Reviews / Thriller / Crime Fiction

Book Review: Daughter of Fu Manchu by Sax Rohmer

Daughter of Fu Manchu Sax Rohmer

Genre: Adventure / Crime / Mystery

Fun Manchu Books are rather weird. They are enjoyable for sure if you read them as over-the-top conspiracy novels. However, their racist and sexist nature can make some of us uncomfortable. This might result in reviews and ratings that are quite unjustified.

The Story

Daughter of Fu Manchu, fourth book in the series, is yet another great thriller from Sax Rohmer. This novel originally appeared in twelve instalments in Collier’s Magazine. It is a bit different from the other books in the series; the focus is on his half-Russian daughter, Fah Lo Suee.

Mysterious events unfold at an archaeological site in Egypt. Fu Manchu is supposed to be dead, but the case has uncanny similarities with the ones where Fu Manchu was involved. Soon our hero takes on Fah Lo Suee and towards the end Fu Manchu himself turns up.

The Style

Like the other Fu Manchu novels, this one too is marked by a sinister plot and swift pace. The fatal attractions include mummy tombs, exotic poisons, zombie drugs, and enigmatic oriental death cults. If you believe in books that are so-bad-that-they-are-good, then try this out. It’s a cheap, racist, on-the-edge page turner.

Darn it! Who wants to be politically correct?

Similar Books:

The Master Magician by Loring Brent

Slaves of Sumuru by Sax Rohmer

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Comics / Download Free ebooks / Reviews

The Best of DC Comics: Batman Knightfall

batman knightfall

I loved all Batman movies directed by Nolan. May be I still love them. But to me, they are no longer the best representative of the essential Batman spirit.

Batman, created by artist Bob Kane and writer Bill Finger, first appeared in Detective Comics #27 (May 1939). There are countless standalone issues and series featuring Batman.  The notable ones include The Dark Knight Returns, Batman: Year One, Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight and Batman: Hush.

The most famous, however, would probably be the Knightfall saga. In this epic story, Bane breaks Batman’s back. It’s perhaps the most shocking incident after Superman’s death.

“I am Bane and I could kill you.”

“But death would only end your agony and silence your shame.”

“Instead I will simply break you.”

“Broken and Done.”

The story, complete in 3 volumes and more than 1800 pages long, feels a lot more epic than Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises or any other films directed by him. Of course, you can’t fit 1800 pages in 3 hours.  But for this very reason, the Knightfall series has more depth and is more enjoyable.

Bane devises a strategy to set loose all of Arkham Asylum. He provides weapons to the criminals and utter chaos follows. Batman fights them as he always does, but it weakens him and Bane just waits for the right opportunity to strike. He breaks Batman but what happens then?

The knightfall saga includes three books:

Volume 1 –  Knightfall
Volume 2 – Knightquest
Volume 3 – Knightsend

If you like Batman comics, go for it. If you don’t, still go it. You cannot possibly be disappointed

Download free ebook / comics:  Batman: Knightfall

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Reviews / Thriller / Crime Fiction

Book Review: Solomon’s Vineyard by Jonathan Latimer

 

Jonathan Latimer’s Solomon's Vineyard

Genre: Crime/Hardboiled/Detective Fiction

Did you think Dashiell Hammett’s Red Harvest was the most shocking piece of crime fiction you ever read? Try Jonathan Latimer’s Solomon’s Vineyard. Horrific animalistic motives, gruesome events, creepy characters and unapologetic sex will smoke Hammett to ashes.

The Story

A noir tale. A classic example of hardboiled detective novel.

A private dick comes to town to rescue a wealthy heiress and avenge the death of his partner. He stumbles upon a cult group whose leader, long dead, seems to rule from his grave. Our dick fights a bloody war with a mob boss and crosses path with a femme fatale.

The Style

Latimer, quite clearly, is a no-nonsense writer. He gets down to business right away without wasting time. Graphic violence, ethnic slurs, moral ambivalence, booze and guns combine together to form something outrageously offensive. And for this very reason, the story becomes diabolically entertaining. Not for the faint-hearted.

Rating ****

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The Postman Always Rings Twice by James M. Cain

L.A. Confidential by James Ellroy

Double Indemnity by James M. Cain

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Historical / Reviews

Book Review: I Am a Barbarian by Edgar Rice Burroughs

I am a barbarian Edgar Rice Burroughs

 

Genre: Historical Fiction

Who on earth expected a well researched historical take on imperial Rome from Edger Rice Burroughs? Told from the point of view of one of Caligula’s slaves (Brittanicus), this is one of Burroughs’ more mature works. Sadly, it’s long out of print; you’re lucky if you can manage a copy. Note that I Am a Barbarian is one of the only two historical novels written by the author; the other being The Outlaw of Tor.

The Story

Brittanicus is brought by Caligula’s parents to be a companion to their son. The slave watches Caligula grow up from a spoiled brat to an insane ruler. The ruler both trusts and fears Brittanicus. The story describes the adventures of Brittanicus and yes, there is a romantic angle too. Dejah thoris is substituted by the slave girl Attica.

The Style

Action packed, poignant and humorous at times, I am a Barbarian is one of the finest novels Burroughs has ever written. Surprisingly, even his trademark flat characterization is replaced here by well defined and fairly intricate individuals. Burroughs’ writing style is imaginative and crisp.

This is an epic novel of historical adventure and altogether a darn good package. You don’t have to be an ERB fan to enjoy I Am a Barbarian.

Ace Edition (1974).  Cover Art by Boris Vallejo.

Similar Books

Historical fiction of Robert E. Howard

Ben-Hur by Lew Wallace

 
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Horror / Fantasy / SF / Reviews

Book review: Brood of the Witch Queen by Sax Rohmer

brood of the witch queen sax rohmer

Genre: Science Fiction/Fantasy

Brood of the Witch Queen is one of the creepiest and scariest books of Sax Rohmer — the creator of the fiendish Fu Manchu and Sumuru. Originally serialized in a British Magazine, this intriguing Egyptian tale of ancient curse and black magic takes you from London to Cairo involving a great adventure.

The Story

Set in London in the early 1900s, this is a tale of ancient sorcery with vampires and crawly bugs. Dr. Richard and Robert Cairn fights against diabolical powers and a dark figure called Anthony Ferarra. And the odds turn terrible when Ferarra’s ancient ancestor — a Polish/Jewish witch that placed a curse on her husband’s family — casts her evil shadow.

The Style

Rohmer’s novel reflects his passion for dramatic prose and abrupt ending. Also, the characterization seems a bit wooden. Nonetheless, Brood of the Witch Queen holds a lot of value in terms of pulp entertainment. This fast moving novel is full of adventure and creepy scenes. The plot, though predictable, will not disappoint you. Though the book is about a century old, it does not seem much dated.

Not a perfect story, pretty much over the top, but Brood of the Witch Queen is pure escapist fun.

Similar Books:

Jewel of the Seven Stars by Bram Stoker

The Devil Rides Out by Dennis Wheatley

Rating ***

Brood of the Witch Queen by Sax Rohmer ebook Download

http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/19706

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Reviews / Thriller / Crime Fiction

Book Review: The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett

The maltese falcon Dashiell Hammett.

The Maltese Falcon, widely regarded as the mother of all noir novels, has been immortalized by the classic Humphrey Bogart flick. If you have seen the movie but haven’t read the book, you are missing more than you can imagine.

The Story

The Maltese Falcon features Sam Spade, Dashiell Hammett’s self-serving San Francisco detective. When Sam’s partner is murdered, the cops put the blame on the detective. Things get super complicated when a gorgeous woman begs for Sam’s help, bad guys demand a payoff from Sam, and a mystery develops around a priceless gold statuette of a falcon.

The Style

The coolest thing about the book is Sam Spade himself. He talks, fights, and flirts with inimitable style. Hammett’s style is pretty much straight forward and without too much description. The focus is more on action; the story is high on murder, betrayal, and sex. The plot, as you may guess, is highly intelligent and intricate.

The Maltese Falcon is a solid proof of the fact that even pulp/crime fiction can be a classic. It stands the test of time and the plot makes as much sense today as it did in 1930. For most readers, The Maltese Falcon will be even more appealing than even Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep and Farewell, my Lovely.

Similar Books:

The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler

The Postman Always Rings Twice by James M. Cain

Solomon’s Vineyard by Jonathan Latimer

 

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Horror / Fantasy / SF / Reviews

Book Review: Elric of Melnibone by Michael Moorcock

: Elric of Melnibone by Michael Moorcock
Michael Moorcock is a self-professed Tolkien separatist. In his essay Epic Pooh, he accuses The Lord of the Rings and Tolkien’s other works of glorifying war, preaching “cowardly self-protection,” avoiding the subject of death, and forcing a happy ending upon the reader (as summed up by Wikipedia).

“I met Tolkien on his home ground in Oxford. I really don’t have much to say, except I was a little embarrassed, having written to Tolkien to tell him I was collecting all his books and then discovering I didn’t like them very much.”

Also, he proudly confessed “I think of myself as a bad writer with big ideas, but I’d rather be that than a big writer with bad ideas”

In this light, it became a desperate necessity for me to read Elric of Melnibone (the first book in Moorcock’s epic fantasy series) and check out what exactly was he trying to prove.

In my humble opinion, Moorcock has been true to his word. He is indeed “… a bad writer with big ideas…”

The story

Elric is an albino emperor of a race of dragon lords. Even with his sorceries, he seems a weakling and his cousin Yyrkoon attempts to usurp power from him. The attempt fails and the villain is imprisoned, but he escapes from prison and flees to a distant land and abducts Elric’s beloved — Cymoril. To reach him and rescue his love, Elric needs to seek help from the manipulative chaos lords, use sorceries, travel to the netherworld and most importantly, requires a ship that can travel over land and sea. What happens next?

What’s good

The underdeveloped yet innovative concepts: A mirror that can steal memories, a ship that can travel over land and sea, and swords that can exert their own will deserve mention. The gods, including the chaos lord, are intriguing.

The story is descent enough and it is certainly not a LoTR clone. It could have reached epic proportions in more mature hands. Elric of Melnibone is a fairly fast and action packed tale. The author has enough sense to wrap up the story in 200 pages.

What’s not so good

The writing is juvenile at best. The dialogues are a joke. The characters are one dimensional and underdeveloped. The world building is highly flawed. The plot lacks depth.

The protagonist is weak (that was deliberate though) and unlikable. The villain seems weaker and not up to the job. The female lead is rather boring.

Too simplistic to be iconic

Perhaps it is. Compared to G.RR Matrin and Tolkien, Elric seems to be Kindergarten stuff. However, the first book isn’t the entire series. I am going to read the next books in the series and also The History of the Runestaff. It is widely regarded that Moorcock’s later writings have more subtlety, better prose and improved insights. It is undeniable that he influenced a generation of writers and that must be for a reason.

To sum up, Elric, unlike The Hobbit or LoTR, is not a work of art. Tolkiens’s philological scholarship, his deep knowledge of mythology, and his world-building skills are virtually non-existent in Moorcock’s saga and it doesn’t look like the later books would match up to Tolkien’s high standards. However, a reader of the genre cannot afford to miss the Elric series simply because of its cult status and atypical approach. It least Moorcock dared to step out of Tolkien’s long shadow and that in itself is an achievement.

: Elric of Melnibone by Michael Moorcock

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