Tuesday, August 17, 2010

A Double Quick Lerner Review

A Double Quick Lerner Review of

A Keeper In Space AND Crime,
As(teroid) In Capsule Ate It
by Don K. Barbecue

Wayback when, in another decade, another century, indeed another millenium, the fine folks at Ace Books published paperback sky-fi paperback originals which sometimes creature featured one of those covers with usually green Bug-Eyed monsters, often with Big-Thighed Earth(y) Women In Metal Maidenforms on the upside-down udder, I SAID other side. You know, to hopefully grab non-sky-fi readers and perhaps an audience with tastes that were, um, bra’ed her.

Yes, you read that right: the even more fun thing about these books was that one side of the book was side up, the other side down. Just my luck, the first such Ace in space Double I ever had was given to me as a Christmas gift by an aunt I suddenly suspected as being rather FLIPpy.

Book was beyond Terra-riffic! With a single package you got not one but two books for the price of Thrilling Wonder! And oh the fun we kids had with the art of some of those Double starlit starlet’s Double D.’s, even though such Venuses simply had to be millions and millions of space Milos away.

Of course it wasn’t all fun and Ganymedes. Especially if we got caught reading our Ace Doubles and Gramps’ old pulp sky-fi mags out in the barn while getting big bug-eyed beetles juiced.

Worse still was what happened to Gramps the one time he forgot himself and started explaining to me how much he loved sky-fi mag covers with, I think he meant to say, “Rocketships, moonmen and big bugs,” only what came out of his mouth was “Rocketships, moonmen and big JUGS.” At which point Grandma came storming into the barn and gave him a whonk on the ole haid with an empty milk pail, the whole time threatening to next time he did such a thing give him “such a clout to the what passes for your brain with the sauerkraut stomper that you’ll land on Uranus!”

Nor was it fun whenever Ace cut corners and chopped one book’s tale in half to fit the second book. As I recall even the mighty Philip K. had quite a story to tell over what happened to a “Double” of his which wound up in such trouble. Of course, we all know that in this enlightened age no editor would even think of being so Dicky.

More good news? The high-flying in far flung space folks at Wildside Press, who, by the way, publish the modern, ever tombly incarnation of WEIRD TALES quite love craftily, have released Edward M. Lerner’s COUNTDOWN TO ARMEGEDDON as backed by A STRANGER IN PARADISE, a collection of shorts, complete with the old Ace style of turn-it-over-already! story-telling. Which means older & young sky-fi fans can return to the thrilling Reys of Lester, I SAID daze of yesteryear, hence doubling their pleasure AND doubling their stunguns.

So, let’s cancel words of gravity, see what turns up:

A STRANGER contains five stories of sky-fi, fantasy and horror, hair witch --

There’s but one story I didn’t enjoy. There’s so little action and so much yakkin’ I don’t think even Austin Powers’ Basil Exposition could save it, the tech talk so nanobytes. But hey, one story out of five not working doesn’t a complete clunker cosmic make. So, let’s take another Ian’s Q. and tachyon end this.

“Night of the RFIDs” is a hoot. Student age feller working in a used down South bookstore runs afoul of Homeland SB. He calls it Homeland BS. Anyone who has ever stood in too many modern “convenience” store lines will laugh through this story ‘till they’re Wally-eyed. Discount on it. Sure the title sounds a wee bit like DAY OF THE TRIFFIDS, but I’d bet Mr. Lerner planted that way… the way he knows how to take such stories and Wyndham up.

“A Stranger In Paradise” has a bittersweet touch of Sturgeon to it. Least that’s my Theo-ry. I dare anyone warm-blooded body to read it and walk away thinking they’ve simply watched an episode of LUST IN SPACE, or feel like they’ve STARLOST out.

“Two Kinds Of People” deals with a fantasy writer caught in the throes of creative draught, going through those times the words won’t come easy to the creative typist, no matter how much he drinks, Bud, or what he’s smoking and taking a Tokey On. If you ever read Asimov’s “Author, Author!” and miss the feeling, “Kinds Of People” should fix ya copywrite up! Trust me on this, I’m telling everyone up and down my loco writer’s Bloch.

“Better the Devil You Know” deals with garbage in, garbage out. Seriously, put your pants back on. No wait, that’s layed her … he said, talkin’ trash.

Okay, start again. “Devil” is one funny story, that’s Lucifer sure! Reminds me of old school UNKNOWN style, wherein devils made similar pitches and delighted in speaking in forked tongs, as in Fredric Brown’s “Armegeddon.” And hey, it’s time Ah’m a-getting’ on my own self, gotta turn this review copy newfangled e-book upside down.

Lessee, gonna make like this thing’s a flip book, let’s Ace it! Here goes,
e-book in, now I turn the ‘pooter upside down, hang it up about … there! Okay, got it, I THUNK! Whuh thuh? I wanted to say “think,” wound up with a thunk, the HAL.

Hokay, maybe you should, dear reader, take time and space out while I find a bigger, strong dot net. Alright, I’m ready now. Turns out I had a bigger ‘pooter over in that dust FORBIN.

Mr. Lerner, known for collaborating with nifty Larry Niven, has also written two other techno thrillers. If they’re anything like COUNTDOWN I could read more by the Crichton and never feel any strain. A better 21st Century terrorists engaged in time travel story ya couldn’t possibly find, unless maybe Mickey Spillane came back and a sky-fi, Mike Danger version of THE GOLIATH BONE he’d with Max Allan Collins Hammer out. Get a lethal load of this plot and go figure for a better pot-Hezbollah.

Modern times. A hell-bent Hezbollah type gets his hands on a method to terror tear through time and settle things his way once and for Allah. Guy means to deal with the infidels of both here, hereafter and now. “How?” you “Damn!” ask us. Well, there’s this battle the Christians, let’s be Frank, had de Gaul to win over the Moslems, wayback when in the 7 hundreds. Done deal, right? Yeah, unless this master villain time travels backthen with modern, set-to-blow nuke capability in hopes of changing the course of that battle, making him the most dangerous antagonist a history buff would ever want to Metz.

Enter Harry, our young hero, a geeky type of considerable charm, more than willing when asked by Terrence, his soon to be accomplice from Interpol, to prove he’s yupp for it. Now … and then … if only they can stop our future-destroying fiend in, ahem, time. If not, I guess they jest gotta dog it and call Peabody for Sher, man!

Now, thing of it is, you’d think reading my synopsis this is all like, say, a sky-fi version of a DIE HARD sequel. You know, our hero comes true despite however much the vile villain whupped him around and gave him such a Bruce’n. Uh huh. Our villain has strong motivation, personal, emotional, all too human. Trust me, I wouldn’t Leila to ya. Not after my experiencing COUNTDOWN’s sting in its tale as Lerner moves hit her and Lebanon.

Not to say any of the battles in the past are Tom Clancy die-dactic. Personally, I felt reading this novel like a counted down kid again, reading Harold Lamb working his genius on a certain Genghis, if you Khan dig it. War is, all ways, horror heaped upon helpless humanity, no matter the time, the century, the desperate very last second of life one tries to carn-age past and through. Lerner’s grip on his story’s history couldn’t be any terrorist firmer, plus there’s an abundant amount of well, sorry, timed hysterical and good-natured humor. As in, I SAID ass end, the immortal words to live by and with them save the world as we now know it from destruction, thereby. I mean, there-butt:


In other words, this book gave me a real Gramps’ style belt! So, if Lerner ever has Harry return for another adventure, I’m in the loop. Because time travel or not, I figure he’ll handle things cagily, I mean, H. G.’ly. And when the story’s all said and done, things will have turned out Wells. In Other Worlds words, read this book, cheer the heroes and boo hiss the villains. Because this far into the new millenium there hasn’t been a single straight sky-fi novel that’s with anywhere near as much adventurous drive and evil time machinations Bin Laden!

Now if only Mr. Lerner teams up for the next Harry adventure with, say, Max Allan Collins to BONE up a book combining Harry and Mike Hammer. Then we’ll really see sky-fi thriller bloodspill layin’ around. And hey, get our man Stacey on the hunt for Bin Laden, for sure he’ll Keach him!

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