Sunday, February 24, 2013

Book Review: 'Animal' by K'Wan
celebrating Black History Month 2013

4 / 5 Stars

Here at the PorPor Books Blog, we celebrate Black History Month by reading a book, fiction or nonfiction, about the Black Experience.

For Black History Month 2013, the book so selected is the novel 'Animal', by K'Wan (Foye).

'Animal' is a trade paperback released in October 2012 by publisher Cash Money Content / Cash Money Books.

K'Wan Foye has become one of the best-selling authors of 'urban' or 'street' literature, an emerging genre aimed at a black readership, but, like rap music, also eliciting crossover appeal with white readers as well.

'Animal' is the sequel to K'Wan's novel 'Eviction Notice', and in turn, the sixth book in the 'Hood Rat' series, which is set in New York City and features a recurring cast of characters.

Accordingly, the newcomer may be rather bewildered at the various subplots and myriad personalities occupying the narrative. 

Indeed, Animal (the street name of Foye's character Tayshawn) is only sporadically present in most of the narrative. But he does have a set of custom, chrome-plated Glocks; a 14 kt, solid gold necklace upon which dangles a replica of the Muppet character that is his namesake; and a bulletproof vest that he wears underneath his hoodie.

'Animal' is basically a revenge tale. After learning that his girlfriend Gucci has been shot and is hospitalized in intensive care, Animal seeks bloody retribution on Shai Clark, the Harlem drug dealer responsible for the attempt on Gucci's life.

I won't disclose any spoilers, save to say that 'Animal' is a quick and engaging read, despite its large cast and numerous subplots. K'Wan never tips his hand as to whether Animal's scheme for revenge will come to fruition, or leave him and Gucci in even worse straits.

The book is violent; in its first 20 pages, mutilated corpses make an appearance. These are followed by the graphic account of the death of a snitch; it's clear that Animal isn't the only ghetto star who is willing to use excessive force to get his way. As the narrative rolls on, more bodies pile up.....

K'Wan has 'ghetto' idioms and expressions down pat. His dialogue is realistic, and an accurate reflection of the way young, black urbanites speak to one another:

Dena wiped her hands on her apron and retrieved two Coronas from the cooler. She cracked one for herself and handed the other to Frankie. "Vashaun got her stamps so we was just gonna throw a li'l something -something together, but you know how niggaz is when they smell barbecue", she nodded to the dudes at the table. 'Everybody kicked in a little something so we gonna do it how we do it until all the food is gone."

Readers looking for a novel that faithfully depicts the life of a hustler, on Harlem's mean streets, will want to give 'Animal' a try.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

'Hunter II: Goblin Thrust' from Eerie magazine issue No. 70 (November 1975)

In this, the second installment of the 'Hunter II' franchise, our hero teams up with another series character in Eerie, the robot Exterminator-1.

As always, outstanding artwork by Paul Neary.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

'The Ark' by Caza
from the February, 1983 issue of Heavy Metal

Another impressive comic from Caza, featuring some amazing colors and skilled draftsmanship that pays homage to H. R. Giger. 

And kudos to Heavy Metal for publishing this artwork on slick paper, with color separations and reproductions that look outstanding despite the fact that in February, 1983, modern computer graphics for magazine publishing really didn't exist.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Book Review: 'The Enemy of My Enemy' by Avram Davidson

2 / 5 Stars

'The Enemy of My Enemy’(160 pp) was published in December 1966 by Berkley Medallion; the cover artwork is by Richard Powers.

On the planet Orinel, in the overpopulated, stinking, polluted land called Pemath, Jerrod Northi enjoys a successful career as a pirate and thief. However, as the novel opens, Northi finds himself the target of an assassination attempt by persons unknown.

Northi decides to flee Pemath. His preferred destination is Tarnis, a country located elsewhere on Orinel. 

Idyllic and uncrowded, Tarnis is where everyone on Orinel would prefer to live. But the Tarnisi are very particular about who comes into their country, and for how long they are allowed to stay.

For Jerrod Northi, permanent residency in Tarnis can only come about through an exceedingly expensive transformation, courtesy of plastic surgery. The end result will give him the Seven Signs that identify one as a legitimate member of the Tarnisi race: green eyes, long fingers, long ears, hairless bodies, full mouths, slender feet, and melodious voices.

In due course Jerrod Northi finds himself transformed, renamed, given a plausible backstory, and a permanent resident in the promised land of Tarnis. There he settles into a life of ease and repose as a member of the aristocracy.

But as Northi becomes more aware of the internal politics of his adopted home, he also comes to a dismayed awareness that all might not be right with Tarnis….or its people….

When viewed as an SF novel originating in the mid-60s, just before the advent of the New Wave Movement, ‘Enemy’ is not particularly bad, but neither is it particularly memorable.

With ‘Enemy’, Davidson’s prose skills certainly are superior to those of Blish, Asimov, and Clarke, who tended to dominate the sf publishing arena of that time.

However, Davidson was not as accomplished in his plotting as those authors. ‘Enemy’ suffers from too-slow pacing, and its emphasis on wordplay quickly grows tiring. At its halfway point the novel does gain some energy through incidents of violence and brutality communicated in a surprisingly explicit manner for an sf novel of its time.

Unfortunately, however, the momentum from this device is soon dissipated, and the plot settles back into its rut. I have observed this to be a major weakness in other of Davidson’s lengthier works ('The Kar-Chee Reign' and 'Rogue Dragon' come to mind).

While hardcore Davidson fans may find ‘Enemy’ worthwhile, I suspect all others probably will find it rather dull; these I direct to Davidson’s short story collections, which are more rewarding.

Friday, February 15, 2013

'Heavy Metal' magazine, February 1983

It’s February, 1983, and ‘Do You Really Want to Hurt Me’, by Boy George and Culture Club, is in heavy rotation on the FM stations and on MTV. My fellow college track team members and I are debating over whether Boy George is a drag queen, or a particularly huskily-voiced female vocalist. In those long-ago days, transvestites (er, ‘transgendered’) individuals were still a rarity on the public scene.

In the latest issue of Heavy Metal, Sanjulian provides the wraparound front cover. The Dossier touches on the latest developments in New Wave, which by now had more or less subsumed the genre of punk; thus, Lou Reed, Iggy Pop and Peter Gabriel could be mentioned in the same context.

Recent sf novels from established genre authors Arthur Clarke, Robert Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, and Lafayette Ron Hubbard are reviewed, as well as the latest drivel from Kurt Vonnegut. The video game column remarks on ‘Donkey Kong’.

There is an ad for the David Cronenburg film ‘Videodrome’, still a proto-cyberpunk classic all these years later.

The comic contents include new installments of ‘Den II’, ‘Starstruck’, ‘The Ape’, ‘Zora’, and ‘The Man from Harlem’.  

Among the more worthy one-shots is a short strip by Angus McKie..... ‘The King and I’ works in a little Shakespeare, and some outstanding color artwork (below).

Monday, February 11, 2013

Book Review: 'Blood Farm' by Sam Siciliano

1 / 5 Stars

‘Blood Farm’ (336 pp) was published by Pageant Books in September, 1988. The cover illustration is by Hector Garrido.

According to the author bio in the inside back cover page, ‘Blood Farm’ was Sam Siciliano’s first gothic horror novel. Accordingly, I was willing to overlook some of its flaws. But in the end, there were just too many to make the book an enjoyable read…….

‘Blood Farm’ opens in Davenport, Iowa, in February 1972. Lithe, attractive co-ed Angela Rosalba is hitchhiking a ride to nearby Iowa City. It’s bitter cold out, well below freezing, and potential rides have been few and far between.

A hearse (!) stops to offer a ride. The driver is Mike Michaels, a hippie and Vietnam War vet. Angela has some misgivings, but accepts a ride. Mike is en route to pick up a coffin at a farm in the remote town of Udolph; after that, he’s proceeding to Iowa City.

As the hearse makes its way to Udolph, the snow gets heavier, and soon a blizzard is in sway. After various adventures and laboriously communicated Portents of Doom, Mike and Angela arrive at 'Blut Farm'….a rundown mansion in the middle of nowhere.

Some frightening dogs, and enormous, ravenous pigs, roam the outskirts of the farm. But they’re nothing compared to what awaits inside…..the pale, stooped Doctor Blut, and his beautiful daughter Ursula.

Angela and Mike will soon discover the truth about Dr. Blut and his farm….and it’s not going to be pleasant….

‘Blood Farm’ is subtitled ‘An Iowa Gothic’, and the concept certainly has merit.

I lived in Ames in western Iowa for more than two years, and the Winter months are the worst time to find yourself residing that state. 

It’s not so much the cold and snow – I encountered plenty while growing up in Upstate New York – rather, it’s the realization that square mile after square mile of flat, featureless, wind-scoured corn and soybean fields lie all around you. It's the realization that there is nothing out there....for miles..... that make the season so depressing. 

It's one thing if you're living in a major metro area like Des Moines, where there is some degree of distraction from the emptiness. But if you have the misfortune to live in the middle of nowhere, like Storm Lake, Boone, Sidney, or Decorah, then you'll wind up like a disturbing number of young people wind up: frozen to death after a night of desperate boozing....
There are no mountains, or forests of conifers, to alleviate the dreary sameness. After every snow, there’s nothing to see but sterile white fields stretching away to the horizon. The visual and psychological monotony are only relieved at night, when it becomes too dark to see anything.

Unfortunately, ‘Blood Farm’ is too poorly written to adequately exploit the ‘Iowa Gothic’ concept.

For one thing, the book is too long by at least 80 pages. Too much of the narrative is devoted to overlong exposition, and tedious descriptive passages that could’ve benefited from better editing.

Author Siciliano inserts a number of sex scenes that are more than a little contrived , and reminiscent of the way the teen knife-fodder in the ‘Friday the 13th’ and other slasher movies would titillate the audience with some groping and gasping in the creepiest, most disconcerting of locales, just prior to our hapless young lovers being skewered by Jason.

The sex scenes also have liberal splatterpunk content, revolving around the molestation of female characters by the lead villain. Such segments are unpleasant, while contributing little to the overall narrative.

The novel’s denouement is so lengthy and over-written (the villain spends an exorbitant amount of time delivering speeches about – Bwaa Haa Haa ! – the horrible deaths he will mete out to our heroes) that it took some resolve on my part to plow through the verbiage to the conclusion.

Summing up, ‘Blood Farm’ may have had the seeds of a worthy, vampire-themed horror novel somewhere within its pages, but the final product falls decidedly short.

Friday, February 8, 2013

'Poker' by Voss
from Metal Hurlant, Spanish edition, issue 6, 1982

(English translation is paraphrased)

"Your ten credits, and fifteen more…"
"Sorry, I’m out"

"Listen up ! A plane !"
"Bah ! It will pass over"
No ! It’s coming this way !
"Well, will you cover my bet, or not ?"
"We've been seen !"

"Don’t stand over there !
....too late !
Do not talk, boy ...."
"Damn .... for once I had a good hand !"

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Book Review: 'The Storm Lord' by Tanith Lee

3 / 5 Stars 

'The Storm Lord’ (350 pp) is DAW Book No. 193, and was published in May 1976. The cover art is by Gino D’Achille. It’s the first volume in the ‘Wars of Vis’ series, with the succeeding volumes ‘Anackire’ (1983) and ‘The White Serpent’ (1988).

The book is set in a generic fantasy landscape, albeit one riddled with scheming mistresses, sorceresses, queens, and courtesans, and the rather dim-witted (if heavily muscled) kings, advisors, mercenaries, and heroes who they manipulate.

As the novel opens, Rehdon, King of the nation of Dorthar and the so-called Storm Lord, is out with a troop of his soldiers on a hunting trip to the Lowlands, home of a race of docile, reticent barbarians with blonde hair and blue eyes. Rehdon, like all of the race of the Vis who make up the population of Dorthar, views the Lowland race with contempt.

The King takes his pleasure with a Lowland sorceress named Ashne’e, who accompanies the party back to Kormavis, the capital city of Dorthar, and takes up residence in the palace.

This displeases Queen Val Mala, since any son spawned by Ashne’e will inherit the Kingship and ascend the throne as the successor Storm Lord. The thought of a Vis / Lowlander half-breed inheriting the throne is anathema to Val Mala.

Following extended sessions of palace intrigue and duplicity, Raldnor, the bastard son of Rehdon and Ashne’e, is spirited away to the Lowlands, there to mature in ignorance of his heritage.

The bulk of the novel is centered on the various adventures encountered by Raldnor as he comes to awareness of his destiny, and then fulfills it.

As a Tanith Lee novel from the 70s, ‘The Storm Lord’ adheres to a number of conventions for fantasy novels of that time and place.

Readers of contemporary epic fantasy novels, such as ‘The Name of the Wind’, ‘The Warded Man’, and the ‘Game of Thrones’ series, will no doubt be bewildered, even turned off, by Lee’s use of highly figurative prose.

Paragraph after paragraph relates of crouching shadows, brooding darkness, angry winds, sullen yellow skies, etc., etc. At times Lee gets so caught up in Metaphor and Simile Excess that I had to re-read passages in order to determine what (if anything) actually was taking place.

Such a stylistic approach to fantasy writing was common in the 70s and borrowed heavily from the work of Michael Moorcock and M. John Harrison, in particular.

As well, the action components of Lee’s narrative are subdued, with the narrative more focused on the personal interactions of the cast of characters, rather than the swords and sorceries usually supplying the bulk of an epic fantasy plot.

Readers with the patience for a narrative with an ornate prose style, and a fantasy novel with a darker, more ambiguous atmosphere, will find ‘The Storm Lord’ worth investigating.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

'The Bus' by Paul Kirchner

Saturday, February 2, 2013

'Heavy Metal' magazine, February 1979

February, 1979, and amid the numbing cold, the piles of gray snow, and the depressing knowledge that Spring in upstate New York is still a long, long way away, the latest issue of Heavy Metal is on the stands at Gordon's Cigar Store. 

The BeeGee's 'Tragedy' is in heavy rotation on the FM stations, and blaring from car radios as I make my way down the snowy street to Gordon's.

The front cover of the February issue is 'In Space' by Derek Rigg, with 'From QLEXZ With Love' by Bob Wakelin on the back cover.

Inside are ongoing installments of Corben's 'New Tales of the Arabia Nights', Bilal's 'Exterminator 17', Macedo's 'Telefield' , McKie's 'So Beautiful and So Dangerous', and memorable one-shots from Caza ('Hydrogenesis'), Sabine and Halmos ('Quetzal'), and Bilal ('Planet of No Return').


...........there's 'Lulea', by Arthur Suydam.

I've avoided posting this five-page story before here at the PorPor Blog, because it is easily the most warped thing Suydam has ever done. 

But it's also one of the funniest things he's ever done. As well, the artwork, the plot, and the final panel all come together with a unique brilliance. It easily matches the demented genius of Jean Michel Nicollet's best material.

So here it is......from the February, 1979 issue of Heavy Metal, Arthur Suydam's 'Lulea'.