The Crystal Blake Series' fifth installment, Crystal's Blizzard Trek, continues the story of the Southern California teen's first year in Idaho (to wh...moreThe Crystal Blake Series' fifth installment, Crystal's Blizzard Trek, continues the story of the Southern California teen's first year in Idaho (to which her famous author parents moved the family). Since the events of the last book, Crystal and her close friend Shawn, are dating. Well, “unofficially” dating. They are not really doing so, as their parents think it unwise for them to “date” at such a young age, but they consider themselves together in all but name.
As the story begins, Crystal becomes angry and worried because her best friend Gabrielle is receiving anonymous letters from “a secret admirer”. When some evidence leads Crystal to suspect a mutual friend is playing a trick on Gabrielle, Crystal takes action, only to find out she is wrong. But the worst part is yet to come, as Crystal, Shawn, and their friends must brave a blizzard to find one of their own rodeo team mates who gets caught out when the inclement weather turns worse. But the blizzard is quite bad, and could lead to their deaths.
I have to say that this story was a nice change of pace in the series. As much as I enjoyed the previous books, it was good to see a story line that relied not on yet another mystery, but instead on trying to deal with issues of friendship, rivalry, the weather even. In other words, this was something with which a young lady and her friends in that part of the country would realistically contend.
The “moral” elements of the story, which were not at all “too-preachy” were two-fold. First of all, even nice, Christian folks who truly love the Lord can make bad mistakes and have serious issues to confront, as Crystal does in this story. Even the nicest Christians are still sinners and can act in quite an ugly manner. From an audience point of view, it's actually nice to see a protagonist with a lot of faults.
The other major “moral” of the story is that one's motivations really, truly do matter. When one does good for the wrong reason, they are sinning. I think that we often take the axiom that “actions speak louder than words” to an extreme level. Yes, this is largely true, as the actions one repeatedly takes can show the truth of one's heart. But there is a point where a person can have actions that are good or bad, but the motivations really do matter. It matters if someone does good for the wrong reason, and needs correction and reproof, and it matters if someone does or believes something wrong out of a sincere heart, and thus needs correction and not necessarily reproof. As an aside, in my own personal devotions, Elihu in the last quarter of the book of Job would be an example of the someone who does or believes wrongly out of a sincere heart. That's why God didn't include him in the punishment Job's other “friends” would have suffered had Job not prayed for them.
The lesson on the importance of “motive” was a good one, and I wish more books touched on this subject. Overall, this was a great read, and I look forward to soon finishing up the series with the last book.
Ranger's Apprentice continues it's wonderful world of low fantasy with the second book in the series, The Burning Bridge. I define this as “low fantas...moreRanger's Apprentice continues it's wonderful world of low fantasy with the second book in the series, The Burning Bridge. I define this as “low fantasy” for reasons made clear in my review of the first book. Anyways, as the story begins, the kingdom of Araluen and the nearby kingdoms, are under threat from the evil Morgarath, who has an army of the fearsome, beast-like Wargals under a type of mental control.
As the previous book ended, Morgarath's preparations for war were revealed, and the kingdom was readying itself for action. This book begins with the titular Ranger's Apprentice, Will, and his mentor, the legendary Ranger Halt, capturing crucial battle plans that reveal Morgarath's evil plan to the Araluens.
While the army organizes a defense and counter-strike, Gilan, junior-most of the members of the Rangers Corps., takes along Will and Will's friend, Battleschool (Army) apprentice, Horace, on a diplomatic mission. Since they are still apprentices, the two boys are tasked to go with Gilan, as they can be spared. The Celts, allies of Araluen, are very observant of the old superstition and tradition of their forefathers, and thus insist on all diplomatic missions they received consisting of groups of three, hence the make-up of this delegation.
At first, the trip is light-hearted enough, and Will and Horace are both taught tactics and fighting by Gilan (as Gilan is the only Ranger to also be an expert with a sword, he can teach both boys well). But this all come to an end when they find outpost after outpost, and village after village, in Celtica, abandoned. They soon learn that Morgarath is kidnapping the populace, and has driven the Celts and their leaders into a small area of their country where they are too weak to prevent his attacks on Araluen. Hearing this, a decision is made to split up. Gilan leaves Will in charge of the group consisting of Will, Horace, and a mysterious girl (Evanlyn) they found in the abandoned countryside, while he races ahead to apprise the king of what they know so far.
This decision leads to the set-up for the next two books and the second story-line of the series, as Will and Horace, along with Evanlyn, find out the whole of the evil Morgarath's horrible plan. They realize they have to stop him themselves, as they simply don't have time to make the trip to warn King Duncan, Araluen's monarch, in time.
I can't really say much more, because if I do, my efforts at not giving away the plot will be for naught. I will say what I liked and didn't like. As for what I didn't like, well, the story sort of dragged on in a few spots here and there. Flanagan seemed to have two purposes with how he wrote and structured the novel. On the one hand, he wanted to wrap up this first plot, and on the other hand, he wanted to set up the second arc. The problem is that the narrative felt a tad choppy, if you will. The back and forth between the sometimes tedious (as setting up a plot usually is) beginnings of the second story arc, and the exciting end of the Morgarath arc, felt a little disjointed, and less than satisfactory, to me.
That said, that is the only criticism I can think of of this tale. The writing was improved over the excellent, but still somewhat rough, first novel, and the story was expanded and the world fleshed out more. I also liked how the excuse, though rather simplistic, to bring along Will and Horace into the story, and give them major roles far above their situations in life (lowly apprentices), was actually logical. The author actually tried to make a reason that, while silly, was silly to the characters as well. In other words, it felt like the Will and Horace belonged where they were every step of the way, and not like they were shoehorned in.
One aspect I enjoyed was the growth of the friendship between Will and Horace, and the growth of each boy individually. Will is more and more like how Halt, Gilan, and the other Rangers are, with improved skills at subterfuge, archery, and so on. Horace complements his amazing physical prowess from the first book with tactical knowledge that shows you he has learned well from his military instructors. Of course, the two boys still butt heads at times as well, but they also care for each other and their friendship is one of the best parts of the tale. I really don't know how to rate Evanlyn with the minor role she has had so far. She is capable, but so far just a foil for the two boys, so it's hard to say anything about her.
In the first book, Flanagan tried to bring in some realism to this world (thus emphasizing the low fantasy setting) when it comes to the care of the horses. Here he did so with the battle scenes. The tactics and descriptions of military life were fairly accurate, and the battles were realistic and poignant in Horace's reflections on them. In fact, in Horace's epic battle at the end, his opponent is incredibly skilled, so much so that, despite the boy's great strength and natural (though barely trained) talent at swords, this is not nearly enough to help him. The opponent, also being more used to taking blows than Horace is gives him another advantage over the boy, who finds that when his sword and shield crosses the bad guy's, it HURTS. This realism reinforced the point that, though there is magic and the world has stark moral differences between the good and bad guys, it is still a very much “real world” type of setting, not a typical fantasy.
Really, despite the somewhat boring parts dedicated to beginning the next arc, this was an exciting tale and I'm going to enjoy beginning the third story. I definitely recommend this book.(less)
For The Sword of Shannara Trilogy, author Terry Brooks wrote three separate, but loosely-connected tales. In The Heritage of Shannara, he tells one la...moreFor The Sword of Shannara Trilogy, author Terry Brooks wrote three separate, but loosely-connected tales. In The Heritage of Shannara, he tells one large, epic tale over the space of four books. It was quite a departure from the pattern of the previous stories, and, if the first book is any indication, this seems to have worked quite well for Brooks.
As the first book, The Scions of Shannara, opens, the world is a radically different place from the world that Brin and Jair Ohmsford inhabited at the end of The Wishsong of Shannara. The Federation, which was once misguided, but still democratic, has become a repressive state that has completely taken over the Southlands through conquest, and has enslaved the Dwarfs, and seem to be intent on driving them to extinction. Magic is outlawed, the elves have disappeared, and a new breed of evil, called the Shadowen, has arisen. Their very presence is causing the Four Lands to sicken and die.
Amidst this situation, the shade of the Druid Allanon enlists the help of former Druid Cogline to persuade the heirs of the Elven House of Shannara to come to the Hadeshorn, where his spirit rests, and hear his requests to them. He has tried to contact these folks before, in their dreams, and they will not respond. Par Ohmsford is afraid, Wren Ohmsford is ambivalent, and Walker Boh (an Ohmsford who took the name of one of his forebears) is outright hostile. All of them, even Par who is the most idealistic about the Druids, share a suspicion of Allanon due to his manipulations of their ancestors centuries ago during the Druid's lifetime.
After much persuasion from Cogline, they eventually go to the Hadeshorn to hear Allanon's spirit talk to them. The shade shows them a horrific future in which the Shadowen rule the lands and the people are mindless cattle to be fed upon and tortured for the amusement of these demonic creatures. He then gives them their tasks – ones that seem impossible to fulfill. But if they don't accomplish these tasks, the land will be plunged into darkness forever.
Terry Brooks really improved his skills as an author in the time between the publication of The Sword of Shannara and Scions. The plotting is tighter, the characterization is actually somewhat in-depth and not the somewhat shallow portrayal of the first book. I love Sword, but I have to be fair on pointing out the problems from which it suffered. Of course, the romantic subplots are still rather sloppily done, with the one in the current book only working because of the length of the time they two characters are mentioned as near each other being longer. Brooks isn't good at writing romances. His attempts could be listed under tvtropes.com's “Strangled by the Red String” index, in which characters are just paired off together with no believable build-up.
For me the best part of Scions was that the characters were more believable. They didn't take up the mission with no qualms, but struggled with it. They have fears, doubts, and uncertainties. In short, they were characters that one can relate to. I appreciated this aspect.
That is not to say that Scions was perfect. To be sure, it had it's problems. Mainly insomuch as that the story dragged in parts. And the explanation about how the Shadowen developed was understandable, but a bit sloppily explained. It's something that you have to think through to get, and have to depend on your knowledge gained from having read the previous trilogy, because it certainly isn't put all that clearly here.
This was a terrific effort by Brooks, and I am already eagerly beginning the second book of the Heritage story, The Druid of Shannara.(less)
I previously reviewed the second volume of this ongoing series, and had high praise for it. This is a review of the first volume, which was somewhat w...moreI previously reviewed the second volume of this ongoing series, and had high praise for it. This is a review of the first volume, which was somewhat weaker, but still a good read. This book begins with the first issue, which takes up right after the first episode of the series Young Justice, and goes through the timeline for the first couple of episodes, telling the story of the team's exploits during the time not presented on the show.
This is one of the strengths of this volume, in that various story details and even previews (like the look and feel of the YJ universe's Joker, for instance) were given early. All of this was great, but there were a few problems. First of all, it is apparent that these early issues were not as heavily directed by show-runner Greg Weisman (of Gargoyles fame), in that the plotting wasn't nearly as good as in the later issues, where he had more of a direct role. The other weak point is really one of necessity. That necessity being that the plots were all really "lead-up" stories. The thing to understand is that Young Justice (both the cartoon and the comics) is very arc-heavy. The episodes have their own individual plots and resolutions, to be sure, but they all interconnect in a way that will remind some folks of shows like Alias, LOST, and Battlestar Galactica, for instance. What's more, these comic adventures were almost exclusively dedicated to setting up later plots that would appear in future episodes/issues. Therefore, unlike the later issues of the comic/most of the episodes of the series, these stories were without much of a "payoff" or ending of any kind. This was necessary, so I can't really be too hard on the writers for this, but it also made these early issues not as much fun to read, quite frankly.
One story that I loved that some other reviewers hated, was the campfire tales comic, where the characters all told their origin stories. The stories were quite poignant, actually. M'Gann (we later learn) lied to her team mates to hide her pain and fear. Kid Flash lied to hide his embarrassment and just look "cool", and Superboy fears he'll be a weapon and nothing more. Meanwhile, Robin silently goes over his story to himself (Batman forbade Dick to reveal his or Bruce's identities to anyone) and we can see (in his private thoughts) his genuine love for his mentor/father figure. Just a note here that the comics panels in Dick's thoughts were basically adapted from those in Batman: Dark Victory, which told the story of Dick's origins during Batman's third year of crime-fighting. It was a nice shout-out to adapt not just the story, but the art as well. I'll be the first to admit the campfire issue really had no action, but it still, in my humble opinion, was the best in the collected comics presented.
Overall, this was not nearly as good as Volume 2 was, but it was a fine start to the comic adventures of this team of young heroes on Earth-16.(less)
Spider-Man: Red-Headed Stranger is a volume that is unique in that the entire story not only is focused almost exclusively on Mary-Jane Watson, the ti...moreSpider-Man: Red-Headed Stranger is a volume that is unique in that the entire story not only is focused almost exclusively on Mary-Jane Watson, the titular “red-headed stranger”, instead of our web-slinging hero, but also in that Spidey hardly shows up at all in the narrative, except for a few scenes and a flashback here or there.
As the story begins, Peter Parker (Spider-Man) is thinking of how he has seen his ex-wife (or is it ex-girlfriend? ex-fiance? You really can't tell where the continuity is these days in some comics.), Mary-Jane for the first time in a while. She had moved out to LA for a successful career in acting, and then came back suddenly. He has no clue why, but it trying to figure it out.
Unfortunately, he has little time for this at first, as the Chameleon kidnaps and tries to kill him to steal his identity as Peter Parker. Now, it's not what you might assume. The Chameleon has no clue that Peter is really Spider-Man. It is Peter himself that Chameleon needs to imitate, in his new job as the photographer for newly-elected mayor J. Jonah Jameson. The super-villain is being paid by some very nasty terrorists to unleash a dirty bomb at NYC's secret anti-terrorism nerve center. The mayor's personal photographer just may be able to pick up clues to the location of this facility, the Chameleon reasons. Unfortunately, while Peter would normally evade any problems, he is so tired and distracted that his spider-sense can't warn him in time of the attack, and so he is kidnapped by the villain, and disposed of, in acid.
Because of this, for the rest of the volume, except for a comedic issue at the end, Peter is gone, and the Chameleon is Peter. This is not a problem as the whole “terrorism” angle from the Chameleon's employers is really a side-plot. The main plot is Peter Parker's life and relationships through the eyes of our Big Bad and others. Most of all, his relationship with “MJ” Watson, which is really complicated, to say the least. Though I will say that how Peter survived was really neat, though a bit contrived. It did work for his power-set, though.
The reason I liked this one was because the title fit in so many ways. MJ is a stranger to Peter after so many months. She, along with Harry Osborne and others, are strangers to the Chameleon, who feels bound to make Peter's former life (as Chammy thinks Peter's dead) to be better. That he feels bound to do this for all of his victims is part of his insanity, I think. And finally, MJ finds that she is a stranger to herself. She can't feel happy with the way her life is going, but can not put her finger on just WHAT she is searching for in life.
Surprisingly, though the above may sound rather angsty, it really wasn't. That seems to be the hallmark of the character of Spider-Man, in that he has so many issues and problems, but he doesn't wax melodramatic on them or wallow in them. Okay, he does wallow in them, but not in an unrealistic manner. In many ways, the story of how he authentically deals with his problems, as do those around him, reminds me of the current Batgirl series under writer Gail Simone. In some comics, the issues are all overly-angsty, with the characters almost basking in their problems. Not so here, where they are dealt with in a very sensitive, true-to-life way.
The only major problems I had with the issue were that Peter is kind of an idiot at times, and the political strawman in the form of J. Jonah Jameson. Peter is someone who has a gorgeous, smart roommate who is crazy about him, but he turns her down for dating. What? I can understand not wanting to take advantage of someone you don't love, or to deal with her sometimes crazy nature, that is not his reason as much as seemingly pining for Mary Jane. Not everyone gets their “true love” as the movies or romances put it. Sometimes, you have to take what you have, and his friend there would have been a great mate for him, instead of pining over someone else all the time.
Then there is the strawman. Jameson is made out to be a truly pathetic and vile caricature of the worst and most untrue portrayals of conservatives. If this is just the writers poking fun, then it is annoying, but I can take it. I like the show American Dad occasionally, so I can take a joke. But if I'm giving them too much of the benefit of the doubt, and they really do think this is how conservatives are, then it's kind of frightening that they can be so misinformed. They really might need to go see “fly-over country”, and learn not to view their political adversaries with such hatred. If they want to poke fun, then they should do some halfway decent satire, and not cheap shots like the comic book writer version of schoolyard bullies.
Despite the above issues, this was a comic I really enjoyed, and I am looking forward to getting into Marvel Comics more in the future. I may never end up preferring it over DC (except for the movies, but that's another discussion), but I can see that it does have some quality stories.(less)
Brandon Sanderson, popular author of various epic fantasy works can certainly be called “prolific”. He has, in just a few short years, written numerou...moreBrandon Sanderson, popular author of various epic fantasy works can certainly be called “prolific”. He has, in just a few short years, written numerous books. Some short novellas, but most lengthy novels – between about 600 to 1,000 pages long – each of which usually take a couple of years a piece for most writers. What's more, the quality doesn't suffer at all. His work is really good. I have not heard this from his mouth personally, but I wager that he genuinely loves writing, and that that is why he can put out so much material.
He has done it again in his novella The Emperor's Soul. The story takes place on the same world in the “Cosmere” - the universe where all of Sanderson's works (not including his novels completing Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time books, which takes place on a future/past earth) take place – as the novel Elantris. In an empire in a different location of that world, a “Forger” named Shai has been arrested in an attempt to steal the Emperor's scepter. Forging is essentially a system of magic whereby one can create various “stamps” that, when applied to an object or an animal, will rewrite the history of what is stamped, in order to make it something else. This can work on people as well, but this is much more difficult and prone to error. The only caveat is that the new “history” must be something believable about that which it affects, or it will not take. As a side note, Sanderson has stated that he got this idea from the seals that he saw stamped onto some ancient artifacts when he visited a museum on a trip to Taiwan one time.
The penalty for such an attack (such as Shai's attempted theft) on the person or attire of the emperor is execution. But Shai is offered a chance to survive. It is revealed to her by the Imperial advisers (called Grands) that assassins from a rival political faction have murdered the Empress and rendered the Emperor vegetative. If she can rewrite his past to forge him a new soul during the 100 days in which he is officially “in mourning”, so that his state of health is not discovered, then she can go free. If not, she is to be executed.
Shai sets to work, but she doesn't believe the Grands for a minute. She knows that they will kill her anyway. Whether this be when she is finished, or beforehand when she is far enough along to have another forger complete her task, she isn't sure. But she is already planning her escape. Then the unexpected happens in that she begins to care about the welfare of the Emperor she is tasked with restoring to life, and about the one honest Grand who assists her in her work. Can Shai finish her task and escape before she is quietly executed?
This book is not so much action as it is a work of philosophical and psychological suspense. I say philosophical in a specific way. Sanderson does not engage in the level of commentary that he does in the Mistbornnovels (not even that of The Alloy of Law the similarly short Mistborn novella). His commentary applicable to our society is brief. This isn't a preachy book at all. What I mean is that the story of Shai and how she uses her magical “art” to set about restoring the Emperor and escaping is tied up in philosophical and psychological aspects of that specific plot. It really is interesting. It's like some films that have a person mostly in one room undergoing days, weeks, or months of adversity, but the difference is that this story has a happy ending. I hope that's not too much of a spoiler to say that. ;)
The characters, other than Shai, the one kinder Grand, and the Emperor, were not exactly well-developed, and these three were not given a ton of development either. Of course, given the brevity of this story, that is not surprising, and it is certainly not the negative it would be for a longer work. They received sufficient attention for the needs of the story.
Once again, Sanderson designs a rather ingenious system of magic. While Sanderson does have his faults in that he can be a tad too wordy (just like the late Robert Jordan could be), and he sometimes doesn't give the proper “breathing room” of some positive aspect amidst the darkness of some more depressing stories (see the first of his Stormlight Archive novels, though his Mistborn books don't fall into this trap), but he is ingenious at developing characters just enough for what the story needs, and at creating unique and interesting systems of magic.
I would actually compare Sanderson's impact on modern epic fantasy in terms of how he handles magic to Isaac Asimov's impact on science-fiction in how he handled robots. I'll be the first to say that the man has faults, and to roll my eyes at some of the more extreme Sanderson fanboys that apparently think he is some sort of god of fantasy literature, but he does deserve his due as a prolific, talented, and creative author. The Emperor's Soul makes this abundantly clear.
It has always been my firm belief that a book must be judged based upon what it is. What I mean by this, is that if one judges a book that is relative...moreIt has always been my firm belief that a book must be judged based upon what it is. What I mean by this, is that if one judges a book that is relatively silly or just plain fluffy reading harshly for this reason (basically not liking it for not being a classic or some such nonsense), then you've kind of missed the whole point completely. To compare such a light read to more serious works, such as *The Lord of the Rings*, or *The Chronicles of Narnia*, for instance, and then proceed to rate it negatively, is grossly unjust. Not unjust to the rater, no, they can do whatever he or she wants. It is unjust to the person who just *may* take the rating seriously, and not enjoy a fun read.
It is for this reason that not Tolkien or Lewis (who always get well-deserved high marks from me), but some other high quality books, are rated lower than some pretty silly, fun novels. One such novel is the book, *Stars Collide*, by Janice Thompson. Thompson seems to specialize in both so-called “inspirational fiction”, as well as a category called “Romantic Comedy”, or “Rom-Com” for short.
In *Stars Collide*, the main protagonist, and narrator, Kat, is a Christian actress on the set of a show with other believers (it being a family show), called (you guessed it) *Stars Collide*. On the show, her character falls in love with the male lead, but since the actor playing him, Scott Murphy, is also a believer, well... you can guess already, huh?
I'm not being flippant to dismiss the story or be derisive towards it, but because the premise is kind of cliched and not greatly imaginative. In fact, the elements that come in the story later on, like Kat's grandma thinking she and Scott are getting married instead of their characters, could really have made the story wholly *too* silly.
That this did not happen is a testament to Janice Thompson's storytelling abilities. She took an absurd television show plot, and made it a true page-turner. The dramatic scenes were punctuated nicely by comedic scenes, to the point where the characters lampshaded this by saying how their life was more interesting than their show could ever be.
Is this a great literary volume for the ages? No, obviously not. The thing is, it's not intended to be. It is intended to be what it is, a light, fluffy, fun read. Knowing this, I can rate it extremely high for those who are interested in just such a read. If you don't want such a read, don't pick this up. At all. If, on the other hand, this is exactly what you are looking for in a book right now, then please do pick it up. You will not regret it.
**spoiler alert** There may be some wondering why a guy long out of high school with no wife and children would be so enthusiastic about a high school...more**spoiler alert** There may be some wondering why a guy long out of high school with no wife and children would be so enthusiastic about a high school level economics text. The simple answer is because the text is absolutely brilliant. I have never come across another book on basic economic principles that rivals this one.
Written and published near the end of the Cold War, *Economics: Work and Prosperity* has some anachronisms such as references to West Germany, the Soviet Union, the Communist bloc countries, and so forth. Nevertheless, it is still the best book on economics around bar none. It teaches the subject not as a dry science, but as an exciting enterprise, and one that greatly depends on the view a person takes on the nature of God and that of human nature.
The author points out many arguments from his contemporaries who all concurrently began their major work in post-War America. Namely, Ludwig von Mises, Friedrich Hayek, and Milton Friedman. What is unique about Kirk’s point of view, however, is that he takes the best of all of these men. The distrust of the state and beauracracy of a von Mises, the call for the dignity of a man before his God of a Hayek, and the common sense arguments of the superiority of a Milton (and let’s not forget the enormous contribution of Milton’s wife, Rose) Friedman. Kirk takes all of these divergent ideas and perfectly combines them all with the very Catholic natural law/rights Fusionist view of a William F. Buckley Jr.
To be sure, none of these names are quoted in the text, but the ideas are there, so it doesn’t take much thought to make the case that they come from the contemporaries that he had spent forty some odd years in vigorous intellectual discussions and debates with.
Kirk brings forth two simple ideas. The first is that we will never have a utopia to live on. Man is man, and will do evil. To have a system that counts on his altruism is a fool’s errand. However, man also knows and does good, by the grace of Christ, even in our fallen world. The issue is to have a system of economics, and really of living in the present world, that takes into account those who do evil by pushing their evil towards the ultimate good of all; while at the same time helping those who desire to do good, to do so most effectively. Both the selfish and the self-interested (different concepts, though many don’t realize this) will be pushed towards their best ends in a way that benefits everyone, without sacrificing human dignity or God’s sovereignty.
All of this is pretty heady stuff for an economics textbook, but it is there, explained in enjoyable, fun prose, that truly drew me in as a Junior in high school, and still does today at almost thirty. Economics is so much more than just about money, and the free market system is superior because it is the most *moral*, not simply the most efficient. Or so is the case made by Russell Kirk in this volume. A case well-made. To truly understand how economics and Christian morality intersect, I emphatically urge everyone to read this book. Highly Recommended. (less)
Nightwing, Vol. 1: Traps and Trapezes records the adventures of Dick Grayson in the post-Flashpoint New 52 DC universe. We don't learn everything abou...moreNightwing, Vol. 1: Traps and Trapezes records the adventures of Dick Grayson in the post-Flashpoint New 52 DC universe. We don't learn everything about Dick in this volume, but we do get snippets here and there of the overall changes between his life pre- and post-Flashpoint. The main purpose of the story in this volume, however, was to tie the series in with the other “Batfamily” titles, especially in terms of Barbara Gordon's recovery from her injuries and the “Court of Owls” story.
As the comic begins, Dick is visiting Haly's Circus, which has stopped in Gotham City for the first time in many years. He is quickly attacked by an assassin and drawn into the larger story-line with the Owls, though this is not obvious until either midway through, or at the end, depending on whether one has read the first volumes of the other “Bat” titles (and can thus recognize the “Owls” story quickly) or not.
I can't really say too much more, or else I'll spoil the entire story. I'll just focus on a few pros and cons of the graphic novel. First of all for the cons. Dick is in love with Barbara Gordon, and we know (from Vol. 1 of the first Batgirl title) that she is in love with him, yet they don't date. Why? Why not have them date? Even Bruce Wayne goes on the occasional date, so why can't these younger heroes? I can understand that “angst” makes good drama, supposedly. But for that to work, you have to have the characters think of being together, and struggle with the idea. This is more of a case of the characters thinking they love each other, then deciding that “it wouldn't work anyway” and doing nothing about it. I hate that aspect of the story.
The other part I didn't like was that Dick doesn't seem at all the guy who was Batman for a while. Even in the New 52, the events where Dick was temporarily Batman in Bruce's short absence still happened. He has Batman's ingenuity, and so on, but he just seems weaker than in his previous persona. Then again, he (along with all of the characters) is younger post-reboot, so he's less experienced, arguably. But given the fact that he wasn't paralyzed for three years like Barbara was, he should be a lot better than he is, which is to say, almost exactly equal with her. Given his superior strength and his not being paralyzed for years, this makes no sense. I could understand if they were playing Dick and Babs off of each other, but they aren't, so it just seems nonsensical to me.
What I did like is that, despite the younger age, and Batman not being as bad as in his Dark Age (or Dork Age, you pick which name to use), they still make Dick the moral center of the Bat-family. He has the right mix of maturity and the grim determination of Bruce, and also the kindness and caring of the other Robins and Alfred. I love that Dick keeps Bruce grounded, that they kept this pre-reboot element of his character in continuity.
Overall, despite the minor quibbles I had with it, this first volume of the post-reboot Nightwing comic is well-worth reading.(less)
I have to say that one of my favorite female comics characters is the Magician and Sorceress Zatanna Zatara. She is a unique concept for a character a...moreI have to say that one of my favorite female comics characters is the Magician and Sorceress Zatanna Zatara. She is a unique concept for a character as she is a stage magician who can do actual magic and fights supernatural threats as a member of the Justice League. Really neat. Her whole schtick is that she casts spells by saying the words backwards, and, so long as there is not some situational constraint placed on her by the laws of magic, the limit to her power is pretty high. She is arguably even more powerful than Superman or any other character except for perhaps Dr. Fate.
I don't know, or care, much for the rest of the characters in Justice League Dark: Volume One except for Deadman. But to buy and read it for Zatanna is a good enough reason. Because of this, I have some complaints about this volume. Well, mainly three beefs with it.
The first problem I had was that, even though Zatanna's original outfit was a case of what is called “fanservice” with the legs and all, it is a traditional female magician's costume. Other than the legs visible, it really isn't that out there. After the DC universe was rebooted with the “New 52”, her current outfit is basically stripperific. This ties into my second problem, which was that in order to make her more believable as part of a team, the writers kept coming up with some really strange reasons why her powers would conk out in the middle of a crisis.
In other words, the capable, uber-powerful, beautiful, smart, sassy, heroic sorceress I knew so well has been reduced to a weaker character (due to constantly contrived circumstances) who is drawn for constant supposed “sex appeal” to get attention from male comics readers. That said, there is some indication in the graphic novel that she is not as she seems, and from what I've heard of the more recent issues set afterwards, she begins to move away from the current garbage, back towards that wonderful character I knew for so long.
All of these criticisms aside of how they mishandled one of my favorite characters, the story was interesting, and has a unique premise. What if you have a bunch of characters, all of whom – with the exception of Zatanna, Shade, Madame Xanadu, and Deadman, (even Deadman can be a bit of a prick at timers) – are all jerks who have to work together because (according to Madame Xanadu, who took drastic action to unite them all), the world will literally end if they do not. The rest of the Justice League just can not handle the threats that these sorcerers can.
Really an intriguing idea, and we shall see where it goes from here.
In The Elfstones of Shannara, author Terry Brooks continues his storyline of a future earth where magic and creatures of myth have re-emerged to inhab...moreIn The Elfstones of Shannara, author Terry Brooks continues his storyline of a future earth where magic and creatures of myth have re-emerged to inhabit and impact the world once again. While I personally preferred the first book, The Sword of Shannara, to this one, there is a reason why this novel is remembered as the one that cemented Brooks' place as a heavyweight in the pantheon of American fantasy writers.
The story begins approximately fifty years after the conclusion of Sword, with the grandson of Shea Ohmsford, Wil Ohmsford, being recruited by the Druid, Allanon, to prevent Demons from crossing over from the dimensional prison where they have been imprisoned for thousands of years by the actions of the ancient ancestors of the Elven race.
Allanon is able to do this due to a mix of magic and science that was hinted at in Sword, and confirmed in this book. That is the use of enchanted sleep, a type of magically-produced hibernation, that extends the lifespan of the hibernator and increases their strength, stamina, and prowess between periods of prolonged rest.
He has been rumored to have awakened and walked the lands many times in the decades in between the stories, but this is his first appearance to any who knew him in the first book. He is roused out of his enchanted sleep when he senses incredible displays of dark magic, and investigates. He quickly becomes aware that the Ellcrys, the tree that is the conduit for the magic upholding the dimensional wall to the “Forbidding” where the Demon hordes were trapped, is dying. Unless the seed of the Ellcrys can be imbued with the magic that first established her, and planted in her place, all will be lost. She must be “reborn”, or the world will perish.
Allanon finds the young Elven girl who is the only one who can cause the rebirth, and entrusts her care to young Wil Ohmsford, as Ohmsford is the only one who can use the titular Elfstones that were given to him by his (still-living) grandfather, Shea, when Wil came of age. Allanon must protect the tree and the Elves while Wil and Amberle (the Elven girl) go in search of the source of the magic that the seed needs to be imbued with in order to cause the Ellcrys' rebirth. The Elfstones are the only power strong enough in Allanon's absence to battle the Demons that will hunt Amberle, thus his role as her protector.
The best part of the book was the increased details of the history of the future world here, as opposed to the relatively sparse details in Sword. The enchanted, ancient times of the “age of the faerie”, the age of Man, the Great Wars, the thousands of years since then, are all given greater focus and detail. The world that was hinted at, and thus made clear to those who are paying attention that this is not merely a “copy of Middle-Earth”, is here fleshed out.
The other area of great interest was the better-written military fiction. The first book was superb in describing the tactics, as is this one, but not so good at describing the actual horror and seriousness of warfare. This book remedied that. It could easily compete with Tolkien or Robert Jordan in the fantasy realm, and actual military fiction in any genre, in this regard.
Overall, the above improvements have made Elfstones far more beloved and critically-acclaimed than Sword. I would argue that Sword is, nonetheless, as good as, or better than, Elfstones, for what is in the former that is missing from the latter. This element is the key to any good story, especially that of epic fantasy.
That element is a sense of community and love among the protagonists. The sense of community and camaraderie of Sword was absent here. Oh, the characters did, indeed, care for each other. That much is clear, but the stakes don't seem as high as in the first book here, not on the interpersonal level. This book is really the story of the end of a generation of heroes, and there are the expected breaks and differences in affection between those of two generations fighting together, and those of the same generation fighting together.
On the positive side again, are two final plot points. First of all is the idea that some necessary choices and actions can cause pain and hurt the one who has no choice but to commit to that course of action. In this case, it is magic that is the area that the necessary use of can have detrimental effects on the user, even for good. Often in novels of any genre, the hero is not at all adversely affected by the choices he or she must make, other than a bit of over-wrought angst. Here, the forces that the heroes must harness, and the choices and actions they must take, have an impact on them. Often, not a good one in the long-term. They must choose to do what is necessary, though it will harm them.
The other great plot point is the romance that occurs in the novel. It is more realistic than that of Menion Leah and Shirl Ravenlock in the first novel, as there is a more “human” quality to it, if you will. Things are not so neat and tidy. Yes, the two people end up together, but there is much denial, spurning, jealousy, protectiveness, pain, possessiveness, and uncertainty. It is not as “neat”, if you will, so that when things did work out, that was a really great ending.
Overall, a superb fantasy novel and a great read. Though I still liked Sword better, Elfstones was well-worth the time to read, as well. I can't wait to begin the final book of The Original Shannara Trilogy, The Wishsong of Shannara, very soon.
**spoiler alert** Three, by Ted Dekker is a twisted roller coaster of a ride. This was my first experience with Dekker, and can I say that it was exhi...more**spoiler alert** Three, by Ted Dekker is a twisted roller coaster of a ride. This was my first experience with Dekker, and can I say that it was exhilarating. The book starts out with a young seminary student receiving a cell phone call telling him to confess his sins in three minutes, or the car that he is driving will blow up. This sets off a chain-reaction of events that lead to a surprising conclusion.
The book has strong points and weak points. The weak points are that the truth is a bit too obvious from early on if the reader pays attention. Having the audience figure out the truth is great for a mystery novel, but not so much for a suspense novel that is supposed to expound deep theological concepts. The other weakness is that the plot does not flow well. The plot stalls in places, and picks up in others. At the end of the book, the plot goes into full "hyperdrive", as it were, to the story's resolution. Part of this can be justified by the necessities of the plot itself, but part of it really can not. If the pacing throughout the novel had been better, then the end would not have appeared to be so jarring.
But the strengths of the novel far outweigh it's weaknesses. The plot is interesting, and the novel pulls the reader into the world of the characters. The overall plot is good enough to make up for the poor pacing of the novel. The characters themselves are superbly written. Too many authors sacrifice characters for plot, or plot for characters. Dekker properly balances both. You are right there feeling what the protagonists and antagonists are feeling. Dekker makes the fear, joy, happiness, sorrow, and other emotions so real.
Another strength is the theological concepts discussed in the book. Few authors have the talent of a CS Lewis or JRR Tolkien to expound on theological truths within in a work and have this complement the work. While I would question whether anyone should put Mr. Dekker up there with these great men, he is one of the few modern authors that can accomplish this difficult blending of theology and good, fun story telling.
A brief warning that there are concepts of hatred, violence, murder, terrorism, child abuse, and psychological problems, in this book. This book should not be read by anyone who is not high school aged or older.
In the end, this book has some problems in predictability once you figure out the plot (early on in my case), and some issues with pacing. That would cause me to rate it 3 stars, but the rest of the plot manages to draw you in despite these issues, and the characterizations, and excellent combination of theology and good story telling more than make up for this. I look forward to reading more of Mr. Dekker's works, and I highly recommend this book.(less)
I really tried to like this final book of the Dark Legacy of Shannara trilogy, I really did, but I can't find the ability to enjoy this grimdark waste...moreI really tried to like this final book of the Dark Legacy of Shannara trilogy, I really did, but I can't find the ability to enjoy this grimdark waste of paper. The previous two books were dark, but still hopeful, and then Witch Wraith went off the deep end.
One thing that Terry Brooks seemed unable to understand as he wrote this is that “bittersweet” means that the ending is still a good one, albeit with some poignant examples of sorrow. But these sadder elements are not supposed to threaten to eclipse the happy ending, as they do so here.
Suffice it to say that, with the exception of the Ellcrys being restored and the Ohmsford boys returning safely, almost nothing else turns out well. The whole books is one exercise in death and suffering. I can already hear the objection now, though. “Brooks always kills off some folks,” some will be wont to say. So what? Even though that is true, he has always preserved a reasonably happy ending. Not so here. Here the “happy ending” is that the world is saved, but the main and secondary characters' lives are in shambles. Wow! Isn't that just what I want to read?! Maybe I'll crack open a history book and read about the famine in the Ukraine while I'm on it. It would be the same level of optimism and enjoyment.
I know some might be put-off by my snark here, and I am sorry for any offense given, but this is just too much for me. Instead of the man who wrote epic fantasy and provided you battles of good triumphing over evil, we have good in a crapsack living hell of a world, never seeming to really come out on top.
What was done to a long-time character, the violence, bloodshed, not to mention the ridiculous sexual domination scenes in the previous book and this one, make this all just too much for me. I mean, what is this? Fantasy? Or Fifty Shades of Shannara?
I hope that future books go away from this latest trend in darker and edgier crap and towards a more hopeful time in earlier books. Until that happens, I won't read any newly published novels in this franchise, just the older ones. I recommend anyone else not read these either, and, for the time being, stop with some of the previous books, as the darkness here ruins the entire trilogy.(less)
I asked a friend, and Christian author, what books she would recommend for someone who was eager to read more Christian fantasy or other Christian spe...moreI asked a friend, and Christian author, what books she would recommend for someone who was eager to read more Christian fantasy or other Christian speculative fiction. She recommended to me a few suggestions, one of which was to try reading the books by author Rebecca Minor. I took her up on the advice, and am glad I did.
In Divine Summons: Book One of The Windrider Saga, Minor has woven a very believable and engrossing character-driven story. The essentials to the story are that there are several different species in the world where this tale occurs, and two of them drive the action. They are the evil “dragon-kin” (which are more humanoid creatures related to the dragons) who worship a demon, and the elves (who seem to be a cross between the elves of J. R. R. Tolkien's middle-earth legendarium, and those of other sources, in that they are highly gifted, but are mortal and do apparently die, albeit after many centuries).
These elves are our heroes, along with a dragon named Majestrin. Unlike his species' smaller, demon-worshiping cousins, full dragons like Majestrin worship the one-true Creator and God, Creo, as do the elves. The story focuses on our dragon and two elves in particular. These are the half-elven prophetess of Creo, Veranna, and the elven warrior, turned dragon-rider or “windrider”, Captain Vinyanel Ecleriast.
After a very strange, not to mention rude and bigoted on Vinyanel's part, initial meeting, he and Veranna begin their time together in defense of the Elven people and the development of Vinyanel's new group of air-borne cavalry. Vinyanel has been chosen to be the founder and first commander of this new aerial arm of his nation's defense force. At least, this is the plan. Before it can be realized, the dragon-kin's aggression and evil ways lead to a mission to save the elves from grave danger. This mission can only succeed, however, if Vinyanel can overcome his prideful dislike of Veranna, and accept not only her tutelage, but also Creo's plan for his life.
This story is right up there with Daughter of Light by Morgan Busse, in terms of quality. While I like Donita K. Paul's books, both Daughter and this Windrider book are of higher quality. That is NOT a slam against Paul, because she is a phenomenal author of whom I am a huge fan. It is to say that she is a tad “in-your-face” with her lessons and aesops, whereas these two women are just as “Christian”, but are much more subtle about with their theological or moral points. Thus, you are not “pulled” from the story, if you will, as you are in Paul's (and some other authors') books. I would compare either Busse or Minor to the quality and skill of secular authors such as the late Robert Jordan and current prolific author Brandon Sanderson.
The only quibble I have is one for which I don't really criticize Minor. That is the lack of very much background information, and of a more detailed knowledge of the customs, peoples, geography, so on, of this fictional world. Normally, this would really grate on my nerves, but in this case, it was understandable. This series was apparently originally released in a serialized format in a magazine. Thus, Minor had to write in such a manner that the movement of the plot for each part was concise, and fit into a certain limited space. That made long stretches of descriptive paragraphs kind of difficult.
Despite the above, I was truly impressed by two factors. First, Minor does a superb job on fleshing out the characters themselves. While you may not find out much about the characters on a large-scale, the conflicts and emotions of the characters in the story proper were made very clear. My other praise is for her prose.
Oh my goodness, this was absolutely beautiful. What Minor lacked in a grounded back-story, she made up for in the elegance of her writing. Not since either Robin McKinley's Beauty or Patricia McKillip's The Riddle-Master Trilogy have I read such a beautifully-written tale. With some of the (again understandable at times) lack of a back-story, I may have may have been confused about what was going on, but I was confused in the midst of really beautifully crafted story-telling.
Minor presents a vivid tale of characters and a world that I hope is more developed in the future. Despite some shortcomings, I truly enjoyed this tale.
*The Dragons of Chiril* is the first book in the second *Dragon* series by Donita K. Paul. It takes place before the popular *The Dragonkeeper Chronic...more*The Dragons of Chiril* is the first book in the second *Dragon* series by Donita K. Paul. It takes place before the popular *The Dragonkeeper Chronicles*. This was an exciting read for me, because it was the book previous to *Dragons of the Valley*, which I greatly enjoyed. It was fun, to be sure, getting to read the background of that novel.
The story begins with a young woman named Tipper. She is managing her household in the absence of her father, Verrin Schope, who disappeared many years before. She must deal with many problems, including her mother, Lady Peg's, apparent insanity. At least, she thinks her mother is insane. Her mother is eccentric and naive, to be sure, but Lady Peg is neither stupid or insane, as Tipper soon finds out.
Tipper is certain that her mother has cracked under stress when Lady Peg insists that she talks to Verrin Schope at times. Then, after Tipper has a young artist paint a portrait in the vein of the vanished artist's style, her mother points out how it isn't her husband's, but the young man's work. Tipper is puzzled over how her mother figured it out, until her father appears to her.
Tipper learns that Verrin Schope disappeared due to a strange series of happenings involving a wizard and his librarian on another continent. Verrin and the strangers are preaching a strange faith (to her) about a Deity named Wulder. Wulder is much more caring and loving, and more authentic-feeling, than Chiril's (Tipper's country's) god, Boscamon, who is a trickster in whom most people do not believe.
With the help of Wulder, Tipper, Verrin, wizard Fenworth, the librarian Libbretowit, the young artist Bealomondore, Dragon keeper Prince Jayrus, and the grand parrot (and Tipper's advisor and caretaker) Sir. Beccaroon; launch onto a quest to save her father and the world. Tipper, in her father's absence, needed to sell much of her father's artwork, including three statues (whose significance she did not know of) her father made by mistake from special stones. Now, the three statues must be found and reunited, or else both Verrin and the world itself will be destroyed.
The theology of Wulder (who is unapologetically based on the God of the Bible) is not as systematic and ironed out in this novel as it was in *Dragons of the Valley*, but I still found myself better understanding and appreciating the philosophy here. Quite simply, the two books build upon each other, and understanding the background of the characters, places, events, and philosophy helped me to better understand the overall picture.
I can't really say much critical, except that the book seemed to rush a bit without proper explanation, and I found myself kind of clueless as to where two important events came from in the last hundred pages or so. It all seemed to come out of left-field, and that was annoying, to say the least. I prefer a methodical build up, instead of having plot points suddenly thrown into the mix. I think that most of the plot points made sense and are less inexplicable if one has read the previous series which takes place later in the timeline. This series is sort of a prequel of sorts, though on a different continent than the events of the other series. That said, I doubt that I am the only one who read this series first, and a bit more exposition might have helped somewhat.
That said, the novel was incredibly well-written. The characters were compelling, except for Prince Jayrus, but he was better fleshed out in the second book, as was Bealomondore. In fact, the character arcs in the two books are compelling, and show a wonderful development of faith on the parts of the various characters.
The greatest plus to the book is how well Paul explored the Christianity-based religion of the fictional world's Wulder. Many authors seem to try to push an overtly Christian fictional setting and faith. To say that they are unsuccessful, would be an understatement. They fail *miserably*.
The fact that Paul succeeded where most authors fail, is an incredible achievement for her, which only makes the book all the more enjoyable and invigorating a read. I can't praise it enough. If you want to find a great fantasy modern (other than *The Chronicles of Narnia* or *The Lord of the Rings*, which are two of the other very few works to be great truly Christian fantasy) novel that expounds a Christian worldview, please read this book and *Dragons of the Valley*.
Wonderful characters and settings, a detailed and well-written Christian worldview, and a plain fun story, *The Dragons of Chiril* has all of it. Highly Recommended.
I received this book for free from Waterbrook Multnomah Publishers. I am obligated to read it and give a review on my blog and on a commercial web site such as Amazon.com. Waterbrook Multnomah emphasizes their desire for honest reviews, whether positive or negative, in order to help them create a better product. The opinions above are my honest viewpoint. I want to thank Waterbrook Multnomah for allowing me to review this book, and thank you all for reading this.(less)
**spoiler alert** It is now Thanksgiving! Christmas is fast approaching, and it is indeed a magical time of the year. The Lord's presence is felt dear...more**spoiler alert** It is now Thanksgiving! Christmas is fast approaching, and it is indeed a magical time of the year. The Lord's presence is felt dearly by many, as sadly is a great loneliness for those who don't know Him, or are not fixing their gaze upon Him. Sometimes, even those whose gaze *is* fixed upon our Savior still struggle due to childhood tragedies. The good news is that the Lord is Sovereign over all things. He can, and will, find a way to accomplish His will in our lives, sometimes in miraculous (or even, magical) ways.
These themes are present in the story, *Two Tickets to the Christmas Ball*, by Donita K. Paul. Paul, best known for her mix of fantasy and Christian Truth in her *Dragonkeeper Chronicles* books, here weaves together everyday modern lives, wonderful characters, and a touch of the supernatural, to tell a romantic story of two souls coming together to complement each other wonderfully.
The story begins with the one of the main characters, Cora Crowder, entering an obscure bookstore in search of a gift for a relative back home. At the bookstore, she runs into her boss, Simon Derrick, the other main character. Each of the characters ends up receiving a ticket to a "Wizard's Christmas Ball". Neither one really wants to go, but Simon agrees to go with his adult Downs Syndrome sister, Sandy.
Cora doesn't want anything to do with the affair, until an incredible series of seemingly unrelated events propels Simon and Cora into each other's lives, and Cora to the Ball. Cora, who comes from a terrible, dysfunctional home that she left upon entering college admires the dedicated Christian lives of Simon and his family. She had become a Christian during college, and is drawn to his enormous faith.
Simon, on the other hand, is drawn to Cora's empathy, as unlike most people outside of his family, Cora treats his sister as the wonderful and beautiful child of the King that she is, and ought to be treated like. This empathy, and ability to show feelings, is beyond Simon sometimes, and this draws him to Cora.
Everything seems to be going well until a blast from Cora's dysfunctional family past intervenes and manages to manipulate Cora and Simon into nearly splitting apart their budding relationship. Due to some timely meddling from the wizards, and a bit of magic, in other words, Divine intervention, they come back together.
This book had very little that I can think of to complain about. I suppose that Paul *could have* spent more time on the resolution, or given us more of a clue as to what will happen. It is implied that the fate of Simon and Cora is to come together in service to the Lord as the previous couples at the "Wizard's Ball" have, but it is left up to the reader's imagination what path occurred leading afterward to their marriage. I just would have liked a bit more detail, is all.
Other than that, I have nothing but good to say about the book. Most authors would have come right out and presented the fantasy elements to the audience in short order, but Paul did not. She allowed the reader to ponder if this was really fantastical or not. Lending to this, she inserts conversations that confuse the reader, because they seem to be debates about whether fantasy is a proper genre for Christians or not. You almost believe her to be on a personal soapbox about this. Not until the very end, when the miraculous nature is finally, and firmly, revealed, do you realize that the conversations were not some personal author tract, but were the characters leading the reader to a truly satisfying conclusion.
I also appreciated how the truth of most families as not being perfect, but having arguments, fights, illness, and so forth, was presented. The uncertainty that anyone will want Cora's dysfunctional relatives, or Simon's quirky and quite physically needy relatives, is a concern that many people have in real life.
Even with the issue of Sandy, Paul was wonderful! Down Syndrome and other so-called "handicap" people deserve our respect and love as much as anyone else does. Paul was so wonderful in portraying Down Syndrome people *as they truly are*, and *not* how popular culture vilely caricatures them.
The other part of the story that I appreciated was how Cora repented of her anger towards her family, but she was not portrayed as all wrong. Indeed, Simon and the other, "more experienced and mature" Christians, were actually more destructive than Cora due to their refusal to see evil and sin where it exists. Usually, one would expect for only Cora to be wrong, or both to be equally wrong, but Simon is clearly more in the wrong, and that is not just realistic, but refreshingly so. Sometimes, if not most times, people need to fall hard before they can be held accountable, and idealistically catching them all the time, only hurts them more.
If you really want a wonderful, romantic, charming story, that will help you to appreciate the wonders of God this holiday season, pick up this book and read it. Highly, highly recommended.
I received this novel from WaterBrook Press for the purposes of writing a review for them. I must emphasize that they do not ask for a particular type of review, whether positive or negative. I truly appreciate the chance to review this book, and the above opinions are my honest viewpoint. I also want to give my sincere thanks to WaterBrook Press for the opportunity to review this book, and thank you all for reading this review.(less)
I love the Star Trek franchise. All of it: the television shows, movies, books, and so forth. I have already had a few Trek books reviewed. This lates...moreI love the Star Trek franchise. All of it: the television shows, movies, books, and so forth. I have already had a few Trek books reviewed. This latest one to be reviewed, Star Trek: The IDIC Epidemic, by Jean Lorrah is one about which I am highly enthusiastic for two reasons. First of all, it delves into some of the mythology about Vulcans, but also about Romulans and Klingons. The other plus to this book is that it is a sequel of sorts to Lorrah's other original series Trek book, The Vulcan Academy Murders.
The story picks up within a few days after the events of Murders. Spock's parents, Ambassador Sarek and a recuperated Amanda, are on the Enterprise to be transported to a diplomatic event. Also on board are the militant Vulcan followers of the rogue philosophy of T'Vet. The presence of these very nasty, un-Vulcanlike Vulcans just adds to the waiting powder keg that is about to explode.
On a planet in the vicinity, Nissus, a Federation science outpost is in trouble. The outpost is designed to not be loyal to any one government, but to be a peaceful meeting place of scientists from different groups, including Vulcans, Humans, Andorans, and even those groups who are at war with the Federation, such as the Klingons. Nissus seems to live out the credo of the Vulcan ideal of IDIC, which stands for “Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations”. This means that groups of people coming together in a way where they keep their distinctive identities, while also working together where necessary, is the best way to achieve improvement for all.
The values of IDIC are challenged when a terrible epidemic breaks out on Nissus, that seems to mutate when carried by those of mixed-species birth. The rabid followers of T'Vet allege that this is “evidence” that IDIC is the wrong path to take, and that species should live in isolation from each other. Even the main characters start to wonder if these radicals are not correct given that long-buried prejudices and fears are resurfacing among the peoples of Nissus due to the pressure they feel from the constant threat of death from this plague. Worse still by far, there are aspects of the plague that threaten to cause interstellar war if a cure is not found, and soon.
I enjoyed this book because Lorrah is not afraid to explore the elements of the Trek universe that are outside of the confines of the Enterprise or humans. I always found the other cultures interesting, and this book is one where Lorrah explores them reasonably well in such a short work.
I honestly can not find any huge fault, except that the story was so big that Lorrah could not explore it properly in the confines of the story, so she was a bit vague about the aftermath. Don't get me wrong. She did, indeed, give a fine finish to the tale, but I would have liked more information. That said, she also excelled in the areas she is normally so good at, namely relationships, both romantic and platonic. Great story for any interested in the many cultures and mythologies of the Trek universe.