Book Review: 3 books I’ve had for years

During the pandemic I’ve been reading books that have been sitting on my shelves for years, as well as buying old science fiction and fantasy paperbacks with ridiculous covers. Most are unreadable. These were fun.

The Mad God’s Amulet: The Second Volume In The History Of The Runestaff by Michael Moorcock. DAW, 1977. 0886772168. 223pp.

This is my favorite volume in the Runestaff series because of that amazing cover. Look at that cat! I know that look — that’s what my cat Soup looks like right before he pounces. (Unfortunately Soup does not have spines or a spear-tipped tail.)

In this book Dorian Hawkmoon and his hairy friend Oladahn fight the forces of the Dark Empire of Granbretan as Hawkmoon tries to return to Castle Brass and Hawkmoon’s fiancee, Yisselda, from far in the east. It’s insane in a fun way and reminds me of Conan stories and episodes of Thundarr the Barbarian. Contains ornithopters, mad pirates, bad guys in bestial armor, and just enough violence.

Exiles of Colsec by Douglas Hill. Bantam Starfire, 1988. 0553272330. 164pp.

Teens sent to prison find out they’ve been sent to secure and start to colonize an alien planet for a corporation. After a horrific crash landing, they face hostile alien worm-things (see the cover) as well as aliens riled up by an insanely violent dude who was on their ship. Our hero is Scottish. This early YA novel is almost as much fun as Hill’s The Last Legionary series, and it has several sequels.

Circus of the Scars: The True Inside Odyssey of a Modern Circus Sideshow by Jan. T. Gregor with Tim “Zamora the Torture King” Cridland. Illustrated by Ashleigh Talbot. Brennan Dalsgard Publishers, 1998. 0966347900. 383pp.

In the early 1990s, in Seattle, I saw the Jim Rose Circus Sideshow twice. The second time I took my grandmother. I’m not sure what grossed her out more: seeing Mr. Lifto suspend concrete blocks from his pierced nipples (and then his penis), watching Matt the Tube draw the beer and everything else he’d imbibed from his stomach (and then drink it with several audience members), or witnessing Jim Rose hammer a large nail into his face (and then pull it back out). This is the inside story of all the fun and behind-the-scenes assholery. (Gregor did so many things for the troupe I’m not sure what to call him.) The level of detail is both kinda fun and exhausting, and brings all of the personalities involved to life. Rose himself does not come off well. (If you want his side of all of this, read his book Freak Like Me.) Talbot’s amazing illustrations and caricatures really tie everything together.


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