Saturday, October 31, 2015

Book Review: Eat Them Alive

Book Review: 'Eat Them Alive' by Pierce Nace

0 / 5 Stars

'Eat Them Alive' (253 pp) was published by Manor Books in 1977; it also was published in the UK as a paperback, under the New English Library imprint.

'Eat Them Alive' was published when the genre of Splatterpunk didn't really exist. But it certainly is Splatterpunk, one of the progenitor novels of the genre. Whether it's a good Splatter punk novel is open to question. Google this book and you'll get a range of opinions, most of which are not overly complimentary:

Have lots of Brain Bleach ready for when, and if, you read this. (TV Tropes).

Truly, mesmerising in it's splendid awfulness !    (Vault of Evil comments section)

Most violent book I've read, I think, although Apache Death comes close. Stupid and nihilstic, with no artistic redeeming features.        (Vault of Evil comments section)

...this book succeeded in making me giggle hysterically on the train into work providing my fellow commuters with the edifying sight of a sober suited gent biting his hand while reading a book whose cover depicted a blood-stained insect chewing a gobbet of flesh. (Trash City)

Good writing is something else you really shouldn’t expect. Pierce Nace’s prose is crude and often repetitive (to the point that I frequently wondered if I was rereading portions of the book I’d already covered), but delivers where it counts.   ( reviews)

This book is just plain gross. All the scenes of the mantises eating people are rendered in loving, bloody detail, sometimes going on for several pages. Heck, even the non-mantis violence is graphic and cruel, such as the thieves' slow torture of the man they rob. And there are exactly no likable characters. Everyone is a sadistic jerk, an idiot or a cypher. And yet I eat it up (no pun intended).    (Horror by Candlelight reviews)

Forget Guy Smith's The Sucking Pit. Forget Spawn and Slugs and Piranha and Slimer. And forget all the other tacky novels you can think of. Because none come close to's the bloodiest, nastiest, most sadistic, go-for-broke gore novel in existence......Those who despise Hutson and Smith and the rest of the gratuitous gore merchants will lose their lunch to this, but the gorehounds will lap it up and it will end up one of the most reread books in their library.      ( reviews)

The book's plot is a uniquely contrived one. As the novel opens, protagonist Dyke Mellis is eking out a meager existence as a trader in the Caribbean islands off the coast of Colombia. Dyke is a bitter man, the result of a botched murder and robbery he committed along with four other associates eleven years previously....a murder and robbery that left Dyke castrated (!) and dying on the sandy wastelands of Texas.

Only the intervention of a kindly Mexican couple, who retrieved Dyke's bleeding half-dead body from the desert and nursed him back to health, saved him from death. 

Dyke's every waking hours are consumed with angst over his mutilated state, and a desire to revenge himself on his four former associates.

But Dyke's musings are put on hold when, while out at sea, he witnesses a massive earthquake, one that tears gigantic fissures in the nearby island of Malpelo. To Dyke's astonishment, once the quake subsides, giant, man-sized praying mantises (!) emerge from the fissures and instantly go into a frenzy of cannibalism (!).

However, once he recovers from his shock at this violent spectacle, Dyke begins to audacious scheme, at that. For Dyke Mellis is going to train the largest and most vicious of the mantids of Malpelo Island to be his pet killer. 

And then Dyke and his pet mantid Slayer are going to embark on Dyke's long-sought quest for vengeance.....for his four former associates all reside in Colombia. And they have no idea that Dyke's plans call for each of them....TO BE EATEN ALIVE !

Reading 'Eat' was a considerable chore. This is due to two things:

1. The author's prose skills are barely those of a junior high-age writer. Awkward (or even nonexistent) syntax vies with pulp-style dialogue on every page. Here's a sample of the dialogue between Dyke Mellis and his pet mantid, Slayer:

Dyke said, "Good boy, Slayer. You do understand my orders, don't you ? And you will lead the mantises in my avenging destruction. The people-meat you will eat at Pete Stuart's house will be the sweetest you ever tasted. And the blood will be the reddest, the fastest-flowing, the best of all your blood-drinks."

2. Most of the novel consists of highly explicit, almost pornographic descriptions of the processes by which Slayer and the other mantises devour their screaming victims, with Dyke Mellis looking on in a state of sexual excitement. This stuff loses its shock value after it's replayed for the 7th time......

Summing up, if you are adamant that you read one of the most gory, offensive, schlock-worthy pieces of horror fiction / sci-fi ever written, then, you'll want your own copy of 'Eat Them Alive'. But if you decide to pass, you're not missing much........!

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Wings in the Night Part Two

Solomon Kane: 'Wings in the Night' 
Part Two
by Don Glut (story) and David Wenzel (art)
The Savage Sword of Conan No. 54 (July 1980)

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Wings in the Night Part One

Solomon Kane: 'Wings in the Night' 
Part One
by Don Glut (story) and David Wenzel (art)
The Savage Sword of Conan No. 53 (June 1980)

Robert E. Howard published the story 'Wings in the Night' in the July, 1932 issue of Weird Tales magazine. In 1980, Don Glut and David Wenzel teamed up to produce the story in comic form as a two-part backup feature in the June and July, 1980 issues of the Marvel / Curtis magazine The Savage Sword of Conan.

'Wings', which is a Solomon Kane adventure set in Africa, is one of Howard's most effective and memorable horror stories. The story opens with Kane coming upon a bound and dying man who, despite being horribly mutilated, can still speak....

Kane then comes upon a village beset by vicious, winged predators; he attempts to intervene, but this not a conventional 'hero' story where Good Triumphs over Evil........

Glut's script avoids padding or embellishing the original story, making the wise decision to let Howard's plot speak for itself. With his artwork, David Wenzel uses a stark, expressionistic style that, in its graphic depiction of severed heads, ripped flesh, and spurts of gore, goes quite a bit beyond what was usually presented in the Savage Sword franchise.

Part One is posted below; Part Two will appear in the next post here at the PorPor Books Blog.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Book Review: The Warriors of Dawn

Book Review: 'The Warriors of Dawn' by M. A. Foster

2 / 5 Stars

‘The Warriors of Dawn’(278 pp) is DAW Book No. 135, published in January 1975. The cover artwork is by Kelly Freas.

‘Warriors’ is the first book in the ‘ler’ trilogy, with the succeeding titles ‘The Gameplayers of Zan’ (1977) and ‘The Day of the Klesh’ (1979).

Michael Anthony Foster (b. 1939) also wrote the ‘Morphodite’ trilogy and the standalone novel ‘Waves’.

‘Warriors’ centers on two major characters: a young trader named Han Keeling, and a young woman named Liszendir Srith-Karen. The latter is the descendent of a race of genetically-engineered humans called the ler. 

Created centuries ago, as the result of clandestine experiments into the genetic engineering of humans with unusual physical gifts, the ler rebelled against their masters and fled into deep space. Following initial bouts of suspicion and enmity, relations between human and ler have improved, to the point where the two races co-exist, albeit with bewilderment about each other’s racial eccentricities.

As ‘Warriors’ opens, Han Keeling and Liszendir are teamed up for a special undercover assignment: travel to the planet Chalcedon, where, it is rumored, the human and ler population has been subjected to periodic raids by a group of rouge ler. The origin and purpose of the rogue ler is a mystery, but the existence of such a group is so unprecedented, and so alarming, that the Federation is intent on investigating.

Han and Lisezendir embark on the weeks-long journey to Chalcedon, during which they develop an unusual, inter-species romance. Once on Chalcedon, however, things take a turn for the worse, as both find themselves held captive by the leader of the rogue ler - who, as it turns out, call themselves The Warriors of Dawn.

Han Keeling and Liszendir discover that the Warriors are intent on triggering a race war between human and ler, a war that will result in the defeat of the humans and their ler allies, and lead to the ascension into power of the Warriors. Unless the two can free themselves and contact the Federation, the peace between human and ler will be broken, and the resulting war will revive old hatreds and lead to the deaths of millions……..

‘The Warriors of Dawn’ is one of those 70s novels that was inspired by the tremendous success of Frank Herbert’s Dune. It belongs to that sub-genre of sf that deals, in an intricate fashion, with alien sociology, psychology, and language; such books dominated sf publishing in the interval from the late 60s to the late 80s. Examples include The Left Hand of Darkness (1969), the Helliconia trilogy (1982-1985), Courtship Rite (1982), A Door Into Ocean (1986), and The Shore of Women (1986), among others.

In the case of ‘Warriors’, this means that the plot is a perfunctory aspect of the narrative, which is focused on the interaction between Han, the human, and Liszendir, his ‘alien girlfriend’. There is much exposition – which frequently becomes tedious - on various aspects of ler society. Readers will need to prepare themselves for lengthy, didactic passages about ler music, ler religion, ler architecture, ler upbringing and child-rearing, ler language (termed ‘Singlespeech’), ler coutship and mating rituals, ler conflict resolution, etc., etc.

While I found the first half of the book interesting enough despite these expositions, the second half of ‘Warriors’ sees the addition of yet another plot thread , this one involving the ‘klesh’, a race of humans kept in servitude by the rogue ler. This plot thread doubles the book’s sociological and psychological content and made my reading a true chore.

It doesn’t help matters that the author insists on having his non-human characters speak in the sort of stilted, syntax-warping dialogue that is fondly used by sci-fi TV shows and movies. Here’s an example:

I have never done such a thing, never dreamed of it, never tried to set it in the story-block. But he - that thing was trying to kill you, you more than all the rest of us, for you had found it out, and it knew that only you could find its masters. Myself- so what is termination but the end ? Our regrets and pain are short; but to lose you is a price I will not pay.

Summing up, ‘The Warriors of Dawn’ will appeal only to a narrow audience: those with a particular affinity for sociological sf. All others will want to pass.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Dark Horse revives The Rook

Dark Horse Comics revives 'The Rook'

I didn't see this coming: Dark Horse comics this week released the first issue in a reboot of the Warren magazines' quintessential Steampunk hero, 'The Rook'. 

The Rook first appeared in late 1976, in Eerie No. 82 (March 1977 cover date). 

The story goes that in 1976, James Warren thought the time was right to bring back the Western genre, and cowboy heroes, to popular culture. He contacted Bill Dubay, formerly an editor at Warren, and Howard Peretz, an executive at the California toy company Package Play Development, and asked them to create a Western hero (Warren and Peretz apparently wanted to market toys and other collectibles based on the newly created concept).

After some contemplation, Dubay and Peretz came up with a character that combined both Western and sci-fi themes: a time-travelling cowboy called 'The Rook', whose great-great grandfather was an acquaintance of H. G. Wells's Time Traveller, and a chrononaut in his own right. Restin Dane, The Rook, was a young man of the 70s who inherited the time machine of said great-great grandfather, and proceeded to have all sort of adventures through time and space.

[This, of course, was years before the word and concept of 'Steampunk' were coined.]

The first appearance of The Rook drew a high volume of reader mail, and the character became a regular in the pages of Eerie. In 1979 Warren launched The Rook as a standalone title; it ran for 14 issues, until 1982.

In 1985 Harris Comics ('Vampirella') launched a four-issue miniseries, and that's all we've seen of The Rook....until now.

The Dark Horse comic is written by Steven Grant and illustrated by veteran Paul Gulacy. 

How is this first issue ? I have mixed thoughts. Grant's writing has the frenetic, incoherent quality that so defines the point of view of contemporary comic book editors and publishers: too much exposition and external narration are deadly if you're trying to gain the attention of the iPhone Generation. 

There's no effort in this first issue to orient the reader to the background of The Rook; hopefully this will be furnished in successive issues. But for now, at least, anyone lacking prior knowledge of the franchise - meaning practically everyone under the age of 40 - is going to conclude that this is simply a brand-new entry into the Steampunk genre, and yet another new title that will be struggling to compete on the already crowded shelves of the comic book shops.

However, on the plus side, Paul Gulacy's artwork is as impressive as ever, especially when combined with the elaborate software-based color schemes that are commonplace in today's comics, but didn't exist back in the 70s and early 80s. 

At this point, at least, The Rook has a better debut than Dark Horse's disappointing reboots of Creepy and Eerie. I'm willing to pick up the next few issues to see how things play out.