The second volume of Peter Grant’s Cochrane’s Company trilogy marches forth.

Andrew Cochrane and his mercenaries have warded off a deadly onslaught by asteroid thieves. Now they’re riding high, buying more ships and looking for more contracts.

However, the criminal Brotherhood isn’t about to accept defeat – not after Cochrane’s Company killed their Patriarch. They’re out to rebuild, rearm, and get revenge.

What started as a simple patrol job in a deserted binary star system explodes into a multi-planetary arms race, with survival on the line!

Praise for Cochrane’s Company:

“This is a great new series in the same universe as the author’s Maxwell Saga and Laredo series.”

“[The] first book in the Cochrane’s Company series is a combination of Western movie, military SF, and the condottieri of Renaissance Italy. This was easily read, and required only a little mental juggling to keep track of major characters and places. Set-up and explanatory sections were nicely written, and the action scenes were tightly woven. Recommended for anyone aged 12 and up with a liking for space, adventure, or history.

“One of the things I like about Mr Grant is that his villains always have logical motivations for what they are doing (or trying to do) and that when looked in certain ways the heroes may be only a little better than the villains. What I particularly liked about this book is that the hero (Cochrane) has enough awareness to realize that some of the things he does (or commands others to do) are indeed pretty dark shades of grey even though they are for the most part the ones being sinned against. Cochrane is clearly going to have to struggle to ensure that he does take the morally better course not just the most expedient.”

Image result for the sheik of mars

Robo-Djinn are best Djinn

“Sheik of Mars” by Ben Wheeler is pure fun: Nothing less and sometimes even just a little bit more.

The plot is dead simple: The protagonist, the current Prince of Mars, marries the love of his life, the beautiful Zira, but on the day of his marriage the degenerate son of the Sheik of Mars kidnaps his wife and brings her to his personal harem. It’s up to our protagonist, his best friend Ibrahim, and his servant the swarthy eunuch to rescue Zira and escape the Palace of the Sheik of Mars alive.

The absolute best thing Mr. Wheeler accomplishes in this book is atmosphere. The obvious influence in the book is “1001 Arabian Nights”, and sure enough the main story is itself a story within a story, in true “Arabian Nights” fashion (at one point, briefly, we actually get three layers deep). Mr. Wheeler capture the Arabesque flavor flawlessly, and keeps it up throughout the novel. Read More

Arkhaven Comics is very pleased to be able to announce that QUANTUM MORTIS A Man Disrupted #2: Zero Zero Tango is now available for Kindle and Kindle Select.

Chief Warrant Officer Graven Tower is a ruggedly handsome military policeman who hates aliens. Fortunately, as a member of His Grace’s Military Crimes Investigation Division – Xenocriminology and Alien Relations, he gets to arrest a lot of them. Sometimes he even gets to shoot them.

Chief Tower and Detector Derin Hildreth of the Trans Paradis Police Department are investigating the murder of the Crown Prince of Morchard on the shadowed streets of Trans Paradis City, but the alien government-in-exile is less than entirely helpful. The royal house of Morchard appears to be considerably more interested in seeking revenge than seeing justice done. But there is no way that Tower or MCID are going to let any vengeful xenos start another war in their house!

QUANTUM MORTIS A Man Disrupted #2: Zero Zero Tango is 27 pages, retails for $2.99, and is available via Kindle and Kindle Unlimited. Matvei Daniilovich is still the illustrator, but starting with this issue, we arranged to get him a professional colorist in order to move from a bi-monthly release schedule to what we hope will be a monthly one, so you may note that the colors are a bit more vibrant in this issue. UPDATE: Look Inside is now enabled, so you can see these for yourself.

From the reviews of Quantum Mortis A Man Disrupted #1: By the Book:

  • The plot is interesting, and the universe feels like it has actual history and depth. Instead of skipping over the richness of the original novel the comic gives you a lot to read rather than just pretty pictures which you quickly turn past to find out what happens next.
  • It’s just the first issue, but the story is fantastic so far. I haven’t read the book on which it is based, so it’s totally new to me. I really love the look and slightly Blade Runner aesthetic and noir feel.
  • The story was good and got me interested in the characters. Dialog was snappy and smart. Hard to say what tech levels would be on a distant planet in the 3000s, after some big wars, but the tech-setting feels about right for a sci-fi crime-noir story.
  • Old school comic book. Cute girl, manly hero, robot comedy relief, dark conspiracy, gritty high tech future.
  • A fun start to an intriguing story, excellent retro artwork (I suspect that at some point in this storyline, a rocket-ship will land upright on a plume of flame, as God and Robert Heinlein intended), good banter, and the shadow of a prince’s corpse burnt into the ground as foreshadowing of things to come. This is going to be a fun series, count me in for more!
A print edition of issue #2 will be available in a few weeks in a gold logo edition.

So, The Incredibles II: I didn’t hate it.

And maybe that’s not surprising. Despite being bought by Disney—who’s run the Star Wars movies so far into the ground, they’ve plummeted underground and are now nearing the Earth’s core (and also The Core is a much better movie than the last two Star Wars flicks combined)—they’ve managed to keep producing quality entertainment. Coco, for example, was a fine movie that touched on the importance of family, and the importance of remembering and honoring the dead. If you don’t know where you came from, you have no idea who you really are.

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Books (Skelos Press): Presenting the English translation of the award-winning book that introduced a new generation of French fans to the father of sword and sorcery. The Robert E. Howard Guide was born out of years of scholarship, but took its final form after answering the same questions from fans over and over again. In many ways, Howard remains a “famous unknown writer, “the man who single handedly defined modern fantasy, but whose life and works are still known mostly filtered through adaptations, pastiches and gross approximations. Because of those specificities, he is more often than not known for what and who he wasn’t, for sentences he never wrote, or for characters who bear little resemblance—if any—to his original creations. This, in turn, explains how and why this book was conceived.


Popular Culture (Jeffro Johnson): You can see the cultural programming for this present disaster hit hard just by looking at the movies of the sixties and seventies. Marathon Man (1976) features a “nice guy” protagonist. Dustin Hoffman plays a nebbish that blunders into a bit of a thriller. “Realism” in this case means that he is such a loser that the only woman willing to take up with him is one which is willing to do so under the orders of a mysterious figure from the underworld. (Note how this character type would undergo some modifications in the eighties: loser protagonists in both Gremlins and The Karate Kid fall into completely arbitrary female favor without establishing any of the sort of qualities that could motivate it while characters that could command that sort of attention are painted in the worst light possible.

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Howie K. Bentley is one of the rising stars in the sword and sorcery genre. He started out as a guitar player with his band Cauldron Born. Life has included playing in heavy metal bands, teaching guitar, and also writing fiction.

He writes dark, violent stories the way sword and sorcery should be written. His influences include David C. Smith, Richard L. Tierney, and Karl Edward Wagner. If you grew up on 1970s sword and sorcery in anthologies such as Swords Against Darkness, Howie Bentley’s fiction will recall that period.

In classic sword and sorcery writer history, Bentley has been published in various magazines and anthologies. THE SNAKE MAN’S BANE is a collection of six novelettes.

The title story is original to the book. “The Snake Man’s Bane” is a novella featuring Vegtam the Skald. He runs afoul of serpent men who are infesting Herod-Thaar. Escaping only to land in the realm of the sorcerer Xexor-Wroth who takes him prisoner. There is a battle with the serpent men and their human henchmen with Thorn the Rune, a demon, inhabiting Vegtam to do some serpent men kicking.  Rune was a mascot for the band Cauldron Born. Sort of like Eddie for Iron Maiden. If you like Clark Ashton Smith’s sorcerers, you will like this story. Read More

Psionic mechs face down werewolves, Gawain fights besides Arthur, and the Marx Brothers enjoy a time-traveling disaster in this week’s roundup of the newest releases in fantasy and adventure.

Equal and Opposite Reactions (Look to the West #3) – Tom Anderson

The Jacobin Wars have devastated Europe. With the defeat of Lisieux’s Republic, the reactionary powers of the postwar order seek to return the spirit of revolution to the Pandora’s Box from which it came and stamp down hard on the lid. Britain, ravaged by French invasion during the war, groans under the increasingly authoritarian rule of the Duke of Marlborough, while across the divided kingdoms of Germany, men of new ideals seek to create a single nation. Slavery is debated in the Empire of North America, the Spanish royal family plots a return from exile in Mexico, and the United Provinces of South America emerges from defeat to build a new place for itself in the world. In China, two rival dynasties struggle for supremacy, while Japan falls increasingly under the Russian bootheel.

But know this: as Sir Isaac Newton wrote, every action must come with an equal and opposite reaction. As nostalgics try to dial back the clock to the ancien régime as though the French Revolution never happened, pressure is building from below. The fires of revolution are rising once again, and this time it will truly be a people’s battle, a global struggle: The Popular Wars shall begin. As men fight beneath flags not for the legitimacy of their rulers, but for the spirit of their nation and the welfare of their people, the world will never be the same again…

Fade (Paxton Locke #1) – Daniel Humphreys

Family drama is bad enough without adding magic and human sacrifice. Ten years ago, Paxton Locke’s mother killed his father in a mysterious ritual that – thankfully – went incomplete. Now, Paxton makes his living as a roving paranormal investigator, banishing spirits while Mother languishes in jail.

When a terrified ghost warns him of a dangerous, newly-freed entity, Paxton faces a fight far beyond simple exorcism. In a battle for his very soul, will he be able to endure – or simply fade away

Harry Dresden’s sorcery goes on a Supernatural-style road trip. Cool car sold separately.

Ghostwater (Cradle #5) – Will Wight

Sacred artists follow a thousand Paths to power, using their souls to control the forces of the natural world. Lindon is Unsouled, forbidden to learn the sacred arts of his clan. When faced with a looming fate he cannot ignore, he must rise beyond anything he’s ever known…and forge his own Path.

Long ago, the Monarch Northstrider created a world of his own.

This world, known as Ghostwater, housed some of his most valuable experiments. Now, it has been damaged by the attack of the Bleeding Phoenix, and a team of Skysworn have been sent to recover whatever they can from the dying world.

Now, Lindon must brave the depths of this new dimension, scavenging treasures and pushing his skills to new heights to compete with new enemies.

Because Ghostwater is not as empty as it seems.

Hail! Hail! – Harry Turtledove

Fresh from Duck Soup (1933), Julius, Leonard, Arthur and Herbert Marx – or as the world knows them, Groucho, Chico, Harpo and Zeppo – are transported by a freak electrical storm to Nacogdoches, Texas in the year 1826. Landing in the midst of the Fredonian Rebellion (the first attempt by settlers in Texas to secede from Mexico) and into the company of the only other Jewish person in town, they are in deep dreck.

Falling in with Stephen F. Austin and inadvertently filling his head with knowledge of what is to come, our heroes risk tampering with the future of Texas, and perhaps the entire U.S.A., in their quest to return to their own time.

Will they find their way back? Or will they be doomed to live out their lives without indoor plumbing?

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The Finan-Seer by E. L. Locke appeared in the October 1949 issue of Astounding. It is his only short story (Locke was primarily an essayist for the magazine), the story is something of a follow-up of his essay on cybernetics in the previous issue.

This is why we need Alt-Furry

This may have been the Astounding story that has defeated me. With the next issue, I’ll have reviewed a consecutive run of three, after which point I’ll be taking a break and reading something good instead.

The wolf is a metaphorical “wolf” of Wall Street. There are no mathmagicians or slavering wolf-men. The Finan-Seer is a story about a university that has screwed up its endowment and may go broke; a bunch of egg-head professors try to come up with mathematical models to game the market and get their investments back up.

It does presage the recent financial crises, in which computer models for investment management failed to properly calculate market changes—a situation in which massive sell-offs could be triggered—and the fact that once multiple computer models for investments were in place, certain advantages would be lost, and the mere existence of such a thing could cause unpredictable results from interfering with its own basis model… But god, I’m tired of reading stories about egg-heads talking and coming up with solutions via egg-headery.

You could read this story about professors sitting around and talking, or you could pre-order this story with space pirates, giant spiders, and alien dinosaurs.

Giant spiders after the break!

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The second adventure of space trucker E. Z. Sudden by Jon Mollison.

E. Z. Sudden and Karenina return to action in their first mission as part of the Star King’s intelligence service. Sudden knows every simple job has the potential to get real complicated real quick, especially when a guy has to show his naïve and adventurous new wife the ropes. To his chagrin, a simple intelligence gathering mission goes south when they uncover a hidden conspiracy on the fringes of the Ragged Edge of space – a plot by the local megacorp to steal the land out from under a few humble farmers. Their investigation leads the roguish smuggler and his princess bride into a web of evil larger than either could have imagined.

With all of the thrilling fights and chases and escapes from certain doom you’ve come to expect from the humble and hardworking tramp space freighter captain E. Z. Sudden, and all of his princess’s charms, this novel touches on the deeper meaning of heroism, handled with a light touch that will leave you smiling and ready for more.

In a stray moment of distraction, a French trucker runs over the Khalakjistani Minister of Defense. His imprisonment incites his union to refuse to haul anything across Khalakjistan’s roads. As the clock ticks down on an eccentric Texas billionaire’s deal for mineral rights in Khalakjistan, he turns to one man to break the trucker out of prison:

Wayne Shelton.

The Mission is the first volume of the Wayne Shelton series, a 13-volume comics written by best-selling Belgian comics writer Jean Van Hamme (Thorgal, XII, and Largo Winch) and illustrated by Christian Denayer (Alain Chevallier, T.N.T, and High School Generation). In it, the fifty-year-old Vietnam veteran gathers his team together to break out the trucker. But just when everyone assembles in Turkey, a betrayal upends Wayne’s plans. It may sound like a simple men’s adventure story, but Van Hamme and Denayer execute it with panache, creating a best-selling comic that is still going strong today. Some English-speaking fans have compared Wayne Shelton to James Bond, but I find comparisons to Mr. Wolf from Pulp Fiction to be more apt, for Wayne is the man you pay millions to in order to do the impossible–or make the impossible go away.

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Dragons have been gone from the world for centuries, though their power remains.

A war fought a thousand years ago removed the destructive threat of dragons, allowing fire mages to use the magic stored within their bones to protect the empire for a millennium. The empire has known a fragile peace, held together by that ancient magic.

Fes has always longed for stability. Raised within the slums of the empire, taught to steal and hurt others to make his way, when he’s discovered by the emperor’s chief fire mage, he’s given a chance to use his particular gift for gathering lost dragon relics to become something more.

An encounter with a priest in possession of a dragon bone reveals the existence of a new power that threatens to return the long dead dragons to the world. Chased by the dangerous enemies, Fes travels into the bleak lands of the Dragon Plains before others can reach it. If he survives, what he discovers means the continued safety of the empire and a promise of wealth and freedom. If he fails, the deadly power of the dragons might return.

Yet, with a growing and unexplainable magic within him, it’s the promise of understanding who he truly is that might be the most valuable, only it’s the same power that leaves him with questions some within the empire don’t want answered.

Dragon Bones by D. K. Holmberg is the exciting first book in an epic new fantasy series.

They also announced a Gears of War themed Funko Pop video game. Weep for the future.

So E3 is hoving into view, and once again I must spend some of my dwindling store of precious time watching company men try to get people pumped up for the latest round of sequels, remakes, and rip-offs. Surprisingly, there were some original games scattered here and there, and some of the sequels (etc.) actually looked pretty good.

Dan Mattrick screwed Microsoft, and the Xbox One, hard. Read More