Clown Wars Blood and Aspic by Jeremy Drysdale & Joseph D'Lacey
In a perfect world, this one would have gotten a Halloween feature of its own, but I didn't actually dig it out of the review pile until this past weekend. That whole evil clown thing going on over the past few months? Yeah, less prank, and more the emergence of a creepy new terrorist culture.
How Jeremy and Joseph anticipated that, I'll never know, but talk about timely!
This was a bit bizarre, generously gory, and horrifically humorous, with as much cleverness to it as sheer silliness. If there's a movie, it had better be on SyFy, with Bruce Campbell and Steve Guttenberg.
Hour of the Witch by Lorne Patterson
This is one book that I'd intended all month to be a Halloween feature review, but I languished over it for so long, reading every detail, that I ran out of time to do it justice. Alternating between historical and contemporary Scotland, the book takes a hard look at politics, media, religion, and society while telling a tale of revenge and rebellion, some 600 years in the making.
What made this work so well for me was really two things. The first is the portrayal of witches throughout history, scapegoats for the church who may actually have come into their power because of the persecution. The second is the way Patterson tackles the twin concepts of justice and revenge, laying out a pattern of abuse against women that infuriates us, and which seduces us into approving of the cruelties inflicted in the name of making amends.
Dark, uncomfortable stuff, but entirely captivating.
Damn, but this was a whole lot of pulp, sci-fi, adventure fun. The premise sounds silly, I know, but stick with me on this. Basically, you have a scientist and a solider transported to a prehistoric world full of prehistoric wizards and warrior queens, with a leper slave their only guide, who must quest for the legendary treasure that will take them home.
It's a fast pace adventure with just enough cheese to keep it fun, and even though we know dinosaurs and Neanderthals didn't coexist, we damn well wish they did.
Xan and Ink by Zak Zyz
Although it lacked the kind of depth that would elevate this to the level of mainstream success, it's a fun b-grade fantasy adventure. The characters were fantastic, the magic well done, and the monstrous insects . . . well, they often steal the show, as one might hope. It takes a while to get going, but once it clicks it just races on towards the climax.
I loved the jungle setting, definitely unusual for a fantasy novel, and the twist on the traditional Ranger/Sorceress classes keeps it fresh. Hopefully there's more to come in this world, as we've only scratched the surface here.