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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.