Book Review: The Vinyl Detective – Written in Dead Wax


Back when I was in Middle School, I discovered the Lovejoy Mysteries, first through the TV series and then through the novels. However, some aspects of the books, such as Lovejoy’s attitude towards women, have aged poorly. So, while I enjoy going back to the books (and I should get around to reading them at some point in the future), they are kind of hard to recommend. Continue reading → Book Review: The Vinyl Detective – Written in Dead Wax

Legends of the Force: Part XXI – The Crystal Star


We now com to what is quite possibly the worst Star Wars novel to date.

The Crystal Star is available from Amazon.com in Print and Kindle editions. Buying anything through those links helps support the show.

Opening Credits: Star Wars Theme from Super Star Wars on the SNES.
Closing Credits: Chiptune Cantina Band from Chiptune Inc. – https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCvJtiGFudFlvYMfjiU1NKJg

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Book (Vlog) Review: The Crystal Shard


This time I’m taking a look at the first published Drizzt Do’Urden novel, and the second Forgotten Realms novel.

Referral Links
Print – https://amzn.to/2uIaeh7
Omnibus – https://amzn.to/2GtQ9Ra
Kindle – https://amzn.to/2GR6u1v
Audiobook – https://amzn.to/2GumhnL

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Book Review: The Brothers’ War


Magic: The Gathering, of all the TCGs that I have played, has held on to me more than any other game – more than WWE Raw Deal, the Star Wars CCG, the Star Trek CCG, and even Weiss Schwarz. The reason for that, more than the raw play of the game and the people I was playing with, was the world of the game, the lore of the game and how it was conveyed. While cards would certainly have a degree of humor to them, the game always took the world somewhat seriously. Continue reading → Book Review: The Brothers’ War

Book Review: Dungeon Hacks


Procedural content, permadeath, and extremely punishing difficulty has become more and more of a thing in game design. So, that fact, combined by my affinity for the history of technology from a social, technological, and scientific perspective, lead me to this book about the history of roguelikes. It makes for a good portrait of the development of four games, and getting briefly into some of the ways roguelikes have spread into wider gaming culture, though what could be a good look at the larger gaming picture is sadly limited. Continue reading → Book Review: Dungeon Hacks

Book Review: Log Horizon – Books 3 & 4


When I last left the Log Horizon series, they’d gone into a political and economic thriller, as Shirou started forming the Akiba Round table with members of all the major guilds, before driving a bunch of the bad actors out of Akihabara through the unified powers of cash and good food. However, the series had also set up a new concept – that the People of the Land – the former NPCs are now fully sentient. Books 3 and 4, with the collective subtitle of “Game’s End,” get into the ramifications of that, along with what’s been going on while Akiba was getting its act together. Continue reading → Book Review: Log Horizon – Books 3 & 4

Book Review: Record of Lodoss War – The Grey Witch (Video Review)


At long last, the first Record of Lodoss War novel has received an officially licensed US release. I’ve read it, and here are my thoughts, and some notes on the differences between the two releases.

The Grey Witch is available from Amazon.com and RightStuf. Picking up the book through those links helps the site.

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Book Review: Legend of the Galactic Heroes – Book 5 – Mobilization


It’s the battle we’ve all been waiting for.

Legend of the Galactic Heroes Book 5 is available from – Amazon.com (Paperback, Kindle) and RightStuf.com

Any purchases you make through those links helps support the show.

Please support my Patreon at http://www.patreon.com/countzeroor
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Book Review: Record of Lodoss War – The Grey Witch


A few years ago I did a video review of the original OVA for Record of Lodoss War. At that time, the OVA was out of print, as was (and still is, sadly) the manga adaptation of the novels. Since then, Funimation (not the company I expected to do it) license rescued all of the anime, and now Seven Seas has done something I never expected to happen – they licensed the first novel, and gave it a fantastic edition in 2017. I got it for myself for Christmas, and finally was able to read it in February. Continue reading → Book Review: Record of Lodoss War – The Grey Witch

Legends of the Force: Episode XVI – Dark Apprentice


We return to the Jedi Academy trilogy to see how Luke starts to train his students. Spoilers: Not everything goes well.

Opening Credits: Star Wars Theme from Super Star Wars on the SNES.
Closing Credits: Chiptune Cantina Band from Chiptune Inc. – https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCvJtiGFudFlvYMfjiU1NKJg

Please support my Patreon at http://www.patreon.com/countzeroor
Member of The Console Xplosion Network: http://www.theconsolexplosion.com/
Watch my Live-Streams on http://twitch.tv/countzeroor/

Book Review: Paperbacks from Hell


In the ’70s, and ’80s, there was a massive boom in horror cinema in various stripes, from the US and Italy, combined with the general boom in Exploitation films. This boom wasn’t just limited to film. This period also saw a dramatic increase in the amount of horror novels published in the US – with highly successful novels like The ExorcistRosemary’s Baby, and The Amityville Horror, and Jaws (all of which were later adapted to the screen), leading to an accompanying rise in horror novels.

Paperbacks from Hell goes into this boom and basically breaks down the slew of horror novels into manageable chunks. Not by year, but by sub-genre, getting into what gave each subgenre its appeal. White Flight from the cities and the success of The Amityville Horror helped boost the popularity of haunted house stories, and so on.

The tone of the work is somewhat irreverent – recognizing that when you have so many hundreds upon hundreds of horror novels in myriad sub-genres can lead to a very high level of crap, and a lot of formulaic writing. It makes for a book that I’d almost describe as what you’d get if Brad Jones wrote a guide to Exploitation film.

The book also pulls no punches when it comes to criticism. Author Grady Hendrix makes it clear that some of these genres in particular, especially those who put the horror in an urban setting, are basically written to play on conservative fears. Hendrix does a good job of calling attention to a great deal of the misogyny that with those books, along to other bits of bigotry (especially when it comes to the writing of people of color and gay characters). In turn, the horror books based around rural are also based about more progressive observations – the coal town making a deal with the devil to reopen the mine and bring the jobs back (but in turn opening a portal to hell).

While some of the big names, like Stephen King, Peter Straub, Clive Barker, Anne Rice, and Poppy Z. Brite are certainly mentioned – their work helped keep the boom going, and their fiction has been able to endure long after the paperback boom has ended – he puts a lot of focus on other, lesser known horror authors. By no means are they all good, but they are all certainly interesting, either in terms of the particular fears they called on to fuel their work, or their own personal careers.

The book is also interspersed with a wide variety of color images of the covers of these various books, which on its own makes for engrossing viewing. As the books in these various genres go more and more over the top in an attempt to one-up both the last installment, and their competitors , so the covers get more and more hilariously macabre, going from creepy, to gross, to bizarrely absurd.

If nothing else, as I read this book, I found myself wishing there was a Youtube show, like The Cinema Snob, which approached these genre with the same degree of irreverent humor as he does in that show. I’ve already got a bunch on my plate already, otherwise I’d be willing to take up that torch myself. Still, there is definitely a space in internet horror fandom for someone to take it up instead.

Paperbacks from Hell is available from Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle editions. There’s also an audiobook forthcoming. However, due to just how absolutely important the art is to this book, in terms of showing how these books were presented to the public, I cannot recommend the audiobook when it comes out, and I’m hesitant to recommend the Kindle edition as well. The Paperback edition is the best way to go, with the covers of the various books presented clearly in vivid color.

If Hendrix was to edit a coffee table book compiling their favorites of the covers from this period, I would also give that a clear recommendation, as the covers for these books are intense, over the top, and truly have to be seen to be believed.

Book Review: William Shakespeare’s Star Wars: Part the Fourth – Verily A New Hope


I like Shakespeare. While certainly presentation can mean a lot when it comes to a play, a good cast and some good staging can take some of the Bards more “meh” plays and make them enjoyable (such as with Henry VI), and his work can be adapted to a variety of other settings.

So, when I found out about the adaptations of the Star Wars Original Trilogy (and, later, the Prequel Trilogy), to something similar to the work of the Bard, my interest was piqued. However, plays are best when they are performed instead of simply being read off of the page – as anyone who has had to silently read Shakespeare for High School English class will tell you. That is, in part, why most English teachers worth their salt will have the class read the play aloud.

Consequently, when I found said trilogy was also available as audiobooks from Audible, I was now much more interested in picking them up. The audiobooks imagine them as a (mostly) full cast play, with a few of the readers playing multiple parts. For example, the reader who voices Leia also reads the Stage Directions, and I think that the reader who does Obi-Wan also voices the Chorus.

As with the Bard’s plays that featured dialog in other languages (like French in Henry V), dialog in the various constructed languages – like Huttese, Shyriiwook, or R2-D2’s beeps – are not translated, though it’s still rendered in iambic pentameter. R2-D2 does have asides in regular English, which gives him some more explicit character depth. This makes sense as while he had some character depth in the films, it was more implicit, drawn from the sound design by Ben Burtt and the operation by Kenny Baker.

The text of the play has a mix of modifications of the dialog of the films, and some original dialog. Well, original-ish. The play on multiple occasions cribs heavily from Shakespeare’s other work. Luke is possibly the worst offender in this regard, though C-3P0 has a bit that weirdly cribs from Richard III at the start of the play. It’s something that causes a problem with the flow of the story – things are moving along at a nice clip, and your mind’s eye has you both in the midst of the film, and with how the imagined play is performed, before you run into something cribbed from another work of Skakespeare’s canon, and you’re bounced right out of your groove.

Some work better than others though – after getting out of the Stormtrooper armor when they’ve escaped from the Trash Compactor, Luke gives a variant of the “Alas, poor Yorick” speech, while examining the Stormtrooper’s helmet. This works a little better than some of the other speeches, because while Luke has seen death prior to this part of the story – the troopers who boarded the Falcon would make for the first time he’s actually killed anyone, and everyone else he’d shot after that point had clearly been in self defense instead of in cold blood, so it makes sense for him to get reflective.

I really enjoyed listening to the play, and given the choice between either just reading it or listening to the audiobook, I prefer the audiobook – though reading along while listening to it wouldn’t hurt as well. The publisher also put together teaching resources to go with the book, and I could see this being really useful for teaching a High School English class about Iambic pentameter and how Shakespeare’s plays were structured, through presenting a story that the class is already intimately familiar with in addition to Shakespeare’s plays.

I’ve already picked up the rest of the original Trilogy, and will review the rest of those as I come to them. Sadly, the Prequel Trilogy version have not gotten an audio book adaptations, so I’ll have to go with the written versions once I get to those.

Shakespeare’s Star Wars is available from Amazon.com, and purchasing the book through that link will get me a commission based on your purchase.

Book Review: The Hastur Cycle


The thing with collections of short stories is that, in theory, they should serve as your narrative buffet. You take the stories you like, and if there’s one you don’t like, you can move past it and go on to the next. However, much as some buffets have nothing to like, occasionally some short story collections have nothing enjoyable to them. Thus is the case with The Hastur Cycle and me.

As someone who has enjoyed some of H.P. Lovecraft’s fiction, and playing the Call of Cthulhu role-playing game, I had thought this collection would be right up my alley. I was wrong. As a collection of stories, it has a profoundly unpleasant tone to it that seems to permeate every work in the story. There’s recurring motifs of cruelty to animals in general and cats in particular that particularly turned me off. One story has the “lead” (I wouldn’t call him a protagonist) attempting to murder a cat with their cane, and then another draws a connection between a bus driving off a road into a flood with a sack of kittens being downed.

The latter example felt particularly unnecessary, and bounced me hard out of the story in two different directions. The first was in the context of the image being particularly gross. The second was because I had to ask myself – how and when was this particular act – drowning kittens – widespread enough that it was something that an author would feel is familiar enough to draw reference to – and finding myself really not wanting to know the answer, as learning it would be bad for my sanity.

This isn’t helped by the stories not being in any real chronological order by publication. Some of the earlier stories fit, but the rest don’t have any information in terms of when they were published, and consequently it makes it hard to figure out what stories and conceits came from HPL, and which were contributed by those particular authors.  Looking at the list of stories and diversity of authors in this book, I was hoping was an aspect of the Cthulhu Mythos where Lovecraft was influenced as much as he was influential. Unfortunately, this book does not contain the answers to those questions.

That said, the central focus of the stories – Hastur, Carcosa, and the King in Yellow – are concepts of the Cthulhu mythos that I hadn’t run into that much, and I was interested in reading more about, so this made the fact that the book bounced me out all the more disappointing. It does make me wonder if this particular issue is particularly intrinsic to stories related to Hastur, or if there are short stories and novels where this isn’t an issue.

I can’t recommend this book, though I admit the issues that caused me to bounce out of this book might not be issues for other readers.

If you do want to pick up the book, it is available from Amazon.com. I receive a commission from purchases picked up through that link, so if you want to help support the site in a manner other than my Patreon, consider making any purchases through that link.