The Qwillery | category: Retro Reviews | (page 3 of 3)


The Qwillery

A blog about books and other things speculative

Retro Reviews: Flash Gordon: Massacre in the 22nd Century (Flash Gordon 1) by David Hagberg

Retro Reviews: Flash Gordon: Massacre in the 22nd Century (Flash Gordon 1) by David Hagberg

Flash Gordon: Massacre in the 22nd Century
Author:  David Hagberg
Series:  Flash Gordon
Original Publisher and Date:  Tempo Books, October 28, 1980
Still in Print:  No
Format and Length:  Paperback, 202 pages
Availability:  You can find it online ranging in price from $.99- $ 151.53.
ISBN:  0448129639

Retro Reviews: Flash Gordon: Massacre in the 22nd Century (Flash Gordon 1) by David Hagberg
Brief History

David Hagberg was born in Duluth, Minnesota on October 9, 1942. While serving in the Air Force he worked as a cryptographer. His writing career began in newspapers. Twister, published by Dell in 1975, was his first novel. Since then, he has published over 70 books under several pseudonyms: David Bannerman, Sean Flannery, David James, Robert Pell, Eric Ramsey. He has also been nominated for several awards. David Hagberg wrote six Flash Gordon novels from 1980-1981.

Back Cover Description

Sent on a mission to investigate the mysterious reappearance of the Interstellar Exploration ship GOODHOPE, Colonel Flash Gordon and his companions, Dale Arden and Dr. Hans Zarkov, discover much more than they had bargained for. Stranded in deep space, the trio find themselves drawn against their will into a war of worlds which has lasted thousands of years...and which threatens the very existence of the planet Earth.

Brannigan's Review

I found this particular book at a very overpriced used bookstore. My only experience with Flash Gordon was the 1980 so bad it's fun film by the same name. It appears the book was released a few months before the movie and I have to wonder at the timing, maybe they hoped for a resurgence. I know Flash Gordon has had a long history in comics and serials, but I have never attempted to read or watch any of them. So, on a whim, I bought the book to see what it had to offer.

The story starts off with a Trans Federation ship finding a long lost spaceship the GOODHOPE, on a routine trip between planets. The GOODHOPE appears to be a ghost ship adrift in space. The Federation Military Forces seize the vessel and send a team to explore it in hopes of gaining answers about it and its crew's fate. The team is Flash Gordon, Dr. Hans Zarkov, and Dale Arden (Dr. Zarkov's niece). Almost immediately upon entering the vessel Flash Gordon and his team discover everyone aboard the ship has been murdered except for one missing crew member. Then, Flash and his team are attacked by none other than the Trans Federation as they are overly anxious to claim their prize. Flash and his team fight off the Trans Federation, and in the process, the ship, using some kind of self defense mechanism, launches itself into deep space, something far too advanced for this ship to do. They arrive 165 light years away from earth to crash land on an empty planet. They wander the jungle fighting off strange animals to find a deserted city still maintained by robot janitors that are hell bent on attacking Flash and his team. Dale gets kidnapped, and as Flash and Dr. Zarkov try to rescue her, she reappears to tell them she's fine and reveal the big secret. I don't want to ruin it for those of you planning on reading the book. I will say it ends in such away as to launch a series even if it was short-lived.

As you can tell from my recap there's plenty of action in the story with a bit of mystery. It keeps the pace of the book high and keeps you wondering what happened to the crew and why the ship sent them to a deserted planet. I'll be honest I wasn't hoping for a lot in this book and because of that I was pleasantly surprised that it was a fun read. It's a light pulpy sci-fi book.

The character's are very stereotypical and one dimensional. David Hagberg attempts to give Flash a little depth by making him a widow, but doesn't go much father than mentioning it a few times. Dale is an archaic female character with no other purpose than to swoon over Flash, have emotional meltdowns, and need rescuing. Dr. Zarkov is old and sickly and tires easy. He also likes to be smart sometimes. I'm being a little flippant, I know, and realize with such a short book and a lot happening there isn't a lot of room for depth. I also understand that these types of books were meant to be read and discarded. It's literary junk food.

If you like your sci-fi pulpy and fast-paced, you'll enjoy this book. If you're a fan of Flash Gordon, you'll enjoy this book. Apparently, this is a whole new take on the character. If you don't fall under either category, I'd stay away from it. This is a book to check out at a library or borrow from a friend. Due to a few scenes in which women seem to have to get undressed around Flash, and due to some minor violence, I'd recommend the book to older teens and adults.

Retro Reviews: The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle

Retro Reviews: The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle

The Last Unicorn
Author:  Peter S. Beagle
Original Publisher and Date:  Viking Press, 1968
Still in Print:  Yes, by ROC
Current Formats and Length:  Paperback, eBook 304 pages (original length 218 pages)
Availability:  You can find it online or in bookstores easily.
ISBN:  978-0451450524

Brief History

Retro Reviews: The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle
Peter S. Beagle was born April 20, 1939 in Manhattan, NY. He won a scholarship to the University of Pittsburgh for a poem he submitted and received a degree in creative writing. He would then go on to Stanford University. Beagle published his first novel, A Fine and Private Place, at the age of 19. In the 1970s, Beagle took a break from writing prose to writing screenplays until the 90s, at which point he returned to prose, poetry and nonfiction.

Peter S. Beagle wrote a novelette sequel to The Last Unicorn titled, Two Hearts, which won the 2006 Hugo Award for Best Novelette. It also won the Nebula Award for Best Novelette in 2007 and was nominated as a short fiction finalist for the World Fantasy Award. In 2006, Beagle was awarded an Inkpot Award for Outstanding Achievement in Science Fiction and Fantasy.

It took two years for Beagle to write The Last Unicorn, and he has stated that unicorns have been a part of his life in one form or another since he was a young boy. The first draft of the story was set in modern day with a two-headed demon companion. This first version of the story has since been published by Subterranean Press as The Last Unicorn: The Lost Version.

Back Cover Description

The Last Unicorn is one of the true classics of fantasy, ranking with Tolkien's The Hobbit, Le Guin's Earthsea Trilogy, and Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland. Beagle writes a shimmering prose-poetry, the voice of fairy tales and childhood:
The unicorn lived in a lilac wood, and she lived all alone. She was very old, though she did not know it, and she was no longer the careless color of sea foam but rather the color of snow falling on a moonlit night. But her eyes were still clear and unwearied, and she still moved like a shadow on the sea.
The unicorn discovers that she is the last unicorn in the world, and sets off to find the others. She meets Schmendrick the Magician--whose magic seldom works, and never as he intended--when he rescues her from Mommy Fortuna's Midnight Carnival, where only some of the mythical beasts displayed are illusions. They are joined by Molly Grue, who believes in legends despite her experiences with a Robin Hood wannabe and his unmerry men. Ahead wait King Haggard and his Red Bull, who banished unicorns from the land.

This is a book no fantasy reader should miss; Beagle argues brilliantly the need for magic in our lives and the folly of forgetting to dream. --Nona Vero

Brannigan's Review

If you're like me, your first exposure to The Last Unicorn came from the 1982 film by the same title. I was six year's old when I saw this and it has forever been a part of my life. The movie is beautiful, terrifying and peculiar. That being said, I've never tried to read the book. I was afraid the book wouldn't live up to the memories of my childhood, and the way the film etched itself in my imagination. It's how most of us book readers feel about books turned to film, but in this case it was in reverse for me. However, for your benefit, I was willing to attack a cherished memory and read the book.

I really had nothing to fear as I began to read the book. I even heard America playing in the background (little inside wink to those of you who've seen the movie). After only reading 50 pages, I had to stop and do a little research and just as I had suspected Peter S. Beagle wrote the screenplay for the movie. I was both thrilled and a little worried. Would the book be word for word the script of the movie? Would the book be a novelization of the film? I wanted more depth and deleted scenes. Thankfully, as I continued to read I did get more from the book than what's in the film. Something the film was not able to capture as well as the novel is the lyrical skill of Peter S. Beagle--the man can write. I kept stopping to copy down sections of the book that I found profound and beautiful. In fact, it's inspired an additional section to the retro review, which you'll find below.

The story itself is a modern fairytale. It's whimsical and yet at the same time you can tell it was written in the 60s. The story holds deep meaning in each of the character's struggles and yet they at first appear to be very one dimensional. The more you stop and think about what each of them represent, the more you see in the shadows of the book. On the surface, we see Schmendrick the magician as the comic relief guide for the unicorn, but the more we discover about the magician, there is a deep sadness and longing to be the man he is destined to be. In the end, he has to allow one character's story and hope for some happiness to end, so his life may truly begin. The villain King Haggard is a man who has been on an endless quest to find something to believe in, to bring him peace, only to find disappointment at the end of every answer. It's the seeking that has robbed him of happiness and turned him into a bitter vile man. Of course, these are my own interpretations, which for me is an example of any great fairytale.

I don't really have anything bad to say about the book, besides maybe my own personal dislike of the occasional insertion of modern speech, objects or activities that people from that time frame would know nothing about. If you've ever read The Once and Future King, you might know what I'm talking about. I don't want to be more obvious, as I don't want to draw your attention to it as you read the book.

If you're a fan of fantasy and fairytales, or looking for a book to read to your children, The Last Unicorn is for you. If there’s still a child inside you that finds beauty in the world at the most odd times, this is a book for you. If you're none of these things, you should still read this book and see if you might not grow a kinder gentler you inside yourself to be used on special occasions. This is a book to own and add to your personal library. I'm personally going to try to find a nice hardcover I can pass on to my grandchildren. The book is perfect for any age, but for the wee young ones be aware that there are a few scary moments, so take the time to read the book before reading it to a small child. You'll know what I mean. I have no hesitation in recommending this book to everyone alive and some recently passed.

Favorite Quotes from the Book

“Unicorns are for beginnings, for innocence and purity, for newness. Unicorns are for young girls.” Schmendrick in The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle

“[Y]ou get into the habit of rescuing people, breaking enchantments, challenging the wicked duke in fair combat--it’s hard to give up being a hero, once you get used to it.” Prince Lir in The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle

Retro Reviews: Dune by Frank Herbert

Retro Reviews: Dune by Frank Herbert

The Qwillery is thrilled to announce a new feature by Brannigan Cheney. Here's what Brannigan has to say about Retro Reviews:

I'm excited to take a minute to tell you all about a new feature at The Qwillery called Retro Reviews. Retro Reviews will be going against the grain a bit. For these reviews, we'll be focusing on books in the speculative fiction genre with a key difference—the books we'll be reviewing will not be new or soon-to-be-published. Now, you might ask, well, what does that mean? I've defined it as any book that is at least five years older than the current date. Today is September (fill in the date), 2014, so I can read any book that was published before September 2009. I felt it would be good to have a rolling date so I will always have new books to read.

I've been a fan of speculative fiction since I was a teenager in the 90s, but I'll be honest, I haven't read a lot of the pioneers of my chosen genres. There are also books that have since been published that I haven't gotten around to reading yet. I don't think I'm the only one out there with the same problem. I will pick random books from my own bookshelves, libraries, friends homes, and, used bookstores.

Retro Reviews will have a slightly different look and feel than the other reviews. I will endeavor to share a bit of information about the author and/or book if I can find some interesting information for you. I might even review an entire series at one time. I'll be rating the books on a simple scale of “don't bother reading this book, borrow it from a friend or library, or scour the earth until you find your own personal copy.” I'm sure I'll pick books you have no interest in or you've already read, but stick with me and I'm bound to find something you haven't read. If any of you have a book or author you've always wondered about, but don't have the time to give it a go, let me know and I'll read it. Retro Reviews will be something I do between my current New Fiction reviews, so don't look for a new Retro Review each week, I'm hoping to have at least two a month.

I invite you to join me on my exploration of our collective fictional past.

Author: Frank Herbert (1920-1986)
Series: Dune Chronicles 1
Original Publisher and Date: Chilton Books, 1965
Still in Print: Yes, by ACE
Current Formats and Length: 40th Anniversary Paperback, eBook 544 pages (original length 412 pages)
Availability: You can find it online or in bookstores easily.
ISBN: 9780441013593

Brief History

Retro Reviews: Dune by Frank Herbert
Frank Herbert started his writing career as a newspaper reporter in the Pacific Northwest. He served as a photographer during World War II and published his first fictional story in Esquire in 1945. Frank Herbert was inspired to write Dune while living in Oregon and witnessing the government's attempts to control the sand dunes near the coast with poverty grass. He went so far as to write an article about what he witnessed called, “They Stopped the Moving Sands.” Dune was originally published in Analog magazine from 1963 to 1965 before he expanded it and looked for a publisher. He was rejected by over twenty different publisher before Chilton Books agreed to publish the book. Chilton Books was better known for publishing auto-repair manuals.

Dune won the 1966 Hugo award and the very first Nebula Award for Best Novel. It has received wide acclaim as the best science fiction novel ever written. In 1971, the movie rights were sold and have had a troubling history in film ever since. A recent documentary, Jodorowsky's Dune, gives a glimpse into the troubles a book like Dune has caused for directors in their attempts to make it into a film. David Lynch was the first to actually finish a film based on the book in 1984 and the Syfy Channel has since made two mini-series based on the book. The last attempt to remake the film failed in 2011.

Dune has also inspired games, musical albums and many other cultural influences.

Back Cover Description

Set in the far future amidst a sprawling feudal interstellar empire where planetary dynasties are controlled by noble houses that owe an allegiance to the imperial House Corrino, Dune tells the story of young Paul Atreides (the heir apparent to Duke Leto Atreides & heir of House Atreides) as he & his family accept control of the desert planet Arrakis, the only source of the "spice" melange, the most important & valuable substance in the cosmos. The story explores the complex, multilayered interactions of politics, religion, ecology, technology & human emotion, as the forces of the empire confront each other for control of Arrakis.

Brannigan's Review

I thought I would start my inaugural Retro Review with a bang. Since I've already read The Lord of the Rings, I looked to the biggest Science Fiction book out there and by all accounts that's Dune. I have to admit I feel bad this is the first time I've read Dune. I've always meant to read it, but that's the point of Retro Reviews, to correct the wrongs I've made in my reading career.

I went into this book with a lot of baggage. I think anyone would when it comes to a book this famous. It's won two of the biggest awards in its field, and has been made into some really bad movies. It's referenced in pop culture and we already know what our friends think of it. We might even read the book because we're sick of getting harassed about not reading the book. All of this creates a very high expectation for the book, and to prove how unbiased I plan to be in these Retro Reviews, I'll be honest, the book fail flat on it's face for me, for the first 300 pages. Now, before anyone gets ready to call me names and burn me in effigy, let me explain. I loved the last part of the book, which made me want to go back and re-read the first 300 pages, which for me is a win.

Now, why didn't I like the first 3/4ths of the book? There are two reasons. It starts almost immediately in the middle of a political battle between two great houses I knew nothing about, so it took some time to figure out who was who and what their motivations were. Then, once all of that was settled, I was stranded right in the middle of a strange planet and had to learn all about it and the people who live on it. That can be a lot of information for any reader to take in before any real action or plot happens. Now, I know you're going to say things were happening, and I agree, but very slowly. In my admittedly limited experiences in true Science Fiction, I've noticed that most books can be categorized as either books about ideas or books about events. The event books have plenty of action to keep the readers going. Idea books, which I think Dune falls under, spend most of their time on a central idea. Dune is all about ecology—the change a planet makes on its inhabitants, and, in this case, the universe, and what would happen if someone could then change the planet? Granted, this is a very cool idea, and it explains why we spend so much time learning about the planet Arrakis and the spice, but I'm more of an events reader, so things didn't really pick up for me until I got to see some battles.

Onto Herbert's writing craft, he is a master at world-building and should be studied by any writer. You can tell, even after spending the majority of the book learning about the planet, we're still only cracking the surface of the rich history of Arrakis. I can't say the same about the characters. For me, the only character I really felt was well-rounded was Lady Jessica. I never really felt connected to Paul until the very end of the book, which, to me, is a mistake. I think the reader should connected to the hero first above all others. I also didn't respect the villain’s motivations. As an idea book focused on ecology, I don't think character development is as important as world-building, so maybe that's why Herbert didn't develop his characters more.

Dune is still relevant in today’s world, maybe even more so then when it was published 49 years ago. We can see our planet changing by our actions. Now that you know the power one person holds, will you take what you read and make a difference?

As a reader, you'll need to decide which type of Sci-Fi fan you are, events or ideas. Once you've looked deep into your soul you'll know if you'll love Dune or appreciate it for what it means to the genre. Either way, I think every fan of speculative fiction needs to read this book, so I'm going to recommend you borrow the book from your local library or from that friend who keeps nagging you. Once you've read the book you can then decide if you need to buy it or not for your personal library. There's very minor violence and only suggested sexual themes, and minor, if any, use of strong language. I would have no problem recommending this book to teens and adults.

Retro Reviews: Flash Gordon: Massacre in the 22nd Century (Flash Gordon 1) by David HagbergRetro Reviews: The Last Unicorn by Peter S. BeagleRetro Reviews: Dune by Frank Herbert

Report "The Qwillery"

Are you sure you want to report this post for ?