Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The Works of Jack L. Chalker (Classic Book Series)

     One of the grossly overlooked Science Fiction writers of the 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s was Jack L. Chalker. Jack died in 2005 after a two-year illness. He was 60 years old and I can’t help feeling that his work was cut much too short. Chalker was a creative genius and there was/is no better writer of the physical transformation of characters. I have been a long-time fan and would like to take a moment to rate the works of his that I’ve read. What I really like about Jack’s body of work is that in most of his stories he had a long-term vision. Not a single 300 page narrative but a massive, expansive three or four or five book story always rich in character, full of creative world-building, and constructed along unique and never-before imagined story-lines. His novels are always entertaining and highly creative (even on the second and third reads) and you’ll see by my ratings below (not a single one of his books rates lower than four stars) how highly I value his work.

    If you’re in the mood for some wonderful Science Fiction stories of transformation and have somehow disregarded this author I suggest you search out any of the novels listed below. It wouldn’t surprise me to find many of his books out of print these days but it would be worth the effort to visit your favorite used book store to find them. They’ll be worth the quest. I promise. Jack Chalker is, hands down, the best author who never won a Hugo or Nebula award (but deserved to.)

The Saga of the Well World series


1. Midnight at the Well of Souls, Del Rey, 1977  5 stars (one of my all-time favorites)

2. Exiles at the Well of Souls, Del Rey, 1978  5 stars

3. Quest for the Well of Souls, Del Rey, 1978  5 stars

4. The Return of Nathan Brazil, Del Rey, 1980  4 ½ stars

5. Twilight at the Well of Souls, Del Rey, 1980  4 ½ stars

6. The Sea is Full of Stars, December, 1999  4 ½ stars

7. Ghost of the Well of Souls, 2000  4 ½ stars


The Watchers at the Well series


1. Echoes of the Well of Souls, Del Rey, trade paperback, May, 1993  4 ½ stars

2. Shadow of the Well of Souls, Del Rey Feb. 1994  4 ½ stars

3. Gods of the Well of Souls, Del Rey, 1994  4 ½ stars


The Four Lords of the Diamond series


1. Lilith: A Snake in the Grass, Del Rey, 1981  4 1/2 stars

2. Cerberus: A Wolf in the Fold, Del Rey, 1982  4 stars

3. Charon: A Dragon at the Gate, Del Rey, 1982  4 stars

4. Medusa: A Tiger by the Tail, Del Rey, 1983  4 stars

The Four Lords of the Diamond, The Science Fiction Book Club (omnibus edition), 1983 4 Stars

The Dancing Gods series


1. The River of Dancing Gods, Del Rey, 1984  4 stars

2. Demons of the Dancing Gods, Del Rey, 1984  4 stars

3. Vengeance of the Dancing Gods, Del Rey, July, 1985  4 stars

4. Songs of the Dancing Gods, Del Rey, August, 1990  4 stars

5. Horrors of the Dancing Gods, 1994  4 stars

The Dancing Gods: Part One, Del Rey, November, 1995

The Dancing Gods II, Del Rey, September, 1996


The Soul Rider series


1. Spirits of Flux and Anchor, Tor Books, 1984  4 1/2 stars

2. Empires of Flux and Anchor, Tor Books, 1984  4 stars

3. Masters of Flux and Anchor, Tor Books, January, 1985 4 stars

4. The Birth of Flux and Anchor, Tor Books, 1985  4 stars

5. Children of Flux and Anchor, Tor Books, September, 1986  4 stars

The Rings of the Master series


1. Lords of the Middle Dark Del Rey Books, May, 1986  4 stars

2. Pirates of the Thunder, Del Rey Books, March, 1987  4 stars

3. Warriors of the Storm, Del Rey Books, August, 1987 4 stars

4. Masks of the Martyrs, Del Rey, February, 1988  4 stars

G.O.D. Inc. series


1. The Labyrinth of Dreams. Tor Books, March, 1987  4 stars

2. The Shadow Dancers, Tor Books, July, 1987  4 stars

3. The Maze in the Mirror, Tor Books, January, 1989  4 stars

The Changewinds series


1. When the Changewinds Blow, Ace - Putnams, September, 1987 4 1/2 stars

2. Riders of the Winds, Ace Books, May, 1988 4 stars

3. War of the Maelstrom, Ace - Putnams, October, 1988  4 stars

The Quintara Marathon series


1. The Demons at Rainbow Bridge, Ace-Putnam's, hardcover, September, 1989  4 1/2 stars

2. The Run to Chaos Keep, Ace - Putnams, May, 1991  4 stars

3. The Ninety Trillion Fausts (a.k.a. 90 Trillion Fausts), Ace - Putnams, October 1991  4 stars

The Wonderland Gambit series


1. The Cybernetic Walrus, Del Rey, trade pb November, 1995 4 stars

2. The March Hare Network, 1996 4 stars

3. The Hot-Wired Dodo, Del Rey, Feb. 1997 4 stars

The Three Kings series


1. Balshazzar's Serpent, Baen Books 1999 4 1/2 stars

2. Melchior's Fire, Baen Books, 2001. 4 stars

3. Kaspar's Box, 2003 4 stars

Stand-alone novels

A Jungle of Stars, Ballantine, Del Rey, 1976 5 stars

The Web of the Chozen, Del Rey, 1978  5 stars (another favorite)

And the Devil Will Drag You Under, Del Rey, 1979  5 stars

A War of Shadows, Ace: An Analog Book, 1979 4 ½ stars

Dancers in the Afterglow, Del Rey, 1979, 1982  5 stars (another favorite)

The Devil's Voyage, Doubleday, 1980 4 stars

The Identity Matrix, Timescape: Pocket Books, 1982  4 stars

Downtiming the Night Side, Tor Books, May, 1985  4 ½ stars

The Messiah Choice, St. Martins - Blue Jay, May, 1985 4 stars

The Red Tape War (with Mike Resnick and George Alec Effinger). Tor hardcover, April, 1991 (not read)

Priam's Lens, Del Rey 1997  4 stars

The Moreau Factor, Del Rey Feb., 2000 4 stars

Chameleon (partially completed at time of death) (not read)


Collection and Anthology

Dance Band on the Titanic, Del Rey Books, July, 1988 (short stories) 4 stars

Hotel Andromeda [edited by], Ace, 1994 (not read)

The Alternative
Southeast Wisconsin

Additional Reading:

Jack L. Chalker Wiki Page

Jack L. Chalker ISFDB Page

Jack L. Chalker NNDB Page

Jack L. Chalker Baen eBooks Page

Jack L. Chalker Facebook Page

Sunday, July 07, 2013

Book Review - Donnybrook by Frank Bill

Frank Bill
Trade Paperback
Publisher: FSG Originals
Publication Date: March 5, 2013
ISBN-13: 978-0374532895
256 pages


    don·ny·brook/ˈdɒniˌbrʊk/[don-ee-brook] an inordinately wild fight or contentious dispute; brawl; free-for-all. Also called Donnybrook Fair.
     - www.dictionary.reference.com

     The Orange County, Indiana Donnybrook Fair is a three day all-out no-holds barred fist-fight featuring pugilists, bare-knuckle fighters, self-defense experts, martial artists, and hand-to-hand combatants from all walks of life. It’s the rowdiest and most physically violent party you’ll find anywhere in America. One hundred brave men vie for $100K in cash prizes and thousands of spectators come to watch, bet on their favorite fighters, carouse, argue, ingest drugs, get drunk on moonshine and cheap beer, and get laid. It is, in fact, what Jarhead Earl, a bare-knuckle fighter, reasons is the only redemption he’s ever likely to find.

     Jarhead has seen better days. He has no job, no money, and no prospects for the future and with two young mouths to feed and a woman with an Oxycontin monkey on her back he sets off from Kentucky to the Donnybrook to stake his claim. But before he can enter the fight Jarhead needs the $1,000 entry fee and a man with nothing to lose will do just about anything to get back to square again, including robbing a gun shop, for exactly $1,000.

     One thing Donnybrook isn't is high literature and thank-goodness for that. This imaginative novel is filled with some of the most interesting “language” I've read in a very long time. It is coarse, dark, ribald, dirty, low, and so very crisp. It's colloquial, explicit and beautiful. It is Hunter S. Thompson meets Charles Bukowski meets outhouse scribbling. And that makes Donnybrook all kinds of a great read. The characters are the dregs, drug addicts, and lost souls of an unemployable, broken region of the mid-west. Flawed, American, and itching for a fight every character is as hard as nails and would just as soon throw a punch your way as smile at you. But Frank Bill takes us deep into the heart and soul of the protagonist and we identify with him and are moved by his desire to improve his situation and care for his family, no matter how messed up the methods. And that's what makes this book so entertaining. There's blood and sex and drugs and booze and addiction and cruelty and redemption and love and the complexities of the human condition connecting them all.

     Frank Bill has a magnificent gift for creating realistic, layered settings filled with striking language and vivid, poetic succinctness. He can carve an entire Kentucky County in two short sentences, explain the intricacies of bare-fisted fighting in fewer words than I’ve used in this paragraph, and can craft impactful and colloquial dialogue like a veteran writer. In fact, his dialogue reminded me very much of Cormac McCarthy’s homespun language. It’s simple storytelling but expresses the complex emotions and thoughts of desperate, lost characters. And that’s the brilliance of this story. Donnybrook is entertaining, fun, violent, coarse, dirty, addictive and just waiting for a Hollywood producer to turn it into a blockbuster movie. I personally hope a sequel is in the making…

     File with: Bare-knuckled fist fights, Raging Bull, pulp fiction, Every Which Way But Loose, The Quiet Man, colloquialism, Fight Club, Snatch, drug and alcohol abuse, The Iliad, Macbeth, Ivanhoe, guns and guts, The Song of Roland, torture, Beowulf, and Suttree, Child of God, and The Road by Cormac McCarthy.

5 out of 5 stars

The Alternative
Southeast Wisconsin

Additional Reading:

Official Author Website

Donnybrook Amazon Page

Donnybrook Review

Donnybrook MacMillan Page

Donnybrook Excerpt