Archive for books

Dorothy Must Die Stories Volume 1 (2014) by Danielle Paige

Posted in books, Classic literature with tags , , , , on February 16, 2017 by Paxton

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A week or two ago I reviewed Danielle Paige’s Dorothy Must Die. It’s the first in a series of books that take place several years after the original Wizard of Oz book by Frank Baum.  It reimagines Oz as a place in serious peril where Dorothy has returned but she’s changed.  She’s become obsessed with magic and has essentially usurped Ozma as the ruler and with the help of Glinda starts literally strip mining Oz for magic.  It’s an interesting enough premise and the author really digs in and reuses characters from the books in very interesting ways that made me want to continue the journey into this Oz.

Aside from the main books in the series, Paige has written a series of novellas that act as prequels to the books.  I went to my local library and I found the very first collection of novellas called Dorothy Must Die Stories Volume 1.

DMD Stories 1

This book contains the first three prequel novellas; No Place Like Oz, The Witch Must Burn and The Wizard Returns.  I didn’t really know anything other than the titles going into these but I was intrigued. Mostly by The Wizard Returns since that character is very cagey in Dorothy Must Die so I was very interested to hear how The Wizard got back to this particular Oz and what his agenda may be.

No Place Like Oz
The first novella, No Place Like Oz, is very Dorothy-centric.  It’s also the longest one by about 100 pages.  It picks up with Dorothy a few years after her original return to Kansas from Oz.  It’s her sixteenth birthday party.  We see that Dorothy is sort of unhappy as many people think she’s crazy with her ramblings about a fairy magic land with talking lions and people made of tin.  Even some of her friends don’t believe her.  Plus, Dorothy is finding out that life on the farm in rural Kansas is not as exciting as it was in Oz.  Once you’ve encountered magic, nothing else can really live up to it.  So we see this Dorothy, who’s become a little bitter because no one believes her about Oz, even her friends.  Plus she sort of enjoyed the fame that her disappearance caused in Kansas and once that started to fade she began resenting her life there.  After her birthday party ends embarrassingly bad, Dorothy shuts herself up into her room and opens a mysterious gift to find a pair of red, high heeled ruby shoes.  She puts them on, clicks them together just as Aunt Em and Uncle Henry walk into her room and transports all three of them to Oz.

This is the gist of the story.  Dorothy is back in Oz, this time with Em and Henry. She meets Ozma and reunites with her old friends.  And being back in Oz, instead of making her happier, starts to enhance some of her feelings.  You see her obsession with magic really take hold.  It’s a really good story.  I feel like Paige made the reason that Dorothy sort of turns bad believable.  It’s not a 180 with no explanation.  It makes a bit of sense.  And you get to see the setup for Dorothy as we find her in Dorothy Must Die.

The Witch Must Burn
The next story, The Witch Must Burn, is told from the point of view of Jellia Jamb, the head house maid in the Emerald City.  She plays a fairly big (and ultimately important) part in Dorothy Must Die.  And Jellia’s story here is really a vessel to tell the story of Glinda and her possible future plans for Oz.  You also get to see a bit of just how horrible Dorothy has become, but it all leads to Glinda “borrowing” Jellia from Dorothy and what happens to Jellia because of this.  I was not expecting this story but it was a good read.

The Wizard Returns
Like I said, the third and final story is really the one I was most interested in.  The Wizard Returns starts off with the Wizard leaving Dorothy at the end of the original Wizard of Oz.  The hot air balloon he’s in crashes and we see him land in the very same poppy field that Dorothy was trapped in.  Fast forward twenty five years and The Wizard is awoken and he has no memory of himself or his past actions.  This particular story started off a bit slow, but the back half really saved it.  You still don’t really 100% know The Wizard’s agenda by the end, but you know what happened to him before the events in Dorothy Must Die.

All three of these stories are honestly good and do a great job of setting up the world we see in Dorothy Must Die.  However, I thought my favorite story was going to be The Wizard Returns, but honestly, I think it turns out being No Place Like Oz.  I’m glad I read this collection.  There is another set of prequel novellas that take place after this.  They are about Dorothy’s friends; Heart of Tin, The Straw King and Ruler of Beasts.  However, I’ll probably get the full sequel novel The Wicked Will Rise and read it before delving back into these prequel novellas.

I guess the ultimate question with these prequel novellas is, should you read them before or after you’ve read Dorothy Must Die.  It could go either way but I’d recommend reading them after DMD.  They fill in the world of the books and I feel like you may want the basis of the full novel first before the novellas.  But I think if you did the prequels first and then DMD, it would honestly still work.

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Year End Book Report: The Best Books I Read in 2016

Posted in Batman, books, comic books, movies, pop culture, Star Wars with tags , , , , , , , , , on January 12, 2017 by Paxton

Year End Badass Book Report

Here I go, writing another one of these year end round up articles that I’m shocked to be writing every year. 2017. CRAZY. What a ride 2016 was. Hopefully 2017 will give us a bit of a break.

This past year was an interesting year for my book/comics list.  After so many years of logging my books and comics reading via Google Spreadsheet, I actually converted my logs over to an online data tool called Airtable. It’s similar to Access in that it is a relational database but the user entry interface is very simple to create and similar to Excel. Plus being able to link specific information between tables really helps in cross referencing and spelling.  You have no idea how many times I misspelled author names throughout my logs.

Here’s what my book log looks like now on Airtable.  I’ve converted all my logs back to when I first started in 2007.

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The blue colored fields in the screenshot are actually linked to another table.  I was able to also create the Rating field on the right with different color coded ratings to make it easy at a glance to see what is going to make my year end list and what isn’t.  Plus, Airtable makes all of this data entry even easier with a nice app for my iPhone or iPad that makes it easy to log entries on the go.  Google Sheets had one as well but Airtable’s works better.

So that’s all the behind the scenes stuff.  I had a better year for novels.  I was able to pick 5 this year.  Again, comics were booming and I had a tough time paring down to 5.  But I did it.

So, without further ado, here’s the list!

Books


The Old Man and the Sea (1952) – Ernest Hemingway – I don’t read classics as often as I used to.  I really need to remedy that.  There are two reasons why I read this.  #1, it was featured in the movie The Equalizer starring Denzel Washington as a book he’s reading. #2, Steph checked it out from the library with a bunch of other books and I, on a whim, picked it up to read.  It’s actually really good.  I quite enjoyed it.  I’m probably not going to pick up any other Hemingway, but I’ll definitely try to read more classic lit this coming year.  I’ve been wanting to re-read Twain’s Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn, so maybe I can get that done.


Steve Jobs (2011) – Walter Isaacson – I’ve now read two of Isaacson’s famous biographies and let me say that I’m hooked. Back in 2014 I read his biography of Benjamin Franklin and it nearly made my year end best of list.  This one about Apple founder Steve Jobs actually cracks the list. It’s not only a great portrait of a complicated man, but it’s also a great look at the beginnings of our technological age we live in now.  I would love for Isaacson to tackle Bill Gates in a full book, but I’m not sure that’ll happen.  Isaacson did write a book called The Innovators that really digs into the people who created the computer and the Internet; going as far back as Alan Turing and jumping forward to people like Larry Page and Bill Gates.  That will probably be next on my Isaacson reading list and the closest I’ll get to a full Gates biography by him.


Star Wars: Catalyst – A Rogue One Novel (2016) – James Luceno – The “New Canon” of Star Wars books since Disney has taken over has been very…hit or miss.  Since those books started in Fall 2014, only one has made my year end list.  And honestly, I think that one novel (Star Wars: Tarkin), also written by James Luceno, would work perfectly as a side-quel to this book.  This is the written prequel to the movie Rogue One and it’s pretty great.  It digs deep into the relationship between Galen Erso and Director Krennic.  It also explores a bit more the rivalry between Krennic and Tarkin all while adding in backstory to how the Death Star was built and how it works and what they use to power the planet killing laser.  I thoroughly enjoyed it.


Magic Kingdom for Sale–Sold! (Landover series Book 1) (1986) – Terry Brooks – I talked about this book earlier in my High Fantasy Month article back in March.  It’s a different setup for a fantasy series and I really enjoyed it.  I had bought the collection of the first three books in the series, but I’ve not delved into the second book yet.  However, it’s on the plan for this year.

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AWESOME-tober-fest 2016: Jason X movie novelization by Pat Cadigan

Posted in books, Friday the 13th, Genres, horror, Jason Vorhees, movies, nostalgia, pop culture with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on October 27, 2016 by Paxton

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Back when I did Movie Maniacs in 2012, I reviewed several 80s horror movie novelizations.  They are pretty rare out there in the wild, so it was a treat to be able to cover several of them.  If you’re curious, check out my reviews of Nightmares on Elm Street (Parts 1-3), Friday the 13th Part III and Friday the 13th Part VI.

While I’m a fan of both Freddy and Jason franchises, I probably gravitate towards Jason as my favorite overall. And being a fan of Friday the 13th, I’m telling you that Jason X is a very polarizing entry in the franchise.  Many people hate it.  I’m not one of them. I see some potential in this movie. It goes mostly unfulfilled, but there’s potential there.

Anyway, in 2005, about 5 years after the movie was released, during the media blitz for Freddy vs Jason, Black Flame books got the license to print Friday the 13th novels.  They would do two series, one of them being in the original timeline and another series in the Jason X timeline.  There would eventually be about five books in the Jason X series and it started off with a novelization of the movie by Pat Cadigan.

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Picking up this book I should tell you it’s hefty for a slasher movie novelization.  The general rule for movie books is about 1 page per 1 minute of action.  So a 90 minute movie would generally be about a 90 page book if it was a straight translation.  Give or take some flourishes by the author.  Well, this book is over 400 pages long.  Jason X the movie is 92 minutes long.  So there may be one or two flourishes by the author.

I have lots of hopes for this extra 300+ pages of content.  I want the futuristic world fleshed out. They barely mention what the future world is like aside from “the Earth has become uninhabitable”.  And who are the members of the crew that find Jason?  Are they scientists?  Explorers?  Archeologists?  What?  It’s not really explained in the movie.  And lastly, I’m hoping I get more action and murder with Uber Jason.

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So, I’ve read the book, did it meet any of my expectations? Was it any good?  The easy answer is yes, it was good.  If not great.  As a fan of the movie, I also enjoyed the book.  Unfortunately, the page count is due to the author fleshing out existing scenes with more exposition and not creating brand new scenes or subplots not in the movie. Well, the main character, Rowan, is given a definite romantic interest with Brodski who has a larger part in the book.  But, it ultimately goes nowhere because he meets the same fate in the book as he does in the movie.

So what new stuff is there?  Well, the author does add some very interesting content in the form of character backstories and many ruminations on the nature of Jason Voorhees.  We also get a good description of what the universe is like 4.5 centuries in the future which we don’t get in the movie.

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Per the book, after Rowan and Jason were frozen together, the Army did go to the facility to help, but found the entire complex on lockdown and decided to leave it alone as they finally had Jason contained and the world was starting to have bigger issues like food riots and global warming.  Things got so bad martial law was declared.  One hundred years after Jason is frozen the Earth starts to burn starting at the equator.  Surviving humanity escape to biospheres in orbit and we eventually contact alien life and trade them for the blueprints to a “hyper drive”.  Rowan and Jason were left on Earth, cryogenically frozen and forgotten for the next 3 centuries.  And I guess the power grid stayed “hot” for that long as well since the system stayed on lockdown and frozen for that long.  Eventually, using the alien “hyper drives”, humans settled on an Earth II.  Earth I would be studied in colleges as history and one college, New Harvard, would send field trips back to the original Earth led by Professor Lowe who is considered the foremost authority on Earth I.  It is one of these field trips, populated by the Professor, a team of military escorts and a group of students that discover the frozen and forgotten Jason and Rowan.

So the group that discovers Jason is just a class field trip?  I did not pick up on that.  Anyway, the other new things Cadigan adds includes lots of insight into the nature of Jason.  We learn that Jason’s existence is elemental.  He’s not evil per se, but anti-life.  An anti-life elemental.  Living things had many purposes but the basic one is life itself.  By contrast anti-life had one purpose.  Cancel out life.  KILL.  We also get a kind of explanation to why bawdy teenagers set Jason off.  Life stimulates survival instinct in many ways, one of which is sex.  Sex makes humans feel more alive and it helps create more life.  This is what Jason, as an entity of anti-life, is drawn to.  This is why Jason’s urge to kill becomes more apparent when these things are happening.  I like how this book is trying to explain some of the nature of Jason’s existence.  It doesn’t go too far, it goes just far enough.  I like it.  Cadigan also describes Jason’s senses and how he hunts his victims.  He has a “life radar”.  He can sense the life around him.  Once someone gets on his “radar” he can track them.  Again, I like these types of explanations.

Another thing I like about this book is it deals with Jason being captured and studied scientifically.  It makes sense the government of course wants to figure out how Jason does what he does.  And it makes sense the government would want to weaponize those talents.  This movie sort of touches on those ideas.  We see Jason being tested in the beginning but we also see lots of cell testing on the space ship Grendel after he’s been taken out of cryo-freeze.  I don’t want the government to figure anything out, I want them to think they have everything under control, see results of their “tests”, get confused and then Jason “unexpectedly” comes alive and ruins all their plans by killing everybody.  That’s what I want.  And we get that here.

So, yes, the book delivers as a solid adaptation of the movie itself.  It fills in some holes and adds some interesting back story to many of the characters.  If I have to say anything against it, it does feel a bit long.  Four hundred pages is a lot for a slasher novel and it kind of feels long.  But I was rarely bored.

Like I said, this novelization was the beginning of a series of novels based in the Jason X universe. The novels sound interesting, but all of them are around 400 pages which is a little too long for a Jason Voorhees novel. However, Pat Cadigan did followup the Jason X novelization with the next book in the series, Jason X: The Experiment.

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The gist of the plot involves the government using skin grafts from Jason to create a super soldier who then goes rogue. It sounds kind of cool having Uber Jason vs a super soldier. It seems the other four books in the series also deal with the government’s attempts to weaponize the unnatural abilities of Jason Voorhees.  I liked this novelization enough that I would consider reading Cadigan’s followup book.

Unfortunately, this book series is pretty hard to find. Actually, all of the Friday the 13th books are pretty hard to find.  I got lucky when I found this particular book on PaperbackSwap.com several years ago. I’ve only ever seen one other book in the series in the wild. It was the third book, Jason X: Planet of the Beast by Nancy Kilpatrick.  I found it in an old used bookstore in Auburn, AL back in early 2010.  But I’m always on the lookout and hopefully someday I’ll find that second Pat Cadigan Jason X book.


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Also, check out the blog Countdown to Halloween for more Halloween-y, bloggy AWESOMEness.

AWESOME-tober-fest 2016: Lot 249 (1892) – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Posted in books, Classic literature, monsters, mummy with tags , , , , , , , , on October 10, 2016 by Paxton

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Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s short story, Lot 249, was originally presented in a collection of medical stories called Round the Red Lamp.

Round-the-red-lamp

Published in 1892, this collection of short stories created a scandal when first released. Doyle’s fans were expecting more Sherlock Holmes-type detective and crime stories but this collection featured mostly harrowing medical stories about disease and amputation.

The story I read is called Lot 249 and is about an Oxford college student whose downstairs neighbor may or may not have reanimated an ancient Egyptian mummy through some type of dark magic.  This story was written during a late 19th-Century fascination with Egyptology and was the very first to use a reanimated mummy as the antagonist and would influence horror stories for years afterward.

It’s a short, quick read.  It reminded me a lot of Lovecraft’s Herbert West story in style, which wouldn’t be published for another thirty years.  Lot 249 is mostly three characters interacting over the course of a few days.  We get the details of the events through dialogue after the fact.  We don’t really see any of the mummy attacks.  We actually don’t really even get to see the mummy walking around.  There are a few quick glimpses in the coffin, but that’s about it.  And surprisingly enough, the story is wrapped up completely with no “will the mummy actually come alive again” type cliffhanger ending.  You could almost argue that there’s no definitive proof that the mummy did in fact come alive and start killing people.  Like I said, a lot of the eyewitness testimony is coincidental and hearsay.  Doyle leaves it up to the reader to fill in the blanks however he wants.

It’s an interesting story to read from the perspective of that this will influence the “creeping mummy” horror genre for so many years to come.  I’m glad I included it here, even if it isn’t the most exciting story I’ve ever read.  I’m a fan of Doyle and was glad to be able to include him in this year’s AWESOME-tober-fest.

In 1990, Lot 249 would be adapted as one of the chapters in the Tales from the Darkside: The Movie.  The adaptation in that movie would be written by Michael McDowell who also wrote the movie Beetlejuice and the movie novelization for Clue: The Movie.  It would star a very young Steve Buscemi, Julianne Moore and Christian Slater.


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Also, check out the blog Countdown to Halloween for more Halloween-y, bloggy AWESOMEness.

AWESOME-tober-fest 2016: The Ring of Thoth (1890) – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Posted in books, Classic literature, Halloween, holiday, monsters, mummy with tags , , , , , , , , on October 3, 2016 by Paxton

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Here we are! Day 1 of AWESOME-tober-fest! Welcome to my daily celebration of all things spooky. As you can tell, my theme this month is “mummies”! So I’ll be looking at books, comics, movies and TV shows that feature mummies. It should be a lot of fun. Today, we’ll start with a short story by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

In 1890, Cornhill Magazine published a Sir Arthur Conan Doyle short story called The Ring of Thoth.

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While this story has a mummy in it, it isn’t technically a “mummy story” like you’d expect. However, it has elements in the story that will clearly influence mummy movies in the many years to come afterwards.

The story is about an Egyptology student who falls asleep in The Louve and winds up locked in overnight and witnesses a bizarre sight.  The overnight caretaker unwraps one of the mummies from the collection, embraces and kisses it, then rummages through some of the jewelry in the Egyptian collection clearly looking for something.  The student is discovered in hiding and the strange looking caretaker reveals his story about living in ancient Egypt, discovering a long living chemical serum and losing the love of his life to a plague.

This story is short, obviously, and very concise with much of the backstory filled in by exposition from the museum’s overnight caretaker.  However, the way the story is written you feel a sense of wonder at the caretaker’s tale as well as a sense of urgency at what he plans to do that very evening.  These two things make the story breeze by.  It’s also interesting and it keeps you reading along with its fantastical story ideas.  Plus, as I mentioned, there are elements within the story that have clearly influenced many successor mummy movies but also the original Karloff Mummy movie.

First of all, the strange looking caretaker, Sosra, is described as being a very tanned and overly wrinkled person.  Someone with much wisdom and experience in his eyes.  From the description, I immediately got an image of Karloff in his Ardath Bey disguise from The Mummy.  There’s even a scene in which Sosra threatens the protagonist with a knife, much like in the picture below.

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Second, the trinket that Sosra is looking for is the title bearing The Ring of Thoth. Thoth is the God of Knowledge in ancient Egyptian culture. His name would be used in countless mummy movies, however, this story would be one of the first. Universal’s The Mummy used it as well in describing, not a ring, but a scroll.

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Like I said, while this story doesn’t necessarily involve a reanimated mummy it does carry several things that would influence mummy stories and movies in the years to come. Including a story Doyle would write just two years later called Lot 249.

Overall, this is a really enjoyable, short read.  The timeline is very compact and you feel like there is some urgency in the main characters.  It keeps the action moving along despite that the majority of the story involves backstory exposition.  This is definitely a recommend.


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Also, check out the blog Countdown to Halloween for more Halloween-y, bloggy AWESOMEness.

Krush Groove the novel now exists. FINALLY.

Posted in Beastie Boys, books, movies, music, nostalgia, pop culture, rap, Run-DMC with tags , , , , , , on September 21, 2016 by Paxton

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In the latest episode of the Cult Film Club podcast, we are talking about one of my favorite movies, Krush Groove, from 1985. It’s a fun discussion and a great look back at essentially the genesis of my interest in rap, which was around early 1985 when the first Fat Boys album and Run-DMC’s second album, King of Rock, was released.

Later that year, in October 1985, the movie Krush Groove was released.  I did a small review of the movie back in 2010 for the 25th anniversary.  Check out episode #36 of the Cult Film Club podcast for my more in depth thoughts on the movie.

What I really want to talk about is, why wasn’t there a Krush Groove novelization?  The obvious answer is that it was a movie focusing on the music industry and it may have been hard to translate that since there are at least 3 music video sized interludes in the movie.  But that shouldn’t have stopped them.  I just finished reading the novelization to Jason X and that book expands the sparse 1 hour and 20 minute movie into a 400+ page novel.  You telling me something couldn’t be done with Krush Groove?

So, to correct this rather EGREGIOUS oversight, I created my own Krush Groove novelization based mostly on the design of the soundtrack album cover.

Krush Groove novelization

I think it goes without saying that I would have read the sh*t out of this book.

Movie novelizations that should exist

Posted in books, movies, pop culture with tags , , , , on August 22, 2016 by Paxton

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If you’ve read this blog or my Twitter feed for any length of time, then you know I’m a huge fan of movie novelizations.  As a matter of fact, several years ago I started a feature where I read and reviewed a few of the more obscure movie novelizations like Clue: The Movie, the original Buffy the Vampire Slayer movie as well as a bunch of old rare horror novelizations like Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13th VI and Return of the Living Dead.  I’d like to eventually continue that feature but right now, I want to talk about movie novelizations that never got made.  That should have been made.

It seems almost every genre picture from the mid 80s to the mid 90s received a novelization.  It was a simple way for studios to extend someone’s movie going experience outside the theater.  Plus, in the age before the ubiquity of home video, it allowed you to revisit your favorite movies over and over.  I loved novelizations and I read them fervently growing up.  I still do, but to a lesser extent.

However, as with anything else, there are gaping holes in what movies did and didn’t get novelized.  Maybe the movie studios didn’t have a lot of faith in the movie’s success.  Or were deciding not to spend the money on an author to translate the script.  Whatever the reason, like I said, there are movie novelizations that I wish existed that don’t.

One of the first big novelizations I’ve already talked about wishing existed were both of the Young Guns movies.  My buddy Shawn and I wanted them to exist so much that we created our own.  These were previously displayed when Shawn and I collaborated on Young Guns vintage trading cards.

YG novelization YG2 novelization

Awesome, right? Well, that’s what I want to do, start creating my own custom movie novelization covers for movies that I wish had novelizations.  This feature is going to reveal a totally eclectic set of covers, but I think you’ll enjoy it.

Another set of movie novelizations I created and previously revealed on Twitter involved the first two Christopher Reeve Superman movies. The reason those novelizations don’t exist (novelizations for both Part III and Part IV do exist) is because of Mario Puzo, the author of The Godfather.  Puzo wrote the original screenplays for both of those first Superman movies and as a clause in his contract, no one could write the novelizations of those screenplays except him.  And he never wrote them.  Kind of a dick move, Mario.  So all I have are these fake covers of what could have been.

Mario Puzo Superman novels

These covers were created from two Superman novels written by Elliot Maggin that were released because there were no Puzo novelizations.

Okay, so those are some covers I’ve previously shared. How about two brand new covers? Let’s start off this Fantasy Movie Novelization Library with two of my favorite 80s genre movies. Breakin’ and Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo.  I don’t know if you can tell from the picture, but I made these junior novelizations which are lighter in page count and are taller and more square in shape.  You can mostly tell by the Scholastic logo I put in the bottom left.

Breakin' novels

I love the idea of having these two break dancing centric movies get junior novelizations because I imagine the books would be like 120 pages long and breezy fun to read.

So that’s the gist of this feature.  I’ll make a few novelization covers for movies that don’t have them and post them right here.  It’s sort of a fun sister project to my Vintage Comic Throwdowns feature.

Hope you enjoy seeing them as much as I enjoy making them.

Keep reading those movies, my friends.