Dan Shamble, Zombie P.I.: Working Stiff Review

I hope Kevin J. Anderson won’t be upset about this since he regularly tweets it to 12K+ people (but if he has an issue, I will gladly pull this part out).
But just to start off, you can get a free E copy of this book by signing up for his reading group right here.
It’s a great 1st taste of this series.
On to the review!

Dan Chambeaux is back from the dead and back on the case…all 7 of them.
But how do all of these short stories stack up against the full length novels?
Surprisingly, pretty damn well actually.

We’re about to go balls deep on this, so consider this your official ***SPOILER WARNING***, Gang.
And consider this your ***long winded warning*** as well.

The stories included are Stakeout At The Vampire Circus, Road Kill, Naughty & Nice, Locked Room, The Writing On The Wall, Role Model, Beware Of Dog, in that order.
Since I’ve already reviewed Naughty & Nice (read that right here), so I won’t be talking about that story in this piece.

Stakeout At The Vampire Circus is a pretty fun story that involves a band of klepto goblins ripping off everybody from a cross-dressing fortune teller to a neurotic vampire trapeze artist.
This one feels a lot like an ep of Scooby-Doo, and that alone makes it fun for me.

As I have said before, Road Kill didn’t do much for me because it wasn’t doing what I thought Shamble stories do best, which is balancing storylines.
After reading all of these, I’m not so sure that’s the case as a few of these have single threads and are great slices of Shamble.
In fact, one of my 2 favorite stories in here is, upon reflection, a razor thin story that mostly takes place in 1 room.

Locked Room reminds me a lot of Family Guy’s 150th Episode Brian & Stewie where 2 characters are locked in a vault.
In this story, Dan & Spooky are hired by a Harpy named Esther to test a cemetery vault she is having built to entomb her near death, pain in the ass sister…and make sure she can never escape!
Much like the Family Guy Ep, this story feels ballsy as hell.
Unlike that Ep, KJA does throw to scenes outside of the vault, but mostly just to fully explain why and how they got into this mess.
After a little bit of time locked in, Spooky really starts to panic which gives a tiny peek into her death and afterlife.
Once dead, you’d think fear would be a thing of the past, but obviously not for Sheyenne.
In a longer form this could be a real deep look at these characters…which maybe wouldn’t be great for a comedy book, but would help you better understand them.
The way they break out is rather ingenious too, playing on the vanity of some artists.

I did end up liking Road Kill a bit better the 2nd time around, but it’s still probably the weakest story in this book and of the Shamble series overall.
I’m not sure what it is about that story, but it just doesn’t click with me.
It’s a lot like Guardians Of The Galaxy, I’m really struggling to understand why I don’t love it and it’s bugging me.

The Writing On The Wall is where things get very deliberately popculture heavy, and it’s at this point that the collection really kicks into high gear.
Imagine Elvira gets tired of the public eye and wants folks to just remember her show from back in the day so she goes into seclusion.
Now imagine she died and came back as a ghost with poltergeist powers that were so weak that she had to try to control/possess some dullard Zombies to get a message to the outside world, that’s this story.
By the 3rd page of this story, I had a good idea what was going on.
Zombies all around the Unnatural Quarter have been writing letters in graffiti: “HE”, “LP”, “I’VE”, & “FA”.
Anybody that has watched late night TV knows that’s easy to put together.
Watching Dan’s business partner Robin Deyer fan girl over “Angina, Mistress Of Fright” and again having Spooky confront the meaning of afterlife, but in a different way than in Locked Room, are both highlights here.
More like she did in a bigger way in book 4, as I recall.
If something bigger comes from these books, Sheyenne is gonna be the character to watch.
She’ll definitely be the grounding dramatic force.

Role Model is hands down the best story here, so don’t be surprised if you hear an ep or 2 of The Nerd Blitz Book Club with this as the focus.
I was having flashbacks to Episode 39 the entire time as Dan and McGoo head to a Cosplay Convention to work security.
When a vampiric member of the 501st is staked, they have to chase down the killer and the journey is off and running.
If The Writing On The Wall started the pop culture lovefest, this is the moneyshot.
I know Google is the easy route to go, but I’m damn skippy KJA has a near encyclopedic knowledge of old TV Shows, Movies, and media.
There was an Episode of MONK called “Mr. Monk And The Actor” that was flashing through my mind when reading this that made me love this more than all of the nonstop references.
I’m almost convinced KJA has seen it, but if not…damn!
In the course of the investigation, Dan meets a dude cosplaying as him who is just as great a detective as Dan is…or is he?
KJA’s insight into nerddom and our squabbles about petty shit (canon, superior franchse debates, dumbass minor details) again leads me believe he is one of us, not just been dealing with us for 30+ years.
The ending is exactly how I felt at the end of Archon 41 too.
Going in I was thinking “what a bunch of weirdos” but at the end of the night I was ready for next year, same as Dan.

And finally Beware Of Dog.
This story centers on legendary UQPD Werewolf cop Hairy Harry, a damaged former officer, whose hellhound has been seemingly kidnapped.
At the same time, a giant, ferocious, furry Beast has been damaging property around the Quarter.
Are they connected?
Of course!
Yet another special interest group is introduced in this story, GETA (Gremlins for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), adding another layer of depth and comparison to the real world.
They’ve been breaking in and letting dogs loose from the animal shelter, staging protests outside of the pet clinic, and causing other incidents of havok/annoyance in town.
The obvious comparisons to Clint Eastwood and his assortment of grizzled characters are made, sometimes in subtle ways.
And Hairy Harry hunting down the GETA (not so) Secret Headquarters is kind of thrilling.
The idea that a Shamble series may be in the works makes me desperately want to see this story and that chase on screen!

So, in conclusion, this book/collection is the perfect way to introduce yourself to this universe.
I know now that KJA isn’t obsessive about chronology or continuity with these short stories, they are designed solely to catch your interest and pull you into the books.
And they do just that.
The variety of different types of stories in here flex all of the muscles of this series, and show you just what it can do.
The hints at what could be, the potential for other deeper stories makes it all the more intriguing for me.

Use the link above or (even better) show even greater support by buying it wherever you can, get in on this now, gang.
5 books in less than a year, and I’m still loving it.

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Dan Shamble, Zombie P.I.: Slimy Underbelly Review

Including this one, I have read 4 of the 5 novels in this series and 3 of the numerous short stories.
So I feel that I can say without a shadow of a doubt that this is the most batshit crazy story of the franchise thus far, and I mean that in the best possible way.

Just to be safe, consider this your official ***SPOILER WARNING***

As I said in my Naughty & Nice review (read it here), I think Shamble stories work best when multiple storylines are being juggled and, holy hell, does this have a bunch of stories being kept in the air.
This go round, Chambeaux’s cases involve an Ogre whose voice is stolen, a gang of Garden Gnomes getting greedy, an aspiring Supervillain/Junior Mad Scientist (with many patents pending) who gets booted from his sewer based lab space, a Weather Wizard in the middle of a campaign for President of his order, and an Aussie Accented half Elder God making a big splash under the Unnatural Quarter.
Another of my favorite threads is Sheyenne trying to culture Dan up a bit.
McGoo has a story that I have a feeling may pay off in the recently released 5th novel, Tastes Like Chicken, about his Ex-wife and a potential kid.
Lots of plates spinning and I loved every minute of it.

My 1 and only complaint about this book is less of a gripe specific to this story and more a bit of whining about the chronology of the entire series.
Maybe this would be better kept to my upcoming review of Working Stiff, but I really wish Kevin J. Anderson would have a list somewhere that shows specifically where these stories take place.
Because, at one point, Dan references 3 of the 7 Short Stories from Working Stiff, one of which is actually published in the back of my copy…but I didn’t read it before because I wasn’t sure where it fell.
It’s not super important and doesn’t hurt this reading experience a single bit, but it would be nice to know what to read and in which order.
So, if you read this book, and you care about continuity, be sure to read Stakeout At The Vampire Circus, Road Kill, and Naughty & Nice before this.

As I said above, this story is crazy!
The stakes have never been higher in this series, the ending specifically is a weird H.P. Lovecraft plot, mixed with an over the top Doctor Doom world domination story, sprinkled with Shrek, and a dash of Monk.
It’s ballsy as hell!
The way that EVERY SINGLE STORY converges in the sewer for a cultish blood sacrifice is masterful.
I feel I repeat myself a lot when I talk about this series, but KJA’s style is so easy to read.
Most authors, even ones I love, would have made this so fucking convoluted and hard to keep up with that you would almost feel it wasn’t worth it and give up.
But it’s written with just the right about of detail and humor to make it all work perfectly.
Every major character seems to have their moment to shine as well.

More so than the other books in the series, I feel like this one leaves the world in a different place than it started.
Not in a major way, but there are certain side characters that have been around since book 1 that have their worlds ended…but thanks to The Big Uneasy, death isn’t the end anymore.
Again, continuity is important, and I dig that.
Dan also seems to have figured out for sure just what his purpose in the afterlife is.

The more I read of this series the more I desperately want it to be turned into an animated series, man.
I say animated because the make-up budget alone would probably kill the series.
Just the 4 books and 3 Short Stories I’ve read would make for a great 4 Seasons of 10-15 Episodes.
It’s just so damn good, I need to see more from this universe.

That’s that, gang.
I’m struggling to come up with a ranking for all of the stories in this series.
It’s a lot like the MCU in that I really only know which is my least favorite and the rest are battling it out for 1st.
I truly love this series for it’s fun quirkiness.
Please check out this story or any of the others, it’s so worth it.

Dan Shamble, Zombie P.I.: Naughty & Nice Review

You’ve heard me talk about this series many many times on the pod recently, so ya know damn well going in that I probably loved this story.
Ahhh, but there is always a chance this could be the story to break the streak!

I’m reading this in the print version of the “Working Stiff” short story collection, which you can get a free digital copy of by signing up for Kevin J. Anderson‘s reading group at WordFire.com.

Enough suspense?
The streak continues.
I’ve mentioned on the pod that the story “Road Kill” (also featured in “Working Stiff“, which I’ll discuss in a future review) was a bit disappointing only because it felt too damn short, and I feared going into this that I may have a similar issue.
Not the case whatsoever.
And you can’t call the streak broken because you wanted more, can you?

I think the problem may be that Road Kill had just 1 story thread/case that Dan & Co were trying to work through.
Naughty & Nice has what all 3 novels that I’ve read so far have had, multiple storylines that culminate in the finale.
Reading this and comparing it to Road Kill has made me think plate spinning may be one of the key elements to this franchise.

The 2 storylines here are Santa’s Naughty & Nice list has been stolen and kids all around the Unnatural Quarter have begun to go missing.
We start off with Santa, a confirmed Unnatural (supernatural being brought to life by somebody playing with the Necronomicon), coming to the offices of Chambeaux & Deyer for Dan’s help finding the list.
Dan and Spooky (his ghost girlfriend) head out to brain storm where to begin the hunt for the list when they come across a new character on the scene trying to horn in on Santa’s action, Elfis.
Elfis is one of the perfect examples of why I love this series so much, gang.
It’s so pun and pop culture filled.
This is basically what I imagine an Ep of Family Guy would be like if it was written by Andy Mcelfresh, and this is a compliment!

I won’t spoil anything further, as I’m sure you know the ultimate conclusion of a mystery story, but the ending, set on Christmas day, is almost as sweet as Book 2, Unnatural Acts, but without the creepy sex doll (I say creepy, but it’s actually kinda hilarious, go read it).

The balance of characters is skillful.
Dan, Robin (Deyer, Dan’s business partner), Spooky, and McGoo (Toby McGoohan, Dan’s Best Human Friend, a beat cop in the Quarter) all get time in the spotlight and feel useful.
And the jokes all land, or don’t (McGoo’s trademark), as needed.
I’ve told you many times on the pod that I love KJA’s style, and this is a perfect example why.
So yeah, the streak is intact.

There you have it.
Well worth your time, and seasonally appropriate.
Find it where ever you can and enjoy a few monsters with your milk & cookies.
Enjoy your holiday, gang!

Spider-Man: Carnage In New York Review

After stopping what he thought was a scientist being mugged down an alley, Spider-Man is forced to stop one of his most deadly foes from destroying his city and unleashing a new danger on the world.

Before I get too far, consider this your ***Official Spoiler Warning***

1st and foremost, look at that damn cover, man.
That’s a thing of beauty!

But getting into it, I gotta say, on paper this novel has all of the ingredients of a perfect Spider-Man story.
You have your villain storyline, you have your personal dilemma story, and you have a storyline of Jonah being a bombastic skin flint and looking for publicity and attention.
What could go wrong?
Well, to be honest, not much.

Early on I had an issue with how much they beat the drum about Cletus Kasady/Carnage being such a crazy and dangerous killer.
Over and over to the point that I literally said out loud “for fuck sake, I get it! He’s an evil asshole!”, and that sort of continues through the rest of book.
It’s annoying for sure, but I guess it’s there to remind you why he keeps doing the purely evil and chaotic crap he does.

Moving onto the good stuff, Pete mistaking 2 Federal Agents trying to stop a Scientist who broke out of a research lab with a fluid that causes homicidal rage in people with just a drop for muggers is perfectly Spider-Man.
That Scientist, while trying to destroy that same liquid, breaks into an abandoned school where the government is trying to separate Kasady from the Carnage symbiote and unwittingly helps Carnage escape from custody and is tortured until he gives up the serum and the secret behind it.
Which gives Pete/Spidey his mission, and the main reason why he isn’t able to help Aunt May keep her house, our personal story thread.

The blend of storylines is damn good here, woven so well.
JJJ is holding an event in Central Park for the homeless that is little more than a publicity stunt for the rich folks of NYC to get some good press.
And Spider-Man and Carnage’s final battle takes place there, after Carnage murders a pre-event party.

The battle scenes are wonderfully written and easy to visualize.
I always wonder when reading a novel with two authors who wrote what, but in this case I really don’t care because it was all just fun.
Some of the 20 illustrations are a bit wonky, but I think that may be the fault of the inker and not the artist because it’s mostly to do with awkward shading.

The final little bit I want to mention is the ending.
Without spoiling it, it is pretty damn uplifting and heartwarming.
While Spidey is fighting Carnage, getting his ass kicked for the most part, MJ ends up helping out in a big bad way.
Pete, having defeated Carnage, but still beaten and dejected, gets home to a surprise and she tells him that on some level she understands what he does when he’s suited up.
It’s a great way to end after the craziness of everything else.

This is among the 1st of these Marvel novels from the 90’s that I’ve actually read, and now I’m excited to read the other 11 I have and track down and read all of the rest.
I highly recommend you all check this out.
Hopefully I’ll be getting to the sequel, Spider-Man: Goblin’s Revenge, sooner rather than later.

Indiana Jones And The Dinosaur Eggs Book Review

Indy and a couple friends go on a trek into Mongolia to find Dinosaur Eggs after a Nun brings him the horn of what appears to be a living Triceratops on Halloween 1933.
Before going any further, here is your ***OFFICIAL SPOILER WARNING***

If you’ve listened to the Main Show or Book Club, you know my love for this series of novels well.
This entry into the series is par for the course in that I love it as well.

This is the 10th (of the 12 published in the 90’s) I’ve read and, while overall I still vastly prefer the 6 Rob MacGregor novels to any of the 4 that have come after, I have to say this is the one I’ve probably been able to zip through the easiest.
The writing is so strong and engaging that I couldn’t help but read 30-40 pages at a time…which leads me to something worth mentioning that is normally a HUGE complaint for me that I barely noticed in this book.

Including the prologue & epilogue, this 281 page novel has just 12 chapters.
Meaning the average chapter is 23ish pages.
Normally chapters that long are a major turn-off for me and make reading the book an uphill climb, again not the case here.
So Max McCoy gets huge points for that.

The Nun mentioned above turns out to be a Reporter for the Kansas City Star that duped Indy with a Halloween costume into finding her Professor father that went missing looking for further evidence of Dinosaurs.
They find the Prof, after a long journey that included battles with Shanghai gangster and Mongolian tribal warriors, in a monastery that guards/protects a hidden valley untouched by time and evolution, basically a not so literal portal back in time, that recently lost its final living Dino and the 3 eggs it laid.

The whole story is Intricately woven and characters come and go in mostly logical ways.
The mythical references are great as well.
Case in point, Indy saves a 1 eared dog that is chained to a wall (made of rock) from abuse and names him Loki.
Fans of Norse Mythology will remember that Loki was also chained (well, actually tied with his son’s innards, but why quibble) to a rock.

The ending could have come a bit quicker, at one point Indy and his good buddy Granger leave behind the Prof, the Reporter, and the valley where the last of the eggs surviving has just hatched into a Triceratops.
That felt like the end to me…but the book went on for another 30 pages.
The Lieutenant of the vilest of the Tribal crews comes back as Indy and Granger are heading home through the harsh desert giving Loki yet another chance to save them.
It’s not criticism so much as a head scratching cherry on top in that it tied up a sort of dangling thread, but if cut wouldn’t have left you wondering what happened.

The last 2 things I want to mention are Granger and the Pro and Epi louges.
1st comes Granger.
This is a character that, as far as I know, has never shown up or been mentioned in anything Indiana Jones, I even checked the 2 wikis I could find, but he and Indy are such good friends.
Now that stuck out as weird to me as between the Young Indy series, these novels, the comics, and the movies we have seen the vast majority of Indy’s life yet this dude is such a good friend.
Strange.
I’m sure there are many other characters that could have fit the bill for this one.

Moving onto the Prologue and Epilogue.
Both involve the Nazi scum we all love watching Indy cold cock, but the more interesting thing is that both involve Indy chasing down something mentioned in McCoy’s previous Indiana Jones novel, “The Philosopher’s Stone”, and the Mcguffin of the 4th movie!
McCoy has this great little thread of Indy chasing down a Crystal Skull, man!
It’s slipped through his fingers twice before (as I recall), but the novel ends with him in an old diving suit down in the wreckage of a recently sunken German U-Boat.
The 2nd time the Skull got away from him was because Belloq snatched it away for the Nazis who eventually screw him over.
So when the ship sinks, Belloq gives Jones the coordinates in what Indy believes is a little stab of revenge.
Fun stuff, gang.

So, all in all, I loved it!
There is so much more in here that I barely scratched the surface on, so it is well worth checking out on your own.
I highly recommend everybody that loves this franchise pick up all of these novels and enjoy the great pulpy adventures within.
And if more folks get them it could encourage Del Rey or whomever has the license these days to do more, which is something I desperately want!

Bruce Campbell’s New Book

I’ve wanted it for quite sometime, and it’s finally happening!
15 years after his 1st Autobiography, Bruce Campbell is doing it again.
August 8th, 2017, Hail To The Chin is coming.

Set to cover his time in Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy, the 7 seasons of Burn Notice, and now his work on Ash Vs Evil Dead, this is going to be a must read for me…and I can’t wait!

If you haven’t read his first book or the novel he wrote just after (both are sure fire future Book Club reads) check ’em out.
It’s the greatness of the Groovy one…in your hands!

Full details: http://www.dreadcentral.com/news/199408/bruce-campbells-hail-chin-coming-2017/?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=twitter