I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher, through Netgally, in exchange for an honest review.
Take an adventure story from Jules Verne, give it a Young Adult set of characters, and toss in a pinch of Steampunk and you get something very close to Matthew J. Kirby’s The Lost Kingdom.
Bill Bartram and his father, along with scientists and members of a secret society of philosophers adventure into the American wilderness of pre-Civil War times, to find the followers of Madoc – a Welsh prince. A war with France is brewing and the Bartram’s believe that the Madoc people can help them with the coming war.
With some French soldiers on their heels, the adventurers take a flying ship to the largely-unexplored wilderness in the American west. Just as one might with Jules Verne, they encounter all sorts of terrifying, pre-historic-like creatures. Surviving the journey will be the toughest part of their adventure.
This book is just a heck of a lot of fun.
Bill Bartram is a classic ‘Everyman’ …er, ‘Everyboy‘ type of character. He’s full of spirit and wonder. Smart, but not annoyingly over intelligent – dumping information at every opportunity.
The adventure is fast and furious. There is a constant ‘out-of-the-frying-pan-into-the-fire’ feeling, which is exactly what you want in this sort of book. Think Mike Mars, or Tom Swift, or any other pulp-age adventure series. And the adventure is three-fold: there’s the goal; there are the encounters on the way to the goal; there is the chase. There is definitely enough to keep a reader engaged. Add a little mystery with the secret society and you’ve piqued the interest.
This is my first book by Matthew J. Kirby, but I see he’s written a number of others and I look forward to reading more of his work.
Looking for a good book? The Lost Kingdom by Matthew J. Kirby is a delightful adventure for YA readers, reminiscent of Jules Verne.
I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher, through Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.
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The Lost Kingdom
author: Matthew J. Kirby
publisher: Scholastic Press
hardcover, 348 pages
Once in a while I like to get my fix of adventure fiction. As a teen I had read The Destroyer and The Avenger and Doc Savage and books of that nature, which were borderline pulps (or not-so-borderline in some cases). Finding books of that milieu today has been a bit more difficult for me – in part because I’m not sure where to look for them. When I came across this book and read the description it sounded exactly like what I’ve been looking for.
James Schweitzer was a Navy SEAL when The Gemini Cell took everything from him … including his life. Now, as a dead man, Schweitzer is the best chance for defense. As a dead man, brought to an un-dead state by scientists, Schweitzer is now a super soldier. He can’t be easily killed, because he’s already dead, and he has been gifted with heightened abilities. Now he can infiltrate the enemy compound and fight the enemy super-soldiers – creatures just like himself … undead. But he’s still just one man against an army of like-ability soldiers and even his fellow SEALS don’t stand a chance against what amounts to a squad of vampires. One man might hold the key and he’s in a remote area of the Alaskan wilderness – and there’s an enemy base not too far away.
The book definitely has that military/adventure feel to it – precisely what I was looking for – and it has a strong fantasy bent with the vampire/un-dead soldiers as major characters. It may be strange to say this, but it reads more like a military novel than a fantasy novel, which is probably not surprising, given Cole’s background.
On the other hand there wasn’t enough action for me. I wrote the following note in my copy:
Horrible first chapter … looks like it will be action but instead it’s all talk and posturing and then enemies become partners too easily.
I’d like to say that this was only true in the opening chapter as Cole sets up the story, but that wouldn’t be true. Too often, before an action sequence, we have to talk it to death. While it makes sense that in life you might want to talk about a plan to iron out the details, in fiction, especially military/fantasy/action fiction, we really just want to get to the action.
Fortunately, when there is action it is exciting and well-written. I just wish there was less back-patting and more doing.
Looking for a good book? If you like a fantasy/military mash-up then Siege Line by Myke Cole might be just right for you.
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author: Myke Cole
series: Shadow Ops #6; Reawakening Trilogy #3
paperback, 432 pages
I have a soft spot in my heart for pulp fiction. With characters who are often bigger than life and pulse-pounding action, pulp fiction is a great literary way to enjoy a story without having to spend much time thinking about it – it’s all laid out there for the reader to just grab, read, and enjoy.
Mack Maloney’s Wingman series is modern pulp fiction.
Hawk Hunter is a U.S. Air Force major and ace pilot. He’s the poster boy for All-American Hero, but he went missing sometime ago (see earlier books in the series). He’s back now and he and his team of crack military men are looking to turn back the Russians who have defeated the United States in World War III and have moved in to New York City to take control. Captain John “Bull” Dozer could use some help in getting the Russians out of NYC, and when a strange, old, tiny STOL Highlander plane buzzes through the New York skyscrapers, “Bull” Dozer suspects that only one man would have the moxy to fly right in to the enemy territory. But how can Dozer and his men get word to Hawk and join forces? And what can a hand-full of men do against the entire Russian army? And is there any truth to the rumor that Hawk’s former girlfriend, Dominique, has taken up with the head of the Russian secret police and is living in a New York penthouse with him? There are a lot of things not right in Hawk’s world and he aims to set everything straight.
The action here is swift and author Mack Maloney takes the reader from location to location with dexterity and in true pulp fashion, we flip the (digital) pages quickly, looking to see what happens next.
I was definitely in the right mood for a fast-flowing action story and I enjoyed this book even more than the previous volume. But I am also a reader who enjoys a Doc Savage novel or a Tom Swift story every now and then as well.
Although science fiction, this really is more of an action-adventure story that happens to have a strong sci-fi setting.
If you enjoy tough guys in tough situations and hard action stories that move along quickly and smoothly but feel like no one is writing these sorts of books anymore, just turn your head to the Wingman series and you won’t be disappointed.
Looking for a good book? Battle for America is the 18th book in the Wingman series by Mack Maloney and it delivers on its goal to provide action and adventure in the pulp style.
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Battle for America
author: Mack Maloney
series: Wingman #18
publisher: Open Road Media
paperback, 300 pages
THROWBACK THURSDAY: REVIEWING A REISSUE
As a teen, I used to spend a lot of time on bookshops … okay, I still do, but back in the 1970’s I was trolling the bookshelves, looking for anything that I could get excited for. I would ALWAYS pick up one of The Executioner titles, stare at the action on the cover and wonder how much fun the books would be to read, but I also knew that books with such depicted violence would not be particularly welcomed into my household (though the sci-fi books were often much more violent … it just wasn’t so obvious). Now, decades later, as these books are being reissued by Open Road Media, I finally get to dig in past the cover.
The book is pretty much what I expected it to be, more or less. More violence, more story, less sex.
The story is pretty classic pulp fiction. A sharp-shooter in Vietnam, Mack Bolan, comes home to the States to bury members of his family. The Mafia was putting pressure on his father and did everything that they could to get a little money from him. But the deaths of his family members is only the beginning of the blood that will fill the streets. Mack is a trained, cold-blooded killer. Now he turns his skills on the Mafia, taking on this legendary nation inside a nation. Secretly, the cops are delighted to see someone taking out the trash, but even so, if they can get their hands on Mack Bolan, they’ll have to take him in for murder after a score of Mafia loan-sharks and hired guns face The Executioner’s justice.
I was surprised at how much Bolan relied on the help of a young woman – a woman he hadn’t even met until he needed her help – and how quickly the relationship developed.
There’s a lot of killing and no remorse, even from our hero. In part this is because the ‘bad guys’ are set up to be so bad that we can’t feel bad in any way. The nameless who are killed are simply bodies, in the way, working for evil, and better off dead. It was a precursor, in 1969, to the sort of drama we’d be seeing in the movies, with Dirty Harry and the like, in just a few years’ time.
This is escapist, pulp fiction and as such it reads quite well. The action moves along rapidly, and the action doesn’t stop to get gratuitous in a sex scene (the sex happens behind closed doors whereas the violence is right out on the street). And even though it’s violent, the reader is a lot like the cops in the book. We know it’s wrong, what Bolan is doing, but we also know how much he was wronged and how nobody – until now – has been willing to take the Mafia on. He’s fighting fire with fire and we love it.
Looking for a good book? Want fast, escapist adventure fiction? The first book in The Executioner series: War Against the Mafia by Don Pendleton, delivers.
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War Against the Mafia
author: Don Pendleton
series: The Executioner #1
publisher: Open Road Media Mystery & Thriller
Kindle Edition, 185 pages