Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Holly Lisle's New Paranormal Romance Thriller Delivers The Goods!

Holly Lisle started out her writing career with fantasy novels. However, lately she’s turned her hand to paranormal suspense novels and become quite successful and quite well-known at them. She also manages her personal web site ( regarding her career, a personal dialogue with fans and interested parties, and offers tip sheets and essays on the craft of writing. Fans wanting to know more about her and her work are encouraged to visit the site, as are budding writers.

Her first novel paranormal romance, Midnight Rain and her last, I’ll See You, had more violence inherent in the plot than the current book does, but her fourth book, Night Echoes, is more a southern gothic and ghost story. In all of her books, Lisle manages to present interesting characters in the interesting situations, all with an economy of language that keeps readers turning pages. Lisle has such an easy touch with prose that it’s hard not to just keep reading way past bedtime. The pages seem almost to turn themselves.

In Night Echoes, commercial artist Emma Beck buys an old Civil War-era house in South Carolina that she has ties to she has no explanation why. When she sees the house, she realizes that she’s dreamed about it and painted it several times in her artwork. The author works this story with a slow burn, layering in character and building tension at a steady pace.

Emma was adopted by her parents. Before he died, her father gave her the name of her birth mother. Her father had hired a private detective to track the information down in case Emma ever needed to know. It was that search for the background on her mother and why she was given up for adoption that led Emma house that she buys almost on impulse.

The story picks up after Emma has been living in the house for a few days and is still moving in. She’s also met Mike Ruhl, the contractor who did minor repairs on her house before she moved in. There are immediate sparks between Emma and Mike that leave no doubts about who the romance will concentrate on.

Lisle presents her character and a very human fashion and gives her a detailed background that allows the reader to get to know her very well. But it isn’t long before Emma becomes embroiled in trying to find out more about her birth mother. The story she gets almost breaks her heart. Her mother was sixteen when she gave birth to Emma. The father betrayed her and left her alone and pregnant and at the mercy of her cruel father.

However this isn’t the only story that Emma is told. The prevailing story is that the baby died, which means that she can’t be that baby. But everything she finds leads her to believe that she is, and she feels that she is.

The book doesn’t really offer anything new to the experienced gothic/ghost story reader. Those who have read in the genre before will easily keep pace with Lisle’s twists and turns. Still, this is a well-crafted novel and the characters are pleasure to explore and journey with. The first three books Lisle wrote offered action and surprises. Night Echoes jogs along at a comfortable pace and delivers a satisfying ending that doesn’t really come as a shock or surprise. While the novel may not build on the momentum of the previous three, it offers a diversion into a different style of writing and an old style ghost story that most of today’s readers haven’t seen in some time.

Readers who want something to take to the beach and vege out with will enjoy this novel a lot. And Holly Lisle’s growing fan base will enjoy yet another winner.

A Great Field Guide For The Young Dragon Watcher!
Longtime fans of Dungeons and Dragons will recognize all of the dragons included in this slim, elegant manual. Those of us who began playing back in the 1970s know these dragons by heart. However, we've never seen the material presented in this way.

My son and I read together all the time. We enjoyed a lot of fantasy novels, including the Harry Potter books, and he gets totally captivated by imaginary creatures. Last night, while perusing the new releases, my son discovered this book. The first time I noticed that he had it Was when I realized how quiet it had gotten. Though he enjoys reading books with me, he doesn’t necessarily enjoy watching me look through the racks. He’s nine, so he can fold up and sit on the floor anywhere.

Last night he was folded up reading this book. When I asked what he was looking at, I could see the excitement in his eyes when he showed me this book. I recognize that immediately as Dungeons and Dragons material, but the usual TSR and/or Wizards of the Coast Logos were nowhere to be seen. I looked at the publisher and realized it was Mirrorstone, an offshoot of the Wizards of the Coast publishing arm that directs books at young readers.

My nine year old loves read about animals. I don’t know how many times he’s come home and told me about animals he’s read about and school. If he’s not a zoologist, then he’s going to be well-educated when it comes to animals.

Even imaginary ones!

The book is wonderful to look at. I flipped through the pages with him and talked about the times I had played Dungeons and Dragons and had to fight to the death against some of these creatures. Of course, he was mortified that I would even think about killing dragons. I tried to explain that some of them were evil and some of them had gold and treasure I wanted. He told me that dragons were entitled to their homes and that I was greedy. I didn’t even bother to explain about experience points. I could only imagine my son’s character getting charred and someone’s campaign while trying to save dragons.

The pictures in the book are colorful and vivid, and printed on what looks like parchment paper. The combination gives the book the look of an illustrated manuscript. It’s an oversized hardcover that looks like it can take years of love and punishment. (With children, love and punishment for favorite toys often cannot be separated.)

After we got home, my son continue to look at the book for over an hour, reading through the sections he got interested in. He came to me and ask the questions about dragons, testing my knowledge. I surprised him by knowing most of them, their breath weapons as well as whether or not they were good or evil. He told me he would study the book for a while, then I could test him.

Finding a book that totally entertains a child and immerses their imagination in another world is hard to find. Especially one there willing to pursue on their own. The language in the book is suitable for an aggressive second grader to read independently. The pictures will also inspire the budding young artist.

If you’re looking for a unique gift for a birthday party, a book to take on long family trips, or something that won’t get read once and simply filed away, I think you’ll find A Practical Guide To Dragons is a great book to entertain a young imagination over and over.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

US cover version

Britsh Cover Version

Alex Rider, Teen Spy, Returns In 7th Thrilling Adventure On November 13!

Anyone who hasn't discovered this series by Anthony Horowitz needs to get with the program. These books are thrilling and entertaining, and filled with spy gadgets. Not only that, but Horowitz's writing crosses over splendidly for adults and kids alike, making this series one you can share with your kids by reading to the young one or handing them off to your teens.

Alex Rider is a 14-year-old spy pressed into service by his country. For all his life he's been trained to become a spy, but until his uncle Ian was murdered and he went looking for answers, he never knew that. Now that he does know that, he's not particularly happy about it, but he meets challenges and opponents head-on.

Last year there was no new Alex Rider book in England. In the past, the books have always been published one year earlier than in the United States. I guess it just took us a little while longer to catch onto a good thing. As of this year, the further adventures of Alex Rider will be published at about the same time internationally. According to the schedule, the British fans of Alex Rider will get their release eight days earlier than the US November 13 street date.

Alex is a reluctant spy at best, but he's tremendously physical and intelligent. Not just in book smarts, but in street smarts as well. Since his job generally is to survive, he's become quite adept at that.

The books carry a strong flavor of the 007 brand. The villains are all incredibly over-the-top and the fate of the world -- or at least a good portion of it -- is always at stake. And the gadgets! You'd never catch James Bond carrying a yo-yo that doubles as mountain climbing gear. The action is also top-notch, with martial arts mayhem thrown in with extreme sports.

The first book, Stormbreaker, has even come to the big screen in Operation: Stormbreaker and is now out on DVD. It's a fun show that parents and kids alike can watch and enjoy. It's along the lines of Special Agent Cody Banks.

Anthony Horowitz, the writer and creator of Alex Rider, has written books and television scripts. He's also known for his Diamond Brothers Detectives series, the current Power of Five fantasy series (known as the Gatekeepers series in the US), and several horror and mystery books.

He also created the BBC mystery series, Foyle's War set in England in the early years of World War II, and written for Midsomer Murders, Robin of Sherwood, Poirot, and others.

Monday, May 28, 2007

One Trick Too Many

I have to admit to being disturbed by The Prestige on some basic levels. Chief among them is that nowhere in the trailer was there any mention of going beyond real world physics. Nor did we get an accurate view of the characters because some really important details were left out.

When the trailer first started playing in the theaters, I was really looking forward to it. I saw Edward Norton’s The Illusionist first and really enjoyed it, though it too had a bit of a meandering problem due to the nature of the conflict. Both films are really small in some ways, microcosms in the world that depend largely on interior story and suffering on part of the characters. Those are good aspects of story, but these were magicians. I simply wanted more and bigger magic. I really wanted more explanation of the tricks period magicians did at the time in The Prestige.

The movie is based on the book by Christopher Priest. Priest is a horror/SF novelist. I have to admit to being pretty much pulled along by the story and the dark natures of the characters as well as the rivalry they followed until the final frames of the movie. Unfortunately, I'd figured most of them out and generally ended up asking myself, why?

When Angier’s wife was dropped into the water tank, I knew things were going to end badly. Even prepared for it, though, the gritty realism of the scene was hard to take. Jackman, Bale, Caine, and Johansson delivered standup work in their roles, but they were empty of some real resolution to a degree. Overall, the characters were paper-thin in the finished product and lacked enough flesh and bones to make me care about them much. I was more concerned with how the illusion was being done and what Angier was doing in Colorado trying to talk to Nikolai Tesla. Once I had that figured out, I was done with the film to a large extent. Without true character development, all that was left to see was the trick.

The sets and the period piece work were all extremely well done. I felt like I was in Victorian England and in Colorado Springs during those parts of the movie. I watched the movie on Blu-ray and the scenes were gorgeous. They were so clear and vivid I felt like I was standing on the street corner or had a seat in the theater where the shows were playing. The high-def format is absolutely the way to go for the discriminating home theater connoisseur.

However, the three storylines that constantly looped and interwove were really much more effort than should have been required for the payoff I received as a viewer. I know that it was necessary to make all the surprises work, but they still made the story more convoluted than it should have been. The Prestige is a good movie. People who haven't seen anything like it will love it. Anyone who loves Christopher Nolan's films (Memento, Batman Begins) will enjoy this one. And there enough historical references to please the armchair historian. Definitely a good film to watch with a group that likes to puzzle things out as they watch a film in the privacy of their own home so they won't disturb other paying viewers who don't like ruminations while watching.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

At the World's Edge--And BEYOND!
Walt Disney Studios and Jerry Bruckheimer touched gold with Johnny Depp in the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie. That one has been retitled with The Curse of the Black Pearl added to it to set it apart from the other two movies in the, thus far, trilogy franchise.

Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End debuted in theaters on May 25 and went on to rake in $58 million on the first day. With a long Memorial Day weekend in the offing, the latest film should haul in the swag, matie!

At more than two and a half hours of viewing time, fans are definitely getting their money’s worth in volume. However, there are some quality concerns. The plot is full of betrayal and alliance switching, some conflicting agendas, dropped plot lines, and rabbits out of a hat.

The second movie introduced a proposed romantic triangle between Jack, Elizabeth, and Will that just didn’t really get followed up on in this movie. It’s still there, but it’s like the writers found out a lot of the fans hated the idea of the triangle springing up out of nowhere (because it wasn’t alluded to in the first movie in any way) and decided to pull it out of the third movie.

Furthermore, the Brethren of Pirates bearing the nine pieces-of-eight (which jarred every time someone mentioned it) was never given any real weight in the first movie, then it had everything to do with the third. The history of the binding of Calypso came out of nowhere, and she appropriately vanished into the same thin air when she left.

The history between Davy Jones and Calypso was pretty good, but it felt like the story was woven into the pre-existing history of the second movie. (I’ve gotta check my Blu-ray discs of the second movie when it comes in to see if Calypso really wore the heart pendant that figured into this movie so prominently.) Then that story line just fell off the edge of the world at the end when, after such a big build-up, there should have been a bookend to finish it off.

The plot convolutions got to be hard to follow, and the constant switching of sides became a headache, though it played out well in the end. I had to work harder at this movie to stay up to speed, which is fine except that I’d earmarked it as a fun, casual movie where I could watch Johnny Depp pull off once more one of the most interesting characters to grace the movies in years.

One of the British Navy men said of Jack Sparrow, “Do you think he plans all this out, or just makes it up as he goes along?” Or words to that effect. I couldn’t help but feel that way about the script. It was all well done, but some of it seemed to be plotting and twists of convenience.

It also got hard to latch onto the emotions of the characters because of all the shifting. There were so many storylines involved that it was all I could do to focus on keeping up rather than how the characters were doing and how they felt. Emotional turmoil for me as a viewer seemed almost to be an afterthought.

But the characters are wonderful. The actors and actresses obviously had a great time showcasing this insane and exciting world again. When Jack Sparrow was talking to himselves, and commanding himselves, on The Black Pearl in Davy Jones’s Locker, it was hilarious. But there was something missing. Sparrow works much better when he has others as an audience and to interact with.

And Jack Sparrow actually comes into the movie really late. In the first two movies, Sparrow is on-screen almost at once, in scenes that absolutely mesmerize. Crewing a sinking dinghy, shooting his way out of a coffin floating in the ocean, those are what I was looking for when this movie opened. But when it did get to Sparrow, Depp rose to the task and had me in stitches all the same.

With regards to the sets, the Singapore scenes were heart-stoppers. The intricacies of the docks, the tunnels, the waterways, and the rooms were elegant escapism. If I were to ever get the chance to see a true pirate hideout, I’d be sorely disappointed if they didn’t look exactly like that. And Shipwreck Cove was the bomb. It was a visual treat that really worked.

As in the first two movies, the action sequences were top-notch. Over-the-top and filled with martial arts elegance somehow tempered with brute savagery, they stand out as confections for the connoisseur of adventure films. Jack Sparrow’s final duel with Davy Jones atop the halyards was just amazing, edge-of-your-seat excitement thoroughly and unashamedly mixed with humor.

Even the final twists worked and fit the characters. No one was totally left in places where I would have wanted them, but their endings all made sense. However, I still have to wonder what lay in Elizabeth’s future and what she was going to do with her life. And Jack seems divided between two goals that appear mutually exclusive of each other.

All in all, though, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End is an excellent movie. Fans will be somewhat happy, and properly expecting yet another in the franchise though none at present seem forthcoming. Those who haven’t seen the first two movies and are thinking about seeing this one to see what all the fuss is about are recommended to view the others first.

It be about pirates and magic, matie! What more could ye be a-wanting? Arrrrrrrr!

Run Between The Shadows!

In 1989, FASA Corporation, a Chicago-based game company, rolled out Shadowrun. It was a pen-and-paper role-playing-game (RPG) set in a dark future after magic and mystical races had returned to the world.

In this bold new world, magic existed with cyber-technology. Players could create and adventure with cyberware-augmented human or troll heroes (who had their skeletons enhanced with nano-bots or weapons built right into their bodies) or with magic-wielders elven, human, or other race capable of laying waste to people and building.

RPG gamers snapped up the new product and ran with it. Since that time, Shadowrun has constantly been a property sought out by gamers. They adventure through a dark world of treachery and betrayal, working for Mr. Johnsons (the name applied to anyone willing to pay them to run through the city to get information, things, or people. Players could sign up as bodyguards, transport specialists, or outright assassins.

Megacorps run the world, and the players can choose to affiliate with one of them or live off the grid and risk life and limb just to live to see another day.

The RPG was so popular that it spawned a video game for the SNES console as well as the Sega Mega Drive. There was also a CCG, collectible card games.

On May 29, 2007, Xbox 360 and Windows Vista release the latest Shadowrun game. Although initially conceived as being based on the Halo gaming platform, the game designers soon had to write their own engine to drive the game. Shadowrun features 16-multiplayer capability in a first-person shooter scenario.

As a first-person shooter, the player will be able to choose between two different megacorps to play. In addition to the individual gamer’s experience against the game, the designs aren’t his.

Not only that, but Shadowrun will be the first video game to allow crossover gameplaying of the PC and Xbox 360 over Xbox Live. Alterations were made in the PC controls (which some game players have already protested even before the game has been released) to put the console players on equal footing with the PC players. The PC functionality has been lessened to provide harder target acquisition and limited movement to imitate the console player’s handheld controller. The console player also has access to auto-aiming to compensate for the pinpoint accuracy the PC player enjoys.

Screenshots released from the game are beautiful and show the amount of work the designers and the artists have gone to in order to make a good game. Players will have fully rendered 3-D environments to combat each other.

The original Shadowrun game was pen and paper role-playing-game (RPG) that rose to an overnight cult following in 1989. FASA Corporation published the game from that period to 2001 when they closed their doors and sold the rights to WizKids, another company created by FASA’s owners/product designers Jordan Weisman.

The RPG was set in 2050 and the major conceits were that the world had changed from nations and being politically-driven to megacorporations and being profit-driven. Magic and magical creatures and races had also returned to the world. The players usually rolled up characters who became “shadowrunners.” They were called that because they ran between the shadows of the megacorps and off the grid. They were usually hired by “Mr. Johnsons” to steal data, corrupt computer systems, and kidnap employees.

Shadowrun the PC Vista and Xbox 360 game is set in Brazil in 2021 and is a prequel to the events that changed the world. In the RPG game, the VITAS plagues (Virally Induced Toxic Allergy Syndrome) and the Computer Crash of 2029 set those events in motion. The new game is going to backfill some of the history of the RPG and sharpen the definitions of the races involved in the Shadowrun world.

As a writer, I was involved with Shadowrun and ended up doing three novels based on the game. I had a great time with the books and invented my own team of shadowrunners headed up by Jack Skater. The team included a troll street samurai called Elvis. How can you not love this stuff!

Friday, May 25, 2007

The Doctor Is In...Stores, That Is, On August 14th!
Doctor Strange, Marvel Comics’ perennial Sorcerer Supreme, is getting a direct-to-DVD, direct-to-Blu-ray release on August 14, 2007. The movie is the last of the four movies Marvel Comics allowed to be based on their popular characters.

Doctor Strange was created in 1963 by Marvel Comics legend Stan Lee and Steve Ditko. Stan Lee literally gave birth to the Marvel Comics line in 1963 when he brought out The Fantastic Four, The Amazing Spider-Man, The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man, The Mighty Thor, Daredevil, and The X-Men.

Richly imagined by Steve Ditko, the worlds of Doctor Strange drew readers into mysterious and dangerous places filled with action and magic. He gave the world Baron Mordo, Dormammu, the Mindless Ones, Nightmare, and Mephisto. The weird dimensions Doctor Strange wandered through often felt like Dutch artist M. C. Escher, with stairways and roads that led to impossible places.

Doctor Strange started out as Doctor Stephen Vincent Strange, a gifted surgeon with a definite God complex and arrogant beyond belief. Then he ended up have a tragic car accident that left him permanently disabled and never able to perform surgery again.

Strange ended up homeless and alone. The good life he’d been living slipped right through his palsied fingers and he found himself living on the streets. But he pursued every opportunity he could think of to correct his physical disability. Nothing worked.

After exhausting conventional wisdom regarding healing himself, Strange journeyed to the Himalayas to find a cure that might be possessed by a man known only as the Ancient One. Instead of aiding him, though, the Ancient One offers to train Strange in the magical arts. Strange doesn’t want to be trained as a sorcerer, though. On his way out he discovers Baron Mordo plans to kill the Ancient One and take his magical secrets.

Strange can’t let the assassination plans go through and tries to stand against Mordo. But the evil Mordo binds Strange magically. Having no other choice, Strange agrees to be trained in the magical arts. The Ancient One reveals that he’s known of Mordo’s treachery and frees Strange. Then training begins and all the strange worlds, quests, and dangers pull Doctor Strange into them. Fans got to see how Strange used the All-Seeing Eye of Agamotto and the Cloak of Levitation that looked so distinctive the way Ditko drew it. Furthermore, they got to see him practice astral projection at a time when most people had not heard of that.

The 1963 run of comics began in an anthology comic called Strange Tales. The first story was in issue #110. As of #169, the comic got renamed after its lead hero, Dr. Strange. After the initial run was complete with #181, Dr. Strange languished in limbo for a few years before being resurrected in the pages of Marvel Premiere. In 1974, he got his own comic again, as well as his first #1 issue.

Since the end of that run in 1987, Dr. Strange has been in and out of comics in limited series and guest star spots. He’s one of the most unique characters ever turned out by Marvel Comics.

A television movie starring Peter Hooten was made in 1978. The success of The Incredible Hulk on CBS convinced television executives another superhero series could work. Unfortunately those producers created a pilot movie that Stan Lee disavowed as being too campy. The pilot never went anywhere.

Dr. Strange is one of the main characters in the video game, Marvel: Ultimate Alliance, and had been in previous Spider-Man games.

In 2006, Lions Gate Home Video began producing the four Marvel direct-to-DVD movies. The first two were Ultimate Avengers and Ultimate Avengers 2, followed early in 2007 by The Invincible Iron Man.

Marvel Comics has posted a website supporting the DVD movie that provides a trailer and information on Dr. Strange. (

According to the news releases, Dr. Strange is getting an upgrade and reinterpretation in the movie while honoring the roots of the character. Although Dr. Strange received martial arts training after he became an sorcerer in the comics, in the movie he learns it at the same time as he learns magic.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Buy This Book! Out On May 29th!

Jeff Mariotte has written several Buffy and Angel novels as well as the YA series, Season of the Witch. He's the current chronicler of the Vegas television spin-off novels. He's written comics (Check out his Desperadoes series) and been an editor for DC Comics and IDW.

Currently he's a full-time writer. The above book is his first foray into adult fiction that isn't tied to a licensed property. Jeff lives in the area where the book takes place. He loves noir fiction and movies, passions we share, and tells a great story.

If you're looking for a suspenseful read with a law enforcment background and a touch of the supernatural, please give this book a try. If you buy this book off my recommendation and don't like it, I'll swap you out: a signed edition of one of mine for Jeff's. And I promise, I'll find a good home for Jeff's!

From Amazon:

Bram Stoker Award-nominated author Jeffrey Mariotte delivers a novel of heartstopping horror. When a girl is kidnapped and her family murdered, Sheriff's Lieutenant Buck Shelton is drawn into a bloody supernatural showdown between good and evil-with an innocent girl.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Good Girl Art

I've been a fan of Good Girl Art since forever. One of my all-time favorites is Robert McGinnis, the artist whose work graced most of the mystery and private-eye Gold Medal books I read while growing up. Another was Greg Elvgren, who did many of the Good Girl Art Coke ads back in the day.

Elvgren is gone, but McGinnis is still working on the new Hardcase Crime books edited and published by Charles Ardai ( The books are a mix of old and new crime fiction.

The artist responsible for the above painting is Greg Orbik ( Here are a couple more he's done. (BTW, the cover is from the comic book series, American Century, by Howard Chaykin, who's a great artist himself.)

Fearless Jones And Paris Minton Are Back And In Trouble Up To Their Ears!

Fearless Jones and Paris Minton are back doing another off-the-books investigation that takes them down the dark alleys of 1956 Los Angeles. The city, especially the areas where Fearless and Paris live as well as the darkness their quest takes them through, is violent and filled with civil unrest.

I discovered Walter Mosley through his first Easy Rawlins novel, Devil In A Blue Dress, which was a lucky occurrence. The Rawlins series tends to be chronologically driven. The first novel is set in the late 1940s and is currently in the early 1960s. A lot has happened in Easy’s life during those years.

A few years ago, Mosley wanted to take a break from his popular series character and a chance to create a different kind of hero. Paris Minton and Fearless Jones actually come across as two halves of a whole. Fearless is a decorated World War II veteran in his mid-30s. He lives up to his name, totally fearless and good at heart. Paris is the true brains of the outfit, the part that is inventive, deceitful, and selfish—to a degree. Without Paris, Fearless would probably never get to the bottom of one of their investigations, but without Fearless Paris would never survive.

Fearless exists in the world doing tough-guy favors for people. Body-guarding and bounty-hunting are two of his primary pursuits, but always within the black community of 1956 Los Angeles. Paris runs a book store that he loves because it gives him the chance to read all the time.

They’ve appeared in two previous novels, Fearless Jones and Fear Itself. In all of their “cases” they actually pursue small crimes that play out big before the adventures are over.

In this book, Paris is haunted by family. His cousin Useless (Ulysses S. Grant IV) shows up at an inopportune moment and things go downhill quickly from there. Not long after Paris turns Useless from his door, Paris gets interrupted by his current girlfriend's current boyfriend. Paris flees for his life (his first rule of operation) and looks up Fearless for backup. But by the time they return to Paris's bookshop, there's a dead man lying there.

No sooner than Fearless and Parish have the body hidden away so no one will take the fall for murdering him than Paris's aunt Three Hearts arrives and begins threatening Paris. Since her evil eye is known to kill, Paris aims to please.

Their investigation is hampered by the fact that Useless is a chronic liar and a man not afraid of committing criminal behavior. His mother, Three Hearts, believes nothing but the best of her son. She’s also one of the book’s best characters: a gun-toting black woman totally unafraid of unloading on anyone stupid enough to take her on.

It doesn’t take Paris and Fearless long to realize that the dead man in Paris’s book shop and Useless’s disappearance are connected. They seek out the trail and start getting deeper and deeper into trouble. Fearless also has a recovery job he’s doing for one of the local bail bondsmen that occasionally gets in the way.

Fear of the Dark felt a lot like the other two books, but that's good. The investigation proceeds at a nice clip and the characters are always fun. Mosley also writes the Easy Rawlins mysteries. Of late, those have been set in the early 1960s. Easy is a married man and at least twenty years older than Paris and Fearless. Paris narrates, and his voice is at once young and aged, savvy and naive.

Mosley's pacing in this book will keep readers flipping pages late into the night. He seems more comfortable at this length than he has in previous novels. There's also more back story and a better view of California at the time in this one. His dialogue seems dead-on and so do his characters.

I’ve always had a good time with Mosley’s work. Up until now, I’ve always enjoyed the Easy Rawlins novels most, but with this latest entry Mosley has pulled the race to a dead heat. Easy has hard-hearted killer Mouse (Raymond Alexander) covering his back when he gets into dangerous waters, but Fearless Jones is truly heroic, a kind and gentle soul capable of great violence.

If you're new to Mosley's work, I'd recommend Devil In A Blue Dress first. The FEAR series can be read pretty much in what order you find them.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Rocky Balboa's Final Fight!

In Sylvester Stallone's latest and, potentially greatest, take on his seminal hero Rocky Balboa, the writer/director/actor scores big in the emotional clenches. These are the final moments of a great character so many people have come to know and love.

When I heard about the film getting green-lit with Sylvester Stallone in the starring role, I have to own up to some skepticism. I really didn't think Stallone could pull it off. I thought maybe he wouldn't have the chops physically or possibly be too emotionally close to the character and the lucrative franchise it became to take enough risks with the character.

Twenty minutes into the film, though, I was convinced that I was in for a comfortable, exciting, and emotional reunion and final meeting with a hero that's been in my life for thirty years. I saw Rocky when it came out. He and Burt Reynolds were the reasons I drove Trans Ams for ten years. Burt had Sally Field back then and jeans looked great on her, so maybe Burt had a little more influence.

Rocky's personal life has always been a series of tragedies. He was a bum from nowhere who got a shot in Rocky. He almost lost the woman of his dreams in Rocky II. He lost his trainer, Mickey, who was like a father to him in Rocky III. He lost one of his greatest friends, Apollo Creed, in Rocky IV. And in Rocky V, he lost everything and got kicked to the curb back in his old neighborhood while getting betrayed by a young boxer he was trying to help.

And in Rocky Balboa, he's lost Adrian. Knowing the character for as long as I did, I had to wonder what was left. His life appears comfortable, but it's empty. The tour he takes us on during those opening minutes of the film bear this out. His relationship with his son has gone south. More than anything, though, Rocky just doesn't know what to do with himself. When Adrian was alive, he could give up the fighting. He had her. Now he no longer has her and all he has is that restless drive to be inside a ring matched up against an opponent.

Stallone pays loving tribute to his character and graciously gives the fans a great story. It's not art. It's not always polished. What you've got here, folks, is myth, the stuff of good dreams. That's been enough for people since they first gathered around campfires to swap stories.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Total High Definition Experiene--Doesn't Help Story

PHONE BOOTH Blu-ray is packed the way HD movies should come. It's loaded with MPEG2@26MBPS video, which means that everything on the screen looks simply incredible. The colors are vibrant and the images are sharp and clear. At this point in time, picture quality really doesn't get any better. The audio portion of the disc was treated in the same fashion. The soundtrack as well as the special effects noises were crystal clear and come through a surround sound system gloriously.

Unfortunately, high-tech doesn't improve the movie. It's still a good watch with plenty of tension, but not enough of the story is given. Colin Farrell and Forest Whitaker are the only two given the chance to really act. An argument can be made for Kiefer Sutherland's voice-over work, but he was missing in action when it came to being on-stage.

Also, other than the commentary, there were no extras or behind-the-scenes pieces. But it's top of the line for people looking for the true experience of an HD disc for their home entertainment systems.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

No Character Development And Predictable But It Will Keep You Nailed To The Seat!

Everyone knows the story of the POSEIDON. This is only the third movie to bear the name and be based (loosely) on Paul Gallico's novel, THE POSEIDON Adventure. There was also a sequel to the original diaster film made by Irwin Allen that starred Ernest Borgnine and Shelly Winters and a ton of others that went on to be major stars.

This version offers Kurt Russell, Richard Dreyfuss, Emmy Rossum, Jacinda Barrett, Mike Vogel, Mia Maestro, Jimmy Bennett, and Andre Braugher. Unfortunately, it only features the actors and actresses in roles that you can understand at a glance. There are no real characters here, no sense of history.

What you do get is a knuckle-buster of an adrenaline-soaked movie. After POSEIDON was overturned by the rogue wave about eighteen minutes into the film, I didn't draw a breath till the final frames rolled through.

Was the plot predictable? Sure. Could I figure out who was going to live and who was going to die? I was right more times than I was wrong. POSEIDON was shot on 53 sound stages, some of them several stories tall. The special effects were amazing and the digital work is unsurpassed. The ship felt real even though it wasn't.

In this HD-DVD version, the video portions are beautiful and really show off the cinematography and sets. But the audio is where POSEIDON soars. Captured in Dolby TrueHD, one of the best lossless codec on the market today. A surround sound system totally enhances the viewing experience, and this is one of the movies you can show off your system on.

The viewing can be gut-wrenching and the intensity is definitely pumped up, so young viewers probably aren't a good idea. But for someone who's looking for a high-end action movie that doesn't slow down during a 90-minute presentation, POSEIDON is great entertainment.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Everybody's A Writer!

Man, everywhere you go people are jumping into the big children's market that's out there. Although I really think it's so big because adults have discovered kids' books are the bomb and are double-dipping by buying them for their kids and reading them themselves. I know I do. And I even buy books that Chandler will like "later, when he grows up a little." It's inexcusable really. I should just own up to the fact that I like kids' books.

Anyway, tonight I discovered one of my favorite actresses and her brother have penned what looks like the first the first book in a series.

The actress is Gina Gershon (, who has been in a ton of stuff. You'll probably recognize her from something. Or you can check her out at

I think she's totally hawt, but she also seems like someone you could sit down and talk to about stuff. And that she might actually have something to say.

About the book:

From Amazon: Einstein P. Fleet is shipped off to summer camp against his will for a summer of fun and fresh air. Stranded in the middle of the Mojave Desert, the eccentric boy soon discovers that the haunt is little more than an alien-run smuggling operation run by the counselors who are turning his fellow campers into monsters, with plans of selling them to an intergalactic zoo. Unable to convince anyone of the dire situation, it's up to Einstein to save the others and himself in the process.

I've got it ordered and will let you know what I think after Chandler and I read it.

But man! There's competition everywhere!

A White-Hot Bullet Right Between The Reader's Eyes!
Duane Swierczynski has, with the publication of The Blonde become one of the new next-gen crime writers I’m watching. He’s an editor-in-chief of a major Philadelphia newspaper, so his lean, muscular prose come to him naturally from a daily grind. The imagination is purely his, but it’s a new twist on a lot of the old noir-style books and movies that I love so much.

I never know what to expect from his characters. In The Blonde I wasn’t even sure who the good guys were until the final pages of the book were sorted out. It was a great ride, and I couldn’t stop turning pages once I’d started. I’d read the warnings on the book posted by other writers and reviews, but they really meant it.

His previous release from a mainstream publisher came in 2005. The Wheelman was a blistering read that kept you glued to the story in a merciless grip. See, Swiercynski has this take-no-prisoners mentality that just grabs the reader by the throat on page one, introduces a problem the protagonist has to handle just to survive, then turns the tables on him (and the reader!) before another 15 or 20 pages have gone by.

Reading the twists and turns of his plots is like constantly getting surprised by an opposing boxer’s hooks and jabs slipping right through your defenses. No matter how ready you think you are, you keep getting smashed and broken up, and get left wondering how it’s all going to shake out.

The Blonde has one of the best opening sequences I’ve seen in a long time. A woman in the Philly airport tells Jack Eisley, the main character, that she’s poisoned his drink and he’s going to be dead in eight hours. He blows her off, thinking she’s just weird. And the reader watches as Jack gives her the slip and walks away. Normally there would be something that would prevent him from doing that.

Not in Swierrcynski’s world. He finds a reason to make the protagonist give in and go back to the airport hoping to find the woman, Kelly White. Jack’s nausea and vomiting convinces him he has been poisoned, so he returns for the antidote. Only the woman fesses up to him and tells him she actually needs him because she’s infested with nanobots that will kill her if she’s left alone.

Okay, we’ve suddenly entered the Twilight Zone as our crime thriller goes into Michael Crichton overdrive.

Then we pick up the next main character. His name is Kowalski. He’s an operative for a super-secret government organization. A close reader will remember him from The Wheelman, and I thought it was great that Swierczynski rewards his fans like that. The author’s building quite a little violent family out in Philly. But he’s not afraid to kill them off, either. This is the same territory comics legend Frank Miller carved out for himself in Sin City.

Kowalski has been killing Mafia guys off the clock on his own time as revenge for the death of his girlfriend and their child. That plotline goes back to the previous novel, but it isn’t necessary to have read it first. It does add to things, though.

Now Kowalski’s been given a new assignment: Find a professor and bring back his head. Kowalski never even flinches at the prospect. It’s all business to him. But his business goes south in a hurry as events go awry.

Swierczynski’s characters are all interesting people, but I wouldn’t want to meet any of them. None of them care for much outside their own skins. But, man, they are an absolute blast to read about.

The Blonde is a white-hot bullet of a story that hits the reader right between the eyes. Taking place in less than nine hours, the story will leave you breathless with anxiety and brimming with anticipation of what’s going to happen next. It’s a race to the finish as Swierczynski wheels this high-octane, V-8 thriller for the checkered flag.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Charlie Bone Faces Danger Again!

Charlie Bone, whose life has never been easy, gets slammed with a whole new problem in Charlie Bone and the Castle of Mirrors. He’s entering his second year at Bloor’s Academy, the school for the specially endowed children of the Red King, who disappeared a thousand years ago.

All his familiar enemies are there, including the Bloors, the Yewbeam aunts, and Grandma Bone. Thankfully, Charlie still has all his friends, him mom, Grandma Maisie, Uncle Paton, and Miss Ingledew. In this novel, series readers get to find out new secrets that have been staring them right in the face, and get a peek as some potential new twists and enemies that Charlie is going to have to deal with in successive books.

Old Ezekial Bloor and Charlie's aunts, the Yewbeam sisters, have managed to resurrect a ghostly horse creature that they believe has the heart of an old, fierce warrior named Borlath. They indend to use the creature against Charlie and his other endowed friends at Bloor's Academy. However, something has gone drastically wrong. As it turns out, they’ve put the wrong heart in the creature and Manfred causes a mistake in the spell that will have dire consequences.

In the meantime, Charlie has to deal with a weird new teacher named Tauntalus Ebony and Manfred’s new position at the school as more or less a teacher role. Now Manfred doesn’t even need his endowed powers of hypnotism to make Charlie’s life terrible. He can just put Charlie in detention and take away his weekends.

Just as with the previous Charlie Bone books, author Jenny Nimmo keeps a lot of balls in the air. A lot of possibilities and threats dangle in front of the reader as they cruise through this tale. It seems as though disaster and defeat lurk around every corner.

Charlie is still looking for his father Lyle, whom everyone believe is dead but Charlie is certain is still alive. Poor Billy Raven still hasn't been adopted, but he gets adopted in this one--by the most evil people in the world. The bit about the Oaths and how they get free and are eventually dealt with is awesome. Nimmo’s imagination summons up some great action.

Charlie and Billy’s travel on the white horse, who turns out to be much more than anyone would guess, to the island containing the Castle of Mirrors is exciting. The whole history of the castle if fantastic, and this deep history is one of the things that Nimmo has come to excel at.

More of the Yewbeam family lineage is discovered, as well as what happened to many of the Red King's children. The things that bind Charlie and his friends, family ties as well as personal stakes, grow even stronger in this novel.

I read these books to my nine-year-old, who enjoys them immensely and takes the tests on the Accelerated Reader program at his school. I enjoy how easy they are to read aloud, and the degree of history that Nimmo has put in each of her novels, building on what has gone on before. The plots do tend to be somewhat repetitive, but they are Charlie Bone books. They tell a certain kind of story with certain elements that the young readers require.

The Charlie Bone books are great escapist fiction for the Harry Potter crowd while they're waiting on the final book in that series. And Charlie Bone hasn't quite progressed to the level of darkness that the Potter books have. Charlie Bone still guarantees excitement and laughs.

Ed Harris and Viggo Mortensen Are Going To "Star" In This One!
Yep, I said "star." They're going to be the two protagonists of the novel, Marshals Virgil Cole and Everett Hitch.
Robert B. Parker’s second Western novel, Appaloosa is being made into a movie starring Ed Harris and Viggo Mortensen. I’d previously passed Parker’s novel by, though I love his writing, because he’s Bostonian to the bone and I figured if I wanted to read Westerns (which I grew up on), I’d go back and pick up Louis L’Amour, Elmer Kelton, or the occasional Max Brand.

I read all of Parker’s Spenser novels, and every book in his Jesse Stone and Sunny Randall series, and even the recent YA novel he’s done, Edenville Owls. All of those are set in Boston or Massachusetts, which is Parker’s stomping grounds. I just didn’t want my favorite “Easterner” writer mixing it up with Westerns.

But with the movie coming out, I got curious. The book had been released in paperback, so I picked up that edition and tucked in. Before I knew it, like with every other Parker book I’ve ever read, the pages started flying by and I was having a great time.

The plot essentially boils down to the town tamer plot line. A ruthless rancher, Bragg, and his boys are shooting up the town of Appaloosa whenever they get the urge. In fact, when three of the hired hands kill a man and rape his wife, the local marshal goes out to Bragg’s ranch and gets gunned down in cold blood.

Virgil Cole and Everett Hitch have been taming towns for a long time. The city aldermen hire them to bring Bragg to heel. Cole agrees to the job, if they’ll allow him to write out the laws they need to pass, and the war begins.

Parker writes some of the best dialogue out there. It’s short, punchy, and says a lot in a few words. In a short time, Cole and Hitch put Bragg and his boys on notice and they discover really quick that the two new marshals don’t have any hesitation about killing anyone who goes up against them.

The action sequences at this point are great. The scenery and the sets are barely described, but I’ve seen so many Westerns that as soon as the bar’s batwing doors were mentioned, I had the rest of the saloon in mind. So it wouldn’t have mattered how much Parker tried to build the Western world he was writing in, I already had my view of it. He’s a skillful enough writer that I think he was banking on that and didn’t want to get in the way of his readers who love Westerns.

The plot takes a turn, for the worse in my opinion, with the introduction of Allie French. She says she’s married but that her husband ran off. Arriving in Appaloosa (though what she was planning on doing because she only had a dollar to her name) is anybody’s guess. Cole is smitten with her and sets her up playing piano at the hotel. Every long-time reader of Parker’s work feels the familiar groove drop into place. It’s not quite a death knell on the novel, but it sure took some of the wind out of the sails for me.

One of Parker’s most used (debatably over-used) themes is that of a good man loving a bad/weak woman. While juggling that theme with the war against Bragg, something does get lost. A little disinterest kicks in, as well as wariness.

However, readers not overly familiar with Parker’s work, may see this them as something new. Especially Western readers. And I’m pretty certain the movie crowd won’t have seen something this blatant.

But, since no one can move a story along the way Parker can, I kept my horse turned in the same direction as our heroes and galloped through to the end. I enjoyed the book a lot. Loved the dialogue and sarcasm. And I was glad I spent my free time with it.

I can’t wait for the movie to come out.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Old West Meets New West In A Brawl For It All!

One of the things I love about Max Allan Collins's period-piece mysteries and suspense novels is the authenticity. If you read something in a Collins book, outside of the fictional spin he adds to and puts on things, you can bet it really existed at that time. He also delves deeply into the backgrounds of his historical "characters" and provides a good biography of them.

When I read that BLACK HATS was going to offer a confrontation between an elderly Wyatt Earp and a young, wet-behind-the-ears Al Capone, I was excited. I conjured up images of alley showdowns with six-guns and Thompson submachine guns. We almost got that here.

The action was a little more downplayed that I would have wanted, but I was working off my own expectations. Collins stayed within the truth of what really happened in those days in 1920, with a little bit of what COULD have happened thrown in. Collins gave us a fictional son of Doc Holliday and painted the Prohibition backdrop both eloquently and faithfully. His other "characters" like Texas Guinan, Jack Dempsey, and Damon Runyon were great and added a lot of color to the story.

But it's Wyatt and Bat Masterson who really seize the spotlight. Their friendship comes across clearly and believably, and it was fun seeing them in action together. The plot was especially well done too. John Holliday had won a warehouse full of liquor in a poker game at a time when the rest of the city (and the state) were dry and having to import their liquor from Canada. It was a treasure trove on par with one of the acheological finds that would have sent Indiana Jones scampering for his fedora.

I was a little disappointed with the ending because it wasn't as BIG as I'd imagined. But it had neat little twists that made everything come together well. BLACK HATS is a fast, fun read with plenty of history, atmosphere, and trivia to keep armchair historians and thrill-seekers turning the pages.

How A Writer's Mind Works

So I was reading an article on shipwrecks for a novel I'm reasearching. Two words jumped out at me.

Skeletons Recovered

Well, my mind went to work conjuring up all kinds of twists. Naturally the article was about skeletons being recovered from a shipwreck. I also thought that maybe a forensic anthropologist or investigator might rebuild the body from its basic framework.

You know, standard stuff you'd think.

However, and this is where the writer's mind/twisted vision fires up, what if it meant that skeletons lacking flesh could get recovered? Recovered in what? And why would they get recovered? Witness Protection for bony rats that tell everything they know? Anorexia victims who get made over for the funeral?

What about if they're skeletons with a drinking or drug problem that their human body gave them? What if in the afterlife they kept trying to keep up the habit, but since they have no stomach or lungs, they're constantly jonesing?

What if skeletons could run away? I mean, they carry a hundred and more pounds of living, breathing flesh that is basically parasitic. Maybe they got resentful, peeled the body off them, and headed down to Mexico. (I've seen some shirts from Mexico that suggest skeletons down in Mexico get totally wild!) So there are these puddles of flesh sitting around in Barcoloungers putting out bounties on runaway skeletons so they can be returned to a slave's existence.

Okay, I know I'm really tired. Now I gotta get back to work and try not to get distracted. That's one of the pains of having ADHD. However, ADHD also pays the bills around here too.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

At Amazon

Joe R. Lansdale's New Mainstream Novel Is Out!

Joe R. Lansdale is a fantastic writer known for his rip-roaring East Texas noir, bizarre horror tales, and fiction that doesn’t comfortably fit on any niche known to publishing. He’s also an accomplished martial artist and operates a dojo in Nacogdoches, Texas. He's also been a good friend for years.

Lansdale has penned several novels and short stories, and garnered awards in multiple fields, including six Bram Stoker Awards in horror and the Edgar Award in mystery for his novel, The Bottoms. His on-going mystery series about Hap Collins and Leonard Pine, two blue collar amateur detectives, is a favorite on mystery shelves and with his fans.

Lately Lansdale has concentrated on movie projects and some of the strange fiction he’s known for. His short story, “Bubba Ho-Tep” was produced as a movie with the same name and featured an ageing Elvis Presley and invalided John F. Kennedy whose skin tone had been changed to a black man to protect him. Presley and Kennedy unite to track down an Egyptian monster on the loose in the senior citizen’s home where they live. Lansdale’s 1950s mystery, A Fine Dark Line will be coming to theaters soon.

In addition, Lansdale has written several comic books and cartoon episodes starring Batman and Superman. His two runs on perennial Western “hero” Jonah Hex were nominated for awards and can be found in the graphic novels, Two-Gun Mojo, Riders of the Worm and Such, and Shadows West.

This year, Lansdale returned to mainstream fiction with Lost Echoes. The plot revolves around Harry Wilkes, who develops the disconcerting ability of “hearing” trapped sounds that carry full-blown and bloody images of murders, rapes, vicious beatings, and traffic accidents.

As a child, Harry suffered an ear infection that almost rendered him deaf. When the infection finally cleared up, he started hearing the noises that rocket him back in time to the various violent episodes he experiences. This section is actually a little quiet and tame for a Lansdale novel, but it builds up Harry’s character and makes him real to the readers.

During this time Harry becomes friends with Kayla and forges a relationship that will come back to, literally, haunt him. Kayla’s dad, a policeman, supposedly committed suicide and she’s never been able to accept that.

Kayla and Harry get separated while they’re kids. In the meantime, Harry grows up and starts college. He also starts drinking to dull the psychic impressions that he receives everywhere he goes. Harry learns to keep his life small so he doesn’t have these unexpected, unpleasant, and unnerving surprises. He lives in a house where he’s covered the walls with egg cartons to soundproof it as much as he can. He’s made a map of the city that allows him to avoid streets with traffic accidents and buildings with murders or violence trapped within them.

Lansdale excels at writing the common person, sharing that trait with Stephen King. Both of them can take the ordinary and make it terrifying, unusual, and still keep it firmly rooted in the familiar. Harry and Kayla are perfectly understandable throughout the novel. They’re people that most readers have gotten to know. Except for the whole psychic thing.

The book takes a casual approach to the story until Harry meets, Tad Peters. Tad is old enough to be Harry’s father and eventually takes on that role. Like Harry, Tad has also become an alcoholic. Tad is racked with grief and guilt over the death of his wife and son. After watching Tad nearly get rolled outside a bar and seeing the man take out three would-be robbers, Harry gets fascinated by martial arts.

While taking Tad home, Harry learns more about the man and his misery. The kindred souls are drawn together and soon decide to try to stay away from the alcohol.

It the scenes like these, where two people are talking and getting to know each other, where they’re finding out their commonalities, that Lansdale’s gifts as a writer really stand out. Lansdale knows people and likes them. Watching Tad and Harry work through their reluctance to take on a friend is great stuff. The dialogue totally rocks. Lansdale also throws in some martial arts philosophy along the way.

Watching them get cleaned up and resist temptation is good. The dialogue crackles and the pages almost turn themselves. Harry finally tells Tad about his “problem” and, even though Tad finds it hard to believe at first, Tad helps him try to find an explanation for it.

But it’s when Kayla Jones reappears in Harry’s life that things get really complicated and the plot’s testosterone level jets into the stratosphere. Kayla has gone on to become a police officer, following in her father’s footsteps. Her father may not have been a good men, but he was her daddy and she loved him and doesn’t want people to continue to think he committed suicide.

She asks Harry to use his gift to investigate her father’s death. She was the one who found him hanging from a garage rafter and dressed in women’s underwear. (Lansdale loves going for the bizarre and twisted.) Harry is reluctant at first, but knows he can’t refuse Kayla. After a failed romantic interlude, Harry discovers that his feelings for Kayla have never gone away, and hers for him haven’t either.

Lansdale’s writing excels during these very human parts. The dialogue moves the story smoothly along. It’s easy to imagine the scenes playing out in a television show or movie. Not only that, but the twisted sense of humor Lansdale brings to his characters makes them charming and sometimes offensive at the same time. The dinner conversation between Tad and Harry’s leech of a friend, Joey, is absolutely hilarious. Yet, once you meet Lansdale you realize that this is exactly how he would handle a similar situation.

The cat-and-mouse chase that propels the last third of the novel is great. The suspense builds with each passing scene, and there are enough twists and turns to keep seasoned readers with the story way past bedtime.

If you haven’t read Lansdale before, I’d recommend any of the Hap and Leonard novels, preferably starting at the beginning with Savage Season, or the stand-alones, Cold In July, The Bottoms, or A Fine Dark Line to get a taste of his take on mystery/suspense. One of my favorite novels he ever wrote is The Magic Wagon, which is something of a weird western/horror pulp with some real irony and soul-searching.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

New Fantasy Trilogy Based On Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

When I first heard about the book, I was curious but leery. The idea of a new take on Wonderland was intriguing, but I was left wondering what an author could really do with it. Apparently a lot, but I was left asking why it was necessary. But I picked it up anyway.

Frank Beddor, the author, has a vivid imagination, but everything he does truly springs out of Lewis Carroll's novel. He has some amusing twists and capricious renderings of characters, events, and hardware in Wonderland, but ultimately I was disappointed with this one. There just really wasn't enough of a difference, and the differences that were there flew in the face of everything I loved about the book.

The idea of an adult Alyss (see, Carroll gave us the incorrect spelling after schoolteachers forced Alyss to change her name to Alice) going back to Wonderland to lead a revolt against Queen Redd was interesting, but just didn't really come to life. Beddor's world-building seems good, and his pacing is excellent, but I would have liked to read something wholly original by him. He's a good writer, but being enamored of Wonderland doesn't do him justice in some ways.

The book is readable, and if you're truly curious I'd suggest waiting for the paperback. has already slated the book for a deep discount ($5.49 for the hardcover, which is cheaper than most paperbacks, as of this writing), so that might work out for you too. I'd be interested in hearing any comments other readers might have on the book.

And I'll be looking for Beddor's first original work. Although that might be a ways off given the fact that there's a movie, an RPG game, comics, and other avenue in the works on this one.

Iron Man Costume Revealed!

I've seen this in a few places now and am getting really excited about the movie coming out next year.

However, I also got a copy of one of the scripts and don't know how it's going to play out. The computer animated stuff should be a blast and there are plenty of action parts, but we'll have to see if they pull the character off right.

I also have a lot of faith in Robert Downey, Jr. as an actor. If anyone can do this, he's the guy.