Christopher Priest’s “Black Panther”

Like many, I was shocked and saddened by the news of Chadwick Boseman’s passing last month. I enjoyed his performances as Black Panther in the Marvel movies, especially his first appearance in Captain America: Civil War. It got me thinking about the Black Panther comic book, a title I’ve never read. I’ve only read Fantastic Four issue #52 (July 1966) in which the character made his debut, penned by the legendary creative combo of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby.

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The Devil You Know (2016) by K.J. Parker

Author: K.J. Parker
Title: The Devil You Know
Series: Saloninus #2
Format: Kindle Edition
Length: 124 pages
Rating: ★★★★☆


Publisher’s Synopsis

The greatest philosopher of all time is offering to sell his soul to the Devil. All he wants is twenty more years to complete his life’s work. After that, he really doesn’t care.

But the assistant demon assigned to the case has his suspicions, because the philosopher is Saloninus–the greatest philosopher, yes, but also the greatest liar, trickster and cheat the world has yet known; the sort of man even the Father of Lies can’t trust.

He’s almost certainly up to something; but what?


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Saga Vol.1 (2012) by Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples

Author: Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples
Title: Saga
Series: Saga
Format: Kindle Edition
Length: 160 pages
Rating: ★★★★☆


Publisher’s Synopsis

When two soldiers from opposite sides of a never-ending galactic war fall in love, they risk everything to bring a fragile new life into a dangerous old universe.

From bestselling writer Brian K. Vaughan, Saga is the sweeping tale of one young family fighting to find their place in the worlds. Fantasy and science fiction are wed like never before in this sexy, subversive drama for adults.


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Annihilation (2014) by Jeff Vandermeer

We all live in a kind of continuous dream,” I told him. “When we wake, it is because something, some event, some pinprick even, disturbs the edges of what we’ve taken as reality.”

Author: Jeff Vandermeer
Title: Annihilation
Series: Southern Reach Trilogy, Book 1
Format: Audiobook
Rating: ★★★☆☆
Length: 6 hours / 210 pages


Publisher’s Synopsis

Area X has been cut off from the rest of the world for decades. Nature has reclaimed the last vestiges of human civilization. The first expedition returned with reports of a pristine, Edenic landscape; the second expedition ended in mass suicide, the third in a hail of gunfire as its members turned on one another. The members of the eleventh expedition returned as shadows of their former selves, and within weeks, all had died of cancer. In Annihilation, the first volume of Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach Trilogy, we join the twelfth expedition.


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Once & Future, Vol.1 (2020) by Kieron Gillen & Dan Mora

“Plenty of things that are real are nonsense, love. Most things, even.”

I’ve always enjoyed the tales of King Arthur. When I was a teenager, I got hooked on watching John Boorman’s 1981 film Excalibur on VHS. I still believe it is the best movie adaptation of the old legend. I went on to read T. H. White’s wonderful novel The Once and Future King, and even dipped my toe into the deep waters of Malory’s Le Morte D’Arthur. So I was intrigued to hear that BOOM! Studios were publishing a comic book based on the Arthurian Myth, only set in modern-day England.

Publisher’s Synopsis

When a group of Nationalists use an ancient artifact to bring a villain from Arthurian myth back from the dead to gain power, ex-monster hunter Bridgette McGuire escapes her retirement home and pulls her unsuspecting grandson Duncan, a museum curator, into a world of magic and mysticism to defeat a legendary threat.

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Utopia Avenue (2020) by David Mitchell

‘Sure. But reality creeps in wherever you live, however pretty the flowers are, however blue the sky, however great the parties. The only people who actually live in dreams are people in comas.’

Publisher’s Synopsis

Utopia Avenue are the strangest British band you’ve never heard of. Emerging from London’s psychedelic scene in 1967 and fronted by folksinger Elf Holloway, guitar demigod Jasper de Zoet and blues bassist Dean Moss, Utopia Avenue released only two LPs during its brief and blazing journey from the clubs of Soho and draughty ballrooms to Top of the Pops and the cusp of chart success, to glory in Amsterdam, prison in Rome and a fateful American fortnight in the autumn of 1968.

David Mitchell’s new novel tells the unexpurgated story of Utopia Avenue; of riots in the streets and revolutions in the head; of drugs, thugs, madness, love, sex, death, art; of the families we choose and the ones we don’t; of fame’s Faustian pact and stardom’s wobbly ladder. Can we change the world in turbulent times, or does the world change us? Utopia means ‘nowhere’ but could a shinier world be within grasp, if only we had a map?

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In the Forests of Serre (2004) by Patricia McKillip

Beware of old women in the forest; especially if they live in a hut that can sprout chicken legs and run! I first came across Baba Yaga in an issue of Neil Gaiman’s Sandman comic. The story was titled “The Hunt” and was published in issue #38 back in June 1992. She wasn’t as scary as when I later encountered her in a couple of issues of the comic book Hellboy.

Here is a quote from Wikipedia’s page on the character:

‘In Slavic folklore, Baba Yaga is a supernatural being who appears as a deformed or ferocious-looking old woman. In Russian folklore, Baba Yaga flies around in a mortar, wields a pestle, and dwells deep in the forest in a hut usually described as standing on chicken legs.’

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The Penultimate Truth (1964) by Philip K. Dick

“Then how come,” Blair said, “you’re squatting here in these ruins instead of lounging at a swimming pool in one of those conapt constellations?”
The man grunted, gestured. “I just–like to be free.”

Back in 2016, I took part in a Philip K. Dick reading challenge with a few fellow bloggers. I read and reviewed one PKD novel each month, while working through the mammoth, monster-of-a-tome that is The Exegesis of Philip K. Dick (2011), 75 pages at a time. That was the year my blog became more than just the occasional post about cherry blossoms or Halloween reads. So, I have the novels of PKD to thank for leading me–kind of–to where I am today, typing these words.

Publisher’s Synopsis

‘World War III is raging – or so the millions of people crammed in their underground tanks believe. For fifteen years, subterranean humanity has been fed on daily broadcasts of a never-ending nuclear destruction, sustained by a belief in the all powerful Protector. But up on Earth’s surface, a different kind of reality reigns. East and West are at peace. Across the planet, an elite corps of expert hoaxers preserve the lie.’


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Sandman Mystery Theatre, Vol.1: The Tarantula (1995) by Matt Wagner & Guy Davis

‘It has been little over a year since my return to New York. What had been the greatest city on Earth is now a facade of corruption and denial. Fashionable fund-raisers abound while poverty endures and the threat of war lingers stagnant in the air.’

Publisher’s Synopsis

‘In this noir detective tale of intrigue, bigotry and incest, millionaire Wesley Dodds takes on the costumed persona of the Sandman to catch a sadistic killer in 1930s New York. Donning a gas mask, fedora, business suit and cape, Dodds goes after the Tarantula, a brutal kidnapper who is mercilessly preying upon the women of high society. But as the Sandman walks through a world of corruption and deceit, he uncovers the true secret of the murders and their implausible connection to the city’s most prominent family.’

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Elric of Melnibone and Other Stories (2013) by Michael Moorcock

‘And a helm was on his head; a black helm, with a dragon’s head craning over the peak, and dragon’s wings flaring backward above it, and a dragon’s tail curling down the back.’

Yes, I’m very late to the tales of Elric VIII, 428th Emperor of Melniboné. His first appearance was in a novelette titled “The Dreaming City” which was published in the British magazine Science Fantasy in 1961. Since then, Moorcock’s most famous creation has featured in a wide range of stories including short stories, novels, comic books and graphic novels. The publisher Gollancz republished all of Moorcock’s Elric back catalogue over seven volumes from 2013–15. This is the first volume and serves as an introduction to the character.

Gollancz UK 2013 edition
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