Scream Queen

A few weeks ago, Evo's family introduced me to a wonderful card game called Grave Robbers from Outer Space. The idea behind the game is to recreate a cheesy, low-budget horror film, collecting points for yourself in the process, while attacking your opponents' films, reducing their points.

The cards you use bring out all of the bad horror movie clich? Let's split up; Boobies, boobies, boobies; brainy/nerdy high school chicks, etc.

There were two great things about playing the game that night. First of all, the game is just fun as hell. But even better than that, I made Evo's thirteen year old son cry like a little girl. I'm serious, CRY, with sniffling and lip-quivering and everything.

So, why am I writing about a card game I played weeks back when I should be informing you about the latest novel sitting on top of my all-to-high reading stack?

Well, other than to relive my crushing the spirit of a high school freshman, I discovered something that night.

When you use cheesy horror tropes to make a card game that spoofs horror stories, you get a fun and exciting game, when you use cheesy horror tropes to make a paperback novel that seriously attempts to be scary, you get a shitty paperback novel, like Scream Queen.

The Gist: Jody Watts wants to be a star. What young California girl doesn't? So she auditions for a new reality show in which she and several other housemates are locked up in a ?haunted house? on Halloween night. The house is rigged with all kinds of booby traps and special effects designed to scare the daylights out of the contestants. The last contestant to stay in the house by morning, wins.

Too bad for Jody and the other housemates? THE HOUSE Is REALLY HAUNTED!!! Oh, No!!!

By the end of the night, everybody dies! Oh, wait! There's Jody, she made it! Oh, no, wait, she dies, too! Damn, I thought she was going to make it! Damn!

There, I gave away the ending. Live with it. It's not like you're going to buy the damn thing anyway.

Hand to god, someone wrote this as a novel. I can only imagine that the author was hoping that a desperate movie producer would read the script, and purchase the movie rights, cause I can't figure any other reason for this book to be written.

Cards from Grave Robbers from Outer Space used in the film include:

The Haunted House
Boobies, Boobies, Boobies
Let's Split Up
The Brainy/Nerdy Girl
The Slutty Girl
I'll be right back
If only we can make it to dawn

(Ok, only some of these are real cards, some I'm making up, but you get the idea.)

I've tried to create a reputation in my reviews as tough but fair. I try not to simply say something ?sucks? or ?it's great.? I try to go deeper than that. I figure it's only fair to the authors. But in this case, there is no deeper. This book just sucks.

I think the appeal to these lame horror flicks is in part because when people watch them, they are playing Grave Robbers from Outer Space. They are smiling at the poor acting. They are laughing at the ketchup as blood. And high school boobies are always fun. Written up as a novel, these same elements that come off as cheesy and fun in a movie simply come off as unimaginative hackery.

Rating: 1 out of 5

Scream Queen by Edo Van Belkom
Published by: Pinnacle Books; April 1, 2003
ISBN: 0786015624
Genre: Horror
Author's Webpage:

Buy Grave Robbers From Outer Space online. Trust me, it's money well spent.   [Read more...]

Review: "Thomas the Rhymer" by Ellen Kushner

It is happening everywhere. Perfectly good movies and TV shows are being remade by Hollywood left and right. Stepford Wives, Starsky and Hutch, Around the World in Eighty Days, the Time Machine, Vanilla Sky, the Ring. Etc, etc. ad nauseum. I hear that Evil Dead is going to be remade. I weep.

Apparently, the big screen is not the only medium in which remakes are popular. There are many authors that have written successful versions of children's stories and fairy tales. Gail Carson Levine wrote the popular children's novel Ella Enchanted, a marvelous reinvention of Cinderella. Anne Rice wrote the popular oh-so-not-for-children's novel The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty. Ellen Kushner brings us Thomas the Rhymer, winner of the World Fantasy Award.

The blessed difference between these novels and the flicker-shows is that the books are actually pretty damn good.

The Gist: The book is based on the ballad of Thomas the Rhymer, a traveling minstrel who is loved by the men of royalty for his music and song and by the women of royalty for his other talents.

Getting caught outside during particularly bleak weather, Thomas is taken in and befriended by a peasant couple, and falls madly in love with Elspeth.

One day, the Queen of Elfland comes upon our fair Thomas, who suddenly says, ?Elsie who?? and rides off to stay with the queen in her enchanted land for seven years, during which he is not allowed to speak.

Seven years later, after no speaking, some heroics, and a fair amount of sex, Thomas is sent back to earth with the gift of the tongue which cannot lie. The gift inflicts poor Thomas with the gift of foresight and the source material for Jim Carey movies.

Thomas and Elspeth marry and live happily ever after. That is, after Elspeth calms down a bit ?cuz the lout ditched her for seven years.

The Good: If you like romance, you'll like this book. If you like romance mixed with magical surroundings, you'll love this book. If romance is your thing, buy this book. The characters are sympathetic, the prose is poetic, even beautiful. You will not be wasting your time.

The Bad: If you want an engaging story, you won't like this book. I have a feeling women will enjoy this book much more than men. It's a romance, a mild one by romance-novel standards, but a very feel-good, magic in the air, a song in the heart kind of romance. And while the book is exquisitely written, left me flat most of the time, since that just isn't my thing.

Rating: 3 out of 5

Thomas the Rhymer by Ellen Kushner
Published by: Spectra; June 1, 2004
ISBN: 0553586971
Genre: Romantic Fantasy
Author's Webpage:
  [Read more...]

Thomas the Rhymer

Thomas the Rhymer, by Ellen Kushner

Do a brother a solid!

Hi, my name is Joe, and I'm a book reviewer. (Hi, Joe!)

Got some exciting news for y'all.

Don't know if it's been mentioned yet or not, but I'm moving down to Arizona! You didn't know I live in Illinois? The things you learn, eh? Ever since I came down to Westercon to visit Mike and Evo, I've fallen in love with Phoenix!

So I'm moving to Kingman.

Well, here's the thing. I'm moving to a great job with fantastic pay. Unfortunately, I'm leaving a bleh job with very poor pay.

I'm poor. Broke. I owe a church mouse $2.37.

So I'm going on a Dragon Page listener scavenger hunt. Got some items with a few years left in 'em that you no longer want? I'll take it. As long as it's not infested with bugs or stained by any, ANY bodily fluid, I need it.

Here's what I'm looking for:

Absolutely gotta have: Queen sized mattress and bedsprings

Really, really could use: computer desk, entertainment center for tv/stereo, love seat or couch, lounge chair.

Something I need but don't really expect to get but I thought I'd throw it out to the universe and see what happens: A car. Anything that's reliable, that'll hold a BIG fella, pass inspection, and that I can get free/for a steal (ie. under a grand).

If you can help me out at all, email me at   [Read more...]

Review: The Crazy Years

I can tell you this: Spider is funny, and he's smart, and you can't go wrong with a combination like that. Warren James, host of Mike Hodel's Hour 25, says that science fiction allows us to see the world through another set of eyes. Take a chance and take a look at world through the eyes of the Spider.

Rating: 4 out of 5   [Read more...]

The Crazy Years

The Crazy Years by Spider Robinson

The Coven's Initiates

The Coven's Initiates by Wesley Lowe

Review: "The Tattooed Wolf"

If you like short, satisfying reads between your Harry Potter or A Song of Ice and Fire, ten pound seat-raisers, then buy the tree-killer or planet-friendly version of this book.   [Read more...]

The Evil Overlord List

The Top 100 Things I'd Do If I Ever Became An Evil Overlord by Peter Anspach, is a must read for anyone who wants to take over the world, white mouse or not.   [Read more...]

Billibub Baddings

Do you hear that sound? That is the sound of a thousand Sacred Cows of Fantasy being tipped in the night.

Let me share a piece of wisdom I've picked up being the reviewer for the Dragon Page. You simply cannot go wrong reading anything Tee Morris writes. You won't find a better blend of action, humor, suspense, and romance anywhere else.   [Read more...]

Review: "Ella Enchanted" - The Movie

Have you read the Ella Enchanted book review yet? If not, you can check it out here.

Some movies I find quite easy to review. Star Wars Episode IV, A New Hope is a great movie. Star Wars Episode I, The Phantom Menace, not so much.

There is one type of movie that I believe defies reviews, and that is the goofy comedy. I honestly believe that these are movies that you either like or don't, and to hell with logic.   [Read more...]

Review: "Ella Enchanted" - The Book

The DVD for Ella Enchanted has just come out recently, so I decided to go for a 2-4-1 deal. With my book review, you also get a brand new, one of a kind movie review at no extra charge! (Only at participating stores. Check local store for details. Offer does not include state and local taxes. Void where prohibited.)   [Read more...]

The Two Princesses of Bamarre

The Two Princesses of Bamarre, by Gail Carson Levine. I don't often get to recommend children's books. Written by the author of the Newberry Honor-winning Ella Enchanted, a coward finds her courage when her sister needs her most.

Twisted Rhymes

Of all the forms of speculative fiction (i.e. science fiction, hard science fiction, space opera, space western, fantasy, dark fantasy, horror, time travel, magical realism, fairy tales, mythology, Authurian legend, chick fantasy, romantic horror, action/adventure fantasy, etc.), horror is easily my least favorite genre. I know all the monsters and demons are supposed to be evil incarnate, but I always find myself wondering why they have to be so mean, you know?

Also, I'm not a big poetry fan. I mean, shall I compare thee to a summer's day? Um... you're hot and sweaty and full of mosquitoes. Whose woods these are I don't think I know. I've seen lots of things more lovely than a tree. Stop with all the pretty words, just gimme the story.

So what do I get in the mail to review for the Dragon Page this week? I get a CD of horror poetry to review for chrissakes! Horror poetry!! And if you've ever read one of my reviews before then you knew by the second sentence that I'm going to give this CD a big thumbs up.

Twisted Rhymes, by Bob Harper, is a collection of ten horror stories told in rhyme. Each piece is performed to sound effects and music designed to compliment the narration.

I think one of the reasons I like these stories is that they are not so much scary or hateful as they are creepy. Mr. Harper is a good story teller, using rhythm and repetition to build the tension. Some of the stories, like Royal Blood, & And Nothing More, are more than a little influenced by Poe. They're mood pieces. Almost like appetizers for bigger and better things to come.

While the background sounds are used to great effect, I did wonder whether some of the stories wouldn't have been even more eerie if the background effects were removed, and all you heard was the narrator's voice. I imagined what it would be like to use the poems as a basis for a Halloween game in which the pieces are recited by individuals or groups trying to come up with the scariest performances. Dim the lights, ignite the candles, and tell the rhyming ghost stories.

Some of the stories were certainly better than others, but isn't that always the case? From the first few lines of track one, to the end of track ten, I wore a smile that never left my face. Can't ask for more than that.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Twisted Rhymes by Bob Harper
Published by: BHP Productions
Genre: Horror
Author's Webpage:
  [Read more...]

Review: "Bride of the Fat White Vampire" by Andrew Fox

God, I love the sci-fi-fantasy-horror-magicrealism-pagan-mystic genres, cause every once in a while you come across a book like Bride of the Fat White Vampire, by Andrew Fox. Funny, clever, and highly entertaining.   [Read more...]

Review: I, Robot

First of all, just to get it out of the way, I haven't read the stories. As a card carrying geek, I hang my head in shame.

I have every belief that if I had indeed read Asimov's work, I'd spill hatred and bile into the review, wondering how anyone could make such crap from such wonderful source material.

But, since I haven't, I must judge the movie on it's own merits. Based on that restriction, I think the movie is a cookie cutter action flick... that I enjoyed watching a lot.   [Read more...]