Tag Archives: The Beasts of Valhalla

The Ten Books That Have Stuck With Me

This has been a hot little topic running around social media the last week and I figured, “Why not?” So here are the ten books that shaped me as a reader, a writer, and to an extent, a person.

chesbro valhallaThe Beasts of ValhallaGeorge C. Chesbro
My grandmother, that beautiful woman, put this book in my hand one night during a marathon D&D session. “Try this one,” she said. “You’ll like it, I think.” She was right. The fourth book in the Mongo mystery series, The Beasts of Valhalla is a wonderful mix of science fiction, fantasy, mystery, action, and thriller. Dealing with evolution, bigotry, and murder, Mongo the Magnificent must figure out what’s happening to him and his brother before it’s too late, because if they don’t, the entire world will be changed forever.

This book was a game changer for me in terms of cross-genre writing. If you’re a fan of any of the above mentioned genres, pick this one up and give it a whirl. It stands well enough on its own that you don’t need to read the first three books in the series.

imageThe TombF. Paul Wilson
The first Repairman Jack novel, and also the first novel I read by F. Paul Wilson. My aunt loaned me this book (probably in 1990 or so) and we debated over the end. I always voted that Jack died, but we now know otherwise. And trust me, when the second Repairman Jack novel came out, my aunt didn’t hesitate to say, “I told you.”

The novel, also part of the six-book Adversary Cycle, follows Jack as he battles the ancient and mythical Rakoshi. You don’t want to miss this one.

imageThe Tomorrow FileLawrence Sanders
I’m not sure where to start with this book. Sanders, probably best known for his Deadly Sins series featuring Edward X. Delaney, wrote prolifically throughout his career. From male hookers to feminism in the 80s, his off-series books are all incredibly poignant, considering most of them are almost as old as I am.

In The Tomorrow File, Sanders gives us a dystopian vision of America that isn’t too far off from where we’re at now. Acronyms fly, corrupt police, and a government that spies on its own people.

theythirstThey ThirstRobert R. McCammon
This book made my top five vampire novels.  You can read why it made that list on the post here. I hope you do.

Aside from those reasons, it’s here because I love vampires (not as much as werewolves, but close). The classic monsters are a big, big draw for me. McCammon is a hell of a writer and this is my favorite of his, by far. But he also wrote a damn good werewolf novel, an alien novel, and… I could go on. But if you’re into vampires, epic storytelling, a large cast of heroes and villains, then look no further than They Thirst. It has all of that and more.

imageConanRobert E. Howard, L. Sprague de Camp, and Lin Carter
I’m not a Conan scholar, not by any stretch of the imagination. I don’t think this the first collection of Conan stories, or the last, but it was the one we owned when I was a kid. It was an introduction to fantasy that wasn’t “The Hobbit” and really defined “low fantasy” for me. I know that’s an age-old debate (what high vs low fantasy really is), but in my own personal definitions, Conan is some of the best out there. And he’s stood the test of time, still being the baddest barbarian on the block.

imageLightningDean Koontz
When I was younger, I had a hard time deciding if King or Koontz was the better author. Considering I don’t really read either of them anymore (but they’re both on this list) I’m not sure it matters. I enjoyed them when I was younger.

Lightning strikes at pivotal times in Laura Shane’s life. And with it comes a blonde man who offers unconditional aid. Finding out who he is, and why he helps, while weaving a tale of historic importance is what makes this book one of the Koontz’s best.

imageDifferent SeasonsStephen King
Koontz and King… I’ve always enjoyed King’s shorter work more than his novels. In Different Seasons, he gives us four novellas, and they’re all stupendous.

Most of you have probably read this book, or at least seen the movie adaptations based on three of the stories: Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption, The Body, and Apt Pupil. The only one not yet a movie is The Breathing Method, which is arguably the weakest story in the collection. That said, it’s still very good. Definitely my favorite of King’s work, as it showcases more than just his horror sensibilities.

imageThe WerelingDavid Robbins
Man, this book took me in a whole new direction when it came to creature horror. It’s a werewolf book, yet it’s not a werewolf book. And if you know me, you know how I love my werewolf horror. That love is one reason why I’ve only written two werewolf-y short stories, and haven’t tackled the novel idea I have.

I don’t want to fuck it all up.

Robbins takes the werewolf idea, the spirit of it, and uses it to his advantage. He gives us a werewolf book that’s not a werewolf book, filled with classic horror archetypes and scenarios. It’s a quick, interesting read that plays on all the classic B elements.

ghoulsGhoulsEdward Lee
I couldn’t remember the name of this book for years. My grandmother had it on her shelf and that’s where I first read it. Initial response was: “Oh, Dean Koontz under a pen name!” I probably read this book four times in a two year span, and then lost track of it. Forgot the name, found the name, didn’t have the awesome blue cover I remembered. Found that next. Google, a lovely thing.

Why this book? I don’t know… It’s just FUN. For someone who read a lot of horror back in the day, this book doesn’t take itself too seriously, but the characters are all well done, and the pacing builds up until it explodes a little over halfway through. And from there, it turns into an action/horror piece that’s hard to quit reading.

F451Fahrenheit 451Ray Bradbury
Probably the only true “classic” on my list, which isn’t to say that I didn’t read any of the others, or didn’t like any of the others (I’ve read and liked my fair share), but Bradbury’s story of a fireman burning books hits close to home. Not only do we see a downside in education and people reading in general, but a complete lack of respect for authors in general.

Reading is an immense joy for me. I’m a firm believer that reading books makes us better people, more empathetic towards others, by exposing us to ideas, cultures, and situations we may not normally find in our everyday lives. I mean, c’mon, I’m a fat middle-aged white guy from Missouri who grew up at the high end of  the middle-class… what the fuck did I know about oppression? Nothing, until I started reading. And Fahrenheit 451 only confirms what we all know… if you haven’t read this book, it’s a must.

What about you, Brownies? Sound off in the comments about these books, or any others that have stuck with you over the years! I’d love to hear about them.

I hope the beasts are coming…

So, if you haven’t read any of the sci-fi news running amok (other than watching the new Godzilla trailer), you may have missed this article about the subject of this post, The Beasts of Valhalla. There have been several articles, actually, one of which also mentions a Farscape movie. Go wild, people. Go wild.

I hope this gets made and they’re not just blowing smoke up my ass. “The Beasts of Valhalla” was one of those books for me. You know, the kind that sets your imagination on fire and makes your head explode. Like MIND. BLOWN. I was probably 13 or 14 when I first read it (it was first published in 1985 and I read it right before starting high school in 1988) and it mixed several loves of mine together: Tolkein, detectives, swords, ESP, science,and swords. Oh, and the main character is the private detective. And he’s a dwarf. And a black belt. And an ex-circus star.

Can you fucking dig it?

“Beasts” is the fourth book in the “Mongo” series and probably the most well known. Trust me, though, the entire series is worth checking out. Chesbro melds several genres in each book (some speculative, some not) and I’d love to just give up the goods on each one, but I won’t. I’d prefer you to stop reading this blog post (but be sure to SHARE it, damn you!) and go buy as many books as you can in this series, which starts with “Shadow of a Broken Man.” I had a hard time finding them all (and this was several years ago) and paid more than a few shekels for some. Chesbro passed away and some went out of print, which made them rarer. Plus, I wanted the hardbacks with the dust jackets. Picky bastard, I know.

Each novel is a semi-stand alone book, but it doesn’t hurt to read them from the beginning. There are recurring characters that don’t always pop up, and some of the later novels are more entwined with past events than others. Still, if you read “The Beasts of Valhalla” you won’t be lost because you didn’t read the first three books. You’ll just want to go back and read them as soon as possible.

I know some of you (well, probably just my mom) are saying, “Whatever, Chris, you hate when people adapt books to movies. They kinda suck.”

And you’d be right, I do say that quite a bit. And it’s usually true and it may be true in this case. But then again, maybe not. See, this isn’t going to be a two hour movie, but a television series. To maintain the episode quota, I realize they’ll need to cover things that weren’t in the books. For me, it’ll be like True Blood; I couldn’t get past the sixth book, but I’m a die hard fan of the show. I know they’ve deviated from the book plots, but seriously, who would want to be stuck in Sookie’s fucking head for 13 episodes every season? I hate that character and hope the last plot twist we get is that some vampire rips her fucking head off. I’m digressing, though.

So, sure, there’s a potential for them to fuck it all up, but there’s also the possibility they’ll expand the universe I love.  Do yourself a favor and read this book, imagine Dinklage as the tough, sarcastic Mongo and tell me you don’t want to see it on the screen, too.

[Please, HBO, don’t fuck it up.]

If you’re interested, and I hope you are, here’s the list of Mongo books, in order:
Shadow of a Broken Man
City of Whispering Stone
An Affair of Sorcerers
The Beasts of Valhalla
Two Songs this Archangel Sings
The Cold Smell of Sacred Stone
Second Horseman Out of Eden
The Language of Cannibals
In the House of Secret Enemies
The Fear in Yesterday’s Rings
Dark Chant in a Crimson Key
An Incident at Bloodtide
Bleeding in the Eye of a Brainstorm
Dream of a Falling Eagle
Lord of Ice and Loneliness (to my knowledge, never released in the US, only France or Spain)