Book Review: CRYPTOZOICA by Mark Ellis

Cryptozoica

“This whole thing sounds like the plot for a lot of B movies.”

Thus speaks one of the main characters in Mark Ellis’s dinosaur adventure, Cryptozoica, and the statement reflects what I expected going in with this novel. I had reservations based on a handful of factors. The cover was brightly colored and a tad cheesy. I knew that Mr. Ellis had been a writer for Harlequin’s Gold Eagle line of macho testosterone-and-explosions books, and frankly my limited exposure to Gold Eagle books over the years hadn’t impressed me (though I never read any of the ones written pseudonymously by Ellis). And from the blurb describing the book, this seemed squarely in the pulp tradition of lost worlds, dinosaurs, beautiful women, and heroes named Jack.

That formula isn’t necessarily a bad thing; I happen to love pulp, as anyone reading my own work knows. But I can’t stand bad writing, and a good bit of pulp, both original and modern, is pretty awful.

By the time I finished the prologue — which dramatically ties the novel’s background to Charles Darwin’s voyage on the HMS Beagle — any reservations I had were chased away and I knew I was in good hands. Ellis’s writing is strong and vivid, as any good adventure writer’s should be, and he has an adept sense of story.

To go into much detail would be to spoil some of the book’s many pleasures, but I will say that it is both pretty much what you’d expect from this sort of tale and a lot more. The characters are all interesting and layered, the setting vividly painted, and the action swift and smart and full of cliffhangers. There is science, both real and weird, and Ellis’s excellent research adds interesting detail throughout. There’s a Dragon Lady, Chinese gangsters, secret societies, shifting loyalties, the requisite cool (and hungry) dinosaurs, and a few ancient mysteries. There are also some ever-topical themes relating to science and faith that are very pertinent in our current culture.

The book is nicely illustrated by the cover artist, Jeff Slemons, but I read it on my iPad and the images all loaded at a resolution just low enough to be annoying. It would be nice to see them more clearly (and I know it’s possible, as we managed to do it with my own illustrated novel, Doc Wilde and The Frogs of Doom).

I enjoyed the hell out of this book. Get yourself to Cryptozoica for some good old fashioned adventure with modern smarts.

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New FROGS OF DOOM Review: “Tim Byrd is one heckuva author!”

A wonderful new reader review of Doc Wilde and The Frogs of Doom is up on Amazon:

Kudos Are well deserved!, February 11, 2014 *****For the uninitiated, the book is a fast-paced, cliffhanger-packed, pulp-style adventure story suitable for all ages. It’s also on sale in honor of Valentine’s Day through Sunday for only $3.99 (usual price: $6.99).

Doc Wilde and The Frogs of Doom

BARYON REVIEW: The Doc Wilde Series Cries For A Place On The Shelf Between Doc Savage And Tarzan!

DOC WILDE AND THE FROGS OF DOOM

The new edition of Doc Wilde and The Frogs of Doom has its first review at a professional site, and it’s from an old friend of the Wildes.

Author Barry Hunter originally reviewed the book at The Baryon Review when it was published by G.P. Putnam’s Sons back in 2009, and the review was so positive that a quote from it now features prominently on the cover of the Outlaw Moon edition:

A true delight…Tim Byrd has taken Doc Savage, added in a pinch of Robert E. Howard, a liberal dose of H. P. Lovecraft, and mixed it all together in a well done, enchanting pastiche of the pulps that will appeal to the adult audience as well as young adult readers.

He likes the new version even more:

[I] have even more enthusiasm for this new volume featuring the writer’s preferred version as well as magnificent illustrations by Gary Chaloner. Tim was able to obtain his rights back from Putnam, put together a Kickstarter project, and fulfill his dream of putting out his vision of his creation.

He has succeeded extremely well and together with Chaloner has created a volume that cries for a place on the shelf between Doc Savage and Tarzan…

There are a lot of folk doing the self-publishing routine, but Tim Byrd has found the right formula to do it in a magnificent way.

The full review can be found here.

“Past Imperfect,” A New Scorpion Story! (Review)

Back in 2009, I reviewed a modern pulp adventure titled The Sting of the Scorpion. As I said then (review here), I enjoyed the hell out of it, and ever since I’ve been hoping to see new Scorpion adventures. A second book has been due for a while, and looks to finally be coming soon, but in the meantime, the author has released a short story featuring the hero, called “Past Imperfect.”

As I wrote before:

As for the hero, in classic pulp fashion, The Scorpion by day is a wealthy paragon, living in the tallest building in the city, assisted by a mysterious Asian woman, dedicated to his mission against evil…but he’s not just a hero with a dark past, he’s a hero with a really dark past. And he’s not really human, in some very interesting and dangerous ways. Richard Wentworth dressed as The Spider to scare criminals into thinking he was a monster; Kurt Reinhardt becomes The Scorpion because he is a monster.

Reinhardt is a compelling protagonist, the action frequent and brutal, the city a violent and noirish place, and the plot interesting. Not only that, but Stockholm can actually write very well…I do have to warn readers of delicate tastes away, however, because this is a very grim and blood-splashed work.

 I just read it, and it’s understandably slighter than its longer predecessor, but still a lot of fun, and a good taste of Scorpion action and craziness. It needs a bit of editing (little things, like having a character “pouring” rather than “poring” over some documents), but is a sleek and clever read and easy to recommend at an ebook cost of 99¢.

You can buy it here. You can also buy The Sting of the Scorpion here for only $2.99 (and you should).

(Also, if you’re a fan of pulp adventure, make sure to check out the news about my Doc Wilde series!!!)

It’s That Time Of Year Again…

…so it’s time to remind folks of a holiday staple around the Byrdcave, the Santa books of Robert Devereaux. These incredible works of fantasy are both moving and filthy, sacred and profane, and guaranteed to awaken parts of your brain you might not even be aware of.

I reviewed both here, and you can read the entries at:

Santa Steps Out

Santa Claus Conquers the Homophobes