Friday, September 17, 2010

Monsters: The Ultimate Bestiary

If you're into all things monstrous and cryptozoological, I cannot stress enough how much you will enjoy Christopher Dell's book, Monsters: A Bestiary of Devils, Demons, Vampires, Werewolves, and Other Magical Creatures.

Published by Inner Traditions, this is without doubt one of the best (if not the best) bestiary-style publications that has ever hit the book-shelves - and I do not exaggerate when I state that.

Running at just under 200-pages, Monsters, as you can probably guess given its bestiary nature, has its roots in creatures of times long gone, and demonstrates the sheer wealth of fantastic entities that, for centuries, have dominated our folklore, legends, mythology, nightmares and - just maybe - the real world, too.

So, with that said, onto the content: after an Introduction from the author that delves into what it is that makes us so fascinated with, and by, monsters, and that also focuses on some of the more bizarre and infamous creatures that perplexed, amazed, and even terrified such cultures as those of Egypt, Mesopotamia, Medieval Europe, Japan and more, it's onto the dastardly beasts themselves.

Kicking off with a chapter titled Gods and Monsters, Dell introduces us to the Cyclopes - the offspring of the gods Uranus and Gaia; to the Egyptian Anubis; and the Hindu god, Kali.

Creatures of Chaos follows - a section of the book that takes us back to ancient Babylonian legends, including that of the sea serpent-like Tiamat; and then it's on to far more ominous beasts, such as demons and devils, and the way in which they have played key roles in such religions as Christianity, Buddhism, and Hinduism.

Monsters of the Underworld feature heavily in the book too, demonstrating the sheer fear that existed in centuries-past of Satan's hordes - which, as the book reveals, took on a veritable multiplicity of forms, none of which look particularly pleasant. Of course, surfacing from the pits of Hell, pleasant is the absolute last way one would expect to describe these terrifying critters!

Monsters of the magical variety have their place in the pages of the book too, including those pesky little Homunculi and - of course - the Golem (both of which, coincidentally, feature in my new book, Final Events, but I digress!).

Devotees of everything dragon-like will be pleased to know that more than 20-pages are devoted to these legendary creatures. Disappointed, you most definitely will not be!

Monsters of the waters, such as sea-serpents, sirens and mermaids come under the spotlight in fine fashion, as do definitive shape-shifters, such as werewolves and the Demon Foxes of Japan.

Of particular fascination to me was the section of the book on the monsters that surface after the sun has set and invade our nightmares. Are such experiences purely internal, or does the sleep-state open a door to nightmarish realms full of all manner of beasts?

Of course, in a book such as this, folklore becomes an integral player: legends and ancient traditions are shown to be important aspects of the development of a number of significant monster-based tales. And, should you be fortunate enough or unfortunate enough (depending on your own, personal opinion!) to come face-to-face with a creature from the outer edge, you're provided with essential data on how to confront and combat them.

For me, the most engaging chapter is that titled Off the Edge of the Map, which focuses on a plethora of truly bizarre "things" (which is the best way I can describe them!) that are as jaw-dropping as they are bizarre.

There is one thing that I have left until last, and that is the very issue that defines a bestiary - and that is, of course, the huge collection of images that adorn the pages of Monsters.

I own several bestiary-type books on strange creatures, but I have to say - in all honesty - that Monster tops them all. The ancient artwork that appears throughout the book is, literally, breathtaking, and ranges from the fantastic to the ominous. Indeed, there are some renditions that positively ooze menace. Others are near-magical and evoke imagery in the mind of far-away lands and creatures of ages long-gone.

Other imagery is near-hypnotic in nature, and for those of you of a nervous disposition, you may find these same images invading your very own nightmares - thus, perhaps, giving these ancient and mighty beasts a new lease on life.

For me, it is the aforementioned chapter, Off the Edge of the Map that contains the most captivating, visual artwork, and which pulls the reader into a world very different to that of the early 21st Century - but one that, I suspect, all of us have an innate ability to connect with at a subconscious, primordial level.

I used the words "I cannot stress..." in the opening sentence of this review, but I'm going to use it again. Indeed, I cannot stress how much pleasure, enjoyment and interest you will derive from not just the text of the book, but from the accompanying artwork too, which is truly fantastic.

If you're at all interested in tales, myths, folklore and more of a monstrous and dastardly nature, then Monsters: A Bestiary of Devils, Demons, Vampires, Werewolves, and Other Magical Creatures by Christopher Dell is a book you should invest in quickly! As a definitive beastly bestiary, this is nigh-on hard to beat.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Legend Tripping with Jeff Belanger

Jeff Belanger, the author of the new book Picture Yourself Legend Tripping, is someone I've met on several occasions at gigs along the East-Coast, over the last few years.

And, not only is Jeff a guy who is highly knowledgeable on matters of a paranormal and Fortean nature, but he's also someone with a keen wit and a fine understanding of how to undertake an investigation into the realm of the unknown. And, all of this shines through in the pages of Jeff's new book.

Basically, Legend Tripping is a "How To..." guide to the investigation of a whole host of other-worldly, monstrous, alien and ethereal "things" of a supernatural nature.

Written in a bright, humorous, informative and illuminating fashion, Legend Tripping provides background data on some of the most famous - and infamous - mysteries of our world, such as UFOs, alien entities, Bigfoot, spooks and specters, urban-legends, Atlantis, lake-monsters, the Bermuda Triangle, Holy miracles, the Nazca Lines, time-travel, zombies, Mothman and more.

But, things don't end there. What Jeff has done - and in a fine and capable fashion, too - is to also provide you with all the requirements you'll need when it comes to heading out into those spooky woods, haunted houses, mysterious locales, and exotic and mysterious domains.

What do you need to take with you when you seek out Bigfoot? What are the essential items required when you're looking for chain-rattling phantoms? What sorts of equipment, gear, and everyday essentials will you need if your excursion of the paranormal kind is to be a success? How should interviews with witnesses to strange phenomena be conducted? These - and many more - are the types of questions that Jeff asks and, more-than-capably, answers.

Anyone and everyone can learn a great deal from Jeff's advice. However, if you are totally new to the subject of paranormal investigations, but are eager to learn more about how to investigate fringe topics, then Picture Yourself Legend Tripping is a book that should be an essential part of your library.

An excellent, highly entertaining, helpful and insightful look at how one should study the absolute wealth of weird shit that lurks among us!

They're Back In Black!

Yep, it's time to alert you to yet another new title from the always-busy Global Communications company of Timothy Green Beckley. And, it's a very good one that focuses on one of the strangest aspects of the worlds of both Ufology and Forteana, namely those pesky entities that seem forever destined to wreak havoc and mayhem wherever they go, and while issuing dire warnings to anyone who might dare discuss the subject of UFOs. I'm talking, of course, about the Men in Black!

Tim's new book, Curse of the Men in Black, is an excellent addition to the published material on this very creepy facet of saucer-seeking, for several reasons. Number one: we are treated to a full reproduction of John Stuart's 1963 book, UFO Warning.

Originally published by Gray Barker's Saucerian Books, UFO Warning is vital reading for anyone and everyone that wants to acquaint themselves with some of the early MIB data, cases and witness experiences. Truly, they don't make 'em like this anymore! The inclusion of UFO Warning alone makes Tim's new book well worth investing in.

But, that's not all you get. Yep, there's much more that will both fascinate and unsettle MIB fans everywhere.

There's (A) the links between the MIB and the mysterious deaths of certain ufological players, researchers and authors; (B) the Black Helicopter connection; (C) the infamous story of how Tim came to secure a photograph of a MIB back in the 1960s (yes the picture appears in the book); (D) Tim talking about his own MIB investigations and certain, very intriguing case studies; (E) MIB activity in relation to strange creatures and unknown beasts - including a certain legendary critter from Point Pleasant, West Virginia, (F) the occult-driven story of Albert Bender (without who, surely, there would be no MIB) and much, MUCH more, including a bonus, 60-minute DVD of Tim speaking with MIB witness, Johnny Sands.

If you're new to the MIB phenomenon, or want to take a look back at what was afoot within some of the earlier years of Ufology - as well as what it was that got so many researchers and authors so caught up in the MIB puzzle - this book will make great, late-night reading.

Buy it now before the MIB have it confiscated!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Crash Go the Saucers!

Just recently, New Page Books sent me a review-copy of Kevin Randle's latest book: Crash: When UFOs Fall From the Sky.

I've met Kevin on a couple of occasions; most recently at the annual MUFON conference in Denver, Colorado in July. And, even though it's fair to say we are poles apart (in some respects, but not all) when it comes to Roswell, a fine time was had hanging out and chatting with Kevin - demonstrating that disagreeing on certain aspects of Ufology does not mean daggers need be drawn!

Well, for some in Ufology, it does. But, I'm pleased to say that Kevin and I were able to amiably hang out, and not get into that pathetic "with me or against me" mindset that seems to dominate much of Ufological thinking.

But, you may ask: what about the book? What do I think of Crash? What should you think of it? Okay, here we go...

First: if, when it comes to UFO crash-retrieval cases you are a wide-eyed true believer who swallows whole just about each and every story of dead aliens; crashed, wrecked and recovered UFOs; and Hangar 18 that crosses your tedious path, then this is not the book for you.

I should clarify: if you are of that very sad and tragic mindset, then you should still most definitely read the book, but you may find that more than a few cherished beliefs fall by the wayside, in the process. The book might even give you a nose-bleed. And, such would probably be mightily deserved too.

If, however, you have a deep, open-minded approach to crashed UFO accounts, but are driven by a quest for the truth (whatever that may be), rather than by a desire to only ever follow that path of a definitive "I Want To Believe" nature, then you'll derive much pleasure, satisfaction and insight from Crash.

So, with that bit of a rant out of the way, onto the book!

Kevin, as just about everyone in Ufology knows, is a firm adherent of the idea that aliens from some far-away world met their deaths in the harsh desert of New Mexico back in the long-gone summer of 1947. And, maybe they did. I may have written a book suggesting otherwise - Body Snatchers in the Desert - but, I have always openly admitted that in the hall-of-mirrors world that is Ufology, truth and disinformation make for very strange bed-fellows of a truly unpredictable nature.

So, on the matter of Roswell, we get what we would expect from Kevin: a solid look at the Roswell affair, but with the emphasis on those witnesses - and their attendant testimony - that collectively push the case down the road to E.T.

However, those of you who assume that just because Kevin is of a "Roswell was alien" approach, also means that he's a proponent of just about every crash case that comes along, it's time to take a pill or two, a few deep breaths, lower your blood-pressure, and calm down.

Aurora, Texas, 1897; Aztec, New Mexico 1948; and Spitzbergen, Norway, 1952 are all summarily dismissed as probable hoaxes. And Del Rio 1950 doesn't come out of this looking particularly glowing either. The near-legendary Kingman, Arizona event of 1953 comes in for some deep criticism, too; even though Kevin admits that this is a case that remains open, to some intriguing degree.

But Kevin is not the evil destroyer of most-things crashed and saucer-shaped that some of you might now have in mind (and if you do, that only serves to demonstrate one of the major aspects of the Ufological field: its utterly ridiculous emotionally-driven pettiness. And you know who you are: you send me crappy emails from time to time, written on your mommy's computer!).

By that, I mean, Kevin concludes that Roswell was not the only occasion upon which E.T. has crashed, burned and been scooped up, body-bag-style, for transfer to some secret locale where it subsequently gets sliced, diced and dissected.

The admittedly very interesting Las Vegas affair of 1962 (if you don't know the one, then buy the book!) gets positive, pro-alien coverage. And Ubatuba, 1957 remains very much an open case for Kevin, and one considered worthy of further coverage, reinvestigation and new study.

As for the rest of the book, well you get a great deal on Stringfield, Kecksburg, Project Moon Dust, and that Needles, California incident of 2008 that practically screams "Remotely Piloted Vehicle!" And much more, too.

So, if you're into crashed UFO cases and you're looking for a careful, unbiased look at the phenomenon in its entirety, then this is a book from which you should come away refreshed, informed, and satisfied.

But if you're someone who is utterly driven by belief systems, and totally rejects the notion that certain classic cases might be the results of hoaxes, misidentification and more, well that's just too bad.

I don't agree with all of Kevin's conclusions, but I do know that Ufology needs more books like this, where the author leaves beliefs at the door, and dissects the phenomenon in an unbiased way and without having to resort to championing certain cases, just because that's what certain shrill screamers in Ufology want to hear.

Sliders: When The Lights Go Out...

When Patrick Huyghe of Anomalist Books recently mailed me a copy of their latest release, Hilary Evans' Sliders: The Enigma of Streetlight Interference, I thought to myself: well, this is all very interesting. But a full-length book on people who seemingly have the ability to affect streetlights as they walk under, or near, them?

Surely, such a subject-matter would be far more suitable for a 10- or 20-page-long paper, not a 192-page book, right? Wrong!

Anomalist Books have carved for themselves a first-class niche in the field of publishing thought-provoking and near-unique titles on anomalies of the mind, the physical world, and those strange realms beyond. And, Sliders is a great addition to A.B.'s ever-expanding list of titles.

So, with that said, onto the book itself. Essentially, as I alluded to in my opening paragraph, Sliders are those people who appear to possess a truly uncanny skill: they can turn off, or turn on, streetlights when they are in their near-vicinity. Sometimes, it seems, this is entirely at random, and on other occasions, there is evidence that the phenomenon - or perhaps skill would be a better term - can be controlled, at least to some degree.

And, to prove his point, Evans provides his readers with numerous accounts - from equally numerous walks of life and backgrounds - of people who are possessed of this curious talent. Clearly, as the author shows, this is a worldwide phenomenon, rather than one solely limited to one locale or one particular person.

The book covers some fascinating areas, and raises important issues and questions in the process: does age play a role in the abilities of the Sliders? Is this something that is prevalent throughout certain families (the answer to this question is: very possibly, yes)? How does the state-of-mind of the Slider play a role in the experience? And: can mainstream science, or alternative science, answer the riddle once and for all, and in all its entirety?

Then there is the spin-off phenomenon that sees some Sliders having the skills to affect checkouts and cash-registers, computers, elevators, traffic-lights, and much more.

Electric girls (I always wanted one of them!) psychokinesis, ball-lightning and much more all come into play in the domain of a phenomenon that is as poorly-understood as it is fantastic and, potentially - if it can be successfully harnessed on a regular basis - world-changing, and perhaps not always in a good way, too.

Of course, a subject-matter like this could become incredibly technical and mind-numbing in nature. Fortunately, however, Evans writes in an informative, enjoyable and, at times, humorous fashion that makes Sliders as entertaining as it is fascinating.

If you're interested in, or captivated by, the mysterious powers of both mind and body, then Sliders is most certainly for you.

Definitely not a book you'll be "turned off" by! Terrible pun, I know...