Wednesday, August 30, 2017

The Citadel At The Center Of Time

The Citadel At The Center Of Time
Written by Roy Thomas, art by John Buscema and Alfredo Alcala
from Conan Saga issue 15 (July 1988)

This story first was printed in Savage Sword of Conan issue 7 (August 1975) before Marvel recycled it for a reprinting in Conan Saga thirteen years later.

As with most of Alcala's work on SSoC, the breakdowns / layouts were done by Buscema. But for all practical purposes the artwork is Alcala's. 

And it's amazing artwork, too. This tale features a sabretooth tiger, manimals, a T. rex, and exotic cities. As well as scantily clad dancing girls, ever a staple of SSoC..........

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Book Review: The Sky Lords

Book Review: 'The Sky Lords' by John Brosnan

3 / 5 Stars

‘The Sky Lords’ (318 pp) first was published in the UK in 1988 by Gollancz; this US hardbound edition was published by St. Martin’s Press in 1991. The artist who painted the striking cover illustration is not disclosed.

John Raymond Brosnan (1947 –2005) was an Australian-born writer who lived in the UK for most of his life. He used the pseudonyms of Simon Ian Childer, James Blackstone, Harry Adam Knight, and John Raymond for his fiction work, most of which was centered in the sf and horror genres. Under his own name, Brosnan published several books on film and cinema.

The Sky Lords (1988) is the first volume in the eponymous trilogy; subsequent volumes are The War of the Sky Lords (1989) and The Fall of the Sky Lords (1991). While all three titles were published in hardback in the US, as best as I can tell they never made it to a paperback release.

Centuries after the Gene Wars destroyed civilization, large tracts of the earth are covered in jungles of mutant plant life – the ‘Blight’ – infested with all manner of monsters. Humanity perseveres in the form of small cities and outposts whose walls, and inhabitants armed with fire, swords, and arrows, keep the Blight at bay.

Life is bad enough in terms of coping with the depredations of the Blight, but these few cities are in hated serfdom to the Sky Lords, the rulers of the planet. Cruising the skies in mile-long airships built centuries previously, the Sky Lords exact tribute from the ground-dwellers, promising swift and merciless retribution to any city that dares defy them.

In the Amazonian city of Minerva, the obligations to the Sky Lords have left its citizens increasingly undernourished and threatened with extinction by the pressing Blight. Melissa, governess of the city, has a plan: launch a surprise attack against the Lord Pangloth airship. If the Sky Lord can be destroyed, then Minerva and its populace will be free from domination.

Melissa’s daughter, Jan Dorvin, knows nothing of life outside the boundaries of her city. But she supports her monther’s fateful decision……..a decision that will force Jan to struggle for survival in a world where mutants, ruthless Samurai, homicidal robots, and computer intelligences must be confronted ……and overcome……….

The back cover blurbs describe ‘The Sky Lords’ as ‘fast-moving’ with ‘action, ideas, vertigo’, and the narrative certainly does move along. But the author’s habit of regularly introducing all manner of sf tropes and themes, as well as more than a few plot contrivances, starts to wear thin in the middle sections of the novel. 

It’s not unusual for concepts such as interplanetary space ship travel, flying bug-men, humans with bioengineered enhancements, decadent aristocrats, undersea cities, and globe-devastating plagues all to be thrown into the mix, more to keep the narrative chugging along, then as well though-out additions to the backstory.

In fairness to ‘The Sky Lords’, the final chapters are more balanced, and - without disclosing spoilers - I will say that the novel ends on an engaging note, so much so that I was willing to move to the next volume in the series.

Without having completed the trilogy, it would be unfair to give a final verdict on 'The Sky Lords'. But I will say that while it may not be worth searching out, if you happen to see it on the shelves of your used bookstore, it's worth picking up.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Brian Aldiss 1925 - 2017

Brian Aldiss dies at age 92
18 August 1925 - 19 August 2017

Aldiss in 2007

An obituary at the Guardian is available here.

Aldiss could be a hit-or-miss kind of author. His 1962 / 1976 novel Hothouse remains one of the best of his longer works, and one of his best shorter pieces was the 1964 proto-Steampunk novella The Saliva Tree.

On the other hand, his novel Helliconia Spring was so lumbering and badly composed that I didn't attempt to read the other two novels in the trilogy. 

As with any author with so large an output, there was inevitably some lesser quality material being disbursed along with the better stuff. But Aldiss does stand as one of the more visible, and commercially successful, authors of the New Wave movement.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Horrible Harvey's House

Horrible Harvey's House
by Richard Corben
from Skull Comics No. 3, 1971