Conan and the Manhunters (Conan the Barbarian) ★★★✬☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress & Blogspot by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Conan and the Manhunters
Series: Conan the Barbarian
Authors: John Maddox Roberts
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 197
Words: 88.5K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia.org & Me

Conan, imprisoned by a satrap named Torgat Khan, escapes and is reunited with a band of thieves he’s leading in the deserts southwest of Turan. Subsequently, the thieves plan on looting the Khan’s treasury, held in a vault beneath the newly built temple of the sinister cult of Ahriman, the priests of which hope to revive their ancient god. Persuaded that mystical aid will be needed to ensure success, Conan agrees on accepting the aid of a kind wizard named Volvolicus and his daughter, Layla. After stealing the Khan’s treasure, Conan is pursued by the Manhunters, a band of bounty hunters with specialized skills led by a captain even more powerful than Conan himself. Through his own skills, and those of his new allies, Conan thwarts his pursuers while preventing the resurrection of Ahriman.

My Thoughts:

In some ways this was better than I was expecting and in others it wasn’t as good. First the bad.

From the cover I was expecting Conan to fight some super duper evil monster thing. While there is a monster or two, they end up being on Conan’s side and are as much illusion as anything. Conan doesn’t fight any monsters like that. That was VERY disappointing.

The good is the cosmic horror side of things. Arhiman the evil is an entity of darkest evil, an old god and a tentacled horror. He was banished way back when from our plain of existence. A couple of his priests are trying to bring him back, but Conan’s first raid on the temple upsets things so that Ahriman won’t be brought back as a fully intelligent creature with all his memories. Instead, he’ll be a maddened maw of hunger, ready to devour the whole world. Fighting against that, how cool, eh?

I have to say, when Conan is fighting wizards is when he’s at his best. Mundane earthly problems are nice, but he really needs the “sorcery” for his sword to shine its brightest.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

The Red Menace (The Shadow #4) ★★★☆☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPresss & Blogspot by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: The Red Menace
Series: The Shadow #4
Authors: Maxwell Grant
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: Crime Fiction
Pages: 176
Words: 53K



Synopsis:

From Thelivingshadow.fandom.com & me

The Shadow lives by darkness, gliding through the waiting night unseen, a mocking laugh his only calling card. None who have trafficked in crime will ever forget him. The may sneer at the law… but not at The Shadow. Each generation of evil breeds a newer, stronger root, and The Shadow’s latest adversary is no exception: The Red Menace. This brilliant, diabolical political assassin has decided to play both sides of the Revolution in order to steal the ultimate weapon… and invincible power. Time is running out if The Shadow is to stop this crimson-masked megalomaniac from making his insane dreams come true!

Harry Vincent is sent on a mission to watch over a scientist who is developing an areal torpedo that the commies want. The Red Menace sends his own minions as well. The Shadows saves Harry from drowning and takes down the minions but they have already given the torpedo plans to the Red Menace. Meanwhile, the Shadow is dealing with a Russian Prince who appears to be fighting for his life against the Red Menace and his cabal of secret masked commies. The Shadow uses the Prince’s loyal aide to kill the cabal with a bomb. Then the Shadow makes a transatlantic flight, tracks down the Red Menace on a train in Europe and unmasks him, as the Russian Prince! The Shadow steals the torpedo plans back and lets the Prince live to face the torture in store for him for his failure by his commie masters.

My Thoughts:

Boo yah! Damned commies. Getting shot and blown up and scheming. They were perfect in this story and I loved it.

The Red Menace was a great copycat of the Shadow and emulated some of his best traits. In many ways he reminded me of Schwartzvold from Big O (the anime) and how he imitated Roger Smith and Big O with his Big Duo. Subtly different, bad and just not quite good enough. It’s exactly what you want in a badguy who you know is going to be defeated. The Red Menace follows this formula perfectly and it suited him to a T.

I still wonder why the Shadow bothered rescuing Harry Vincent in the first book, or bothers continuing to use him. Harry is brash and has enough common sense to fill a thimble (and no more) and needs continual rescuing. In fact, I’d say his role in this series is more akin to the Lady in Distress (Nell Fenwick from the Dudley Do-Right cartoons) than as an actual aid to the Shadow.

Nell Fenwick, aka, Harry Vincent

I really thought about giving this a halfstar bump up just for how many commies get kaboomed, but that’s a small enough personal pleasure that I didn’t feel quite right about it.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

The Shadow Laughs (The Shadow #3) ★★★☆☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPresss & Blogspot by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: The Shadow Laughs
Series: The Shadow #3
Authors: Maxwell Grant
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: Crime Fiction
Pages: 156
Words: 47K



Synopsis:

A duel with Evil

When an innocent man is murdered under strange circumstances and a crack police detective is lured to his death, The Shadow sees the signs of a vicious plot. He uncovers a ruthless gang of counterfeiters, led by the most powerful and diabolical man in New York’s underworld.

Harry Vincent is sent in to investigate, the Shadow gets shot and eventually Eeeeeeevil is brought to justice.

My Thoughts:

Yeah, I liked this. I liked the brevity of the story. But it didn’t feel short. It felt just right. Thrills and chills and action and guns, bad bad guys, doofus good guy minions and a brilliant leader. It’s kind of a mix and match hodgepodge of elements that will work together no matter what order you put them in.

These are reminding me of Louis L’amour and his westerns (these obviously came first but I didn’t read them first). And if you look at the numbers, you can see that this write by numbers approach can work and work well. Lamour was writing his stories up until he died and Grant churned out over 300 stories about the Shadow. It’s pulp and it’s good.

It’s not going to work for everyone but if you’ve felt the need of a good old fashioned action story without a moral message telling you what you should be thinking/doing, then at least give the Shadow stories a try. If you don’t like the first couple, then it’ll be a safe bet the Shadow isn’t for you and you’ll know it. But you won’t know unless you try.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Conan the Bold (Conan the Barbarian) ★★★✬☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress & Blogspot by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Conan the Bold
Series: Conan the Barbarian
Authors: John Maddox Roberts
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 175
Words: 80K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia.org & Me

A young Conan’s prospects for a domestic existence are destroyed, along with his intended fiancé, by the renegade Taharka of Keshan. To achieve vengeance, the Cimmerian joins forces with a one-eyed warrior woman, Mad Kalya, also wronged by Taharka’s outlaws. The couple pursue their enemies across several nations, from Croton’s fighting pits to the Ophirian plains, overtaking them in time and again only to see Taharka slip through their fingers. The chase ultimately culminates in a battle to the death.

Kalya dies in Conan’s arms but Taharka gets his just desserts. Conan decides to keep exploring the other lands and to find out what other adventures await him.

My Thoughts:

I enjoyed this story quite a bit. This was an origin story for Conan and shows how he came to be exploring lands other than Cimmeria. I suspect if I read enough Conan stories though that I’ll find multiple “origin” stories. So I’m not holding this as canon or anything.

There is some cosmic horror involved, as both Conan and Taharka are accosted by priests of elder gods and told they both have “great destinies”. Taharka allows this to go to his head and acts accordingly while Conan simply scoffs and tells the priests no one, or no thing, will ever control his actions. Of course, Taharka dies and Conan doesn’t. So much for those elder gods prescience, right? Hahahahahaa.

In terms of action, this is all over the place geographically and it keeps things fresh. We get to see a glimpse of Conan as a river pirate, hinting at his future as a real pirate later on. That is one story I’ve never read about Conan, his time as a pirate. It’s always just referred to. I hope JMR writes at least one story about that.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

The Eyes of the Shadow (The Shadow #2) ★★★☆☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPresss & Blogspot by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: The Eyes of the Shadow
Series: The Shadow #2
Authors: Maxwell Grant
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: Crime Fiction
Pages: 171
Words: 51.5K



Synopsis:

From Thelivingshadow.fandom.com & me

MARKED TO DIE

Six prominent men were expecting a share in a glittering fortune. But, one by one, they were being brutally murdered. Until the Shadow discovered the plan—a plan so fiendish that only the twisted mind of a monster could have conceived it. The Shadow assumes the identity of Lamont Cranston to investigate the serial murders and stalwart Harry Vincent gets to play camper and act as bait. Justice is committed, Shadowstyle!

My Thoughts:

Another enjoyable entry in the Shadow series. I’ve got a bunch of omnibuses (omnibie?) of Shadow stories that come in sets of 5, so I’m guessing I’ll read a quintet each rotation and then take a couple of months off before adding another quintet back in. I can see myself easily burning out on these and I’d really rather take a few extra steps to prevent that as I am enjoying them.

These are beyond a shadow (ha, aren’t I clever?) of a doubt “pulp”. So if you know you don’t like pulp stories, then you can safely assume The Shadow isn’t going to work for you. If you know that you DO like pulp, you can’t automagically assume this will work for you, because this is as different from Conan or John Carter as you can get and yet both of those are pulp too. But chances are still better than even. If you like pulp and you like the 1920’s era and double pistols are your thing, then I’d say it’s a match made in heaven.

The Shadow has some sort of power to blend into “shadows” but it isn’t speculated upon or dwelt upon at all. Is it supernatural, is it a mutant power or is it just him being really, really, really good at hiding and disguises? Personally, my vote is that he drank a shot of bad russian vodka and it gave him superpowers. The other thing is that Lamont Cranston, a rich playboy that Bruce Wayne was modeled on, appears to be the Shadow’s alter-ego. But I’ve read enough stuff by Riders of Skaith to know that even that simple deduction isn’t so simple and weirdness is going to abound there too. Basically, I don’t try to figure anything out.

Bad guys do bad things. The Shadow investigates one way or another, his agents (his “eyes”) act on his behalf and there’s a lot of weird laughing going on in the shadows. Oh yeah, and the badguys get what’s coming to them. Or their henchmen do anyway. A really good badguy manages to get away.

I’ve been looking at various covers and man, this one rocks! I couldn’t find a really big version of it, but this was as big as I could find. Two-pistol’ing it baby!

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Monster Hunter Bloodlines ★★★★✬

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot, & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Monster Hunter Bloodlines
Series: Monster Hunters International #9 (MHI)
Authors: Larry Correia
Rating: 4.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Pages: 307
Words: 117.5K



Synopsis:

From the Publisher

The chaos god Asag has been quiet since the destruction of the City of Monsters, but Monster Hunter International knows that he is still out there, somewhere—plotting, waiting for his chance to unravel reality.

When Owen and the MHI team discover that one of Isaac Newton’s Ward Stones is being auctioned off by Reptoids who live deep beneath Atlanta, they decide to steal the magical superweapon and use it to destroy Asag once and for all. But before the stone can be handed off, it is stolen by a mysterious thief with ties to MHI and the Vatican’s Secret Guard.

It’s a race against time, the Secret Guard, a spectral bounty hunter, and a whole bunch of monsters to acquire the Ward Stone and use it against Asag. For as dangerous as the chaos god is, there is something much older—and infinitely more evil—awakening deep in the jungles of South America.

My Thoughts:

It has been TWO WHOLE YEARS since I’ve been able to read a new MHI novel. This is why I’m not a big fan of ongoing series. However, as this is one of those “forever” series (as far as I can tell), there’s no point in waiting for the end book because that will only happen when Correia finally runs out of ideas for the MHI universe. Methinks that won’t happen for a VERY long time. So I’ll pull up my big boy diapers and try not to cry too much because Correia is a meany and refuses to write MHI novels exclusively.

This was pulptastic and I loved it. If you remember from my Currently Reading & Quote post from last week, this book even had a Cowboy Pirate Murder Ghost. Now, as awesome as that sounds, this monster, The Drekavac, is even more awesome in action. He is demon that is under contract to recover the stolen Ward Stone and it takes the entire MHI Compound, Agent Franks AND the Vatican’s Secret Guard to hold him off.

What made this story even MORE interesting was that Stricken is involved (he’s the disgraced former leader of Special Task Force Unicorn) and he’s actually trying to save humanity from something worse than Asag. Apparently there are 2 different factions of Elder Gods fighting in a nearby dimension and it’s spilling over into South America. We’re talking a serious Minions of an Elder God infestation here and only the Ward Stone, properly used, can shut the portal to the other dimensions. Of course, the book ends just as Owen and Co are getting ready to march into Fae Land where the fighting is going on. Which means I’m going to have to wait another 2 year sigh. Grrrrrrrr.

Once again, MHI has not let me down. It is balls to the walls action and pulpy as watermelon. I didn’t begrudge a second of my time reading this and if light hearted gun wielding monster killing heroes are your thing, then I’d encourage you to try this series.

Oh, if you actually go to look at previous reviews you will see that this is actually book 8 in the series but there is a collection of short stories that I include so it’s book 9 for me.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

The Savage Tales of Solomon Kane ★★★☆☆

savagetalesofsolomonkane (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: The Savage Tales of Solomon Kane
Series: ———-
Author: Robert Howard
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 432
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

The collected works following the adventures of the Puritan Swordsman, Solomon Kane. From the deepest depths of Africa to the windswept shores of England, Solomon Kane follows wither the spirit leads. Avenging wrongs, rescuing maidens, defeating evil incarnate, Solomon Kane knows no fear, for he is God’s Avenging Sword against Evil.

 

My Thoughts:

Not as enjoyable as the Essential Conan collection I read last year. Part of that was that there just wasn’t nearly as much material for Solomon Kane as there was for Conan. Almost 1/3 of the stories in this book were fragments that Howard had started and then either set aside or just never finished. Thankfully each story that was a fragment had the word (fragment), like that, next to the story name. There were also 2 or 3 poems and I’m just not a poetry buff of any sort.

My biggest problem however, was that Kane was supposed to be a Puritan. While he dresses like one, not once does he act in any way that I recognized as a Godly man. He consorts with sorcerers, uses gifts of magic from a devil worshipper, thinks that men are nothing but higher animals and generally displays no reverence for God. He occasionally mouths a platitude or two about “faith” but what he said could just as easily have come from a Hindu, a Muslim or a Buddhist.

Now with all of that out of the way…

There were some fine pulp stories here. Encountering lost civilizations in the heart of Africa, fighting off a tribe of flying cannibal creatures, torching a city of zombie vampires, fighting a whole crew of pirates, Solomon Kane has the chops to keep you entertained. Everydayshouldbetuesday talked about Solomon Kane back in May and that peaked my interest.

I would recommend this if you enjoyed Howard’s Conan stories and wanted to try something different. However, if you haven’t read any Howard, don’t start with this.

★★★☆☆

 

bookstooge (Custom)