DELTA GREEN: ALIEN INTELLIGENCE, edited by Bob Kruger and John Tynes
THE DREAM-QUEST OF UNKNOWN KADATH # 1 and # 2, by Jason Thompson
NOCTURNUM: LONG SHADES by Darrell Hardy
|DELTA GREEN: ALIEN INTELLIGENCE, edited by Bob Kruger and John Tynes. Seattle: Armitage House, 1998. xiii, 189 pp. $11.95. ISBN 1-887797-09-2.|
DELTA GREEN is tm and © The Delta Green Partnership.
[Reviewed by Nicole Lindroos]
Reprinted with permission of Mitchell J. Gross, from Gaming Intelligence.
ALIEN INTELLIGENCE is 191 pages of hard hitting Cthulhu mythos stories, set in the DELTA GREEN world that PAGAN PUBLISHING unleashed on the unsuspecting gaming public. I am wildly enthusiastic about this book and have been waiting impatiently for the commercial version to be available to write this review. I can't wait any longer! Bug your local store, place a pre-order, use Pagan's mail order or write a letter to Santa Claus, but GET THIS BOOK.
Alien Intelligence is chock-full of modern horror and conspiracy theory, with a taint of Cthulhu thrown in for good measure. Bob Kruger has strung together the stories in this anthology (including one of his own) like beads in a beautiful and disturbing necklace. Roleplaying professionals Bruce Baugh, Dennis Detwiller, A. Scott Glancy, Blair Reynolds, Greg Stolze, John Tynes and Ray Winninger have all turned in excellent work. I could write a review of each story in the book, but I'll restrain myself and stick to giving you a hint of what each author has covered.
John Tynes starts out the collection with an emotionally evocative story that illustrates all too well the effect horrible truths can have on the lives and psyches of people forced to accept responsibility for those things which are too big to be handled.
Dennis Detwiller turns in a clever, fun and comparatively short story from the perspective of a Majestic-12 scientist. By fun, I don't mean it's a lighthearted romp. Detwiller uses dark humor and I was reminded of the saying "a small gun will still kill you." I understand that Detwiller has also illustrated the cover for the commercial printing of the anthology, which I have not seen yet.
Ray Winninger takes the reader back to the emotional and psychological horror of the setting, with a clever set-up that treats language as a dimension instead of a medium. Winninger obviously knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men, and lets a little of that out in this story.
Bruce Baugh's haunting narrative is a personal one, whose narrator, Bai Beishi, reminds us poetically that Delta Green is fighting something huge and globe-spanning in (perhaps) an ultimately futile resistance. Beautifully done!
The middle of the book returns the reader to emotional horror again, with Greg Stolze's striking story about exactly what happens in "deep cover" situations when Lovecraftian horrors are involved. (I once jokingly referred to Greg Stolze as a freak, meant only in the nicest way, you understand. This is my official apology. I was particularly struck by Stolze's story in this anthology and it's my opinion that Stolze is a true talent. Watch for other work from this guy!)
Adam Scott Glancy, one of the primary authors of Pagan's Delta Green sourcebook, contributes the next story in the anthology. What could be more evil than nasty, occult-obsessive Nazis? Mr. Glancy knows.
Bob Kruger's hefty contribution to the anthology is deliciously detailed and not a page too long, even at 50-pages. Ghouls, Delta Green, the Necronomicon, rich characters, action. Mmm, mmm, good.
Finally, Blair Reynolds takes a break from his artistic endeavors and delves head-first into writing. His contribution to the anthology started out just a little slow for me, but as soon as the story switched from the "debriefing" to the action, I was hooked. I'm a fan of Reynolds' art, and now of his writing. A great way to finish the anthology off with a bang and leave the readers wanting more.
So, there you have it. If you like horror fiction, the Cthulhu mythos, or modern day conspiracy materials, GET THIS BOOK.
[Reviewed by Edward P. Berglund]
In reviewing the Call of Cthulhu RPG sourcebook Delta Green last issue, I stated that it was of interest "whether you are a role player, a conspiracy enthusiast, or a Mythos fan," and that it brought the Mythos into the 1990's.
Well, now we have a Delta Green fiction anthology. This was originally published last year as a limited edition chapbook. Here we have a handsome, trade paperback of approximately 100,000 words of fiction, with a great cover (although uncredited.) The front cover touts that herein are "Cthulhu Mythos stories of modern horror and conspiracy;" and, as I said above, bringing the Mythos into the 1990's. If the book happens to be laying face down, it will get your attention, because the back cover states, "You are not cleared for this book."
Bob Kruger gives a short introduction about how he got involved in the Delta Green project (albeit at the tail end), suggested this anthology, and was told to run with it. John Tynes gives a very brief overview of the origin of Delta Green, Majestic-12, and The Karotechia.
And then we get into the meat of this anthology -- the fiction. Tynes starts us out with a bittersweet story of a man who has an aversion to Deep Ones, but manages to play them off against each other. This story also defines the mission of Delta Green. Dennis Detwiller puts his artist tools away and spins us a story of what happens when a Majestic-12 scientist experiments with the alien technology from the space disk that crashed at Roswell, New Mexico in 1947. (Incidentally, this is the only non-Mythos story in the anthology.) Ray Winninger tells of a girl whose mind was captured by the Great Race and knows the protagonist, although they have never met before . . . or have they? Bruce Baugh gives us a long narrative poem, supposedly translated from Cantonese, about a young Chinese poet who learns of the "botched mission" of Delta Green in Cambodia, and what he learns afterward. Adam Scott Glancy, gives us a story of The Karotechia, Nazis working toward the rise of the Fourth Reich, which takes place under the icepack in Antarctica, but is, presumably, no longer a threat. Our erstwhile editor, Kruger tells of Delta Green's fight against a group of ghouls who have decided fresh meat is best and winds up giving us a tale that enters the Dreamlands. Another artist, Blair Reynolds' story, last, but not least, is a transcript of a Delta Green debriefing, interspersed with narrative passages which show that not everything comes out in a debriefing if you don't ask the right questions.
"Potential Recruit" by Greg Stolze. I consider this the best story in the book. But that may be just my opinion. Stolze gives us an IRS Criminal Investigative Division agent who is brought in on a Delta Green mission to infiltrate, undercover, a religious group dedicated to a certain Earth Mother. The agent begins to question his own beliefs and the mission he has been entrusted to carry out. As Kruger mentions in his introduction to this story, it is easier for Delta Green to fight the horrors of the Mythos off and away around the globe than it is here at home in the good ole US of A.
When I said the Stolze story was the best in the book, I wasn't implying that there are some clunkers herein. All . . . and I do mean, all . . . of these stories are very well written and highly entertaining, whether you read them as a Mythos enthusiast, as an adjunct to roleplaying, or as a conspiracy buff. This book is highly recommended. If you have some doubts about shelling out your twelve dollars, read "An Item of Mutual Interest" by Adam Scott Glancy on the Delta Green web site.
This book can be ordered through Pagan Publishing or Amazon.com.
|H.P. LOVECRAFT'S THE DREAM-QUEST OF UNKNOWN KADATH #'s 1 and 2, by Jason Thompson. San Francisco: Mock Man Press, 1998. vi, 298 pp. $2.95 each.
Cover illustations © Jason Thompson.
[Reviewed by Edward P. Berglund]
Herewith are the first two issues (with the third due any day now) of Jason Thompson's five-issue adaptation of Lovecraft's short fantasy novel of the Dreamlands. To be truthful, this is not strictly an adaptation of Lovecraft's work, such as the Classics Illustrated adaptations of the 40's and 50's, but more of a personal interpretation, which gives it a quiet charm of its own.
Jason's artistic renderings harken back to the underground comics of the 70's, with hardly any blank space in the panels. The panel work is detailed (Jason says "complex"), but far from looking crowded. He has only used as much text as necessary to advance the storyline, letting the illustrations speak for themselves.
Probably the only quirk to the whole comic is the rendering of Randolph Carter as a "cartoonish" character. Jason has said that he took his inspiration from classic childrens' books, giving the whole a lighter vein, which suits this Dreamlands fantasy very well. He has said of the Carter character, ". . . I felt than an unrealistic, 'blank slate' character among the complex backgrounds might be a more accessible protagonist than a realistic Carter." In an email to Jason, Brian Showers said, "I think it's very appropriate that you've left the visual interpretation of Carter more or less uninterpreted -- to me the identification with Carter is what gives the story its potency. Readers are able to mold the drawing into whomever they want, be it themselves, Lovecraft, or a mere fictional character." And Ralph E. Vaughan concluded that "it was the perfect representation of a dreamer, especially when played against the fully realized inhabitants of the Dreamlands." And, anyway, he already used Lovecraft's likeness for Carter when Carter is not dreaming. In text and drawings, I think that Jason has managed to make a more rounded character of Randolph Carter than Lovecraft did.
Jason's interpretation of the denizens of the Dreamlands are probably not what you or I had pictured mentally while reading this short novel. But in the context of his adaptation, his interpretations work, as long as you suspend your own visions. And then there are the grandiose panels that stretch all over the place, depicting things like the city of Dylath-Leen -- so many towers, but I guess when one is actually within the environs of any city, it seems kind of spread out; but seen from afar, there doesn't seem to be any space left to build any more buildings or towers --, the face on Mount Ngranek -- stirring memories; we know we've seen this face before --, and the tower with the stone steps leading ever onward toward the upper Dreamland.
The first issue of this adaptation has already gone into a second printing. It is hoped that upon completion of the five-issue adaptation, that there will be a clamor to gather the five issues into a graphic novel format.
And if you have not read Lovecraft's short novel, or were put off by the fact that it was not one of his horror stories, I heartily recommend this adaptation. Upon completing it, you should have a curiosity about how the master portrayed this Dream-Quest in prose. Then read the original and make up your own mental images.
And visit the Mock Man Press web site to see earlier examples of the artwork that appears in this adaptation. There should also be notice of how to obtain copies.
|NOCTURNUM: LONG SHADES, by Darrell Hardy, after an original idea by Christian T. Petersen; edited by Peter Mork and Christian T. Petersen. Cover illustration by C. Brent Ferguson. Illustrated by Bill Heagy and Brian Ewing. Roseville, MN: Fantasy Flight Games, 1997. 119 pp. $19.95. ISBN 1-887911-62-6 (Fantasy Flight Publication # CC01).|
Cover illustation © Fantasy Flight Publishing, Inc.
[Reviewed by Edward P. Berglund]
Nocturnum: Long Shades is the first of a three-sourcebook campaign licensed by Chaosium for Call of Cthulhu. (Nocturnum: Hollow Winds is currently being prepped for the printer and should be available by GenCon.) It is a well laid-out book, with print that is easily readable, interspersed with artwork, and sidebars. Handouts appear where they are needed, but they are also gathered in the back of the book in forms that are more conducive to the verisimilitude needed during the play of the game. (Chaosium probably would have taken the material in all three sourcebooks and combined it into one big sourcebook.)
The interesting thing that Fantasy Flight has done in the constructing of this sourcebook, is that they have utilized prose narratives to introduce each of the four sections in order to get the reader into the proper frame of mind. The four sections consist of the introduction of a new greater independent race of which the origins, identity, and true purpose are unknown even to Nyarlathotep. The last three sections are scenarios in the Nocturnum campaign and it is recommended that they be run in order, as each scenario gives the players a little more information concerning what they are dealing with. These scenarios can be inserted into a campaign that is currently being run, or can be run as part of the Nocturnum campaign in its entirety (as each of the three sourcebooks is published).
Fantasy Flight has even managed to utilize one of the those enigmatic prophecies of Nostradamus:
"Welcome to Nocturnum" introduces the keeper to this new greater independent race, giving information on the race's origins, domains, forms in which they appear, defenses, and powers. And it turns out that there are two different factions of this race, one organized and the other referred to as the "wilders." And, of course, the race's master plan.
As the sourcebook states, the three adventures included only peripherally pertain to the race's master plan. This is basically an introductory book to the plans of the race, with the players finding solid evidence of the plans in the second of the three sourcebooks.
"Snowflake Valley" by Darrell Hardy: The investigators are enroute to someplace (a made up destination if played separate or a destination that figures in the compaign that this is inserted into). They get caught in a snow storm and wind up stranded in Miner's Folly, a small mining town. Luckily there is a hotel, the Clearwater. Over the next three days the hotel's guests are killed one by one by some kind of beast. However, the local sheriff thinks the investigators are responsible.
"The Madness of the Twilight Queen" by Christian T. Petersen: The investigators find themselves in the college town of Eastfield at the request of a friend. It appears that hundreds of college students have been partaking of "pixie dust" -- a highly addictive hallucinogen -- and the investigator's friend has found a counter-agent to the drug's affects (but not its addiction), but he thinks somebody is trying to kill him.
"Stillness" by Andrew Warren, Darrell Hardy, and Christian T. Petersen: A San Francisco painter enlists the aid of the investigators in finding his daughter. They wind up on Still Mountain, which has a dying village and the ruins of a monastery. And something is preying on the fears of the villagers.
The above descriptions of the three scenarios are necessarily brief, so as not to give away any of the secrets the players will come across -- except for the existence of the new greater independent race. And the lurking of Nyarlatotep. As far as I could tell, all three scenarios are well thought out. Naturally, the keeper will be privy to more information than will probably come out during the play of these scenarios. But it should keep the players interested, if for nothing else, finding out information about something that they won't run into in just about every Call of Cthulhu scenario/campaign they become involved in.
Nocturnum: Long Shades is highly recommended. Fantasy Flight Games has taken a unique creation and spun an entire campaign around it, embodied in the three sourcebooks. I, for one, am eagerly awaiting the next two sourcebooks to see if they can maintain my interest -- which right now is kind of high! And I'm not a roleplayer!
This book can be ordered through Fantasy Flight Games.
Created: July 1, 1998; Updated: August 9, 2004