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Tag Archive: vampires


Review by C.J. Bunce

As professional baseball takes us into the playoffs this week, we could have a repeat of last year’s World Series, with the Chicago Cubs and Cleveland Indians again vying for the championship.   Just in time, a new Harry Turtledove novel is now in bookstores that will take baseball fans backward in time with a bird’s-eye view of life as a farm team ball player during the Great Depression.  The House of Daniel follows a down on his luck “Okie” as he plays a season of semipro baseball on a team based on the real church-sponsored team called The House of David, known for its religious flavor and long-haired players–an early take on the Harlem Globetrotters but without the theatrics.  During the Great Depression the team barnstormed the country along with dozens of other teams that sprouted out in every corner of small town America, providing a source of income for players and providing the average American a few hours of respite from a bleak reality, all for a few cents per ticket.  Hugo Award winner Turtledove’s account of player Jack Spivey is a fictionalized one, but his knowledge of farm teams and forgotten byways reflects a historic realism that will make you forget this is also a supernatural tale.  Turtledove is known for his alternate histories, and this time he throws in a past with a Kim Newman style change-up, with vampires, wizards, werewolves, voodoo, UFOs, and zombies interspersed in what would otherwise be a typical work of historical fiction.

Baseball fanatics will be impressed, but fantasy readers may not find enough here to satisfy.  In fact, about 100 pages into the novel only the slightest mention of a fantastical element will remind the reader this isn’t entirely straight fiction.  The fantasy elements could easily be excised leaving behind the kind of account that will have you thinking you’ve picked up a lost John Steinbeck novel.  Spivey is a semipro baseball player.  Everyone everywhere is poor, except for the few with power and influence to control the rest.  Spivey is asked to work over a guy by the man who controls him–the price for a bit of protection and relief money, but when Spivey arrives and finds the target of his thuggery is a woman, he tells her to get out of town and he looks for a way out.  Fortunately for him, two ball players for the well-known barnstorming team called The House of Daniel literally collide while fielding a pop fly into the outfield, leaving an opening for Spivey to join up.  Thus begins a long, really-small-town by really-small-town-travelogue, told first person by Spivey, as the team bus takes him and his team across every bump of every gravel highway, into every diner, into every small field, and bunked at every boarding room between Enid, Oklahoma, and Denver, between Salt Lake City and Idaho Falls, and between Seattle and San Diego.  But first Spivey needs to wear a wig and glue on a fake beard until he can grow his own.

Long-haired baseball players from the real House of David team that inspired Turtledove’s House of Daniel team in his novel.

Spivey infrequently looks over his shoulder for the mobster’s hitman who could show up any day to claim his pound of flesh.  Meanwhile we follow Spivey and get to know him and his Southern Oklahoman accent thanks to Turtledove’s believable dialect forged from the Tom Sawyer school of talkin’.  After a few chapters the reader gets the hang of his colloquialisms and from then on it’s hard not to get sucked in.  The road and player’s life on it becomes “old hat” for Spivey, and whenever the meandering, wandering from town to town (with the ultimate destination a tournament in Denver) becomes a bit stale, Turtledove inserts his fantasy bits.  Like a couple of encounters with Depression era vampires trying to con their way into an invitation to the current boarding house.  Or strange lights in the night sky over a small town in New Mexico.  Or zombies, who have replaced slave laborers in some parts of the country.

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van-helsing

A new vampire slayer is coming, and she looks familiar.

The series is Syfy’s Van Helsing, and the lead is True Blood and Legends’ Kelly Overton as Vanessa Helsing, descendant of vampire hunter Abraham Van Helsing of Bram Stoker’s Dracula.  Vanessa has been resurrected from the present and taken into the future, to a dystopian Earth where vampires rule.  She learns she is humanity’s last hope.

If this sounds familiar it may be because Syfy’s 2016 series Wynonna Earp features a similarly tough and determined “chosen one”–also a descendant of a famed character from the past with a supernatural, dark tale.  Maybe the formula is working for the network?

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Van Helsing co-stars Grimm, The Closer, and Smallville’s Jonathan Scarfe (son of recurring Romulan player Alan Scarfe from Star Trek: The Next Generation), character actor regulars Christopher Heyerdahl and Vincent Gale, and Medium’s David Cubitt.

Here are previews of the series from Syfy:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Here’s the prologue of Volume 1 of the graphic novel adaptation of Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan’s novel The Strain:

They have always been here.  VAMPIRES.  In secret and in darkness.  WAITING.  Now their time has come.  In one week, Manhattan will be gone.  In one month, the country.  In two months–the world.

If you’re like me, you’re tired of vampires.  Tired of zombies.  Everyone is writing about either zombies or vampires.  So if you’re going to read one of the several vampire or zombie books, you’ve got to have a reason.  I stumbled into The Strain in a sort of backwards way.  I don’t like horror as a general genre but will consider something new if a writer or artist I like is working on the project.  Usually cover artists entice readers to a book.  In this case, artist E.M. Gist’s grotesque characters in the cover art normally would cause me to move along to something else.  This is one reason I skipped Issues #1 to #6 of The Strain when they hit the bookstore shelves.  Then I saw the name Mike Huddleston as interior artist and I flipped open the new volume from Dark Horse being released November 14, 2012–Huddleston has created some of the best single pages of art I have seen over the years.  And checking out The Strain was a good call.  Reminder to self: You can’t judge a (comic) book by its cover(s).  Editor’s Note–A few spoilers ahead!

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