News from the Book World

Reader’s Delight: Gollancz Big Black Books

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We love Penguin’s leather bound hardcovers. They basically cover good old classics. A lesser known but equally attractive offering is Gollancz’s Big Black Book series. There are just a few big black books in the series, but they offer some excellent compilations.

The Complete Chronicles of Conan by Robert E. Howard – Probably the only complete collection of original Conan stories. You are not a pulp fiction fan if you do not own this.

Conan’s Brethren: The Complete Collection by Robert E. Howard– The most unusual collection. It covers the exploits of the Solomon Kane, Howard’s first barbarian hero King Kull, Bran Mak Morn, Red Sonja and others.

Necronomicon: The Best Weird Tales by HP Lovecraft – Unlike the Barnes and Noble edition, this is not a complete collection. However, in terms of presentation, it is vastly superior with excellent illustrations and a comprehensive afterword by Stephen Jones.

Eldritch Tales: A Miscellany of the Macabre by H.P. Lovecraft – Includes Lovecraft’s remaining major stories plus his weird poetry, nonfiction, and the critical essay Supernatural Horror in Literature.

The Complete Lyonesse (Lyonesse #1-3) by Jack Vance – An omnibus edition of Vance’s magnum opus. Like a goodreads review rightly mentioned “If Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings is the greatest fantasy epic of the 20th century, then Lyonesse is surely the greatest fairy tale.”

Tarzan of the Apes & Other Tales by Edgar Rice Burroughs – A selective collection but the best Tarzan stories feature here.

The achievement of Gollancz BIg Black Book series is essentially its atypical selection of works along with great presentation. We have plenty of publishers playing safe with Dickens and Austen. Glad to see some good folks betting on Lovecraft and Howard.

 
Continue reading

Cover of the Week

Cover of the Week: Prisoner of the Horned Helmet by James Silke / Frank Frazetta

Death Dealer Frank Frazetta

 

Death Dealer is a 1973 fantasy painting by legendary pulp artist Frank Frazetta. Its popularity led to a variety of spin offs including comic books and novels. The novels were written by James Silke and there were five installments in the series. Though the books were criticized for being too simplistic, Frazetta’s intense touch gave them an eerie feeling. The plots were silly, the characters were underdeveloped, the story was a stereotypical sword and sorcery tale, but to a certain degree, they do bring to life the vivid imagination of Frazetta through brutally rendered imageries and savage emotions. The above cover art evokes a feeling of a nuclear apocalypse though Frazetta himself often denied it. It is not the first in the series but undoubtedly carries the same menace and grittiness of the original painting and of course, it is my personal favorite.

Book 1: Prisoner of the Horned Helmet

Book 2: Lords of Destruction

Book 3: Tooth and Claw

Book 4: Plague of Knives

Book 5: Rise Of The Death Dealer

Cover art: Tor Books (1988), artist — Frank Frazetta

Continue reading

Download Free ebooks

Download ebook: 1984 by George Orwell (Audiobook)

1984 George Orwell

 

The much acclaimed and prophetic classic by Orwell has stood the test of time. Is it perfect? Absolutely not.

Does it have the flawless symmetry of Austen’s novels? Not really.

Could Orwell delineate the characters like Dostoevsky? Barely.

Does it have the devilish sense of humor so conspicuous of The Animal Firm? No.

Is the plot original? Far from it (check We by Yevgeny Zamyatin).

Does it have a touch of Salman Rushdie’s poetic story telling? Actually, it is more of an essay.

Orwell’s 1984 should be read for reasons of its own. In spite of its flaws, it makes a terrifying future too real for a work of fiction. It could be a Nazi Germany, a Fascist Italy, a so-called socialistic Russia, Napoleon’s despotic France or a combination of all of them. How common are “Big Brothers” in the world as it exists today? “Nothing was your own except the few cubic centimetres inside your skull.” — does this tone seem familiar across socio-economic-political levels? This is not a review of the book, so let the reader be the judge of how imposing Orwell view of the human future is.

“It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.” – what follows would possibly change the way you look at any ideology or propaganda and wonder, like Wordsworth said, “What man has made of man.”

Download ebook 1984 by George Orwell (Audiobook) – Click here

  Continue reading

Opinion & Featured Articles

Just Delivered: A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms by George R.R. Martin

A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms George R.R. Martin

Alright, this is not a review because I am yet to read the book.

If you are into Game of Thrones, this is something you should not skip (just making an educated guess). The book is a prequel to The Songs of Ice and Fire series and is a collection of the following three novellas:

1) The Hedge Knight
2) The Sworn Sword
3) The Mystery Knight

Just the thought that the Targaryens still hold the Iron Throne gives me goosebumps.

The illustrations by Gary Gianni are top notch.

Just got this book from Amazon, and this post is basically a shameless show-off of my excitement 🙂

If you have already read the book, do share your thoughts on it.

Continue reading

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

Continue reading

Opinion & Featured Articles

Top 5 Fantasy Worlds to Visit

 

fantasy

Note: Back again from a disturbed slumber. Hope you are still there.
—————————
You always wanted to be there. You always dreamed of being there. You’d leave all you’ve got just to be there, once and for all.

If you were offered a one way trip to the spectacular, fantastic places you discovered in the books, where would you go? Would you be a wizard, a warrior, an Emperor or a damsel in distress?

Here are a few options in no particular order:

cimmeria

Conan’s Cimmeria

“It was so long ago and far away …
Cimmeria, land of Darkness and the Night.”

Robert E. Howard:

For an eternal savage longing to wield his sword, the sinister continent of Cimmeria is the place to be. Thanks to Tolkien and his faithful sidekicks, 20th century had had its share of fruity elves and Rivendellesque places. If you are a peerless warrior or a real badass, you want to wake up in the frozen wastes of war-like Cimmeria.

westeros

Westeros

You can hate it or may love it but the blood soaked, treacherous land of Westeros cannot be kept out of the equation. Accusations are GRR Martin just re-imagined Britain roughly around the time of the War of the Roses. He simply studied a period of history and ripped it off. Well, he did it damn good. Westeros is certainly more alive and believable than a lot others of its kind. If you are a strategic statesman born in the wrong age, plan a time travel to Westeros for a game of thrones. You win or you die.

barsoom

Barsoom

Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Barsoom could be in the list simply because of the number of rip offs it inspired. Right from Lin Carter to Michael Moorcock, Barsoom has inspired a generation of writers as deeply as it has affected the imagination of the readers. The ridiculously unbelievable yet immensely entertaining and evocative world building is just irresistible. So what if I am worthless in this world? My future lies in a world away.

narnia

Narnia

Lewis’ Narnia is widely considered by critics as one of the most consistent and internally sound example of world building. It does seem to have its own philosophy and preaching, but Lewis somehow makes it easy for the readers to escape to Narnia with a kind of homely magic that we do not commonly find in the Lord of the Rings or even Harry Potter. And of course, the landscape of Narnia comforts you with an optimism that is rare in the real world. Let the peaceful among us find shelter in Lewis’ magical realm.

lord of the rings

Middle-earth

Let them say you walked with the giants and dwelt in the Middle-earth. Tolkien’s Middle-earth has stood the onslaught of a number accusations including but not limited to being cold, barren and boring, and written in wooden language. Nonetheless, it has transcended over others to become a piece of art. The rich and detailed world building is simply awe inspiring. Anyone who doesn’t like it is clearly an Orc.

So what’s your favorite fictional world? And what role would you like to play there?
Continue reading

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 GRR 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

Continue reading