A Murder of Manatees by Larry Correia – A Science Fiction Book Review

As noted earlier, Larry Correia has published a second installment of his Tom Stranger stories (A Murder of Manatees: The Further Adventures of Tom Stranger, Interdimensional Insurance Agent[Audiobook] By: Larry Correia, Adam Baldwin, Audible Studios Sold By: Audible).

I have to admit.  This is a guilty pleasure.  The stories, such as they are, border on the ridiculous.  The plot is just an excuse to allow Tom Stranger and his friends and enemies to interact in an adventure that resembles science fiction in the same way that the old 1960s Batman tv series resembles Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight movies.

But I don’t care.  It’s fun.  Correia fills his little two-hour audiobook with good natured jabs at himself, modern politics, culture and the conventions of pulp science fiction.  There’s never any doubt that Tom and his associates will provide quality, excellent customer service and that the bad guys will get their comeuppance.

And we can also be assured that Adam Baldwin will continue to find ways of voice portraying whatever ridiculous characters Larry invents, no matter whether it’s a bubble gum snapping android from the Jersey Shore or a hard-tweeting U.S. President on the battle field of the Mar-a-Lago golf course.  Having only previously known Adam Baldwin’s acting skills from Full Metal Jacket, Firefly and Chuck I wasn’t prepared for his wonderfully hammy touch to this kind of goofy material.  He absolutely makes the most of the story and its characters.

I just finished it today and I enjoyed every silly second of it.  Bravo Larry and bravo Adam.  I only wish there were more.  And what I really wish is that Hollywood would wake up and make the Monster Hunter saga into a movie series (either tv or big screen).  And I think Adam Baldwin would be a natural as Agent Franks.

But that’s a rant for another day.  Meanwhile if you like goofy tongue in cheek pulp sci-fi or you’re a fan of Larry Correia or Adam Baldwin then I highly recommend A Murder of Manatees.  You could think of plenty of worse ways to spend two hours.

For Any Fans of Larry Correia’s Tom Stranger Audibook He’s Come Out With Another.

Adam Baldwin (Firefly’s Jane Cobb and Chuck’s Colonel John Casey) narrates the continuing adventures of Tom Stranger, the most service oriented interdimensional insurance agent you’ll ever meet.   I’m a fan of Larry’s Monster Hunter series and I always like stuff that has Adam Baldwin in it.  And the fact that he’s right-wing guy doesn’t hurt either.

I haven’t listened this one yet but the first one was very entertaining, very funny.  And Adam does a very good job covering all the voices.  Of course I’d prefer if Baldwin could be playing one of Larry’s Monster Hunter characters (Agent Franks?) in a movie version.  But I’ll take what I can get.

So I don’t know if this second one would benefit from listening to the first one, first.  So I recommend getting them in order.

Tom Stranger 2: A Murder of Manatees AVAILABLE NOW!

Vox Day’s Alt-Hero Gambit

Vox Day is an intriguing figure.  He is literally putting his money where his mouth is.  His right-wing entrepreneurial activities include (among other things) commercial endeavors in book publishing, video games and now comic books.  In just a few years he has impacted the cloistered and SJW infested world of the Hugo awards and spread the gospel of confronting social justice thugs with his books on SJWs.

His latest venture is the comic book kickstarter that garnered a quarter of a million dollars and has allowed him to hire some of the best talent from the pre-SJW converged past of DC Comics. (Chuck Dixon, the creator of Bane and Frank Fosco, a talented artist who has worked for DC and Marvel).  The effort will involve several separate imprints.  One imprint is called Alt-Hero and is explicitly aimed at combatting the politically correct conventions of modern SJW converged Marvel Comics with in-your-face right-wing heroes.  In addition, there is an imprint called Avalon which will be an entirely original work of Chuck Dixon chronicling the super heroes in his imagined city Avalon.  Dixon has said that Vox has given him free rein to create the Avalon universe according to his own creative vision.  And that is why I am very excited about this venture.

As I have stated previously, I’m in no way, shape or form a comic book enthusiast.  But I recognize how employing talented creators to work without the disabling effects of politically motivated orthodoxies has the potential of attracting the customers who have walked away from comics because of these very problems.  That is exactly what needs to be tried.  If it succeeds even on a limited basis it can act as a template for other areas of the culture that are currently strangulating under leftist control.  Vox’s Castalia House publishing business produces fiction and non-fiction that is unaffected by politically correct ideology.  I’ve enjoyed a number of these books.  And even though I don’t follow comics I did enjoy the Bane character in the third Batman movie (Dark Knight Rising).  He was wonderfully evil and an amazing agent of chaos.  I have to assume that Mr. Dixon has some amusing things to share in this Avalon story line so I intend to try it out when it becomes available.

My larger point is that Vox is demonstrating what needs to be done.  Look at the niches the converged industries provide for a right-wing alternative and give it a try.  The internet is the great leveler of all things entrepreneurial.  If you can imagine a thing that has a market you can market it there.  I’ll add Alt-Hero and Avalon to my list of Right-Wing Businesses.

Vox is an enormously polarizing figure.  But he is a trailblazer for anyone on the right who wants to be part of the solution to the vacuum that is all that’s left of right-wing cultural institutions.  Don’t like left wing news, then blog.  Don’t like the left-wing NYT Best Seller’s List, then patronize right wing publishers and authors.  Don’t want your kids to have to read about or go see a movie about gay Spiderman or transsexual Thor, then maybe buy a few of Vox’s comics for them instead.  To be consistent, I guess I’ll have to put my money where my mouth is.  Comic books?  Who woulda thunk it?

Legionnaire (Galaxy’s Edge) (Volume 1) by Jason Anspach & Nick Cole – A Science Fiction Book Review

I read one of Nick Cole’s earlier books (CTRL ALT Revolt!) last year and liked it.  So, when I heard he was involved in a mil-sf series I figured I’d check it out.  It turns out it’s a dual authorship arrangement with Jason Anspach.  I ordered it (I like to read books on paper) and read it last week.

I like well-written mil-sf.  This is well-written.  The story chronicles an elite military unit involved in a supposedly routine diplomatic mission that devolves into a catastrophe.  It melds the feel of modern American military in the middle east (ala Black Hawk Down) with lineage going back to Rudyard Kipling’s India stories and translates it into a futuristic landscape of alien creatures, energy weapons and space cruisers.  But the technology is definitely beside the point.  The story is the camaraderie of men attempting to complete their mission and keep each other alive in an environment where bureaucratic amateur officers are just as dangerous as the enemy.

The protagonist (first person narrative for the most part) is an NCO in the “Legion.”  Through his eyes we see his comrades display various strengths and weaknesses and we observe the “regular army” that are combined with the legionnaires on this mission attempting to adapt to a combat role they are unprepared for.  And we observe non-combatants and the alien inhabitants of this planet at the “galaxy’s edge.”

If you like military science fiction you’ll probably like this book.  If you even just like war stories you might like this book.  It is volume one of a series but this book is sort of a stand-alone story.  The series chronicles the saga of the Galactic Republic through the eyes of the Legion as an elite force cleaning up the messes being perpetrated by an increasingly autocratic state over its subject worlds at the periphery of the galaxy.  Basically, it sounds like the Roman Republic devolving into the Roman Empire.  Or is it the American Republic?

As you can probably guess from my comparison with Black Hawk Down, it’s not a happily ever after kind of tale.  It’s a down beat story but if you like mil-sf then that’s probably no surprise.  If not be warned.

So, here’s my opinion.  This is a good stand-alone story.  The story develops and the action and the sub-plots unfold in natural way.  The characters are interesting and have enough development to allow you to cheer and boo the appropriate actors.  I can definitely recommend it.  For me the question is do I go forward with a longer series?  From what I understand the individual books are separated in time.  They document the history of this galactic civilization.  Implicitly this means none of the characters will carry over to the next book.  Can the authors generate enough new people to populate the series?  I think I’ll try the next book in the series and see how that works out.  I’ll report back on the next installment when I do.

Vox Day’s SJWs Always Double Down – A Book Review

If you’ve never heard of Vox Day then most probably you haven’t been following science fiction and fantasy over the last few years.  This is probably highlighted from the caption at the top of the cover of this book that quotes the Wall Street Journal as saying about Vox that he is, “The Most Despised Man in Science Fiction.”  And on one side of a partisan divide that is completely true.  But on the other side of that line he is a folk hero or maybe folk-devil.

For those who do not know him suffice it to say that he has been very active in the various campaigns by the alt-right (or some subset of it) against the forces of the SJW converged establishment.  He has been active in the campaigns against SJWs in Gamer-Gate, Puppy-Gate, Trump’s Election and lately in his launching of Alt-Hero to counter the SJW convergence of comic books.  He’s also an editor of his publishing company Castalia House.

In addition to his science fiction and fantasy books Vox has written several books on the culture wars.  To my mind the two most interesting are his “SJWs Always …..” books.  Let me clarify.  His first of these was the ground-breaking “SJWs Always Lie.”  Now he has added “SJWs Always Double Down.”  These titles are drawn from Vox’s “Three Laws of SJWs”

  1. SJWs Always Lie
  2. SJWs Always Double Down
  3. SJWs Always Project

The laws succinctly describe the behaviors to expect from SJWs.  The books are manuals on how SJWs behave and how you should and shouldn’t react to them.  I called the first one ground breaking and that’s no exaggeration.  They reveal the direction and progression of SJW encroachment and attack on normal people and normal institutions.  It was lavishly filled with examples that Vox drew from his own experiences and from things ripped from the headlines.  It was grim but valuable information.

With the publication of the second book, “SJWs Always Double Down,” Vox continues the lessons.  Once again, he illustrates his points with anecdotes from his experience and the real world.  And he brings us up to date on the latest events in the Gamer-Gate, Puppy Gate, Milo’s tour, the Trump Election saga and now the comic book wars.

For some one who has been involved in some of these events (albeit much more peripherally and much less actively than someone like Vox) I find his insights and background information pretty interesting stuff.  But just as with the first book, the more important aspect of the book is as a practical handbook of what to expect from SJW encroachment on every aspect of modern life.  Raising awareness of these problems and giving you practical advice and examples of successful tactics is literally priceless.

There may be some parts of this book that you won’t be interested in.  For instance, if you do not intend to debate SJWs you may be completely uninterested in the Aristotelian categories of rhetoric and their application in debate.  But if you are interested in keeping your job then the information on SJW tactics in the work place will be very interesting.

Full disclosure, Vox is on the far right in his politics and beliefs.  His beliefs may be completely incompatible with your own.  If that means you cannot read his book then that’s that.  But honestly, just because I’m much more of a moderate than Vox Day, I still recognize the validity of the observations he makes about SJWs and many other aspects of today’s various cultural crises.  His early recognition of Donald Trump’s viability as a candidate and his amazing abilities as a practical politician indicate that Vox is astute.  I believe you ignore his information to your own detriment.

And dammit some of his jokes are comedy gold.  Anyone who can see his insertion(!) of “Space Raptor Butt Invasion” into the Hugo Awards as a nomination for Best Short Story and not laugh out loud has a heart of stone.

I say that Vox’s SJW books are a national treasure for all on the right.  Highly, highly recommended.

Greg Bear’s Hardfought – A Science Fiction Book Review

Hat tip to Tom (one of our most active site denizens) for recommending this story.  I knew of Greg Bear but when he was most popular my reading habit was curtailed due to SYFMS (struggling young family man syndrome).  After reading Hardfought I’m looking forward to reading some more of Mr. Bear’s stuff.

Hardfought has a pretty complex structure and several important plot elements are intentionally obscured.  This makes the beginning of the story confusing.  But hang in there.  It builds to a good effect.  Because of the structure of the story I can’t go into much detail of the plot without spoiling it.  Suffice it to say that this is a very interesting take on human-alien war.  I liked the way Bear uses the details of stellar evolution (lack of heavier elements in first generation star populations) to define the contrast between the human and alien characteristics.  The human characters appear strange to the reader.  Their environment and social structures are very unusual and so it takes a little bit of plot revelation to start to put their behaviors into context.  The alien protagonist’s behavior and motivation are intentionally inhuman but his interactions with his own species and with humans highlights several traits that make him useful to the resolution of the story.

The story is a meditation on the consequences of total war or war to extermination.  I think it is asking whether survival at any cost actually is surviving.  If what is left of you at the end is unrecognizable did you actually survive?  And I don’t think Bear is answering the question.  He is just illustrating the end of the trajectory.  It is obvious to the reader what has been lost but everyone gets to decide if the price is too high.

A very interesting read.  I’ll have to look through Bear’s other stuff and see what else I should try.  Thanks again Tom.

Hat Tip to Vox Day –  Build Your Own Platforms

Vox Day has a very good post that links to a very, very interesting series of articles on Breitbart

Vox is, as most of you probably know, an incredibly polarizing figure on the cultural front.  His public face is intentionally as antagonistic and “triggering” to the lefties as it can be.  He has staked out a position that thrives on conflict with the left.  And he is pointing the direction for a Reconquista of the cultural institutions.  To that end he has begun some commercial ventures that take advantage of the space that the left has produced by restricting what kind of books, video games and comic books are “allowable.”  His Castalia House publications produces mainstream fiction and some non-fiction that could never be published in the current left-wing publishing establishment.  In the last week or so, he has begun a kickstarter campaign to fund comic books that feature some very well-known comic book authors and artists who have been gray-listed by Marvel and DC for not being sufficiently trans-friendly or for actually having fun in their comics.  I read that he has already topped $200,000 in funding so I can only imagine that a beginning is being made toward a commercial product.  Excellent.  Even though I’m not much of a comic book guy, I could see buying a graphic novel or two if the product was interesting enough.  Kudos to Vox for making it happen.  If you are a comicophile (made up word!) then keep an eye out for his Alt★Hero comics.  But even if comic books don’t happen to be your thing, you can only admire someone who is doing something to reverse the scourge of leftist encroachment into all aspects of life.

Bravo Vox.  Bravo Breitbart.

Whispers from The Abyss – An Anthology of H. P. Lovecraft Inspired Short Stories –  Edited by Kat Rocha – A Horror Book Review – Part 3 – Conclusion

Whispers from The Abyss – Part 2

 

So, I’ll sum it all up.

Are you an H. P. Lovecraft fan?  Then for you, “Whispers from the Abyss” is a no-brainer.  It’s a cornucopia of Lovecraftian themes and inhuman doom.  You are bound to enjoy the majority of the stories and probably find some writers whose work you’ll want to check out.  And for those of you who buy books made of paper instead of electrons, I’ll say that the paperback book was a high-quality item with very nice cover art and excellent readability.

For you Lovecraft agnostics it’s a judgement call.  There is a mixture of styles and as a fellow agnostic I was happy to find a few stories that I thought were very good.  And there were a number that didn’t work for me.  And that make sense.  Without the Lovecraft bias the authors are fighting an uphill battle to get my sympathy.  And I would say there is a generational thing going on.  Any time the author includes even the smallest left-wing jibe, whether it’s an anti-religion or anti-male remark it jars me right out of the story.  So, I’m probably not the target audience for several of these stories.  So that needs to be taken into consideration if you have similar inhibitions.  But if not then you’ll probably be fine with the material in all these tales.

I’ll close by saying if you’re a horror fan and especially if you’re a Lovecraft fan I think you’ll enjoy this book.

Whispers from The Abyss – An Anthology of H. P. Lovecraft Inspired Short Stories –  Edited by Kat Rocha – A Horror Book Review – Part 2

Whispers from The Abyss – Part 1

Taking up where I left off, I’ll discuss some of the longer works in the anthology.  I arbitrarily divided the works as those eight or more pages long and those shorter.  First up, “Secrets in Storage” by Tim Pratt and Greg Van Eekhout.  It’s a straightforward tale of a man who looks in a mysterious box.  The set-up is up to the minute Americana.  A man spends his whole nest egg on the contents of a storage locker.  He goes with a hunch and of course exhibits more guts than brains when he reacts to an impossible scenario by literally climbing into the paradox.  I like the ending.  It reminds me of the ending of Heinlein’s “The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag.  Only instead of no mirrors, no boxes or pools.  It’s a refreshing change of pace.

Next is “The Substance in the Sound” by W. B. Stickel.”  This is also a simple tale but well told and the details of the characters and the harbor environment is interesting.  The tie-in to the mythos is not the conventional one and allows some added surprise.  As a New England resident it’s always interesting when the stories return to Lovecraft’s old stomping grounds.

My favorite long story is The Jar of Aten-Hor. By Kat Rocha.  It is a story linking back to the Egyptian religious customs surrounding death.  The description of the funerary artifact around which the story revolves is very vividly described. As with some of Lovecraft’s best imagery it calls out for a visual representation.  But the description is detailed enough to bring it to the mind’s eye.  The protagonist at each turn is provided an avenue of escape and each time she believes that she is deciding her own fate but by the end of the story it is evident that she was the one being manipulated.  Although Egypt wasn’t the most frequent focus of Lovecraft’s mythic sources he did borrow from it for some of his Old Ones names.  I remember reading a description of the pyramids that Lovecraft wrote for some event of Harry Houdini’s.  It was entitled “Under the Pyramids.”  It was one of the better things Lovecraft ever wrote.  It’s nice to see a story that links Lovecraft back to a rich source of highly relevant mythic material.  The inexplicable changing images on the jar provide the link to show the change going on in the protagonist.  Her fascination with the jar grows past a professional interest until finally it becomes an obsession.  The story is well crafted and full of interesting details.  If only Lovecraft himself had been as careful with his writing.  Then I wouldn’t have to make so much fun of him.

In my final post I’ll sum up my thoughts on Whispers from the Abyss and I’ll even throw in some more abuse of Lovecraft at no extra charge.

Whispers from The Abyss – An Anthology of H. P. Lovecraft Inspired Short Stories –  Edited by Kat Rocha – A Horror Book Review – Part 1

 

Anyone with a comprehensive knowledge of this blog knows that I have a love/hate relationship with the works of H. P. Lovecraft.

Why No Love for the Craft of Howard Phillips? – Part 1- The Whisperer in the Darkness

Space Opera (High and Low)

On the one hand, some of his stories are, in my opinion, terribly written.  The action and narration are painful to read and sometimes seem like parody.  On the other hand, some of the images he presents possess the potency of an archetypal nightmare.  I feel that he had an extremely powerful imagination but for whatever reason lacked or neglected to use the writing techniques needed for good story-telling.  For this reason, I continue to circle around Lovecraft’s works.  Aggravated by the reality but fascinated by the potential.

So, I just finished the stories in this anthology.  I read them over the course of yesterday and today.  That’s twenty-eight stories inspired by the writings of Lovecraft.  By any protocol currently in place that is dangerously north of the recommended median safe dosage.  And what I found is consistent with both what I know about Lovecraft and what I know about anthologies.  Let’s look at the categories.

Case 1:  Assume you are a rabid Lovecraft fanatic.  Then by definition you’ll love this anthology.  It’s chock full of Lovecraftian bug juice.  You’re not gonna find a stronger dose of the real thing.  But even you, the grand master of the Lovecraft Day Parade will enjoy certain stories more than others.  Stands to reason.  Because even though the stories have the main attraction it’s there in different dosages and also it is flavored with the other ingredients.  Suppose you are a rabid right wing Lovecraftian and you hit upon a story that includes some feminist story elements or sentiments.  Then that would decrease your enjoyment.  Or suppose you’re a Cthulhu Mythos purist and a story contains some element that you see as heretical, say humor or some science that disagrees with your vision of the saga.  This also would be a negative.

Case 2:  You’re a Lovecraft agnostic.  You don’t hate or love him.  Then each story is taken on its merits.  And so, even more powerfully than in Case 1 your own spectrum of preferences come into play and by definition you will have a much lower average score for each story since it won’t start out on the Lovecraftian plateau.

Case 3:  You despise Lovecraft.  Well, in that case you’d have to be reading this collection out of some kind of masochistic impulse.  Because even if the story characteristics agreed with your other requirements for good fiction, the Lovecraftian elements would be a constant irritant.  Chances are a much smaller subset would be acceptable.  These would be stories that have all the other personal qualifications going for them to offset the anti-Lovecraft bias.

As previously stated, I fall into the second category.  The story will work or not based on how well the elements resonate with my tastes.  And since I’m an old geezer brought up in the paleolithic era I respond well to regressive, patriarchal, hetero-cis-normative, Europhilic, western pro-American themes extremely well.  All other influences lower the enjoyment quotient to some degree.  By definition, anything written after 1957 is going to suffer from a certain deviation from this baseline point of view.  End of truth in advertising disclaimer.

So let’s get started.  The story that best represents the nightmare quality that I think is the most powerful part of the Lovecraft experience is also one of the shortest pieces in the anthology.  I’ve always thought that parents’ emotional bond to their children is the strongest point of attack for horror writers.  In his story “When We Change,” Mason Ian Bundschuh identifies what can be truly horrific about humans being forced into a meat grinder.  Forcing people to make unthinkable choices is the very essence of tragedy and horror.

Interestingly, another of my favorites is a parody, a Lovecraftian farce.  James Brogden’s “The Decorative Water Feature of Nameless Dread” was very good.  It falls into the British tradition of Wodehouse, Fawlty Towers, The Office and anything else that juxtaposes the English desire for propriety and normalcy against the actual absurdity of real life. I definitely was smiling during my read of this story.  It aligns very nicely with my own sense of humor.

In the next installment of this article I’ll give my ideas on some of the larger stories.