THE WAR GOD BY FREDERICK E. SMITH

Standard

Copyright 1980.

1944 Italy. Joe Beccione is serving in the American Army. Born to Italian immigrant parents in Hell’s Kitchen the tough guy is a good brave soldier but has a problem with discipline. One day a MP jeep hits the young brother of the girl he wants to marry. In his anger he shoots the MP and soon is about to face a firing squad. He escapes and makes his way to a group of renegades. Lead by a German named Franz Kessler the group survives by raiding both Allied and German supply convoys. It is a hodgepodge of deserters and criminals from every nationality. Beccione fits right in with this group. Yet he wonders about Kessler an obviously educated man. A man who can one minute shoot down soldiers but have a sad look in his eyes. A man who is worshiped by the local peasants and he reciprocates in kind. In fact he goes out of his way to help them.

Then they finally find out Kessler’s true purpose. On a mission to liberate stolen valuables in a complex of caves held by the Germans as an artillery position. Soon this village will be the site of a major battle and will destroy the village of Valderosa. Kessler convinces his men to protect the village by fighting off both sides so they can’t occupy it. Now they battle both the Allies and Germans in a big epic battle.

It is hard to write an anti-war war novel but Fredrick Smith manages to do that. Kessler is a pacifist who served in the First World War and lost his brother and father. Later he loses his Jewish wife to a concentration camp. His son in the army and daughter killed in an Allied bombing raid. Stationed in Yugoslavia he witnesses atrocities and is forced to kill to survive. He deserts and forms his own army. One that will exist to protect the civilians that are caught between the armies that are fighting. That he believes foreign armies care little for the civilians and they are the true victims in the war. That all soldiers are in some way to blame. Of course he sees that an Allied victory is the only good outcome. Yet he will fight them to save his beloved peasants. His personality gets his men to fight and die to protect a village. A village at the end that manages to come to the rescue and pay back the survivors. A fascinating book that makes you think.

Fredrick Smith was a RAF gunner on a bomber during WWII. He wrote a successful series called 633 Squadron and some other books. He writes characters that have an interesting backstory and did a lot of research on the war in Italy. Might give some of his other books a try.

Advertisements

IN THE COURTS OF THE CRIMSON KINGS BY S.M. STERLING

Standard

Copyright 2008.

In the year 2000 Jeremy Wainman makes it to the American settlement of Kennedy Base on Mars. In this timeline both Mars and Venus are inhabited. The cold war rivalry has been channeled into settling these worlds. After the encounter with the advanced alien technology on Venus both sides are looking for more. Wainman an archaeologist is there to explore the ancient ruins on Mars. The Martians are an ancient race that were once ruled by the Crimson Dynasty. Now are nothing more than a collection of city states. Wainman hires Teyud za-Zhalt as a guide to the ancient city of Rema-Dza. Aboard the landship Intrepid Traveler they must fight off the various creatures and pirates that populate the Deep Beyond. Teyud has a secret. She is the daughter of the emperor and rightful heir to the Crimson Throne. In Rema-Dza they find the ancient invisible crown which activates because of her genetic heritage. Now they must make it to the old imperial city of Dvor Il-Adazar or City beneath the mountain at Mons Olympus and restore the power of the Crimson Dynasty.

The second book in the Lords of Creation series. This one deals with Mars. Here we have a much more advanced race of people. Mainly in biological sciences they create most of their tech from living machines. They are a people that are somewhat different genetically from Earth humans but still related. They also are a race that seems to have little curiosity and believe everything that has been worth discovering has already been done. So their society is stagnant and they show little interest in the Vas-Terrain or people from the Wet World.

I think this was better than the first book. The Martian society had a fascinating complexity to it. Plus you had the good old fashioned adventure with flying ships, swordfights ,intrigue and romance. Sterling left open some new story ideas at the end for the ancient technology activated by the invisible crown opens stargates on all three worlds to a new world. So there are new worlds to explore and maybe someday Sterling will continue with this fascinating look at a reality where Mars and Venus were made habitable by a mysterious ancient alien race.

THE SKY PEOPLE BY S.M. STERLING

Standard

Copyright 2006.

In this alternate reality the planets of Venus and Mars support life. Probes sent in 1962 confirm that the worlds have humanoid civilizations. So a great space race begins between the U.S. and its allies on one side. The Eastbloc countries on the other. By the 1980’s settlements are established on both worlds. In 1988 Marc Vitrac is a young man who is part of the Jamestown settlement on Venus. He later becomes part of an expedition to rescue and Eastbloc shuttle that crashed far to the west. Aboard the blimp Vepaja they encounter a war between a tribe of humans that are amber skinned and blonde. They are in a war with a cannibalistic Neanderthal tribe. This tribe is armed with AK-47s salvaged from the shuttle. They are also lead by a survivor of the shuttle that is possessed by an ancient alien artifact. Joining with Teesa the beautiful leader of the Cloud Mountain People Marc must battle dinosaurs, sabretooth tigers, cavemen, and an alien computer gone mad.

This is the first book in the Lords of Creation series by Sterling. Basically it takes the premise that Burrough’s worlds of Venus and Mars are inhabitable and transports them to a more modern time. In this reality an ancient race terraformed the two worlds. Now Venus is a world of jungles with dinosaurs, cavemen, bronze age civilizations and blonde caveprincesses in furkinis. Add to this the cold war competition going on at the time. Indeed the competition to establish bases on these worlds make for a more peaceful world. Neither side has the money or time to carry on the cold war. Southeast Asia was peacefully resolved and the last Arab-Israeli war in ’67 ended with both superpowers imposing a peace and now the Middle East is described as a peaceful backwater. This seems like a reasonable outcome if Venus and Mars were inhabited. They two superpowers would have little money left to wage the cold war. This was a fun book done in the spirit of Burroughs. An exotic world with a quest, romance action and a mysterious alien race that created these worlds. A great start to a fascinating series.

DOWN TO A SUNLESS SEA BY DAVID GRAHAM

Standard

Copyright 1981.

It is 1985 in this near future world. The US dollar has collapsed and the country has run out of oil. Martial law is in effect and everyone is trying to flee the country. Jonah Scott is a captain of a 797 for Air Britain. He is in New York on a routine flight from New York to London. The passengers include a mix of refugee children, diplomats, some scientist who are attending a conference and some SAS troops that were in the country to train the National Guard. Midway in flight the news comes that Israel has retaliated for the poisoning of the Tel Aviv water supply that killed 200,000. They have nuked the major Arab capitals. Russia and China blame the US for arming Israel and attack. Soon every country is being bombed out of existence. Now he has to find a safe place to land his airplane.

Yet there isn’t many options open. All the worlds cities have been hit. They find that the Azores was only neutron bombed and the airfield is still intact. Later a Soviet plane also arrives carrying the inhabitants of a village that managed to escape. Things are looking grim for the survivors. The radioactive fallout is coming and they won’t survive. The only safe place is Antarctica. McMurdo has plenty of supplies but will they have enough fuel to make the trip.

It is interesting how back in the eighties how writers would set the end of the world so close. He was only writing about five years in the future which means this book has a short self life before becoming dated. It does seem like the attitude at the time was a nuclear war was inevitable. And what a world he envisions. A black president negotiating with blacks about a separate homeland in an America coming apart at the seems. The Dutch are recolonizing Indonesia and using nerve gas. Cuban troops are in Socialist Ireland to liberate the north. Still I guess a lot can happen in five years. Could anyone five years ago envision how our world is now. How different will it be in five years in the future.

This book was a well done that kept the reader’s interest which is no small feat considering most of it takes place on a jetliner. Told in the first person by the captain we are drawn into this deteriorating future. From the anarchy of New York and the desperate search to find a safe place to land. An interesting fact is there were two ending for this book. The British edition has an ending where they all die at the end. The American version has a happy ending where a tilt in the Earth’s axis bring Antarctica to a more temperate climate and the hope for a new start. I don’t know why the two endings. I have the American one and it is an upbeat ending for what is a very pessimistic book. Possibly the grim ending didn’t go over very well and it was rewritten.

The author in his foreword states that he is an epitome of a rabid outspoken atheist. That his purpose was to “demonstrate that man is alone in his own personal Hell, that he would inevitably sow the seeds of his own destruction, rising and falling in a few hundred millenniums which represent the tiniest fraction of eternity. Now-damn it all-I’m not so sure.”

This story definitely set out to do this. I have never read such a total nuclear war anywhere else. Huge bombs are dropped everywhere causing massive radioactive fallout. Even the Falkland Islands are nuked. Still there were some very noble acts throughout the story. The fifty Russians who jumped out of a plane so it could rise above the fallout clouds. The people in the Falklands who left their shelter to find out if Antarctica is viable. There was hope in this pessimism and I think it shows a man who was in doubt over his beliefs. A very well done book.

MARS ATTACKS WAR DOGS OF THE GOLDEN HORDE BY RAY W. MURILL

Standard

Copyright 1996.

It is after the truce between the Martians and the nations of Earth. The threat from Earth’s nuclear submarines have forced an uneasy peace. The Martians have build the World Wall to separate their holdings from the human controlled lands. In Asia the Martians have Siberia and parts of northern China. Telian Piar a disgraced member of the Martian council comes on an interesting bit from Earth’s history. The Mongol Genghis Khan managed to conquer most of the world. He goes to the military commander Komo Dath and convinces him the Mongols could be used as pawns in their war with the humans. So they go out to capture a Mongol. This happens to be Qasar a Mongol who was banished from his tribe. Together with a companion he met named Bayar they kill a whole bunch of the Martians before being captured.

They come to an agreement with Qasar that they will help him be Khan of the Mongols. They use their technology to find the secret tomb of Genghis. With his armor and standard Qasar rides out and rallies the Mongols into a formidable horde. They go into free China and start pillaging. Soon though the Martians won’t help him in his conquest so Qasar Khan feels loss of face and turns his horde against the Martians. It ends in a fierce battle between the two where the Great Wall of China meets the Martian World Wall.

The second book that was released in the Mars Attacks series. This one was not as good. The main reason is that Qasar is a real loathsome asshat. Like Genghis he is an arrogant narcissistic psychopath who is only interesting in pillaging, raping and looting. He has delusions of being the next Genghis and conquering the world. Not sure why someone would make the central character someone who isn’t positive because it really doesn’t bring the reader to sympathize with the character or his motives. Yet it was done here and I have seen it in other books, movies etc.

There was some other oddities in this book. The way the Mongols talked seemed a bit stilted and phony. I mean “Those are good words to speak.” says Bayar. “Yes they are indeed good words.” replied Qasar. I mean I am not familiar with Mongol culture but I just can’t see them talking that way. Also his sidekick Bayar had allergies and always had a runny nose. He would sneeze and blow snot into his food and wipe his nose on his sleeve. I suppose he was the comic relief and supposed to be funny but I found just gross. Oh and at the end his concubine Morning Doe lies dying and wants to be released quickly. So Qasar cuts into her chest and pulls out her still beating heart. Wow how romantic. Yes this was a weird book.

Still is doesn’t mean it didn’t keep my interest. I just didn’t really care if the Martians or Qasar came out on top. In fact I was kind of rooting for the Martians and they some bad hombres. Qasar does survive at the end but there was no third book in the series so his story seems over. I do love the Mars Attacks idea and loved the first book and the various comic book incarnations from Topps, Image and IDW. Perhaps in the future we may get some new books in the series.

MARS ATTACKS MARTIAN DEATHTRAP BY NATHAN ARCHER

Standard

Copyright 1996.

The Martians have invaded and no place is safe. A group of bikers are riding down the highway when the Martian ships start strafing the highway. Bud Garcia manages to survive but his buddies Lenny, Blitz and Screwy Joe aren’t so fortunate. Needing a place to hide he comes upon the Gelman Mansion. A rich millionaire named Ebenezer Gelman build a huge place with secret passages and filled it with weird antiques and other kooky stuff. Now it is a tourist attraction. Bud finds the tourists watching the attack on TV. Meanwhile the Martians come on this place and leave a squad to check it out and see if its a threat to their invasion. Now the survivors are trapped in this crazy mansion with a Martian deathsquad. Outside are giant insects that the Martians unleashed but can’t control. Both sides are trapped and must fight each other and the insects if they are to survive.

Back in 1962 the Topps Bubblegum Company released a line of trading cards. These cards combined an H.G. Wells type invasion with the true horrors of war. They were gruesome and quickly banned to protect innocent young minds. The cards became a cult collectible. In 1995 the Topps company released these cards and a comic book series. When the Tim Burton movie came out two books were released based on the comic books. This is the first.

This was a fun book. I am a fan of the comic book series and someday I will cover it on my comic blog. It is just a pure cheezy adventure filled with Martians gunning down and torturing people including young boys. The humans come in a wide variety from the hero biker Bud to the parents who seem to not be concerned that their boys were killed by the Martians. There is a phony mobster who is really an accountant but pretends to be a wiseguy to pick up girls. His showgirl date Tiffany who goes full Rambo with a captured Martian gun and gets captured and tortured. A group of college students who were on the beach and arrive at the mansion still in their swimwear. Even the Martians are treated as individuals and get own personality quirks. Indeed they are just grunts dropped off and trying to survive themselves. Add to this the giant insects like the beetles that bit a woman in two or a giant mosquito who impales a man this is just a fun B-movie ride.

I think the Gelman Mansion is based on the House on the Rock in Spring Green Wisconsin. It is a crazy place filled with old antiques and other strange exhibits. I know when I first when there and was just expecting a house on the rock but it is so much more. I recommend visiting if your in the area.

WORLDS OF EDGAR RICE BURROUGHS EDITED BY MIKE RESNICK AND ROBERT T. GARCIA

Standard

Copyright 2013 except The Forgotten Seas of Mars 1965.

TARZAN AND THE GREAT WAR by Kristine Kathryn Rusch

Tarzan is in the Kasbah looking for leads to his wife Jane who was taken by Germans. After meeting a man who had no information he is contacted by French intelligence. They want to use him in exposing a group of traitors selling secrets to the Germans. Soon after the head of intelligence is murdered and Tarzan is battling the traitors with the help of an Englishman who had come to strip Tarzan of his title and fortune for the war effort.

THE FALLEN A TALE OF PELLUCIDAR by Mercedes Lackey

A story told by Mok who is an intelligent Sagoth in the service of David Innes. Mok was experimented on by the Mahars and is the only intelligent Sagoth. While visiting Kolk the king of Thuria in the Land of Awful Shadow a woman with wings falls from the sky. She is an inhabitant of the Dead World. Her people are under attack by the Mahars who have fled to the moon after being defeated. Mok is the only one who can communicate with her since she uses the same language as the Mahars. They have an adventure with a storm and hostile island natives. The woman falls in love with the kings son.

SCORPION MEN OF VENUS by Richard A. Lupoff

Carson and Duare are under attack by scorpion men and flying snakes when they are rescued by a mysterious flying ship. It takes them to a complex run by Dr. Bodog and his daughter and son. Bodog comes from Earth and the continent that sank in the Pacific ocean centuries ago. He is also insane and plans to take over the Earth. He goes back with Carson and his daughter who Carson has fallen in love with and land in Los Angeles during a football game.

THE FORGOTTEN SEA OF MARS by Mike Resnick

The writer is in an Arizona cabin that was used by Edgar Rice Burroughs. He meets John Carter and convinces him to tell the story after he defeated Hin Abtol. So Carter starts the search for Tan Hadron who disappeared when mutineers took him. From criminals in Zodanga he learns of another underground sea at the north pole. In the city of Ayathor he finds Hin Abtol continuing his plans of world conquest with another large army of men frozen. He finds Tan Hadron and with another rebel manage to overthrow him.

APACHE LAWMAN by Ralph Roberts

Shoz-Djiji the Apache Devil has settled down in the white man’s world. He manages the ranch of his love Wichita Billings. One day Marshal Fast Sam Dawson comes and offers Shoz a job as a deputy sheriff. Seems another renegade Apache has learned from the white-eyes and plans to take over the territorial government. He manages to stop his plans.

MOON MAID OVER MANHATTAN by Peter David

The story of Nah-ee-lah when she came to Earth. At first she is a celebrity and hounded by the press. Later the Kalkars those commie moon men invade. When her husband dies while killing Orthis she and her young son hide out in Canada. They are pursued by Orthis’s woman and her son for revenge.

TARZAN AND THE MARTIAN INVADERS by Kevin J. Anderson and Sarah A. Hoyt

Tarzan is at his English manor when he comes across writing from his ancestor who sailed with Drake. He finds out that Martians are coming to invade in Africa where he was born and raised. He goes back and gathers the apes and other animals to fight these tentacled invaders who can control the minds of men.

THE TWO BILLYS A MUCKER STORY by Max Allan Collins and Matthew Clemens

Billy Byrne has made the ultimate sacrifice by leaving his love Barbara Harding. He soon after gets a message from her that her fiance was kidnapped. So Billy goes off into the Chicago underworld to get him back.

TO THE NEAREST PLANET as told to Todd McCaffrey

The author buys an old typewriter and Edgar Rice Burroughs used. It starts typing and tells the story of Tangor and his trip from Poloda to find another world free of Kapars. The first world they come to Tonos. This world was destroyed in a war and now run by a computer. The remaining people are dying off until he educates them on how to run the machines on the world.

THE DEAD WORLD as related by David Innes to F. Paul Wilson via Gridley wave

David Innes is visiting Thuria when a meteor strikes. It releases a deadly spore that soon takes over the Land of Awful Shadow and starts spewing poisonous gas. David with Perry and Koort the young son of the king of Thuria go by balloon to the Dead World. They find out that the moon is really an artificial ship created by ancient aliens that created Pellucidar. Now they are returning and terraforming Pellucidar. David and friend have to battle cleaning robots to stop the plan.

TARZAN AND THE LAND THAT TIME FORGOT by Joe R. Lansdale

Tarzan is coming back from Pellucidar in the O-220 when a story blows the ship to the southern hemisphere and crashes into the ocean. The only survivors are Tarzan, Captain Zuppner and a young Pellucidarian girl named Zamona. The make it to Caspak and battle cannibals that fly pterodactyls. Zuppner and Zamona decide to stay as Tarzan searches for a way home.

This was a cool idea for an anthology. Getting a bunch of writer together and put out stories from the worlds of Edgar Rice Burroughs. They manage to cover all the base with not only Tarzan and John Carter but Pellucidar and Venus. They also get stories from Burrough’s lesser know works like the Moon Men, Apache Devil the Mucker and Caspak. They even had the continuing story from Beyond the Farthest Star. Many of the writers did a good job of emulating Burroughs. Even using the various first person narratives. Some like the martian invaders or the second Pellucidar story did not feel like something Burroughs would have written but were still entertaining.

The only story I didn’t care for was Lupoff’s Carson story. It was very un-Burroughs like to have Carson and Duare so quickly fall out of love. The romance that Burroughs wrote was one of the strong points to his writing and he just casually has them switch partners. It also just ended like it was only halfway through the story. I suppose there might be a continuation but I found it a complete waste of time. In spite of this story the others made this book a worthy effort.