Looking at Lee

Let’s talk Lee, shall we?  Today I finished Anackire, book two in the Wars of Vis.  It’s a return to the world of The Storm Lord, a generation later.  (It took me way too long to parse enough information to figure out how much time had passed and even then, I didn’t do all of the math.)  Raldnor, as the Goddess Anackire’s avatar, changed the world when he buried Koramvis beneath an earthquake and brought the Goddess’ massive statue (briefly) to light.  Then he vanished into myth and legend, last seen by a young Thaddrian boy as he and his beloved left in a wagon.

Our main protagonist in Anackire is Rem, a young man whose story is eerily similar to Raldnor’s own…althoug he himself is far less aware of these things at first.  Rem is a solider, a skilled one, serving Prince Kesarh Am Xai of Karmiss, a different country than Drothar.  I felt the lack of a map keenly in this book, and wished that the map I found relatively unnecessary in The Storm Lord had been recopied here.

There are so many threads and characters who become more important than I would have guessed…it’s too much to even begin to summarize beyond what I’ve already said.  Especially because I wouldn’t want to spoil things that should be revelations.  Suffice to say, the parallels to the World Wars of our own world are apparenty.

It’s also worth noting that The Storm Lord was released in 1976 and this second installment in 1983.  I classed that post as fantasy, because that’s how the story read to me.  However, Anackire has pointed out to me that this was foolish.  I should have marked The Storm Lord as science fiction, because it’s older than the distinction between the two.  Lines here and there indicate to me that this story takes place on an alien planet, and humans came from another world to it.  In fact it even suggests that Zastis, the red star seen only in the summer that awakes sexual arousal in those of Visian descent, may be the spaceship.  And that the Vis may be the descendants of those who flew in it.  It’s an interesting touch that I hope will be further explored in later books.

It was fascinating to read Anackire and to pummel my memory for how it intertwined with The Storm Lord.  It’s not just that many of the characters from the first book still live, or have children, or both.  It’s how stories that faded into darkness are revealed to have continued to their inevitable and proper end.  Or not.

Lee also raises some interesting philosophical issues.  In this world, divinity is within every person.  What people see or experience directly reflects the depth of their belief and faith.  That’s not to say that Anackire or any of Her other faces doesn’t select people to work Her will, but a man who believes in nothing sees nothing.  The world helps those who help themselves.  You get the idea.  It’s presented in a compelling and different fashion than I recall seeing elsewhere, and it’s certainly intriguing.

But probably the most interesting way to examine Anackire is through the lens of asexuality.  Sex has always been a large portion of these books.  How could it not when a significant portion of the population is brought into sexual arousal by the position of a star?  And yet we have one or more characters who can be considered asexual.  They can also be considered celibate by choice, but that’s less important.  There is a character who says outright that yes, he feels Zastis urges like anyone else, but he has learned to not let them rule him.  That he isn’t and has never been interested in sex.  Admittedly, he has other interests and the power that sex replaces features among them, but it doesn’t change the fact that he is almost certainly a virgin his entire life by choice and inclination.  Something that resonates profoundly with me.

At least one other character who was as randy as they came chose to withdraw from a sexual life by the end of the book as well.  In this case I read it less as asexuality and more as the realization that there is more to life.  That, in fact, sex has been rendered absolutely pointless to her.  And yes, you can argue that without sex there is no future generation, but there’s more than enough people to continue the population.  Especially in light of the other belief that these people hold.

Let’s just call it reincarnation.  They believe that death is not death at all, but the continuation of life.  There are people in this story who are thought to be reincarnations of characters from this and The Storm Lord.  And, are they?  Maybe.  But it doesn’t matter if they are or aren’t.  In spirit, in role, they are their predecessors’ heirs, regardless of any bloodline.  And yet, blood is important.  The Lowlanders are far more in tune with their telepathic abilities than any other race.  Those who possess Lowland blood, even if they are unaware of it, are more sensitive than those of Visian heritage.  Like many other facets of Anackire, this is another push-and-pull duality.  It matters, so it doesn’t matter.  It doesn’t matter, so it matters.

There’s one more book in this series, so sayeth isfdb.org.  And it’s sitting in my Pile.  As things currently stand in the Wars of Vis, I have no idea how Lee can go on from here, but I’m sure she’ll find a way, humans being humans.  After all, Raldnor destroyed an empire’s capital by himself, and there were significantly more players in this story.  Yet Raldnor’s victory only won a couple decades, maybe a bit more, of peace.  We’ll see how long this one lasts…and how long it takes me to figure out the timeline for it.

Advertisements

Fanservice

When I was at the comic shop Thursday night, the cashier told me there’s a delay on Doomsday Clock, which will now end in July 2019.  I don’t know offhand when it was supposed to end (probably this year?), but I told him that’s fine, as long as it all comes out eventually.  After all, I once waited twelve years for a book in a series.  What’s a few months?  I’ll still randomly remember to go in for my Power Rangers series every four to six weeks, and that’s enough for me.  I admit, I’ve been timing my visits for the past three months to coincide with Doomsday Clock, but who wouldn’t, with all the hype this series has received?

This morning I reread issue 2 and burned through the brand-new issue 3.  What is more appropriate than Batman and Rorshach in the same room at the same time?  Each is the most serious and focused member of their (former) team, and in many ways they’re the “every men.”  Of course…Batman is Batman and he’s not as…compromising as he might be earlier in his career.

In Watchmen, the story itself is not the only thing to unfold as you progress through the series.  There’s Tales of the Black Freighter, an in-universe comic book we read panels from throughout the story.  There’s also TV broadcasts, pamphlets, flyers, and other media which help to inform us of the state of the world and the people in it.  Doomsday Clock takes a leaf out of that book, including various additional sources of information.  In earlier issues, this mostly takes the form of additional paper and digital content at the end of the volume, along with some security camera footage in issue 2.  Issue 3, however, shows us scenes from a movie.

The movie is a typical detective story, the last in a series.  Not necessarily because the series was meant to end there, but because the actor was brutally murdered (additional information at the back of the issue).  I know this story-within-a-story is meant to elucidate and evoke additional insights into the main plot, but I don’t yet know where all of this is going.  Except that Batman needs to find some balance between his mask and his face otherwise he’s probably going to have to do something drastic and soon.

Another interesting visual clue is on the cover of each issue.  Doomsday Clock is written next to the spine, down most of the length of the book.  At the very bottom is a clock, with Superman’s symbol at twelve, a few hashmarks for 9, 10, and 11, and a minute hand ticking towards midnight.  With each successive issue, the minute hand advances a little further.

Doomsday Clock is a true work of fanservice.  And I don’t mean that in an anime fashion.  This is a series that readers can only appreciate if they know and love Watchmen and have at least a passing understanding of the main DC universe.  I certainly don’t keep up with most DC or Marvel comics, but I know enough about the characters and world to know who’s who and the basic roles they fill.  I couldn’t tell you why there’s protests against Batman in the streets of Gotham, nor what Superman’s up to (we haven’t seen him since that bit at the end of issue 1), but I know who they are, what they do, and where they are usually found.

There’s just so many callbacks to Watchmen, some subtle and some not, that I’m having a great time as I read through.

I think my next small project will be to create a library database of my comic books.  The floppies, since the trades scan in normally like any book.  It would be nice to not have to physically pull the comics to doublecheck what number is next to collect.  That is the basic reason why I first got a library app – so that I would stop accidentally buying books I already had.  I mean, it hasn’t stopped me from accidentally buying books my dad has in the basement, but that’s different.  Those are his books and I thought I didn’t need them.  Whoops.

I do have a more solid (and much thicker) book on the docket to be read, but given that I’m going to be out of the house the rest of the day, I don’t see it getting anywhere near finished today.  So, you get a morning post about comic books.  And I…I have a book that needed the saga-sized bookcover.

Happenstance

There’s nothing like cracking open a new book and reading the dedication to just hit you in the heart.  The dedication in The Dark Prophecy, book two in the Trials of Apollo, is not a throwaway or gag like in some of Riordan’s other books.  No, this one is totally heartfealt.  “To Ursula K. Le Guin, who taught me that rules change in the Reaches,” it says.  I read it the day after she died.

I don’t have a lot of books by her.  Nor have I read very much by her.  I did read the first four books of Earthsea a while back and to be honest, I probably would have enjoyed them more if I’d read them as a kid.  She was also one of the authors featured in The Wand in the Word, a book of interviews with modern authors who shaped children’s literature.  I feel bad saying that I didn’t care too much for her most famous works, but it’s the truth.  Even so, I cannot and will not deny her influence or skill.

But obviously, I didn’t read a book by Ursula K. Le Guin today.  I read a book by Rick Riordan.  So let’s shift gears over to that.

The Dark Prophecy takes place some six weeks after The Hidden Oracle.  Apollo has arrived in Indianapolis with Leo Valdez from the Heroes of Olympus series and his girlfriend, the formerly immortal sorceress Calypso.  (Near the end of the book, Apollo voices a truism for Riordan’s universe: “The longer you live, the weirder the world gets.”)

You see, the Triumvirate, three Roman emperors, have divided the United States into thirds.  The eastern portion is the domain of the Beast, Nero, Meg’s stepfather.  The New Hercules has the central portion.  Such a toilet head.  And the as-yet-unrevealed third emperor has the west, where Apollo and Meg will have to head next on their quest.  I have some guesses about who it could be, but they’re based on my vague memory of who’s ruled Rome, not clues in the books.  I mean, it could be Julius Caesar himself, although that would clash rather horribly with the Julius Caesar from Heroes in Hell.  I doubt it would be Constantine, especially because of his conversion to Christianity since this is a series focusing on polytheistic beliefs.  The only other emperor I can bring to mind who isn’t directly connected to the two we’ve already seen is Caligula…and that would just be a horror show.  So I’ll have to wait and see.

One of the nice things about a linked series like this is that old friends appear and make cameos here and there, sometimes even becoming main characters for a book or two.  This enables us to keep up with their lives, and hopefully see them find their own happiness.  After all, just because they managed to save the world in the last series doesn’t actually guarantee a good life afterwards.

Based on the structure of the set thus far, I suspect that the Trials of Apollo will end up being four or five books.  Each emperor gets one book to reveal and introduce them as a villain, then we have to actually, you know, deal with them.  Sure, it could end up being only three, but since Nero is still very much a player, I don’t think he’ll be lumped in with the third emperor and quickly defeated.  Riordan may wrap his books up in ways that seem fast when you read them, but he actually takes his time to create the proper buildup and tension for each climax.

Also there’s a short story at the end taking place before the grand adventure to Greece.  It features a walking table named Buford.  We can all blame Leo for this.

I haven’t yet decided what to read next.  I won’t have a lot of time tomorrow, but I should be able to read a fair bit on Sunday.  I want something physically smaller than The Dark Prophecy (my mom knew I wanted paperback and instead of waiting for it to be released that way in the US she got me the British version for Hannukah which is much larger than the US versions) so that it’s easier to take into the city tomorrow.  Not that I think I’ll have a lot of time to read in between friends, games, and laser tag…but it’s always good to be prepared.

I also stopped by the comic shop last night to get the newest issues of Mighty Morphin’ Power RangersGo Go Power Rangers, and Doomsday Clock, so we’ll see how long (or not) it takes me to get to those.  I suspect the lattermost will be read this weekend.  But I think we all knew that.

Gods are Dicks

Gods are dicks.  I mean, I guess it makes sense – they have more power than we pathetic mortals can even begin to imagine or understand, but it doesn’t stop their seemingly self-centered and uncaring behavior from being obnoxious.  This is why it took me so long to reread The Trials of Apollo: The Hidden Oracle.  Because Apollo is a dick.

We return to Rick Riordan’s mythological mess of a world in a book that runs concurrent with Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard: The Sword of Summer.  Annabeth is actually in Boston throughout the whole of The Hidden Oracle.

Apollo, a god of many things including the sun, poetry, prophecy, healing, archery, and who knows what else, has been cast down to earth as a mortal by Zeus.  This is apparently the third time this has happened to him and Apollo is not at all thrilled.  However, it quickly becomes apparent that Apollo’s lack of godhood is not at all his worst problem.  It was a known fact during the last war (read previously written books in this world for the story) that people were having trouble getting prophecies.  Well, that problem hasn’t been resolved at all, and the difficulties have gotten worse, spreading to basic communication other than talking face to face.

It’s Apollo’s task, as the god of prophecy, to fix this.

Of course, nothing is ever as easy as you might think, and Apollo well knows this is no small quest.  After all, the Oracle of Delphi is only one prophetic outlet, and he needs to secure all of them.  Worse, it’s a race against a terrifying new foe, known as the Triumvirate.  It looks like this will involve not only the demigods of Camp Half-Blood, but also those of Camp Jupiter, in addition to who knows what other strange allies Riordan might find for his group.

Way way back when this series was just about Percy Jackson and his adventures, we met Apollo for the first time.  We also learned that his current obsession is haikus…and that they suck.  So I found it eminently appropriate, and amusing, that every chapter title in this book is a haiku.  And the dedication page reads “To the Muse Calliope: This is long overdue.  Please don’t hurt me.”

I do love Riordan’s tongue-in-cheek way of dealing with mythology, and the way he’s not at all afraid to touch on some of the darker aspects of these stories.  He may not go into gory details, these books being for kids after all, but he doesn’t shy away.  Kids know that there’s bad stuff out there, and some kids are unfortunate enough to have experienced it.  We don’t do them any favors in sheltering them too much…and nobody likes to be talked down to.  If Riordan skims over something, he makes it so that the narrator doesn’t want to dwell on it, rather than making it seem like he’s trying to protect his audience’s assumed innocence.

This copy also has a bonus story at the end featuring, of course, Apollo in his godly form, probably before the book takes place.  It’s a cute little one-shot of how it sucks to be a demigod.

Well, you read this far and you might remember I mentioned I had put off rereading this book?  That’s because I got the second for Hannukah and you bet it’s up next.  I obviously can’t read the new book without rereading the first, right?

Well, in this series it’s fine.  In other series…we’ll see.  I’ve been paying more attention to how bogged down I get in some series and I think I may limit how much I’m rereading them.  A lot of them get read once a year because that’s how often the new books are released, and some have just gotten to an unwieldly number of books if we’re talking about rereading the whole series.  There’s a new Elantra book out soon, and dear gods, that’ll be number thirteen.  Maybe if they were shorter it wouldn’t be so bad, like when I reread Tamora Pierce’s Tortall series in publication order – the first ten are pretty short in comparison to the later entries, so reading all seventeen is about the same as reading all of Elantra.  (There’s a new on in that series out this year too – so exciting!)

But Tortall has a great deal more in common with series like Pern, Valdemar, and Alliance-Union.  There are discrete sets – The Lioness Quartet, The Immortals, Protector of the Small, etc.  So while I’d feel compelled to reread all of a particular set, I’m never obligated to reread the series as a whole.  Even Rick Riordan’s books fall into this category.  I’d always reread all of The Trials of Apollo before touching the new book in this set, but I don’t have to reread all of Percy Jackson, Heroes of Olympus, or any of the other series that exist in the same world.

Anyway, I don’t have the new Elantra book yet, so we’ll see how much rereading I choose to do at that time.  For now, let’s see if Apollo can be less of a dick.

Death Comes a’Knockin’

There’s a man who wanders from town to town, killing those who are already dead.  They call him Death, they call him the King of Swords, they call him Parl Dro, for that is his name.  He’s an exorcist, a man who cares little about life and death save that the dead cease to bother the living.

Every village, the same story, although the words and verse change somewhat from here to there.  So it is in this new village, where he must exorcise a young woman from her sister, and seems to have picked up an obnoxious tagalong minstrel…

Tanith Lee’s Kill the Dead seems like a typical noir at first glance, with a hardhearted protagonist who’s seen it all, done it all before, accompanied by a wide-eyed younger man who may or may not choose to learn the difficult trade.  There are women, both victims and villains, and those who merely wish to pass a night in companionship, but this is Parl Dro’s story.

And that ending…!

It’s a short book, not even two hundred pages.  And yet, coming from master Tanith Lee, even a skinny novel like this holds power and commands respect.  Should I have finished this yesterday when I first started it?  Oh, probably.  But the first read of something like this should be savored and not rushed.

I picked it up because on isfdb.org, it’s listed as being part of the same world as Sabella.  I…don’t think that’s true.  I think it shares elements and themes with Sabella, but I wouldn’t call these two the same world at all.  I don’t even know that I find this quite as powerful as the other book, but maybe that’s because of the similarities and the fact that Kill the Dead is then the second book of this type I’ve read from Lee.  Or maybe that my weird interests prefer elements of Sabella to elements of Kill the Dead.

So, Kill the Dead is another good book by Tanith Lee that I’m happy to add to my library.  There’s still a number of books waiting in my Pile, but this one’s no longer among their company.  That’s progress!

Telling Stories

In the past year, I’ve read a number of things that deviate from the standard fantasy novel.  There have been novelizations (more than my usual none) which show a range of talent and reasons to both pick up more such books and shun such books.  There have been anthologies – oh my have there been anthologies! – of so many types and persuasions.  And there have been fairy tales, the old standby that I do so love.

Picking up a book I knew nothing about and discovering it combined all three of the above things was like winning the jackpot.  The Jackrabbit Jackpot in Kissing Town, from The 10th Kingdom.

Up until Hannukah, I had never heard of Jim Henson’s The Storyteller before.  A glance at the book said something about a TV series.  Well, I wasn’t sure what to think, but at least it was a novelization, not a screenplay.  And the other books in my lovely box set were good.  I might as well give this one a shot.

Now I’m tempted to look up The Storyteller and see if I can watch an episode.  But let’s back up a little.

It seems that, after the success of The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth, Jim Henson decided to make a television series bringing fairy tales to the world, but told in his own distinctive way, utilizing puppets.  The screenplays (and novelization) were written by Anthony Minghella, who must be among the best when it comes to telling fairy tales based on what I’ve read here.  The stories themselves are skillful mixtures of multiple elements – some familiar, some not – that are far more complex than your average Disney movie.  They’re all engaging and I have to believe that the visuals would have been every bit as impressive as The Dark Crystal, though on a smaller scale.  At least, that’s what the photos in the back, from the Jim Henson Archives, lead me to believe.

There are nine stories in all, which I think covers all the episodes of the series.  They were linked together by the character of the Storyteller himself, who rarely enters the narrative save at the beginning and end of the tale.  Even so, the Storyteller is still a character who allows his presence to be felt as he narrates, but he’s not an intrusive sort, which I appreciate.  Some authors use narration to interject their own opinions and it can feel forced and out of place.  Minghella is talented enough that not only do the Storyteller’s thoughts not feel forced and suit the content, you can tell that these are the Storyteller’s thoughts, not the author’s.

All in all, I couldn’t say if I preferred The Storyteller or The Dark Crystal, but Labyrinth is definitely the least interesting book in this set by far.  I am so glad my mom opted to get me these books for Hannukah, as they’ve been a real pleasure to discover.  Not to mention the additional information, illustrations, images, and even photos from the Jim Henson Archives included in each.  I would recommend this box set to fans of Jim Henson’s work, particularly those movies, and anyone who enjoys a good fantasy read.

A Cold Night

I was out shopping on one of the coldest days last year, and we went to a bookstore.  Well, there was more than one bookstore, and nobody is surprised when any number of bookstores show up and I enter.  But at The Dial, in the Fine Arts Building, on a bitterly cold day, I bought The Bear and the Nightingale, book one of the Winternight Trilogy.  And, it still being winter and having been fairly cold recently, I felt it would be a good time to thoroughly investigate my purchase.

Katherine Arden, the author, draws on Russian fairy tales and folklore for her inspiration and setting, a nice relief from the endless iterations of Western European stock I’ve become familiar with.  That’s not to say that I’ve never read Russian-rooted stories before – Mercedes Lackey seems to love the story of Katschei the Deathless as well as the Firebird – just that I’ve read a lot more versions of Cinderella than either of those.  Or both put together, now that I think about it…

Because I am less familiar with Russian tales, I cannot say as much for certain about them, their telling, their accuracy, or so many other aspects.  But my impression is that Arden is drawing upon the old legends and combining them into something new and wholly original, not simply a retelling of an old tale.

The setting is Russia, at a time when Russia bowed to the Khan…although that time may soon be ending.  In an isolated northern village lives Vasiliya Petrovna, our main character.  She is the boyar’s youngest daughter by his first wife, and her mother died in the birthing.  Vasya, as she is affectionately known, has the Sight, and can see, among other things, the household and forest spirits, whom she is happy to befriend.  Of course, her mother’s blood may have more power than that…although no one really knows too much about Marina Ivonovna or her mother before her.

I spent a lot of this book considering the fact that this is the first entry in a trilogy.  Based on my experience with Russian stories, this one seems overly long.  But I suppose this is what happens when I compare traditional oral tales to books – the book always seems long in comparison.  Do we need to understand how daily life worked?  No…but it helps to establish the characters in their roles and relationships without telling us how Anna Ivanovna and her stepdaughter fail to get along.  Do we need to cover some fifteen years of time?  No…but it keeps us from rushing too quickly from point a to point b.

At the very least, Katherine Arden is a good author and there’s nothing wrong with the book itself.  I just need to overcome the fact that most of the Russian-based stories I’ve read before were shorter fairy tales, and the Winternight Trilogy clearly aims to expand from mere folklore into a larger fantasy.  As for why it spends so much time in such a small setting with such mundane tasks…it’s obvious.  Vasya is a young woman in her father’s house, and as such does not have nearly the same amount of freedom a son might.  Her life is fairly restrictive even if she is granted more freedom than many.  So even though she is the heroine, she first needs to step out of the cage life has wrought for her.

I’ll definitely be keeping up with the trilogy, based on this beginning, although I’ll wait for The Girl in the Tower to be released in paperback.  It was available in hardcover when I bought the first book, and I actually glanced at that one first, until I realized it was a sequel.  I do try to avoid starting series in the middle if I can help it.

On that note, do you really need to say your book is a novel if it’s in a trilogy?  I’ve been wondering this for a month now and just…fail to understand why both statements are on this cover.

More Novelization

I grew up loving The Dark Crystal.  I think I’ve made that clear in my posts about Jim Henson’s The Dark Crystal and Shadows of the Dark Crystal.  However, I never saw Labyrinth until I was in college and somebody sat me down and stuck the disc in.  I thought it was…okay.  I would always prefer The Dark Crystal because of nostalgia, but I also like it better smply because it has no relationship to the real world.

Well, as you may recall, Jim Henson’s Labyrinth was another book in that lovely box set I got for Hannukah and it wouldn’t be fair to avoid reading it simply because the movie isn’t my favorite.  And I had high hopes because this too was written by A.C.H. Smith, who did a great job expanding on the imagery and dialogue of The Dark Crystal for that novelization.  Perhaps this would finally get me on board with Labyrinth.

Well, it didn’t quite do that.

I’ll admit, I didn’t find Sarah quite as annoying in the book as I did in the movie, but that could just be my higher tolerance for low quality fantasy books.  And trust me, especially if you haven’t read some of my rants on this blog, I have a fairly high tolerance for low quality fantasy books.  I have read a lot of crap and there are so many I’ve read and thought “but it could have been so good!” despite understanding that it is most definitely a shitty book.

Labyrinth, for the record, is not a shitty book.  It just isn’t telling a story that I find exceedingly compelling.  I think that the main character is stronger for me in the novelization, but the book does suffer from not having the engaging visuals or David Bowie and his music.  Unlike The Dark Crystal, the concept sketches are shoved in the back of the book, along with a reprinting of Jim Henson’s Laybrinth notebook (which is actually very cool), so the story has no illustrations whatsoever and I found myself trying to recall the visuals of a movie I half-enjoyed.

I think, in the end, I can’t really say that I prefer one format to the other, for Labyrinth.  I guess I’d probably pick watching the movie over reading the book because I can do something else while giving the screen half my attention.  Also because it would take less time to watch the movie than to read the book.  And then I’d get those visuals and David Bowie and his music.  Either way though, I’d much rather pick The Dark Crystal in any form over Labyrinth.

Return to the First Contact Cafe

If I had a convention this weekend I shouldn’t be posting this much, right?  Right.  Except for the part where I got so lucky and came down with the flu.  Very down on Friday night, which is why my Blue Exorcist post was so short – I just wanted to get a post written to commemorate the books I’d read that day and then go crash into bed. Then go to the doctor in the morning.  Where I officially found out that I have a textbook case of influenza.  Between that, sadness over missing my gaming weekend, and general misery before the meds started helping, I didn’t get a lot of reading done yesterday.  Movies yes, books no.

So, after I finished watching an old anime series this morning (and consequently crying a lot), I turned back to my Pile of unread books and pulled Mourner by C.F. Bentley, aka Irene Radford.  This is the third in the Confederated Star Systems series…which may not be over yet.  After all, just because there’s been a heavy trend towards trilogies lately doesn’t mean everyone is obligated to format their series that way.  Radford’s never been limited like that, making each series as long as she needs it to be for the characters to develop and get to their happy endings.

Not to mention that Mourner was released less than a year ago.  Given that the publication dates on Harmony and Enigma are 2015 and 2016 respectively, it’s entirely likely that a fourth book could come out this year.

The majority of the story in Mourner takes place on the First Contact Cafe space station, and Radford has introduced yet another new species.  And it’s a doozy for sure.  Because the author of the Dragon Nimbus books has given us…space dragons.  No really, that’s what almost everyone calls them.  They call themselves D’Or, but whatever.  We can be humanocentric here and call them space dragons.

There’s also the plot thread that discusses the title of the book, mostly about the missing corpse of a character who died in Enigma.  What’s interesting to me is that each successive book discusses more of the supernatural than the previous installment, introducing new ideas and concepts.  And, of course, we get to watch our main family of characters grow and develop, becoming who they were meant to be from the start.  Which is much more enjoyable than all those nasty politics and betrayals in the background.

I continue to enjoy this series and I’m very glad to have found it.  I know we’re not yet at the end of this story, so I look forward to getting there one day.

Now, I want to change gears a bit and talk about some movies.  Weird, I know, but I woke up this morning thinking about it and I wanted to share some thoughts, and what better place than here?

Neil Gaiman wrote a short story some years back entitled “The Problem of Susan.”  This, of course, only makes real sense if you’ve read C.S. Lewis’ Narnia books, because Susan is the only character who, once she grows out of her adventures there, never returns.  There’s a great deal of discussion about it, but that’s not what I want to talk about.

You see, yesterday I rewatched My Neighbor Totoro, showing it to my sister for the first time.  And I kept trying to determine how old the main characters are.  Mae, the younger sister is about five, which is all well and good.  Based on her height and build, I would have to guess that older sister Satsuki is about ten.  Which is still young enough to believe in magic and go along with all the craziness that entails, like riding a catbus.

At the end of Prince Caspian, Aslan talks to Peter and Susan separately from the rest of the people.  These two are the eldest siblings, and he tells them that this will be their last trip to Narnia.  They’ve…outgrown their need for it?  Something like that.  Whatever.  Bottom line is, the adventure stories in the series are for younger kids and so the older protagonists are stepping aside.

I imagine that Satsuki doesn’t have too many more years left of seeing and interacting with spirits, based on this kind of attitude.  But then I saw the scene with the parents at the end again, where the mom briefly glimpses the girls sitting in the tree, and the dad says it might not be so far-fetched, based on the words etched into an ear of corn.  Both parents seem quite willing to believe in spirits and magic.

Which then makes me wonder if this is a cultural difference.  After all, the Japanese seem to revere a number of things and attitudes that Westerners seem to ignore, such as nature.  Of course, living in the United States, I get a lot of shafts in those terms.  After all, this country was built on Puritanical standards, and that permeates all the way into our literature.  Even European stories draw on a rich history of mythology, legend, and lore that is otherwise lacking in America, because so many of us have abandoned our roots.

I don’t really have a thesis or anything in mind with all of this, I just wanted a chance to get it all down and out of my head.  But speaking of roots, I’d love to point out that my copy of “The Problem of Susan” comes from People of the Book, a collection of stories from Jewish science fiction and fantasy authors.  It’s one of those books that speaks to me more strongly on a personal level because there’s a lot more I can relate to than say…The Dragon and the Stars, the anthology written by people of Asian descent.

Which makes things really strange when you think about it.  Here’s this Jewish anthology with a story about a Christian character, originally created by a very Christian author for his religious allegory series to serve a very specific purpose.  I don’t even know what to make of it all.

Maybe I’ll just go find whatever I’m reading next.

Shorter Reads

Today I reread Blue Exorcist volume 17 and the brand-new volume 18.  Spanning both is a story discussing Shura Kirigakure’s backstory at last, the origin of her snake sword, and her relationship with the sadly-deceased Father Fujimoto.  It’s rather epic and sad all at the same time, with a bit of humor thrown in as the Okumura brothers do their best to help against something Shura’s been bound to all her life.

Then the focus shifts over to Bon in his role as Lewin Light’s apprentice, as they begin to delve into the mysteries of the Blue Night, a time about sixteen years ago when numerous exorcists the world over were consumed by blue flames, the mark of Satan himself.  Bon follows Lightning out of awe and loyalty, but he’s not stupid and can clearly see that there is a larger picture being formed, even if he doesn’t yet have the same amount of information as his mentor.

There’s a bit of nice character development, and some people we haven’t seen in a while show up as well.

I don’t have much more to say because I’m going to bed now.