WBH Weekly Digest 2023-09-08: BasedCon Book Sale

WBH Weekly Digest 2023-09-08: BasedCon Book Sale

Today's update will be focused on the BasedCon Book Sale run by Hans G. Schantz. This sale is the first to feature one of John J. Reilly's books, Spengler's Future.

Lots of authors I have reviewed are a part of the sale, so I'll list out some of my favorites, and I encourage you to browse the many offerings to see if there is something that interests you.

Spengler's Future by John J. Reilly

This is a report on the output of a computer program. The program was written to predict the future of the world, from a Western perspective, into the twenty-seventh century A.D. The program does not purport to predict specific events that will occur in time to come. Rather, it seeks to suggest events from many times and places in the past which could be analogous to what will be happening at designated points in the future. This is accomplished by using a simple cyclical model of the development of civilizations. The title of the report alludes to the fact that the model in question is an adaptation of the theory of history created by the German philosopher, Oswald Spengler, particularly as expressed in his great work, The Decline of the West.

Hell Spawn by Declan Finn is a dark night of the soul style spiritual crisis combined with a pretty grim police procedural. Detective Tommy Nolan stands out to everyone for his saintly disposition in a profession that is notorious for shattering innocence and producing boundless cynicism. His mettle will be tested when he crosses paths with a killer that draws upon the powers of Hell.

Black Amazon of Mars by Leigh Brackett

Even though this is the third story that Eric John Stark appeared in, I think you could easily pick up this story and enjoy it. Like a lot of the sword and planet offerings, Stark has a flat character arc and the structure of the stories is episodic, so you don’t need to know what happened in previous stories. Where Brackett makes this story shine is in her tight plotting and fantastic action sequences. The story never drags, it moves crisply from crisis to crisis without a backward glance.

Heroes Fall by Morgon Newquist

As soon as I finished the first chapter, I was hooked. If this chapter didn’t start life as a short story, I think it could easily have stood alone, and been a damn fine piece of work. Each character comes to life in a few short pages, and the stage is set for everything that follows from the unexplained tragedy of the Rampage. I wept a little bit when I read it the first time, and then I wept again when I read it again at the end, now knowing why.

The question this book asks is: what is the greatest weakness of a superhero?

The Time Traders by Andre Norton

Andre Norton was a prolific mid-century science fiction and fantasy author who is listed in Gary Gygax’s Appendix N, but despite her popularity I was entirely unfamiliar with her work. To rectify that, I picked up the 2000 Baen omnibus edition titled The Time Traders [Amazon link] that contains the orignal 1958 novel The Time Traders and its sequel Galactic Derelict.

I am glad that I got the omnibus edition, as I found the original The Time Traders only okay, while Galactic Derelict had a better structure and execution. To me, The Time Traders felt like a somewhat generic adventure novel of the era, with a protagonist from the wrong side of the law getting into a series of fantastical adventures involving time travel and secret government projects. The plot structure felt almost episodic, as Ross Murdock, a rebellious young man given a chance to escape prison by volunteering for a dangerous but critical mission, repeatedly gets into a jam, and then gets back out again through some combination of luck and grit.

Nethereal by Brian Niemeier is an imaginative and densely written trip straight to Hell. And not in any metaphorical manner whatsoever.

Light Unto Another World by Yakov Merkin

Uriel Makkis is on his way to a deployment with the Israeli army when he finds himself pulled through a portal to another world and rapidly enmeshed in local controversy, the classic isekai setup.

Isekai in particular have a tendency to feel like generic D&D clones. So, if you want to make something that stands out in a crowded field, I think the solution is a return to particularity. John Carter was a Virginia fighting man, and like Burroughs in real life, Carter spent time in Arizona as a soldier during the closing of the frontier. Uriel Makkis is a soldier too, and like his creator he served in the Israeli Defense Forces. In addition, Uriel is an observant Jew. Unexpectedly thrust into a new world, Uriel seeks solace in the familiar rituals of his religion, one of his few links to his lost home.

Pirates of the Electromagnetic Waves by Fenton Wood is a sweet, nostalgic book about a world that never was. And radios. There is some impressively nerdy stuff about electronics here.

Dungeon Samurai by Kit Sun Cheah is an isekai dungeon-crawler built on the principle that “amateurs talk tactics, professionals talk logistics”.