COUNTDOWN CITY: The Last Policeman Book II by Ben H. Winters is the second in a trilogy about Hank Palace, an ex-cop turned PI in a world where a catastrophic asteroid strike is just three months away. When Hank’s former babysitter asks him to find her vanished husband, Palace agrees even though people disappearing to squeeze in some last adventure or fantasy is par for the pre-disaster course (much as they said about a supposed suicide in Book One). Of course it turns out the case is more than it seems … and what about Hank’s sister and her claims there’s a way to stop the apocalypse? A good mix of S/F and hardboiled mystery.
EYE OF THE VULTURE: A Quest of the Gypsy Novel by Ron Goulart and Alex Niñ0 was the sequel to Quest of the Gypsy in the Weird Heroes 1970s neo-pulp series. It opens with the amnesiac psi (and cyborg) Gypsy recovering his friends from the sleazier section of the apocalyptic far-future (2033! How unimaginable!) Riviera, then setting off for Africa hunting clues to his past. To complicate things we have the vulture of the title, mocking and manipulating him, and the Scavengers crime cartel, which hopes to break Gypsy and turn him into an asset. This was a fun sequel, but I think Goulart cheats in one scene where Gypsy gets a Big Reveal but we only hear the synopsis (“Gypsy learned a lot.”). It’s more frustrating because this was the last novel (Weird Heroes died shortly afterwards) so we never got any answers.
Continuing the run of bad reference books read as background for Alien Visitors we have INVASIONS USA: The Essential Science Fiction Films of the 1950s by Michael Bliss. Where Them or Us? went with Jungian interpretations, Bliss relies heavily on Freud to get equally awful interpretations: did you know the only logical explanation for events in Invasion of the Bodysnatchers is that the protagonist is having paranoid delusions brought on by having to endure the nightmare of small-town 1950s life? Bliss is absolutely convinced these movies show the Dark Side of The 1950s and so he finds exactly what he expects. On the plus side, my book is going to stand out from the competition if I’m even marginally competent.
MARVELS by Brian Selznick is 50 percent a graphic novel about the wild history of British theater’s legendary Marvel clan and a pointless Y/A novel about a modern-day descendant moving in with his recluse of a grandfather, learning the history and then discovering everything he’s been told is a lie. The first part is reasonably entertaining, the rest feels like warmed-over Victoriana about tragic runaways and kindly old guardians.
THE SHADOW LAUGHS was Walter Gibson’s third Shadow novel and reuses several crooks from the earlier stories for a rematch with the Shadow involving a murder frame and a fortune in counterfeit money. This is much more a straight crime thriller than the supervillainy of The Death Tower but it works just as well, though with some plot-holes (who planted the counterfeit plates on one member of the gang? We never learn). And surprisingly Coffram, the mastermind of the piece, escapes (which other foes would do down the road) and never returns for a final beat-down, which I’m not sure anyone else did.
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