“The Witch Who Came in From the Cold, Episode 10: Anchises” by Lindsay Smith (Serialbox, 2016)


This is the tenth episode in the series; reviews for all other episodes can be found here.

Operation ANCHISES, after all the hype and setup, is finally put in motion with a classic scene of spying and espionage and all things clandestine, as Joshua Toms skillfully passes along a secret message to the informant, Maksim Sokolov.

With a follow-up meeting at the West German Embassy, the final showdown is begun. Sokolov is here with his host of Russian minders, keeping a close eye on his every move. Sokolov plays the part well, domineering, threatening to Joshua and Gabe. Gabe Pritchard has a trick up his sleeve, as he gets a hold of a special charm secreted on his person, mutters the correct incantation, and then serves the minders shots. A short while later, a regular old bar brawl begins just as planned and Gabe is starting to think this spy craft via magic ain’t too bad.

A while later arrests are made; Tanya Morozova, as a member of the KGB, instead of following Gabe, decides to make a trip to the hospital and check on those Russian minders. Meanwhile, the man known as Maksim Sokolov is just gone and appears to have drowned.

In this action- and magic-packed episode, things heat up to a new level, but its not until the next episode, that the full realization of Operation ANCHISES is fully understood.

Originally written on March 24, 2016 ©Alex C. Telander.

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“The Witch Who Came in From the Cold, Episode 9: Head Case” by Max Gladstone (Serial Box, 2016)


This is the ninth episode in the series; reviews for all other episodes can be found here.

Things are moving into place for a huge and secret operation for the CIA known by the codename ANCHISES. Agent Gabe Pritchard would really like to not screw this one up and totally ruin his career. Things would be a lot easier if he didn’t have a golem on his back.

Rookie CIA operative Joshua Toms gets picked to meet with an operative who happens to be the big contact for ANCHISES. It’s his first big operation and he’s nervous as hell, but he also knows it’s an important stepping stone in his career. And since he kind of got caught recently revealing his affections for a certain man, he needs to show this isn’t going to affect him at all and he’s a great agent.

Meanwhile Gabe now has a golem following him and what’s even creepier is the thing’s starting to look like him. He tries every magical trick up his sleeve but nothing seems to work to stop or even slow the thing. With the help of Jordan Rhemes and a parchment of skin, Gabe has something that might affect the golem now, he just has to get the parchment into its head somehow.

And then things go from bad to worse when Gabe is at the specific location for Joshua’s operation and the golem happens to be looking for him in the basement. Gabe enlists some help . . . Actually, he basically begs Ice operative Tatiana Morozova to help him out.

Tensions are building in The Witch Who Came in From the Cold, and “Head Case” ends on one of the biggest cliffhangers of the series so far.

Originally written on March 3, 2016 ©Alex C. Telander.

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“The Witch Who Came in From the Cold, Episode 7: Radio Free Trismegistus” by Ian Tregillis (Serial Box, 2016)


This is the seventh episode in the series; to read reviews for the first six episodes, go here.

In the latest audio episode of The Witch Who Came in From the Cold, Serial Box goes one step further employing the dramatic TV series feel opening with, “Previously on The Witch Who Came in From the Cold,” which does a great job of refreshing important recent events from the story for the reader.

After getting some info, CIA operative Gabe Pritchard is heading out into the Czechoslovakian countryside looking for a cut wife, better known as a witch, to see if he can get some help with his elemental hitchhiker. He learns the demon attached to his soul is not going to vacate his body easily, but also that its element is mercury, which then leads him to try some stupid stuff using all the mercury he can find in town and almost getting himself killed.

Meanwhile, Tanya’s boss Sasha Komyetski, after checking up on her, recently “liberated” her of her magical radio that she uses to communicate with her grandfather in Moscow. Readers and listeners get a detailed scene of Sasha creating a magical Faraday Cage to prevent anyone from knowing what he’s doing, as he takes the radio apart and studies its magical innards. He then gets it working and gets in touch with a certain someone in Moscow.

Tanya knows she has to get her radio back before Sasha finds out what it can actually do. Using Gabe’s help – as the two become closer and more comfortable with each other – they come up with a plan to switch the magical radio with a decoy without Tanya’s boss knowing. The question is whether he’ll fall for the ruse?

Originally written on March 4, 2016 ©Alex C. Telander.

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“Riding the Bullet” by Stephen King, read by Josh Hamilton (Simon & Schuster, 2002)

Riding the Bulletstarstarstar

Originally only available in e-book, the short story “Riding the Bullet” was published this year in Stephen King’s latest collection of short stories, Everything’s Eventual. It has now been released for the first time in audiobook.

It is the story of a college boy in Maine who discovers that his mother has had a stroke and is ill in the hospital up north.  Without hesitation he leaves school and starts making his way north in the only way he knows how, since he doesn’t have a car: hitchhiking.  He’s done this before, and while it is illegal, he knows when to look out for cops, which guys are good to get rides with, and which are bad.

But this time he hitches a ride with an unexpected driver: one who is already dead.  This driver poses an ultimatum to him: to let his mother live he must sacrifice himself, or let his mother die while he continues to live.  Ultimately it is a decision he will have to think about for a long time, but time is what he doesn’t have.  Once his decision has been made he finds himself on the roadside, his head dripping with blood from a knock on a tombstone in the cemetery he’d been passing through.  Was it all a dream?  Or is the decision he made coming true at this very moment?  All will be revealed when you ride the bullet!

If you liked this review and are interested in purchasing this book, click here.

Originally published on November 11th, 2002.

Originally published in the Long Beach Union.

“LT’s Theory of Pets” by Stephen King (Simon and Schuster Audio, 2001)

LT's Theory of Petsstarstarstar

Stephen King brings us a surprise publication with LT’s Theory of Pets, a new audiobook from Simon and Schuster audio.  This is Kin’s latest audiobook release since Blood and SmokeLT’s Theory of Pets is a short story read by the author, recorded at London’s Royal Festival Hall, and therefore a sure Stephen King rarity.

LT is the narrator of the story, telling the story to the other main character.  The story he recounts is one that he tells to many people and as often as possible.  In this story he reveals his theory of pets.

The story is about his relationship with his wife, and how one day she just isn’t there with his wife, and how one day she just isn’t there anymore.  All that remains is a long, detailed note and the cat.  The cat that LT bought for her years before, but instead of fixating on his wife, the cat immediately attaches itself to LT and a bond is formed; as for the relationship between cat and wife, it borders on cruel and evil.  Then there is the dog that Lt’s wife bought for LT, because he liked the dog on Frasier.  Once again a strange, almost supernatural situation takes place, where the dog attaches itself to LT’s wife, while it and LT become nemeses.

And so the story is told, from beginning to end.  But then you think the tape is coming to an end, a change takes place.  LT’s Theory of Pets takes a turn for the dark and horrific, creating a cold feeling within you, leaving you ill at ease.

With this unique recording, for the first time, you are listening to Stephen King with an audience; you laugh along with them when he tells his funny and sometimes obscene jokes, and then become scared and a chill runs down your spine as you hear a dead silence, punctuated by Stephen King’s nasally voice, and you realize that everyone is just as scared as you.

If you liked this review and are interested in purchasing this book, click here.

Originally published on September 10th 2001 ©Alex C. Telander.

Originally published in the Long Beach Union.