Category Archives: Reviews

The Road by Hiroshi Aramata

“The Road” by Hiroshi Aramata is a short story that appears in Straight to Darkness: Lairs of the Hidden Gods Volume 3 published by Kurodahan Press, an anthology of Cthulhu Mythos Tales from Japan edited by Asamatsu Ken. The Road was translated from Japanese to English by Kathleen Taji.

Hiroshi Aramata
Hiroshi Aramata

This story caught my eye for two reasons:

Mainly, I’ve become intrigued with Hiroshi Aramata’s series of Japanese occult novels based around the history of Tokyo titled, Teito Monogatari, but sadly I’ve been unable to read them, as aside from a few short fan translations, they’ve yet to be translated from Japanese into English. However, the novels have been adapted into two films Tokyo: The Last Megalopolis and Tokyo: The Last War, an original animated video series titled Doomed Megalopolis, and a manga series keeping the original Teito Monogatari name. So I’ve been able to experience a bit of the series via fan-translations of the adaptations. I found the first film, Tokyo: The Last Megalopolis to be an enjoyable watch, despite the filmmaker’s obviously needing to cram a lot of material into a single film. Some of you may be familiar with the series due to the iconic appearance of the series’ antagonist Yasunori Kato, who was an influence on the Street Fighter character, M. Bison (or Vega as he’s called in Japan), as well as several other fictional characters over the years.

Yasunori Kato
Yasunori Kato

 

It also turns out “The Road” is set primary in Providence, RI and focuses on the life of H. P. Lovecraft.

 

H. P. Lovecraft
H. P. Lovecraft

The story takes place from September 10th to September 11th 2001 and begins with a train ride from New York City to Boston, Massachusetts. The main character is an unnamed Japanese professional, possibly a scientist or educator, who is a huge fan of H. P. Lovecraft. Browsing the story a second time, the character’s sex could be either male or female. Either way, the main character can’t resist getting off the train to walk the platform during the train’s three-minute stop in Providence, RI.

As fate would have it, the train pulls away before the narrator can climb back on board. In the ensuing hours, the narrator finds themselves being given a personal tour of Providence by Lovecraft’s friend, C. M. Eddy, who died back in 1967. Needless to say, time-travel via metaphysics seems to play a part in this story. Evidently, a concept or mechanism the people of Providence refer to as “The Road” will be opening soon. The last time “The Road” opened was back in 1923 as a result of the Great Kanto Earthquake that rocked Japan. As an aside, the Great Kanto Earthquake plays a part in Aramata’s Teito Monogatari series as well, with Yasunori Kato, causing the devastating earthquake through the use of magic.

Overall I thought “The Road” was a solid story written in tribute to H. P. Lovecraft. The metaphysical concept of “The Road,” or “the shadow of time” as they sometimes call it in Providence, is kind of interesting, but I enjoyed the tour of Providence by C. M. Eddy more, myself. I know from my limited reading on Lovecraft’s life that portions of what Eddy tells the narrator aren’t accurate (Robert Price points some of these out in his introduction, which I recommend reading AFTER you read the story and not before, due to a few minor spoilers) but they didn’t detract from the story. As a matter of fact, the scenes with Eddy kind of brought my mind to Paul Malmont’s two pulp era novels featuring pulp fiction writers: The China Town Death Cloud Peril (which Lovecraft appeared in, and the main characters attended his funeral) and The Amazing, the Astounding, and the Unknown, both of which I enjoyed.

I didn’t much care for the climax of the tale, it felt a bit too generic, but I thought the actual ending was handled rather nicely.

If you’re a fan of the Cthulhu Mythos, I don’t think you’ll find much meat on the bone in this one. But if you’re a fan or scholar of Lovecraft the man, this will probably be more up your alley, but like I said, don’t expect 100% factual accuracy here.

I basically picked this up because I wanted to actually read a story written by Hiroshi Aramata and it just so happened the only story he has out there that’s been translated into English is a short story about H. P. Lovecraft and Providence.  Given these circumstances, I’m glad I took the time to read “The Road” and am eternally crossing my fingers for his Teito Monogatari series to be translated into English.

Review: Night’s Dominion #1 by Ted Naifeh

Night's Dominion #1 cover by Ted Naifeh
Night’s Dominion #1 cover by Ted Naifeh

 

Night’s Dominion #1

Written & Illustrated by Ted Naifeh

Lettered by Aditya Bidikar

Edited by Robin Herrera

Designed by Keith Wood

Publisher: Oni Press

Night’s Dominion wasn’t on my radar until a post by a fellow member of the Comic Book Art of Conan the Barbarian Facebook group posted an interview with the creator, Ted Naifeh. The elevator pitch seemed to be superheroes operating in a fantasy world. I thought the concept sounded fairly interesting and the artwork showcased in the interview really sold me on giving it a try.  I made sure to add the book to my pull list at my local comic shop. The release of the first issue kind of snuck up on me, but I was pleasantly surprised to see that it came out this week.

As far as first issues go, this one was pretty solid. We’re introduced to the cast of characters as well as the setting, the medieval-styled city of Umber. I get the impression Umber is a sister city of Fritz Leiber’s Lankhmar and Sanctuary, the primary setting of the Thieves’ World shared universe series.

The first issue does a good job of blending both the fantasy genre and super hero genre (or, at least so far, the urban vigilante sub-genre) together. It introduces us to the main characters via the “adventuring party meets at a tavern or inn” mechanism sometimes used in fantasy role-playing games. While not the most original way to do it, it’s definitely the most convenient way to bring a large, diverse group of characters together quickly.

Members of the party include its leader, a white-haired bard referred to as Maestro, an unnamed “magus” whose specialty is implied to be illusions and parlor tricks, a unnamed young cleric, who is an acolyte of something referred to as the Old Faith, an unnamed assassin from an organization known as the House of the Asps, and the barmaid, Emerane, who is secretly the best thief in the city, moonlighting under the alter ego of the Night.

The Maestro’s plan is for the group to rob the Tower of Uhlume, a temple where the titular King of Oblivion is worshiped. They plan to get to the treasure stores in the tower’s subbasement via a concealed shaft.

Emerane declines the job stating she doesn’t work with amateurs. She leaves the tavern after a brawl erupts, but her and the assassin have a brief martial encounter on her way home and a conversation. But Emerane departs soundlessly, leaving the assassin alone.

Enter the Fury
Enter the Fury

Later in the guise of the Night, Emerane returns a necklace to her stash of stolen loot in the belfry of a chapel and encounters the Fury. He’s the armored Batman-looking figure seen in the preview artwork. They have a brief tussle and conversation before Emerane eludes him. I get a definite Batman and Catwoman vibe from these two. It’s not clear if the Fury is a vigilante or works in some capacity with the government or city watch, but I look forward to learning more about him in future issues.

 

The Fury in pursuit of the Night
The Fury in pursuit of the Night

The next scene shows the cleric returning to his chapel, this is the same one which the Night used as a stash for her loot. City guards are confiscating the hoard as the head priest is crying on the steps. It was mentioned earlier that the Old Faith was hard up for money and it was goons looking to collect from the young cleric that were the catalysts of the tavern brawl.

The final scene shows Emerane, as the Night, meeting the group of adventurers at the arranged meeting spot and agreeing to join in the heist.

This was my first time reading a comic created by Ted Naifeh, but I have to admit, I like what I see. I enjoy the way he renders his characters and his panel to panel storytelling skills shown he’s been illustrating sequential art for some time. The artwork and storytelling get high marks from me.

From a writing perspective, I enjoyed how there wasn’t a lot of info dumping, Naifeh does a good job of layering information subtlety through the course of the story. Such as facts about the politics of Umber, including its royal family. There’s plenty yet to be revealed about the city of Umber and the main cast of characters, though.

This first issue has me intrigued, and I’m on board for at least the first six issues. I wish there were more fantasy comics like this on the stands and I want to do my part in supporting quality comics like this when they do pop up.

Review: Blood of Ancient Opar by Christopher Paul Carey

Bob Eggleton's cover to Blood of Ancient Opar

Bob Eggleton’s cover to Blood of Ancient Opar

Last year I was lucky to obtain an advanced reader copy of Hadon, King of Opar by Christopher Paul Carey before its release at PulpFest 2015. PulpFest 2016 is just around the corner and once again Meteor House provided Pulp Crazy with an advanced reader copy of the latest novella in Philip Jose Farmer’s Khokarsa (Ancient Opar) series, Blood of Ancient Opar by Christopher Paul Carey.

Blood of Ancient Opar picks up immediately following the massive cliffhanger of Hadon, King of Opar. Hadon and his allies have triumphed over the forces of the Mikawaru pirates who had invaded Opar in Hadon, King of Opar (with the Priests of Resu and the Oracle of Kho assisting the raiders), but Hadon’s troubles are far from over.

His daughter La reveals an ancient prophecy to Hadon and the two of them spend the rest of the novella trying to make sense of it and use it to their advantage against an emerging threat.

Blood of Ancient Opar is a fast-paced adventure that once again has the reader side-by-side with Hadon throughout the course of the story. This is one of those tales that is tough to review, as I don’t want to spoil some major events that occur in the book, but I can discuss some portions.

During the course of the book, Hadon finds himself in the valley adjoining Opar, the Valley of the Royals. Here, Hadon visits the Palace of Queens, which readers of Tarzan and the Golden Lion will likely find very familiar. The wonderful cover painting by Bob Eggleton depicts this event. The chapters set at the royal retreat were some of my favorites, as it was fun to visit an all-new location in Ancient Opar alongside Hadon.

On a grimmer note, needless to say, before the events of Hadon, King of Opar, the queendom was already facing hard times. As Blood of Ancient Opar begins, the city is in an even worse situation. Hadon and La really have their work cut out for them if they hope to get Opar back on track.

Using Farmer’s notes, Carey skillfully executes the kind of fantasy adventure tale you just don’t see much of anymore. His contributions to the Khokarsa/Ancient Opar series feel right at home sitting beside Farmer’s original Ancient Opar books on my bookshelf and I feel fortunate to see the series continue in such great hands. Blood of Ancient Opar is everything I hoped it would be.

This is a tale of heroic fantasy skillfully brought to life through the pen and mind of a writer intimately familiar with the source material. Blood of Ancient Opar hearkens back to classic sword and sorcery adventures of the past while displaying a mastery of modern fiction writing. One thing thing is for sure, readers familiar with Opar will never look at the lost city the same way again.

Blood of Ancient Opar will be debut July 21st at PulpFest 2016 / FarmerCon XI in Columbus, Ohio. The novella is available for preorder in both softcover and hardcover formats at http://meteorhousepress.com/blood-of-ancient-opar/ . It’s highly recommend you preorder now if you want to guarantee a copy. Meteor House is also offering the remaining copies of Hadon, King of Opar for sale as well. The two novellas can be purchased together while supplies last.

Review: Hadon, King of Opar by Christopher Paul Carey

 

Cover art by Bob Eggleton
Cover art by Bob Eggleton

 

Christopher Paul Carey and Meteor House graciously granted me the opportunity to read an early draft of Hadon, King of Opar. Hadon, King of Opar is the fourth book in the Khokarsa series which began with Hadon of Ancient Opar by Philip José Farmer back in 1974. Farmer wrote a sequel, Flight to Opar which followed in 1976. The conclusion to the original trilogy, The Song of Kwasin was published in 2012 in the Gods of Opar omnibus from Subterranean Press. The Song of Kwasin was co-authored by Philip José Farmer and Christopher Paul Carey. Carey also co-authored the novella, Kwasin and the Bear God with Philip José Farmer, which was first published in 2011, in The Worlds of Philip José Farmer Volume 2: Of Dust And Soul from Meteor House. It has since been reprinted in Tales of the Wold Newton Universe from Titan Books published in 2013.

In addition to co-authoring Kwasin and the Bear God and The Song of Kwasin with Farmer, Carey has also written Khokarsa tales on his own. “A Kick In the Side” was published in The Worlds of Philip José Farmer Volume 1: Protean Dimensions by Meteor House  back in 2010. Exiles of Kho was published by Meteor House  in 2012. Exiles of Kho is a novella written by Carey that acts a prequel to the Khokarsa series. The novella chronicles the discovery of the valley which will one day house the city of Opar.

Farmer passed the tenu (a Khokarsan broadsword to the uninitiated) to Carey, and he’s been continuing the chronicles of Khokarsa ever since. The new novella, Hadon, King of Opar continues Philip José Farmer’s saga of ancient Africa which draws from the works of Edgar Rice Burroughs and H. Rider Haggard. The Khokarsa series shows how the ancient cities encountered by Tarzan and Alan Quatermain actually have a shared history. Farmer was inspired by an essay written by two Edgar Rice Burroughs fans, John Harwood and Frank Brueckel, called Heritage of the Flaming God. Using the concept of Africa once having an inland sea (actually two seas, joined by a straight), he engaged in some Tolkien-esque world building, and connected his vision of Ancient Africa to the works of Burroughs and Haggard. The final product is the Khokarsa series starring Hadon of Opar and Kwasin of Dythbeth.

Hadon is the main character in Hadon of Ancient Opar and Flight to Opar. He doesn’t make an appearance until the epilogue of The Song of Kwasin, which as you can guess, focused on his cousin, Kwasin. I’m a big fan of Kwasin, but seeing Hadon take center stage once again feels very appropriate.

Hadon, King of Opar takes place 14 years after The Song of Kwasin. Hadon is no longer the young man from the first two books, he’s now forty years old and has a family. He’s also King of Opar. His wife, Lalila, is the Queen. But don’t worry, he hasn’t let himself go like all the other Khokarsan kings (Minruth and Gamori). Hadon is still a physical specimen. He’s a paragon of heroic fantasy, and an expert swordsman. The King and Queen aren’t the only familiar faces in the novella, though.

Paga, the manling and forger of the Ax of Victory plays a role in the story. Abeth, Lalila’s daughter by the fallen hero Wi has a part to play too. Abeth was only a toddler during the original books, and now she’s a young woman. Kohr, who is Hadon’s son by the deceased priestess Klyhy, is a young man now. It’s great seeing Kohr, someone who was literally conceived during the first Ancient Opar book, play a role in the newest novella. Kohr is now a Captain in the Queensguard and he wields the Ax of Victory which once belonged to his uncle (actually second cousin) Kwasin. Kebiwabes, the bard from the original books also plays a part in the new novella. Last, but certainly not least is La, the child of prophecy born on the final page of Flight to Opar. She is Hadon and Lalila’s daughter, and is now a priestess of Kho and a follower of the teachings of Lupoeth. Lupoeth is the warrior priestess featured in Exiles of Kho.

It’s great to not only see Hadon and Lalila again, but seeing their grown children taking part in the story really drives home the scope of the Khokarsa series, and Farmer’s original vision for it. A few new characters show up too. I’m certain they will quickly become fan favorites, but saying anymore would give it away. It’s best the reader discover them when Hadon does.

Carey does a great job in putting Hadon in an interesting situation from the very beginning of the story. Hadon, King of Opar is a fast paced tale where you follow Hadon’s movements while Opar is besieged by invaders. The action takes place in, around, and under the city, thanks to the subterranean tunnel system mentioned in the works of Edgar Rice Burroughs, and the original Ancient Opar novels written by Farmer. Carey and Hadon both cover a lot of ground in this novella in regards to Opar’s geography. The vast amount of research into the Opar related Edgar Rice Burroughs tales, and Farmer’s Ancient Opar stories is very evident in the text. Carey’s research, and spot on prose has allowed him to craft a great piece of action and adventure set around Opar. I don’t think there is a person on the planet more knowledgeable about the city of Opar and Khokarsa than Carey.

Carey takes great care in the mythology and history Farmer established for the series and brings elements of both into the new novella. For instance, tensions between the priests of Resu (the Sun God) and priestesses of Kho (The Mother Goddess) are still present even during Lalila and Hadon’s reign. I also enjoyed the scenes featuring Togana’no. He’s a Gokakko, one of the neanderthal people who live in shanty towns within Ancient Opar. Farmer wrote about the Gokakko in the original Ancient Opar books, and Carey developed them further in Exiles of Kho. It’s quite a contrast to see how the Gokakko are treated by Lupoeth in Exiles of Kho compared to how the people of Opar treat them in the Ancient Opar books.

When reading Hadon, King of Opar, it felt like I was reading a lost work of Philip José Farmer himself. Carey’s talent as a writer, knowledge of the works of Burroughs, Haggard, and Farmer, his education in anthropology, and interest in linguistics has allowed him to continue the Khokarsa series with the same skill and passion as Farmer. The Khokarsa series is something both authors are going to be remembered for.

If you’re a fan of Khokarsa, Hadon, King of Opar should vault to the top of your reading list. Look at that Bob Eggleton cover;  who wouldn’t want that on their bookshelf alongside the rest of the Khokarsa series? Besides an amazingly well done piece of cover art, you’re also going to get a great story.

Reading Hadon, King of Opar is like catching up with some old friends you haven’t seen in a while, then going on an adventure with them. If you’re new to Khokarsa, and are working on getting caught up, I would still preorder this book immediately. Meteor House prints a limited number of their releases, so you don’t want to miss out. Head to the Meteor House website and get your order in to guarantee your place in the party. Then return to Ancient Opar and join Hadon on another adventure.

Preorder Hadon, King of Opar: Book 4 of the Khokarsa Series by Christopher Paul Careyhttp://meteorhousepress.com/hadon-king-of-opar/

Christopher Paul Carey’s Website: http://www.cpcarey.com/

Bob Eggleton’s Website: http://www.bobeggleton.com/

Pulp Crazy’s Interview with Christopher Paul Carey on the book: