It's less of a world-building fantasy in the vein of Tolkien than a fairy tale for modern audiences (there are references to magazines and Robin Hood,It's less of a world-building fantasy in the vein of Tolkien than a fairy tale for modern audiences (there are references to magazines and Robin Hood, and a butterfly that spews stream-of-consciousness ad slogans). Overall, it's an entertaining little story that features protagonists who are of less than heroic stature - not in the more postmodern trend of ruthless antiheroes, but rather people who know that they're failures in life, who know that they would never be considered the heroes of the stories they inhabit. One of the reasons I love Peter Beagle's writing is that he is an "honest" fantasy author - his stories acknowledge that things don't always go the way you want them to or think they should, but despite the sometimes heart-wrenching things that happen, he's not a bitter cynic; nor does he go the brutal route of George R. R. Martin. Even with the heartache and disappointment, he's a romantic who recognizes that beauty still exists despite - or in some cases, no matter how much we hate it, because of - those disappointments.
Anyway, it's a story about a unicorn, a terrible wizard and a woman that nobody ever listens to....more
Have you ever read 'Uncle Shelby's ABZ Book'? If not, I highly recommend doing so, as it is a hilarious satire of children's alphabet books. In that bHave you ever read 'Uncle Shelby's ABZ Book'? If not, I highly recommend doing so, as it is a hilarious satire of children's alphabet books. In that book, under the heading for the letter 'O', the narrator asks if the child reading this book would like to go to the magical land of Oz and have an amazing magical adventure there. It concludes by flatly saying, "Well, you can't. Maybe someday you can go to Detroit."
This is the actual, non-satirical children's book version of that. If you're worried about encountering spoilers for a fifty year-old children's book, read no further, but take my advice and do not give this to a child that you love. Save it for one whose dreams you want to crush.
My mother gave this to me to read when I was a kid; she gave me many books and encouraged my love of reading, so I will not hold this single incident against her. I'm not certain what lesson Mrs. Brenner intended to pass along to kids reading this, but I can tell you what messages it left with me, which I still recall with a sting of resentment some thirty-odd years later: having a younger sibling is the worst, because they will misbehave, get you into trouble, and steal everything worth having from you, and being "the good one" will not prevent this from happening. While that is certainly the perception of many older siblings in real life, it wasn't completely true, and I am glad to have had both an older brother and a younger sister. I regret the things I did to them when I was being a rotten kid, and we enjoy good relationships with each other as adults. What I'm saying here is that while focusing on that childish fear is a good way to enter a children's story, because kids can identify with that, it is not the note on which you want to *end* your story.
In 'The Flying Patchwork Quilt,' the protagonist, Carl, has a younger sister, Ellen, who is five and is, in his words, "always going through a stage." She's your average five year-old child. Carl is responsible and well-behaved, relatively mature for his age. His flaw seems to be that he disapproves of the goofiness that his sister gets up to, which currently is trying to fly by any means possible. Carl is left in charge of his sister while their mother's away shopping, and Ellen gets into an old chest, pulling out their mother's antique quilt. Carl tells her not to - "That's Mother's!" - but after she begs his indulgence, he reluctantly agrees to let her use it as a cape for one flying attempt and then put it away.
Here's where the storybook magic enters in: it actually works! The dream of every little kid imagining themselves as a superhero comes true - wear the quilt like a cape, and you can fly. But Ellen doesn't know how to control it, and begins to panic as she flies away. Carl races across town to rescue his little sister. Along the way, he encounters adults that he considers asking for help, but decides against it because he knows they'd never believe him. Eventually, he loses sight of his sister and, defeated and hopeless, returns home. He knows no one will believe him, and wonders if even the police would listen. As he's about to break the terrible news to his mother that he's lost his sister, Ellen miraculously returns. Carl and Ellen put the quilt back into the chest, deciding to keep its power a secret.
But, like any kid in his right mind, Carl imagines all of the cool things he could do with a flying quilt. He sneaks out, gets the quilt out of the chest, and prepares to pin it on himself and begin his wonderful, magical flying adventures!
Unfortunately, our author apparently thought this was far too great a reward for the normally stolid, responsible Carl, so the quilt flies out the window and disappears before he can put it on.
Sorry, kid. Maybe someday you can go to Detroit.
Now, to be fair to Mrs. Brenner, I note upon an adult re-reading of this book that there is a coda in which Carl and Ellen's mother buys an old rug, and there is a suggestion that maybe, just *maybe,* it might be able to fly, too. The book ends with an illustration of a Persian rug in the air. Is it flying, or just being carried along on a particularly strong wind after being hurled out of the window? Is it real, or is it the possibility that Carl is imagining? No one is depicted as actually riding on the carpet. The image is very much dependent on the reader's interpretation of it. Was this ending meant to convey that Carl has been too uptight and unimaginative all this time, and now is freed to imagine magical possibilities around every corner? I don't know. All I know is that, as an adult thirty years later, I forgot that this last part was even there, but I could keenly recount the unfairness of losing something magical and amazing and a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to someone who doesn't fully appreciate it or to random, cruel luck.
I give this book one star, and that is earned solely on the strength of the artwork. I'm not sure if I read a later edition of the book, because I don't recognize the cover pictured here and the internal artwork of my copy looked as though it was drawn in the 70s or the 80s. The illustrations are quite lovely, and despite their age, they don't really look dated; I would have no problem presenting this book to a kid nowadays. If I didn't like them. Sadly, the artwork is in service of a story that seems to hate children who have dreams of wonder. It would be bad enough if it were just discouraging children from dreaming of magical things happening to them. This book goes the extra mile and offers them the promise of their dreams coming true, before yanking the rug - or the quilt - out from under them. That takes malice....more
I enjoyed this book more than I expected to, which is a strange thing to say when I went into this knowing how popular The Black Company series was. TI enjoyed this book more than I expected to, which is a strange thing to say when I went into this knowing how popular The Black Company series was. The story is told in first-person, narrated by Croaker, physician and annalist of the mercenary Black Company. The narration is much more terse than what I'm used to in a fantasy novel, and names are thrown at the reader willy-nilly. However, once I became accustomed to this style, the story started to hold my attention, and the names of characters - as well as cities - are simple nicknames rather than the usual gamut of apostrophe-littered fantasy concoctions. Croaker, Goblin, One-Eye, Raven and the others accumulate enough personality that you're able to keep them distinct in your mind.
Overall, I thought it was an interesting look into what it might be like to fight for The Dark Lord of any given fantasy trilogy. The Rebels in this story, we are told, are not much better than the hordes fighting to maintain control of the land, and while the members of the Black Company are by no means saints, they're not black-hearted villains, either. In general, it's gritty military fantasy, though I don't think it was quite up to the quality of David Gemmell's books.
As I got 3/4ths of the way through, my concern was that the story's resolution wouldn't be satisfying, since I knew this was only the first book in a series. While the ending was by no means a rollercoaster climax, I did feel that it resolved well enough and the next day I was surprised to find that I had a desire to read the next book in the series. So that's a good sign....more
A fairly entertaining comedic fantasy novel in the vein of Terry Pratchett's Discworld novels. Mogworld is a parody of MMORPGs - most notably "World oA fairly entertaining comedic fantasy novel in the vein of Terry Pratchett's Discworld novels. Mogworld is a parody of MMORPGs - most notably "World of Warcraft", as indicated by the book's dedication to Blizzard Entertainment. The protagonist is a student mage named Jim who is killed in an invasion, and things only get worse for him after that. Anyone who has ever watched the author's weekly video game reviews on The Escapist, "Zero Punctuation" (through which I learned about this novel), will not be disappointed here - Croshaw's razor wit is on full display as he illustrates the absurdities inherent in the average MMO, and what the consequences of them might be on the average fantasy world that plays host to it. In fact, Croshaw's unique way of phrasing things is easily the most amusing thing about the story, though it should be said that, as a harsh critic of video games, he's genre savvy enough to avoid a lot of fantasy cliches, or at the least, point them out as Jim avoids succumbing to them. As fantasy goes, Mogworld is nothing unique. Indeed, the world is aggressively bland and forgettable, though that's really part of the point (one of the towns in the story is named Yawnbore). As perhaps appropriate to both the fantasy genre and a comedy, coincidences and chance reunions have a way of raining down on Jim's hapless skull every other page.
Having become used to Croshaw's caustic persona in "Zero Punctuation," I was afraid that Jim would be little more than a mouthpiece for his author's scathing criticisms of the fantasy genre and MMOs, but fortunately Croshaw is a more talented writer than that. Jim's anti-heroic personality is entertaining, but he also develops as a character as he faces the consequences of his own selfish actions and inactions. Personally, I was also glad that it wasn't as coarse in its language and subject matter as Croshaw gets in "Zero Punctuation", though of course it's not above the occasional scatological reference. In the end, Mogworld was a light, funny and quick read that surprised me by not winking at its protagonist's amusing but undeniably selfish behavior....more
This is one of the more interesting treatments of a post-apocalyptic story I've ever read.
The writing style takes a little getting used to; everythinThis is one of the more interesting treatments of a post-apocalyptic story I've ever read.
The writing style takes a little getting used to; everything is presented entirely in narrative form, without quotation marks. The protagonists are referred to simply as the man and the boy. Capitalization is also mostly avoided, as there are no proper nouns. The end result is a rather low-key casual tone, interspersed with poetic word-pictures and troubling thoughts.
There is very little in this book that could be described as 'action'. Most everything that happens has the pall of quiet desperation and slow decay hanging over it, and appropriately so. The world that the man and the boy inhabit is one that is wretched and dying, and hope is nearly spent. This, more than anything else, makes it an intriguing read. Every detail of their attempts to survive in the ash-shrouded wasteland they traverse becomes fascinating; once I became accustomed to the gritty, low-key feel of the narrative, I found myself on the edge of my seat wondering whether they would find food that day, or whether the next ruined house they spotted would contain a benefit or a menace. It should go without saying that this is not a happy book, but it may cause you to pause and consider the beauty and the wealth of the world we currently enjoy - the things that this father and son could only dream of.
Finally, this is a book that asks a question (and I don't know that it's necessarily answered, but it is considered): if a great cataclysm strikes the land, is it better to give up and die, or is it worth it to try to survive? Do we have a responsibility to "carry the fire?"...more
While this graphic novel is based on the video game line of the same name - the original game's creator, Jordan Mechner, was the sponsor behind this cWhile this graphic novel is based on the video game line of the same name - the original game's creator, Jordan Mechner, was the sponsor behind this creative effort - it is a stand-alone story that doesn't require any previous knowledge of the games. A.B. Sina weaves a uniquely Persian-flavored tale that echoes the storytelling style of the 1001 Nights, and LeUyen Pham and Alex Puvilland's brushwork and coloring convey this flavor expertly while remaining accessible to readers (such as myself) new to this style of tale.
While I don't mean to stigmatize the video game industry, when one mentions that a book is based on a video game, my expectations usually remain low. Prince of Persia doesn't merit being relegated to this ghetto; it exceeds the stereotypical quality of such adaptations and stands on its own as a worthwhile read....more
I'm torn on what rating to give this book. On one hand, I found the premise engaging, the pacing perfect (for the most part), the underlying concept iI'm torn on what rating to give this book. On one hand, I found the premise engaging, the pacing perfect (for the most part), the underlying concept interesting, and the horror very well executed. On the other hand, the ending felt a little bit rushed to me, and there were one or two details that I felt came across as a little too leading.
I can also see why the story may have a polarizing effect on its readers; I quite liked it, but I see why some won't (I don't count that as a point against the story, mind you).
In the end, however, it is a book that I would recommend to fellow fans of horror. I finished it in two evenings of reading (at about four hours each sitting, I think); it's a very compelling story, and Koontz knows how to build tension, horror, and shock, and how to end every brief chapter with a hook that makes you want to keep reading.
As a final note, I was pleased to see that this story is set in my home region of the San Bernardino Mountains. Though the town of Black Lake is fictional, it was very easy for me to see the majority of the story taking place in my hometown of Crestline.
This was my first book by Koontz, but it definitely won't be my last....more
"Omit needless words." It takes a moment to learn, but a lifetime to master.
A slim, easy-to-digest volume that will tell you most everything you need"Omit needless words." It takes a moment to learn, but a lifetime to master.
A slim, easy-to-digest volume that will tell you most everything you need to know in order to write competently. It may also transform you into a curmudgeon, but when it comes to spelling and grammar, I don't see how that's a negative trait....more