After reading an article about Out of the Silent Planet over at io9, I decided to pull the book off the shelf for a re-read. It's a tale of a man, RanAfter reading an article about Out of the Silent Planet over at io9, I decided to pull the book off the shelf for a re-read. It's a tale of a man, Ransom, who gets shanghaied onto the world's first spaceship and is taken to the planet Malacandra. Once there, he manages to escape his captors and encounter the native species. Unlike a lot of the commenters on the blog, I was not put off by the religious overtones. Heck, that was the reason I bought it in the first place. But this time through I tried to pay attention to the science fiction of the tale and see how I liked it. Once I got past the obvious scientific errors--it was written by a literature professor in 1943 after all--I found the story enjoyable. I enjoyed Ransom's journey across the Malacandran landscape, and still found the social structures of the natives somewhat interesting. It's far from Professor Lewis' best work, but it offers a nice little escape for a couple hours. ...more
Okay, so the last big Friends of the Library book sale was a bit of a letdown for me. I had prior obligations for both the Friday evening preview andOkay, so the last big Friends of the Library book sale was a bit of a letdown for me. I had prior obligations for both the Friday evening preview and the Saturday sale. Somewhat dejected, I headed down on Sunday, sure that everything had been picked over. It was, but since everything was half-price, I lowered my standards and grabbed just about anything that caught my eye. With a picture of a Nazi soldier riding a unicorn on the cover, After the Downfall was one of those books. It's the tale of Hasso Pemsel, a Wehrmacht officer who is mystically snatched from the fall of Berlin in 1945 to another world where magic exists and technology is at the medieval level. Shortly upon his arrival he uses his machine gun to rescue Velona, the human embodiment of a goddess. Through her gratitude he becomes her lover and a welcome guest of the Lenelli, a tall, blond haired, blue eyed race. These particular Lenelli are colonists, having come across the western sea to settle on a new continent. The natives, a shorter, darker skinned race named the Grenye, take exception to this, but what can they do against a master race? As the tale progresses, Hasso's role as an outsider combines with his experiences on the losing side of World War II to make him question the status quo and his own beliefs. It's not a great book, but worth the time to read....more
This one's a collection of tales of Coyote, the trickster in various stories from various Native American peoples. All of the tales are short. Some arThis one's a collection of tales of Coyote, the trickster in various stories from various Native American peoples. All of the tales are short. Some are interesting, some are pretty weak. As the introduction states, these tales were meant to be told by a storyteller, not read in a tome. I suppose I could have tried reading them aloud......more
This eighth novel of The Dresden Files offers the first peek of Harry Dresden's new role as a Warden, an agent of the White Council of Wizards. He stiThis eighth novel of The Dresden Files offers the first peek of Harry Dresden's new role as a Warden, an agent of the White Council of Wizards. He still doesn't see eye to eye with his new bosses and is now confronted with a challenge to protect the daughter of one of his friends amidst an invasion of fear-feeding creatures from the spirit realm. I had mixed feelings about the book. One one hand, it seems like the characters and stories are weighted down with too much angst and back story. As I struggled to remember all of the references I was tempted to just abandon the book and go reread one of the earlier tales. On the other hand, you gotta love Mr. Butcher's wit and ability to write action sequences. So, yeah, I finished the book and will undoubtedly pick up novel #9......more
I found this time travel tale to be a bit disappointing. It's the story of Nicole Gunther-Perrin, a single mom living and working in L.A., who unknowiI found this time travel tale to be a bit disappointing. It's the story of Nicole Gunther-Perrin, a single mom living and working in L.A., who unknowingly makes a wish to the Roman gods Liber and Libera. The gods grant her desire to live back in the simpler days of ancient Rome and she awakens in the body of Umma, a single mom living and working in Carnuntum, a Roman frontier town by the Danube River. Of course, there's culture shock and, of course, the reader gets a history lesson about everyday life in ancient times. The weakness of the book is that there's more of that than there is a story.
The tale starts with a very bad day in 1990's L.A.. After a few pages of well crafted detail, the tsuris goes over the top. Nicole makes her wish and then wakes up to discover the Second Century. She seems to go through every experience on could imagine--the bad hygiene, life without modern technology, gender inequality, slavery, pestilence, famine, and barbarian invasion. There's no real progression of plot or character, save that Nicole realizes that the 20th Century wasn't so bad a place to live after all. Now if the characters were more appealing, I might have been willing to forgive that. But Nicole is rather uninspiring. I might have even liked the book better if she had been killed off earlier and the supporting characters took over the tale. ...more
In the thirdSluggy Freelance collection we're treated to the first Hallowe'en sortie against Torg by the denizens of the Dimension of Pain, a flashbacIn the third Sluggy Freelance collection we're treated to the first Hallowe'en sortie against Torg by the denizens of the Dimension of Pain, a flashback to Torg and Riff's junior high days, an ancient Egyptian tomb, an attempted murder from the future, and an attempt by the demon K'z'k (no vowels) to take over the world. Oh, and the holidays attack....more
The second Sluggy Freelance collection is slightly less brilliant thanthe first, but it made me giggle just the same. In this book Torg first encountThe second Sluggy Freelance collection is slightly less brilliant than the first, but it made me giggle just the same. In this book Torg first encounters the Dimension of Pain, Bun Bun takes off with Riff's robot and the gang encounter the Lysinda circle of vampires....more
This is the first collection of strips from the webcomic Sluggy Freelance. The art is somewhat crude. The storylines are simplistic. Some of the gagThis is the first collection of strips from the webcomic Sluggy Freelance. The art is somewhat crude. The storylines are simplistic. Some of the gags are dated. But I continue to laugh out loud. ...more
I first read this book back in high school. My tastes had started to run towards sword & sorcery fantasy and my eye was caught by the Boris VallejI first read this book back in high school. My tastes had started to run towards sword & sorcery fantasy and my eye was caught by the Boris Vallejo illustration on the cover. I read the book and was enchanted by the world of Gor--a world filled with hawk-riding warriors, beautiful women and the mysterious Preist-Kings. I devoured the first seven Del Rey editions, following the adventures of the hero, Tarl Cabot, an earth man transported to the planet. With him I discovered the fascinating world of Gor, as he defeated evil foes, rescued beautiful damsels and unraveled the mystery of the Priest-Kings. The series continued with another publisher--Tor, perhaps? As it progressed the books became filled with less adventure and more philosophy: men are naturally more dominant, women are naturally submissive, blah, blah, blah. I suspect Mr. Norman had never encountered stubborn women of midwestern and/or German descent. (Now there's a book, HausFrau of Gor.)
Anyway, when I finally got around to paring down my library, the Gor books were easily sold off. Years passed and at the most recent Friends of the Library sale, I found a copy of Tarnsman of Gor on the book tables. I had forgotten a lot about the book, so I figured I'd reread it and see how much I'd enjoy it 30+ years later. The story itself was all right, once I got over the bad science and the similarities to A Princess of Mars. I could relate somewhat to Tarl Cabot, a young man learning a new culture, but still hanging on to some of his native values. The plot moves along pretty well and the characters are likable stereotypes. But in the end, I wasn't even slightly tempted to read the next book in the series....more
In the third part of the Divine Comedy, the character of Dante Alighieri ascends through the seven spheres of the Heaven to the presence of God HimselIn the third part of the Divine Comedy, the character of Dante Alighieri ascends through the seven spheres of the Heaven to the presence of God Himself. Despite my quibbles with his theology and outright rejection of his cosmology, I loved how Dante (the author) was able to make the heavenly journey crescendo to its ultimate conclusion. It's a beautiful work of literature. ...more
This is the second volume of Dante's Divine Comedy. (Technically, I don't know if the Comedy is really a three-volume work or if that's just how PenguThis is the second volume of Dante's Divine Comedy. (Technically, I don't know if the Comedy is really a three-volume work or if that's just how Penguin Books published it. But I digress...) I found this the least interesting part--I don't know if it was that the imagery was less dramatic than in the Inferno or it was because I don't believe in Purgatory. Still, it's worth the read for the gems of Dante's craft that do shine forth....more
Back in the ancient 80s, two of the comic book series that I was following featured stories based on Dante's Inferno. I forget now if I went and soughBack in the ancient 80s, two of the comic book series that I was following featured stories based on Dante's Inferno. I forget now if I went and sought out the book after reading those issues, or if I just happened to notice it at the bookstore. Either way, those comics led me to purchase this, the first third of Dante's Divine Comedy. I read through it and, as was typical in those days, didn't get it. I found it somewhat interesting, however, and, because it was classic literature, kept it on my shelf over the years. I had a murky thought that I should also read the other two parts of the Comedy, but never got around to it.
Fast forward about thirty years to this Fall. Whilst browsing at the Friends of the Library sale, I came across all three volumes of the Divine Comedy, the same paperback edition that I bought all those years ago. I snatched up the two that I was missing and later sat down to read Dante's work in its entirety.
What can I say? Guided by Mr. Ciardi's copious notes, I dug down into The Inferno. I liked Dante's imaginative description of Hell--all the images that inspired the derivative comic book adventures. But this time around I much more enjoyed the spirituality and historical context that infuses the text. A part of me marveled at how much those comic book writers left behind when they mined The Inferno for their tales. I am so glad that I hung onto this book, and hope that it won't sit unread for another thirty years....more
Back in the seventies, Byron Preiss tried to recapture the magic of the pulp magazines of the thirties, commissioning authors and artists to create neBack in the seventies, Byron Preiss tried to recapture the magic of the pulp magazines of the thirties, commissioning authors and artists to create new characters and tales for the "modern" day. Reading it in the twenty-teens, it comes across as somewhat nostalgic. The only story that really grabbed me was the one featuring Archie Goodwin's character Adam Stalker. As for the rest, well, it would be nice to have in a waiting room. Otherwise, I could do without....more
This is the ultimate waiting room material--a book that carried me through the tedious moments of jury duty. It's a collection of short-short scienceThis is the ultimate waiting room material--a book that carried me through the tedious moments of jury duty. It's a collection of short-short science fiction stories. 100 tales, each of which fills but a handful of pages. Many of them are humorous, some horrific. Plenty of them have been written by the great authors of science fiction. I'm tempted to say that all of the stories are good, because I can't remember a single klunker in the lot. Anyway, I'm keeping this gem on my shelf....more
When I started this book, I was tempted to think that this was the volume in which The Dresden Files jumped the shark. I mean, really, Mr. Butcher--aWhen I started this book, I was tempted to think that this was the volume in which The Dresden Files jumped the shark. I mean, really, Mr. Butcher--a puppy? Harry going undercover as a production assistant for a porn movie? It sounds like a sitcom episode on sweeps week. Anyway, the tale did turn out a bit better than I had feared. Jim Butcher's stuff is fun to read. And even if this volume is somewhat lacking, it did seem to provide some long term character development....more
Back in the day, I went through a sword and sorcery phase and had owned all 12 of the Ace Conan paperbacks. They were nice paperbacks, with Boris coveBack in the day, I went through a sword and sorcery phase and had owned all 12 of the Ace Conan paperbacks. They were nice paperbacks, with Boris cover art and all that, but the phase ended and one day I needed space on the ol' shelves and I ended up getting rid of all of them but this one. Conan of the Isles was the story of Conan's retirement. He hands over the throne of Aquilonia to his son Conn and heads off on a nice Atlantic cruise. ... Okay, so Conan's idea of a nice cruise is to recruit a crew of pirates and sail west to stop some evil sorcerers from mystically snatching away innocent Hyborians. Anyway, rereading this again now that my own hair is turning gray, I was a bit surprised how unsophisticated the story was. It was still fun, sure, but less of a classic than I had remembered. Oh, well. just because I demoted it to waiting room material, don't let that stop you from enjoying it....more
Ah, what can I say about The Star Shard? Shall I tell about Cymbril, the enslaved chanteuse? Or perhaps the exotic sidhe child, Loric? The wise and miAh, what can I say about The Star Shard? Shall I tell about Cymbril, the enslaved chanteuse? Or perhaps the exotic sidhe child, Loric? The wise and mighty Urrmsh? The loquacious Byrni? The dark Eye Women? No, I guess if I'm going to hold forth on The Star Shard I must begin with the Thunder Rake. Ah, the Rake. The setting for this tale of captivity. Think of a traditional marketplace, with all its sights, sounds and colors. Pack it all up on a large ship, put the ship on wheels, supply the ship with massive forked oars that bite into the soil and drag the ship along. That's the Thunder Rake. Way cool, if you ask me. Of course, there was a voice in the back of my mind that pointed out that the Rake was probably quite impractical from a technological and economic standpoint. But the rest of my mind told him to shush, because we were enjoying the story. Oh, yeah, the story. Like I mentioned above, you have this orphaned slave girl, Cymbril. She's the property of the Rake's owner, Rombol, and her main job is to sing for the crowds whenever the Rake crawls into town and sets up their market. It's not a horrid existence, but slavery can make any life bitter. Cymbril's a curious child, given to explore the Rake and its mysteries when she can. But those wonders all fade to the mystery of Rombol's latest purchase, Loric. Rombol buys the boy for his innate ability to see in the dark, so he can act as a guide for the Rake on it's nightly journeys. At first, Cymbril plots to get a chance to talk to Loric, but once she does that, the two start to plan an even more risky enterprise...
The Star Shard was quite enjoyable to read, not only in its original incarnation in Cricket magazine, but also as this expanded novel. I did feel slightly let down--the world Mr. Durbin has created really calls out for more stories, perhaps a sequel or two. So, Fred, write some more!...more
Of all the old books I'd like to add to my collection, one of the most desired would be Batman From the 30s to the 70s, a book I checked out time andOf all the old books I'd like to add to my collection, one of the most desired would be Batman From the 30s to the 70s, a book I checked out time and time again from the library when I was a kid. Cheapskate that I am, I don't have much hope of actually obtaining that tome, but I was delighted to find at least some of the reprints I remember in Batman in the Fifties. Best of all, it was only a buck at the Seattle Friends of the Library sale. The stories reprinted are grouped into four sections: Classic Tales (I would title it "Gimmick Tales" myself), The Batman Family, The Villains, and Tales from Beyond. Each represents a different thread that made up the tapestry of the era's Batman tales....more
The center story of this Fables collection is Little Boy Blue's quest in the Homelands. In the previous collection (or issue #31, if you've been folloThe center story of this Fables collection is Little Boy Blue's quest in the Homelands. In the previous collection (or issue #31, if you've been following the comic) Blue took the Witching Cloak and the Vorpal Blade from the Fabletown armory and embarked on a mission back to the dimensional worlds from which the Fables came. His objective is to kill the Adversary, the conqueror of their homelands and to rescue his true love, Little Red Riding Hood. (Well, she's all grown up, so I should probably drop the "little".) It's a classic quest tale, fraught with dangers and wonders, and peppered from that magic/mundane mix that is the Fables series. And as an appetizer, you can enjoy the story of how Jack the giant killer, beanstalk climber and candlestick jumper built a Hollywood empire. Cool, huh?...more
Wow. This is just... wow! Great! Wunderbar! Incredible!
Maybe I should elucidate. I've enjoyed comics practically all my literate life, really becominWow. This is just... wow! Great! Wunderbar! Incredible!
Maybe I should elucidate. I've enjoyed comics practically all my literate life, really becoming a fan in the mid-seventies. By that era, the staples of the super-hero genre--the heroes from DC and Marvel--were pretty well established. I spent many an hour delving into the treasure trove of their history. The comic books and characters that had their start since that era, however, I've usually found lacking. I've bought many a premiere issue, wanting to get into the character, along with its setting, its supporting cast, its rogues gallery and ended up being disappointed. The magic just wasn't there. So anyway, back in 1994, the new Starman came out. I heard a lot of good things about it, but money was tight and comics weren't as appealing to me as they used to be. I didn't check it out. I mean, hey, Starman? I always considered him just a Green Lantern wannabe. If I had only known then what I know now, I might have been spending more money. Or maybe I would have been too young to appreciate it. Anyway, now it's 2009. I picked up this collection of Starman issues 0 through 16, read it and... wow. This is the series with that classic quality. Interesting characters, intriguing setting and a hero with an honest-to-Ghandi personality. I don't have the money for it now, but one day I'd like to get a copy of this sucker. Or maybe I should dare to haunt the comic shop back issue racks one again?...more