Book Reviews
Red Dragon by Thomas Harris. Dutton. ISBN 0525945563 (Hard Cover) Dell. ISBN 0440206154 (Soft Cover)

For anyone who saw the movie 'Silence of The Lambs' you must read the Red Dragon. This excellent book first introduces Dr. Hannibal Lecter to us. It precedes the books 'The Silence of The Lambs' and 'Hannibal' both written by the brilliant author Thomas Harris.

It is a psychological thriller of a mad serial killer who is hunted down by the same person who caught Hannibal and almost died in the attempt.

Red Dragon is a wonderful read that will keep you in suspense the whole time and has a surprise ending. Thomas Harris is a masterful storyteller and writer. He holds you spellbound with each word and makes it hard for you to stop reading long enough to answer the call of nature or the telephone.

It is about the pursuit of a twisted psychopath by the same man who caught the notorious serial killer Lecter. Will Graham seems to almost be able to read the minds of these sick perversions and has demons of his own.

If you like thrillers then this book is for you. Harris's writing is not boring or will it leave you feeling like you missed something. A must read for anyone who loves the thriller!

--L.A.S.

Lord of the Rings By J.R.R.Tolkien - Ballantine Books. Boxed Set Trade Book Size (6x9) ISBN 0345340426

In 1937 The Hobbit, a fantasy adventure written by Oxford scholar John Ronald Reuel Tolkien, was published and has since held the fascination of many, many people right up to today!

Currently in production is a live action movie series that will tackle all the tales about Frodo, Bilbo and their adventures in the Land of Mordor. So it's about time to take another look at these books which inspired a major cult of fantasy fans over the last sixty-odd years.

The Hobbit (or There and Back Again) is considered the prelude to the trilogy known as Lord of the Rings. The Hobbit is mostly about Bilbo Baggins, a solitary and generally unsociable little inhabitant of Middle Earth who gets his life changed forever by Gandalf, the Wizard, who sends poor Bilbo (who moans a lot like the husband in Moliere's play Tartuffe) off in the company of Elves, Dwarfs and other rude, noisy, imposing creatures, to face Smaug, the dragon in the Land of Mordor, far, far away from the comfort of his Hobbit hutch!

It was in the depths of Mordor that Bilbo found the ring, a magical-mystical piece of jewelry which renders the wearer invisible, but also is powerfully addictive when worn repetitively, altering the personality of the user. One user, named Gollum, has already been turned into a whining, evil little creature lurking or cowering about.

The Lord Of The Rings is a three part saga mostly about Frodo, Bilbo's younger adopted cousin, who is to return the evil ring, which has been retained all these years by Bilbo, to the depths of Mordor!

Bilbo, while not quite as far gone as poor Gollum, nonetheless really doesn't want to part with his precious (a term both he and Gollum use to refer to the ring) but Gandalf insists and Frodo goes off to face even more perils and dangers than did Bilbo in the premier offering.

The Hobbit was originally a bedtime story for Tolkien's children. While the three books of the trilogy -- Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers and Return of the King are more grown up, probably aimed at a known audience that was devouring Tolkien's first book. Of course, by the time the trilogy was written Tolkien's children had probably also outgrown bedtime stories!

While I've never read about any connections, I've always wondered -- Tolkien being a scholar and all -- if Gollum was based or at least conceptualized by the Jewish legend of the Golem or man of clay. Tolkien, being well read, may have intertwining fables or legends. This is often a tactic of many a good writer. With Smaug (smog?) and Gollum (Golem?), one begins to conjure up connections, one way or the other, of a mixture of reality and lesser known fables. Then, again, there could be no connection at all -- just pure coincidence!

Tolkien books are tomes -- quite lengthy reading, complete with maps, history and such (in fact, there's even a separate book about the History of Middle Earth by J. R. R. Tolkien, Edited by his son, Christopher Tolkien. It is possible that Jean Auel may have been a little influenced by his works, based upon the layouts in her Earth's Children series. Certainly Robert Plant from Led Zeppelin was influenced by Hobbit stories, which provided a foundation for songs like Battle of Evermore. Leonard Nimoy (Mr. Spock) was also very influenced by The Hobbit and wrote his own ode to Bilbo Baggins which he sang on his first record album back in the 60's during the Star Trek hey days.

These books also inspired several animated feature films, in fact, my first introduction to the series was from a very good artist I knew in high school who wanted to make an animated version of The Hobbit. I, myself, didn't start reading the series until I got drafted into the Army -- where we passed the books around the barracks during basic training, each taking a turn at one of the saga's.

The features (one each year), from New Line cinema, will begin this December for the holiday movie season with The Fellowship of the Ring (they are not producing The Hobbit -- just the trilogy) which stars Elija Wood as Frodo, Billy Boyd as Pippin, Dominic Monaghan as Merry, Sean Astin as Sam, Ian McKellen as Gandalf, Jan Holm as Bilbo Baggins, Viggo Mortensen as Aragorn, Orlando Bloom as Legolas, Liv Tyler as Arwen, Christopher Lee as Saruman, Cate Blanchett as Galadriel, Sean Bean as Boromir, John Rhys-Davies as Gimili, Andy Serkis as Gollum, Bermard Hill as Theoden, Brad Dourif as Wormtongue, Hugo Weaving as Elrond, Mirando Otto as Eowyn, Karl Urban as Eomer, David Wenham as Faramir. Directed by Peter Jackson. Written by Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh and Phillipa Boyens. Produced by Barrie M. Osborne (who also was a producer on The Matrix) and Peter Jackson. Filmed in New Zealand, largely with local production people and facilities.

It's hard to say just how good these films will turn out to be. They could be aimed at a juvenile audience, then again the director might surprise us! In any event, we've always got the original Tolkien books to fall back upon, creating vivid images of Middle Earth in the theater of our own minds...

Official Movie Site
The One Ring Net
Sir Ian McKellen's Official Web Site


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Dune A saga by Frank Herbert - Ace Books (Hard cover) ISBN 044100590X (Soft cover) ISBN 0441172717

I was turned on to this series by my studio partner, Alan. Since I'm more into science fiction than fantasy I found the Dune saga's to be much easier reading than Lord of the Rings.

Dune refers to the sand planet Arrakis, off in a galaxy far, far away, in an unspecified time period. Dune is special because the spice, Melange (created by sandworms who live deep in the desert), is found here. Melange has a variety of uses by many of the clans and professionals of the Empire. The Spacing Guild, for example, uses it to transport ships and people from one star system to another in a blink of an eye. Others use it to communicated between planets telepathically.

Control of Dune and the spice mining operation is handed out to one of the Royal Houses by the Emperor and as the first book begins there is to be a change of Houses on Dune.

The stories center around Paul Atreides, son of Duke Leto and his concubine, the Lady Jessica. Paul, in his late teens at the start of the saga, is the product of selective breeding from the religious order of the Bene Gesserit, of which his mother is a member. They are considered witches by outsiders, for they have the ability to wield great destructive powers using control of their minds, as manifested by the voice. When amplified by a manufactured device it can kill people and knock down brick walls. Their voice can also bend people's minds and influence the will of the victim in sort of a hypnotic fashion. Within the book there is also reference to Orange Catholic Bibles and the senior Bene Gesserit's are referred to as Mother Superior. Hence a religious aspect.

Leto takes his family away from their lush, green planet home world with vast oceans to the harsh, hot world of Dune where water is so scarce that the indigenous population (Fremen) re-claim it from the dead. Shortly after their arrival an attack is made on the House Atreides by a rival clan which has a long standing feud with Leto. The Duke is killed by one of Leto's trusted inner circle members, Dr. Yeah, Paul and Jessica are taken to the desert where they escape through the help of Yeah, who is using this opportunity to revenge the death of his wife at the hands of Leto's rivals.

Once in the desert Paul and Jessica fall in with the Fremen, with Paul eventually rising to become leader of the Fremen (now also known as Muad'dib) in their rebellion against the Empire.

It's a very involved story about the nature and evolution of man's spirituality and morals. Each House has its own atomic weapons, Bene Gesserit witches, warriors, imperial storm troopers. Both the Spacing Guild and the senior Bene Gesserit Mother Superior fear Paul Atreides right from the start. Then there's the master plan of the Bene Gesserit -- the creation of the Kwisatz Haderach -- the man who can go and see what the women in the order (it's an all female religion) can't!

In an interview once, author Frank Herbert said this was a saga of the Middle East, with the spice Melange representing oil and the Houses of the Empire being, what...? The OPEC oil cartel? The Bene Gesserit -- the Christian missionaries in the Muslim lands? Who knows! Herbert only went so far in his detailing of what Dune was really about, he said we can all figure the rest out!

Lengthy and compelling reading. It spawned a very iffy film (largely because it was so short and often very miscast with Kyle MacLachlan as Paul, and a 'Jessica' that really didn't meet the description found in the book) and a new mini-series on the Sci-Fi channel (see Television section for more details).

Winner of the coveted Hugo and Nebula awards for science fiction, this series, originally published in 1965, has been re-issued in both hard cover and paperback, along with the sequels:

Dune Messiah
Children of Dune
God Emperor of Dune
Chapterhouse Dune

There are also new adventures being written by modern authors (Frank Herbert died in 1986). For more information visit the web site: Dune Novels

--E.R.D.

The Unexpected Guest From a play by Agatha Christie, novelized by Charles Osborne - 1999 Minotaur Books (Hardcover) ISBN 031224262X St Martins Mass Market Paper ISBN 0312975120

Michael Starkwedder's car got stuck in the mud in South Wales, ambling up to the nearest house for help, when he knocks on the door he gets no reply. Opening the door, he goes inside and sees a man slumped over dead in a wheelchair, a young woman standing nearby with a smoking gun in her hands. Michael begins to uncover chilling evidence about the death -- discovering it was not as it seems! Excellent adaptation of a Christie play, by her biographer, Charles Obsorne...

-- M.S.


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