Dime Store Reads: Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?

“The electric things have their life too.”

First published in the late 1960’s, Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? is an odd book that plays straight for the most part but wanders into disjointed realms (on purpose) at times. I picked this book up for three bucks at a local Dollar General store. Having heard about the book for years and both of the films that were inspired by it (Blade Runner (1982) and 2017’s Blade Runner 2049), I decided to see what all the fuss was about.

I’ve never seen either of the films that this book is based upon nor have I read the book until just recently. I have to admit that I really enjoyed the book, especially its dystopian setting and the bleakness of the entire read. The story focuses on a bounty hunter named Rick Deckard who is tasked with eliminating six android adversaries. The six androids are new Nexus-6 models that are almost impossible to distinguish from humans. The androids murdered their owners on Mars and escaped to Earth in the hopes of blending into society. As the story goes along, Deckard encounters an android that makes him question his motives for “retiring” the murderous models, teams up with a fellow bounty hunter that may or may not be an android himself, and goes on the hunt for a live animal for his wife, Iran.

Without giving too much away, I was very intrigued by the story involving Resch, the bounty hunter that begins to doubt his own humanity as a result of a massive fabrication made by the androids. When Deckard begins working with him, it gave me a lot of insight into Deckard’s true feelings. I also enjoyed the androids, particularly Pris Stratton and Luba Luft. Luft proves to be quite prepared to keep herself alive and she does a fine job of holding off Deckard for the most part. Pris uses a “chickenhead” named John Isidore to hide herself and two other androids. Isidore is called a chickenhead because that term is used to describe humans who have slowed mental capabilities or other deficiencies due to the effects of radiation following World War Terminus.

The story reveals how humans are losing their own humanity, resorting to following a religion known as Mercerism, which uses virtual reality to trigger empathy within people. It involves an old guy getting hammered by rocks and eventually leads to Deckard and Isidore both experiencing virtual reality bizarreness, but you’ll have to read the book to catch what’s happening and define it for yourself. Humans also use Penfield Mood Boxes to literally dial up an emotional state, encouragement, denial, and more. Again, this shows how humans are losing their humanity and, in reality, the androids are probably more human than….humans.

This book makes you think and I quite enjoyed reading it. Deckard isn’t necessarily the nicest of guys and I actually preferred the android moments more than his own. I recommend checking this book out. It’s definitely worth a read. It’s also convinced me to watch both of the Blade Runner flicks. When I do get a chance to see them, I’ll be sure to blog about them here.

Thanks for checking out my post. I’m currently reading a book about fan fiction therapy and…..it’s a task. I’ll be sure to let all of you know how good or bad it is very soon!

DC Comics Cover Art: 350 Of The Greatest Covers In DC’s History

Before You Get To The Story…..

Without a great cover to draw you in, books will simply sit on shelves unread. If the cover works, however, great stories can be discovered and shared with others. This book, DC Cover Art: 350 Of The Greatest Covers In DC’s History, celebrates the nearly one hundred years of DC Comics covers that have drawn in readers of all ages to enjoy the adventures of a mighty stable of interesting characters. The holy trinity is obviously well represented, as works featuring Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman are well represented. It’s the other covers, those of the less popular characters that aren’t as well known by the general public, that really shine in this book.

We get to look at iconic covers featuring Swamp Thing, The Phantom Stranger, Sandman, Johnny Thunder, and other wonderful characters. Each cover is given a brief description, sometimes focusing on the artist, sometimes the character, or another tidbit of historical information. Nick Jones, who compiled this collection of covers, does a wonderful job of giving readers just enough information to drive them to learn more about each artist, cover, and character. In fact, Jones does a great job of making me want to hit the local comic book shop to find a few of these covers.

Booster Gold #32 (2010) by Kevin Maguire.

The eighty-plus years of DC Comics are broken down into five ages: Golden, Silver, Bronze, Steel, and Modern. Within each age there is a focus on certain artists who are given short biographies. Some of the many talented artists included in the book are Alex Ross, George Perez, Amanda Conner, Joe Shuster, Jenny Frison, Neal Adams, and Creig Flessel. I’m a massive fan of many of these artists, especially Perez and Ross, and love looking at their brilliant covers.

The iconic The New Teen Titans #1 cover by George Perez, one of my favorite artists.

Ultimately this is a coffee table styled book that one can leaf through at their leisure. It contains an amazing amount of historical information about DC Comics and the artists that brought so many of their characters to life, but it works just as well as a picture book. I’m amazed at the varied styles that each artist brings to the covers of DC Comics. It’s also fun to compare the different styles of the artists, especially from the Golden Age and the Modern Age.

Lois Lane #1 (2019 variant cover) by Jenny Frison.

Fans of DC Comics will definitely appreciate this collection, but those that appreciate art in general will love it as well. There’s a cover for everyone in this book (actually, quite a few covers), and I can’t wait to see which covers from future DC Comics will be added to this collection in the coming decades.

I hope that you’ve enjoyed this review. Thank you for taking the time to check it out. Let me know in the comments if you have a favorite artist or cover. This book covers a number of brilliant artists, too many to list here, but it’s definitely worth checking out if you get the chance!

Note: This review is an enhanced and expanded review that I originally posted on Amazon. I’ve added a few more sentences and paragraphs and photos as well.

Dime Store Reads: The Predator: Hunters and Hunted

The Reapers Take Aim At A Yautja

At the end of 2020, I offered up my first Dime Store Reads post. It was a brief review of the novelization of the film The Predator from 2018. I enjoyed the book well enough so I decided to head back to the same Dollar General that I purchased the novel at to pick up its prequel, The Predator: Hunters and Hunted. Written by James A. Moore, Hunters proved to be even more enjoyable than the film and book that it sets up.

In the story, an elite group of soldiers called the Reapers have been training for years in preparation for engaging and capturing a Yautja (Predator). Trained by Pappy Elliot, the only survivor of an attack in Vietnam, the group finds themselves outsourced to other departments to dispatch drug rings and other ne’er do wells. The group is lethal and chomping at the bit for a real challenge. Unfortunately, funding is on the verge of being cut for the team and Project Stargazer, a research project that hopes to study one of the Yautjas in order to reverse engineer its technology for the benefit of the U.S. government.

With two members of Project Stargazer in Washington, D.C. pleading their case, the Reapers finally get to engage a Predator on the Florida/Georgia border in the Okefenokee Swamp and the surrounding areas. They quickly find themselves in a battle for their lives while attempting to capture the alien visitor. After successfully trapping the Yautja and suffering major casualties, the group bring the hunter back to Project Stargazer’s base of operations. The monster manages to escape and the thinned out group has to battle it once more. With the loss of their comrades in mind, the Reapers plan to kill the Yautja in their second confrontation. Who wins? Read the book for yourself and find out!

Moore does an excellent job of alternating the story between the perspectives of the Reapers, the Predator, and other characters in the story. The Reapers feature some very interesting characters that are all given a decent amount of development. My favorite Reaper was a character named Hyde who, based on a quick search on other reviews of this book, proved to be one of the most popular characters in the story overall. Two characters featured in the film that follows the book, Traeger and Keyes, make an appearance, with Traeger getting some heavy development in the novel.

Parts of the story remind me of the first two Predator films, especially the second one starring Danny Glover and Gary Busey. There are brief callbacks to both of these films but this novel does well to stand on its own. Moore is no stranger to writing stories based upon established film and television series. He’s written novels that are parts of the Alien and Buffy The Vampire Slayer universes and is also a successful novelist of original series as well (Seven Forges novels, Bloodstained series, etc.). In this novel specifically, he does a great job of setting up and executing battle scenes. A favorite of mine is the Predator’s encounter with an alligator.

I really enjoyed this book and would love to see some of the surviving characters return in other novels or even in future films in the Predator series. As stated before, I picked this book up at Dollar General. It cost me three bucks and was more than worth it. I definitely recommend this novel.

Thanks for checking out this post. Let me know in the comments if you’ve read this novel or any other Predator books. Feel free to tell me what you liked, disliked, or absolutely hated about any of the books.

Dime Store Reads: Pacific Rim Uprising Official Film Novelization

Getting “Pentecost”-al!

My latest discovery on the Dollar General book rack happened to be the novelization of a film that I enjoyed for the most part. Pacific Rim Uprising was a decent film but it lacked the style and overall “coolness” of its predecessor. The printed version of the story was a fun read, but the battles between the Jaegers and Kaiju lost something on the page. Whether that was due to Alex Irvine’s writing style or my inability to visualize the battles in my head, I’m not sure.

Irvine is no stranger to writing film novelizations. He wrote the novelization for the first Pacific Rim film as well as others including Independence Day: Resurgence and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, so I’m not sure why his descriptions of the battles in Uprising came across as flat. In his defense, the battles in the film were a tad flat as well, so it might just be that the source material needed more dressing up than Irvine could provide.

The book’s plot is relatively simple: It has been ten years since the Battle of the Breach. The Jaeger program, deemed to be too expensive to maintain any longer, is about to be replaced by drones designed and manufactured by the Shao Corporation. When a rogue Jaeger attacks members of the Pan-Pacific Defense Corps while assessing the new drones, Jake Pentecost, son of PPDC hero Stacker Pentecost, and a young woman named Amara Namani are thrown into an entirely new war with the Kaiju. They join up with an old friend who feels slighted by Jake and a team of young recruits to battle new Kaiju designed by the Precursors and a surprise ally. The story is fast, full of action, and pretty entertaining for the most part.

I picked up this book for three dollars. It’s definitely worth that much. I recommend giving it a shot. I also recommend checking out the film that it is based upon. It’s not as good as the first film, but it’s still a fun ride.

Thanks for reading my post. I’m already reading another Dime Store Read and can’t wait to tell you about it!

Dime Store Reads: The Predator: The Official Movie Novelization

In reverse…..

Welcome to the first entry in a new category that I’m testing out: Dime Store Reads. In this category I will be reviewing books that I purchase at stores such as Dollar General, Family Dollar, Dollar Tree, Ollie’s, and other bargain outlets. None of the books that I review will cost more than five bucks unless they come in an omnibus edition. For each book I’ll give a brief review, the price that I paid, and the store in which I purchased the book.

The first book that I decided to review is actually a movie novelization of 2018’s The Predator. I saw the book on the bargain rack at Dollar General one day and after two trips to the store, I decided to nab it. For three bucks, I didn’t really care if it was a good book or not, I just needed something to fill the fifteen minute increments that I get for breaks during the work day. In that regard, the book did its job.

I haven’t actually seen the film that this book is based upon, but I am very familiar with the franchise. I saw the original Predator film way back in 1987 and its 1990 sequel as well as Predators (2010) and both of the Alien Vs. Predator films. This book’s tale doesn’t stray too far from all of the previous films’ formulas of a collection of heroes squaring off against a superior alien hunter or hunters.

In the story, U.S. Army Ranger Quinn McKenna has a run-in with a Predator in the jungle. He manages to acquire the creature’s helmet and forearm band and ships them both to his home. He believes that the government will cover up any and all information that he reveals and wants physical proof just in case the U.S. attempts to discredit him. Soon enough he ends up incarcerated and on his way to what he believes is a military prison. The Predator that McKenna encountered is being held at the military facility and just as McKenna and his newfound friends, a ragtag bunch of military mental patients, arrive, the creature breaks out. It goes on the hunt to get its stolen gear back, heading straight for McKenna’s autistic son.

An evolutionary biologist joins up with McKenna and his pals as they attempt to prevent the Predator from harming McKenna’s son. A second, larger Predator enters the fray, intent on recovering the lost mask and arm band and to eliminate the first Predator. Government agents, Predator pooches, and tons of action follows as McKenna and company battle two Predators.

The book is pretty good. It is very fast-paced and reads just like a pulp novel. McKenna’s buddies are all given brief backgrounds that provide just enough information for the reader to like them and, as is the case in any Predator movie or book, they get killed off with one heroic act after another. The book actually makes me want to see the film, but I have a feeling that the novel is actually a bit better than the movie. I’ll probably see the movie soon, and I’ll be sure to review it. The book was written by Christopher Golden and Mark Morris and based upon the screenplay by Shane Black and Fred Dekker. If you like sci-fi action, this book is for you.

I paid three dollars for this book at a local Dollar General. It was definitely worth the price.

Thanks for checking out my quick review. If you’ve read this book or watched the film that it is based upon, let me know if you enjoyed either of them. I’m thinking about reviewing all of the films in the Predator franchise. If you’d like my opinion of them, let me know in the comments!

Hollywood Gothic by David J. Skal

Pages dripping with blood-soaked tales….

I’ve been meaning to read Hollywood Gothic by David J. Skal for weeks now, but between two hurricanes and an ongoing onslaught of overtime at work thanks to said hurricanes, I’ve only recently completed the book. It’s an informative read with plenty of humor laced throughout. Skal does a great job of giving readers, from hardcore vampire fans to casual cinema goers, a plethora of facts, figures, legal fights, and other twisted tales as Bram Stoker’s beloved book takes its journey from the page to the stage and eventually to the silver screen.

The first half of the book covers Stoker’s creation of the novel and then its arrival on the stage and all of the issues that come along with such things. Skal talks of Stoker’s struggles with publishers, contemporaries such as Oscar Wilde, and other colorful characters. He also goes into a great deal of detail on the many difficulties that writers faced while attempting to transition the book to the stage.

Bram Stoker.

The second half of the book is roughly split into two sections: One covers the production and release of Universal’s 1931 classic film (and its Spanish language counterpart) and the other rushes through later cinematic and theater productions of the story and/or variations of it. Much attention is given to Bela Lugosi, as is expected, but Skal also talks about Carlos Villarias (the Spanish language version of Count Dracula) and the contrasting directing styles of Tod Browning and George Melford (with a few nudges from Paul Kohner). From there, Skal rushes somewhat through later versions of the film including the Hammer Horror productions starring Christopher Lee, Francis Ford Coppola’s over-the-top film starring Gary Oldman, and eventually ends with films and plays produced in the early 2000’s.

Skal also includes some great photographs from the history of Dracula and all of the films and plays that it spawned. Many of the photos come directly from Skal’s own collection. Also included are images of posters and advertisements. Skal also includes two appendices. One covers the release of films and the other covers a number of the plays that have been released over the years that are either adaptations of Stoker’s story or a variation of it.

Skal’s book is an informative and entertaining read. You’ll gain a new appreciation for people such as Florence Stoker, Horace Loveright, and Carl and Junior Laemmle. You’ll also learn of the fallout after the release of Dracula and the way that it destroyed some careers and lifted others. My only complaint is that the last quarter of the book feels rushed. It has been revised and hopefully Skal will add more to later editions of the book. Until then, consider Hollywood Gothic to be the best source for all things Dracula.

Thanks for reading my review. I’ll be posting more later this week.

Bookish About Boggy Creek

Fouke, Arkansas

When I was nine years old, my family went to the movies to see a film entitled Boggy Creek 2: And The Legend Continues… which was actually the third film in the Legend of Boggy Creek series. There aren’t many people that consider this particular film to be great, but for young me, it was golden. I became determined to find Bigfoot and since this particular version of the beast lived just a few hours north of me, it became the focal point of my mission.

Well, I’m north of forty years now and while I never became the great Sasquatch hunter of my dreams, I still love the beast in all of its incarnations. The Fouke Monster is my favorite simply because it’s (possibly) the closest version of the creature in my vicinity.

I became familiar with Lyle Blackburn‘s work a few years ago when I started seeing him pop up in documentaries and as a guest at different conventions. While I have yet to meet him (primarily because I’ve always been unable to attend any conventions that he has appeared at), I’ve become a fan of his work. This book, The Beast of Boggy Creek: The True Story of the Fouke Monster, is an excellent resource for those interested in the Fouke Monster.

Blackburn’s style of writing is extremely personable. At times it’s as if he’s simply having a conversation with the reader. He takes a look at the history of the creature and its supposed appearances prior to the Bigfoot craze of the 1970’s and continues through with sightings up to the publication of his book.

He also gives the reader a look at the history of the community of Fouke and the surrounding areas. He then weaves the history of sightings and interactions with the beast over the years into that history.

A large portion of the book deals with the Charles B. Pierce film that brought the world to Fouke’s doorstep, The Legend of Boggy Creek. Blackburn describes the process of Pierce as he created the film, how it affected the community and many of its citizens that starred in the movie, and how it influenced other movies that came after it.

Blackburn also spends a lot of time giving an in depth look at selected sightings of the beast. From the credibility of the witnesses to evidence uncovered, Blackburn reveals the good and bad of possible legitimate interactions with the creature and some potential hoaxes.

Blackburn takes us through Fouke today and how the beast still influences it. From Smokey Crabtree’s books to the Monster Mart (which I’ve visited and you should, too), we get a glimpse of just how much of a unique hold this creature has on this otherwise sleepy rural town in southwest Arkansas.

The book also contains a timeline of events as they happened in “The Legend of Boggy Creek” and Blackburn lets the reader know just how much artistic liberty Pierce took with some of them. He also provides an excellent timeline of sightings of the beast over the years.

This book was fun and informative. It’s especially interesting if you, like me, grew up with the old films and lived either in the Fouke area or nearby in Texas or Louisiana.

I plan on reading more of Lyle Blackburn’s work, and be sure to check out his band, Ghoultown, as well.

As always, thanks for reading. If you are interested in Bigfoot or any other cryptids, let me know in the comments section. Also, I’m always eager to hear stories about such creatures, so if you know any good tales or had an encounter yourself, comment below or send me a private message.

This post is a modified version of a review that I recently posted on Amazon.

Rising From The Murky Depths

A life in the Black Lagoon

The following is my review of The Lady From The Black Lagoon: Hollywood Monsters and the Lost Legacy of Milicent Patrick, originally posted on Amazon. I’ve added a few photos to this post that are not a part of the original review as well as a brief side note at the end of the review.

I’ve been a fan of Universal’s classic monsters for a few decades. I started watching them as a child on Saturday afternoons and as I grew older I began to collect the films. The Creature From The Black Lagoon and its sequels were some of the last films of that era that I got to watch. I was mesmerized by the Creature, especially by the way his gills would expand while he was out of the water. It was an amazing thing to see, especially considering the fact that it was 1954. I knew nothing of the Creature’s designer other than the fact that Bud Westmore was given credit for it.

Milicent Patrick working on Creech. Photo taken from an NPR article.

It was only a few months ago that I learned of Milicent Patrick through a meme that one of my fellow monster friends posted. It credited her with being the designer of Creech. This caught my attention and I sought out more information on her. That’s when I stumbled upon Mallory O’Meara’s wonderful book, The Lady From The Black Lagoon: Hollywood Monsters and the Lost Legacy of Milicent Patrick.

O’Meara’s book is actually three stories at once. The primary story is of Patrick’s life and career. The two secondary stories are of O’Meara’s trials and tribulations while researching Mil and of the struggle of women in the male-dominated arena of film and television.

Julia Adams being terrorized by the Creature! Photo taken from ocweekly.com

All three stories are quite amazing. O’Meara brings Milicent Patrick to life on the page. We learn about her upbringing that was both amazing and heartbreaking at times thanks primarily to her father, Camille Rossi, as he pursued a career in architecture. We also learn that Milicent became one of (if not the first) woman hired by Walt Disney to work at his studios in the Ink and Paint Department. Reading this particular part of the book was fun for me, as I’ve read a few biographies about Walt Disney that mention his all-female Ink and Paint Department. None of them, however, named Mil specifically as being part of that department.

O’Meara then takes us along for the ride as we explore Patrick’s time as an actress and artist. We learn about some of her strongest friends, greatest enemy, and the many loves won and lost over her life. O’Meara does an excellent job of presenting Mil’s life to the reader, all of the glamorous and not so wonderful parts of it.

Obviously a lot of attention is given to Patrick’s design work on The Creature From The Black Lagoon and how she received zero credit for all of her work thanks to Bud Westmore and the lack of action from others. You’ll have to read the book to find out how that particular tale goes down.

O’Meara also gives us an in depth look at how difficult it was to find information on Patrick. Just the fact that Mil went by quite a few names over her lifetime made it hard to track her moves through Hollywood. O’Meara also turned me on to a few other books and people that she utilized to piece together Mil’s life and career. I’m particularly interested in the work of the Mormon Church. Again, you’ll need to read the book to see what that is all about.

Finally, the battle for equality that has been a part of film and television since its inception is addressed. As more and more information is brought to light, men are becoming more aware of just how oppressed women are in the film industry. O’Meara handles this topic with fire. She handles it well. In all honesty I would like to see O’Meara write a book specifically about this subject. I’m sure that it would be a great read.

Author Mallory O’Meara. Photo taken by Allan Amato.

All three stories in this book appear to be written with love, anger, humor, and intelligence by O’Meara. Her footnotes offer solid information and a few laughs. She gives a solid example of Milicent Patrick’s world, the good and the bad of it, while keeping the story engaging.

Milicent Patrick’s work and contributions to cinema are slowly rising from the murky depths. I see even more women being brought to the top of the lagoon in the future and I believe that O’Meara’s book will be heralded as the beginning of a new age for women in Hollywood.

Highly recommended.

Additional side note: One of the things that makes The Creature From The Black Lagoon so wonderful is that up until February of this year, both Julia Adams (Kay Lawrence) and Ricou Browning (the Creature in underwater scenes) were still alive. It’s one of those rare occasions where people that were a part of a classic film are still alive. Sadly, Julia Adams passed away in February of this year. As far as I know I was one of the last people to get an autographed photo from her, as she passed away just days after I sent in a request for a photo. Ricou Browning is still alive as of this writing. I still need to acquire his autograph.

As always, thanks for reading.