Thursday, August 31, 2006

Strangely Enough

I finally finished reading Susanna Clarke's delightful Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell. I know the book came out a couple of years ago, and it's had a lot of critical acclaim--the Hugo Award, World Fantasy Award, book Sense book of the year, etc.--but somehow I never heard about it. I saw the Tor paperback edition in my grocery store and picked it up, mainly because of all the awards it said it won and all the nice blurbs by people like Neil Gaiman.

It's certainly a very good book, and it's well worth reading, though not for people with short of attention spans (the paperback is over 1000 pages and it's fairly complex). Still, it was definitely a pleasure to read. The characters were fleshed out nicely. The plot made sense. The style is a bit old fasioned, but that was obviously done on purpose and to good effect.

The plot is a s follows. There's a gentleman named Mr. Norrell who is a practicing magician--the only one seen in England for over a century. He wants to bring magic back to England, but oddly enough, doesnt want anyone else performing magic. To gain political influence, he raises a girl from the dead with the help of a fairy king. Unfortunately, the fairy sticks around and causes all kinds of trouble. Mr. Norrell eventually acquires and apprentice named Jonathan Strange. The two fight and argue a lot, but seem genuinely fond of each other.

There's a good bit more to it than that, but it's a very long book, and I don't want to go into it all here. If you haven't read Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell yet, you should. I give it a full 5 yo-yos.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006


I've decided that since when I get a new issue of Fortean Times or Weird Tales, I always stop reading whatever book I'm book I'm reading--in this case Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell--I might as well write a review of each magazine issue. So, lets start with Fortean Times issue 214.

While it wasn't a bad issue, it certainly isn't my favorite of all time. The three feature articles are "Fox Tales," "Stoat Packs," and "Divine Monsters." Frankly, the only one I really enjoyed was "Fox Tales," which was about fox spirits/were-foxes/fox demons/etc. throughout world myth and folklore. "Stoat Packs" is a very short article on the rare phenomenon of stoats forming packs. "Divine Monsters" was about the castrati.

"Fox Tales" did provide lots of interesting folk tales about various encounters with fox creatures, which is probably why I liked it so much. "Stoat Packs," while short, did provide some information on dangerous encounters with stoat packs, but wasn't all that interesting. "divine Monsters" was full of interesting historical tidbits, but I"m not entirely sure what's Fortean about castrati.

The Fortean Bureau of Investigation and one of the forum pieces dealt with Alien Big Cats, which is at least somewhat interesting. The other forum piece was about werewolves and didn't really tell me anything I didn't already know. The Hierophant's monthly rant seems to be on how conspiracy theorists are crazy and have no sense of humor. It's pretty funny, as usual. Other than that, I don't have much to say about the other regular features.

This issue gets 4 yo-yos.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Free Filk

I'm very fond of Filk Music. One of my favorite filkers is probably Tom Smith. I've never actually been to Con and heard any actual live filking, but I do own a few CDs. One of which is Tom Smith and his Digital Acoustic Compilation and I definitely plan on buying some more of his CDs when I have some extra cash and don't blow it on books or stuff like the new "Weird Al" Cd that's coming next month.

Anyway, I occasionally like to check out Tom Smith's website (because he has some cool free content), and I discovered that he's started a thing he calls iTom, where he'll be posting a new song every week. The song of the week is going to be available for free download, and all the songs can be listened to for free or purchased for 99¢ in a higher quality format.

So far, he's posted four songs, and I really like three of them: Blue Screen of Death, I Want My Flying Car, and Can't Get The File To Play. I definitely recommend going there now. I give it 5 yo-yos.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Defiled and yet Defiant

Anyway, on tho Brian Lumley's Necroscope: Defilers. This is the second book in the E-Branch Trilogy, and I liked it more than the first one. Mostly, I think, because there are far fewer references to the Vampire World Trilogy (which I haven't read yet).

This book sees Jake cutter, the new Necroscope, finishing his vendetta against Luigi Casellano, who--surprise, surprise--it turns out is really a vampire. He's the blood son of one of the mafia vampires from Necroscope: The Lost Years. Luckily, Jake realizes the full extent of his Necroscopic abilities and calls up the dead to finish off the undead vampires. Meanwhile, the rest of E-Branch is fighting a bunch of vampire nuns on a Greek island.

It sounds kind of silly, but it's very good. I could hardly put this one down. This is a very great book, and--despite the fact that I'm not reading it next--I'm really looking forward to the third book in the series. The only thing that I didn't like was the chronology, which confused me a little bit.

You see, the other Necroscope books are mostly set in the 1980s, but the E-Branch books are set in the near future (2011, I think). Still it's a minor matter, and won't stop from giving Necroscope: Defilers 4.5 yo-yos.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

It's an Invasion

I know it's been a while since I've posted, but I've been busy. Anyway, I finished Brian Lumley's Necroscope: Invaders (part 1 of the E-Branch Trilogy). While it is a good book, I think it might have been better if I'd read his Vampire World Trilogy first, because Invaders keeps referring to events in the Vampire World trilogy.

Like the previously reviewed Necroscope: The Touch, this story involves a man who has been hit by one of (the now deceased) Harry Keogh's golden darts and who has gained Necroscopic powers from it. In this case, this man is Jake Cutter, a man who has killed several people in the name of vengeance.

In Invaders, Jake and E-Branch are fighting against a vampire out of Starside (the alternate universe vampires originated in). He's called Malinari the Mind, because he has incredible telepathic powers. Two other vampires came with him, and they too have fearsome powers, though we don't actually meet them in this book. Malinari has set up shop in Australia, and it was only through luck they managed to find him.

This is a good book. As much as I liked the character of Harry Keogh, the lame plot devices Lumley used to prevent Keogh from using his full Necroscope powers got old real quick. Jake is still learning how to use them, so he doesn't need plot devices to keep him in check. I'll give Invaders 4.5 yo-yos.

Saturday, August 19, 2006


Ok, I actually finished reading Coraline two days ago. I've been kind of busy with some other things, and I haven't gotten around to posting (You'll probably hear about those other things in a few weeks).

Anyway Coraline is a great book, which isn't all that surprising as it's written by Neil Gaiman and has illustrations by Dave McKean. It's one of the creepiest books I've ever read, and despite being written for children--and being very short--it's really terrific.

The book is about a girl named Coraline who finds a mysterious door in her parent's flat (that's an apartment to us Americans).
This door leads to a strange world inhabited by weird version of Coraline's family and neighbors. The place was created by her Other Mother who is really a malevolent being that wants to eat Coraline's soul (or something). Coraline has to use her wits to defeat the fiend, rescue her family, and escape.

It's a really great book, though I would hesitate to read it to very young children, as it just might give them nightmares. I give Coraline 5 yo-yos.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

A little Recklessness can be a good thing

I've finished reading another P. G. Wodehouse book, Jill the Reckless. This is a much, much nicer edition than the version of Love Among the Chickens I reviewed a little while ago. That's not very surprising, since Love was a cheap edition put out by a vanity press or POD or something. Jill, on the other hand is a beautiful collector's edition put out by Overlook Press. (For some reason Amazon doesn't have a copy of the nice cover, so I'm including a picture of it that I downloaded from the publisher.)

Besides having a nice cover, the book is well put together, and surprisingly cheap (less than $20 for a hardcover). I definitely want to get more of the Overlook editions of Wodehouse, but unfortunately, all the other editions they have are of books I already own in other editions, so I'll have to wait. They are planning to republish all of Wodehouse's works, but they're currently doing it at a rate of two books per year, which means that by the time they're finished I'll be in my sixties or seventies.

Jill the Reckless is the story of Jill Mariner, a head strong young girl, who heads to America and becomes a chorus girl after she is dumped by her rich fiancee. As is always the case in Wodehouse stories, she meets the true love of her life and things end happily. It's a great book, and it's definitely one of the best Wodehouse books I've read outside of his Jeeves and Blandings series. I give it 5 yo-yos.

Up next, in fact quite possibly later tonight, I'll be reviewing Neil Gaiman's Coraline.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Stop Clowning Around

Oh my God!

As you may remember, I occasionally like to rent B horror movies on DVD. When I run I run across something really bad, I review it here. If I ever find anything good, I'll review it here, too. Sadly, Mr. Jingles is not one of the good ones. It is a very, very bad movie.

It's basically a knock off of the Nightmare On Elm Street movies, only with a clown. I don't mean that the clown kills people in their dreams like Freddy did, I mean he makes jokes when he's killing. Unfortunately, unlike Freddy he's not even remotely funny. Nor, is he remotely scary. He just sucks. Almost everything in this movie sucks.

Things that don't suck: 1) The scary clown makeup; 2) The gore effects; 3) The lighting; 4) The sound. This is a step up from some of the movies I've panned. Some of them just had good gore effects and make up. Still, what this movie lacks is good acting, good dialogue, a plot that makes sense, and originality.

As I said, the plot is strongly reminiscent of A Nightmare On Elm Street. Mr. Jingles was wrongfully accused of being a pedophile (Freddy was a child killer). Mr. Jingles was beaten up by an angry mob (Freddy was killed by an angry mob). Mr. Jingles is killed after breaking out of prison and comes back from the dead for vengeance (Freddy comes back from the dead for vengeance). Mr. Jingles kills a bunch of teenagers and a few other people who get in his way (Freddy kills a bunch of teenagers).

Unfortunately, the plot is much lamer than Nightmare's. They never really explained how Freddy came back, but Mr. Jingles, despite being in a mental hospital (or jail, the plot wasn't all that clear on this), and despite being brutally abused and raped by guards and fellow inmates, manages to get ahold of a book on demonology and learns black magic. This enables him to cast a spell as he lays dying, so he can come back to kill again. (By the way, did you ever here a gun go "click, click, click" in a movie instead of "bang!" or something. If you want to see that, then watch this movie, because that's what the gun that kills Mr. Jingles does.)

The ending is really stupid too. A guy who's supposed to be dead somehow miraculously survives and shows up to save the heroine from the cops. Then Mr. Jingles kills the cops. There's nothing even remotely resembling a resolution to the plot. It's like a TV episode that's "To Be Continued," only there's no way in Hell I'd ever watch the next part of this piece of crap. It gets 1 yo-yo, and that's being generous.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006


I've been fond of the music of Weird Al Yankovic ever since I was a kid. I was also a fan of his short lived 1997 Saturday morning show, The Weird Al Show. Of course, I wasn't a kid then--I was 22 when in premiered--but I still had a fondness for Saturday morning TV and for Al. Which is a good thing, because it was a great show.

Now it's available on a 3 disc DVD set containing all 13 episodes. The show is similar to Pee Wee's Playhouse, though I don't like comparing Al to Pee Wee, since Al's never been caught spanking the monkey in a porno movie theater.

The basic plot is like this: Al is a TV show host who lives in a cave with his pet hamster. He has all sorts of wacky friends, like The Hooded Avenger and Val Brentwood - Gal Spy. In each episode, Al learns a valuable lesson with the help of these (and other) friends. He also watches TV a lot, with short parodies substituting for TV shows (the Fred Huggins show stuff is hilarious). He makes really gross foods, and Harvey the Wonder Hamster does the occasional death-defying stunt. He has a cartoon called Fat Man about an overweight, and rather dim witted, superhero and his hyper-intelligent hamster sidekick.

About the only thing that dates show are the musical guests. He had one just about every few episodes, but unfortunately they were bands designed to appeal to kids, and as such bands often do, they have largely faded into obscurity. The only one I still remember is Hanson, and the only thing I remember about them is that I though they were one of those lame-ass boy bands who were designed primarily to separate prepubescent girls from their money.

The has-been bands don't really detract from the series. The only thing is annoying is the fact that they've included all the show breaks (the WE'LL BE RIGHT BACK stuff), which gets old after the first episode. Despite that, I still give The Weird Al Show 4.5 yo-yos.

Note 10/06/06: I eventually listened to the commentary on the shows. It was very informative, but got a bit racy in points. I wouldn't recommend letting young children listen to the commentary. Not that I expect they'd want to.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

To Surge Again

Okay, so now I've finished Necroscope: Resurgence. To be honest, I didn't like it all that much.

I thought it tended to bog down in the middle. Harry (the Necroscope) spends most of the book wandering around and acting crazy because he's been hypnotized too often. He even ends up in a mental hospital for a while. Eventually, he gets better with the help of Franz Mesmer, Nostradamus, and the two people who originally hypnotized him.

There was a lot of stuff about the vampires running around and killing each other, too. That was more interesting than Harry acting crazy, but it still wasn't all that great. Things did pick up once Harry got his shit together. Then he just killed all the vampires and made the world safe again (without any real effort).

While this book wasn't great, it wasn't terrible either. Since it's half a book (and compliments an earlier review)I'll give it 1.5 out of 2.5 yo-yos.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Are We Clear On This?

Well, I finally received my copy of Crystal Clear: Dominic Deegan Volume One from Amazon.

Dominic Deegan is my favorite web comic, and this book contains its first 100 strips. It runs up until the one where Luna decides to be Dominic's Assistant. We meet several important characters in the book: Dominic, Sparks, Siggy, Luna, Stunt, and Bumper. Really, it's a great book with strips from a truly excellent comic. (For my review of Dominic Deegan, see here.)

I've got to give it 5 yo-yos, but I don't actually recommend buying it. Mookie has created a Dominic Deegan One and a Half with the first nine chapters of Dominic Deegan--this book has the first 3. So far, he's only sold it at OTAKON, but I expect it'll be available from the Seer's Catalogue sometime next month (after Mookie completes his move to Texas).

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Where Does The Time Go?

I didn't even realize that I haven't posted for four days until just now. If I had, there probably would have been something else here yesterday or the day before. In any case, it's time for my review of Brian Lumley's Necroscope: The Lost Years.

If you've read my previous posts, you know I like the Necroscope series. The only real problem I have with the series is that the Necroscope is just too powerful; He can learn just about anything by talking to the dead, he can get the dead to rise up to save him, he can travel anywhere instantly through the "Möbius Continuum," and in the later books (though not this one) he ended up getting all kinds of extra powers from other psychics. So, all of the books I've read have used one ploy or another to keep the Necroscope from using his powers to their fullest extent. This time around, it's a post-hypnotic suggestion that he isn't to reveal his powers to anyone.

In this book, Harry Keogh--the Necroscope--is fighting three groups of Wamphyri (vampires and werewolves). He seems to have fallen in love with a female werewolf, though he doesn't know she's a werewolf because of he mesmeric abilities. Her sire, the father of all werewolves, is trapped in amber (not the Zelany Amber, the rock), and she needs Harry's help to revive him. There are other Wamphyri causing trouble as well. There are two vampire/mafia don brothers and a vampiric Tibetan monk. All of the Wamphyri naturally want to kill each other.

Over all, I liked the book, but I don't like the fact that it's been chopped in half. I don't like it when books in a series don't stand on their own. This one has no real ending; the ending is the next book, Resurgence. I had been planning on reading Wodehouse's Jill the Reckless next, but now I'll have to read the next Necroscope book just to find out what happens. Sigh, half a good book gets 2 out of 2.5 yo-yos.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Buck Buck Buck Buck Buck

I am a big fan of P. G. Wodehouse, and not surprisingly, I loved Love Among the Chickens. Unfortunately, this particular edition leaves something to be desired.

It's published by, which judging by their website, is a vanity press. Of course, Love Among the Chickens, is out of copyright here in the US, so anybody can publish a new edition if they want to. I just wish they'd put a little effort into it. This edition is seems to be culled from the Project Gutenberg version and they . They did remove all the introductory legal bits Gutenberg adds, but unfortunately that seems to be all the editing that went into it. Project Gutenberg distributes most of their books in plain text formats--ASCII in this case. That means they can't show things like italics . Instead they use backslashes to represent it--like /this/. Unfortunately, whoever edited this book was too lazy or stupid to replace the back slashes with italics. This was extremely annoying.

The actual story is terrific and very funny. This was the first story, and only novel, featuring that classic Wodehouse dreamer and schemer, Ukridge. In this book, Ukridge tries to make money by starting a chicken farm, despite the fact that he knows absolutely nothing about chickens or agriculture. The book is narrated by Ukridge's writer friend, Garnet, who gets lugged into the scheme. Garnet falls in love with a neighbor of the farm, and has some comic misadventures while wooing her.

It's not Wodehouse's best book, but it's not his worst book either. Really, even Wodehouse's worst book would still be pretty damn good. Still, I can't recommend this edition. There are several others available (as I said it is out of copyright). I wish I had bought one of the others, as some are actually cheaper. I just hope their better edited. While the story itself is great, I can only give this edition 4 yo-yos because of the poor editing.

Friday, August 04, 2006

If the Stories Are Endless, Why Is the Book So Small?

I got my shipment from Amazon today, and the first book I read was Neil Gaiman's Sandman: Endless Nights. Since it's a graphic novel--and not a very long one at that--it only took a couple of hours. As with all of Gaiman's Sandman stuff, I liked it.

If you've never read the Sandman comics, you should probably read this paragraph. If you are familiar with them, then skip it. There are seven anthropomorphic beings, called the Endless, who represent the intrinsic forces of the universe. They are Destiny, Death, Dream, Destruction, Desire, Despair, and Delirium (formerly Delight). The main character of the Sandman series is, as you can probably guess, Dream. This book is slightly different.

Instead of focusing on Dream, Endless Nights tells seven stories, one for each of the Endless. Some of them were great and one or two I just didn't like.

"Death and Venice" is one of the ones I liked. It's a tale about how Death finally gains access to an island where time (and death) have been held off for centuries. "What I've Tasted of Desire" is a pretty good story too. It's about a woman who gets what she desires and then uses her desirability to revenge herself on her husband's killers. "The Heart of a Star" is Dream's story. It's all about how his first love chooses to love a star instead of him, and it shows how his feud with Desire begins. It's one of my favorites in the collection. "Fifteen Portraits of Despair" on the other hand, was one of the ones I really didn't like. It's basically fifteen vignettes about people who despaired and a bunch of pictures of despair. I suppose it was intended to be artsy or something, but it was just boring. "Going Inside" was a different type of story too, but this time in a good way. It's about five lunatics who are sent into Delirium's realm to rescue her. What I like about it is how each of the loonies fits the events into their own personal madness. The Destruction story, "On the Peninsula," is about an archaeological dig where they're digging up the future instead of the past. It wasn't one of my favorite stories, but I don't consider it one of the bad ones either. "Endless Nights," which is the Destiny story, I do consider to bad a bad one. It's not really a story, just a description of Destiny and his book. Still, the artwork for it is magnificent.

Sandman: Endless Nights is good, but not the best of the Sandman series. I can only give it 4 yo-yos. Up next, I've started P. G. Wodehouse's Love Among the Chickens, which as it's a Wodehouse, is already showing signs of being a great book. Unfortunately, I'm having some problems with this particular edition, which I'll mention when I review.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

The Unique Magazine

Well, it'll probably be a while before I write a another book review. Amazon shipped more of my most recent order on Sunday, and I don't want to start reading any other books, because I know I'll just put them aside when my order finally arrives. Also, I just got the latest issue of Weird Tales yesterday, and I've been busy reading it.

If for some reason you don't know what Weird Tales is, then you probably aren't much of a fan of fantasy and horror. It's just the magazine that published Robert E. Howard and H. P. Lovecraft's best known works. It's been around since the 1920s. Just read the Wikipedia article.

It's got to be one of my favorite magazines. In fact I'd say it's second only to Fortean Times on my list. It's a great magazine for anyone who likes fantasy, horror, or--well umm--weird tales.

The current issue has eight stories and five poems, all with a weird flavor. I'm not going to get into the poetry here, but I will share my thoughts on the stories.

My favorite had to be Richard Parks' "Conversation at the Tomb of an Unknown King." I thought it was kind of funny, and a bit creepy, and I liked the wight. Brian Stableford's "The Elixir of Youth" was another good one. This one wasn't funny, but it was a heck of a lot creepier, especially the ending. There was a nice Arthurian story called "Aftermath" by Tina & Tony Rath. Keith Taylor's "Corpse's Wrath" was an exciting weird adventure. Robert Weinberg's "Children of Moriah" was certainly a very strange, and disturbing, story. I liked Richard Lupoff's "Fourth Avenue Interlude," but even though it was a well told story, it lacked the weird elements I expect from a Weird Tales story. Natalia Lincoln's "Revival" didn't really grip me all that much. It wasn't a bad story, but I didn't think it was all that great either. Terry Sofian's "Blackwater Ghosts," on the other hand, just bored the hell out of me.

Besides the fiction and poetry, Weird Tales has a few other things to offer. Their editorial, "The Eyrie," provides an interesting insight into fantasy and horror. They provide reviews for many interesting books in the genre, many of them by small presses and the like. They occasionally have a non-fiction article; this issue has one on Robert E. Howard, to celebrate the 100th anniversary of his birth earlier this year.

Weird Tales is well worth subscribing to. Their stories are usually excellent, and they have lots of other interesting features. I give Weird Tales 5 yo-yos.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Arr Matey This Be The Coolest T-Shirt Ever

I just ordered myself a copy of what I consider to be the coolest t-shirt ever made. Just look at it. Pirates and puns, what could be better. Just point your mouse at Dr. McNinja's Gift Shop and buy one. Just think how cool you'll be when Talk Like A Pirate Day rolls around. I definitely give this one 5 yo-yos.

Note From Yoyogod: Just to be clear, that image is from the Dr. McNinja guy, and should be considered copyrighted by him, so I expect it isn't covered by the Creative Commons Licence. However I would consider using it in this context to be fair use.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

An Old Book

A few years ago, I used to live near a store that sold used paperbacks for half the cover price. I picked up quite a few good books there, like my collection of Fu Manchu books. I also picked up a few pieces of total crap, like Planet of the GAWFS, which is one of the worst books I've ever read, or The Monodyne Catastrophe, which I couldn't get any farther into that the first chapter before I got bored. There are a few others though, that for one reason or another I just never got around to reading. One of those was Found Wanting by Lin Carter.

This is one very strange book. There's this guy named Kyon who wakes up in the futuristic city of Urbs. He can't remember anything about his past. He had all kinds of strange adventures: getting rescued by squid like things, nearly eaten by severed stone heads, becoming a magician's assistant, getting arrested for breaking and entering, etc.

While that may sound interesting--and it is--the over all plot is somewhat predictable. For instance, all of the characters are referred to as "he." Eventually, Kyon meets someone named Auren. For some reason, nobody else seems to like "him." Not surprisingly, it turns out that Aruen is female, and every male has been programmed to not like females. This, along with ensuring no one goes through puberty, is to prevent over crowding. I had it figured out as soon as Auren was introduced.

All in all, while the overall plot is a bit predictable, this is still a good book, but since it's out of print, it might be hard to get. Still, Amazon has a few used copies for sale, and I give it 4 yo-yos.