The Merchant Adventurer starts out of the gate making sure you know this is a satire. The story opens with a quartet of adventurers heading down into...moreThe Merchant Adventurer starts out of the gate making sure you know this is a satire. The story opens with a quartet of adventurers heading down into a dungeon - complete with the sort of overblown language one might find at a junior high D&D game.
The story after that is told mostly from the point of view of Boltac, a fat, balding merchant. His primary means of support is selling to, and buying from, adventuring heroes that have come into the area to try to oust the evil wizard Dinsmore.
At first, it seems like a fairly simple take down of D&D-influenced fantasy tropes, but after the initial stage setting, the characters and story begin to become more complex.
It had me laughing (both at the story, and at myself) all the way through.(less)
Orison presents a fantasy world and cosmology not quite like any other I've read. These differences underpin the central conflict of the book, and mak...moreOrison presents a fantasy world and cosmology not quite like any other I've read. These differences underpin the central conflict of the book, and make for an engaging read.
The world of Orison is ruled by Gods called the Semblances, or Dragons. Each one is a personification of a property - shadow, power, etc.
The relationship between the dragons and the people is complicated, and categorized more by fear and distrust than love and awe. Everyone seeks the dragons' favor, while simultaneously fearing their attention.
The two main characters of the story are very close to rock bottom. Wrynn was trained to be a mage for a world spanning empire - but rejected the use to which they wanted to put him. He was cut off from his magic, and exiled. Now he makes a "living" as a modest gambler, and a drunk.
Story is a second story thief, and good at her job. Unfortunately, she's practically a slave to the chief of her crew, and desperately wants to escape. Her brother and only family is one of the crew leader's close subordinates, complicating matters further.
The live in the city of Calushain, which is ruled by a powerful queen, aided by her seer and beastial general. Calushain and other free cities (called the Red Cities) are in an uneasy alliance to keep the attention of the Empire elsewhere.
Into this cauldron of tension, the Semblance of shadow tosses a golden apple in the form of an Orison. The Orison, a gem containing the power of a dragon, promises nearly limitless temporal power. Unfortunately, it also promises chaos and death.
Before long, Wrynn and Story are each caught up in the Orison's wake. Will they prosper? Will they even survive?(less)
This novella prequel to How to Succeed in Evil continues in the same vein that McLean established in the original story.
In Consultation With a Vampire, hedonist lawyer extraordinaire Topper Haggleblatt is kidnapped and used as a hostage by a pair of vampires who want to engage Edwin Windsor's services.
Vampires, it seems, are having trouble living in their traditional ways in this era of security cameras, smart phones, and street lights.
Though the vampires' tricks of mesmerism and intimidation fail to persuade Edwin, he agrees to take their job for a large quantity of money.
Edwin's cold logical mind and intellect is pitted against the cold blood and hot appetites of the creatures of the night, and the resulting clashes don't fail to amuse.
Like the novel, the text here takes itself quite seriously. In effect, the book is its own straight man, relaying absurdity, humor, irony and everything else with self important gravitas.
There are also several nods to the novel. They don't give anything away, but readers who have already finished HTSIE will notice and appreciate them. Those reading the stories in chronological rather than publishing order will perhaps think back to CWaV and see the foreshadowing.(less)
I was forced to abandon this book. The writing isn't particularly good or bad, and some of the world building is very interesting. The problem was, I...moreI was forced to abandon this book. The writing isn't particularly good or bad, and some of the world building is very interesting. The problem was, I just didn't give a damn about these characters.
For the most part it's a story of unpleasant, power hungry-group A versus unpleasant, power-hungry group B. Each group also amorally fights within itself. This isn't a deal breaker by itself, but the people involved need to be interesting. There were some glimmers here and there, but not enough to make it worth the slow burn.
On the side we have group A's leader's oldest daughter, the power-hungry, law-ignoring lawyer. His youngest boy, who's not actively offensive, nor is he interesting. Finally, the man's ex-wife is perhaps the only sympathetic character in the whole book, but her sub-plot really doesn't make a lot of sense.
Buroker's second entry in the Emperor's Edge series shows a surer hand and a more tightly managed plot.
In their first major scheme to do good on behal...moreBuroker's second entry in the Emperor's Edge series shows a surer hand and a more tightly managed plot.
In their first major scheme to do good on behalf of the Empire, Amaranthe and her crew set out to find out what has caused a problem with Stumps' water supply. It's not long before they realize they've stumble into a much larger problem than they realized.(less)
I shelved this with "science fiction" because it has a science-fictional premise: time travel. But one should be aware befo...moreThis is an incredible book.
I shelved this with "science fiction" because it has a science-fictional premise: time travel. But one should be aware before reading that the time travel is just a plot device, and is never explained.
In most other respects, it's a historical novel.
Dana, a modern Black woman from 1976, becomes disoriented one day momentarily blacks out. She comes to in time to see a young white boy floundering in a river, nearly drowned. She rescues him, because she's not the type of woman to watch a kid die no matter how weird things are.
After CPR she finds herself staring down the barrel of the boy's father's gun, after being pummeled by his mother.
This is the first of several trips to the past that Dana ends up making. Some are long. Some are short. As time passes for her in 1976, it's passing much faster for the boy, his family, and their slaves in the antebellum South.
During her trips back to the nineteenth century, Dana is forced by the circumstances to live with the slaves, and is treated as one herself. It gives her a visceral and multifaceted look at the reality of life as a plantation slave.
The book is well written, powerful, challenging, stomach turning, touching. All the things a great book should be. None of the characters that get any kind of page time are allowed to be one dimensional. No sympathetic character is perfect, nor are any of the antagonists perfectly horrible.
The book deals with history (personal and national), identity, family, preconceptions, and many other themes.
The scholarly chapter about the book at the end of the eBook is worth reading as well.(less)
The Book I love well done prose stories of superheroes and the like. They combine the familiar ideas...moreStory: 5 Writing: 4.5 Enjoyment: 5 Podcast quality: 3
The Book I love well done prose stories of superheroes and the like. They combine the familiar ideas of daring-do with more nuanced and insightful treatment. How to Succeed in Evil is definitely not a disappointment in this regard.
McLean starts subverting the superhero concept straight out of the gate as he forces his "superman" to deal with real physics, and fail.
When we meet the main character, Edwin Windsor, he's not a superhero. Nor is he a supervillain. He's a consultant, and he helps people with superpowers find a profitable use for them. He ends up working with villains a lot, because heroes are far to in love with themselves and their own ideas.
Edwin is under constant siege. Fools with a strange power try his patience and ignore his advice. Heroes and the police assume he must be a villain as well. His best friend is a hedonistic lawyer.
The characters really made this book. They are well developed, consistent, and their interactions remain interesting and humorous throughout the book. Excelsior, the main Hero, is conflicted and vain. Edwin, the protagonist, is bloodless, cold, and baffled by the behavior of humanity. Topper, the friend/lawyer is driven entirely by his urges. Agnes, Edwin's secretary (in the oldest, and truest sense of the term - your helper that keeps your secrets) is entirely too British for her own good. Though they do veer into stereotype and caricature from time to time, McLean has a good grasp on when to do so, and uses it to good effect.
The writing is also very well done, with excellent turns of phrase, foreshadowing, and repetition used to great effect. It's not without its problems - sometimes the fancy construction barely misses and just sounds stilted. McLean is also very fond of the word "midget," which comes across as dated and unenlightened in the 21st Century. In character, it wouldn't be an issue, but it's used in the 3rd person narration as well. In a related issue, he seems like he can't decide if Topper is truly a little person, or just short. (He is listed as being unable to work the pedals of a large truck without help, but also as being 5'4", which is bigger than my wife.)
The PodioBook The PodioBooks podcast is performed by the author, and he does a pretty good job. The obvious upside is that he knows the characters and exactly how the dialogue should be delivered. The downside (if there is one) is that a professional voice actor might have created a more polished work.
The quality problems came with the mixing. The intro- and outro-segments were mixed much higher than the rest of the track. And the tracks are very softly spoken and mixed quietly. I had to turn my car stereo almost completely up in order to hear everything clearly during my commute. There are also a handful of places where the narrator reads the same sentence twice in a row.(less)
Three parts dead presents one of the more interesting cosmologies and settings I've run across in a while. A world where gods not only exist, but freq...moreThree parts dead presents one of the more interesting cosmologies and settings I've run across in a while. A world where gods not only exist, but frequently war with mortal magic users.
Craft underlines many things in Gladstone's world, which evokes the world of superstition and folklore where any act might have significance.(less)
Charming was not the book I thought it was when I picked it up. I'm not sure what I was expecting, but it wasn't this book. I think I expect something...moreCharming was not the book I thought it was when I picked it up. I'm not sure what I was expecting, but it wasn't this book. I think I expect something light, possibly humorous, and fairy-tale oriented based on the title and blurb. What I got was something much darker, more nuanced, and better.
First of all, the title and the blurb are a tiny bit misleading. The fact that John Charming is a Charming really doesn't make much difference at all in this book. It gives you a convenient idea to start with, just to tell you it's not really correct. As we quickly learn, there was nothing about being a Charming that set him apart from thousands (or at least hundreds, it's not totally clear) of other Knights.
It doesn't really detract from the story, either, though, so it's a wash. When John Charming sees a beautiful, tall Nordic woman of indeterminate supernatural type walk into the bar where he works under an assumed name, he knows life is going to get interesting. When a vampire comes in not long afterward, he knows that "interesting" is a bad word.
Charming, on the run from the Knights who raised and trained him, is drawn back into the fray of defending unsuspecting humanity from things that go bump in the night. It's a pretty standard premise, but James handles it with flair, attention to detail, and a unique bit of world building.
The romance angle is interesting in that it is between a man planning to leave town, and a woman in a long-term committed relationship. The chemistry/attraction/love triangle is handled really well. I thought it was especially good at striking a balance between taking up the characters' attention (which it does) and overriding the main plot (which would suck).
Highly recommended for fans of urban fantasy and its sister genre, paranormal romance.(less)
This book is an adventurous romp with a healthy dash of silliness.
The story revolves around Amaranth Lokdon, Imperial Enforcer (cop), neat-freak, and...moreThis book is an adventurous romp with a healthy dash of silliness.
The story revolves around Amaranth Lokdon, Imperial Enforcer (cop), neat-freak, and all around goodie two shoes. After foiling a robbery by two large ex-soldiers on her own, she attracts the attention of the Emperor, who had been in the area for something unrelated. This brings her to the attention of Commander of the Armies Hollowcrest. Hollowcrest sets her to apprehend a notorious and dangerous assassin named Sicarius.
But Enforcers patrol the street and uphold the law. They aren't killers, or even soldiers. Why did Hollowcrest want her for this mission? Finding that out gets Amaranth involved in things much bigger than she had ever imagined.
The story is a fun adventure populated with engaging characters. I found certain plot points and plans very larger-than-life. They strained my suspension of disbelief a bit, but the book doesn't take itself very seriously, which helped. In the end, it had the feel of an old pulp adventure in that way. Indiana Jones disarming soldiers with a bullwhip, or Alan Quartermain riding railroad rails on his shoes come to mind.
The author's voice was pretty good, with a few discordant notes here and there.
All in all, I enjoyed it a lot and plan to read the rest of the series.
The Audio Book I downloaded the MP3 version of this book from PodioBooks.com.
The production (Darkfire Books) was good quality with clear audio. It was performed well, for the most part, though the narrator mishandled a few less common words.(less)
This book blends three horrors - viral outbreak, zombies and vampires - and makes something new out of them.
A plane lands in New York, and shortly the...moreThis book blends three horrors - viral outbreak, zombies and vampires - and makes something new out of them.
A plane lands in New York, and shortly thereafter goes completely dark. No one knows why. There were no calls for help. The CDC's "canary" team, named after the birds that warn miners when the air goes bad, is sent in to investigate. What they find makes no sense.
An old pawn broker who survived World War II has seen this before, and wants to help Eph's team, but to a modern mind he's spouting nonsense and superstition.(less)
Gripped recounts the experiences of Marky McCarren, slacker and office clown. Before long, his clownish behavior has landed him in sufficient hot wate...moreGripped recounts the experiences of Marky McCarren, slacker and office clown. Before long, his clownish behavior has landed him in sufficient hot water at work to lose him his job.
Enter "The Program." After watching a late-night informercial and calling in for more information, Marky finds himself enrolled in the Program, for free. They immediately set about changing his habits for the better.
But all is not right in self-helpsville. The plan's instructions include some thinly veiled threats, and they know an awful lot about Marky's life.
Fans of the Stephen King story "Quitters, Inc." or the Michael Douglas movie The Game will see immediate similarities. But Gripped takes this tried-and-true beginning and turns into its own animal by the end. It's an enjoyable blend of humor, mystery, a dash of thriller, and wry observations about modern life.
The book isn't without its problems, however. The rising action is a bit too long of a slow build, in my opinion. Too much of the middle of the book is similar to what's around it, making it feel monotonous. The writing itself could be better, as well. Sentence structure is frequently awkward. Similes sometimes don't quite make sense. And the use of commas is absolutely atrocious.
All in all, I found Gripped an enjoyable read, and a decent freshman outing for Donnelly. I look forward to seeing where his wit takes us next.(less)
The Rising is a fun book that takes an unusual approach to the zombie-horror subgenre.
The biggest difference between The Rising and other books is tha...moreThe Rising is a fun book that takes an unusual approach to the zombie-horror subgenre.
The biggest difference between The Rising and other books is that the zombies are intelligent, and their influence extends to all higher animals. I don't recall an invertebrate zombie mentioned anywhere, but there are birds, mice, deer, dogs, etc.
The fact that the zombies are intelligent makes them a very different problem than the shambling pushovers of classical zombie horror. In fact, it casts a pall of hopelessness over the entire environment. The characters are fighting for their personal survival, and a chance to live on a bit longer. There's really never any hope of overcoming the invaders.
Beyond that, there aren't a lot of curve-balls in this narrative.
It was enjoyable, but clearly Keene's early work. There are some flashes of the ability to manipulate the emotions and horror he'll show in later works, but it's inconsistent.
(view spoiler)[Keene "blinks" on the end, refusing to show us exactly what is happening. It causes a bit of an anticlimax, but the ending has been successfully foreshadowed enough that it's not too bad. (hide spoiler)]["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)