Too bad most have to be victims before they can become dangerous

Dangerous Women 2Dangerous Women 2 by George R.R. Martin

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Needing a break from Terry Brooks I took a chance on a collection of short stories. I tend to avoid the format but this one was in part edited by George RR Martin so I bought it anyhow.

He wrote the best vampire book I can recall reading, “Fevre Dream”, and “Armageddon Rag”, which I seem to recall combined Jim Morrison with Robert Johnson in terms of having one of those perhaps spurious crossroads connections. Plus, he’s the main man behind the Wild Cards series, which I’ve been reading since its inception howsoever many years ago now (1987, according to his website).

None of his stories are in this collection but there is a Wild Cards sequence. It features the Amazing Bubbles, Hoodoo Mama and the former’s daughter Pumpkin. (Sorry, Adesina, who seems to an insectoid version of Gustave Moreau’s Sphinx in New York’s Met Museum.) Too bad it lacks a proper ending but, hey, that lack leads me to suspect it’s deliberate, a teaser; that there’s a new series of Wild Card books on the way, which I’d welcome.

The title suggests what I’m loathe to repeat for fear of spoilers. However, one theme seems to be that before they became dangerous women they had to have been victims. This can get a little tiresome as it’s very Biblical. Do bad to me and I’ll do bad to you; except that’ll make me a hero whereas you’ll deserve what you get, you swine. No less than 5 of the 7 stories involves rape, so be warned.

Even the novella-length Diana Gabaldon Outlander prequel, the best of not a bad lot, loses its oddly good-natured, semi-swashbuckling, having a romp in pre-revolutionary France, quality by resolving some unfinished business that I didn’t realize was unfinished until it got finished.

There are a couple of misses. I’d forgotten I’d come across S.M. Stirling’s work before. He’s a competent writer but his attitude toward capital punishment is appalling. Can never be justified, as far as I’m concerned. The Sam Sykes story strives too hard for a twist ending and the contribution from Sharon Kay Penman is mostly a straightforward rendition of Britannica history, more essay than story.

I might consider picking up Dangerous Women 1 someday. Lev Grossman’s Magicians might also be worth looking at judging from the humourous piece in this collection. Not sure the world needs an American Harry Potter, though, albeit one written by a man and featuring a female college student studying magic at an Unseen University, but if the tone holds it might not hurt it either.

Not a high recommendation, somewhat disappointing given it’s got Martin’s name on the cover, but might be worthy of a purchase at a used bookstore.

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Oh, Shannara — Let the Quest Qommensss

Ilse Witch (Voyage of the Jerle Shannara, #1)Ilse Witch by Terry Brooks

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’ve a mental category for books that make for reliable reading on the beach or at least outdoors when you’re having a lazy day. They’re the kind of books I probably wouldn’t use to read myself to sleep because they work so well I’d never finish it. But if you’ve ridden your bike to a park or somewhere with a view, walked to a beach or perhaps rented a cabin with lights but no U-Tube or TV, they’re ideal.

Among the Canadians I consider reliable reads in the fantasy genre I include Guy Gavriel Kay (although he’s been going through a bad patch of late with Ysabel and his China fantasy Under Heaven), Steven Ericson, Dave Duncan and, even if he was only born here, Stephen Hunt.

Internationally I particularly like Mark Chadbourn and Paul Doherty, though I stay away from his historical novels if they’re written in the first person. Although somewhat of a guilty pleasure, I’ve often turned to Terry Brooks for summer or vacation reading.

Mostly I’ve read his Magic Kingdom of Landover series. They’re light, not too moralistic, slightly quirky and standalone. I’ve been reluctant to take on his Shannara series, though For one thing there are so many of them. For another they’re put out in threesomes or foursomes.

“Isle Witch” is first book in “The Voyage of the Jerle Shannara” trilogy. The titular character is a bad person but she’s young and obviously been misled. If redemption is in store for her, which it probably is, well, it’s going to take some doing. (Guess that’s why it’s a trilogy.)

You can tell the real bad guys because they’re cold-hearted lizard sorts who speak with seriously serpentine sss-sibilance. You can also tell who the good guys are going to be straightaway, who will be providing the cannon fodder (usually the good guys. best buds) and who might survive for at least one book (they’re usually female and/or noble warriors).

It’s a creature-feature, full of predictable confrontations but the monsters are well realized and hungry. It’s magic-laden, hence also full of the seemingly mandatory elves, dwarfs, witches, warlocks and the occasional flawed precog seer, a character and an ability I generally disapprove of. Still and all it’s unchallenging entertainment; perfect for a relaxing read so long as you’re not looking for anything you’ve never seen, or read, before.

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Return of the Crazy White Ugly Ones, with Tentacles

The Atrocity Archives (Laundry Files, #1)The Atrocity Archives by Charles Stross

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Have to admit I much prefer the fantasy or historical mystery genres to science fiction. Quite frankly I distrust the “science”, or more accurately “pseudo-science”, so often presented in the genre. And that’s the main drawback of this novel and the accompanying novella, “The Concrete Jungle”.

It’s a stretch to suspend disbelief when the author strives ever so earnestly to get us to believe he isn’t writing a load of rubbish. Perhaps that’s why he writes at such a pace. Hard of get bogged down when you’re traveling at speed.

Nevertheless, while mixing the so-called hard science of nuclear physics with Lovecraft shouldn’t work, it kind of does. Even relying on Lovecraft, never a personal fave, shouldn’t appeal but it’s familiar territory so doesn’t require great swathes of back story. The crazy white ugly ones, with tentacles, are expected and even welcome.

In my view using first person narrative should have automatically disqualified the book for purchase but I heard about it from a reliable source so I succumbed — and made it to the end, of both novel and novella, with a fair amount of enjoyment. Which almost qualifies it for a fourth star. Almost, not quite.

It also purports to be Horror and in a way it is, but it doesn’t wallow in disgust by overdoing the gore and hasn’t too many stomach-churning Alien moments. No barf bucket by the bed or beach chair required.

By declaring a debt to Len Deighton, whom I haven’t read in decades, it additionally wants to fit into the Spy genre. Seems, all-in-all, an invitation to a car crash but while it does at times tip-toe along the precipice it somehow manages to avoid falling into a morass of yuck.

What contrarily saves this ambitious mishmash is the humour. It’s British, so it can get somewhat obscure — I missed a lot of the references — but the tone seems about right. Not too snarky or even overly smart-ass. Plus some truly heinous sorts get properly put paid to along the way. Almost a cheery moment.

I guess there are advantages to having a Demogorgon of the Depths type as your boss after all. So long as he’s on the side of Her Majesty’s Secret Service, that is.

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Discworld Valedictory Novel? Not a bad way to go out

Raising Steam (Discworld, #40)Raising Steam by Terry Pratchett

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Have to admit I might be a tad generous in the stars. This book feels like a valedictory, a tragicomic ending to one of the most enjoyable series ever written. Steam trains on Discworld work, I’m happy to report, but I’m not sure how dwarfs would feel about being equated with Islamic extremists. Seems a bit rude, to the dwarfs.
A lot of the good old boys are back (the ramrod-straight copper who only looks the other way when it’s convenient, the adrenalin-charged scoundrel Pratchett seems so fond of, the mucky capitalist, the tyrant who really has to be allowed to kill once in awhile just to keep him happy). Their wives get mentioned but other than the Muck-Meister’s prissily proper Victorian Age type, they don’t play much of a role.
True as well, some of Pratchett’s good old girls are completely absent (Lady Death Susan, the three witches). The tyrant’s lady friend, a vegetarian vampire of some sort, makes an appearance, as do a few of the Watch and wizardly favourites but Rincewind only gets a mention. No soccer playing orcs this time but plenty of golems, albeit mostly for plot resolution purposes.
The flippant tone is there for the most part but somehow the always eagerly anticipated, laugh-out-loud moments got left behind in just about every other book in the series. Nevertheless it is a Discworld novel and there’s no place quite like Discworld. I wanted more but I got enough, so I’m recommending it.

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Not all that secret anymore

The Secret DoctrineThe Secret Doctrine by Helena Petrovna Blavatsky

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

For many years folks have said there was a lot of H.P. Blavatsky’s Secret Doctrine in the Phantacea Mythos. Since I’d never read it I always poo-poohed the notion. Some time ago, while on a book buying quest for something a least ostensibly non-fictional I spotted this version, which was abridged and annotated by Michael Gomes.It’s relatively short at 255 pages and has a decent index so I picked it up and recently finished it.

Have to say that, as far as this sort of thing goes, it’s no Manly P Hall, whom I have used as a reference. No Women’s Encyclopedia of Myths and Legends either. It certainly didn’t strike me as all that insightful but that could be the abridgement, too much sacrificed for brevity. As for the annotations, there could have been a whole lot more.

Then again Blavatsky herself spends most of the second part of the book providing her own annotations in the form of commentary. It’s actually more interesting than the Secret Doctrine itself, which certainly traffics in admittedly unknowable, ages ago and far, far from now speculation. I’ll keep it on my shelf but don’t expect it’ll need to be chained there. It’s all bit ho-hum.

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Not an autobot — honestly

This came in from a contributor to the BCFSA newsgroup on Yahoo recently (2015-01-29).

[NOTE: names deleted to protect the insensitive; Comments appreciated at bottom of page]

> This is the BCSFA group, not the stupid sluts ass. Banned.

Thank you. On a similar note, what about self-published-book spammers?

To which Jim McPherson, the creator/writer of the Phantacea Mythos, felt obliged to respond:

Self-published books are about the only way to get something that might not be agent-driven, hence far too often, dried out, regurgitated smuck from “established” publishers too cowed to put out anything actually,  or at least comparatively, new..

Think I’ll post re “Nuclear Dragons” and “Helios on the Moon” shortly.

Jim McPherson
Phantacea Publications

Artwork from front cover of "Helios on the Moon" by Ricardo Sandoval; promo prepared by Jim McPherson, 2014

Helios, with his ‘holocaster’, and the She-Sphinx (All of Incain) , with Thunder and Lightning Lord Yajur (Lord Order) sneaking up on them; artwork by Ricardo Sandoval taken from front cover of print version of Helios on the Moon


Which he did. (No word yet if’s been accepted for dissemination, though)

Greetings anew

After debating whether to release “Nuclear Dragons” on Kindle or wait until I can combine it with its companion, “Helios on the Moon“, I decided to release it solo. I may still (re)combine them at some point in the future. I may also reunite the three mini-novels that make up “The 1000 Days of Disbelief” as an e-book and (mildly) interactive PDF, but that’ll have to wait, too.

The easiest way to get a quick read overview of all the Phantacea Mythos publications, with lynx to their various webpages, starts here:

Poster to accompany Helios on the Moon press release; utilizes cover from both Phantacea Revisited graphic novels and the three full-length novels making up the Launch 1980 story cycle, prepared by Jim McPherson, 2014

Poster to accompany Helios on the Moon press release; utilizes cover from both Phantacea Revisited graphic novels and the three full-length novels making up the Launch 1980 story cycle

Some of the walk-in bookstores in Vancouver area where you can peruse and, yes, even buy Phantacea Publications are listed here: Of course any bookstore anywhere in the world can order them through Ingram Book Distribution.

BTW, the print publication of “Helios on the Moon” officially came out on Sunday 30 November 2014, precisely 34 years after the launching of the Cosmic Express. And that November the 30th was also a Sunday. How’s that for serendipity.

Attached are some nice big shots from the graphics table of that selfsame webpage. Reckon they might tempt you to pay a visit to the Phantacea Publications website. Not surprisingly, since Phantacea started off a series of comic books in the late Seventies, it’s very visual.

Front cover for Nuclear Dragons, artwork by Ian Bateson, 2013; banner at top added by Jim McPherson, 2014, for digital versions of the novel

Crystallion leads Hell’s Horsemen against Centauri Island


Comments are both welcomed and encouraged on pHantaBlog (

And I can assure you this is a very much non-robotic contribution to BCFSA.

Jim McPherson
Phantacea Publications

Phantacea Publications logo utilizing a Sun-Moon wooden Carving spotted and shot by Jim McPherson, 2014

Phantacea Publications logo utilizing a Sun-Moon wood carving spotted and shot by Jim McPherson, 2014; taken to represent the Dual Entities during happy times


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