Tuesday, April 9, 2013

This Zombie Apocalypse Is Getting Very Depressing

After reading the latest trade paperback of The Walking Dead, fans Trudi and Kemper were shocked and disturbed by the latest events and had a conversation wondering if a zombie apocalypse can get too grim. Extensive spoilers for the comics collected through Vol. 17 - Something To Fear and the third season of the TV show after the jump.

Big-Time Crime in a Small-Time Town

Once upon a time, a drug dealer named Sky King Hudson stabbed an undercover cop named Leo Banks in the small town of Rozette, Montana. Banks nearly died and was saved only by the intervention of Hudson's girlfriend, a sexy young woman named Marian Tawney. Fifteen years later, Banks, now a detective, is called to the scene of a homicide, only to discover that the victim is none other than his old assailant, Mr. Hudson, who has recently been released from prison. Marian is still on the scene as well, with a baby in tow. She clearly has something that she wants to say to Banks, but backs off at the last moment.

While Hudson's murder remains unresolved, the body of a young woman is found buried in a city park. For a town that only has a handful of homicides in a year, and most of those among acquaintances, two unsolved murders in the space of a couple of weeks constitutes a serious crime wave.

Banks and his fellow detectives finally develop a small lead in the second murder, but they have just begun to puruse it when a mysterious government operative arrives in town and tell them to back off for "national security" reasons.

Small chance of that. Leo Banks may be a small-town cop, but he's just as tough and stubborn as Harry Bosch or any other big-time detective. Banks is determined to discover the truth no matter the cost to himself or to the Feds. The result is a gripping tale that is going to end badly for a lot of people. Leo Banks can only hope that one of them won't be him.

This is another page-turning novel from a writer who never got the attention he deserved. Robert Sims Reid wrote only a handful of books, most of which are now very difficult to find but which are well worth the effort involved. This is a crime novel written by a long-time police officer who knows the job inside and out and who writes about it very eloquently. As this book makes clear, he also knows how to tell a story.


Gun Machine
Warren Ellis
Mullholland Books
Available Now

Reviewed by Kemper
3.5 out of 5 bullet riddled stars.

A couple of NYPD detectives respond to a call about a screaming naked man with a shotgun roaming the halls of an apartment building.  Surprisingly, it’s not Ted Nugent.

Unfortunately, John Tallow’s partner and only real friend is killed in the ensuing mêlée.  Afterwards, while the cops check the building for injured people, John makes a startling discovery.  Behind a high tech security door in one apartment are hundreds of hand guns arranged in intricate patterns on the walls and floors.  Initial ballistic tests indicate that each one was used in an unsolved homicide.  John has stumbled onto the trophy room of a very deadly killer who is slightly peeved that his life’s work has just been seized by the cops.

I haven’t read a lot of Warren Ellis’s comics, but I really enjoyed his extremely funny and twisted Crooked Little Vein.  This one certainly has an intriguing set-up for a story.  I also liked the character of John who is a smart cop but has essentially been coasting and letting his partner do the heavy lifting up until now.  John would rather just hole up in his apartment with his books and music rather than deal with people, and I think a lot of readers can relate to that.

Ellis’s portrayal of the Crime Scene Unit techs as a bunch of slightly hostile weirdos that have no great love for the cops was refreshing after being TV brainwashed that CSI is the greatest power in law enforcement.

While there’s a lot I liked, if felt just a little flat to me.  There’s an interesting idea in that everyone from his lieutenant to the CSU techs are pissed off at John for finding the room and essentially giving them all a bag of shit to hold.  However, I found it hard to believe the idea that everyone is just trying to shelve the case.  Except for one character very late in the book, no one mentions what kind of outrage would occur if it was discovered that the NYPD found a room full of murder weapons and just ignored it.  I don’t live in New York, but as I understand it, that would be the kind of story that the local media might find interesting.

I know Ellis wasn’t going for an ultra-realistic procedural here, so that could be overlooked, but I also wasn’t super thrilled with the ultimate resolution of the story.  Still, it was entertaining enough with a unique story and few dark laughs sprinkled in with the graphic violence.

Also posted at Goodreads.

Pulp Fiction

The Chinatown Death Cloud Peril

by Paul Malmont

Published by Simon and Schuster

Reviewed by Amanda

5 Out of 5 Stars

Prior to reading this novel, my experience with pulp fiction was limited to a Tarantino movie and a few stories I read as part of a Master's course in crime and detective stories. I came to the book with no knowledge about Walter Gibson or Lester Dent and no real interest in pulps. How much of the novel is true? I'd say about 1/4 truth, 3/4 pulp. But truth is not the point--the story is everything in this novel and, as the narrator says, "never let the facts get in the way of a good story."

Set during the height of the pulp fiction era, the novel follows Walter Gibson (author of The Shadow) and Lester Dent (author of Doc Savage), two titans of the time period. In addition, authors L. Ron Hubbard (pre-Scientology freakishness), H.P. Lovecraft, and Robert Heinlein all make appearances as characters (even Orson Welles shows up). The book is unique in that it doesn't try to serve as a biography of these characters. Instead, it pays homage to these authors by setting them in a sensationalistic pulp in which they are the protagonists--a fitting tribute to authors who thrilled so many with tales of courage and adventure, unspeakable horror, and plot twists and turns that would give the reader whiplash. The story is full of pulp hallmarks--dashing cowboys, Chinese assassins, beautiful women just bad enough to be good, a maniacal villain willing to stop at nothing to seek revenge (and maybe just rule the world while he's at it), a military secret that threatens society as we know it, zombies, and even a psychic with a chicken. There are train rides, boat rides, and plane rides. There's treasure, treachery, and romance. The book is fun, which was what the pulps were meant to be and, in some ways, isn't that more important than all the highbrow literary snobbery that purports to reflect on the human experience?

The last chapter was pitch perfect and there's a nice twist concerning the narrator of the story. The narrator laments the fact that "The pulps, the pages where American myths had been born, were gone" as "decency and morality oozed across the nation like black tar and old blood" (leave it to decency and morality to ruin a good thing). By the novel's end, I, too, mourned the heyday of the pulps and was glad I got to spend some time in one. 

Books Galore! An interview with independent bookseller John Gilbert

Today's guest is John Gilbert, owner of Books Galore, an independent bookstore.

Give us some of your background in the book business
I wanted a part-time job in college, and my two interests are music and books.  I applied with a couple of records stores and bookstores, and happened to get hired by the bookstore.  Had it been the other way around, I would probably be an embittered ex-chain record store employee.

How long has your store been in existence?
I opened my store, with considerable help, in June of 1997.  My former boss, at a now-defunct national chain, told me I would be back in 6 months begging for my job.  I'm so glad that it didn't come to that!

What are your thoughts on ebooks?
I'm pretty biased, but I realize they're a fact of life.  They're not how I like to read, but I realize many people do.  I'm not a Luddite or anything, but the book as an invention was perfected long ago.  I feel no obligation to get yet another device.

How has the rise of eBooks effected your business?
I'm sure it's hurt.  But I think I never had many of the e-reader owners as customers anyway.  Many people like to buy the newest, latest book and many times we won't have that upon release, or couldn't compete with any of the big chains on price.  I talk to many e-reader owners, and quite a few just want to read, so they'll buy it in any format that they can or both if they're really bookfiends!

What was your initial reaction to Amazon buying Goodreads?
My initial reaction was can't anyone do anything well, earn a living and be satisfied without selling out?  I'm not sure I could resist that money and temptation, but that's what the owners of Goodreads have done.  I sell on Amazon, but I don't want to be a content provider for them.

What is your favorite book of all time?
That's a tough one.  I'd have to include "Where the Wild Things Are" - those illustrations were burned into the grey matter, as an adult, at this moment, I'll say "Confederacy of Dunces".  Many times, with music & books, I find it hard to separate the story behind the book from the actual work.  This one intrigues me on both levels.  I guess I prefer the historical criticism of literature?

What little known book would you like to push on unsuspecting people who come into the store?
You have to be careful with foisting books on unsuspecting readers - books can be dangerous!  I'm sure I told you the reaction I got from a Ludlum reader that received my "Dunces" recommendation?

What are your thoughts on self-publishing?
I liken self-publishing to the DIY home recording movement in music: it's the great leveler of the playing field and is about as democratic as can be, maybe socialistic?  But editing, grammar, spelling seem to all have gone out the window.  The number of monkeys with typewriters have increased exponentially!

Any bad author experiences?
Other than a mid-level fantasy author dropping by the last Walden store I managed to insure his titles were faced-out & well-stocked, only holding the hands of some romance authors for two hours at an ill-attended autographing.  But most have been very pleasant.

What's the weirdest thing you've found inside a book?
Weirdest thing in a book?  Toss-up between a finely pressed pot leaf, or the amateur porn shot from WWII era.

Any advise for people thinking of opening a brick and mortar book store?
Advice?  Do it!  We need more of them.  By all means, start by getting a part-time job in the industry, if possible, there's a learning curve, and that curve continues for ever, so don't think you know the ropes.

Bathing with Nick Hornby

MORE BATHS, LESS TALKING (Stuff I've Been Reading #4)
Nick Hornby
Believer Books
$14.00 trade paper, available now

Reviewed by Richard, 4* of five

The Publisher Says: “Read what you enjoy, not what bores you,” Nick Hornby tells us. That simple, liberating, and indispensable directive animates each installment of the celebrated critic and author’s monthly column in the Believer. In this delightful and never-musty tour of his reading life, Hornby tells us not just what to read, but how to read.

Whether tackling a dismayingly bulky biography of Dickens while his children destroy something in the next room, or getting sucked into a serious assessment of Celine Dion during an intensely fought soccer match featuring his beloved Arsenal, or devouring an entire series of children’s books while on vacation, Hornby’s reviews are rich, witty, and occasionally madcap. These essays capture the joy and ire, the despair and exhilaration of the book-lover’s life, and will appeal equally to both monocle-wearing salonnieres and people, like him, who spend a lot of time thinking about Miley Cyrus’s next role.

My Review: What fun. What a perfect way to smile and wile a few hours away. What a terrible thing to do to myself, read a book of a book-lover’s book review columns. By dint of the most severe self-talk imaginable, I held myself to requesting one—ONE—book from the liberry after reading Hornby's review of same.

A biography. Of Charles Dickens.

Yes, that's right, Nick Hornby the Book Incubus, the Boy-Siren, has convinced me, the arch-hater of Chuckles the Dick, to eat his turnips and read a book about the horrid bore. If I'm honest, which depressingly enough I am, I must say that Claire Tomalin's disparagement of several of the Great Satan's novels played a large part in my willingness to put myself through this misery.

So if you don't know me at all, let me assure you that there are several jaws now being scraped off of floors on several continents and a selection of islands. Hornby? He got the goods, my man, he got the goods if he can convince Richard to read about Dickens.

And he does. Hornby's mix of personal life, professional writing career, and lifelong reader-of-stories is perfect for a grazing read, pieces of just the right length to amuse without burdening the pleasure-seeking reader with interesting but useless information. His sharp eye for the way books work, what makes Novel X miss where Novel O works brilliantly, and why biographies only ever get fatter and fatter as a person's life is serially biographized, and how history could be improved by thinning the cast...well, all that's so much a part of his observed world that it's merely the scaffolding he hangs funny, wise, glib, snarky sentences on.

Fourteen bucks retail. Worth every one of 'em, too.

The Information Comes at Night

The Information by Martin Amis
Anthony Vacca's rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Price: 15.99
Publisher: Vintage (reprint)
Available: Now

Failed novelist Richard Tull is fairly certain that the cosmos are at odds with him; and while Martin Amis assures us--as in, Martin Amis takes the time to address us directly himself--that Richard's place in regards to the universal order of things is tantamount to jack-shit, he doesn't bother to mention this simple fact to his protagonist; but I guess Amiss knows that telling Richard Tull any of this wouldn't make much of a difference. You see, Richard Tull is kind of going insane.

And because no one likes to blame their own damn self for any of their problems, Richard Tull is dead-certain that the one person who deserves to suffer for all of his woes is none other than his best friend Gwyn Barry. Richard was the one who showed promise years ago with publishing of his first novel, a challenging yet cult-literary success (this due largely in part to the fact that none of the reviewers understood or even finished the book); and it was Gwyn who was supposed to be the talentless chump who spent his career doing nothing more prestigious than student study guides for famous works of literature. Richard was the one who married the pretty Gina as his own exceptional trophy wife, while Gwyn was stuck with plain and dumpy Gilda. Richard was supposed to be the one in this friendship who is kind and generous to his obviously inferior friend.

But then no one bought, let alone read, Richard's second novel (which has the fantastic title Dreams Don't Mean Anything) and after that no publishing house was sure-as-hell going to waste their time (or, more importantly, their money) publishing a third or fourth or even fifth novel from such an unmarketable author. Pretty soon Richard ends up with nothing more prestigious in his life than a career as an editor for a very small vanity press and as a reviewer for an equally small joke-of-a literary journal. And even here, the kind of books he reviews are almost all-primarily doorstop-sized biographies on various obscure hack-writers and hack-poets from the 17th and 18th centuries (and I can see how this would certainly contribute to a destabilization in mental health). And while his wife is still undeniably pretty-and admirably faithful and supportive of her husband through all his failures (as a writer and especially as a husband)-Richard now has the additional bummer of two twin boys to cramp his style, and one of them is starting to show signs of being a "special needs" child.

And maybe this would all be a tolerable lot in life for Richard if it wasn't for the fact the Gwyn Barry is now an international mega-star of a novelist with the publication of only his second novel. But what's worse than the fact that Richard thinks Gwyn's book is awful and boringly simple is that Gwyn didn't marry Gilda-no, he ended marrying the extremely beautiful and extremely wealthy Lady Demeter de Rougemount. When Richard learns about this last blow, right on the heels of watching Gwyn's book rise on the sale charts, he literally breaks down into tears and laments, "How could you do this, Gwyn? I thought we were in this together." And he hasn't stopped lamenting or crying since.

Actually, I take that back. Richard has stopped lamenting-now, he just straight-up hates his best friend Gwyn Barry. And you know what, Richard (in his own words here) is going to do whatever it takes to "fuck Gwyn Barry's world up."

And that, my friends, is what we can call the "basic plot" of Martin Amis's triumphant snarl of a novel, The Information. And it's a hell of a storyline, at that; but it is also only one of the many treasures within this novel.

For one, there is the absolute grace Amis gives to all his characters and their dialogue, even with a protagonist as petty and lousy as Richard Tull.

The novel kicks off with the back-to-back birthdays of Richard and Gwyn (how can the cosmos not be at work here?), and during one particularly dull birthday luncheon for Gwyn, attended by numerous respected journalists, writers and other various kinds-of socialites, an argument breaks out between the guests about what exactly is the difference between the nature of female writing and male writing. Gwyn listens idly by until his opinion on the matter is asked for directly; and his response is (after first pausing for a moment of reflection and after taking the time to steeple both his hands before his mouth in a thoughtful manner): "'I never think in terms of male writers or in terms of female writers. I find I always think in terms of people.'"

And, of course, everyone at the table's response to this gag-inducing and super-precious answer is to sigh admiringly and nod approvingly, like the sycophantic and callow schmucks they all arewell, all except for Richard, that is. Richard, understandably disgusted, rebuts:

"'It must make you feel nice and young to say that being a man means nothing and being a woman means nothing and what matters is being a...person. How about being a spider, Gwyn. Let's imagine you're a spider. You're a spider, and you've just had your first serious date. You're limping away from that now, and you're looking over your shoulder, and there's your girlfriend, eating one of your legs like a chicken drumstick. What would you say? I know. You'd say: I find I never think in terms of male spiders or in terms of female spiders. I find I always think in terms of...spiders'"

And in this moment, Richard Tull had me completely on his side. No matter how disgustingly, pathetically or despicably Richard may behave throughout the rest of the book (and he certainly does all three in spades) he at least isn't the same kind-of self-absorbed ass that Gwyn is. If you don't believe me about Gwyn, then try this factoid on for size: ever since Gwyn has become famous, he has started in with this habit of staring at everything with a wide-eyed, child-like wonder, as if he has never seen the item before. So during an interview the flow of questions are in danger of being interrupted while Gwyn takes a moment to ogle at a fork, or a slice of grapefruit. Gwyn also likes to compare his writing to carpentry in interviews. Of course, the interviewer inevitably responds with, "do you do any carpentry yourself?' And Gwyn's answer is to shrug, and say, "I dabble." Richard knows this is complete bullshit and calls his friend out on it. Gwyn then shows Richard his carpentry table in the basement of his mansion (another sore-spot for Richard), and also the chair he bought from a store and has sawed away at a little here and there, just so in case an interviewer would like to see his carpentry, Gwyn will have a workshop and some work to display.

Yeah, I know, what an ass, right? (It's funny, because Martin Amis says nearly the exact same thing later on in the book about Richard Tull's character; and, well, Richard is also kind of an ass, too)

So now that you have caught glimpses of why Richard wants to "fuck Gwyn Barry up", I should probably tell you a little bit about just exactly how Richard plans on doing that. Well, the thing of if it is, Richard kind of makes some of the most seemingly pathetic and inane attempts imaginable. Luckily for Richard there's Steve "Scozzy" Cousins: a small-time thug who "fuck's people up for a living", and who also just happens to be Richard's biggest (and only) fan. Pretty soon Scozzy is in Richard's employ, and this criminal and his minions begin pursuing avenues for the best possible ways to destroy Gwyn Barry.

To say too much more about this novel (Um, is that supposed to be a joke, Anthony? You are aware of, like, how long you've been going on for now, right) would give away all the wild thrills packed within its tightly structured pages; but let me take a moment to speak about the writing itself.

Oh, man, the fucking writing in this thing!

Here are a couple of passages that are straight zaps to the neural receptors:

"Some junk novels were all about airports. Some junk novels were even called things like Airport. Why, then you might ask, was there no airport called Junk Novel? Junk novels have been around for at least as long as non-junk novels, and airports havent been around for very long at all. But they both really took off at the same time. Readers of junk novels and people in airports wanted the same thing: escape, and quick transfer from one junk novel to another junk novel and from one airport to another airport."

"These days he smoked and drank largely to solace himself for what drinking and smoking had done to him--but smoking and drinking had done a lot to him, so he drank and smoked a lot."

"...she didn't know Proust. But she knew tears. Gina had tears cold."

"Poets got women. They didn't get anything else, and women sensed this; so they got women."

There are so many others I could have had a status update twice a page just to share them all on this site. But I have to let you, my readers, have some of the fun of finding these yourself, right? (i.e. READ THIS BOOK!) But what makes the writing in this book such a marvel isn't merely a matter of the diction and cadence and rhythm of it all (which in of itself is impressive enough), but because of the very stylistically informal way Martin Amis narrates this novel. Because it is Martin Amis, at least that is who the narrator claims to be) who is telling us this whole sordid tale. And Martin Amis is wise to keep us somewhat removed from the action so that we can keep everything in perspective. He manages this by interjecting the story throughout with little tidbits about astronomy and other celestial physics so that we the readers can realize just how little (or much) significance all of this feuding between Richard and Gwyn matters.

...but then again, maybe Martin Amis is wrong about all of this. Physics and astronomy, and even math for that matter, are all essentially guesswork. These are all just theories and speculations, albeit good enough ones for us to transport human beings in metal cans from the moon and back, but still their very nature is uncertain. Because the thing of it is, scientists, like authors, are just trying to take in as much information as they can and weave it into something that makes sense, something we can all agree upon-a linear narrative with a beginning and an end that will comfort and reassure us all. The only problem is that, most of the time, "there is the Information, which is nothing, and comes at night."

Also posted on GoodReads

Back on the Bloody Trail - Red Country

Red CountryRed Country by Joe Abercrombie
Dan's rating: 4 of 5 stars
Price: 25.99
Publisher: Orbit
Available: Now

When Shy South and her cowardly stepfather Lamb return home to find their farmhand dead and Shy's two siblings missing, they venture into the Far Country to find them. They join a fellowship and head to the mining town of Crease. During their travels, Shy is forced to confront her own checkered past and finds that her stepfather has a past of his own...

On the heels of finishing A Dance with Dragons, my jones for dark fantasy with morally ambiguous characters was not sated so I turned to Red Country. Red Country is my first Joe Abercrombie book and won't be the last.

Red Country promoted as being a fantasy western and I'd say that's fairly accurate. It's a story of revenge and redemption, two staples of the Western genre, and the trip across the Far Country to Crease has a very western feel to it. Crease has a setup not unlike the town from Fistful of Dollars (or Yojimbo, if you prefer). Lamb and Shy riding out into the unmapped country to find their missing loved ones is straight out of a lot of westerns. Without giving too much away, it also reminds me of Unforgiven quite a bit once Lamb mans up and shows his true colors. It's nice to see fantasy that strays from the rut of medieval pseudo-European quest stories.

The characters are an interesting bunch. Shy is a woman wondering why she managed to escape justice for her dark past. Lamb is a Northern barbarian trying to keep a promise he made to a dead woman. Temple is a lifelong screw up trying to turn things around. Cosca, one of the antagonists, is pretty lovable for a villain. They are far from the average fantasy cast and this is far from an average fantasy tale.

Joe Abercrombie's books are known for being dark and gritty. What people rarely mention is that they have a fair amount of dry humor and clever imagery in them as well. The quotable lines are surprisingly frequent. What I'm trying to say is that Abercrombie's writing was a lot more enjoyable to me than that of a lot of fantasy writers.

Also posted on Goodreads

Deep space is my dwelling place, the stars my destination...

The Stars My Destination

Alfred Bester


Reviewed by: Terry
4  out of 5 stars

Gully Foyle is my name
Terra is my nation
Deep space is my dwelling place
The stars my destination

Sci-fi from its formative days is funny. Not funny ha-ha (not always anyway), but funny-weird…at least for me. I am often unable to get over the clunky writing and wispy plots despite the many cool ideas on display. Sometimes even a premise as cool as a galaxy-spanning empire held together by the prods and pokes of a few cognoscenti using an arcane sociological science still can’t make a plodding plot with artless prose and paper-thin characters readable to me (sorry, Mr. Asimov). At other times the founders of the genre can suffer by comparison to their descendants who have taken the ideas that, while new and fresh when they used them, seem old and tired when you come to the foundational works after seeing them presented elsewhere, often with more compelling characters and well-crafted prose. Then there are books like this one, written by Alfred Bester, and you understand why some classics are still classics.

Gully Foyle is a gutter-boy. A low, brainless brute barely able to act as a Mechanic’s Mate 3rd class on the spaceship ‘Nomad’, oiling and wiping the machines and acknowledged by his superiors to be a human dead end. Then the passing ship ‘Vorga’ left him to rot, the only survivor on a crippled ship in the void. 

    So, in five seconds, he was born, he lived, and he died.
     After thirty years of existence and six months of torture,
     Gully Foyle, the sterotype Common Man, was no more. The
     key turned in the lock of his soul and the door was opened.

A purpose had been found that could open up all of the potential this beast-man had within him: vengeance. From here we follow Foyle as he lifts himself out of the pit (physically at least) by his bootstraps and ingeniously contrives both his own rescue and the plans that set him on the path that will allow him to fulfill his oath: “I find you, ‘Vorga’. I find you, I kill you, ‘Vorga’. I kill you filthy.” All the while his spirit stews in the morass from which his body could escape and he becomes a rapist, thug and purveyor of violence in pursuit of his goal. No price is too high to reach it, whether it be imprisonment or social isolation; no obstacle can stand in his way, whether it be the most powerful institutions in the world, or the human dignity of those he uses. Beware, Gully Foyle is on his way.

Bester’s prose is well-wrought and carries us briskly along with Foyle on his quest, from the gutter tongue of the 25th century into which he was born to the more refined prose of the high society parties which Foyle must infiltrate. Bester also does a fine job of describing his world and his ability to portray everything from the rigours of Gully’s six month survival in a broken hulk in deep space a gruelling moment at a time, to the weird and wonderful portrayal of Foyle’s trauma-induced synaesthesia later in the book is astonishing. I was dazzled. There are also more ideas packed into one slim volume than you can shake a stick at and all of them are foundational in the genre: cybernetic implants for physical and mental enhancement, personal teleportation (with many of the social ramifications of its existence worked out in the story), world-ending manufactured compounds that leave the future of humanity lying on a knife’s edge, a world controlled by pseudo-feudal multinational corporations, a forgotten society of future primitives living on a lonely asteroid, tattooing their faces with hideous designs, and worshipping a debased form of the scientific method…and the list goes on. Why were they able, at their best, to do this kind of thing in the old days in one slim volume, while today a writer would have taken half of these ideas, or even one, and written a two thousand page multi-volume epic out of it? Add to that the cast of characters that are almost all equally memorable and well-drawn: the megalomaniac Presteign of Presteign, a man of wealth and power cognisant of little save his own desires and dignity; his equally powerful daughter, the beautiful blind albino Olivia, an ice-princess who sees the world in the infra-red and electro-magnetic spectrums and carries her own dark secrets; the memorably named Jisbella McQueen (Jiz to her friends, thanks very much) a criminal miscreant both attracted to and repulsed by Foyle;  and the man with the death’s head smile, Saul Dagenham, a scientist made ‘hot’ by an accident that has left him a radioactive outcast, able to interact with others in only a limited way.

I must admit that, while I thoroughly enjoyed this book from the start, I was minded to give it a three star rating until I came to the climax and Bester managed to turn a scarred, brutal criminal into an altruistic saviour for a mankind as lost and directionless as he had been. One key had turned and made Gully Foyle into a remorseless machine for vengeance, another equally harsh set of trials then took this driven creature and made him into someone able to see the root of humanity’s need and try his best to give them the key to their own awakening. 

     I challenge you, me. Die or live and be great. Blow
     yourselves to Christ gone or come and find me,
     Gully Foyle, and I make you men. I make you great.
     I give you the stars.

What a great read. Highly recommended.

(Bester also gets extra points for having written the silver age Green Lantern oath, a ditty almost as cool as the one quoted above about Gully Foyle.)

Also posted at Goodreads