Dexter & Sinister: Detecting Agents

Dexter & Sinister: Detecting Agents

This story takes place in Hammersmythe, where the rich are rich and those that aren’t struggle to make their way in life. One of the latter is John Sinister, down on his luck and sleeping on his sister’s couch.

Until he is asked by a wealthy family, whose children he used to be friends with, to look into the death of their eldest son. Determined to get to the truth about his friend’s death, John sets out on a chase involving murder, espionage, mechanical marvels and… a talking cat!

Continue reading “Dexter & Sinister: Detecting Agents”

Out of the London Mist

Out of the London Mist

One of the first things that struck me about this book is how apropos its title is: running through the entire novel is an all-consuming sense of dread brought out by what is best described as magical fog. It’s not hard to visualize the characters wrapped in clouds, appearing only in fading silhouettes as they walk through this darkened recreation of Victorian London.

Out of the London Mist, by Lyssa Medana, succeeds in its atmosphere, a steampunk London of the more fantastic variety. It’s a world where all things are permeated by an omnipresent aether, which powers airships. The aether can also be used to power other things, and it is one of those other things that drives the plot of the novel. The characters are an interesting assemblage of people from different parts of this version of London, including nobles and thieves, adventurers and mechanics.

Continue reading “Out of the London Mist”

The Times of Scrooge McDuck: The Cowboy Captain of the Cutty Sark

The Cowboy Captain of the Cutty Sark

The second of the in-between, or “B”, chapters in Keno Don Rosa’s The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck, The Cowboy Captain of the Cutty Sark (1998) takes place immediately after young Scrooge’s first American adventure in The Buckaroo of the Badlands (1992, annotations here).

Having left the employ of the Scottish-born Montana cattle baron Murdo MacKenzie, Scrooge is shipping two Texas longhorns aboard the famous Cutty Sark to the Dutch East Indies, where he will witness the eruption of Krakatoa.

The plot came easy to Rosa. Having decided he wanted Scrooge near Krakatoa in 1883, he discovered that the greatest sport on Java, the main island in what is now Indonesia, at the time was the annual Madura Island bull race, or karapan sapi. The Cutty Sark really did make a voyage to Australia for wool in 1883. There is no record she made a side trip to Batavia (now Jakarta) that year, but, writes Rosa in Volume 8 of Uncle Scrooge and Donald Duck: The Don Rosa Library (2017), “prove that it didn’t happen, I dare ya’!”

Less easy was drawing the Cutty Sark, with its tens of thousands of square feet of sail and its ten miles of lines, in every other panel…

Continue reading “The Times of Scrooge McDuck: The Cowboy Captain of the Cutty Sark”

Crossing the Isthmus: Alternative Canals of Central America

In 1521, Vasco Núñez de Balboa made the first Spanish sighting from the east of what would come to be known as the Pacific Ocean. The journey had been arduous through jungles and across mountains, and interrupted by attacks on locals to gather gold and pearls, but it came to an end with a celebrated connecting point to fill in another empty space on their globes.

Twenty years before, on Columbus’ third voyage, it had first become clear that there was a good deal of land unknown to Europeans still separating them from the coveted trade of the “South Sea” near India and China. Ferdinand Magellan would show that there was a long way around it by sailing south and that the world could be circumnavigated (at least, the few survivors of his crew would be able to do so). The Northwest Passage, the dream of many explorers, would prove out of the question due to the Arctic ice.

It would be an infuriating problem that would remain for the next 400 years: how to get quickly across the thin strip of land connecting North and South America while dividing the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans?

The simple answer is: build a canal.

Continue reading “Crossing the Isthmus: Alternative Canals of Central America”

A Century Turns and Night Over the Bosporus

A Century Turns

Airships. The very word conjures images of luxurious views of the ocean or the mountains. They make us think of the romanticized interwar years and are the symbol of a future that never came to pass; one that was cremated in the ashes of the Hindenburg. And yet they endure in the imaginations of people whose parents were not alive to see the fiery death of that future.

That brings us to the subject of this review: a duology from Sea Lion Press about a crew of a cargo airship by Tabac Iberez, composed of A Century Turns and Night Over the Bosporus.

Continue reading “A Century Turns and Night Over the Bosporus”

Red Tails

Red Tails

Old war movies are frequently smeared as jingoistic and morally simplistic. There is also the reckoning with François Truffaut, who argued no movie can ever truly be antiwar.

But the history enthusiast in me always finds something to enjoy in these movies, where heroic Americans, Britons and Allies (almost always from the Anglosphere) in awe-inspiring tanks and sleek propeller planes fight the good fight against cruel Nazis and Imperial Japanese.

Nor are these films as uncritical as they are sometimes made out to be. The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957), The Bridge at Remagen (1969) and even bits of The Guns of Navarone (1961) show the sheer cruel madness of war.

It is in this context that we must consider Red Tails, the 2012 movie about the Tuskegee Airmen, the African American fighter pilots who battled both American racism and German military might in Italy.

It does much the same things as The Great Escape (1963) or The Guns of Navarone, where Americans are heroes and Germans are villains, with the twist of race relations woven into the plot as any movie about the Tuskegee Airmen must. In this, it is far more nuanced morality-wise than the stereotypical old war movie, moving it more into the territory of The Bridge of Remagen and showing that American racism deeply affected the war effort, both in Europe and at home.

Continue reading “Red Tails”

Lady Mechanika, Volume 4: The Clockwork Assassin

Lady Mechanika, Volume 4

Lady Mechanika, Volume 4: The Clockwork Assassin (chronologically the fifth in the series, as the unnumbered volume La Dame de la Muerte fits best in between 1 and 2) takes us to Mechanika City, home to the Lady Mechanika and her friends.

It is one of her closest friends, perhaps her closest, Mr Lewis, that this volume focuses on. You see, people from his past have started to die, and the murderer has an M.O. suspiciously like that of his mechanically augmented friend.

Continue reading “Lady Mechanika, Volume 4: The Clockwork Assassin”