forward plot.
In the end, the book was a fun listen, the characters were enjoyable, and I had some serious flashbacks of Watchmen (down to the blue energy character). I especially like Captain Carson/Nimrod as the old-timey adventurer and would love to see a book involving his adventures. I would recommend this book to people who like comic books, robots, super heroes, and detective stories…or at least a decent subset of that group.
As for the audiobook performance, Phil Gigante did a great job as usual. He was easy to understand and did some good voices for the different characters. I also found this book much easier to audiobook than it’s predecessor because of the straightforward plot. I didn’t feel the need to back up as if I missed anything this time around.
Posted by Tom Schreck
Themes: / hard-boiled / noir / crime / mystery /
Tal Howard, a disillusioned Korean War vet, breaks away from his old life, looking for answers and convinced he’s going to find them in the small town of Hillston. What’s in Hillston? Sixty grand in embezzled funds that Howard learned about from a dying friend in a POW camp. He just needs to find out where the money is hidden and contend with another former POW who has come looking for it, Earl Fitzmartin–a psychopath they were all terrified of in the camp. Howard soon learns that the secret to the money’s location lies in the dead man’s past, which must be discovered through the women he knew, such as the respectable Ruth Stamm and the sultry and dangerous Toni Rassele.
A reissue of John D. MacDonald’s 1955 standalone novel On The Make was among the first books to be released from independent publisher Gutter Books after evolving from a 7 issue run of the amazing Out of the Gutter short fiction journal which debuted in 2008. Gutter books released to date have included other classic crime reprints, new original crime novels from authors such as Joe McKinney, the anthology Atomic Noir edited by Duane Swierczynski with Lou Boxer, and even a reprint of Gold Medal’s 1950 UFO inquiry The Flying Saucers are Real by former Marine Corps naval aviator Donald Keyhoe. Now On The Make has launched as the first of what hopes to be many titles to be brought to the audiobook format by Gutter Books.
The reissue includes an introductory essay “The Two Sides of John D.” by Martin L. Kohler and a concluding essay by Gutter Book’s own Matthew Louis, both which I appreciate being included in the both the new print edition as well as the audiobook. I do have one slight issue with the introductory essay in that although On the Make was in fact the author’s intended title for the novel, the publishers went with a different title, one that in my opinion serves as a major plot spoiler consider a specific main character in the novel. Therefore my own recommendation would be to save both essays for enjoyment later after listening to the story first. That being said, my understanding is that the mention in the prologue was left intact so as not to mislead any readers who may have already be familiar with the book from the former title.
The hard-boiled 1st person narrative of On the Make is handled well by narrator Robert Armin, whose other audiobook credits include non-fiction, self-help, children’s, and crime titles as well as his own writing. The main character, Tal Howard, is a veteran of the Korean War brought to a small town seeking buried riches hinted to him from the last wishes of a fellow prisoner of war. Tal quickly finds many others snooping around and that other strangers have already outstayed their welcome in the town of Hillston. I’ve personally only read other standalone novels from the John D MacDonald bibliography and based on what I’ve read I feel this novel serves as a great introduction to this period. The essays give a good comparison and contrast from this era with his later and better known Travis McGee series of novels. Also of interest and mentioned in high regard is the science fiction works of the author which have included short stories and a handful of novels. I recalled enjoying On the Make first time around when I read the Gutter Books paperback, and enjoyed revisiting the story with the audiobook. I may have to check out some of the John D. MacDonald series or sci-fi novels.
Themes: / parallel universe / urban fantasy / superheroes / detectives / noir /
The empire state is another New York,. It’s a parallel-universe, Prohibition-era world of mooks and shamuses that is the twisted magic mirror to our bustling Big Apple. It’s a city where sinister characters lurk around every corner while the great superheroes who once kept the streets safe have fallen into deadly rivalries and feuds. Not that its colourful residents know anything about the real New York… until detective Rad Bradley makes a discovery that will change the lives of all its inhabitants. Playing on the classic Gotham conventions of the Batman comics and HBO’s Boardwalk Empire, debut author Adam Christopher has spun a smart and fast-paced superhero-noir adventure that will excite genre fans and general readers alike.
Empire State is a novel that sounds really great in concept but comes off a bit confusing in execution. This novel has it all – superheroes, detective noir, gangsters, prohibition, robots, alternate dimensions, you name it. If any or all of that sounds cool to you, this may be a book for you.
The story generally takes the form of a detective noir once you get into it except that the story’s perspective does not only stick with the detective all the time. As with detective noir stories, you don’t know who is on which side all the time and things are slowly revealed as the story unfolds. Unfortunately, the story became confusing as things developed and the loyalties and motivations of characters seemed constantly in flux. The characters didn’t have a whole lot of depth past being exactly what you’d expect from their role in the story (detective, gangster, old-timey adventurer, reporter, etc). Despite the confusion, I really liked the ideas and world that Christopher created in this novel. The world of the Empire State is a dark, foggy equivalent of New York that had me picturing scenes from Dick Tracy. I’m looking forward to seeing what else Christopher does in this world.
Phil Gigante did a great job narrating Empire State. Voices for different characters were distinct and gave a great vocal aspect to the nature of the character being done. That said, I don’t know if I would actually recommend this as an audio book. There were quite a few times I wanted to rewind a bit because I had no idea what just happened (I actually did rewind a few times which is rare for me). I think the ability to easily look back a page or two in a book would probably have helped with the confusion.
Posted by Tom Schreck
Themes: / crime / noir / amusement parks /
Set in a small-town North Carolina amusement park in 1973, Joyland tells the story of the summer in which college student Devin Jones comes to work as a carny and confronts the legacy of a vicious murder, the fate of a dying child, and the ways both will change his life forever. Joyland is a brand-new novel and has never previously been published.
I’d like to think of myself as an experienced Stephen King reader. I’ve read about 25 of his books, but that’s only about a 3rd of what he’s written.
At first I found myself wondering if I had the author right. I kept waiting for horrible things to happen: evil clowns, monsters, Randall Flagg. You know, a Stephen King book. There are carnies, but no evil clowns. That’s probably not fair on my part, he has written a variety of things over the years, and not all of it is horror. Still it’s what he’s best known for, and it can be a bit surprising when evil isn’t lurking around every corner.
That isn’t to say this book doesn’t have some spookiness and a sense of the fantastical going on. Joyland is about a 21 year old college student named Devin Jones, recently ditched by his girlfriend who takes a summer job working at an amusement park in North Carolina called Joyland in the 1970s. One of Joyland’s biggest attractions is the Horror House, said to be haunted by the ghost of a girl who was murdered during the ride a few years past. That sounds more like the Stephen King we all know, right?
During his job interview, he meets the resident “psychic” who gives him a prediction about his future. He’s skeptical, because surely, it’s all just an act for the show, right? What follows is a time that Devin will never forget, and a story I greatly enjoyed. It’s actually quite heart warming in places. It’s really a book about people more than anything.
It’s certainly not one of his scariest books, but it’s one of the best of his I’ve read. It’s certainly more The Shawshank Redemption than It. At only 283 pages/7.5 hours it’s much shorter than Mr. King’s usual fare as well, but I’d definitely recommend it as a quick read.
The book is narrated by Michael Kelly who is probably better known as an actor than as an audiobook reader. This is the first book I’ve listened to with him. Unsurprisingly he speaks in a clear manner, with good inflection. He does a few accents for some of the characters, but not all.
Review by Rob Zak.
The SFFaudio Podcast #200 – Jesse, Mirko, and Gary Lovisi discuss the Science Fiction novel Mars Needs Books! by Gary Lovisi.
Talked about on today’s show:
the great description, Audible.com, it’s a prison novel, it’s a dystopian science fiction novel, it’s a book collector’s novel, Philip K. Dick, a reality dysfunction, The Man In The High Castle, 1984 by George Orwell, “retconning“, Stalin, airbrushing history, a new Science Fiction idea!, Amazon’s Kindle, Mark Twain, “The Department Of Control”, J. Edgar Hoover, Simon is the most evil character ever, oddball individualists, a straw man gulag, one way of keeping the population in control is to send troublemakers away, another is to give them someone to hate, The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress by Robert A. Heinlein, the Attica Prison riot (1971), Arabella Rashid, entertainment media, when you can’t tell what the truth is anymore it’s very easy to control people, maybe it’s an allegory for our times, Paperback Parade, SF writers were wrong about what our times are like, Mars, crime novels, Science Fiction as a metaphor, people are scared of reading, “I like good writing”, Richard Stark’s Parker novels, getting the word out about Mars Needs Books!, Gargoyle Nights, H.P. Lovecraft, Clark Ashton Smith, Jack Vance, horror, fantasy, nice and short, short books pack a punch (and don’t waste your time), Stephen King, Patrick O’Brian, ideas, paperback novels from the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, customers want thick books, Winter In Maine by Gerard Donovan, were looking at a different readership today, James M. Cain’s The Postman Always Rings Twice, there’s nothing that doesn’t add to the story, “Lawrence Block is scary good”, Donald E. Westlake, Robert Bloch, Eight Million Ways To Die, A Pair Of Recycled Jeans by Lawrence Block, Evan Hunter (Ed McBain), Charles Ardai (was on SFFaudio Podcast #090), book-collectors, Murder Of A Bookman by Gary Lovisi (is also on Audible.com), collectable glassware, Sherlock Holmes Mystery Magazine, cool dialogue, Driving Hell’s Highway by Gary Lovisi (also on Audible.com), That Hell-bound Train by Robert Bloch, noir, Violence Is The Only Solution by Gary Lovisi (paperback), hard-boiled, revenge, betrayal, personality disorder, Sherlock Holmes, westerns, “if there’s one truth in the universe that I know it’s that Germans love westerns”, which frontier are you talking about?, The Wild Bunch, a western with tommyguns, Akira Kurosawa, Outland (is High Noon in space), Altered Carbon by Richard K. Morgan, hard-boiled, violence, the Martian national anthem, Prometheus Award, libertarian motifs, world-building, GryphonBooks.com, Hurricane Sandy, Wildside Press, POD Books, eBooks, fire and water, that paperback is still in readable condition in 150 years?, fanzines, Jack Vance, The Dying Earth, Robert Silverberg, Dell Mapbacks, paperbacks were disposable, used bookstores, sex books.
Posted by Jesse Willis
Themes: / Fantasy / Christmas / Elves / Santa / Noir / Murder / Reindeer / It’s a Wonderful Life /
If you’re looking for a holiday story that’s not yet another retelling of The Christmas Carol, then pick up Ken Harmon’s The Fat Man. Gumdrop Coal is framed for murder after being ousted from the Coal Patrol and he’s out to clear his name.
Fired from his longtime job as captain of the Coal Patrol, two-foot-three inch 1,300-year-old elf Gumdrop Coal is angry. He’s one of Santa’s original elves, inspired by the fat man’s vision to bring joy to children on that one special day each year. But somewhere along the way things went sour for Gumdrop. Maybe it was delivering one too many lumps of coal for the Naughty List. Maybe it’s the conspiracy against Christmas that he’s starting to sense down every chimney.
Take all the Christmas references your sweet tooth can stand and keep going, add in an embittered and betrayed Elf from the Coal Patrol, Reindeer with the panache of top gun fighter pilots, and a spunky girl reporter, Buttercup Snitch, who either only has eyes for Gumdrop or is in on the frame job.
The story is told by Gumdrop Coal, leader and founder of the Coal Patrol, in a wonderful hard bitten noir style. Gumdrop is used to dealing with some nasty customers (children). The Coal Patrol are the guys who work from the Naughty List. After it’s been checked, twice.
Set in Kringle Town with Santa and the Elves. Filled with characters you will have heard from assorted Christmas Fairy. But they aren’t all as you might expect.
It isn’t all candy and Christmas trees; there is also a dark side to Kringle Town. The other side of the tracks: Potterville. If you’ve ever watched It’s a Wonderful Life you should recognise that name.
Gumdrop doesn’t believe Naughty Boys and Girls should be treated the same as their well behaved siblings. That smothering all children in gifts regardless of merit lessens both the gift and the child.
Johnny Heller tells it in a wonderful straight-up noir-style, even when doing the high pitched elves.
Posted by Paul [W] Campbell