Greg Hersom (RETIRED)

GREG HERSOM’S (on FanLit's staff January 2008 -- September 2012) addiction began with his first Superboy comic at age four. He moved on to the hard-stuff in his early teens after acquiring all of Burroughs’s Tarzan books and the controversial L. Sprague de Camp & Carter edited Conan series. His favorite all time author is Robert E. Howard. Greg also admits that he’s a sucker for a well-illustrated cover — the likes of a Frazetta or a Royo. Greg live with his wife, son, and daughter in a small house owned by a dog and two cats in a Charlotte, NC suburb. He retired from FanLit in Septermber 2012 after 4.5 years of faithful service but he still sends us a review every once in a while.

Red Sister: Magic nuns. Need we say more?

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Reposting to include Kat's new review of the audiobook.

Red Sister by Mark Lawrence

Mark Lawrence's previous six novels have been interesting and unique in their own ways, but have also formed part of a recognizable corner of the genre. That is, Lawrence's name often appears alongside those of Joe Abercrombie and R. Scott Bakker on lists with titles like "So You've Just Finished A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE — What Next?" This isn't to say that the books set in Lawrence's Broken Empire aped George R.R. Martin, only that they seemed ... Read More

A Gathering of Ravens: If Robert E. Howard and Poul Anderson collaborated on a novel…

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A Gathering of Ravens by Scott Oden

Grimnir is a monster, literally. The Norse call him skraelingr. To the Irish, he is the fomoraig, and to the English he is an orcneas. Born and raised to do war, for and against the old gods. Immortal, they spend their endless lives, longing for glory in the final battle of Ragnarok.

So Grimnir's disposition is already brutal, but to add to it, he's the very last of his kind. To say he's a pissed-off is a gross understatement. And what's a centuries-old, angry monster, who only finds satisfaction in violence, to do, all by himself, while waiting around for end-of-time? Seek bloody vengeance, of course. Word of the one called Half-Dane has drawn Grimnir out of his lair, for the Half-Dane is who betrayed Grimnir and his kin. Meanwhile, a new religion has usurped t... Read More

Prince of Fools: A slick, well-crafted buddy adventure fantasy

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Prince of Fools by Mark Lawrence

Prince Jalan Kendeth is the black sheep of the family. A self-confessed untrustworthy scoundrel and coward who has taken every advantage of the life of luxury that comes with being royalty, he is perfectly content with his life as it is and has no plans to change or inclination for greater things. However, when he crosses paths with a courageous Viking named Snorri, Jal discovers that he may have been destined to stand against an undead evil. Snorri is returning north to rescue his family and, despite his unwillingness, Jal is bound by mystic forces to accompany him.

For those (like me) who are already die-hard Mark Lawrence fans, Prince of Fools, the first book in the RED QUEEN'S WAR series, is just what we expected — pure awesomeness and then some. But for those of you who found Jorg of Lawrence’s BROKEN EMPIRE TRILOGY Read More

Kings of the Wyld: Getting the band back together

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Kings of the Wyld by Nicholas Eames

When Clay Cooper returns home from work to find his old friend, Gabriel, waiting on him, he knows something is wrong. He learns that Gabe's headstrong daughter has run off to be a mercenary and ended up in a city besieged by an overwhelming horde of monsters. Gabe is now desperate to get their "band," Saga, back together and go save her. Saga used to be the most famous mercenary band ever. Tales of Slowhand Clay, Golden Gabe, Arcandius Moog, Matrick Skulldrummer, and Ganelon are still told in the pubs throughout the kingdom to this day.

However, that was many years ago, and they're no longer the young men they used to be. Clay, in particular, has happily retired to a quiet life in the country with his wife and daughter. So, with great reluctance Clay turns his best friend down. But later,... Read More

Almuric: Overwhelming storytelling gusto

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Almuric by Robert E. Howard

It is truly remarkable how much work pulp author Robert E. Howard managed to accomplish during his brief 30 years of life. Indeed, a look at his bibliography, on a certain Wiki site, should surely flabbergast any reader who knows the Texan writer only as the creator of Conan the Cimmerian, King Kull, Bran Mak Morn, Solomon Kane and, essentially, the entire genre known as Sword & Sorcery. Hundreds upon hundreds of titles can be found there, in such variegated categories as boxing, Westerns, Oriental exoticism, sword & sorcery (natch), horror, fantasy, crime, historical tales, detective stories, adventure … even comedy, “spicy stories,” essays and poetry. But of all these myriad story types, one salient fact emerges: Most of them are just that — short stories. Howard, de... Read More

The Builders: A delightfully unexpected mash-up

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The Builders by Daniel Polansky

I'm a huge fan of Daniel Polansky's LOW TOWN series, so I might have claimed that I wouldn't have bought The Builders if he hadn't written it, but that's not completely honest because there is something appealing about a story that features personified animals. I’m sure I’m not the only adult man who hasn’t outgrown them.

As it turned out, this novella is one the wildest stories I've ever read. I can't explain it any better than to quote what other authors and reviewers have already said:

The Wild Bunch meets Watership D... Read More

Watchmen by Alan Moore (writer) & Dave Gibbons (Artist)

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Reposting to include Stuart's new review:

Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons

What if superheroes were real? I mean really “real”: what if they grew old and got fat, had spouses and families, carried emotional baggage (sometimes a serious psychosis), and just generally had to deal with everyday life? These super-heroes aren’t inherently all good, either. Just like public servants — police, politicians, doctors, etc. — many begin with the best intentions, but some become jaded and others are only motivated by self-interest from the start. In other words, if superheroes were real, they would be just like us, more or less.

Also, what would an ultra-powerful superhero really be like? A person who understands quantum theory as easily as we chew gum, and is so powerful that he can move through the space-time continuum, be several places at once, and alter ... Read More

Emperor of Thorns: The ideal ending to an excellent trilogy

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Emperor of Thorns by Mark Lawrence

King Jorg, at the ripe ol’ age of 20, rules over seven nations, but that’s not enough — it’s never enough. He’s now ready to make his bid for emperor of the Broken Empire which has been vacant for many generations. This is a position that is technically won by vote, but how one goes about getting those votes is the trick. Also Jorg hasn’t yet accomplished his life-goal; bloody vengeance against his father. All Jorg’s surviving enemies continue to dog his trail but now Jorg has a chink in his armor; his queen and unborn child.

What can I say about the THE BROKEN EMPIRE trilogy — note the word” trilogy”— to describe its total and complete awesomeness? Everything about it is perfect. Each book is a contained story while at the same time each is still a part of a bigger story. The titles themselves, Prince of Thorns, King... Read More

The Lies of Locke Lamora: A scintillating debut novel

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The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch

Trained from childhood as a thief and con-artist par excellence, Locke Lamora employs a silver tongue and quicksilver mind to divest the rich of Camorr of their excessive wealth. No sooner do Locke and his associates initiate their latest scheme, however, than they find themselves at the mercy of the mysterious Gray King, who intends to use them as pawns in his bid to take over the city-state’s underworld. As the Gray King’s diabolical plan unfolds, Locke finds his skills tested as never before as he struggles not only for his own survival, but also for the survival of his friends and Camorr itself.

In this scintillating debut novel, Scott Lynch establishes himself as a rising star of fantasy fiction. Like Read More

Blood Song: It’s The Name of the Wind with warrior monks

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Blood Song by Anthony Ryan

I purchased Anthony Ryan’s Blood Song because it showed up in my Goodreads "recommended" list with a ton of 5-star reviews. I'm usually suspicious, however, when the reviews so overwhelmingly endorse the greatness of a book. Based on my experience with Blood Song, I was right to be suspicious.

While Blood Song is not horrible — I probably would've slid it 3 stars had I finished — I'm totally clueless as to how it earned so many 5-star reviews. Granted, I'm long past the age where I enjoy coming-of-age stories, if I ever did like them much. So maybe that's the reason I don't understand why Blood Song is getting so much love.

I read about 60% of the book, and it still seemed like it was in the prologue. I get that the harsh military training the characters endure is a big part of the story, but does... Read More

White Wolf: Not Gemmell’s best…

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White Wolf by David Gemmell

At its best, Heroic Fantasy can inspire and enliven. By nature, the subgenre is less concerned with realism than it is with depicting nobility, honor, and genuine integrity. In so doing, it shows us a world that reflects the better portions of our own, the world as it should be rather than as it is. At its worst, however, Heroic Fantasy is notorious for shallow characterization, mindless violence, and sententious, often hypocritical, pontificating to justify all that mindless violence so our valiant warriors can get back to massacring villages with rumps firmly planted on high horses. White Wolf is a bit better than the latter, but it’s a good way from the former. It evens out more or less for David Gemmell, but it’s far from the proudest moment of his career.

The novel opens on a guilt-ridden warrior called Skilg... Read More

Elric of Melniboné: A fantasy giant

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Elric of Melniboné by Michael Moorcock

Elric of Melniboné is one of those fantasy giants that shook the genre. He’s probably not so well-known as Conan or Gandalf, but he’s nonetheless in the same country club of figures often cited as seminal to sword and sorcery — for good reason. The argument could definitely be made that Elric was the basis for most of the brooding, troubled heroes that have become so popular of late. Think of all those angsty sorcerers and tragically doomed warriors wandering across unforgiving worlds. Some — perhaps most — of them would not exist in their current form without Elric. Even those readers out there who are just about now awkwardly wondering whether they’re supposed to have heard of this guy and what it m... Read More

SKULLKICKERS Vol. 1: 1000 Opas and a Dead Body

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SKULLKICKERS Vol. 1: 1000 Opas and a Dead Body by  Jim Zub (author) & Chris Stevens (artist)

Note: Vol 1. collects issues #1-5

No one knows the names of these two monster slayers for hire. One is a dwarf who wields two short battle-axes and the other a big bald brute that carries an almost unknown weapon: a pistol. For the right price, this pair will do any killings you require. They can out-fight, out-drink, and usually out-smart most anything — man, beast, or creature. They are the SKULLKICKERS. How can anyone not dig a title like that?

Sword & sorcery fans take heart. SKULLKICKERS, by Image Comics, follows the tradition of Robert E. Howard’s tales and Read More

Battle Chasers by Joe Madureira and Munier Sharrieff

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Battle Chasers by Joe Madureira & Munier Sharrieff

Battle Chasers was a groundbreaking fantasy comic book that emerged onto the comics scene in 1998, when independent comic publishers were finally giving the big two — DC and Marvel — a run for their money. Despite the sporadic release dates of Battle Chasers’ issues, the series won the hearts of many readers, only to disappear like a shooting star when Joe Madureira went on to pursue interests in the video gaming industry. I was one of those original fans, but as the wait between issues increased, I missed the final installments. So I recently purchased all nine comics in a digital omnibus edition which also includes an introduction and bonus material. Battle Chasers was intended to be an ongoing fantasy comic book series which centered on a quintet ... Read More

All-Star Batman & Robin, The Boy Wonder, Vol.1

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All-Star Batman & Robin, The Boy Wonder, Vol.1 by Frank Miller (author) & Jim Lee (illustrator)

All-Star Batman & Robin, The Boy Wonder, Vol. 1 is the re-telling of how the legendary Dynamic Duo came to be as only Frank Miller has the cahoonas to do it.

About a year before Alan Moore started exploring a realistic approach to superheroes in his famous WATCHMEN series, Frank Miller was delving into the twisted psyche that would drive a playboy millionaire to become a vigilante with his highly acclaimed Read More

Ultimate Wolverine vs. Hulk

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Ultimate Wolverine vs. Hulk by David Lindelof (writer) & Leinil Francis Yu (artist)

A little background for newcomers or fanboys/girls who have been away for a while: Marvel comic’s ULTIMATE story arcs are a rebirth of the Marvel Universe for a new generation of readers and have storylines that fit better with the recent movie adaptations.

Bruce Banner is sentenced to death and executed by nuclear bomb. Soon after, three random disasters occur in remote places around the world that were not due to nature or terrorists. It doesn’t take S.H.I.E.L.D. long to determine the most likely cause is the Hulk. Nick Fury must find someone capable of hunting Hulk down and taking him out as quietly as possible; a super-human with no qualms about getting his hands dirty. Wolverine is the best there is at what he does, and what he does best isn’t very nice. Marvel’s Read More

Thoughtful Thursday: Comics, anyone?

Comics were a huge part of my childhood because they introduced me to the amazing world of reading. When I was a kid, my best buddies and I, with our weekly allowances of 50¢ jingling in our pockets, would make the mile-long walk to the one grocery store in town every Tuesday. That’s when the new comics were stacked on the grocery store's spinner rack. Those comic books waited for us like personal invitations to worlds of heroes, adventures, and wonder.

Though I've moved on to more substantial literature, I never outgrew comics. My passion has recently been re-"Kindled" since I've found digital comics on my e-reader.

So, tomorrow I'm launching a new occasional column called Fanboy Friday where we’ll review comics and graphic novels. To get everyone in the mood, FanLit wants to know:

Do you read comic books and graphic novels?
If so, what do you like about them? If not, why not?


One random ... Read More

Theft of Swords: Juicy

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Theft of Swords by Michael J. Sullivan

The first thing you should know about Theft of Swords is that it’s not a fine dining experience. This book is not the literary equivalent of going to a fancy restaurant and getting one of those huge plates that are mostly empty except for a tiny stalk of asparagus artfully drizzled with a delicate sauce. Instead, it’s more like sitting down hungry and getting a big, tasty burger you can just grab and sink your teeth into. (Vegetarians, please substitute for the vegetarian equivalent of a big, tasty burger. I’ve been trying to think of one, and I can’t. A veggie burger just doesn’t feel the same.) In other words, this book is straightforward. It’s huge. It’s low on subtlety but high on enjoyment. It is (and I fully realize this is not proper Literary Theory terminology) juicy. At this point I think I’ve stretched t... Read More

The Hunter From the Woods: Mediocre compared to McCammon’s other work

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The Hunter From the Woods by Robert McCammon

Robert McCammon’s werewolf WWII British spy, Michael Gallatin, is back in a collection of short stories that surround the events in McCammon's best-selling book, The Wolf’s Hour:

“The Great White Way” — Young Michael Gallatin has left the Russian forests and his pack. He finds refuge with a gypsy circus but is soon entrapped in a deadly love triangle.
“The Man from London” — Michael has been adopted by a small Russian village. In turn, as a werewolf, he provides them with fresh meat and protection. A secret agent has come all the way from London to recruit Gallatin into British special operations and the war has come with him.
“Sea Chase” — In the guise of a sea-man, Gallatin has been assigned to watch over a weapons engineer and his family as they try to escape ... Read More

The Coming of the Horseclans: Did Not Finish

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The Coming of the Horseclans by Robert Adams

After two centuries, the undying High Lord Milo Morai has returned to the Horseclans to lead them to their prophesied destiny. First they must conquer their enemies and the Witchmen — pre-holocaust scientists who have continued living by transplanting their minds into stolen bodies.

I stole most of that synopsis from the back of the book, because I only made it to page sixty-nine, the end of chapter six, and I still hadn’t gotten to the meat of the story.

I’ve wanted to get my hands on a copy of The Coming of the Horseclans for a while now. When I was a kid, I remember seeing these books on the grocery store magazine shelves or drugstore spinner racks, and later on at the mall bookstores in the Men’s Adventure section. I was already a fan of Read More

Wizard’s Bane: A lot of fun

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Wizard's Bane by Rick Cook

In a world where magic is commonplace, what use is an expert-level computer programmer like Wiz Zamult? The only person who knew the answer was the great wizard Patrius, but bringing Wiz to this medieval world cost Patrius his life. Moria, a beautiful red-headed hitch witch, is tasked to be Wiz’s caretaker. However, Moria dislikes Wiz as much as he is infatuated with her. Somehow, this helpless stranger is the key to stopping the federation of evil wizards called the Dark League.

Wizard’s Bane is not the kind of book I would’ve picked up on my own. However, as a fun challenge, it was chosen for me by someone whose literary opinion I’ve come to value highly. Plus it didn’t hurt that the eBook version is free from Baen Books as part of their most awesome answer t... Read More

Conan the Barbarian: The film

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Conan the Barbarian (the film)

The latest Hollywood adaption of Robert E. Howard’s legendary hero seems to be taking an especially tough beating. Speaking as a life-long CONAN and Robert E. Howard fan, by Crom, I don’t hate. I saw the film on a Sunday afternoon – and yes, I got suckered into paying for 3-D. I’ll be the first to admit my disappointment, but it’s nowhere near as bad as the rants imply. In fact, there is much in Conan the Barbarian that can be commended.

I was skeptical, especially after first seeing some of the Fabio-ish pictures of Mr. Momoa as Conan, but when I saw the trailers that showed a few elem... Read More

A Dance with Dragons: Winter is coming

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A Dance with Dragons by George R.R. Martin

It’s autumn in Westeros, blizzards are already blasting the Seven Kingdoms with brutal force, and “winter is coming.” Jon Snow is treading a dangerously fine line between keeping the vows of the Brothers of the Night’s Watch and involvement with King Stannis’ revolt. Tyrion is on the run for his life and hopes to find an ally with Queen Daenerys, but as is always the case with the Imp, he just manages to trade one peril for greater ones. It is Daenerys’ destiny to reclaim the Iron Throne for the Targaryens, but doing so now means leaving her conquered city to her enemies and the slaves she has freed to their former masters. Meanwhile, her dragons are growing bigger and more unmanageable. As all the great houses make their bid for who will rule the Seven Kingdoms, north of the Wall the restless dead are gathering en masse to invade with the... Read More

Prince of Thorns: Sarcastic, action-packed, and economical

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Prince of Thorns by Mark Lawrence

CLASSIFICATION: Prince of Thorns is R-rated epic fantasy that combines Robert E. Howard/Glen Cook-like sword-and-sorcery action with George R. R. Martin-inspired court intrigue and a revenge-driven plot that would make Joe Abercrombie proud. Because of a young protagonist whose accomplishments defy his age and abilities, and a fantasy world that seems to be a different version of Earth, I was also reminded of Paul Hoffman’s The Left Hand of God... Read More

A Storm of Swords: Might be the best in the series

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A Storm of Swords by George R.R. Martin

When George R.R. Martin’s A Storm of Swords begins, the War of the Five Kings has just ended, and it looks like the Lannisters have won the realm. They control King’s Landing, Westeros’ capital city, as well as the fifteen-year-old King Joffrey. Stannis Baratheon is in retreat, and their remaining foes, the Starks and the Greyjoys, have turned on each other rather than allying against a common enemy. Basically, the bad guys have won, but A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE isn’t over.

Martin highlights that there are still perfectly legitimate threats to the realm, especially the wildlings, the Others, and the giants that are invading from beyond the Wall. Jon Snow is charged with infiltrating the wildling army, an excuse that Martin uses to show off how cool it would be to live in a land that... Read More

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