The Martian Legion – A Preview Review

It’s beautiful. It’s limited. It’s amazingly bound and illustrated. It’s expensive, the cheapest edition is $200, the highest is $7000.

And it must be mine.

It’s only fair to say I know nothing more about Jake Saunders’ The Martian Legion: In Quest of Xonthron than what I’ve read on the web site, and yet I’m totally sold.  It is a lovely, leather bound, boxed, and amazing composition of compelling art and presentation. The book’s story feels composed to specifically capture my attention; all my childhood heroes from so many divergent backgrounds, somehow joined in a single tale, a single huge volume of pulp fiction wonderment.

Tarzan, John Carter, Doc Savage, The Shadow, Carson Napier, Alley Oop… the list goes on and on.

The fun is in picking the heroes out of the crowd. The amazing artwork here is just stunning.

The fun is in picking the heroes out of the crowd. The amazing artwork here is just stunning.

At it’s heart, this is a new Edgar Rice Burroughs story, “told” to an ancestor of Jake Saunders for publication later. That’s a common enough trope, but this takes it to a new depth. It’s also a ‘what it’ mash-up of so many legendary pulp heroes all in the same book, all in the same adventure. The titular focus is John Carter, the Warlord of Mars and hero of “A Princess of Mars” and the remainder of that series. Classic, and a personal favorite of mine being that it was the first chapter book I recall picking out for myself as a young reader, with the approval of my mother who had read them herself in her younger days. The idea that Carter meets and adventures alongside so many other great heroes of that age is compellingly wonderful.

It's a heroic "Where's Waldo" of illustrative awesomeness.

It’s a heroic “Where’s Waldo” of illustrative awesomeness.

The first thing to catch my eye was the exquisite leather binding, with gold embossing and full-color inset picture on the cover. Garish? No! It’s totally a homage to the feel of pulp adventure, as if the book itself were an artifact of the story.  This is so wonderfully over the top, there’s absolutely nothing understated in this presentation.  It’s a huge tome, waiting to be opened by a magic spell.  OK, a magic spell of several hundred dollars…

A gathering of heroes.

A gathering of heroes. One of over 130 illustrations!

Next, sending me deeper into a book-lust state, the art is evocative of nearly every artist who has worked in the genre. From cleanly serviceable to lush and imaginative, the art I’ve seen so far is representative of the best in the industry. It evokes every aspect of pulp heroics.

Absolutely lovely artwork, ranking with that of Frazetta or Clinton Pettee.

Absolutely lovely artwork, ranking with that of Frazetta or Clinton Pettee.

Those two aspects alone would sell me, admittedly perhaps on a somewhat less pricey volume, but the presentation as a whole is breathtaking. Bejeweled and embossed box for the weighty volume, I’ve paid more for less. And I’ll be the first to admit the Martian coins are a bit of an overkill, but they do go a long ways towards establishing the exclusivity of the package.

Boxed with Martian coin!

Boxed with Martian coin!

So, it’s just a matter of time before I pull the trigger on this purchase. And some time after that I’ll provide you with a hands-on review of the book itself.

Watch for it.

The Martian Legion, a beautiful book, a historic partnering of heroes, a must buy.

The Martian Legion, a beautiful book, a historic partnering of heroes, a must buy.

More information can be found on the web site at www.themartianlegion.com/

The Star Wars – Boxed Deluxe Edition Special Unboxing Review

Great book presentations can come from anywhere. Comics for example.

Last year, Dark House press took a somewhat notorious, very early draft of George Lucas’ Star Wars and serialized it in comics.  The comic series is probably the closest that rendition this early Star Wars history will come to in a visual media.  The story is very different from the one we saw in Star Wars: A New Hope, characters, aliens, technology, even the force itself changed in subtle to extreme ways.  It’s an entertaining read for any Star Wars fan.

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The Star Wars franchise has a long history in the comic form, the individual movie serializations and additional stories made up for the time between films and were quite successful for Marvel comics.  More recently, Dark Horse comics has taken the Star Wars Expanded Universe into some amazing storylines far beyond the film canon.

And it was really no surprise that Dark Horse put a tremendous amount of effort into a boxed edition of the collected seminal work. This set of three volumes of material is presented in a sturdy and attractive cloth-covered, foil lettered and embossed box, the design repeated for the three volumes enclosed.

I suspected it would be a fun “unboxing” review to record for your enjoyment, so here it is…

The Star Wars: Boxed Limited Edition – Unboxing Review

You can find this edition for sale now, but I’d act on it soon because who knows when it will sell out!

Ric Bretschneider
September 4, 2014

A Book That Must Be Called Luscious

Hugo Award winner Chris Garcia is the editor and publisher of many regular internet magazines, or Fanzines, including The Drink Tank and Klaus at Gunpoint. When I started Book Judgement, Chris was one of the first people I told because I knew he had similar feelings for books. The subject line of the e-mail containing this submission simply read “Luscious Book!‏” Having seen this particular volume on the shelf at Borderlands Books in San Francisco on numerous occasions I was excited to see his review.  I fear my next trip there will be a little more expensive than usual. – Ric Bretschneider, July 16, 2014

The Collected Fiction of William Hope Hodgson The House on the Borderlands and Other Mysterious Places

Christoper J. Garcia

There are few books I own that deserve the distinction of being called ‘luscious.’ In my eyes, that term requires a number of things. First, it must be a delight to hold; the kind of book that if you place it in one hand, the other MUST stroke the cover gently. Second, it must feel substantial, like you’re actually carrying something. Third, it must smell right. Old books have that, but once in a while a modern one will pass the sniff test.

This collection of W.H. Hodgson‘s stories is luscious.

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A solid spine and gorgeous silver embossing

Let’s start with the obvious – the cover image. Jason VanHollander created a magnificently strange collection of characters all tied into one busy, but beautiful, image, embossed in silver, as the cover. The entire effect is difficult to photograph, but it’s lovely. It’s exactly the kind of image that should adorn both a volume of one of the premiere horror writers of the last ever, or a book called ‘luscious’. The image is repeated, in regular black ink, two pages in to the book. That image has the feeling of a wood-cut, and shows how remarkable that over image is.

The faux leather of the cover is really nice, and the choice of the dark blue adds to the antique feeling. It seems so appropriate that a book containing so many Carnacki stories (my favorite!) would be bound in deep blue like this. It imparts something of the feeling of those old tomes of the 19th Century, while at the same time not feeling like they’re going for that feeling by overdoing it. The back of the book has a lovely image of Hodgson stamped on it in the silver as well, which is a nice touch. That same image is also repeated in black ink in the book itself. I like that touch as it is much easier to appreciate on the regularly printed page.

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It imparts something of the feeling of those old tomes of the 19th Century

The spine is interesting, and I say that in the English meaning of ‘Interesting’ (ie. Being of Interest) as opposed to the Chinese meaning (ie. any damn thing anyone wants to assign it, apparently) because it is what first drew me in. There’s a simple 8-point compass-like logo at the top identifying this as Book Two in the series of The Collected Fiction of William Hope Hodgson, and then the title and the lovely Night Shade Books logo at the bottom, all in that stamped silver again. It’s subtle, but not 21st Century subtle, but more 19th Century subtle, which is slightly busier, and easier to stand out. When I have this book among others on my shelf of Precious, Ornate, Expensive, and/or Luscious books, it stands out as one of the best-designed spines of all of ’em.

If there is one disappointment, and if I were a harder man it would hold it back from that Luscious moniker, it’s the endpapers. They’re white. Plain and simple. It’s not a bad thing, I get the choice, certainly, but they’re kind plain for a book presentation so richly complex. A splash of burgundy, or perhaps a little marbling? Anything but plain white!

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Just enough of a serif on it to give it a slightly antique look

The font choice? Solid. Just enough of a serif on it to give it a slightly antique look. I think it’s called Plantaginate, and it’s pretty, while still managing to be clear. I always like that in a font!

There’s a handy index in the back that talks about the first publication of the collected stories, and a bit of background on how they chose which version of the texts. That sort of thing is always useful, though it may fall a bit too close to content for this actual review!

All in all, Night Shade Books, and editor Jeremey Lassen, has given us as Luscious a book as you are likely to find out there at the price point. The fact that it’s a collection of one of the essential horror writers only amps up its Luscivity!

Christopher J. Garcia July 14, 2014

 

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