Most helpful critical review
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on January 18, 2007
This handsomely produced volume (with excellent cover art) from MonkeyBrain Books purports to be the first in a series of annual anthologies. However, I would guess that the sales figures didn't merit a follow-up, or the publisher has since had better things to do.
It's supposed to be packed full of pulpy goodness, featuring heroes and insidious villains and plots from those low-grade magazines of yore with their two-fisted tough guys and the dangerous dames that loved them, but only a few of the stories seem to really belong in the pulp genre. (There's a bit of a feel here that the selections were based on which of the editor's friends, or friends of friends, had something to hand at the time.) Paul Di Filippo's "Eel Pie Stall" is a complete mismatch, since it's an epic tale of...a soul's karmic progress through Tibetan-style reincarnation. So, very little in the way of gunplay, fisticuffs, or scantily-clad women in need of rescue. Meanwhile, Michael Kurland's "Four Hundred Slaves" isn't really that bad, but it feels like it would've been better placed in a collection of detective fiction set in ancient Rome (a suprisingly crowded field these days). And "Paris Is Burning", by Barry Baldwin, while exceptionally well-told, just doesn't seem to belong, since it is a pretty straightforward summary (albeit in vigorous contemporary language) of the life of the famous Paris from the Trojan War.
Of those that better succeed in capturing the genre, Kim Newman's Victorian-era "Richard Riddle, Boy Detective" is an affectionate homage to the Boy's Own-style of thrilling yarns, and Michael Moorcock's "Dogfight Donovan" has quite the same feel but a WWI setting in which the good guys are much given to saying "Gosh" and "Gee" and are keen to give the Boche a sound wallop to the jaw. Mike Resnick, a past master at exactly this sort of thing, contributes "Island Of Annoyed Souls", his take on Doctor Moreau, and Mark Finn offers "Bridge Of Teeth", in which boxing meets Mexican sorcery.
Chris Roberson, the editor, includes his own story "Prowl Unceasing", in which his recurring protagonist, Abraham Van Helsing, teams up with a mysterious fugitive from India (who should be well-known to Verne fans) to fight jungle monsters in the historical kingdom of the White Rajah on Borneo. In a much more bizarre mode, Lou Anders proffers his "Death Wish", which was to have been the first installment in a serial novel set in some kind of post-Apocalypse Old West. I would've liked to have seen this play out further, but there's no indication that Part 2 of his story has been released anywhere.
I found Marc "Not the Beastmaster" Singer's "Johnny Come Lately" to be the best of the lot, although it is much enhanced if the reader has a pretty good knowledge of the lore of the Green Lantern from DC Comics. Dealing with the adventures of a superhero called the Silverglass, it's essentially his take on the much-maligned GL Kyle Rayner, the successor to the best-known GL, Hal Jordan. Very well-done and highly rewarding to the comic book fan.
Not the greatest collection ever, but there are certainly some worthy selections here.