The first book in the series The Knights Eternal we are introduced to a world of monsters, magic and religious fervor, how do they all blend in Robert J. Duperre’s Soultaker?
The main figures in Soultaker are Abe, Meesh and Shade, three of the Knights Eternal, so named because they are immortal. In truth, the vessels of the three nights are immortal, whenever one of them dies a new soul occupies the body. Abe is the oldest of the three, tries to decode the riddles of his religion, while Shade is haunted by visions of his dead wife Vera. The knights are tasked with keeping order in the land, a mission that seems to be getting more and more difficult lately. From the fact that the scourgers come down from their homes in the mountains, to open portals and rumors of walking dead. On their way to exact vengeance on the religious figure gone bad Ronan Cooper, and the chase for crystals, they come to the deserted city of Breighton. A single survivor relates a tale of the dead rising and attacking the city. A tangled web of mystery, horror and violence begins to unfold before the three Knights Eternal.
Soultaker is a perfect blend of a variety of genre fiction or at least sub genres of Science Fiction. The setting is overtly post apocalyptic, complete with religious fundamentalists and desert landscapes, it has a techno fantasy aspect with the ostentatious guns and magical weaponry, but also the adventurous nature of a fantasy book. That coupled with a good portion of horror. The tale keeps the readers on their toes at all time and would clearly be categorized as a page turner. Duperre manages to perfectly blend the wild west style of storytelling with the science fiction backdrop. The Knights Eternal believe in a religion called Pentmatarianism, an apparent off shoot of older religions in the world. They also encounter the scourgers’ faith in Yehoshua, which causes them some confusion. There is a lot of depth in Soultaker and it takes some unexpected turns. It is a great example of what genre fiction can do.
Genre: Science Fiction
Publisher: Crossroad Press
Cassius Mass was known as the Fire Count, the Butcher of Kolthas a true heel in the eyes of his enemies. That was when he was a noble of Crius, part of the Archduchy, a big deal. That was also before the war with the Commonwealth that the arrogance of his class forced the nation into, before they lost it all and the Archduchy was no more. He managed to come out of it in one piece and for years he has been hiding on a freighter, under an assumed name, happy enough to while away his existence as a functioning member of his one time enemy; The Commonwealth.
When his identity becomes revealed to all aboard the ship he decides to leave, to save his own neck from those around him, as well as those who care for him. A small revolutionary group calling themselves the Freedom Army makes this difficult for him. Especially when he realizes that there is a clone among them, posing as him. That is not the only problem; his dead wife is there as well. With a newfound calling in life Cassius is soon enlisted to bring down the Freedom Army, or at least fight against his doppelganger. Things only become more complicated when a version of his sister shows up.
Lucifer’s Star is easy to dispel as your run of the mill space opera. A pompous and flamboyant story in the same vein as G.R.R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire, but told in space. The kind of science fiction that was abundant during the eighties and was almost always written by Kevin J. Anderson et al. This is not that kind of story. It may appear so at first glance. We are propelled into the tale by virtue of a space battle and then most of it is told at quite an elevated speed. Lucifer’s Star does not suffer from the overabundance of pages that similar works do, and where other authors would struggle to keep things short and sweet, Phipps & Suttkus manage to say much with just a few words. It appears as if a lot of work has been put into the backdrop, a tapestry of intrigue and personal conflict. The conflict between the Archduchy and the Commonwealth is one that takes some more information, for there is an interesting to be told. Cassius May is the epitome of an antihero. A villain of gigantic proportions in the past he tries to redeem himself by doing what he thinks is right, in this case, what others want him to do. He is loyal to his family and the image he has carved out for himself under the guise of a new persona. This makes him one of the most dimensional characters within science fiction. Lucifer’s Star has something for everyone to enjoy. Political and relationship intrigue, great world building, clones and robots. It sets things up perfectly for sequels and rivals the work of James S.A. Corey.
Lucifer’s Star is a healthy mixture of genre fiction. On the the surface a science fiction tale, but at its heart it has all the properties of noir. It is gritty and dark, that does not wholly rely on action, but a great narrative to ensnare the reader. It would make Philip K. Dick very proud.
In some cases the movies or television shows become more iconic than the book they are based on. Often times the original piece falls into obscurity and is not given the treatment as its adaptations. For a long time that was the case of Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein, where the first silent movie was based on a play. The play, released shortly after the book was published, omitted the science fiction aspect of Mrs. Shelly’s story, and therefore also its greatness. In this edition of Rear View we discuss the classic science fiction novel Planet of the Apes, the victim of just such a thing.
In 1963 Pierre Boulle published his work La Planète des Singes in France and was that same year translated to English. In 1968 it was made adapted for the big screen and was then indelibly made part of our shared cultural heritage. The book and the movies, both the one from ’68 and the remake in 2001, do have some similarities, but Boulle’s overall idea has subsequently become lost. One might want to argue that it has been brought back thanks to the later franchise; Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011) and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014), both hinting at similar backstories.
Planet of the Apes is more of a philosophical work, like Frankenstein or Handmaid’s Tale than an adventure Sci-Fi novel. Boulle discusses man’s use of animals for experiments and supposed superiority over races perceived as lesser. Like Frankenstein the story is told through another person’s voice. The couple Jinn and Phyllis are on a retreat in space, all alone in their little space ship, when they come across a document in a container. A message in a bottle as it were. The document is found to be the tale of the French journalist Ulysse Mérou, who is detailing his journey, together with a professor and his disciple, to the star Betelgeuse. They land on a planet similar to Earth and quickly come in contact with humans of that world. Naked and incapable of speech the wild men destroy their ship and Mérou and his companions are forced to stay in their village. The following morning the village is attacked by a hunting party, described very much like the British fox hunting groups, and those who are not killed are rounded up and placed in cages. Mérou is forced to observe, from his captivity, how the bodies of men are displayed like the game of his home world, photographed and taken as trophies.
He is subjected to experiments by other apes, chiefly orangutans, conditioning ones that he quickly recognizes from his time at school. He befriends the chimpanzee Zira, and convinces her that he has some intelligence, and he learns to speak her language, as she begins speaking his. Most of the book is a description of how the apes view humans, who they see as lower on the evolutionary chain. Man can’t speak or use the same facial expressions as Mérou is accustomed to and all attempts at teaching them is met with failure. Mérou learns that the apes are divided into classes. The orangutans who are the main authority on science, the chimpanzees who are the true innovators and the gorillas who enjoy hunting, but also steal the chimps’ ideas and use it for their own gain.
The apes live in a conservative society, where the orangutans keep any form of scientific progress contained. This has also caused their world to remain stagnant. Cornelius, Zira’s fiance, claims that the ape race sprung up from nothing several thousand years earlier, but has not evolved since. This makes him ponder whether they might just have mimicked something else. Mérou’s abilities are revealed to the scientific community and is released. He spends his days assisting Zira and Cornelius in their research, until the archaeological ruins of a city is found that might just reveal the origins of ape.
There is so much to be enjoyed by reading Planet of the Apes, and especially today. The world was different in ’63 and many of the ideas and points that Boulle tried to make were probably seen as odd and dystopian. As with any good science fiction novels he expertly took the science of his time and pondered its implications for our future. But there is more to it than that. The story is an intimate reflection on how we as a society have developed and how we chose to treat those we perceive as beneath us. It is only through the eyes of a man like Ulysse Mérou that this can be made clear. What must it be like to sit in a cage and watch ones family and friends be displayed as a prize, or try to communicate in your language when all that the listener hears is gibberish.
The book Planet of the Apes deserves to take a more prominent place in the world of literature. It does make the reader think and it is still relevant today.
Our good friend Jonathan Fesmire has now finished his novel Bodacious Creed; A Steampunk Western. Here is your chance to win an exclusive harcover edition of that book. Just click on the image and enter the giveaway.
In this episode Nick and Chris review Slammiversary, a show fifteen years in the making. They give their thoughts on all the matches and grade them.
In this episode Nick and Chris talk about night three in India. Was the show a yay or nay? Who was the MVP? Which was the match of the night? Are the commentators better or worse than those of ROH?
Story: Frank Tieri
Art: Oleg Okunev
Publisher: Aftershock Comics
What if the black plague wasn’t what the history books would like us to think it was? What if it was a cover up for something more sinister? This is what Pestilence from Aftershock comics tries to explore.
The years is 1347 and the group Fiat Lux is called by the church to deal with a renegade band of crusaders. Once they have dealt with the nasty business, they come in contact with a courier. A courier who seems to be ill and ends up biting one of them. After putting the man down, with great difficulty, they find a note addressed to Roderick Helms, the de facto leader of Fiat Lux. It’s a summons from the Vatican, to deal with a far greater problem than wayward crusaders.
Pestilence #1 is beautifully told through Roderick Helms himself. Through a confessional letter he has sent to is wife, he details the events from a few weeks prior. His band of warriors consists of the regular eclectic group; the joker, the brute, the clever one, the killer and the quiet one. It a standard troupe and at first glance a straight adventure narrative. The characters are familiar and it is expected that as the story continues that there will be more familiar tropes. There has definitely been an influx of zombie stories over the past years, and in order for these to become competitive the writers have to be inventive. It can be immersing zombies in literary fiction as in Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, set it in history like Exit Humanity or the middle ages like Pestilence. Max Brooks hinted in his Zombie Survival Guide, that the world was no stranger to zombie attacks, and that most of them had been hidden under the guise of other plagues, and what could be more wide spread than the Black Death. It’s an interesting concept and it makes for an intriguing plot.
All in all Pestilence #1 hints at a delightful and exiting tale, with fun artwork, all the things that Aftershock Comics has proven to be experts at. They just keep on bringing awesome comics with great art, brilliant!
Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment
Writer: Ryan Browne
Artist: Pete Woods
In 2008 Dynamite released Alex Ross and Jim Kreuger’s Project Superpowers. To all who love the superheroes of the so called Golden Age it was a treat. For many years people waited for more, and eventually the spin offs came, not the way readers expected it though.
Apart from the natural continuation of Project Superpowers; Black Terror, Death-Defying Devil, Masquerade and The Owl, it wasn’t until 2015 that a new series saw the light. Project Superpowers: Blackcross, written by Warren Ellis, was unlike the series it came from, and to most the only similarities were names of heroes and the title. More of a murder mystery with supernatural overtones, it most likely was a disappointment to those who expected something like the traditional storytelling. Now Dynamite have once again delved into the Golden Age pool, releasing Herokillers by Ryan Browne and Pete Woods. It too hailed as being from the pages of Project Superpowers.
Like Blackcross, the story has little to do with the original book. It takes place in Libertyville, a place dubbed as Murdertown U.S.A. The mayor, an interesting fellow called Smooth Willie Williams JR., offers a crap ton of money to superheroes who might come and clean the city up. The heroes are given tax breaks, annual salaries and bonuses based on performances. The end result is a safe city where heroes outnumber criminals. As is true with bored teenagers, the heroes soon lash out and become self destructive, none more so than Black Terror, who turns to alcohol and women of loose morals.
While Herokillers isn’t Project Superpowers, or Blackcross, it has its own charm. There is a warmth and humor to it that the other books lacked. It takes the superhero genre and twists it, making the heroes look more pathetic and sad. Maybe this is because they do not have a purpose in life, or maybe because they’ve always been a-holes. In the end it doesn’t really matter. Sure some readers might be disappointed again, because it makes fun of the genre and these characters, but it’s all very intertaining. A constant commenting from the editor Matt makes the series more meta, and the style of Woods brings it all together.
It will be interesting to see where this series goes and how these serious characters react when being thrown into absurdity.
For the avid reader of fantasy Peter Beagle has a special place in the pantheon. His book, The Last Unicorn, is canon in the genre and one could even claim that it is held in high regard among those who are only casual fantasy fans as well. The story was made into a feature film, touring American movie theatres, as well as a recent comic book. Unfortunately Beagle is often remembered by this one book. He has continued to release books since then, mostly without making too many ripples. That does not mean that his later production is not worth reading, on the contrary, his most recent release, In Calabria, proves the opposite.
Claudio Bianchi is a cantankerous Italian who lives in Calabria. Alone on a small farm with his goat Cherubino, the cat Mezzanotte and pigs. He lives a quiet life and has minor interaction with the postman Romano. One night he spies a unicorn on his property and it changes his life completely. It returns several times and begins to nest, and that is when Bianchi realizes that it is pregnant and that he might have to aid it in giving birth. The arrival of the mystical creature softens the old man and he spends his days writing poetry and even starts up a relationship with Romano’s sister Giovanna. The existence of the unicorn and, later, the black colt that she gives birth too, becomes common knowledge in the area and once again Bianchi’s world changes again. Reporters and scientists flood his farm, and soon a local criminal organization comes calling, looking to annex the farm for their own purposes.
In Calabria is a short work of fiction, a contrast to the tomes of fantasy that readers become used to. That being said, Beagle is able to pack quite a bit of human emotion into the pages. The unicorn, not at all the main character in the story, becomes more a symbol of what could be. Initially its presence is a sort of blessing that enriches Bianchi’s life. When the creatures becomes known to the rest of the world he is challenged. Does he want to protect his new found world or does he take the easy way out so that he can go back to his earlier life of loneliness.
Beagle has an impressive ability to create intriguing characters and through them the world in which they dwell. He avoids long descriptions of nature and the calabrese surroundings, instead Bianchi and his friends are the canvas on which he paints. Through them we understand the beauty of their world and it is more than enough. The plot is simple and to the point. There are no answers to why the unicorn shows up, why no one is surprised at its existence and that is fine. It creates the magic of a fantasy story without being fantasy, and that has always been Beagle’s strength.
-C. Marry Hultman
On this week’s episode Nick and Chris review the second night in Mumbai India. The ever growing possibility of a faction coming. If the episode was the best one; the contrast between storyline and matches.