Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Story Review: Coyote Cal’s Guide to the Weird, Wild West

This review was long overdue, but better late than never, right? (Which reminds me, I have another review in the works that’s even longer overdue… Whoops!)

So the is the second installment of the Coyote Cal and Big Yap adventures, created by Milo JamesFowler, and available on Amazon. If you’re not familiar with the series, the title says it all: they’re weird tales set in the Wild West, dealing with all manner of supernatural spooks. A parody of those old west shows such as Bonanza and other spaghetti westerns. It plays upon the stereotypes of the genre like the charming hero with the pearly white smile, the grumbly goofy side-kick, the vengeful villain, etc.

In this adventure, Cal comes up against the gunslinger Sleepy, his undead twin Easy (and when you put their names together, you get “sleep easy” har har), and Donna “The Witch” Jamison. My favorite scene was when Sleepy and Cal face off on the train, where they exchange words—and unusual threats.

Although a little more disjointed than its counterparts—the first scene was excellently described, but after that, scenery details were dropped—Coyote Cal’s Guide to the Weird, Wild West is a fun read that’s sure to make you laugh. And all for the bank-breaking price of 99 cents!

Also check out the first and third installments of the series.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Book Review: Slan

Haven’t done one of these in a while; been reading more short stories than novels, lately. So I'm jumping in the time machine, back to the golden age of science fiction, for A.E. Vogt’s novel Slan.

Quick summary: The psychic mutant Jommy Cross is under constant persecution from humans. From a young age, he’s forced to live with a wretched old woman, till the day he’s old enough to take on his father’s legacy. But it’s not only the humans he has to fear, but also another new twist in the evolution of mankind.

I make it a point to read the classics of SF, mainly for the tropes since the writing is usually lackluster *coughAsimovcough* but Slan took me by surprise. There’s—gasp!—an actual character in this story. What I mean by this, is that pulp SF often focuses on the tech and plot, and the character is just a piece to be moved from scene to scene. Granted, Jommy is one-track minded, but he does live in fear, struggles to get out of tight situations. Even the little bit we see of Kathleen, the young slan girl living under the president’s protection, is interesting—mostly in how she has to deal with constant harassment and the threat of death, even rape. Though the most intriguing background figure has to be the world president, Kier Gray. Despite is coldness to Kathleen, he always defends her against the council, even when he’s outnumbered. But why and what for?  

That’s a key feature about Slan: how it produces these mysteries, one question compounding another. Where are the true slans? Where did these tendriless slans come from? Why so much hatred for the slans? A.E. Vogt also isn’t afraid to throw in a few shocks.

The psychic aspect is very well done; it’s not simply speaking through a wire, but rather, Jommy is able to see and hear through other people, as well as transmit images. Or how a slan can be overwhelmed when too many thoughts come at them.  I especially like the scene when Jommy and Kathleen meet up, and how their thoughts become interlaced, so smooth that it’s like their thoughts were made for each other. Thought that was cute.

Unfortunately, there are no relationships formed. Jommy’s only relationship is with the vile Granny, who uses Jommy for her own gain. Though I have to admit, Granny grew on me. She seemed to be the one entertaining character with some history to her. Everyone else has sort of a blank slate for a past. Even as Jommy grows up, all he does is learn. He doesn’t play, watch movies, go to the park, etc. Nor does he even complain about missing out on these pleasures. What does Jommy do for fun, exactly? It’s those sorts of things that make him feel flat—he’s still a character, but one that lacks a lot of personality.

But I attribute those problems to the fact that this is pulp SF, which, once again, doesn’t concern itself with the interpersonal aspect of characters’ lives. Then there’s the laughable belief that it only takes a month to travel to Mars, and that Mars has a breathable atmosphere and oceans. Ah, good old golden age.

But the biggest failure of this story—and you can’t blame the pulp style for this—is that the ending is oversimplified, silly, lacks a real conclusion. The story leads up to a massive infodump that reveals all, then just… ends. What about the space armada that’s coming to destroy the humans? To me, that was more important than how Jommy’s atomic disintegrator works.

There is, fortunately, a sequel… but it’s written by Kevin J. Anderson, based on A.E. Vogt’s rough draft. I’ve read Anderson’s collaborative work with Brian Herbert, and was not impressed. In fact, I warn people against reading the Dune prequels because they’re just god-awful. However, the copy of Slan I picked up does come with the first two chapters of Slan Hunter, and you know, they weren’t bad. The annoying part is that I have to hunt down a copy at the library to finish the dang story.

Overall rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Lend a Fiend a Tentacle

Lovecraft eZine needs your help! No, I wasn't prompted to do this; I just really, really, really hate to see a good zine go under due to financial issues. And I think we've already lost too many good zines this year. If you follow the site, you know editor Mike Davis puts a lot of effort, updating almost daily with lots of neat, Lovecraft related stuff. He also publishes quality Lovecraftian stories, free for everyone's enjoyment. If you click the link and watch the video, he's also offering special contests for monthly donators. So if you can donate, that's awesome. If not, try to spread the word. 

And if you're a podcast reader or an artist, Lovecraft eZine could use you, too.

For something tentacle related, found this video on Youtube:

Don't know about you, but if I caught an octopus while finishing, I'd piss myself. Seriously, look at that thing!

Sunday, July 1, 2012

June Buggies (W1S1 update)

Stats for June W1S1...

Stories written:1 (~3,600-word sci-fi humor)
Stories submitted: 28 (several of these re-submitted or sim-subbed)
Stories accepted: 0
Stories rejected: 27

A LOT busier this month, which makes things a bit more interesting. Still got a few stories that I need to kick out the door.

And in case you missed it, check out my wee spooky tale "Invitation" over at Lovecraft eZine. There's an audio version up, too. However, not to sound unappreciative, I didn't think the reader captured the voice--and they mispronounced my name. If anyone is curious, my name is not pronounced phonetically, since it uses Celtic spelling (yes, it's an Irish name). Siobhan is pronounced "Sha-von" (the 'bh' makes a 'v' sound for some reason). Not "See-o-bon" or "Sigh-o-bon," or any other horrible incarnation.    

While on the topic of Lovecraft, I did a slight review of the beta for the Lovecraftian-esque MMO game The Secret World, which comes out today, I believe. Really enjoyed playing this game, although I'm going to wait before jumping into creature infested lagoons. 

And hell, why not go all out with anything Lovecraft. If you've seen the film Prometheus, you're probably wondering how stupid those scientists could be--but then again, people seem to drop IQ points whenever they're in a horror film. Well, this clip from the awesome Key of Awesome might explain it. Enjoy!