Sandy Ferber

SANDY FERBER, on our staff since April 2014 (but hanging around here since November 2012), is a resident of Queens, New York and a product of that borough's finest institution of higher learning, Queens College. After a "misspent youth" of steady and incessant doses of Conan the Barbarian, Doc Savage and any and all forms of fantasy and sci-fi literature, Sandy has changed little in the four decades since. His favorite author these days is H. Rider Haggard, with whom he feels a strange kinship -- although Sandy is not English or a manored gentleman of the 19th century -- and his favorite reading matter consists of sci-fi, fantasy and horror... but of the period 1850-1960. Sandy is also a devoted buff of classic Hollywood and foreign films, and has reviewed extensively on the IMDb under the handle "ferbs54." Film Forum in Greenwich Village, indeed, is his second home, and Sandy at this time serves as the assistant vice president of the Louie Dumbrowski Fan Club....

The Surgeon of Souls and Other Tales of Terror: Second chances and cosmic do-overs

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The Surgeon of Souls and Other Tales of Terror by Robert Leslie Bellem

In my last two book reviews, I discussed a pair of characters who were amongst the most popular during the era of the pulp magazine: The Spider, who was featured in 118 novels that appeared in The Spider magazine from 1933 - ’43, and Doc Savage, who appeared in no fewer than 181 novels in the pages of Doc Savage Magazine from 1933 - ’49. Today, however, I am here to discuss still another pulp character, but one who does not enjoy anything near the renown of those other two. That character is Dr. Zarkov, the self-styled Surgeon of Souls, one of the many pulp-era characters created by the remarkably prolific, Philadelphia-born author Robert Leslie Bellem... Read More

Quest of the Spider: These books are like bonbons

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Quest of the Spider by Lester Dent

I have just reacquainted myself with six dear old friends. As I mentioned in my FanLit minibio (below), back in high school, this reader just could not get enough of the adventures of Doc Savage and his five faithful associates, eagerly devouring four dozen of the Doc Savage paperbacks that Bantam books released in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s. These paperbacks were hugely popular back in the day and are now highly prized collectible items, not only for the stories themselves, but for the beautifully rendered cover illustrations that James Bama created for well over 100 of them. Eventually, though, I tired of reading the Doc Savage novels, as a certain formulaic sameness started to become evident in them (and indeed, years later, I learned that author Lester Dent did have a chart hanging on his office wall, delineating what was to happen by certain... Read More

Robot Titans of Gotham: Robots and bats and mutants, oh my!

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Robot Titans of Gotham by Norvell Page

In my recent review of the anthology volume Rivals of Weird Tales, I mentioned that one of my favorite stories therein was the novella-length “But Without Horns,” which was written by Norvell Page and first appeared in the June 1940 issue of Unknown magazine. I also expressed a desire to read some of Page’s many tales dealing with his most famous character, the Spider. Well, I am here to tell you: Mission accomplished! Thanks to the fine folks at Baen Publishing, two volumes of Spider tales have been released for modern-day audiences, and this reader was fortunate enough to pick up the first, 2007’s Robot Titans of Gotham, which c... Read More

When the Birds Fly South: Profoundly moving, stands the test of time

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Reposting to include Katie's new review.

When the Birds Fly South by Stanton A. Coblentz

Never let it be said that you can’t learn anything from Facebook! It was on the Vintage Paperback and Pulp Forum there, for example, that this reader recently discovered his newest favorite author. Several of my very knowledgeable fellow members on that page happened to be discussing the merits of a writer who I had previously never even heard of before; a man with the curious name Stanton A. Coblentz. Very much intrigued, I later did a little nosing about, and managed to lay my hands on Coblentz’ highly regarded When the Birds Fly South. And I am so glad that I did. This novel, as the author revealed later, was his very favorite of all his many sci-fi/fantasy works. It was, appropriately enough, originally released in 1... Read More

The Anubis Gates: A very generous book

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Reposting to include Stuart's new review.

The Anubis Gates by Tim Powers

Tim Powers' fourth novel, 1983's The Anubis Gates, is a book that I had been meaning to read for years. Chosen for inclusion in both David Pringle's Modern Fantasy: The Hundred Best Novels and Jones & Newman's Horror: 100 Best Books, as well as the recipient of the Philip K. Dick Memorial Award in 1984, the book came with plenty of good word of mout... Read More

The Brethren: Another doozy from H. Rider Haggard

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The Brethren by H. Rider Haggard

In January 1900, British author H. Rider Haggard and his family ventured forth on a nice long vacation. As revealed in D.S. Higgins’ 1981 biography, the first part of this holiday was beset by bad weather, sickness and delays, as the Haggards made their way from London and on to Italy and Cyprus. But once the family reached the Holy Land, apparently, conditions improved significantly, and the world-famous author was so taken by the many historic sights that he saw there that the experience inspired him to write no fewer than three books: A Winter Pilgrimage (1901), a nonfiction travelogue of his journey; Pearl-Maiden (1903), which dealt with the fall of Jerusalem following the crucifixion of Christ; and the novel in question, ... Read More

Three-Bladed Doom: Howard’s only El Borak novel

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Three-Bladed Doom by Robert E. Howard

Even those readers who have previously thrilled to the exploits of such Robert E. Howard characters as Conan the Barbarian, King Kull of Valusia, the Puritan fighter of evil Solomon Kane, the Pictish king Bran Mak Morn, the piratical Cormac Mac Art, and boxer Steve Costigan might still be unfamiliar with the author’s El Borak. And, I suppose, there may be good reason for that. Howard only managed to sell five stories featuring the character before his suicide death, at age 30 in 1936, although 11 more would surface in later years. Of those 16 tales, only one was of a full novel length: Three-Bladed Doom. Like many other fans, this decades-long Howard buff had never run across this character before, and so, when I spotted the 1979 Ace edit... Read More

The Outlaws of Mars: Road to Xancibar

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The Outlaws of Mars by Otis Adelbert Kline

Those readers who had been charmed by Otis Adelbert Kline’s swashbuckling sci-fi adventure The Swordsman of Mars would not have long to wait before they were treated to that novel’s follow-up thrill ride. While that first interplanetary pastiche of author Edgar Rice Burroughs had appeared as a six-part serial in the January 7 to February 11, 1933 issues of the weekly Argosy magazine, the follow-up, The Outlaws of Mars, appeared as a seven-parter, in that same pulp’s 11/25/33 to 1/6/34 issues. As had been the case with the first novel, Read More

The Swordsman of Mars: Solid OAK

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The Swordsman of Mars by Otis Adelbert Kline

A few weeks back, I had some words to say about a book that was supposedly a major inspiration for Edgar Rice BurroughsJOHN CARTER OF MARS series, particularly the first two of the 11: A Princess of Mars (1912) and The Gods of Mars (1913). The book was Edwin L. Arnold’s Gulliver of Mars (1905), and anyone who’s read it must be forcibly struck by the similarities between the two authors’... Read More

The Scarlet Plague: Jack London makes London Magazine

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The Scarlet Plague by Jack London

Editor's note: Because it's in the public domain, it's easy to find an inexpensive electronic copy of this book.

By the time Jack London released his post-apocalyptic novel The Scarlet Plague in 1912, the author was 36 years old — just four years shy of his premature passing in 1916 — and yet had already managed to cram in more incident and adventure into those three dozen years than most folks do in their lifetime. Since his birth in San Francisco in 1876, he had worked on a sealing schooner, done a stint as an oyster pirate, participated in the Klondike Gold Rush (in 1897), played the part of a war correspondent in the Russo-Japanese War (1904), operated a ranch, been married twice, and had released over 100 short stories... Read More

The Valley Of Creation: Clan brothers

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The Valley Of Creation by Edmond Hamilton

One of the crowning events in the sci-fi/fantasy year 1948 was most assuredly the release of Jack Williamson’s 1940 novella Darker Than You Think as an expanded, full-length novel; it has since gone on to be acclaimed one of the greatest fictional books on the subject of lycanthropy ever written. In it, reporter Will Barbee learns that he is a primordial shapeshifter and, in one memorable sequence, runs through the night in the form of a wolf, relishing his exhilarating swiftness and grace. But this was not the only time in 1948 that the reader was presented with such a scenario. In the July issue of the 20-cent Startling Stories magazine that year, Williamson’s close fri... Read More

Dreadful Sleep: Some kind of ultimate pulp mash-up

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Dreadful Sleep by Jack Williamson

At the end of my recent review of Jack Williamson’s 1933 novel Golden Blood, which initially appeared as a six-part serial in the pages of Weird Tales magazine, I mentioned that the author had later placed another serial in that same pulp publication, and that I meant to seek it out. Well, I am here to tell you MISSION ACCOMPLISHED! That later serial, Dreadful Sleep, was a three-part affair in the March - May 1938 issues (although it didn’t cop any front-cover illustrations, as had Golden Blood, the great Virgil Finlay did contribute drawings for the interior spreads), and I was happy to lay my hands on what I h... Read More

Gulliver of Mars: An incredible fairy tale of adventure

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Gulliver of Mars by Edwin L. Arnold

Editor's note: Because it's in the public domain, Gulliver of Mars is free in Kindle format.

On those rare occasions when it is discussed at all today, British author Edwin L. Arnold’s final book, Lt. Gullivar Jones: His Vacation, is primarily spoken of as a possible influence on Edgar Rice BurroughsJohn Carter novels. But this, it seems to me, is doing Arnold’s last writing endeavor a disservice, as the book is an exciting, highly imaginative, colorful piece of fantasy/sci-fi more than capable of standing on its own merits, discounting any possible relat... Read More

Tomorrow’s Yesterday: Unearthing a true obscurity

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Tomorrow’s Yesterday  by A.M. Stanley

I don’t think I’m going too far out on a limb in making the following sweeping statements about a certain book that I just read, A.M. Stanley’s Tomorrow’s Yesterday: You have never heard of this book, or of its author. You’ve never read anything about the book, either in print or online. This, my friends, is a lost book; one that, since its initial publication in 1949, has plummeted stone-like to the bottom of the literary pool. Not just a book that is currently out of print but is easily researchable ― there are tens of thousands of those ― but rather, a book for which virtually no information is to be had at all. Even the usually infallible Internet Speculative Fiction Database offers no help when it comes to this volume, and indeed, I do believe that this review here may well constitute the only substan... Read More

Armageddon 2419 A.D.: Passing the buck

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Armageddon 2419 A.D. by Philip Francis Nowlan

I would imagine, at this point, that you have previously heard of the fictional character named Buck Rogers. And indeed, dating from his initial comic strip appearance in January 1929, and proceeding on to radio shows (starting in 1932, Buck Rogers was radio’s very first sci-fi hero), a 12-part film serial (starring the former Olympic swimming medalist Buster Crabbe), several TV adaptations, video games, and comics, the character has been fairly ubiquitous for almost 90 years now. To be sure, Buck’s comic strip was so very popular in the early ‘30s that it spawned, in January 1934, a rival sci-fi strip starring Flash Gordon, a character that Crabbe would also portray in three fondly remembered film serials.

But unlike Flash, Buck had, as his actual provenance, a literary background. That predecessor, you see, was one Anthony Rogers, who ... Read More

The Black Flame: Looooooooong live the princess!

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The Black Flame by Stanley G. Weinbaum

Although Kentucky-born sci-fi author Stanley G. Weinbaum is today considered a seminal writer in his chosen field, his actual career was, sadly, an exceedingly brief one. After making a huge splash with his short story “A Martian Odyssey,” featuring the truly alien, ostrichlike Tweel, in the July ’34 issue of Wonder Stories, Weinbaum shifted into high gear, creating some two dozen short pieces and three novels before succumbing to cancer in December ’35, at the age of 33. His entire career, thus, spanned a mere 18 months. I had previously enjoyed The Best of Stanley G. Weinbaum... Read More

Golden Blood: Durand of Arabia

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Golden Blood by Jack Williamson

I’d like to tell you about a terrific book that I have just finished reading. In it, a 2,000-year-old Arabian woman, living her immortal existence in the heart of an extinct volcano after being endowed by a mysterious force of nature, waits patiently for the reincarnation of her dead lover to reappear to her. “Hold on,” I can almost hear you saying. “I know that book … that’s She!” And if that is indeed your reaction, a gold star for you, my friend, for being familiar with one of the most classic, and indeed seminal, works of fantasy literature of the past 150 years. But no, it is not to H. Rider Haggard’s 1886 classic that I refer to here, but rather to a work that came out almost a full half cen... Read More

The Best of Richard Matheson: Maybe not “the best,” but still plenty good

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The Best of Richard Matheson by Richard Matheson

Almost precisely two years ago, I had some words to say about a then-new anthology that had been released by Penguin Classics: Perchance to Dream, a 300+-page collection of short stories by the author Charles Beaumont. Flash forward two years, and I am now here to tell you of a 2017 Penguin release that almost serves as a companion volume to that earlier book: The Best of Richard Matheson, a generous, 400+-page whopper that should come as a welcome treat for fans of the late, great author. I say “companion volume” for several reasons. The authors w... Read More

Sandy’s 2017 Film Year in Review

Anyone who knows me well could tell you that I don't see a lot of new films. As a matter of fact, of the 116 films that I saw in 2017, only 7 were new, and 109 were old. Thus, my annual Top 10 Best and Worst lists are necessarily different than most. With me, any film that I saw for the first time in 2017 was eligible for either list. If the film made me laugh, or think, or tear up, or sit suspensefully on the edge of my seat, or amazed me with something that I had not seen before, it had a good shot at being considered. On the other hand, for me, boredom is the worst thing that any film can be guilty of; I don't care if a film is cheaply made, but please do not torture me with tedium. Anyway, with no further ado, my Top 10 Best and Worst Lists of 2017. The films are listed in the order that I saw them...

TOP 10 BEST:



1) THE RACK (1956): I watched this one because it happens to feature my main gal, Anne Francis, in a supporting role, but as... Read More

Between Two Worlds: See it before your own ship sets sail

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Between Two Worlds directed by Edward A. Blatt

Featuring a raft of experienced Warner Brothers lead and character actors as well as one up-and-coming future starlet, 1944's Between Two Worlds reveals itself to be a pleasing supernatural fantasy, indeed, and one that should hold up very well for modern audiences, now almost 75 years since its release. The film was based on the 1923 play Outward Bound by British playwright Sutton Vane, which had been adapted to film once before, as an early-sound vehicle for Leslie Howard, under that original title, in 1930. I have not seen that first version — it does not seem to be screened very often — but can say that the remake is a most interesting offering, with many eerie touches and some wonderful thesping by one and all.

In the film, a disparate group is shown about to board an ocean liner in London, bound for New York. But just as the group ... Read More

The Woman in Black: A classic ghost story

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Reposting to include Rebecca's new review.

The Woman in Black by Susan Hill

So what does a young actor do after starring in one of the most lucrative franchises in cinema history? That was the precise dilemma facing the 22-year-old Daniel Radcliffe in 2011, upon the completion of his 8th and final Harry Potter film. The Potter series had brought in a whopping $7.7 billion worldwide over its 10-year run, firmly establishing Radcliffe as an international star. And so, the question: What next? Wisely, the young actor’s follow-up project was another in the supernatural/fantasy vein, and one that was also based on an already well-loved source. The film was 2012’s The Woman In Black, another successful film for Radcliffe, having been produced for $15 million and bringing in almost $130 million at the box office. The film was based on English author Read More

Sign of the Labrys: Bewitched, bothered, and bewildered

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Sign of the Labrys by Margaret St. Clair

A pleasingly unique — indeed, possibly sui generis — combination of post-apocalyptic sci-fi and (of all things) Wiccan magic and craft, Sign of the Labrys initially appeared in 1963, as a Corgi paperback. Its author, Kansas-born Margaret St. Clair, was 52 at the time and had been writing short stories (well over 100 of them) since the late ‘40s. Sign of the Labrys was her fourth novel out of an eventual eight. And lest you think that the novel’s Wiccan elements were merely a passing fancy of its author, let me add here that St. Clair and her husband were indeed inducted into the Wiccan craft three years after this novel’s publication, when Margaret would adopt the Wiccan name Froniga.

Out of print in English since the year of its release, St. Clair’s truly bizarre nove... Read More

Dark Melody of Madness: The Supernatural Novellas of Cornell Woolrich

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Dark Melodies of Madness: The Supernatural Novellas of Cornell Woolrich by Cornell Woolrich

Because New York City-born author Cornell Woolrich so excelled at tales of suspense, crime, murder and noirish mayhem, there might be some who find it hard to believe that he could also excel in the arena of horror. But those who have read Woolrich’s truly frightening novel of 1945, Night Has a Thousand Eyes, which combines the occult, clairvoyance, death and predestination into one tasty chiller, already know how capable he could be in that field. And if any further proof were ever needed to bolster the argument, we now have a beautiful new collection from the fine folks at Centipede Press — Dark ... Read More

The Night of the Long Knives: Totally absorbing

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Reposting to include Sandy's new review.

The Night of the Long Knives by Fritz Leiber

Free on Kindle.

Murder, as you must know by now, I can understand and sympathize with deeply. But war? No.

After a nuclear holocaust, America is unrecognizable. There are a few cities left on the coasts, but most of America is now the Deathlands, where radioactive dust hazes the skies and radiation-scarred survivors try to stay alive another day. Besides devastating the land, the catastrophe has somehow warped the minds of the few remaining citizens of the Deathlands; they have all turned into murderers. They can’t help it — it’s a drive that can only be released by killing someone. Even when they band together for companionship, it always ends up in a bloodbath.

Ray ha... Read More

Night Has a Thousand Eyes: Pretty horrifying, after all

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Night Has a Thousand Eyes by Cornell Woolrich

On the cover of my Dell paperback edition of Night Has a Thousand Eyes (with a cover price of 25 cents), the author is listed as William Irish, with an asterisk next to the name. At the bottom of the cover, next to the footnote asterisk, is another name: George Hopley. This should not fool any prospective readers, though. Both names were pseudonyms of Cornell Woolrich, the author whom Isaac Asimov called "THE Master of Suspense"; whom his biographer, Francis Nevins, Jr., called "the Edgar Allan Poe of the 20th century" (hey, wait a minute ... I thought that H.P. Lovecraft was considered the Edgar... Read More

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