Showing posts sorted by relevance for query Predator. Sort by date Show all posts
Showing posts sorted by relevance for query Predator. Sort by date Show all posts

Thursday, September 1, 2022

Predator - Concrete Jungle

Nathan Archer was a pseudonym employed by science fiction and fantasy author Lawrence Watt-Evans for the publication of a 1995 media-tie in paperback, Predator: Concrete Jungle. The book was based on the 1989 Dark Horse Comics graphic novel with the same title by Mark Verheiden, which was based on the popular 20th Century Fox movie franchise.

The story is set in New York City during a severe August heat wave. Our heroes are two jaded NYPD homicide detectives named Rasche and Shaefer. The pair used to be narcotics officers, and they were transferred to the murder detail after some excessive force issues. If you’re a fan of fictional excessive force, this is the novel for you.

One night, a gang summit is ambushed and the cops make it to the tenement to find skinned gang-banger corpses hanging upside-down from the ceiling joists with their blood draining onto the floor below. It’s a grisly scene, and the cops fail to initially understand the severity of the threat. Of course, I knew who did it, but I had the benefit of seeing the cover of the paperback.

Rasche and Shaefer are stereotypical 80s movie cops at war with their own ignorant management hell-bent on covering up and minimizing the pending bloodbath to be unleashed on the city. The U.S. Army also gets into the containment and the denial act with all the ineptitude you’d expect from a genre story resting heavily on action movie tropes.

The upshot, as you know, is that Predator monsters from outer space are hunting humans in New York City armed with invisibility shields, energy cannons, pocket nukes, and deadly blades to filet their prey. Fans of the original Predator movie starring Arnold Schwarzenegger will be pleased with some Easter eggs tying this novel directly to the inaugural film.

The writing is mostly satisfactory. The action scenes are vivid and bloody in a plot that moves at a fast clip over 300 big-font pages. The dialogue is embarrassingly bad, but never bad enough to give up on the paperback. If the concept behind this media tie-in paperback appeals to you on any level, I promise it won’t disappoint. Recommended. 

Get the book as part of a three-book omnibus HERE.

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Boon Island

Kenneth Roberts (1885-1957) was a critically acclaimed writer for the Saturday Evening Post before switching professions to full-time novelist and author. While many of Roberts' books are collections of essays and travelogues, the Maine native authored a number of historical novels set in and around the American Northeast. My first experience with Roberts is the last historical novel he wrote, 1957's Boon Island. It was released in both a hardback edition as well as a Fawcett Gold Medal paperback.

Set in the early 1700s, the book is written in first-person as Oxford student Miles Wentworth explains how he transformed from hardworking academic scholar in London to struggling on the battered rocks of Maine's Boon Island. The first 30-pages has Miles befriending a young actor and fisherman named Neal. Miles' father is a judge and quickly Neal, and his financially burdened father Swede, become family friends to the Wentworths.

One evening Neal is attacked by a sexual predator after a performance. During the assault, Neal stabs and kills the man. In an effort to protect Neal from a murder charge, Miles and Swede hide the man's body. Miles' father proposes that the best course of action would be for Neal, Swede and Miles to join the crew of a British ship called The Nottingham under family friend Captain Dean. The ship is headed to Maine on a long exporting trip and the time away from London will insure that Miles, Neil and Swede aren't caught up in a murder investigation.

During the first few days on board the Nottingham, the heroic Captain Dean must contend with a loud-mouthed bully and his three friends. Over the journey, the tension reaches a boiling point and the inevitable physical confrontation begins. The scuffle leads to the Nottingham being shipwrecked on the icy mound of rocks called Boon Island. This is where the bulk of this survival narrative lies.

Like Robinson Crusoe or Treasure Island, Boon Island is an exciting nautical tale that transitions into a harrowing survival yarn. While the first 30-pages is extremely literary, with many discussions on English playwrights and poetry, the slow-burn was absolutely worth it. While the sea-journey consumes a few chapters, Roberts really finds his feet as the book's emphasis revolves around the shipwreck. The novel evolves into a daily diary as Miles translates the horrors of arctic temperatures, wind-swept seas, battered rocks and the consistent strife between the ship's crew.

The author's intimate, more personalized account provoked me into asking myself asking if I could survive the same horrifying events that these men endure. It would take a lot of strength and willpower. Thankfully, Captain Dean steals the show and is the essential “white-hat hero” who fits perfectly into the men's action-adventure formula. With his rugged fortitude, combined with Miles' loss of innocence, the book is a showcase of different human behaviors and perspectives under the harshest conditions. Beyond the human suffering, the book's most amazing strength is that it is a real-life testimony to the events that actually happened to these men. As a historical tale, Roberts bases his fiction on fact. That makes the last few pages a rewarding ending as we learn about the real-life characters and what became of their life experiences after Boon Island.

If you love survival stories, nautical adventures or even novels dedicated to the human spirit, Boon Island is a sure-fire winner. Despite the terrible tragedy, Roberts conveys so much excitement and anticipation into his calculated narrative. This is just a literary classic and one that makes me want to track down more of the author's work.

Buy a copy of this book HERE

Wednesday, April 8, 2020


Charles Williams was a phenomenal crime-noir author who often set his stories in rural small towns. Many of his books included a tramp or a statuesque beauty who wreaks havoc on the male protagonist's moral compass. Like his contemporary John D. MacDonald, Williams also wrote a handful of men's action-adventure novels with nautical themes.

Scorpion Reef (aka Gulf Coast Girl), The Sailcloth Shroud, And the Deep Blue Sea were all hits with crime-noir enthusiasts and the author's fans. One of Williams' most respected works is the 1963 suspenseful sea-thriller Dead Calm. The novel was adapted for cinema in 1989 and featured Nicole Kidman and Sam Neil. However, some readers may not realize that Dead Calm is actually a sequel to Williams' 1960 novel Aground, so I’m beginning at the beginning.

The author introduces readers to WW2 veteran John Ingram. Through flashbacks we learn that John's wife tragically died in an auto accident and that his former business, a port harbor, was destroyed in a fire that also killed his business partner. Now, John works as a boat broker, a profession that has him inspecting boats and assessing their value to lower the cost for his perspective clients. In the book's opening chapters, readers learn that John has been hired by a man named Hollister who wants to purchase a boat for business purposes. After surveying a schooner called The Dragoon in Key West, John calls Hollister and reports that the yacht is in great condition and ready for purchase. John then returns to Miami where he is met by the police.

Unbeknownst to him, John was tricked into participating in stealing The Dragoon from its port. The owner reports that the inspection routine was really just a way to scout the boat for his accomplices. On the night of John's departure, the boat was stolen by three men including Hollister. The whole purchasing routine was really just a ploy to find a suitable yacht worth stealing. John was conned.

After talking with the boat’s owner, a widow named Rae, the two team up to try and locate the missing yacht. Rae wants her property returned and John, feeling partly responsible for the crime, agrees to assist. The police find a dinghy containing Hollister's watch and clothes, yet there's no sign of the Dragoon. Hiring a pilot, Rae and John eventually locate the yacht on a sandy knoll. During high tide, an inexperienced operator ran the boat into a sandy knoll where it remained aground. But once John and Rae board the Dragoon, they discover why the ship was  stolen.

Like Williams' rural crime-novels, Aground features a likable male protagonist who finds himself in an extreme situation. While Rae could be viewed as the suitable replacement for the author's obligatory sexy seductress, she's presented as a more intelligent, brave addition to the story's twists and turns instead of a cunning swamp nymph. As a nautical adventure tale, Williams doesn't quite do the genre justice. Aground seems to be a high-seas clash as the prey attempts to outwit the predator, but the narrative is more effective as a variant on the home-invasion sub-genre of suspense-thrillers. I can't reveal too many details, but John and Rae are forced to fight criminals in a very confined location. It's this edgy, tightrope anxiety that makes Aground so entertaining.

By keeping your expectations geared towards the survival/invasion prose, this book should provide plenty of entertainment. The novel is available as an affordable e-book by Mysterious Press and you can purchase a copy HERE

Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Planet of the Apes #01 - Planet of the Apes

My childhood consisted of watching the Planet of the Apes movies, and the television show, on cable syndication repeatedly. My parents saw the original 1968 film at the drive-in and became big fans of the franchise. As I write this, I just finished watching War of the Planet Apes (2017) with them while on vacation and I’m headed into the theater shortly to see the newest film, Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes (2024).

As much as I love this series, my fandom has strictly been dedicated to the screen. I’ve never delved into the labyrinth of literary presence the franchise commands. I decided to try the original novel that launched this blockbuster franchise, Planet of the Apes, authored by Pierre Boulle and published in 1963.

The book was written in French with the title La Planete des singes, which translates to Planet of the Apes in English. The book was published in the UK as Monkey Planet. As one can imagine, the book differs from the movie. Surprisingly, the adage of “the book is better” doesn’t fit this scenario.

The book begins with Jinn and Phyllis, wealthy lovers, living in a far-flung future where space travel is available. Phyllis discovers a floating bottle containing a manuscript and the two begin reading it. From there, the narrative becomes an epistolary novel as the manuscript is presented in a first-person narration by the main character, French journalist Ulysse Merou.

In 2500, Ulysse is invited by a French scientist named Antelle and his protegee to join a long star trek through the galaxy to a place called Betelgeuse. The trip takes two years and because of the time difference, these years are the equivalent of centuries passing on Earth. As they get into the vicinity of Betelgeuse, they land their ship on a planet called Soror. The bulk of the story takes place here as the three explore the planet and become accustomed to its unique lifestyle.

The book and the film version are very similar in the first act. The three men are shocked to discover a naked human female running through the lush forest. They deem her “Nova” due to her golden sheen. Fast-forward a few pages and readers get the iconic scene where gorillas arrive on horseback and begin netting Nova and other naked human “savages” in what appears to be a wild-game hunt. Ulysse and the professor are captured and the protegee is killed. Unfortunately, the narrative’s only action is terminated as well.

The rest of the book is a slow-burn as Ulysse is placed in a laboratory and ran through a series of tests by a combination of apes, chimpanzees, and orangutans. On this planet, humans are like animals with no language skills and very little intelligence. The “monkeys” run the show and are in the place of humans in a weird reversal of evolution. Thankfully, Ulysse’s wherewithal puts him in a situation of impressing his superiors with excellent speech and physical prowess. The professor declines to a Neanderthal state after months of caged life. Ulysse also develops a romance with Nova, who is a fellow prisoner.

Like the film, a chimpanzee scientist named Zira takes an interest in Ulysse and is eventually able to free him. In the book’s finale, Ulysse, Nova and their young child escape the planet and return to Earth to discover…well I can’t ruin the surprise for you. In fact, the author has two surprises at the end, one of which I wasn’t aware of.

Circling back to my original statement, the movie is better than the book. I believe that is a popular opinion shared by many. To be fair, if I read the book with no knowledge of the films, then it is a satisfactory science-fiction novel that has a lot to say about the human condition and the decline of civilization. It’s a cautionary tale that has a mix of social commentary, a small dose of action, and an emphasis on character development (and refinement?). In that regard, the author’s vision is superb and his writing acceptable.

Living with the curse of seeing nine of the series’ high-budget films, the book left me a little winded. I still want to read more novels associated with the franchise, but keep in mind that the later novels aren’t written by this author and are all based on the film and television productions – similar to other big franchises like Star Wars, Alien, Star Trek, and Predator.

Get the book HERE

Friday, August 7, 2020

Betty Zane (aka The Last Ranger)

The books of Zane Grey (real name Pearl Zane Grey, 1872-1939) are considered to be a cornerstone of western fiction. His best-selling novel Riders of the Purple Sage (1912) may be the most popular western of all time, a genre-defining work that has been adapted to film five times. As a longtime fan of westerns, I often found Grey as being an antiquated voice with whom I couldn't connect. However, after many years of passing by his books on the shelves, I decided to try his very first novel, Betty Zane. It was originally published in 1903 and later reprinted for modern audiences in 1974 as The Last Ranger.

Betty Zane is the author's attempt to organize and recount his own family's history. Grey's great-grandfather, Colonel Ebenezer Zane, is memorialized in Wheeling, WV for his imperishable defense of Fort Henry on September 11, 1782. The novel, while not exactly a western tale, describes the rugged frontier life of early pioneers. Their labors, triumphs and intestinal fortitude is described in the days leading up to that violent, awe-inspiring event in American history. The novel is a fantastic historical presentation that can be enjoyed as a stand-alone title, but the characters continue in Grey's sequels, The Spirit of the Border (1906) and The Last Trail (1909). These books make up what is often referred to as Grey's Frontier Trilogy or Ohio River Valley Trilogy.

Despite it's original title of Betty Zane, the novel features an assortment of characters who reside at Fort Henry, a border settlement on the eastern side of the Ohio River. On the western side lies numerous Native American tribes and their French allies. Ebenezer Zane has four brothers residing at the fort with him, Silas, Andrew, Jonathan and Isaac, as well as one sister, Betty. The book also introduces the McColloch and Wetzel family as well as a love interest for Betty in Alfred Clarke. All of these characters form the fabric of this settler’s tale. The reader bears witness to them defending the fort, attacking nearby tribes or - in Isaac's case - escaping from the Wyandot tribe.

Perhaps my favorite character in this book, and probably the entire trilogy, is Lew Wetzel. In the introduction to Spirit of the Border, the author candidly describes the character:

“He was never a pioneer but always a hunter after Indians. When not on the track of the savage foe, he was in the settlement with his keen eye and ear always alert for signs of the enemy.”

The author's astute perception of Wetzel as a hunter is important. While the real-life characters that make up Betty Zane are resilient, Wetzel is a different breed. In any violent vigilante or Syndicate-themed novel of the 60s, 70s or 80s, one would be hard pressed to find a more barbaric, ruthless aggressor than Lew Wetzel. His hardened soul binds his fate as a man who knows no other way. He repeatedly turns away Betty's advances and explains that he only exists as a forest predator, never to be domesticated or ruled. The characterization is emphasized in the book's closing pages as Wetzel rips off his hunting shirt and cleaves his enemy to death with an axe. To quote Grey, “...he had forgotten that he was defending the Fort with its women and its children. He was fighting because he loved to kill.”

Zane Grey was learning to write a novel and was probably frustrated that Betty Zane wasn't a smooth telling. Despite its fragmented delivery, the novel is loaded with action and busy frontier life. From Betty's adventures in helping in the fort's defense to Isaac's capture and imprisonment, the narrative comes to life extremely well and makes for an easy, pleasant reading experience once readers adjust to Grey's writing style. In pairing the plot with the history of the country, the tumultuous territory and the hardened people that lived there, Grey's novel is a true testament to both the early settlers and the Native Americans. Both parties were desperately grasping for independence in a rugged, unsettled frontier and that sentiment is echoed masterfully by Grey's novel. Betty Zane is an absolute classic.

Buy a copy of this book HERE