Archive | Nonfiction

Billzilla

Review of Kenneth Hite’s The Nazi Occult

Posted on August 12, 2013 by

What is the fascination with Nazis and their pursuit of occult knowledge? The popularity of Raiders of the Lost Ark offers some evidence that we as a culture find the concepts intriguing to say the least. Perhaps, deep down, even the most cynical skeptic wants to believe that supernatural magic is real.

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Designers and Dragons Review

Posted on June 18, 2012 by

Let’s say you’re going to teach a course on the history of role-playing games. You have the diploma and teaching certification. You have the tweed jacket. You have everything, but a textbook. With Designers and Dragons, you have a hulking 442 page textbook that examines this specific gaming culture since its creation in 1974. You’re ready to teach.

I’ve been playing RPGs since 1987 put TSR’s Marvel Super Heroes: Advanced Set into my local Waldenbooks, which means, according to this book, that I missed a massive amount of gaming history. I’ve played lots of games, read lots more that were not worth playing, and read about tons more through reviews or blurbs. I know a bit about what is going on in the industry.

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Flames

Chicks Dig Comics Review

Posted on May 25, 2012 by

If someone had handed me a copy of Chicks Dig Comics when I was younger I would not have known what to do with it. Growing up as a comic book nut during the 80s and 90s I never saw girls reading comics so the title alone would have thrown me for a loop. While my brother and I devoured stories about the X-Men, Captain America and Superman my sister wanted nothing to do with them. I spent a lot of time in my local comic book shop and I cannot recall ever seeing a woman in that little hole in the wall.

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The Hammer Vault Review

Posted on February 1, 2012 by

This remarkable journey through the Hammer vault includes props, annotated script pages, unused poster artwork, production designs, rare promotional material and private correspondence. Hundreds of rare and previously unseen stills help to create a rich souvenir of Hammer’s legacy, from the X certificate classics of the 1950s to the studio’s latest productions.

Written and compiled by the official Hammer Films historian Marcus Hearn, and featuring exclusive contributions from the actors and filmmakers associated with the company, this is the most lavish book ever published on the legendary House of Horror.

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Megan

Designers and Dragons Review

Posted on December 20, 2011 by

This is a monumental work, a comprehensive and scholarly history of the role-playing industry from its inception in the early 1970s to the present day. The focus is interesting, concentrating on the individuals and companies that have made role-playing what it is today rather than looking at the games themselves.

Whilst detailed, the writing flows well, making it eminently readable and often entertaining, a fascinating survey of the companies and people who have shaped role-playing and are responsible for most of the books on my shelves (or, these days, lurking on the RPG hard drive) – and who have provided me with years of entertainment and passion. If your interest in role-playing goes anywhere beyond the next dungeon delve, if you like to know the background and history of the games you enjoy, you should find something here catches your attention… and once caught, be warned, it may be a while before you can tear yourself away!

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Taxidermied: The Art of Roman Dirge Review

Posted on November 8, 2011 by

“A stunning full-color celebration of the eye-catchingly original artwork creator Roman Dirge, the first anthology of his work available anywhere. This lavish hardback includes an introduction and background commentary information on the imagery by Dirge himself, plus previously unpublished artwork, covers and strips, and paintings. The book also includes fold-out pages, displaying Dirge’s work in its full glory, and some brand-new pieces created just for this book!”

I have never reviewed an art book before, so I guess it is only fitting that I start with an artist whose work I love. Now being an art book please note that this book contains tons of GORE-Geous pictures.

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Zombies of the World Review

Posted on October 25, 2011 by

Roleplaying game scenarist, short film maker, podcaster, and graphic designer Ross Payton adds a new laurel to his crown with Zombies of the World: A Field Guide to the Undead. At only 112 trade-paperback pages, Payton does not aim for completness, but for richness. And between his light authorial tone, his slamming graphic design chops, and his slavering hunger for the topic, he shoots his target square in the head.

Zombies of the World presents itself as a kind of all-in-one reference book, from a world in which the walking dead are, if not common, relatively well documented. If Dorling Kindersley published a zombie book, it might look something like this.

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Megan

The Kobold Guide to Board Game Design Review

Posted on September 14, 2011 by

In his Foreword, lead author Mike Selinker tells a tale about a rather hot Thai curry, and thus gives an insight into how his mind works. You may or may not like your curry hot, but reading this book will give you an insight into how a whole bunch of successful game designers go about designing games that people will buy and play. If you want to turn inchoate ideas into workable – and saleable – board games, or just want to know a bit more about how your favourite games came to be, and about the underlying concepts that make good games, read on.

The book is made up of four sections, and a mastery of ALL of them is necessary to create a successful game.

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Monica Valentinelli

The Element Encyclopedia of Signs and Symbols Review

Posted on June 22, 2011 by

Published by Harper-Collins, The Element Encyclopedia of Signs and Symbols: the Ultimate A to Z guide from Alchemy to the Zodiac is not one book, but several smaller books that range from the language of flowers to numerology and, of course, symbols.

Normally, I find there are two challenges a book like this has to overcome. First, there’s the issue of gravity. Books in this vein can either be lighthearted, with more of a pseudo-magical feel to them, or serious and grounded in fact. This particular tome is squarely in the middle. While it does offer an aura of mystery in some respects, The Element Encyclopedia of Signs and Symbols also offers a comprehensive resource guide at the end of the book.

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Diabolique Magazine Review

Posted on June 9, 2011 by

I am not a horror movie fanatic. I enjoy them and I look forward to seeing a few of them, but my over-sensitized mentality takes quite a bit to shock while my natural sarcastic side urges me to quip, mock, and make other ‘witty’ comments on the movie as it plays. I blame hours of watching B, C, and D movies, including many episodes of Mystery Science Theater 3000, for this inclination. Thus, I am a movie fan, just not a fanatic. I do enjoy learning what happened behind the scenes on a set, the often turbulent process a movie takes to actually getting filmed and released, and the other details that surround such endeavors.

If you are of a similar mindset, then you would most likely enjoy Diabolique. Diabolique is a bi-monthly publication for the horror connoisseur and seems to cover everything from vintage horror, to recently released films, to works in progress.

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Jason Thorson

In the Footsteps Of Dracula: A Personal Journey and Travel Guide Book Review

Posted on March 24, 2011 by

It’s lonely being someone who takes horror so seriously, it borders on being a clinically definable malady. It’s rare to come across another human being whose affliction rivals my own. But alas, I have found him and his name is Steven P. Unger, author of the book “In the Footsteps of Dracula: A Personal Journey and Travel Guide (Second Edition)”. In fact, he and I could rightfully start a club for people like us, only I fear we’d spend our days arguing over who gets to be vice president, because being the president of such a club would be more than a bit embarrassing.

But I digress.

Unger’s book is a thorough analysis of the people and places that comprise Bram Stoker’s Dracula, both within the text and without.

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Night of the Living Dead: Behind the Scenes Review

Posted on November 3, 2010 by

So, just when you thought there wasn’t any room left in hell for yet another “definitive” book on the greatest zombie movie of all time, Citadel Press puts out their 200 plus page achievement called Night of the Living Dead: Behind the Scenes of the Most Terrifying Zombie Movie Ever.

Yes, that’s the whole title.

Anyway – written by Joe Kane billed on the cover as “the Phantom of the Movies,” which I believe hearkens back to his (Kane’s) movie reviewing days with the New York Daily News, the book stands now as possibly the definitive book on the original movie. I found it at a big box book retailer about two days ago and after quickly leafing through it was compelled to purchase it.

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alanajoli

The Art of Top Cow Review

Posted on March 2, 2010 by

It makes a lot of sense for a small press like Top Cow, which has a lot of great titles on the market, to put everything together into an art book and showcase some of their best pieces. In The Art of Top Cow preview that I received from the publisher, I got to see thirty images of the more than 300 pages that will appear in the final book. Two of them, unfortunately, were nearly naked images of Sara Pezzini of Witchblade that look more like pinups than gallery images; another is a Top Cow poster that features three of the Top Cow women in all their busty glory. Hopefully those three images are not representative of a large portion of the included art (though certainly part of Top Cow’s target audience will surely appreciate them — just not my part of the market share!). In the preview, some of the pieces are really quite excellent, and I’ll highlight some of them quickly here.

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Billzilla

Cthulhu 101 Review

Posted on December 3, 2009 by

Have you repeatedly heard references to something called “Cthulhu” and wondered what it was all about? Are you already familiar with “the Big C,” know the signs and the secret handshakes, but are still looking for something to fill the great, gaping wound in your soul? Look no further, dear friends – Cthulhu 101 is good for what ails you!

Published by Atomic Overmind Press (www.atomicovermind.com), Cthulhu 101 is a witty overview of the Cthulhu Mythos, a world of pulp horror monsters from other dimensions and beyond the stars, created in the 1920’s and 30s by Howard Philips Lovecraft, Clark Ashton Smith, Robert E. Howard, Robert Bloch and many others.

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teampreston

DragonArt Fantasy Review

Posted on November 24, 2009 by

Since my day-job is that of an illustrator I have a lot of “How to Draw…” books. Some of my favorites are Impact Books. Mechanicka (Doug Chang), John Howe: Fantasy Art Workshop and Bold Visions, the Digital Painting Bible by Gary Tonge. Impact has a good lineup of art books available. Some better than others: I thought the art in Fantastic Realms was horrid, and in general I’m not a fan of the heavily stylized Manga-style art (artbooks). For people in to the Manga style, Impact certainly has it covered.

DragonArt is geared for the young adult reader/ artist. That’s ok. Just because it is a “young adult” book doesn’t mean an adult like me couldn’t get good use of it. Actually I find some of the young adult art books do a wonderful job at breaking things down in a manner anyone can understand.

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Billzilla

Tour de Lovecraft: the Tales Review

Posted on November 24, 2008 by

Howard Phillips Lovecraft is one of the few authors of the horror genre who has been dissected rather thoroughly (Edgar Allen Poe being another). Kenneth Hite, who’s made much of his living as both a critic and a Lovecraft enthusiast, has a few things to say on the subject, and they make for very interesting reading. Tour de Lovecraft — the Tales is an engaging breakdown of all 51 of Lovecraft’s mature prose fiction, from 1917’s The Tomb to Lovecraft’s last work, the Haunter of the Dark from late 1935.

This is not a book of literary criticism, as I first assumed, but rather criticism of literary criticism. Hite takes pains to offer quotes and examples of criticism from a number of noted Lovecraft scholars, and offers his own opinions that don’t always mesh with those notions. In effect, the book breaks Lovecraft’s work down into what might be considered Hite’s Top-10 list of Lovecraft’s work. Hite spends time analyzing Lovecraft’s most effective tales.

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Flames

Play Dirty RPG Review

Posted on November 18, 2008 by

Nearly all RPGs have a section devoted to the theory of how RPGs should be played. In fact, this is the part of a corebook I find myself rereading for inspiration. The skill of these chapters range from the banal to sex, drugs, and rock-and-roll goodness. If you want how-to theory that feels like Chuck Palahniuk’s Fight Club, then John Wick’s Play Dirty is the book for you. Making connections between the two proves simple. Heck, both books have a series of rules to follow. While we won’t talk about the rules of Fight Club, I will share Wick’s two rules:

Rule One: There are no rules.
Rule Two: Cheat anyway.

Review by Todd Cash

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Flames

One Who Walked Alone Review

Posted on May 14, 2008 by

Like a lot of folks ’round these parts, I’m a huge fan of Robert E. Howard. I think he had all the imagination of Tolkien, and for my money, was a better writer. Your mileage may vary, of course, but that’s all moot.

I own all of the Del Rey collections: The Coming of Conan, the Bloody Crown of Conan, the Conquering Sword of Conan, Bran Mak Morn: the Last King, Kull: Exile of Atlantis, The Savage Tales of Solomon Kane, Crimson Shadows,and Grim Lands. I eagerly look forward to the day when they finally release collections of his western stories, and would love to own collections of his letters (though I currently don’t).

I guess you could say that as a writer I hold the man in high esteem.

Review by Jason Vey

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Matt-M-McElroy

Wisconsin Road Guide to Haunted Locations Review

Posted on March 13, 2008 by

The Road Guide is well written and it shows that some research went into each of the locations featured throughout each chapter. A typical entry will feature a photo of the location, brief driving directions, a bit of ghost lore (i.e. what sort of ghostly activity is rumored to haunt the place), some local history and lastly, details about the investigation into the haunting. Not every entry follows this exact format; some of them have section switched around a bit or include extra notes on the topic. Generally, however, the book is easy to read and the information is offered in a useful format.

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Monica Valentinelli

Element Encyclopedia of Magical Creatures Review

Posted on February 16, 2008 by

Great for writers and game designers, I’ve never come across a more thorough and massive work detailing creatures so rare you may not recognize them. There are two, other books in the series entitled, The Element Encyclopedia of 5000 Spells and The Element Encyclopedia of Witchcraft. If either of those two books are as down-to-earth and fact-filled as this one, I wouldn’t hesitate to buy either one to add substance to my fantasy stories.

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11 Tales of Ghostly Horror

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