Category Archives: Classic

Fiction from long established or historically relevant novelists. Includes classical literature (Greek and Roman, Elizabethian, American, European). Novels written 50+ years ago.

Silver Streak Archives Featuring the Original Daredevil Volume 1

Dark Horse continues its trend of reprinting golden and silver age comics in collectable editions with this compendium from Gleason. These 282 pages are filled with pulp comic after pulp comic, moving from superhero to boy genius to sleuth to a clear Tarzan knock-off; this collection is fully representative of the 1940s multi-story fad.

Silver Streak Archives Featuring the Original Daredevil Volume 1
By Jack Cole, Jack Binder, Bob Wood, Dick Briefer, Ralph Johns, Kane Miller
Dark Horse Comics
June 2012

The title character is presumed to be Silver Streak, a precursor to the Flash, but in reality there is no main character, but several reoccurring characters and the Silver Streak doesn’t show up much as the series goes on. Instead, he is replaced in focus by the Daredevil and his battles with Yellow Claw.

In early versions of Daredevil, he is mute relying on thought bubbles that were so rarely used that the comic took a portion of the first page panel to explain that he wasn’t speaking aloud, but these “thought balloons” were used “to show you what goes on in his mind.” He also starts out yellow and blue/black then changes to red and blue/black with the ability to speak, keeping on the boomerang and his spiked belt as unchangeable parts of Daredevils character.

If you’ve never heard of Dickie Dean the Boy Inventor, Bill Wayne the Texas Terror, Zongar the Miracle Man, Presto Martin, the Pirate Prince, Dan Dearborn Freedom’s Son or even the Silver Streak you wouldn’t be alone as none of these pulp characters persisted past the initial 23 issue run of Silver Streak Comics. While Dark Horse is to be applauded for preserving golden age comics and these stories do possess historical value, they just aren’t very entertaining.

The characters display the chauvinistic, racist memes of their time, the 1940s. (Look no further than “Yellow Claw” a slanted-eyed monster wearing obviously Oriental clothing). The plots are overly simplistic pulp with hastily drawn figures aren’t engaging and it’s manifest why these characters died out and others persevered.

While this book does feature the “original Daredevil” – there are no other characters in comics prior to this one named thus – it is clearly not the same Marvel/ Stan Lee Daredevil that most of us will recognize, even though the title is clearly implying that connection.

The most interesting part of this collection is the forward by Michael T. Gilbert where he delves deeply into the history of this anthology and the characters within. His detailed and informative forward firmly places the comic in its historical context and allows readers to enjoy it – as much as modern readers may – in context.

Overall, this collection has value as a historical novelty and not much more. See other anthologies, like Eerie Presents Hunter, for better content that is also historically important.


Scott Asher is the Editor-in-Chief of BookGateway.com. His personal blog is AshertopiA – a land flowing with milk and honey… and a lot of sticky people where he cartoons and writes on Christianity, Zombies, and anything else he wants to.

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.

Triplanetary by E. E. Smith

Originally published as a four part serial in Amazing Stories in 1934, E. E. Smith, called “Doc” for his PhD, later turned these stories into a prequel to his popular Lensmen series in 1948. Doc Smith was a contemporary of other such early 20th century Science Fiction writers as Isaac Asimov, James Blish, Robert A. Heinlein, Arthur C. Clarke and others. This period is often considered the Golden Age of Science Fiction – and rightly so.

Triplanetary
by E. E. Smith
read by Mark F. Smith
published in 1934
Librivox.org

As I considered the next book to read / listen to in my trabels through the late 19th and early 20th centery classics I chose Triplanetary. Unlike some books, like Jules Verne’s Master of the World, I found myself right at home in this narrative. Like so many others of its time, the story moves slowly through an adventure filled with inexplicable enemies and events, with a dashing hero finds a blushing damsel and sets out on saving the day. Just in space.

The story starts out on a spaceliner at the outset of an attack by space pirates. Conway Costigan is an undercover agent of Triplanetary the agency that keeps the peace between the populated planets and in space – a prequel to Star Trek’s Federation, if you will, only with less debate and more decision. Costigan quickly realizes the attack is under way and begins working on saving some of the people nearby. One of them, Clio Marsden, becomes his love interest in standard damsel-in-distress early 20th century fashion.

Triplanetary forces move to intercept the pirates at their home base Roger’s Planetoid and a furious battle ensues. In the midst of the death dealing, another party shows up and wipes both sides out with its even more futuristic weaponry and defenses, which niether Triplanetary nor Roger’s pirates can withstand. These Nevians, as we come to know them, take Costigan, Clio and another survivor Captain Bradley back to their planet for study. But before they get too far out of range, Costigan sends a beam of detailed information on their new enemies, including details of weaponry and scientific breakthrus.

Triplanetary agents recieve the information and begin working to incorporate the new technology into their own super-ship, the Boise. And so the real battle begins. Through the adventure, be it on the home front with the Boise defending Earth (or Tellus as it is called,) or with the three captives attempting escape we are taken from one exotic setting to another and placed into one dangerous situation after another much like Robert Louis Stevenson’s Kidnapped that I reviewed a few months ago.

As far as adventures go, this one hold up well over time. I found that the use of terminology, which at the time probably sounded extremely scientific, now sounds preposterous (ultrawaves, beams, rays and such,) but is understandable since I have the perspective of nearly 80 years of innovation. Unlike some so-called civilized books of the time, E. E. Smith doesnt shy away from big themes, which perhaps he would have if this story were written just a few years later, like weapons of mass destruction used not only by evil characters, but also by so-called good characters. The question of what is ethically permissible in situations like those of this book is never fully fleshed out as both Humans and Nevians use their weapons with no regard to ethics.

Like most books of this time, the males are completely male and the females – with one exception when Clio late in the store takes up armor and a weapon – are classicly female. Again, this seems outdated and at the least quaint, and at most offensive at times. It is hard to imagine that women were expected to act the way that Clio does through most of the book. Were I to come across a woman like her, it is extremely likely I would have little or no tolerance for her neediness and whining. Clearly a differnent time.

Mark F. Smith is excellent as always and remains one of the best readers at Librivox.org. His soothing voice was up to the task of the varied accents and nuances of characters.

The attention to detail, varied adventure and keen insight into the Golden Age of Science Fiction make this book a very enjoyable read and recommended to fans of the genre.


Scott Asher is the founder and administrator of BookGateway.com and has generously provided this review. He also reviews for the commercial site BuddyHollywood.com. His personal blog is AshertopiA – a land flowing with milk and honey… and a lot of sticky people.

Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson

After the death of his parents, young man David Balfour determines to spend time travelling before settling down to a family and home. As he is leaving the town of his birth, his good friend and minister Mr. Campbell gives him a sealed letter from his father and told that he should take the letter to the Lord of Shaws, Ebenezer Balfour, his uncle. Young David is elated to find that he may have an inheritance and family and sets off at once.

Kidnapped
by Robert Louis Stevenson
published in 1886
read by Mark F. Smith
Librivox.org

When he comes to Ebenezer Balfour, though, his enthusiasm is quickly dashed by the reality that the current Lord of Shaws is a paranoid, anti-social outcast in his own land living in a never finished estate in complete darkness. David is greeted and treated as an enemy to Ebenezer, who send him on an errand that would have ended in certain death if not for a lucky lightning strike uncovering the design. Once confronted, Ebenezer promises to take David to his lawyer the following day and set things right by giving him his rightful inheritance.

In town, Ebenezer meets with Captain Hoseason, a merchant ship captain that Ebenezer has a partnership with and entices David to visit the ship. David, having never seen anything like the ship or the sea complies. Once on the ship, though, Ebenezer quickly rows back to town leaving David with the seamen. Realization sets in too late. David is knocked out after trying to call for help and wakes to find himself on the way to America to be sold as a slave on a plantation.

Stevenson takes his time describing each episode of this adventure (for there were several sections, the kidnapping on the ship being just the first,) in great detail so much so that each could have been a novella in itself. After the kidnapping there is the voyage at sea, the muder of a Scotish Lord during the sensitive time just after the Jacobite Uprising, a wild flight through wild lands, and finally a memorable conclusion.

There is something special about classic novels of the 19th and early 20th centuries. Authors didn’t concern themselves with moving through stories quickly to get to the action. There are no Tom Clancy stories where inevitably someone gets blown up or assassinated in the first chapter thus setting up the novel as “action packed.” Be that as it may, Stevenson’s Kidnapped is every bit as full of adventure and more so than some current story tellers who play to the impatience of modern audiences.

Mark Smith is excellent as always as the Librivox.org reader. His calming voice sooths and relaxes the listener. While there were a lot of words and accents that were beyond him (which he admits to in a disclaimer at the start of the book) it is likely that very few readers today – professional or otherwise – would have known the correct pronunciation of the names and words from 19th century Scotland. As such, I certainly could not tell when a mistake was made or not and for my part enjoyed the story immensely.

This is a great example of classic literature that was well read and enjoyable. Visit Librivox.org  to download this audio book for free and enjoy it yourself. You wont regret it.


Scott Asher is the founder and administrator of BookGateway.com and has generously provided this review. He reviews for the commercial site BuddyHollywood.com and previously on Bookboro. His personal blog is AshertopiA – a land flowing with milk and honey… and a lot of sticky people.

Master of the World by Jules Verne

I’m going through a phase where I’m reading quite a few classics and – as in this case – books by authors of classics. There is something special about the way that English in literature was used a hundred years ago. I love the tempo and naive hope and civility of the stories. And thanks to Librivox.org, many of the classics are available by excellent readers for free. Verne’s book was read by Mark F. Smith, one of the best readers – at least as good as any professional I’ve listened to. So when I decided to listen to this book I was excited by the prospect of another great classic. Verne’s greater known books are adventure and excitement, dashed with science fiction. I expected the same here, but was sorely disappointed.

The Master of the World is about a man who creates a machine that can change forms between automobile, submarine, boat and airplane. At the time of the writing, submarines and airplanes were anticipated but not realized. To readers of this time, an automobile that could travel 120-200 mph would indeed seem near impossible. As a result of the invention, the Master of the World decides to flaunt his superiority, ignoring offers by governments to purchase the invention. Investigator Strock is charged with discovering and capturing the madman before his invention can cause harm to citizens of the United States.

One would think, as I did, that the premise would serve up an adventure worthy of reading. However, the book is a complete failure. The hero is merely a bystander, affecting the plot and the story in almost no way. The chase is wholly unsatisfactory. The resolution is so ridiculous and abrupt that when it was over I cried out loud, “Really? That’s it?!” Nothing happens in the book. And the book is not worth reading. By far the worst book I’ve read in years. There is a reason this is not a well known story by Verne.


Scott Asher is the founder and administrator of BookGateway.com and has generously provided this review. He reviews for the commercial site BuddyHollywood.com and previously on Bookboro. His personal blog is AshertopiA – a land flowing with milk and honey… and a lot of sticky people.

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.