SPACEWAYS #7 THE MANHUNTRESS BY JOHN CLEVE

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Copyright 1982.

Lizina Harith the former slave known as Coppertop has escaped. She manages to make it back to her home world where she has a fortune. She uses this fortune to mount her quest for vengeance against those that sold her into slavery. Buying her own ship and crewing it with former slaves she sets out to take out the vile captain that sold her and the men responsible for kidnapping her. Meanwhile her lover Dorjan continues his quest for her. He also rescues a beautiful feline alien that was also captured. An alien that reveals she comes from a federation of three species. A place that could offer sanctuary for the former slaves of the colony HOME.

This book was cowritten by George Proctor along with Andrew Offutt. Proctor did write two V TV series novelizations from the eighties that I love so I have some positive experience with him. I think this is the best of the series that I have read so far. Proctor is a good influence on the writing. There doesn’t seem to be the meandering that is usually found in Offutt’s writing. The story was just an interesting read from beginning to end. Lizina had some very innovative ways to carry out her revenge. All these vile and evil people got their just desserts. A side plot with Dorjan has him rescuing the feline alien and finding out about this new alien federation. Ends with a positive of Lizina and Dorjan being reunited and going off with their people to a new home world where they can live in freedom.

SPACEWAYS #6 PURRFECT PLUNDER BY JOHN CLEVE

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Copyright 1982.

The freighter India Springs is under attack by pirates. Captain Jonuta a slaver decides to come to the rescue. His ship successfully takes over the pirate ship. He finds that the ship has two unique passengers. The HReenee are a feline type of alien that was recently discovered and two of them a male and female are passengers. Well naturally Jonuta takes a liking to the exotic female and gets into a sexual relationship with her. The male decides to torture the captive pirates because that is what cat people like to do. He unfortunately screws up and the pirates get free. Jounuta has to defeat them and also at the ends fights with his archrival Captain Corundum.

The entry in the series is OK. It is competently written and does keep your interest. Unfortunately, it does have some problems. First is while the plot is consistent it hangs around too long in one place. The whole book is mostly about this one location in space. The freight gets attacked. Jonuta comes to the rescue. Pirates escape. Get recaptured. Fill in stuff with Jonuta being magnanimous and giving the freighter captain the captured pirate ship. Ends with a space battle where he wins, and it is uncertain if Corundum is actually dead or alive.

Another problem is the character of Jonuta. He is a rapist and slaver. Not a really lovable character. Sure in this book he is portrayed as an honorable man. Of course, he plans to sell the captured pirate crew into slavery. Perhaps they deserve it but still a very sleazy enterprise the guy is in. Still the book doesn’t have the boring parts that characterized his first four books. Not as good as the fifth but still an improvement.

SPACEWAYS #5 MASTER OF MISFIT BY JOHN CLEVE

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Copyright 1982.

Lizina Harith though she left her old life behind when she married a rich man on the planet Franji. A recent widow she decided to go out and got herself kidnapped by slavers. She was sold to the evil Kukis and his sadistic lesbian first mate. Tortured and drugged to be docile, she is sold to Ganesh. Ganesh runs a spaceship that is a brothel and goes traveling to far-flung planets in the void. Now known as Coppertop because of her red hair, Lizina is destined to be sold a mail order bride. Only she meets a mysterious man who frees her. Dorjan is a former gladiator slave that was bioengineered with wings. Now he leads a group of former slaves and has founded a colony. Called HOME and it is inside a former mining asteroid. He has plans to turn the asteroid into a spaceship and find a suitable planet to colonize. Only Ganesh finds the colony and raids it. She kills a number of the inhabitants and takes back Lizina. She is sold to a cruel man on a small mining planet. Dorjan has to track her down and take revenge on Ganesh.

Wow this book in the series is actually really good. I guess Andrew Offutt can write if he wants too. The first four books were written at once and seems to show it. I guess when he found out the series was going to continue, he decided to actually write a good book. Sort of a reboot with new characters. What sets this apart from the last books is that there are likable characters in it. Sure, the bad guys are very bad, but I genuinely liked the main characters. Dorjan this escaped slave has a noble goal to free slaves and set up a home for them. The romance between him and Lizina is genuine. You really feel for the characters and what they go through. The way Dorjan got revenge on Ganesh was very ingenious. Lizina also manages to escape. Sets up a great way to continue the story.

SPACEWAYS #4 SATANA ENSLAVED BY JOHN CLEVE

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Copyright 1982.

The spaceship Satana was forced to crash-land on an ice world after the treacherous attack by the pirate Corundum. They are captured by the natives a furred humanoid race and taken to their underground city. They are on the world of Knor and when the sun cooled the survivors retreated to an underground city called Survival. The inhabitants drug the crew with a mind control drug and make them sex slaves. Yet the drug doesn’t work on Janja or the Jarp Cinnabar. Trafalgar also didn’t get a full dose and starts to regain control of his mind. They manage to eventually get together and stage a breakout. They make it to their ship and escape.

The fourth entry in this series is definitely a weird one. This cover is the one I most remember seeing when I was young. I wondered what this was about and now I have to wonder no more. There is a fair amount of bondage type stuff in the book. One of the characters likes to stuff his soiled underwear in women’s mouths and then tape them up. You have to wonder where someone would come up with that. Anyway, the book has moments of interest and boredom as the other books in the series. Seems like Offutt has to always pad the book and there is usually a fairly interesting beginning and ending with a dull middle. This book had some humor like the Jarp was kept because his alien language sounded like music and was used to entertain them at dinner. Of course, he was calling them all sorts of names and insulting them in his language. The crew also wanted to introduce violence to their captors which I found an interesting way of putting it. After they start introducing violence the book really picks up.

SPACEWAYS #3 ESCAPE FROM MACHO BY JOHN CLEVE

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Copyright 1982.

Janja is now with Hellfire and the crew of Satana. They make a trip to the mining colony of Mott-chindi or as its derisively called Macho. This is because it is a mining colony made up mostly of men. While on the surface a revolution breaks out. It kills two of the crewmembers and the other three have to fight their way through the chaos. Hellfire and her crew manage to hijack a policer cruiser and make it to the spaceport. There they hook up with a colorful rogue named Trafalgar Cuw. He is secretly an agent of the mining corporation and manages to get the ship free. Yet while they are traveling, Corundum finds them and attached a lampray mine to the ship to get back at Janja leaving him. The ship is forced to make a crash landing on an ice planet to remove the mine.

This third book in the series is probably the most tightly plotted in the series so far. It introduces some fun action right off the bat with the revolt on Macho. The first half of the book deals with them escaping. They get a roguish good-looking man in Trafalgar Cuw. He is so good he can convert the lesbians of the crew of Satana to heterosexuality. Yes, it still has its goofy sex. The second half deals with some more mundane stuff. We get a glimpse of Jonuta and his lover as they watch the newest movie from Akima Mars the sexy secret agent and her largest warheads in the galaxy. Ends with them crashing on an ice world which will be the main plot for the next book.

SPACEWAYS #2 CORUNDUM’S WOMAN BY JOHN CLEVE

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Copyright 1982.

Janja the escaped slave has now joined up with the pirate captain Corundum. Corundum is a charming rogue but it soon becomes apparent that he is also a ruthless killer. He manages to destroy a ship of the TGO (Transgalactic Order or the The Grey Organization), a secretive police force. Corundum manages to put the blame on his enemy Captain Jonuta the slaver. Jonuta now has all his bank accounts drained and finds himself on the run. Janja decides that she grows tired of being with Corundum. So at the first chance she gets, she defects to the pirate captain Hellfire’s ship Satana. An all lesbian and one Jarp (a hermaphrodite race with both male and female organs.) Naturally she is introduced to the joys of lesbianism.

The second book in the series is an improvement over the first. It has a more tightly plotted story. It still suffers from the last in being a bit boring. There are huge parts that seem to go on with nothing happening. Janja still hasn’t got her revenge. Offutt has a way of going on about mundane things that go nowhere. Still, it is an improvement, and I will say the third book is also a bigger improvement.

SPACEWAYS #1 OF ALIEN BONDAGE BY JOHN CLEVE

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Copyright 1982.

Captain Jonuta is a slaver in the far future when humanity has settled the galaxy. He goes to the planet Aglaya which is a primitive world that is supposedly protected by the galactic authorities. Yet he kidnaps Janja a beautiful white-haired woman to sell into slavery. She gets sold to some sadistic sadists that follow the Marque de Sade on the planet Resh. She escapes after taking her revenge and meets up with another fellow Aglayan who helps her escape the planet. She sets out for revenge on Jonuta who killed her lifemate and sold her into slavery. At the end she hooks up with Captain Corundum who is a pirate and enemy of Jonuta.

I remember these books at the drugstore when I was a young teen. They had such colorful covers, but I wasn’t into reading that young. The series was published by Playboy press because of the adult nature of the series. I have heard this called “science fiction for adults” or “soft porn for sf fans.” I found some at a bookstore and decided to check them out.

The first ten were written by Andrew Offutt under the house name John Cleve. While Offutt had some respectable work in sword and sorcery most notably three Conan novel, his main body of work was sleazy porn books in the seventies. He wrote such gems as Bondage Babes, Fruit of the Loin, and Swallow the Leader. I guess whatever pays the bills. The idea has some promise. A pulpy sci-fi series with a bit of sex thrown in. Unfortunately, the first book was a bit boring. Not a lot happened and it just kind of meandered along. The sex was plentiful but not very erotic and quite boring. One whole chapter on describing chemicals is guaranteed to put you to sleep. Hopefully it improves.

THE SAVAGE TALES OF SOLOMON KANE BY ROBERT E. HOWARD

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Copyright 1998. Stories written in 1928-36.

IN MEMORIAM: ROBERT ERVIN HOWARD By H.P. Lovecraft

A tribute from friend and fellow writer Lovecraft on the death of Howard.

SKULLS IN THE STARS

Solomon Kane takes the shorter road at night to Torkertown against the advice of local villagers. He finds out that a ghost skeleton haunts the moors. It is the cousin of a local miser who killed him. The villagers stake out the miser at night to face the revenge of the ghost.

THE RIGHT HAND OF DOOM

An evil necromancer is betrayed by his friend and sentenced to die. For revenge the necromancer has his hand cut off and it strangles his betrayer.

RED SHADOWS

Kane is traveling in the south of France and comes on a young girl dying by a burning house. He finds out a brigand named Le Loup, or The Wolf is responsible. Kane hunts down the gang and chases Le Loup all the way to Africa. There he allies with a witch doctor named N’Longa to defeat Le Loup and the tribal chief he has allied with.

RATTLE OF BONES

Kane stops at an inn in Germany for the night. With another traveler they find out that the innkeeper is mad and kills all the travelers. He has a skeleton in a secret room that is chained because it was a magician. The skeleton comes back for revenge and saves Kane.

THE CASTLE OF THE DEVIL (FRAGMENT)

Kane and a fellow English traveler stop at a castle of an evil baron.

DEATH’S BLACK RIDERS (FRAGMENT)

Kane comes on an evil rider.

THE MOON OF SKULLS

Kane comes to Africa to search for a kidnapped daughter of a friend. The trail leads to a mysterious city in the mountains. It is an old outpost of Atlantis and ruled over by a beautiful but evil queen. Kane has to stop the sacrifice of the daughter and ends up destroying the city.

THE ONE BLACK STAIN

A poem of how Kane criticized Drake for hanging a man.

THE BLUE FLAME OF VENGEANCE

Kane returns to England to hunt an evil buccaneer. He kills this man and ends up saving a young man and his girlfriend from an evil noble in league with the buccaneer.

THE HILLS OF THE DEAD

Kane comes to a place in Africa and rescues a young woman. He finds out the hills are filled with vampires. Summoning his old witch doctor friend N’Longa who takes over the body of the girl’s lover. The two then with magic rid the hills of the vampire threat.

HAWK OF BASTI (FRAGMENT)

Kane comes on an old friend while in Africa. Jeremy Hawk tells that after being shipwrecked he found an ancient island civilization called Basti. He was made king but deposed. With Solomon’s pistols he is able to reassert his rule.

THE RETURN OF SIR RICHARD GRENVILLE

A Poem of Kane meeting with the ghost of Grenville after he is shipwrecked on the shores of a savage land. The two manage to fight off the local savages.

WINGS IN THE NIGHT

Kane comes on some peaceful villagers that are preyed upon by winged batmen. Kane’s presence deters them at first but the batmen one night slaughter the village. Kane exacts his revenge.

THE FOOTFALLS WITHIN

Kane is captured by Arab slavers. While being marched along they come on an old temple in the jungle. The leader opens the temple and out comes an ancient monster. Kane defeats it with his voodoo staff from his friend N’Longa.

THE CHILDREN OF ASSHUR (FRAGMENT)

Kane is staying at a village that is attacked in the night. He is knocked unconscious and wakes up to find the village deserted. He goes after those responsible and it leads to a city in the mountains. A lost colony of the Assyrians called Nim. Kane is used as a messenger from the gods to kill the rival of the king.

SOLOMON KANE’S HOMECOMING

A poem and a variant for Solomon coming home to Devon. At the tavern he tells of his various adventures around the world. He wants to settle down, but the wanderlust is too strong, and he leaves.

A SHORT BIOGRAPHY OF ROBERT E. HOWARD By Rusty Burke

An interesting biography that tells the live of Howard from his birth to tragic suicide.

This book gathers all the stories and fragments written about Solomon Kane. I feel that this is a very underrated character. My first introduction to Solomon Kane was the Marvel Comics. A dour Puritan in the 1500’s who travels the world and encounters evil men and supernatural evil. Unlike Conan or other Howard characters, Kane is not interested in drinking and loose women. He is very pious and chaste but has a religious fervor in battling the evils of Satan. One of my favorite quotes is “It has fallen on me, now and again in my sojourns through the world, to ease various evil men from their lives.”

I love that. These stories are just filled with beautiful imagery that show how brilliant Howard was. Even the fragments I wish he completed although I believe Roy Thomas did an excellent job on some of them in the old Marvel Comics. This character had so much potential for more stories. It was hinted that Kane was a slave on a Turkish galley, prisoner of the Spanish Inquisition and traveled to the Americans and Asia. A sad thing that Howard ending his life so young. Reading the biography, it sounds like many knew he would, but I guess mental health wasn’t very accessible back in 1936 rural Texas. I really love these books that collect his works.

THE VALLEY-WESTSIDE WAR BY HARRY TURTLEDOVE

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Copyright 2008.

Liz Mendoza is an 18-year-old who accompanied her parents to an alternate that destroyed itself in a nuclear war in 1967. Her parents got a grant from UCLA to study why this war started. They live in the Westside which is its own little country. The Westside gets into a war with its neighbor the Valley over blocking the Sepulveda Pass. The Valley wins because they were able to find a working .50 cal. machine gun. Now Liz has to deal with one of the Valley soldiers who has taken an interest in her. The family has to deal with spies from the Westside government in exile and the occupation soldiers of the Westside.

The final book in the Crosstime series is my favorite. For one thing it deals with a post-nuclear apocalypse which is my favorite type of books. This one has plenty of action that the others lacked. I love that everyone still talks like hippies such as “far out” and “groovy”. The society is a realistic portrayal of a post-nuclear world. It is on a level of the medieval times with its various petty little kingdoms. Technology is lacking as everyone scrounges for leftovers in the ruins.

I enjoyed this series. It had some weird stuff like Turtledove’s thing for portraying that everyone in the future has a serious aversion to fur. Granted fur is a dead industry nowadays but I don’t think the young even today give fur any thought. Just one of the things he decided was something hip. I also wonder if it appealed to the target teen audience or just older alternate history buffs like me. The series was solid with some plausible alternate histories that were portrayed realistically. If you like Turtledove or alternate history this is a good series for you.

THE GLADIATOR BY HARRY TURTLEDOVE

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Copyright 2007.

Teenagers Gianfranco and Annarita know each other because their families share an apartment. This is common practice in the Milan of the Italian Socialist Republic. This is normal in an alternate where the Soviet Union won the cold war. Now all the world follows Marxism-Leninism-Stalinism. Life in this alternate is fairly unexciting. Annarita belongs to the Young Socialist League with hopes of getting into university when she graduates. Gianfranco has no ambition and probably will end up like his father, a minor government apparatchik. He has found one thing that interests him. A new store called The Gladiator that sells games. One in particular, Rails Across Europe has become an obsession. A strategy game where you play a 19th century capitalist and build a railroad empire. One day the security police shut the shop down for its accused counterrevolutionary ideas. A man named Eduardo comes to Gianfranco and Annarita for help. They find out he is from an alternate where Communism didn’t win. Now they have to hide him from the security police and help him find a way home.

This entry in the series deals with a world where Communism won. A change of pace is to have both teenage characters be from this world. We get to see through their eyes growing up in a Communist society. A society where petty bureaucrats rule and everything is stagnant. Crosstime Traffic is shown to have as in the last book as being somewhat interested in changing societies in the alternates. This one they tried to introduce new ideas through games. It seems to have some effect. Gianfranco learns so much from the games he improves his grades in school. In fact, he becomes somewhat of a radical revolutionary. Turtledove gives us a good idea of that it was like to grow up in these socialist countries. I found it an enjoyable read and another solid entry in the Crosstime Traffic series.