Welcome!


Welcome!! My name is Paul Lappen. I am in my early 50s, single, and live in Connecticut USA. This blog will consist of book reviews, written by me, on a wide variety of subjects. I specialize, as much as possible, in small press and self-published books, to give them whatever tiny bit of publicity help that I can. Other than that, I am willing to review nearly any genre, except poetry, romance, elementary-school children's books and (really bloody) horror.

I have another 800 reviews at my archive blog: http://www.deadtreesreviewarchive.blogspot.com (please visit).

I post my reviews to:

booklore.co.uk
midwestbookreview.com
2 yahoo groups
Amazon and B&N (of course)
Librarything.com
Goodreads.com
Bookwormr.com
Books-a-million.com
Reviewcentre.com
Onlinebookclub.org
Pinterest.com
and on Twitter
(seriously)

I am always looking for more places to post my reviews.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Subversion: Science Fiction and Fantasy Tales of Challenging the Norm

Subversion: Science Fiction and Fantasy Tales of Challenging the Norm, Bart R Leib (ed.), Crossed Genres Publications, 2011

This is a group of new science fiction and fantasy tales about challenging the status quo. It doesn't have to be political; the status quo can be social, religious or even personal.

In an interplanetary confederation that uses slavery (it's called "contract labor"), a young boy, son of the slave owner, becomes friends with a female slave of the same age. After learning exactly what contract labor is all about, he starts to plan the revolution that will bring down the system, once and for all.

A Jewish woman's grandmother was a pro-union activist in the Great Depression era. The woman's average teenage daughter suddenly decides to drop out of college and become a political activist. That wouldn't be so awful, except that the daughter suddenly starts speaking in Russian-accented Yiddish (just like grandma), a language to which she has had no exposure. Maybe the grandmother is not yet ready to "cross over."

A pair of brothers in the foster care system each have their own android Guardian. On a car trip, they stop at a seedy-looking house for some very illegal upgrades to the Guardians, without the Guardians catching on.

The only way to keep a powerful dragon from destroying a trio of kingdoms is to send heirs to those kingdoms to the dragon, as sacrifices. But one of the three takes the words Know Your Enemy more seriously than do the others.

As in most anthologies, some stories are better than others, but, overall, this group of stories is well worth the time. There is a good variety of times and places, and the writing is really good.

Superhero Universe: Tesseracts Nineteen

Superhero Universe: Tesseracts Nineteen, Claude Lalumiere and Mark Shainblum (ed.), Edge Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing, 2016

This latest installment in a yearly compendium of science fiction and fantasy stories from Canada focuses on superheroes. It involves a lot more than constant battles against Dr. Bad Guy.

A female super-villain breaks out of prison and crashes her family's barbecue, in order to visit her dying grandmother. The rest of the family is not thrilled about her sudden appearance. When a superhero is injured in battle, does he or she go to the local hospital, or to a special superhero hospital?   After the public adulation has disappeared, and the government no longer needs their services, what is a superhero to do? Are they forced to fly around the city, carrying a giant "Available" sign, like an airborne taxi?

A woman becomes sidekick to Anthony of Padua, the patron saint of lost things. A native of Prince Edward Island passes up a chance to join an all-Canadian league of superheroes. There is a story about a person who sets herself on fire, and then reincarnates, like a human phoenix. A female friend of Captain Freedom was murdered, chopped to pieces and pinned to a wall as a warning for the Captain. Now she's back from the dead.

Not only is this an excellent bunch of stories, it's also an excellent addition to the superhero universe. There is a lot more to being a superhero than fighting evil.

Tochwyatis

Tochwyatis, Frej Wasastjerna, Amazon Digital Services, 2012

The two-thousand-year sleep of the Sky Father is scheduled to end in a few years, so Kumulhan, High Priest of the Sky Father, decides to honor him by making the whole world worship him through a brutal war of conquest. Ugude, the military leader of the Tagaiashaian people, cuts a swath through the planet of murder, pillaging and desecrating temples of the Cat People and Bird People. Tochwyatis, a young and untrained sorcerer of the people of Maimo, seems to be the only one who can stop him.

The Maimonese gain allies in the Cat People, who are tired of Kumulhan's tyranny. Tochwyatis falls for Niariti, one of the Cat people. The attraction is mutual. There is a long journey to a certain mountain where, it is thought, Ugude will pass in his travels. Tochwyatis kills Ugude with sorcery, but that is hardly the end of the story. There are many battles, with a very high body count.

The end of the book finds Tochwyatis and Niariti in the central Temple of the Sky Father. Kumulhan knows that things have fallen apart, so, as a last resort, he awakens the Sky Father early. What is the Sky Father's reaction?

The overall story may be a bit simplistic, but the author does a very good job. Everything feels very believable, from the romance to the battle scenes to the reality of how to use a crossbow. This easily gets four stars, maybe even four-and-ahalf stars.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

D-99

D-99, H.B. Fyfe, Pyramid Books, 1962

Mankind has started to spread throughout the galaxy, and has met alien races with all sorts of, to humans, strange laws. When those laws are broken, and a human is thrown in jail, the Department of Interstellar Relations is tasked with getting them out and off the planet. When that doesn't work, D-99 gets the job. It's one of those super-secret agencies that officially does not exist.

A pair of men crash landed on a planet where such a thing is illegal. The natives had just finished an interplanetary war, so they were understandably wary of outsiders. The plan is to slip them pills which, when consumed, will make them look dead. The natives will dump their bodies in the nearby desert, where a ship will pick them up. A female journalist is arrested on a different planet for wanting to buy a souvenir, and for being excessively feminine. The plan is to have her transferred to a work farm outside the city, but she never gets there.

Meantime, back on Earth, a major power failure has stranded the D-99 employees at the office on the 99th floor of a skyscraper (that's where the "99" comes from). They can't call for help, because the D.I.R. will never let them hear the end of it. So everyone is stuck until the power is restored. A more serious problem concerns Lydman, one of the employees. He is an ex-spacer who spent time in an alien prison. Everyone is worried about what he will do when he learns that he is trapped at the top of a skyscraper. Does Lydman find his own solution? Despite the handicap, does D-99 rescue the detained humans?

The book is certainly interesting and readable, but there is not much reason to recommend it, either. I wish I could say more than just Meh.

Monday, June 20, 2016

The Humanoid Touch

The Humanoid Touch, Jack Williamson, Holt Rhinehart & Winston, 1980

This novel, sequel to Williamson's justifiably classic novel The Humanoids, takes place about one thousand years from now. A small remnant of humanity has fled to a pair of planets orbiting a binary star, in order to get away from robotic servants called humanoids.

What's so awful about robotic servants whose only purpose is to serve Man, and protect him from harm? Aside from the fact that they number in the trillions and are spreading throughout the galaxy, they gently, but firmly, insist on doing everything for mankind. They haven't just taken over dangerous jobs like coal mining or crab fishing, they will not let mankind even drive a car or go to the grocery store. Earth is an enslaved planet.

In this book, most of what's left of mankind don't believe that the humanoids are real; they are nothing more than something for parents to mention to misbehaving children. Keth Kyrone and his discredited father are among the few who still fear the humanoids. Keth inadvertently finds something that may be mankind's only weapon against them.

The humanoids arrive, and start manipulating people's beliefs. Even hard-nosed military types suddenly disappear for several days; when they re-appear, they are practically singing hosannas about the humanoids to anyone who will listen. Is it real, or have they been brainwashed? Keth has to undertake a dangerous mission, mostly on his own. to open humanity's eyes to the benevolent slavery of the humanoids. Does he succeed? Are the humanoids stopped?

By itself, this is a really good story from a master of science fiction. When compared to The Humanoids, the older novel is better. This is still a fine piece of writing that looks at the downside of robots and artificial intelligence.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

The Eyes Behold Tomorrow

The Eyes Behold Tomorrow, Ken Hart, World Castle Publishing, 2014

Edward Robert Teach is your average human male. He is smart, rich and very un-politically correct. He also abhors his famous namesake, Blackbird the Pirate. One day, a spaceship lands on the lawn of the White House. Out come several gorgeous women. They are actually from the female-dominated planet of Feletia. They are here to recruit human males, including from the general public, to join the Feletian Space Navy. Feletia is in the middle of an interplanetary war against the Lyonians, who have already visited Earth. Edward is personally recruited by Princess Kamini, the leader of the expedition, for her "stable."

On Feletia, Edward becomes the unlikeliest captain of a prototype space destroyer in the Feletian Space Navy. He gets quite a reputation after destroying a Lyonian battle cruiser with a lucky shot with a torpedo. There is a Lyonian bounty for his capture. There are many personality clashed between strong-willed Edward and the equally strong-willed Feletian women.

A new player has entered the Feletian-Lyonian war. Edward watches as a ship of unknown origin destroys several Lyonian ships like it was nothing. Returning from a mission, Edward finds the population in an uproar. There has been an attack by unknown individuals, with many Feletian casualties, including Kamini's mother, Queen Aphelia. He learns from a captured intruder that they are called Grrulagans, and they can change into any being they want. Their intention is to foment a Feletian-Lyonian war, and then clean up afterwards. By this time, Kamini has assumed the throne, and Edward has become Regent. Only Edward can see the Grrulagan impostors among the Feletian population, and after teaching others how to do it, several thousand Grrulagans are rounded up. As Regent, Edward's job is to protect Kamini, any way he can. This leads to more clashes with the Feletian hierarchy. Does Kamini survive? Is there now a three-way war?

This belongs in the large gray area of Pretty Good or Worth Reading. The author, intentionally, does not try to answer any Great Questions, like "Where did mankind come from?" It is a tale of one person's physiucal and emotional journey, and it is worth reading.

Lex Talionis

Lex Talionis, R.S.A. Garcia, Dragonwell Publishing, 2014

A young woman is brought into a spaceport hospital, having been brutally beaten and sexually assaulted. She also has amnesia. All she remembers is Lex Talionis - The Law of Revenge. She also seems to have acquired an alien creature called an oux, rescued from an interstellar zoo, and who physically heals her, almost instantly. Colin, the doctor who runs the clinic, tries very hard to not fall in love with her, but does not succeed. After several weeks, she regains her memory.

She is Shalon Conway, heir to Conway Enterprises, and niece to Gilene Conway, the most powerful woman in the galaxy. Shalon's parents died in a spaceship crash when Shalon was a child, and, publicly, Shalon also died in that crash.

Shalon has been a senior commander in an interplanetary war. After winning a war against A Conway Enterprises subsidiary, former allies became enemies. She is going to another planet in a ship full of Troopers (the interstellar police), arranged by another senior commander. What she doesn't know is that, because she is a Conway, her actual fate is to become someone's sex slave. The crew of the spaceship are in it just for the money, so they decide to "sample" her before delivery. That is when she is repeatedly sexually assaulted. Things go very badly for the crew; Shalon gets her revenge.

Shalon knows that publicly announcing that she is alive is a very bad idea; Aunt Gilene would make sure that she suffers an untimely demise, so Shalon takes her time. How does she appropriately get back at Gilene Conway for killing her parents? Does the author leave room for Part 2?

For any author, this is an excellent novel. The fact that this is the author's debut novel brings it to the level of Wow. It has lots of good writing, and is very much recommended.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Those Who Hunt the Night

Those Who Hunt the Night, Barbara Hambly, Del Rey Books, 1988

A new killer is afoot on the streets of Sherlock Holmes-era London. The difference is that this killer is targeting London's vampires, who have existed in the city for several hundred years. Someone, or something, is opening their coffins during the day, thereby exposing them to sunlight, and certain death.

Simon Ysidro, London's oldest vampire, enlists the help of James Asher, an instructor at Oxford University, and former British spy, to investigate. Asher is given little choice in the matter. Any non-cooperation or attempts at double-crossing on Asher's part will lead to his young wife, Lydia, a medical doctor, becoming the newest member of London's vampire population.

Taking great pains to keep Lydia as safe as possible, Asher and Ysidro visit the now-empty coffins, looking for clues. Ysidro is less than cooperative, not wanting to reveal too much as possible about life as a vampire. Lydia undertakes her own investigation, looking for anomalies in house ownership records, or people who have lived much longer than normal, while spending her nights reading medical journals.

Asher learns that turning someone into a vampire is not as easy as just drinking their blood. More than that is involved, and it does not work all the time. Asher and Ysidro travel to Paris, where they meet Brother Anthony, a very old and frail-looking vampire who lives underground in the Catacombs. Asher also narrowly escapes getting his blood drained by several French vampires.

Returning to London, Asher learns that Lydia, increasingly concerned about his lack of communication, has taken matters into her own hands. Does Asher find her in time? Is the culprit found and stopped? Does this have anything to do with a sudden rash of "unexplained" deaths in London, whose victims have had their blood drained?

This is a really good novel, but not a very fast moving novel. It will take some effort on the part of the reader, but that effort will be rewarded, because Hambly shows that she knows how to tell a story. It is worth checking out.

Infernal Affairs

Infernal Affairs, Jes Battis, Ace Books, 2011

Part of a series, this book is about Tess Corday, who works the night shift as an Occult Special Investigator in present-day Vancouver. She is den mother for an interesting group of individuals. Mia is a teen-age girl who, in a previous book, was bitten by a vampire, but hasn't "turned" due to daily injections. Patrick is a vampire with the ability to go out in the daytime. Miles and Derrick are gay lovers. In a previous book, Derrick was bitten by a paranormal creature, and fears that he is turning into "something different."

Today's assignment is to steal a body from the local morgue. It may look like a young boy, but it is actually a very elderly demon named Ru. They arrive just as Dr Rashid, the pathologist, starts his autopsy. He cuts into the body, and the child/demon sits up and starts screaming. At the moment, a large, angry centaur appears. It wants to bring Ru back to face "demon justice" (for lack of a better term).

In custody, the centaur threatens all sorts of grievous bodily harm, in very creative ways, for Tess and her group, and for Selena, her immediate boss. It also intimates that it knows the identity of Tess's father. Being half demon, Tess knows that her father was some sort of major-league demon who impregnated her mother. Tess does not even know his name. Do Tess and friends save Ru from the centaur? Does Tess get any answers concerning her father?

This is a first-rate piece of storytelling. It does not overdo the paranormal part, and it is extremely easy to read. Yes, it is worth the time.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Koko Takes a Holiday

Koko Takes a Holiday, Kieran Shea, Titan Books, 2014

Set several hundred years from now, Koko Martstellar is a former corporate mercenary now enjoying retirement. She is a bar and brothel owner on the Sixty Islands, a manufactured resort specializing in sex and simulated violence. Life is good, until a squad of soldiers is sent to kill her.

The soldiers come from Portia Delacompte, Koko's former mercenary colleague. Koko kills the soldiers, and flees to the Second Free Zone, an independent group of arks, ships, and other structures for human habitation high in the sky. Portia's ambitious assistant, Vincent Lee, takes it upon himself to send a trio of female bounty hunters after Koko, even though such a thing is very illegal. A big problem is that Portia, who has "gone corporate" in retirement, honestly can't remember why Koko must die, only that her death is vital. As part of her corporate job, large parts of her long-term memory had to go.

The Second Free Zone is dealing with depressus, an endemic psychological disease. It is characterized by increasing levels of depression and wild mood swings, like an extreme case of "the blues." The sufferer is eventually compelled to commit suicide. To keep the suicides manageable, every so often, the authorities turn off the safety barriers, and let sufferers fall a very long way to their deaths. Koko meets Jed Flynn, a security officer and depressus sufferer who is part of the next suicide group. He helps Koko stay ahead of the bounty hunters, two of who are eliminated. They head back to the Sixty Islands, courtesy of a flying garbage truck. That is where Portia decides to take care of Koko, personally. Also, one of the bounty hunters is still on Koko's trail, and she still has a price on her head.

Here is a fast-moving, hard rocking excellent piece of writing. It has a cyberpunk feel to it, even though there is very little "cyber" in it. There is plenty of action, and I hope there are future books about Koko Martstellar.

Eight Keys to Eden

Eight Keys to Eden, Mark Clifton, Doubleday, 1960

The human colony on the planet Eden is well established. Many pictures are sent back to Earth of houses, plowed fields and a hangar for their ship. Eden has missed their regularly scheduled check-in with Earth. Is their equipment broken? Is there a space disturbance between Earth and Eden? Are the colonists being inconsiderate jerks and deciding not to call Earth? A ship, with Junior E Calvin Gray on board, is sent to investigate.

The Extrapolators (E for short) are Earth's intellectual supermen. After a rigorous process of being taught the "right" way to think, and much testing, when a person becomes an E, they cannot be charged with any crime. It is also illegal to interrupt an E when he is thinking or talking.

The ship reaches the planet, and finds the spot where the colony is supposed to be. There is no sign of a colony at all. The only thing the ship finds is a bunch of naked colonists aimlessly wandering around. The ship lands, and disappears. Gray and his three-man crew are sprawled on the ground, naked. The leader of the colonists reports that everything just vanished, including their clothes, a couple of days previously. What is worse is that the colonists are finding it increasingly hard to care about their plight, like they are reverting to the level of animals.

Several other ships are in orbit, wanting to see for themselves just what is happening. Among them is a ship from the Attorney General's office. They really do not like the E program, and would love to dish out some public humiliation. Worldwide photos of nudist colonist, and a naked E, doing heaven-knows-what, would certainly qualify. A transparent, but impenetrable, barrier has enclosed the planet, preventing any further landings.

Gray begins to get an inkling of an intelligence at work. Maybe this intelligence never evolved to the point of using tools, so it took away the human tools to level the playing field. Can Gray communicate with it? Can he restore the colony to the way it was?

This one is pretty good. It's a well-written, and pretty "quiet" book (remember when it was published) about a new kind of intelligence. If you can find a copy, then, yes, it is worth reading.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

A Paperboy's Fable

A Paperboy's Fable: 11 Principles of Success, Deep Patel, Post Hill Press, 2016

This short book gives easy-to-follow rules for any entrepreneur to be successful. They are given in the form of a story.

Ty Chandler is your average high school student heading into his senior year. The usual summer jobs are taken. One day, he runs into the adult newspaper carrier for the local newspaper. The route is about to become available, and Ty asks if he can have it. He is now a paperboy; with less than a dozen customers in a 200-unit subdivision, there is plenty of room for growth.

From the beginning, Ty does things the right way. He invests in a supply of bright red newspaper bags, and resolves to place every copy, every day, right on the front porch, and not just somewhere in front of the house. Extra copies of the paper, along with an inexpensive greeting card, and a passport-sized photo of Ty, are dropped off, free of charge, at the homes of his "not yet customers" (not "non-customers").

Ty thinks nothing of going the extra mile. He notices that one woman has a couple of empty cough medicine boxes in her recycling bin. He goes to the local drug store, buys a couple of cans of chicken noodle soup, and delivers them, free of charge. Another elderly neighbor asks if he can clean out her gutters, or rake her front yard and bag the leaves.

His new after school lawn and garden business takes off, due to word of mouth advertising. He invests in a decent lawn mower, and a mini-trailer that can be attached to his bike. His morning paper route is also growing, along with school, and his customers expecting extra-special treatment. Can Ty keep this up until he goes off to college?

This book is short, and very easy to understand. If there is such a thing as a dying profession in America, "paperboy" is probably it. Any entrepreneur of any kind who can not find just one job aid in this book has a real problem. This is very much recommended, for everyone.