Over the past four decades, there have been hundreds of non-fiction books written about all aspects of Star Wars: making-of stories, behind-the-scenes accounts, scholarly analyses, picture books, encyclopedias, biographies, and so on. While this gives the impression that everything that could possibly be said about Star Wars has been said, there’s always a new text that shines a new light or perspective on the beloved franchise.
Weird Tales is a legendary magazine whose roots go back to the 1920s and served as the proving grounds of many influential horror and weird authors such as H. P. Lovecraft, Robert Bloch, Clark Ashton Smith, and Frank Belknap Long. The periodical has exchanged hands and creative editors over the last 100 years, with many long spells of inactivity peppered throughout. The newest issue of Weird Tales, number 363, is the first issue in five years and sees prolific speculative fiction author Jonathan Maberry at the editorial director’s helm.
The Restoration is the first part of a three-part limited neo-peplum comic book series called Polis: The Trail of Socrates. The story of The Restoration takes place immediately after the Peloponnesian War (431-404 BCE, the same time and setting as the video game, Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey) in which Athens was defeated by Sparta and the city was ruled for a mere eight months by the Thirty Tyrants. Though brief, the corrupt Thirty Tyrants rained violence on the citizens of Athens and confiscated much of their riches, which in turn fueled a rebellion which brought about their downfall.
The People’s Republic of Everything is the most recent short story collection from auteur author Nick Mamatas. Containing fourteen short stories and one novella, People’s Republic strays away from clear-cut genre definitions (unlike Mamatas’ prior collection, The Nickronomicon, which focused on Lovecraftian and cosmic horror) and instead veers into general speculative fiction. While the stories within People’s Republic may not be uniform in tone, setting, or style, they are all unified in conveying Mamatas’ left-aligned politics. While overtly political, People’s Republic is never preachy; its politics are seamlessly integrated into the stories, which range from the comedic to the tragic, from steampunk to folkish.
Issue four of Berserker Unbound concludes Lemire and Deodato’s sword and sorcery mini epic by going full circle and returning to the bloody action and world hopping found in the first issue. This issue sees the Berserker’s arch nemesis, the Demon King, emerge from a portal with an army of other barbarian warriors in tow. One by one, the previously injured Berserker picks off the barbarians in the forest outside the metropolis until finally confronting the Demon King himself. Berserker’s transient friend Cobb becomes an unwitting hostage; however, Cobb, the Demon King, and his magic are not from the same world, so perhaps Cobb isn’t the helpless hostage as he appears to be…
Sabbath is the newest novel from Nick Mamatas, author of I Am Providence, Bullettime, and The People’s Republic of Everything collection. At its heart, Sabbath is a neo-peplum story in the sword and sorcery vein, but a delight to genre fans as it takes on a cinematic quality, borrowing elements from fare such as Highlander, Terminator, Army of Darkness, Warlock, Beastmaster 2, and even 8 Heads in a Dufflebag.
On the Night Border is a collection of fifteen horror short stories by New York-based writer James Chambers. The stories within the collection are a mixture of previously published stories and ones appearing for the very first time. The tones and subgenres of the stories vary, from ghost tales (“Lost Daughters”) to possession (“Marco Polo”) to rich folks who have a dark, evil side to them (“The Many Hands Inside the Mountain” and “Picture Man”). Some stories dabble in other universes and IPs, such as Cthulhu Mythos-compatible stories (“A Song Left Behind in the Aztakea Hills,” “Odd Quahogs”), Lin Carter’s Anton Zarnak (“A Wandering Blackness”), Robert W. Chambers’ The King in Yellow (“The Chamber of Last Earthly Delights”), and even '70s cult classic Kolchak the Night Stalker (“Kolchak the Night Stalker: The Lost Boy”).
The third issue of Berserker Unbound take a somber tone as the titular Berserker resigns to his fate that he is stuck with the homeless man Cobb. The two retreat from the city back to Cobb’s forest encampment and begin to bond over drinks that the Berserker had purchased with his golden coins. The Berserker is still very much in mourning after the loss of his wife and child, and after two teenage hooligans threaten Cobb and are subsequently chased off, he learns that Cobb has lost his family to an accident, as well. It is at that moment that the portal that brought the Berserker to the present-day, big-city activities and a new threat emerge for the Berserker.
The Duff meets Dungeons & Dragons. Clueless meets Conan. Princess Diaries meets Percy Jackson. Sword and sorcery meets high school romance. Such are the appropriate descriptors for R. Litfin’s The Lost Noble, the first book in her Chronicles of Royal High series which combines elements of high fantasy with young adult sentiments.
Picking up immediately after issue one, issue two of Berserker Unbound sees the Berserker more-or-less befriending Joe Cobb, the transient he encountered after emerging from the cave portal. Though the two characters are unable to understand each other’s speech, Cobb invites the Berserker to his forest camp, where he bandages him up and provides him a tin of food. The next day, after disguising the Berserker in more common clothing, both make their way into the city to visit the food bank and a liquor store. The Berserker is perplexed by the squalor the other transients live in and awed by the skyscrapers of the city; however, when it comes to pass that Cobb is not able to help the Berserker further in his quest to find the wizard, he sets off into the city alone.