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Recommended Reading: Scythe by Neal Shusterman

Just finished reading this one and I have to say that I loved it! Set in a future where death has been eradicated, the world’s population is kept at a safe level by the workings of a group of men and women known as Scythes. In this story, we get to know two young people – Rowan and Citra — as they are taken on a journey of apprenticeship to Scythe Faraday. There are intrigues aplenty, with some Scythes feeling that the old ways have become too stagnant… they desire change and it’s a change that might put the world’s utopian status at grave risk.

The action is top-notch but it’s the characters and concepts that make the story one that I’ll remember for a long time. It’s so good that I’m not sure that I’d want to see a movie made of it — they’d simply have to leave too much great stuff out! I could see it making one hell of a television miniseries, though. Give this thing about 8-10 hours to breathe and I think it could be captivating.

I highly recommend that you seek this one out!

New Pulp Recommendations: Quest for the Space Gods

QUEST_Cover_FinalWhen I was a kid, Chariots of the Gods by Erich von Daniken was everywhere. Not only were there sequels galore but the notion of ‘ancient astronauts’ popped up on episodes of In Search of… and even formed the basis for Jack Kirby’s Eternals. I remember reading Chariots of the Gods and coming away convinced that we’d been visited by aliens in our ancient past. Of course, I was a sucker for all things ‘weird’ at the time, devouring material about Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster, UFOs and Atlantis.

All of this brings us to Flinch Books’ newest release, Quest for the Space Gods: The Chronicles of Conrad von Honig. This book features stories by Jim Beard, Desmond Reddick, Frank Schildiner, Brian K. Morris, Terry Alexander and Fred Adams, Jr and all of the tales follow the exploits of author Conrad von Honig — he’s basically von Daniken only cast in more of an action hero mode. Despite the variety of authors, the character remains remarkably consistent throughout, which is a testament to both the overall concept and the editorial oversight of John C. Bruening and the aforementioned Jim Beard.

The setting is great, taking place in the late sixties/early seventies — not only is this a time period that you don’t see much in New Pulp but it feels perfectly suited for the material and all the authors do a fine job of capturing the flavor of the era.

My favorite story was probably Reddick’s and I have to give him props for not only writing a corker of a tale but I love the title of his story and wish I’d thought of it first. Other stories that really appealed to me were the ones by Beard and Morris but all of the tales are quite good.

I could easily see this being a series of television movies or even an ongoing show. The cover reinforces that feel — I wanted Lee Majors starring in this!

Highly recommended for all fans of New Pulp and/or ancient astronauts!

Creator Spotlight: Adam Garcia

adamOne of the best authors in the New Pulp movement is Adam L. Garcia, whose name has become synonymous with the classic hero, The Green Lama. Adam first burst onto the scene in 2009 with a novella reviving The Green Lama, “Horror in Clay.” The story was written as a gift for his father and went on to garner a Best Short Story nomination in the New Pulp Awards. The very next year saw Adam’s reputation continue to grow as his novel Green Lama: Unbound won two Pulp Factory Awards: Best Novel and Best Interior Art (for his collaborator Mike Fyles).

He’s continued adding to the legend of The Green Lama with works like Crimson Circle, The Heir Apparent (in which the hero teams with Sherlock Holmes), Scions and Day of the Destroyers. While several companies use The Green Lama, Adam is one of the very few that has the official sanction of the creator’s estate and it’s clear why they gave it: Adam is not only a tremendous author but he’s also a huge fan and advocate for the character.

Adam has branched out in other directions, as well. He contributed a story to The Peregrine Omnibus Volume 3 featuring the third Peregrine teaming up for a night on the town with Kayla Kaslov; wrote a graphic novel called Sons of Fire with artist Heidi Black; and most recently contributed to the bestselling The Obama Conspiracy.

lamaholmesAdam’s one of my favorite creators in the realm of New Pulp right now. While he understands what made the classic pulp stories work, he’s not wedded to the past. He pushes the characters and their situations forward with a very modern way of thinking. I encourage you to check out his Amazon Author Page and check out some of his work if you haven’t already. You can come back here later and thank me for the recommendation!

New Pulp Recommendations: Sanctuary Falls

Wayne Reinagel is the king of the New Pulp epic. He writes frenetic action scenes that smack of classic pulp but these sequences are nestled in between chapters that go in-depth into the history of the pulp publishing industry, the golden age of comics and so many pastiches and nods to both classic fictional characters and real-life personages that your head will be left spinning!

This book is a whopping 781 pages plus a lengthy timeline. It features hardboiled detectives, outer space action and finally reveals who murdered The Black Dahlia. It is audacious and stunning. The only thing that keeps it from being a 5-star is that sometimes the wink-wink-nudge-nudge cameos and pastiches seem a little off-putting and distracting — in a narrative that spirals outward as much as this one does, that can impede your enjoyment.

Highly recommended – but make sure you’ve read the previous books in the series first!

New Pulp Recommendation: Exciting Pulp Tales by Tom Johnson

EPTTom Johnson is simply not as famous as he should be. He’s one of those guys who really kept the pulp fiction flame burning during the long period between the end of the traditional pulps, their transition into men’s adventure paperbacks and finally the current New Pulp movement.

In this collection, he revives a handful of classic pulp heroes – some of whom were virtually unknown to me – and crafts new stories around them. In all cases, his writing is thoroughly pulp, with fast moving storylines and characterizations that perfectly reveal the characters without diving into the kind of depth that would detract from the real purpose of the tale: action.

My favorite stories were those featuring The Cobra, The Purple Scar, the Jungle Queen and Ki-Gor. The characters of The Angel and Funny Face were ones that I wasn’t familiar with but Tom Johnson does enough here to make me want to seek out more information.

If you like classic pulp action, this is perfect for you and can serve as a wonderful introduction to some characters that most pulp fans probably aren’t familiar with.

New Pulp Reviews

GRVSHWPROMOIMAGEA trio of reviews this time, starting off with:

GRENDEL VS. THE SHADOW – Given that I love both Hunter Rose and The Shadow, this pairing excited me from day one. Add the fact that Matt Wagner was writing and drawing it… and you had the makings of a classic. This three-issue series lived up to its billing, showing exactly how a crossover should be done. Both characters got a chance to sign and their face-to-face confrontations crackled with energy and emotion. The artwork was beautiful all the way through and I liked the way that Wagner contrasted the two lead characters. The only stumble, for me, was that the time travel contrivance felt a bit too convenient and I’m not 100% onboard with the way Wagner portrays The Shadow/Margo relationship. Even so, I adored this series and will pick it up in trade. While not everything Dynamite has published with their pulp heroes has been to my liking, I’d rank this series, The Shadow: Year One and The Shadow/Green Hornet: Dark Nights as being among the best Shadow comics ever published.

Knight From Hell by David White: I’ve been a fan of David White’s writing for quite awhile. He’s got a straight-forward style that’s perfect for New Pulp stories. His works have that same breakneck pace that the classic pulp series did but he incorporates modern characterization and mature elements seamlessly.

This particular story is not for the easily offended. If the notion of angels fornicating and committing adultery doesn’t sit well with you, you might want to give it a pass. But if you’re willing to approach it with an open mind, you’ll find an intriguing protagonist that mixes the hard-boiled P.I. type with some fantasy elements.

Characters are briskly but vividly described and the tale manages to feel dense despite the small page count. Can’t wait for the follow-up!

Justice, Inc # 4: I think Michael Uslan is, along with Matt Wagner, one of the best Shadow writers working for Dynamite right now. This particular series reveals an alternate universe take on The Avenger, pairing him with both Doc Savage and The Shadow. The two “big” heroes are perfectly portrayed but The Avenger’s voice still feels slightly off to me — I’m going with the fact that he’s still so new and that this is a slightly different version to explain it. A pair of classic villains – John Sunlight and The Voodoo Master — are working together in this one and I love Voodoo’s scenery-chewing dialogue. It was odd not seeing Sunlight in his trademark monochromatic clothing, though. Art-wise, this is the best work I’ve ever seen from Giovanni Timpano. It’s solid throughout with nice facial expression. When all is said and done, I think this will stand beside Uslan’s Dark Nights as a wonderful addition to Shadow lore.

New Pulp Recommendation: Staff of Judea (Rogue Angel # 41)

judeaEvery so often I focus on a New Pulp work that I think merits your attention. Sometimes it will be something that’s brand new, other times I’ll look at something that’s a few years old. This week, I’m encouraging you to check out Staff of Judea, which is the 41st book in the Rogue Angel series published by Gold Eagle. Before we launch into a detailed look at the book itself, let’s see how the publisher describes the volume:

The Staff of Aaron…the sword of Joan of Arc.After decoding an ancient scroll—one that purports to pinpont the treasure of the Jewish Temple, lost for two thousand years—archaeologist Annja Creed agrees to lead the party to recover the find in Judea. It’s a perilous desert journey through sandstorms and bandits, and complicated by mysterious sabotage within the group, to arrive at a long-forgotten fortress deep beneath a mountain. Only then does Annja discover that this archaeological expedition is really one man’s quest for the mystical Staff of Aaron, one of the Bible’s holiest and most powerful relics—a weapon they say can do incalculable harm in the hands of the wrong individual. She must try everything humanly possible to prevent the staff from being used for selfish purposes. Even if it puts her in the mightiest battle yet—sword against staff.Rogue Angel stars Annja Creed, archaeologist and host of a television series, Chasing History’s Monsters. In the very first book in the series (“Destiny”), Annja becomes the owner of a sword that once belonged to Joan of Arc. This sword can be summoned to her mentally — when she’s not using it, it floats in another dimension, waiting for her call.

Rogue Angel is a consistently entertaining New Pulp series — and one of the most successful, to boot. New books come out every other month and you can find them at your local grocery store or convenience center. I bought this one at a K-Mart… how many other New Pulp series can you say that about these days?

At first glance, Annja looks like a Lara Croft ripoff and I’m certain that played a part in her creation. But despite her beauty, the series does not pander at all… in fact, it’s almost oddly sexless. There’s no romance to be found in most of these — it’s straight-ahead adventure fiction, just with a female protagonist. Plots vary wildly from book to book but are almost always based around ancient myths and relics.

This particular volume is written by Joe Nassise, though it’s credited to the house name of Alex Archer on the cover. The story moves quickly and, while it gives you sufficient historical detail about the Staff of Aaron and the various mysteries being explored here, it’s never a dry read. Some old faces from the series (like Roux) reappear but for the most part, Annja is with new characters in this novel and they play off of her very well. I sometimes worry when we delve into Christian myths that we’re going to somehow become a little too spiritual for my tastes but it’s handled well here, with little difference from how they treat any other mythology.

If you want some fun reads that can bring you back every other month, I heartily recommend not only Staff of Judea but the entire Rogue Angel series.