Jan 162023

Carl Corey wakes up in a private clinic. He has vague memories of a car crash and not much else. The staff are sketchy as hell but Carl has some innate sketchy qualities himself that helps him overpower the staff. He finds out that he was placed in the clinic by a sister he didn’t know he had. He also discovers that she is terrified of him. Carl is a bad man, and although he doesn’t doubt it, he has no memory of why that is true.

At the risk of spoiling a fifty-three year old story, Carl finds out that his real name is Corwin and that he is prince of Amber, the one true world in the multiverse. He has brothers and sisters and just about all of them, including himself, want the Throne of Amber. King Oberon, his father, has gone missing and the war of succession has begin. Over the course of five books, Corwin will come to terms with himself, his family and a universe that is more complicated than he thought.

Nine Princes in Amber was written by Roger Zelazny. It was his most famous work and his influence can be spotted in works like Gaiman’s Sandman series. I would be willing to bet that if you read a story about a bad man losing his memory and waking up in a hospital written after 1970, that it was a Zelazny tribute of some kind.

I came across this book in my teenage years. I was the perfect audience; a moody kid who suspected that there was something wrong with me because I just didn’t fit in with anyone else. Corwin is a delightful anti-hero who acknowledges his bad side and wishes he was better, but also unapologetic about his nature. It was deeply therapeutic for me to see a character like that and quite frankly, it was a big part of why I didn’t follow my suicidal intentions when I was a kid. In a lot of ways, Corwin was a surrogate father figure and I suspect he has been for a lot of readers.

Personal issues aside, Nine Princes in Amber is just a fun story. It clocks in around 200 pages and each book in the short is just as short. There are sword fights, demons, dimensional travel like nothing you have ever seen, family issues, terrible cruses, betrayals, great loves and a city under the ocean. Honestly, if I described everything that happens in just the first two books, I would sound like a madman. These books are crammed with ideas and again, you can see how Zelazny inspired the next generation of writers.

Zelazny wrote a sequel series years later that fans are divided on but I still enjoyed them. To tell you anything about them would be spoilers but the thing I notice about them is that Zelazny is having fun with his creation. What more can you ask for from a writer?

Sadly, Zelazny’s wife was not a fan of his work and when he died, a prequel series was created that is an abomination. Fortunately for us, Zelazny’s real legacy is maintained by the generations of writers he has influenced.

Dec 052022

Garth Marenghi, writer, dreamweaver, actor and visionary, finally has a new book out. This masterpiece of horror, TerrorTome, is a novel in three parts. In the first part, super cool horror writer Nick Steen, comes into possession of a cursed typewriter and is subjected to horrible tortures. In the second part, monsters and plots from Nick’s previous novels have escaped out of his imagination and into the real world. In the third and final part, Nick must deal with horrible alter-egos of his own personality, known as the Dark Third.

If you ever watched the tragically short-lived television series, Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace, then you have an idea of what to expect. Nick Steen is a cool hero who has little time for the ladies, editors or constructive criticism. In addition to terrible horrific acts, there are the occasional side trips into proper care of a car battery. The trademark Marenghi style is here in full force. Style? Style. Style! Style.

For those of you unfamiliar with Garth Marenghi, well buckle up. Garth is the creation of comedian Mathew Holness. Garth is a terrible egomaniac of a writer who is proud to boast that he has written more books than he has read. With his leather jackets and utter disdain for non-horror writers, I also thought he was more of a parody of a certain kind of horror fan more so than any particular writer. Either way, he is a hilarious creation who’s narcissism is only matched by his awful writing.

Holness brings this combination to TerrorTome and it is truly an impressive feat. Bad writing is easy to do but to sustain it is another thing. Nick Steen is clearly a Mary Sue of Garth Marenghi, and although Nick is technically the narrator, the reader is always aware that this book, and the comedy, is working on two different levels.

One of my favorite bits were the ‘deleted parts’. Garth’s editors insisted on removing two scenes of horror, one sex scene and two words. Garth insisted they be added back to the end of the book. He both warns you against reading it, as well as mocking you if you avoid them.

My only complaint is that a parody of bad writing still reads like bad writing. There were moments when the character’s purposeful misogyny was grinding on my last nerve. Thankfully, the book is divided into three parts of a hundred pages each. I found my tolerance increased when I took small breaks between those parts.

But that is a minor complaint for a truly amazing accomplishment. Holness does the impossible by bring one of Garth’s works to life and it doesn’t disappoint. If you enjoyed the television show, you will love this book. If you have never seen the show, it is not necessary to watch it to enjoy this book, but it might be helpful just to get Garth’s voice in your head. Either way, you need TerrorTome in your collection.

Oct 242022

Those two smutty megapowers, Alexis Flower and Serena Silverlake, have combined their talents to create this extremely slutty story, Sunnie and the Astral Slut Test. Sunnie is an intern on a space station. She has a bunch of tasks to complete but also needs to find time to study for her Astral Slug test. Unfortunately for her, the station is infested with horny tentacles. These tentacles ambush her constantly as she goes about her tasks.

Science fiction erotica is at its best when super-science plays a part in every little thing, and this book did not dissappoint. Skimpy uniforms are printed out for every task, biometric scanners read nipples and exercise bikes have very special attachments. Between the tentacles, aliens, robots and more, the book reads like a peek into a very different world.

It is also filthy as hell, which is something I come to expect from Flower and Silverlake, but am always still amazed to see. These two are titans of slut fiction and I am delighted to see them writing sci-fi.

Sunnie and the Astral Slug Test is available to purchase on Gumroad.

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Oct 072022

An unnamed narrator and his business partner own a small advertising company. One day, an insanely rich and very well connected man threatens to destroy them utterly unless they retract an pamphlet they published. In addition, the powerful rich man insists that the narrator track down and find one particular sheep with a unique mark on its back. Mildly frightened, the narrator agrees.

That is the premise of A Wild Sheep Chase by Haruki Murakami. What follows is a delightful, if at times highly digressional detective story. Detective is too strong of a word. The narrator is curious but highly unmotivated at times. Despite this, a story unfolds that wouldn’t be out of place in an Unknown Armies game or a movie like Under the Silver Lake.

I enjoyed this book a lot. There are so many oddities, like the plain woman who is irresistible if you see her ears, or the history of a small village founded by people skipping out on their debts. Entire chapters go down weird side roads only to link up to the main story much later. Some people will have their patience tested by this book and I totally get that. For me there is a sense of weirdness that permeates the book that kept me hooked. The ending was surprisingly satisfying and left me craving more of the author’s work.

Readers may note that this book is listed as the third book of a trilogy. Fans and the author himself(!) ask you to read it by itself as it bears little connection to the previous books. From what everyone has said, this book marks a huge jump in quality is more in line with the rest of his work.

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Sep 262022

Only Revolutions is a different kind of book. When you read the first page, you notice two columns of text. The text on the left is headlined by a historical date and then the rest of the column is a bunch of things that happened on that date, intermingled with parts of quotes about that day. The second column introduces one of the two characters in the book. Depending on which side of the book you started with, you are either reading about Sam, a 16 year old boy who has green eyes with flecks of gold, or you are reading about Hailey, a 16 year old girl who has gold eyes with flecks of green.

But the second column of text only reaches 4/5 of the way down to the bottom of the page. The rest of the column is made of words that are upside down. That part is the end of the other character. As the pages go on, the upside-down words take up more of the page as the part you are reading steadily shrinks.

There are other oddities. Sam’s story mentions a lot of animals in big bold font. Hailey’s story mentions plants. The letter ‘O’ is in a gold font. Both characters drive cars, but the cars change over time. They are followed by a CREEP who is typed in a purple font.

Did I mention the story is told in beat poetry?

So yeah, this is a challenging book to read. It is written by Mark Z. Danielewski, the write of House of Leaves. I was excited to read this book when I bought it eight years ago but the poetry was hard for me to read. I gave up after a few pages and put the book away. Over the years I would pick it up, read and give up again. Recently I came across it while unpacking and I decided that I should do what I always do when something challenges me and I looked up how to read it on the internet. The author had a video about how some people read it out loud and that other teenagers loved the book. I tried reading it out loud and CLICK, the book finally opened to me.

It is a great book. Sam and Hailey are telling their sides of the story, but it is not the same story. They experience things differently and it goes deeper than just their perspectives. In essence, these young people who are always 16, meet, fall in love, travel together and then watch the other die before succumbing themselves. Why they die is clear to me, but being poetry, I could be wrong.

Poetry is like that. I could summarize the story more and break down some of the themes, but that would only be my interpretation. This is a story full of symbols and strangeness right down to how you choose to read the pages and in what order. This story feels less like a story and more like a Rubik’s cube that changes meaning by how you engage with it.

It is a delightful piece of art. It is also very erotic in places that I feel captures the horny energy of youth in a way few books have. Not everyone is going to have the patience for it, but that is okay. For those of us who can enjoy it, it feels like a rare treasure we might not see the likes of ever again.

Aug 152022

The Final Girl Support Group is a novel by Grady Hendrix. Actually, it is more like a fast moving spear tearing through characters, plot and locations. This book is the definition of fast-paced and I found it awfully hard to put down.

The plot concerns a group of women who are all survivors of slasher massacres. Psychopaths murdered their friend and family and in some cases, the killers or their stand-ins, came back for another swing at the survivor. These women have seen some shit and it fucked them up. They are part of a support group where they should be looking out for one another but familiarity has bred contempt and now they are on the verge of breaking up.

Until one of them gets killed. Oh shit.

The book does something interesting in that it imagines a world where there are both the slasher killers of Michael Myers and Jason, but also moves are created after the massacres to cash in on the horrible events. The final girls exist both as victims of horrible crimes, but also public figures where most people know exactly what happened to them. It is a fascinating comment on how society eats women up and then cannibalizes their tragedy for mass consumption and profit.

In fact, this book hit me in a very vulnerable way. The exploitation of the final girls by their loved ones, friends, the media and others is a big part of the book. It reminded me a lot of stories about child actors and how their lives get defined for them at a super young age and then the people who are supposed to look out for them use them for their own gain. Some readers might have a harder time with that than the brutal killers.

Speaking of which, this is not a book that cares much about the killers. They are there, but this story isn’t about them. After years of serial killer television shows, it is a welcome change.

All in all, I loved this book and would recommend it to any slasher fan.

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Aug 082022
What part of this woman is little?

Little Ego has the strangest dreams. They start off simple enough, maybe a present has arrived or she is taking a bath. But soon the present opens to reveal flowers that move on their own or the bath tub is shared with a crocodile. There is a hint of danger before the flowers begin to kiss in intimate places or the crocodile mounts Little Ego and she is brought to the heights of passion . . .

Which is when Little Ego wakes up. The bed is in disarray, Little Ego’s clothes are missing and there might be a nearby object that explains why she dreamed of such oddities. Little Ego makes one last comment about what her shrink will think and then the scene ends.

When I first encountered the stories of Little Ego by Vittorio Giardino, I thought they were fantastic flights of fancy. I loved the surreal nature of the dreams and the incredible leaps of imagination. Also very enjoyable is Giardino’s art of these exotic woman from some mystical place.

As an adult, I now know this exotic place was Europe, and that the stories were inspired by a children’s comic called Little Nemo by Winsor McCay. This is in fact a porn parody, right down to the character’s name.

But it is still luscious and gorgeous to look at. As a writer of porn parodies myself, I am in awe in how Giardino created something derivative but so damn sensuous. Dreams allow for impossible fantasies like an orgy with multiples of yourself, or making love with a pilot on the wing of a plane. Little Nemo has an idea is too precious to confine only to children’s stories.

And I also wonder how many fans of Little Ego admire the stories, the art and the sexuality without ever discovering the original? Is something a parody when it references something the viewer has no idea of? It shows how art evolves and creates, sometimes carrying a baton from a creator people might never know.

Jul 182022
So much filth behind this romantic cover.

I’m a big fan of Shay Sands. She writes the kind of insatiable sluts I love to read about. I am especially a big fan of her more outlandish stories, as they tend to stretch reality just enough to make it feel like some sort of alternate sluttier universe.

The Final Edge is a novel where Shay’s heroine is called upon to stop a supernatural race of monsters. The monsters give people their darkest fantasies and if the victims give in and climax, the monster consumes their ability to feel desire. Shay is taught how to deny herself so that her own powers can consume the monster instead. I am simplifying things but I am also holding off on any spoilers. There is also a romance that drives the story that I don’t want to give away.

What this creates is a character who keeps experiencing fantasies and holding out from going over the edge and coming. It is a delicious cycle of self-denial and edging. The plot also serves as a frame for a series of erotic vignettes for the heroine to endure/enjoy. The adventures range from straight sex and lesbians with segues into BDSM and surprise power dynamics.

It is a clever stunt. The book is almost an anthology of sexy adventures that don’t need the pressure of being connected to one another. Each fantasy would be a nice story in itself, but the main plot of edging adds friction to every story. It is very impressive.

I highly recommend this book for fans of kinky peril and denial-enthusiasts.

Jul 112022
Destruction is such a sexy word.

Chantelle is a highly successful writer and public personality. She writes books on feminism and gives lectures. One day she realizes how empty her carefully managed life is and craves the thrill of being dominated and used. She begins to engage in some risky behavior which greatly concerns her two bodyguards. The bodyguards, a man and a woman, offer to dominate and use her in order to satisfy her urges until this phase passes.

Spoiler alert, this phase does not pass.

I enjoy The Destruction of Chantelle Sinclair a lot. It is a coming-of-slut slave story where the submissive is the wealthy one and everything is consensual. Having there be two bodyguard/doms makes for some interesting dynamics. The book gets a bit deeper than I expected with Chantelle understanding that that the public character she created in herself is now a prison she wishes to escape. I don’t want to spoil anything but giving any more details, but the book goes to some unexpected places.

Also, the sex was really hot. There is a lot power dynamics going on and I enjoyed every bit of the ride. I will be looking into more of Shawna Hunter’s work.

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Apr 252022

A Long Way to a Small Angry Planet is a science fiction book by Becky Chambers. It involves the crew of the Wayfarer, a modest spaceship that punches holes through reality to create stable wormholes. The crew is a mix of humans and aliens, working together to take on contracts and make a living. They are not military or freebooters; they are the future space equivalent of a road crew. Or to put it another way, just one character from your Star Wars/Star Trek/RPG group could murder every member of the Wayfarer with no problem.

Which is great! This is not a book about fights or action scenes. This is a book that a contract the crew takes on and spend the better part of a year trying to complete. Over the course of the job, we get deep dives into each and every character and the personal challenges they face. This book is 95% slice-of-life and I am here for it. In the last thirty pages, something major happens but that’s fine. Life can drop disasters on you.

With so much of the story focused on the characters, the real success of this novel is how deep and interesting the characters are. This is a book for the modern age which means we get non-hetero relationships, aliens who practice polyamory, other aliens who go through gender phases and there are many discussions of body autonomy. This is a science fiction book crammed with liberal ideas and once more, I am here for it.

It is no wonder this book won a Hugo. I fell in love with the characters and reading their lives enriched me in ways I struggle to explain. Love and found-family is the core of this book and with so many science-fiction franchises focused on combat and acts of war, it is a welcome change.

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