I'm just collecting up a few reviews from some fun reading of the last month. There's no hard sledding here, so away we go...
King Conan, Vol. 1; The Witch of the Mists and Other Stories by Roy Thomas, John Buscema, Ernie Chan, and Danny Bulanadi -- It's not remembered as fondly as the original Conan the Barbarian or Savage Sword of Conan comic books, but I was always a fan of Marvel's King Conan comic of the 80s, especially the earlier issues. The comic recounted tales of Conan's rule after Robert E. Howard's barbarian hero became the ruler of Aquilonia, the greatest kingdom of the Hyborian Age. It usually had a nice mix of court intrigue and great battles between vast armies, with a good dose of evil sorcery thrown in for fun. So this collection of issues #1-#5 made for a fun trip down memory lane. My recollection is that the quality of the comic itself quickly sagged as Thomas and Buscema moved on to other projects, so this probably the best bet for anybody who wants to know what this comic was about.
One note of interest: unlike Dark Horse's Conan the Barbarian re-issues, this has not been recolored with modern digital colors, so the coloring is the original four-color comic, which looks pretty primitive when compared with the recolored versions from the other book. Even so, John Buscema's art still looks terrific.
The Bloodstained Man by Christopher Rowley (Netherworld, Book 2) -- The second book in the Heavy Metal Pulp sci-fi noir series takes the same central characters further down their danger-filled path, as they try to stay alive while possessed of the secret that could overthrow the right-wing dictatorship that has taken over the United States. Really, it's a continuation of the first book, and true to the series name it offers much the same straightforward pulp sci-fi fun. This one mostly plays out as a long chase into the depths of uninsured New Jersey. Good fun.
(Here's a link to my review of the first book in the series, Pleasure Model, if you want to know more about the series.)
Dr. Horrible and Other Horrible Stories by Zack Whedon and a host of artists -- Is a collection of origin stories for the cast of characters from Dr. Horrible's Sing-A-Long blog. If you haven't seen that cinematic gem this will make no sense whatsoever. It's hardly must-read material, but for fans of Dr. Horrible it makes an enjoyable collection. I mean, where else are you going to learn the secret origin of that henchman of high humidity, Moist?
The Year's Best Science Fiction: 25th Annual Collection, edited by Gardner Dozois -- This is always the science-fiction collection that I look forward to most every year, and this collection of the best from the year 2007 was no exception. Somehow I set it aside when I still had a half-dozen stories left, which is why this review appears a couple of years after it came out. So, I won't try to recall the first 30 stories, but will instead mention that I really enjoyed "Tideline" by Elizabeth Bear and "Roxie" by Robert Reed, both of which appeared near the end of the book. If you don't read much science fiction and would like a good overview of the best short work in the field, Gardner Dozois's annual collection is the best place to start.
The Under Dog; and Other Stories Featuring Hercule Poirot, by Agatha Christie -- Collects nine Hercule Poirot stories from the early 1920s. Really, do you need me to tell you that this was a great read? Of course not. So what I will tell you about his the oddest thing in this book. Near the end of some of these mysteries a note suddenly appears reading:
(It is suggested that the reader pause in his perusal of the story at this point, make his own solution of the mystery -- and then see how close he comes to that of the author. -- The Editors.)
I've never seen anything quite like that in any of these Agatha Christie collections. Trying to figure out whodunit is the unwritten rule of the genre, except that this time ... it's written! This was a 1975 Dell paperback printing, but I really have no idea if the note entered in the original magazine edition, the original book edition, or some collection afterwards. The note is in several stories in this collection, but not all of them. I assume it came from somewhere at some point in their history. But it's curious. Frankly, where it comes from is a mystery, and I wish I had a convenient moustachioed Belgian detective to solve it.