Book Review: Deathbird Stories by Harlan Ellison

Harlan Ellison built his career on the short story format and as a result, became one of the most awarded living writers.  I have many of his collections in my library, which was why I recognized most of the material in this anthology.

Deathbird Stories consists of 19 tales, originally printed between 1960 and 1974, all loosely gathered here under the theme of modern gods.  While some of the stories, such as “Neon”, “Along the Scenic Route”, and “Pretty Maggie Moneyeyes” seem to miss that mark, many of the stories directly fit the theme or at least, contain supernatural elements.

Some of my favorites include (along with Harlan’s taglines for each):

The Whimper of Whipped Dogs – When the new god comes to the Big Apple, its Kyrie Eleison turns out to be a prayer Kitty Genovese simply couldn’t sing. But thirty-eight others knew the tune.

Along the Scenic Route – God, in the latest, chrome-plated, dual-carb, chopped & channeled, eight-hundred-horsepowered incarnation. God’s unspoken name is Vroooom!

On The Downhill Side – Posing the question: does the god of love use underarm deodorant, vaginal spray, and fluoride toothpaste?

Neon – Kurt Weill and Max Anderson wrote, “Maybe God’s gone away, forgetting His promise He made that day: and we’re lost out here in the stars.” And maybe He/She’s just waiting for the right signal to come back, whaddaya think?

Basilisk – Have you ever noticed: the most vocal superpatriots are the old men who send young men off to die? Well, it might just be that the heaviest reverential act when worshipping the god of war is to be the biggest mutherin traitor of them all. Check Spiro, I think he’s having a seizure.

Pretty Maggie Moneyeyes – The god of the slot machine: new religions, new souls, new limbos.

Paingod – If God is good, why does He send us pain and misery?

Adrift Just Off the Islets of Langerhans – Reality has become fantasy; fantasy has become reality.  35mm constructs have more substance than your senior congressman, but Martha Nelson is real, no matter what you think. And the search for your soul in a soulless world requires special maps.

Deathbird Stories-Ellison

 

Book Review: Mr. Monk on the Couch

While investigating a death in a cheap motel, our favorite obsessive-compulsive detective becomes enamored with the crime scene cleanup crew and volunteers to assist them on their next job. Monk does not need to wait long as a series of bizarre murders begins, seemingly centered around a thrift store couch.

Meanwhile, Monk’s assistant, Natalie Teeger, decides to put her own investigative skills to the test as she delves into the identity and background of the John Doe from the motel, who died of natural causes but was in possession of fake ID and a photo of a woman and little girl. As if all of that isn’t enough, Monk decides to play matchmaker and setup a date between Natalie and Jerry Yermo, the team leader of the crime scene cleanup crew.

While investigating the serial killings, Monk concludes that it is not the couch, but items hidden within it that are the motive behind the murders. Those items lead Monk to a disappointing conclusion.

I enjoy all of Lee Goldberg’s MONK novels and this was no exception. However, I felt that Monk’s theory as to the identity of the murderers was arrived at by an astounding leap of logic that had only a modicum of supporting evidence. Nevertheless, Goldberg once again perfectly captures these characters and maintains a perfect pace.

 

Monk Couch

The Conclusion of “Making Tracks” by Steven H. Wilson

The conclusion to Steven H. Wilson’s future dystopian adventure, “Making Tracks” is now available for your free listening pleasure! The entire story will be published in our next anthology, Elsewhere in the Middle of Eternity, slated to debut in 2016!

Click here to listen! 

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The Arbiter Chronicles: Resurrecting the Golden Age of SF

If you enjoy reading beautifully written and thought-provoking science fiction, look no further than Steven H. Wilson’s Arbiter Chronicles series. What began as a Mark Time and Parsec award-winning audio drama series has spawned two novels and four e-novellas. The Arbiter Chronicles is a character-driven space opera in the tradition of Heinlein’s The Rolling Stones and Joss Whedon’s Firefly.

Library Journal review of Taken Liberty, the first Arbiter Chronicles novel: “The author of the Arbiter Chronicles, an award-winning audio drama, vividly brings to life a cast of compelling characters while telling a story that measures the cost of freedom. The far-future military setting should appeal to fans of David Weber’s “Honor Harrington” series as well as the military SF of David Drake.”

Taken Liberty Unfriendly Persuasion

 

Book Review: Mr. Monk on the Road

After solving two San Francisco murders in typical Adrian Monk fashion, the detective decides to do something special for his agoraphobic brother, Ambrose, who has not left his house in over 30 years. After lacing his slice of birthday cake with sleeping pills, Adrian and his assistant, Natalie Teeger, carry Ambrose into an RV that Adrian had rented with the intention of taking Ambrose on a tour of California then out to the Grand Canyon and Las Vegas–with Natalie as the designated driver, of course.

Understandably, Ambrose is at first furious over being abducted from his home, but begins to relax as the trip progresses. He marvels at the sights and sounds of the outside world. During their travels, the trio encounter two murders that naturally intrigue Adrian, but he is reluctantly dissuaded by Natalie from participating in their investigation. They are on vacation, after all. Along the way, they meet several interesting characters in various trailer parks and are nearly run off the road by an enraged tractor trailer driver.

It isn’t until they reach Vegas that Detective Monk has an epiphany and realizes that all of the events and people they’ve encountered have a deadly connection…

This story takes place after the end of the television series and the events of the final episode are summed up in the first chapter. If you have never seen the final episode, you may wonder what on Earth would inspire Adrian Monk, a man whose phobias are surpassed only by his brother’s, to take a sightseeing tour in an RV. Well, let’s just say that both Detective Monk and his brother has overcome some of their fears, have loosened up a little, and realized there is more to life than solving puzzles and disinfecting everything in sight–except for the RV’s bathroom and dinette table, of course.

monkHats off to Lee Goldberg for yet anothe marvelous Monk mystery. I’ve read about six of his Monk novels to date and have never been disappointed.