Sep 092020

Queen and Country is a comic book series by Greg Rucka. It is thirty-two issues long, with three mini-series prequels and three novels. The series ran between 2001 and 2007 and I am kicking myself for only reading it this year. It may be my favorite spy series ever.

I have always enjoyed spy fiction but as I get older, my tastes change. I am less interested in James Bond’s missions as much as I am interested in what kind of a person Bond is. Bond is an efficient killer, but that makes him a deficient person. He engages in a lot of self-destructive behavior and although Fleming and the movies have flirted with these ideas, they never really explore them.

Queen and Country has three agents that it follows, but Agent Tara Chace steals the show. She is highly effective. She also drinks, smokes and fucks too much. The lady is a true badass, but it seems like a matter of time before she self-destructs.

My other interest in spy fiction are the people who organize the missions. In most stories, the mission is presented in whole cloth to the agent by a friendly briefer. In this series, we see the intel come in, get debated by analysts, get argued by bureaucrats, get maybe vetted by ally agencies, get approved/disapproved by the people in charge, only for the mission to get done under the table anyway, with or without government support and the agent only gets half the story. I could be wrong, but it felt like 75% of the series was this phase, and the actual mission took up only a quarter of the story. Kind of like in real life.

It means a lot of the stories are talking heads arguing with each other while drinking tea, but it is no less exciting. Operational concerns, rival agencies, global politics, local politics and sometimes just plain spite play large roles in every covert mission and I eat that kind of drama up.

I highly recommend this series. It scratches my John le Carre itch as well as my Bourne efficiency itch and throws in some agent self-destruction awareness to boot.

Aug 142020

Meddling Kids is a novel by Edgar Cantero. It concerns five kids and a dog, who used to solve crimes when they were children. They would investigate sightings of scary monsters, gather clues and then rig together a trap to capture the monster, who always turned out to be a guy in a rubber mask. Everything was great until their last case, where they ran into some real monsters, some real corpses and a real copy of the Necronomicon. They still captured a guy in a rubber mask, and that guy went to jail, but the kids always knew something more sinister was going on.

Now it is thirteen years later. Andy, the tomboy of the group and grownup badass, decides to get the gang back together. That mans convincing Kerri, the brains of the group, to ignore her nightmares and return to the worse place on Earth. That means breaking Nate, the nerd, out of the Asylum. Peter, the leader of the group, committed suicide but don’t worry, his ghost is hanging around Nate. Finally, they bring Tim, the grandson of the original dog to help them out. And yeah, they are going to need it.

I’ll be honest, early on I felt like I was reading a cross between Scooby-Doo and Stephen King’s It, and I wasn’t sure that was something the world really needed. What saves this book is the writing. Edgar Cantero breaks the rules of structure with flagrant ease. The format changes to a television script during conversations. Perspectives change in ways your writing instructor will despise. There are very meta jokes about grammar. It shouldn’t work but holy crap, does it work. I haven’t been this entertained by someone with language since Lemony Snicket. It is insanely clever.

The story is good too. These characters are real and vivid. Andy, by far the main character, is a young queer woman who is both the heart and the hero of the story. Nate is haunted by Peter and maybe an ancient God. Kerri is scared shitless but she is going to push through. Tim the dog wants to look after these people and get some more attention.

Let me tell you something about Tim. This is one of the best dogs in fiction. We get a partial view of Tim’s POV and it is so damn believable. He doesn’t talk like Scooby-Doo but he has so much personality. I would take a bullet for that dog, and that includes protecting his favorite squeaky toy.

Most important of all, the underlying mystery is really good. I didn’t predict any of it which is so rare these days. The twists are surprising and satisfying.

I highly recommend this book.

Jul 152020

FTL Y’all is a collection of short comics centered around an intriguing idea. In our near-present day, someone has uploaded a really simple blueprint for a Faster-than-Light drive. You can build this engine yourself with common parts. This creates a surge in space travel as everyday men and women strap on a FTL engine to washer machines, RV’s and whatever else they can get a hold of.

The drawback to universal space travel is that there are no maps. In some cases, there isn’t much of a guidance system. It is a mass exodus of people launch themselves into the unknown.

It has been a joy. As someone who grew up dreaming of space travel, this collection of stories resparks that same feeling I had when I first read about the Voyager probes. The stories, all SFW, range from comical to deeply touching. The stories are about space travel, but the heart of each story is the people. Love stories abound as well as a few tragedies. It sounds like a cliche, but I found this entire book to be heart-warming.

You can buy the book in your preferred format here.

Jul 102020
Aisling has a lot of range.

Elven Appetites is the first book in a fantasy erotica series by Serena Silverlake. It follows the adventures of an Elven ranger, Aisling, who arrives at a small village for a secret meeting, but ends up staying a few days and uncovering an evil cult. To kill time, she also bangs a lot of humans.

This was an unexpected treat. I am so burned out on fantasy that I often only read this genre if it is written by friends or was recommended. The book had a lot of fantasy tropes as should be expected, but what really intrigued me was that the Elves of this world are very sexually open. It is like the humans what you expect from the mainstream, and the Elves are living lives better suited in porn. It is a great contrast and really connects the porn reader to Aisling.

It also helps that Aisling prefers degrading rough sex and lots of it. Unlike a lot of fantasy stories with rough sex, Aisling is almost always the initiator and the sex is 100% consensual. I don’t know if the rest of the series will stick to that, but it works really well as a start. It is also nice to see a main heroine who is really heroic and strong on her own, as well as craving having her hair pulled and getting used like a whore.

All in all, I enjoyed the book and look forward to more from the author.

Jun 292020

Steampunk Erotica is the unfortunately uncreative title to a really fun book. Written by Ora le Brocq, this story is set in a alternate history where wax-cylinder computers, clockwork cybernetics and backpack-powered lasers are used by men and women in the latest Victorian fashions. Mina Trelawney, a genius of technology as well as a genius of copulation, must investigate the murder of her parents and take over the family factory. Intercourse and retro science ensues.

The sex scenes are good, but what delightfully surprised me about this book is the abundance of pulp action. The villain is building an army of brainwashed people and intends nothing less than world domination. There is a kidnapping, battle in the skies between dirigibles and two ruthless attacks on a factory. Remove the sex, and you would have a great steampunk action story.

But like I said, the sex is good and there is plenty of it. This feels like the first part to a longer story but it is also very self-contained. I recommend it as a great example of how to combine porn with equally detailed action scenes.

Jun 182020
Pillage me, baby.

The Pillaging of an Empire is the omnibus collection of the second Princes to Pleasure Slave Series. Written by Amanda Clover and Jay Aury, the series details the fall of an empire by horny monsters and the dark powers that command them. The monsters have access to a spell where if they ejaculate inside a mortal woman, that woman turns into a horny sex slave for their cocks. Using this power, they conquer humans, knock them up and grow their army.

Two years ago, I recommended the first part of the series, Savage Lust of the Orc Gladiator. It was a lovely fascination-with-the-abomination style story that I liked a lot. That same high quality is present throughout the other 20+ novellas in this collection.

What delighted me to the most about this series is that although some characters reappear from time to time, and there is an over-arching plot, each individual story bounces around a large empire to tell many different kinds of stories. There are mysteries, comedies, epic fantasies and tales of monstrous seduction. This variety kept everything fresh in a way that a more traditional 1000-page fantasy epic wouldn’t be able to.

Mind control is the major theme of these stories, so keep that in mind if you are not a fan. some characters submit gladly to getting fucked by monsters, while others fight it with every fiber of their being. One thing I enjoyed is that with one or two exceptions, most of the characters who get fucked and mind-controlled do so due to a flaw in their character. It is more fun to see someone succumb to a monster because they were over-confident or foolish.

All in all, this is a great series and you can’t beat the insanely low price for the collection.

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Mar 192020

It is ironic to me that I am pretty much over fantasy as a genre, but some of the best smut being made today is in the fantasy genre. I thought I would take a moment to highlight three good ones right now.

First up is “I Roved Out” by Alexis Flower. I raved about this last year and every drop of praise I gave it back then still holds true. It was my favorite work of smut last year and a big inspiration. The second book came out for Kickstarter backers and will hopefully be in the store soon. You can still get the first book in the store. It is a huge book, so order it now so you can get started on it.

Have I mentioned how gorgeous it is?
Why would any wizard break up with a hot purple Elf girl?

Next up is “Fertile in my Ex-Boyfriend’s Dungeon” by Amanda Clover. It is an interactive erotica series of ebooks. You play a warrior woman who dates the worse wizard and when he dumps you, he places you inside his dungeon full of horny monsters. Also locked in the dungeon are other ex’s, all trying to escape.

I thought I had talked about the first book in the series, but a quick search of my blog says otherwise. That is a terrible oversight on my part as I have enjoyed each book in this series. There are a lot of choices and usually three different types of monsters in each book. Some books even give you a partner to help explore the dungeon with.

The only warning I would give is that there are mind control elements. All of the “bad endings” involved losing your will to escape to become a knocked-up besotted sex slave to a monster.

I don’t know why short green Goblin women do it for me but I ain’t complaining.

But Shon, what if I don’t want to play a woman escaping from a dungeon of horny monsters? Well, how do you feel about playing a Prince exploring a tower full of horny monsters? That is what you do in “Monster Girl Tower: Level One” by Jay Aury. It flips the script without sacrificing any of the humor or hot sex.

In this book, the crone has gathered hot monster girls and forced them to guard each level of her dungeon. You will need to need to fight (or more likely fuck) your way through each level. That is my kind of campaign.

I haven’t read the entire book yet, but what I had read is great. Jay is a good writer of monster fiction so I have faith he can do a great series.

Mar 022020

Dead Astronauts is a book by Jeff VanderMeer. You may remember VanderMeer was the man who wrote the wonderful Annihilation book and series which I loved with all of my heart. As weird and fantastic as Annihilation was, Dead Astronauts takes weirdness to an astronomical new level.

The book opens with three travelers in astronaut suits hoping dimensions. Every dimension there is the City, a terrible place at the center of various ecological disasters. In the City lurks the Company, the cause of said disasters. In some dimensions, the City and/or Company are already dead. In others they are thriving. The three travelers are trying to put a stop to both for their own reasons.

The book bounces between different characters, none of which are human as we know it. One is a sentient moss. Another is a monster that lurks in ponds. The closest we get to a human character is a space traveler who has an eye that can see the future.

With each character, we get a different way of thinking and this is where the book shines. The different creatures are so alien and familiar at the same time. You won’t look at a fox the same way again, I promise you. some characters we get multiple times as they live through different versions of reality. Each is unique and fascinating.

VanderMeer does some neat tricks with how he presents characters. My favorite is the monster that lurks underwater. His text takes up the bottom quarter of a page, leaving the top 3/4 empty. It reinforces that this creature lives deep under the service. It is a simple thing, but it helps you sink into the character.

I will say, this was a super challenging book to read. I was never on the verge of quitting, but I was often close to wondering if I would ever understand it. In the end, I think I do and I wonder if I would have been able to get the underlying themes if it wasn’t so hard to read.

As tough as it was technically to understand, the more important warning I would give about this book is the sheer grim cruelty of the story. The Company is made of bad people doing bad things to living organisms. Creatures are experimented on and murdered with a callous indifference. It is a wonderful indictment of human cruelty to those we consider less than us, and that is even before we get to the story of the poor homeless woman.

So yeah, Dead Astronauts is difficult to read because of subject matter and due to trying to understand inhuman minds in multiple realities. But, if you can make the difficult journey through the void of human cruelty, you will explore one of the greatest science fiction stories told today.

Feb 032020

The Kraken Wakes by John Wyndham is a 1953 novel about an invading force from beneath the sea. Sadly, there is no actual Kraken. Well, there might be, but we never see it.

John Wyndham is better known for writing Day of the Triffids but this book is another one of his “cozy catastrophes.” A mysterious species beneath the sea makes life hard for humanity. Ships are sunk. Coastal towns are depleted of their population. Bad shit goes down and the world nearly ends.

The main characters are a married couple who work for a broadcast station. They are not remotely heroes. They are the people interviewing military people, scientists and eyewitnesses. They gather together accounts and try to relay the growing danger to the rest of the world.

And this is where the book becomes really interesting and still has relevance to a modern audience. The invasion takes place over several years. At every point, scientists and military people freak out, but the government, financial leaders and pundits downplay the threat.

Monsters are sinking ships? Well, we can’t limit shipping because that would hurt the economy. The monsters are superior to us? Well, that is just unpatriotic. The end of the world is coming? Well, that would require doing something about and that would interfere with the current political agenda.

It feels like a naked allegory for global warming, but really, it could be an allegory for any global crisis. The fact the author used to work as a censor for the military gives the work another level of dread as he plausibly explains every level of resistance. The end of the world is coming and despite seeing it coming, we are unlikely to do anything.

The other cool part about the book is the alien quality of the invaders. We never actually see them. They exist at pressures that humans can’t survive at. The aliens use bizarre tactics and truly feel like a species that thinks differently. We never see the creatures, but they might be one of my favorites.

Nov 112019

Once upon a time, there were two futures. Each possible future was a paradise, but these futures could never coexist with the other. Each future sends time-travelling agents up and down the time stream to make the changes need to bring about their future. Let me be clear, this is a war and the only way to succeed is to make sure the other side can never exist.

Once upon a time correction, an agent on one side leaves a taunting letter for an agent on the other side. Is it a trap? Is it simply a boast? Or is it pure curiosity? Whatever the reason, talking to the enemy is forbidden and yet these two continue to exchange letters. Over time, their relationship changes and they fall in love.

That’s a cool idea, but what elevates “This is How You Lose the Time War” by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone is the magnificent creativity and sweeping scale that is on every page. Some time travel stories impress you with their knowledge of historical details, hinging key plot points on what a specific historical figure had for breakfast on a certain day. This book treats time travel as something to be played with and used to awe and inspire. Characters visit Atlantis. They travel to bone yard temples of beings that predate human history. They witness fleets of starships crashing against one another. It is less Time Traveling History Lesson, and more like Time Space Opera.

And these two agents don’t send normal letters. No, one might write on the scales of a fish that will be eaten by a seal that they know the other agent will cut open. A letter might be written in the coded flashes of a lave burst. Each letter is an impossibility, which reinforces how special and creative this story is.

Half the book is the letters the two agents send to each other. The other half of the book is what amazing things the agents were doing when they come across a letter. It makes for a fast read and a rather breathless one. Their growing romance feels real and I was deeply invested in them.

This is a book I am looking forward to re-reading every year. I think you will too.