Reading on a Cold Day

There’s quite a number of things in my Pile, but it has been some time since I pulled out any comic books. I had considered going to my local shop on Sunday (after the gaming) to take advantage of another sale, but I was far too exhausted, mentally and physically. And I think we all know there’s no way in hell that the store will be open today. I’m not even going to get mail delivered and that’s fine by me (although package tracking insists I’ll get boxes today). As I type it’s currently -23°F and feels like -50°F with windchill. That means any exposed skin can develop frostbite in no more than five minutes. I like getting boxes, but I would never, ever want my boxes at the risk of someone else’s health and safety. Tomorrow, after the windchill advisory ends, is soon enough.

But back to reading. When my friend and I were out in the city to see The Lightning Thief, we hung out in Block Thirty-Seven for a while. It’s a shopping mall on Mag Mile, an entire city block. And the Oriental Theater happens to be right across the street. Given that the Red and Blue lines have stops in the pedway below, it was an obvious destination for dinner and time-wasting. Especially because of the used bookstore.

The bookstore used to be in the basement by the pedway, but things being what they are, that location is now a Starbucks and the store is only accessible from the street outside as opposed to being part of the interior mall. Their selection has never been as good as the first time I stumbled onto it, but I can’t refuse to at least glance through.

I didn’t know that they had any comics at all, for example. So of course I had to look through them. And I found something. A bit overpriced at a dollar apiece, but I suppose I can’t argue too much given that these issues retailed for $3.99. So I got Iron Man Noir #1-4 for the cost of a single issue retail. That’s an even bigger savings when I discovered (through actually reading the comics) that this is a complete miniseries, only four issues long.

The year is 1939 and Tony Stark is your typical serial pulp adventure hero. Quite literally, as one of the people on his jungle quest to a Mayan temple is the chronicler for Marvels: A Magazine of Men’s Adventure (owned and published by Stark). The four issues contain three of Stark’s adventures, numerous characters and cameos, a twist that left me speechless, and a lot of good, old-fashioned steampunk elements. Also Nazis. Because no one makes better enemies. It’s as if Tony Stark was Indiana Jones, and that’s no bad thing.

It’s a period piece as created by modern writers for modern audiences, and so I’m sure there’s elements that aren’t quite right, but since we’re using silly science anyway (because Tony Stark) it can be overlooked. This isn’t something I’m going to reread often, and it’s not going to compel me to see out other Noir prints from 2009-2010, but I’m glad I found it and for a good price.

Now, I did get to my local comic shop earlier this month, which means I came home with another coverless comic that I’ve determined to be Blackbird #2. I haven’t read much from Image Comics thus far, but I can’t argue with free. It’s very clearly a second issue. The page opens with some strange lionish monster with Chinese whiskers and horns coming for Marisa, the protagonist’s older sister. Our main character is Nina, who just last issue discovered that the world is a very different place. Magic is real and there are wizardly people called paragons. Also her cat Sharpie now talks. He’s a Lying Gargoyle type. Nina is trying desperately to dig up leads on her sister, but she really has no idea what she’s getting into. Oh, and their family is somewhat broken.

I can see that the series could be engaging, but I’d really need a larger sample to judge better, like the first graphic novel volume. Not that that’ll happen, since it’s due out later this year says Amazon. As it stands, Blackbird hasn’t shown me anything that I haven’t seen before in multiple contexts, so I see no reason to spend money on it or seek out more information. The art’s pretty good though, which is a plus.

The last time I did make it to the comic shop I opted to actually pick up one of the recent events, as many issues as I could find. After all, the events of it have influenced The Superior Spider-Man #1 which I read (and I’m getting the next couple issues because I’m not quite sure if I’m adding it to my current list or not) and I thought knowing some backstory might be useful. So I bought Spider-Geddon #1-4, which is not even the entire event. There’s an issue 0, and an issue 5 as well.

Okay so, there was a previous event that required a cross-dimensional spider team-up against the Inheritors. These people are vampires who live off of…spider essence? Whatever, they want Spider-men to eat. And only actual Spider-men. Ock, who at this time is the Superior Octopus, is not on the menu because he doesn’t have actual spider abilities, just tech and a suit. Anyway, because Ock was an overconfident supervillain using Inheritor tech, they managed to subvert his stuff to return as a new threat, which warrants reassembling the team.

And if you thought the Spiderverse movie was nuts, this is even moreso. I mean, my copy of issue 1 is a variant featuring Spider Punk because he’s stupidly awesome. Like, I’ve never heard of him before, but he’s just so beautifully nineties it’s hilarious.

But yeah, we’re talking numerous Peters, multiple Mary Janes, at least one Ben Parker, Spider-Gwen of course, Miles, and more. There’s Spiders-Man – a bunch of spiders that collectively think themselves to be Peter Parker – and he’s only one of the weirder ones, not the weirdest by far.

As far as dimension-hopping team-up stories go, I think this one’s pretty typical. You’ve got a few key players who are making all the big decisions, you’ve got the thread and the goal to take out the threat (though some groups think the Inheritors need to die the final death and others are more in favor of mercy and morality), and you’ve got your typical attack-defeat, attack-victory, attack-defeat, etc. There’s a moment for brains to shine, a moment for heart to shine…I think you get the idea. The story’s been done before, even if the details differ. But I’m not bored. I do think that Ock really needs to stop saying “The die is cast!” because that is such an overused and cliche one-liner. Not to mention villainous, which he’s trying not to be.

There’s a great exchange in issue 2 between Ock and Gwen where she says that because he’s a supervillain, he’s got to have a self-destruct button for his lair. Ock retorts that he’s a hero and better than everyone else. Gwen insists he just answer the question and of course the answer is yes, he does have a self-destruct button. Then Peter Porker (Spider Ham) comments on how cartoony it is to program your self-destruct with a countdown voice.

It’s moments like that which really make a team-up work. Because when fans demand to see their favorites meet, it’s so we can see the different personality quirks rub up against each other. We want to see them being themselves but interacting with our other favorites.

I’ll have to find the final issue for sure, though I’m less certain about #0. And yes, there’s a whole bunch of supplemental Spider-Geddon material (I remember flipping through page after page in the Marvel solicitations months ago), but I do not need any of it. Just what intrigues me at the moment is all I need.

There are a couple more comics sitting in my Pile, but they’ll remain there today. Both are Power Rangers and I suspect I’ll have at least one new issue the next time I get over to the comic shop. So, might as well wait and read them all in one fell swoop.

I do still have other options available for the rest of the day.

I even decided to go with something that takes up a bit of space and has been sitting for a couple months. You may recall I do have a Book of the Month subscription and periodically order books that intrigue me. The ones that I’m not eagerly awaiting can sit in the Pile for quite some time – there’s one that is over a year old and I haven’t decided if I’m giving up on reading it yet or not.

Today’s book is only from my December box and it’s, like most of the selections offered through the service, general fiction. The Far Field is Madhuri Vijay’s debut novel and it’s definitely been an interesting read. Not an especially long read for me at a bit over four hundred pages, and especially not considering that I’ve pretty much finished it in one sitting. Maybe four hours all told.

Shalini tells her story in first person, six years after the main events of the tale. There’s also flashbacks to her childhood and formative incidents. You see, when she was twenty-four she took off on her own from her hometown of Bangalore, in the south of India, for the northern region of Kashmir, the village Kishtwar, and another village so small she never learns its name. She was chasing a dream, in the way only a rich young woman can, trying to find a random man she remembered from happier days with her mother. And, as you can guess with a book like this, she seems to have messed up and poisoned everything she touched.

It’s not the most satisfying conclusion to read, but it fits for this book. I was certainly engaged the entire time, rooting Shalini on, wanting to cover my eyes at appropriate moments, etc. But this is not a comfortable book to read. Nor is it meant to be. There’s a distinct feeling that I, as a privileged young white person, am being told to mind my own business and not insert myself into someone else’s situation that I know nothing about. Which makes me feel uncomfortable and uncertain that I want to keep this book. I certainly can’t argue the point because I don’t know much about India. I do remote work with a team in India and it’s not easy, but I don’t pretend to think I understand what their lives are like. I remember getting an email one day saying that they were closed because a provincial governor was killed. And I know I have no concept of what it might be like living in a country where your very life could be at risk just because a high level regional politician died.

I don’t regret reading this book. I’m not even sure I regret the fact that I do pay for the subscription and the money went to this book. The Far Field is not at all the worst book I’ve chosen and I knew it wasn’t quite in my wheelhouse even when I did pick it. Hell, I got the book because one of my book credits was about to expire so I figured I should do something with it instead of just letting it dissolve into the ether. But I know that the vast majority of offerings aren’t to my taste – this is why I get very excited to see choices like The City of Brass or Spinning Silver – books I know I’ll love before I even read the synopsis.

To be completely honest, I read The Far Field today because there’s a different book I couldn’t read. My copy’s been lent out to a friend for the past…three years? four?…and he still hasn’t read this relatively short, quick, young adult read. It’s not Indian in theme though, more Arabic, but the feel I have from it was similar to the feel The Far Field evoked when I chose it last month. (I’ve since informed my friend that the next time I see him I am getting my book back. Enough is enough and I want to reread it.)

So, The Far Field. Interesting, engaging, and uncomfortable. Something that I’ll be offering to a used bookstore in the future. At least I don’t regret reading it.

Which brings me back to the eternal question of what to read next? I’ve plenty of options and plenty of time, given that the office is closed again tomorrow. That’s no surprise, given that the windchill advisory for temperatures as low as -50°F (once the wind is factored in) doesn’t expire until noon tomorrow. Which means you’re talking a half day at most for those who choose to come in. That’s what I’d do because it is brutal outside and I’m quite glad to be observing from the other side of windows I replaced just this summer. But who cares about windows when there’s books to be read?

After a day with so much new material, I craved something old and familiar. And something good, that I’ve loved from the moment I first found it in The Collected Short Fiction of C.J. Cherryh. These were the first contents in that book and I fell so in love with them it took me another story or two to realize that, for my taste, Cherryh can’t write short fiction. She either needs to create a longer work or provide a larger world for the short fiction to live in. And that’s why Sunfall works so well.

Sunfall takes place on the Earth of the far future. Humans have sent out colonies which have grown, prospered, and grown strange to the homeworld. After all, despite the millions who’ve gone out, there are always those who remain behind as the sun grows old and red and as the moon falls in the sky. And as the world has aged, the cities which were once so connected have become isolated once more, each one more strange and unique than the last. Cherryh explores six different locations in poignant and riveting tales.

“The Only Death in the City” is probably the most memorable story in the lot, despite being the first and not the final tale. Paris has long since isolated itself from the world, a walled city with no doors and precious few windows to the outside. And its people…remember. Over the centuries, the people of Paris have grown to remember their former lives, living again and again in new bodies, often descended from previous ones. And the lives they lead are often dictated by the lives they’ve led. But every so often a new soul enters the City, someone who lacks that knowledge and experience. And, every so often, someone chooses to leave the city forever, by visiting the Death that lives deep down in the lower levels. It’s a compelling tale that I’ve loved from the start and my favorite in the entire book.

From Paris we move to its old competitor London in “The Haunted Tower”. And yes, the Tower in question is the Tower of London. A woman has been imprisoned there by her lover, the Mayor (and ruler) of the city. But the Tower’s a crowded piece of real estate and it seems there may be more going on than a lover’s spat. In the end, it’s Bettine’s choice what kind of life she wants to live.

The third story is the second-most memorable in the book, at least as far as I’m concerned. “Ice” is, suitably enough, the story of Moscow. Or Moskva, as the inhabitants call it. They live simply, isolated not only from the rest of the world but also from the stars. Even cities like London still have spaceports available. But Moskva is deep in the ice most of the year, and therein lies the risk. The Moskovians live such narrow lives in order to preserve themselves, lest the ice around them infest their souls. After all, there is little or no help coming.

“Nightgame” brings us to Rome, a city of ruins upon ruins upon ruins. The lords and ladies of the city have fallen into decadence, and their only entertainment comes in dreams. They are powerful creations and these people are so skilled that they can triumph over anyone and everyone else. But there’s money to be made from these dreams, if the Tyrant of Rome permits them to be recorded and resold on other planets. To that effect, an entrepreneur has brought a special gift that might change all the rules of the game. When trying to remember the stories in Sunfall, “Nightgame” is usually the last I can recall without additional aid, after the tales of Paris, Moscow, and London.

The story of New York City, “Highliner”, is the one I always forget about. Possibly because it’s the most convoluted with the least detail. The Big Apple is no longer a megalopolis but a spire, a massive tower that continues to grow ever upwards and outwards. The base is massive, joining with the bases of other spires from nearby cities that have not yet joined with the largest. And the heights…it’s nearly impossible to imagine. The highliners are the ones who travel around the outside of the tower, especially in regions slated for expansion construction, looking for flaws to report so that the Builders can take them into account. But that’s a basic, mundane view of the job. And the people who pay for the construction, the corporations, they’re always out to make money at any cost.

Last up is “The General” in and outside of the city of Peking. It’s an old story for that land, a horde of invaders coming in from the plains to besiege a very old, very civilized city. And yet, it’s so much more than that. It’s perhaps not the most striking or memorable tale, but I will remember it, as opposed to “Highliner”. It’s a story that we’ve seen played out so many times before, but that doesn’t mean its immutable. Even the oldest dog can learn a new trick.

I truly do love Sunfall. Even though you can see it as a depressing view of the far-flung future, I feel the hope that Cherryh has imbued her tales with. It’s human nature to seek out the brightness and hope in any situation, to not let deadly radiation or ruins upon ruins keep us from living our lives, no matter how large or small they may be. That’s why I love older science fiction – because it’s filled with hope for the future against all the odds.

Now, it’s more than time for bed. I’m still uncertain about tomorrow’s reading, but I’m sure there’ll be something, if only because I like reading over meals. But I won’t worry about it until breakfast.

Finishing the Series

Well, now I’ve reread Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard: The Ship of the Dead.  I think the reread’s been good, giving me a chance to notice small inclusions and references that are easy to miss the first time around.  Or simply because it’s been son long since you last read the earlier books.  Regardless, The Ship of the Dead is definitely better than The Hammer of Thor, if only because it does more that is new.  I’d mentioned yesterday that we saw a specific and somewhat well-known Norse legend reenacted in the second book, so it helps that while the mythology informs the entire series, the third book created its own story.

You may recall that we saw the titular vessel earlier in one of Magnus’ death-visions. (Demigods are so lucky to see horrific things and speak with their enemies while they sleep or resurrect.)  It’s Naglfar, the ship of nails, made from the discarded clippings of the dishonored dead.  It sounds absolutely disgusting.  And if it sets sail, Ragnarok will begin.  Which would cut short all of Magnus’ adventures, for good or for ill.

As previously stated, this series does take place concurrently with Riordan’s other new set, following the god Apollo in human form.  But I think I’ve made my opinion of gods fairly crystalline, and so I won’t be revisiting those books more than necessary for the time being.

I’ve decided that the Norse are weirdly polite.  The Greek and Roman enemies often attack first.  Or they try to trick you or lull you into a false sense of security first and attack second.  But the Norse will often have a polite conversation first, then apologize for having to kill you, then attack.  I don’t know if this is a quirk of Riordan’s writing or actually based on fact.  Regardless, it’s a fascinating contrast.  About as entertaining as Percy Jackson’s reaction to a flying, talking sword.

Magnus is also a notable contrast to both Percy and Jason.  The latter two are most definitely warriors, with their ADHD combat instincts propelling them forward.  Magnus is a healer.  That doesn’t mean he’s not tough – his natural endurance is kind of terrifying sometimes and I wonder how he’d fare if he was in Chicago tomorrow – but violence is generally not his first answer.  Or his best answer.  After all, he’s got a sword that is best used by letting go.  He’s not a fighter, but he doesn’t give up.

Speaking of not giving up, I know I said I’m a bit burnt out on Rick Riordan, but there was another reason to reread Magnus Chase’s adventures.  After all, it’s not quite been a week since I finally picked up 9 From the Nine Worlds.  This is Riordan’s newest companion volume, and probably his best yet.  The book is exactly what it implies: nine stories from Magnus Chase’s world, each taking place in a different realm.  Oh sure, they’re all linked together, all happen around the same time, and follow the events of The Ship of the Dead and probably set up some things for the next novel.  But there’s not a single activity or anything else unnecessary.  (In addition to the stories and the table of contents there’s also the standard appendices for a Magnus Chase volume: a list of characters, a pronunciation guide, and a list of runes used.  I rarely take advantage of these, but I would not call them unnecessary.)

Like the original Percy Jackson and the Olympians stories, Magnus’ adventures are told by him in first person narration.  Here we have a chance to get into the other characters’ heads…starting with Odin?  Well, let’s just say that’s a weird choice in some ways.  The only time previously that Riordan’s let us see what a god is thinking is Apollo, and he’s not exactly divine at the moment.  Still, it’s a bold move.

The rest of the stories are more typical.  You can figure that Odin’s story is for Asgard, Blitzen’s is in Nidavellir, Hearthstone’s in Alfheim, and that Amir’s (Samirah’s mortal fiancé) would be Midgard.  Then Samirah has a mission to Jotunheim, TJ ends up in Helheim, Mallory in Niflheim, Halfborn visits Vanaheim, and Alex goes to Muspellheim.  Oh, and Thor is jogging through all nine realms because…reasons.  Seriously, the Norse gods are so weird in comparison to the Greco-Roman ones.

The book also features full color images of several characters and locations, a nice treat.  Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed it.  I’m glad that they seem to be moving away from “activity” books and more into pure story.  I do have to wonder if it was Riordan’s idea or someone else’s to write the short stories that take place between the novels.  He’s been doing it for some time now, but 9 From the Nine Worlds is the first time I’ve seen a purposely written collection of in-between stories.  That’s not to say there’s no story in the Hotel Valhalla Guide to Norse Worlds, but the book is still as much a primer for Norse mythology as it is a tie-in to the series.

I am not adding the stories here to my database because it’s clear they’re unlikely to be published separately.  Yes, there’s nine different tales, but they are all tied together and in more than theme and setting.  They’re literally tied together by Thor jogging throughout the nine realms.  Still, I’m glad I didn’t wait too long to pick the book up because it’s a good addition to the series and world and I’m glad to have it.  Now I just have to find a place for it on my shelves, which are getting a bit crowded in some places.

I hinted at this, but it is going to be fucking cold tomorrow.  Like, if you’re outside for more than five minutes you’re developing frostbite cold.  It’s already below zero and the windchill brings it down to -20°F.  Thankfully, my office has already declared it’ll be closed tomorrow.  Which means I have time to read!  Although I still don’t know what.  Yes, I’m a bit burned out on Rick Riordan for the moment.  Even so, I have a sneaking thought about rereading A Mankind Witch because The Ship of the Dead has me feeling the Norse mythology.  As opposed to The Hammer of Thor which had me thinking science fiction or something else as diametrically opposed.  There are other options.  I could reread The Bear and the Nightingale or Spinning Silver and keep to a theme with the frigid air.  On the other hand…some very optimistic box trackers insist I’ll be getting books tomorrow.  I have serious doubts because I do not want people getting frostbite just to deliver packages – I can honestly wait a day.  But…if I wanted to push my luck a bit, I could go for the total opposite season and reread The City of Brass in the hopes that book two will actually arrive tomorrow the way Amazon says.  White Sand isn’t a bad choice either in the same vein, although that raises the difficulty of my only having the first volume and I see no reason to venture out to the library tomorrow…if it’s even open.

Ah, whatever.  I’ll worry about what I’m reading tomorrow when I get there.  Besides, tomorrow wouldn’t be a bad day to play video games I haven’t touched in years.

Yep, that’s an Award

All things considered, I really could have started this blog post far earlier in the day.  You may not be aware, but we got another half foot of snow in Chicagoland and for some reason, they just weren’t keeping up with it for the morning rush.  Regardless, I actually got a snow day as a working professional.  Which meant curling up with a book.  For some of the day, at least.  And, of course, that book was Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard: The Hammer of Thor.

What is most notable about the second of Magnus’ adventures is not the fact that he and his friends get to reenact one of the more notorious scenes from Norse mythology but rather that this book received the Stonewall Book Award.  This is for LGBT literature and is awarded by the American Library Association.  (Sidenote, I have a friend who works there!  I know so many librarians and not a one at my local library.)  The award relates to our new main character, Alex Fierro.  Alex is genderfulid and would like pronouns to be correct – he/him when he’s male and she/her when she’s female.  Apparently the Norse even had a term for that, argr, which is of course an insult meaning “unmanly” when applied to anyone else.  Humans, what can you do.

Now, I am not genderfluid myself, nor do I know someone specifically as genderfluid, but I think Riordan did a good job of representing Alex.  The character says outright that they’re not a poster child, but explains how it works for them personally.  Which is, at the end of the day, all you can do because everybody experiences gender and sexuality differently.

If The Sword of Summer was your typical opener then The Hammer of Thor is your typical second book.  Again, I do enjoy both of these books, but I may be getting a little burned out on making posts about Rick Riordan’s work.  I am definitely changing gears after I finish up.  Not sure where I’ll go next, but there’s at least one more day before I get to that option.

The world Magnus knows isn’t really expanded in this volume although now we’ve seen Alfheim as well, but plots are furthered, wrinkles are added, and a meeting for the start of the next book is arranged.  Magnus spent his time between the first two books settling into his role as an einherji, but he should probably take some time and do more research into Norse mythology.  It just strikes me as something useful to do in your free time.

So, next up is my library book (paperback’s not out ’til later this year) and then I can peruse my Pile once more.  Maybe science fiction…

Norse Dreams

I did mention that it would likely take me most, if not all, of the weekend to finish Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard: The Sword of Summer.  Not because the book is particularly long but because I did not have much time to devote to it.  After all, I went straight from work to a weekend of gaming, hosted by MENSA.  (Seriously, these people do a great job.)  So between having people to talk to, games to play, and just barely enough time for a reasonable amount of sleep, there was not much time to read.  But that’s over now and so is the book.

What can be said?  The Sword of Summer is the first of Rick Riordan’s novels concerning the Norse pantheon.  It’s the same universe as Percy Jackson and the Olypmians and the Kane Chronicles and all the other books I’ve read or mentioned in the past week.  Our protagonist is Magnus Chase, a sixteen year old who’s been living on the streets of Boston for the past two years, ever since his mother died.  He’s sparked to action by the unexpected appearance of his cousin and uncle trying to find him.  Not that Magnus is going to actually go talk to them.  Not yet at least.

As befits a first book, it’s an origin story that sets up the Norse corner of Riordan’s world and how it fits in with everything else we know about the gods interacting with the modern world.  It touches on some of the major points most people know about the Norse gods, adds details that not as many are familiar with, and sets up future installments.  Like you do.

Sorry, this is not my best post in a while.  I am running a sleep deficit and my mind is somewhat mushy after 48 hours of gaming.  I mean, I didn’t game straight all weekend (I slept after all) but the room didn’t close once in that time and I imagine even in the wee hours of the night there were still people awake and gaming.  Or putting together puzzles.  Because some people would rather do that.  I did get to play a whole slew of things I’d never touched or heard of before and some were amazing and some were exerable.  But none of them has anything to do with this book, so I guess I’ll leave it at that and start considering how early I want to go to bed.

Climax

The big climax, at least for Percy Jackson and Annabeth Chase, comes in The Blood of Olympus.  It’s not surprising.  They’ve got one more year left of high school.  They’re close to the age of most of the counselors at Camp Half-Blood.  (Remember that back at the beginning of The Lightning Thief Percy observed that the counselors were college age?  He kind of became a counselor by default by being an only child and then being older than Tyson.  As for Annabeth…you try telling her that someone else should be in charge.)  Anyway, for Percy and Annabeth, this book is likely the last time we’ll see them as main characters.  They’ve both shown up in books for Magnus and Apollo, but that was as allies and pit stops, nothing lasting too long.

But oh dear gods does a lot happen in The Blood of Olympus.  And no, nothing’s over yet.  Oh sure, the setup for future books seems minor in comparison to the main plot, but it’s there and maybe a bit stronger than I remembered.  And there is an amazing battle scene that puts even the climax of The Last Olympian to shame.  But that’s probably because the rules for killing Titans are different from the ones for killing giants.

Also, prophecies are tricky bastards.  Be very careful what you say because they can be even more binding than charmspeak.

Yesterday I discussed all the choices the characters made in The House of Hades.  Now, having made those choices, our heroes are able to fight with their full strength, with few regrets (if any) and their focus wholly on what they hope to accomplish.  We get to see inside Nico and Reyna’s heads, people who’ve been outsiders up until now.  And of course, Rick Riordan being a talented author, they’re every bit as engaging as any other character we’ve cheered for.

What more can I really say?  The Blood of Olympus gets pretty epic on the scale Riordan has created for his world.  I’m not sure that either of the new series, The Trials of Apollo or Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard, can really equal that scope.  That’s not to say that they need to try though.  That’s a place where a lot of authors today go wrong – they try to make their story more epic than it actually is.  It’s okay if your story isn’t particularly important to anyone other than the characters.  A slice of life is just fine as long as it’s well told.

If you’ve read my blog, you’ll note that I am not a huge fan of Apollo.  Oh sure, I will continue to read his Trials, but gods can easily piss me off and after three books I’ve a somewhat low tolerance for the guy.  I will, however, be continuing on with Magnus’ adventures.  However, it’s likely to take me a bit longer given that I’m going to be busy all weekend.  So, we’ll see how long it takes me to finish a kids book during what is essentially a gaming convention.

Choices

The fourth Heroes of Olympus book is The House of Hades.  Physically, it’s an old temple of Hades in Epirus, Greece where people would go in the old days in the hopes of speaking to the dead.  And since rescuing Nico di Angelo was a major plot point last book, you can imagine having a son of Hades and a daughter of Pluto along for the ride is going to be something of a big deal.

There’s a lot that happens in this book, but in the end it all comes down to choices.

We’ve got a group of demigods and some friends.  Seven of them are the players in the Great Prophecy, but each of them agreed to get on the boat of their own free will. They’re a mix of Greek and Roman, sometimes both in the same person.  (There’s a portion of the book where poor Frank has both aspects of his father yelling in his head.  Not necessarily at him, but just yelling.  And no one really likes Mars or Ares much to begin with.)  Even though only Jason and Percy have gotten the full experience of both camps, everyone is aware of the differences between the two and how those things aren’t necessarily good or bad.

We see many of the characters showing a new maturity throughout The House of Hades, motivated by many different experiences.  It makes sense, since most of them are about sixteen years old.  That’s old enough to get your driver’s license…under the old laws.  I don’t know about other states but with all the rigamarole Illinois has added it takes a lot longer now than it used to and there’s a six month period where you can’t drive more than one other person unless they’re related to you…I’m glad I didn’t have to worry about any of that.  Hell, my sister had to get twice as many hours as I did and she’s only a couple years younger than me.  But I digress.  The point is that sixteen is a reasonable age to start taking on more responsibility and having a more mature outlook.  Looking back, I’d say that most people won’t mentally mature until their mid-twenties at least, but that’s the benefit of hindsight.

But there’s a lot of choices to be made.  Frank and Hazel need to embrace their heritage, Jason needs to decide what he wants from life, Nico needs to express himself, Hedge needs to consider his priorities…and then there’s allies.  One of the short stories in the back of the book, “Percy Jackson and the Sword of Hades”, takes place not too long before The Titan’s Curse, and features Percy, Thalia Grace (daughter of Zeus) and Nico having to track down a thief in the Underworld.  The thief was working with Iapetus, the Titan of the West.  Long story short, the only water Percy could use was the River Lethe and now the Piercer is better known as Bob.  He’s a friend of Percy’s and Nico’s.

Bob, and another supposed enemy, also have choices to make in this book.  Given the weight of years mythology carries with it, anyone immortal might end up just going through the motions if they’re not truly invested.  It seems scandalous for anyone to choose a different role, but each and every one of them has that right as a living creature.

The other short in back is “The Crown of Ptolemy”, the finale of the Demigods & Magicians stories.  It’s perhaps overly brief, but it does explain that while Rick Riordan might write more little crossover events like this, it’s not going to be the norm for his world.  Which is fair.  Things get very messy very quickly when you start doing crossovers – just look at comic books.  That’s why I don’t read X-Men comics.  I know better than to start climbing that mountain.

The House of Hades is like Sisyphus’ boulder.  There’s fully enough going on that it could be the climax of the series.  But no, there’s still even more story to come, despite all that our heroes have endured and accomplished.  Especially when you consider where Percy and Annabeth ended up in The Mark of Athena.

I suppose I should get moving towards that climax then.

Greek vs Roman

The problem with including bonus short stories at the back of books is that you can clearly see where in the timeline they take place and then they act as complete and total spoilers.  The Heroes of Olympus: The Mark of Athena also includes “The Staff of Serapis” at the end.  That would be the first meeting of Annabeth Chase and Sadie Kane.  The boys had an adventure, now the girls get one.  Of course that means this entire book is about Annabeth in one way or another.

In the main story, things are getting very messy.  We’ve had our exchange of leaders with Jason in The Lost Hero and Percy in The Son of Neptune and now Hera/Juno has made absolutely certain that both camps are aware of the others existence.  We also know who the seven of the prophecy are – the main characters from those two books.  Plus Annabeth.

A big problem right now is not just the overall silence from the gods, but the fact that the gods are currently having difficulties between their two facets.  There’s the scene everyone wanted to see – Jason and Percy going at each other – and meeting Dionysus.  Except at that moment he’s Bacchus and yells at Percy for thinking about him in Greek.  Also I love that calling him “the wine dude” continues to be an ongoing inside joke for the series.

For some gods, such as Venus/Aphrodite, there’s no functional difference between their two roles and they’re having no noticeable difficulties.  And those gods which are purely one or the other are fine of course.  But the gods which are vastly different between the two cultures find things…difficult.

Athena is not Minerva.

Minerva’s a goddess of arts and crafts.  She’s gentle, a true maiden in the same way as Artemis (and Artemis could be read as asexual), and has nothing to do with war.  Athena is Zeus’ strategist and general, and though she’s not so much into sex, she’s definitely into romance.  Her children are born of a meeting of the minds, and while they don’t come out as adults, they’re still born from her mind as she came from Zeus’ head.  Suffice to say, Athena got shafted when the Romans turned her into Minerva.

And so she gives Annabeth a special quest in addition to the prophesized one.  To go to Rome, following the Mark of Athena, and to avenge her mother.  Athena’s not incredibly clear on that point, but it’s clear she has Issues With Rome and Annabeth is out of favor unless she can resolve them.

But let’s go back to a much more interesting point for me than the middle book of a series I’ve read before.  Let’s talk about asexual goddesses.  Now, there is absolutely nothing explicit in any of these books to verify this reading, but asexuality is a wide spectrum and both Artemis and Athena could place themselves on it if they chose.

Artemis would be like me, an aromantic asexual.  She is completely uninterested in sex and does not permit it to her followers either.  And, as we see in a later volume of this world, she does not permit her Hunters to have romantic relationships either.  That’s not to say that Artemis disapproves of sex or romance, just that her Hunters are forbidden to partake so long as they serve her.  Which is fair.  You don’t see a lot of old demigods in these books, but a number do survive their teenage years and move onto adulthood, “retiring” from hero work.  (The average age of characters, questers, and heroes is a totally different topic that I see no need to touch on at this point in time.)

Athena, in contrast to Artemis, is interested in romance.  I’d tentatively guess heteroromantic, but that’s only because Annabeth is literally the only fleshed-out child of Athena I’ve seen in these books.  So I don’t know if any of her half-siblings has two mothers, but there’s no reason it couldn’t be possible, especially because there’s no physical act of procreation.  Regardless, all implications for demigods seem to be that they were made the old-fashioned way, aside from the children of Athena.

Anyway, in the case of both goddesses their celibacy can be seen as a choice.  We don’t get into godly heads (except when SOMEONE gets cast out into mortal form in later books) so I have no idea what either thinks about that decision.  But the fact that the gods are four or five thousand years old and neither of these two has shown any interest in sex argues to me that they’re asexual.  And Rick Riordan clearly has no problems with nonheteronormative characters or homosexual relationships, so it could very well be.  On the other hand, it’s possible that asexuality isn’t played up because it simply isn’t as visible as other orientations.  It’s hard to give weight to something if you’re not thinking in those terms, and I can’t hold it against people if they’ve never really heard of it.

As for The Mark of Athena, it’s not my favorite book.  I don’t especially care for Annabeth as a viewpoint character and while I do like Percy, he’s got some issues in this one.  Similar to why I have issues with Harry in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.  Which makes sense, given that the boys are 16 and 15 respectively.  As you may recall, I like to nickname the latter Harry Potter and the Book of Angst, because there’s so many times I just want to whack the kid.

Then, as mentioned earlier, there’s “The Staff of Serapis” at the back.  It’s a better teamup in some ways than the boys had, and also more of a danger.  The stories that make up Demigods & Magicians are a set that tell a complete tale, so it’s no surprise that “The Staff of Serapis” is building and expanding on “The Son of Sobek”.  My biggest complaint is that “The Staff of Serapis” clearly takes place after the entire Heroes of Olympus series…and therefore negates the cliffhanger ending of The Mark of Athena.  And a lot of the tension in the next two books.  But, I’m not a marketing official.  Just a reader who wishes people would put a little more thought into their work.

Finding the Magic

In many ways The Son of Neptune is The Lightning Thief all over again.  Percy Jackson vanished, probably the same time as Jason Grace, and had his memories blocked by the queen of the gods.  Hera, Juno, whichever you prefer.  Percy got the standard Roman treatment after that – arrive at Wolf House to meet Lupa and her pack, run with them for a while, then go find Camp Jupiter.  The difference is that, unlike the first book, Percy’s not ignorant, he just can’t remember.  He knows how to fight and use his powers, he just doesn’t remember where he’s from, what he’s done, or any person in his life besides Annabeth.  And even then all he’s got is bits and pieces of her.

Still, there’s some good reasons why the Roman and Greek demigods have no official knowledge of each other before The Heroes of Olympus.  It was said outright in The Lost Hero too.  As above, so below.  The American Civil War was more than just the North and South fighting.  It’s why the gods decided to put a continent between the two camps.

Percy stands out far more in contrast to the Romans than Jason did to the Greeks.  After all, the Greek fighting style is very individualized, though people can work together if they choose.  The Romans fight as a legion, together, and someone who disdains that is somewhat obvious.  And then there’s the callbacks to some of Percy’s earlier adventures…

I do like a good origin story, a tale of discovery and revelation.  It doesn’t have to be an origin story – The Son of Neptune is Percy’s sixth book and the tenth in this world – but because it follows so many of the tropes it feels like one.

The Son of Neptune is the second half of the setup for The Heroes of Olympus.  We needed to see both sides of the coin of Greco-Roman demigods before we could actually begin the Great Prophecy of Seven and head to Europe.  But because this is the first time we’ve ever seen Camp Jupiter, it gets as much focus as Camp Half-Blood did back in The Lightning Thief.

When I decided I needed to reread this series, there were two books that stuck out as being absolutely necessary.  Those were The Lightning Thief and The Son of Neptune.  And I’m pretty sure these are my favorites.  Oh sure, there’s great parts in all of the books, some amazing revelations to come and fulfilling climaxes, but in general I do prefer origins and discoveries.  That’s not to say I dislike climaxes or don’t want a satisfying end to the story, but the magic is strongest when it’s all new and shiny.  Kind of like the Harry Potter movies.  I love to watch Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone where everything is new and magical.  That’s not to say I don’t like Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, just that it feels much more like a typical teen action movie and not nearly as special.

It’s hard for me to find more to talk about with this book.  With series I like, I have less and less to say the deeper I get simply because I don’t want to spoil the experience for anyone.  And with books I like, unless something particularly noteworthy occurs to me, all I want to do is compliment it, give a vague outline, and then tell you to read it.

So I guess I’ll leave it at that and start on the next volume.

Mountains of Mythology

Percy Jackson’s third adventure brings us back to Camp Half Blood less than a year after the second.  Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Titan’s Curse takes place during the winter break, although snow is not a huge factor.  Must be nice.  Anyway, here we first meet the Hunters of Artemis, a band of young women sworn to the goddess of the hunt.  They’ve also sworn off all romance and in return are granted immortality.  Also Percy’s mom has started dating.

The Titan’s Curse is the midpoint of this set of books.  In case you hadn’t realized, yes, this is building up to an actual war and with the General seen on the field in this volume, that’s made abundantly clear.  Of course, not everything is ready yet.  In many ways, this book is another way to kill time before the next big part of the plot.  More setup, more education, etc.

There are some very good reasons why these middle books never come to mind when I contemplate rereading the series.  Oh sure, I do remember the major plot points, but these aren’t truly satisfying reads.  The Lightning Thief has the advantage of being the introductory book for the entire series.  The Last Olympian is the climax, though of course I’m not there yet.  And everything in between those two is…not as interesting.  In fact, they evoke much of the same feeling as Through Fiery Trials did, that the books are there to keep time and let the reader know the most important events between the two books we actually care about.

Frankly, I could have skipped these middle books and been fine, but they’re short enough that it’s not a huge imposition to actually read them.  I mean, yes, I could use that same time to get books out of my Pile, but Percy Jackson is what I’m most interested in reading right now, so I might as well get him out of my system before I go back to contemplating what I should read for the first time.

Book four is Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Battle of the Labyrinth and now we’re gettng into the opening skirmishes of the war.  The main focus though is the Labyrinth.  You know the one.  Daedalus built it for King Minos to conceal the Minotaur in.  But this Labyrinth is far more than that.  The maze is ever-growing, ever-changing, and stretches all over the world.  It can get you from one place to another…if you’re able to survive and navigate your way through.  It’s entrances are everywhere, and that includes Camp Half-Blood.

That’s why Luke intends to use the Labyrinth to attack the camp directly, circumventing its protections and patrols.

Here we also see the climax of Grover’s storyline with the search for Pan, god of the Wild.  And Nico di Angelo is back as an actual character you don’t want to punch every few seconds.

The Battle of the Labyrinth is the prelude to the big war that’s been built up and discussed over the course of the series.  It’s the old conflict between the gods and the Titans, but it’s also far more than that.  Anyone and everyone who’s been less than pleased over the past four thousand years suddenly has an opportunity to make their voice heard by swearing their sword to one side or the other.  There’s a lot of immortals out there, as well as minor gods, who feel slighted in some way.  Of course there’s also those who will be loyal to the current order.  And because it’s been so long, many of the would-be fighters are not what they once were.

If The Sea of Monsters and The Titan’s Curse were middle volumes that continue the story but don’t really add a great deal, The Battle of the Labyrinth is the signal that things are about to get very, very serious and intense.  I mean, there will still be comedy to be found here and there, but the stakes are high and Rick Riordan does not always pull his punches.  Sure there are ways for people to come back from the dead, and there are ways to interact with people who stay dead.  But death in these books is very real and is treated with all the gravity it deserves.  One of the traditions of Camp Half-Blood is that, while questers are away, their cabin mates (or volunteers if they have none) create burial shrouds from them.  Then the returning questers burn their shrouds.

The Battle of the Labyrinth is the first time our protagonist Percy Jackson sees those shrouds used for actual bodies.  It’s a somber moment, and also reminds the reader that this series is building up to a full-fledged war.  These people are only the first casualties.  There will be more.  After all, the next book is the war itself.

Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Last Olympian is the final book in the quintet.  It’s the epic, climactic war between the Titans and the gods and, of course, our heroes are right in the thick of things.  Rick Riordan does his damnedest to tear our hearts out with some of the deaths (yes, there’s quite a number although far more are nameless extras than key characters), but that’s par for the course.  After all, stakes are meaningless if there are no consequences.

The Last Olympian is a culmination, with many disaparate storylines, plots, and elements coming together in a cohesive whole that wraps everything up.  Oh sure, there’s room for more (and dear gods is there more to come), but even if Riordan hadn’t continued writing in this world it still would have been fine.  I think that’s an art form that is lacking in a lot of media today, especially movies.  Too many times people let their greed sucker them into making unnecessary sequels and expanding stories that just aren’t that detailed into more movies than are actually needed.  It’s a disservice to the stories they’re trying to tell.  And yes, there’s authors like Michelle West who wrote a duology, set out to write a second duology and ended up with a sextet, then set out to write a second sextet and is now finishing it up as an octet.  Or Paolini’s Inheritance trilogy ending up as a quartet.  I suppose I could also bring up Douglas Adams’ trilogy…but I can’t properly judge that one since I haven’t read it.  I will always be entertained by the five-book series still being called a trilogy.

My point is that I appreciate Riordan laying out his story to be a certain number of books and sticking to it.  Everything meshes and ties well together.  Foreshadowing starts in the first book and extends beyond the length of this specific series.  There’s no abrupt inserts to confuse a reader, no deus ex machina out of left field.  I can’t tell you how annoying I find such things when it’s clear the author decided to integrate a completely new concept into a series, despite the fact that no foundation existed previously.  (Looking at you, Anne Rice.)  And talking about what a good conclusion The Last Olympian is seems all I can do without offering spoilers for it or any of its predecessors.  I know a lot of people have read these books, but there’s always the chance of encountering someone who hasn’t for one reason or another, and they deserve the chance to be surprised like I was when I first devoured the story.

I was in college when Percy Jackson & The Olympians hit theaters.  And I opted to see it then because it didn’t look like a total waste of money.  I can be a sucker for mediocre fantasy action movies, just like with books.  And…I didn’t think it was that bad.  A perfectly good popcorn flick.  I’ve seen far worse.  But it was definitely good enough to make me curious about the books.  I knew they existed, but there are so many reasons why I don’t just pick up every kids or young adult book that looks like a fantasy – I can get burned so easily that way.  I had a friend who loved them though, and she’d been horribly disappointed by the adaptation.  I borrowed her books to read them, though I could only get the first four at the time.

Need I say that I was hooked?  Oh sure, I could see where they went wrong with the movie the instant I read The Lightning Thief.  But, since I saw the movie before I read the book, I’ll never completely hate it.  And, like I said, I knew even before I read the book that the movie wasn’t great, so it’s not like that much changed.  I just gained a much better appreciation for the source material.

It’s crazy to think how long ago that was now.  Nine years is a long time, and a lot can change.  I didn’t buy the books until almost a year later, when I had a seasonal job at Borders during what ended up being their very last holiday season.  I was able to save some money by buying the box set for the first three, but the last two were new enough that the publisher hadn’t created a complete box set yet and I had to buy them separately.  It was still some time before I started my habit of reading the newest entry from the library only after the last one could be purchased in paperback.  Still before I bought the Kane Chronicles – used, unlike Percy Jackson’s encounters.

It’s weird to think that even though I never touched Rick Riordan’s work until my senior year of college, it’s now been a part of my life for nearly a decade.  And not as some series that I read new and have maybe touched once since then, but one I’ve continually revisited, and not just because new entries keep being published.  As of this writing, I own seventeen novels set in this universe and six supplemental volumes.  There’s a seventh in my Pile and an eighth that I sort of own.  That is to say, Demigods & Magicians collects the three stories where Percy and Annabeth meet Carter and Sadie Kane, but I have those shorts tucked away in the backs of three of my novels, so I see no point in purchasing an additional copy of each.  Oh sure, there might be other bonus content in the book, but I don’t actually care about puzzles, games, or even cardboard cutouts.  It’s the story I’m after.  (Also, yes, I have already checked out Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard: The Ship of the Dead and The Trials of Apollo: The Burning Maze from the library before.  They’ll be available in paperback later this year and will be added to my collection then.)  But that’s a lot of books, more than some of the other authors I’ve been collecting for twice as long, if not longer.  Sure, Riordan’s never going to compare to Andre Norton, Tanya Huff, or Mercedes Lackey when it comes to taking up shelf space.  But the man’s not done yet and it’ll be interesting to see where this world goes.

Anyway, moving on to my next read for the day, “The Son of Sobek”, the first Demigods & Magicians story.  My copy happens to be lurking at the back of The Kane Chronicles: The Serpent’s Shadow, the climax of that three volume series.  Which is kind of disappointing.  I mean, with kids books you do generally expect the main character to survive, but there’s a difference between this presumption and an advertisement for Carter Kane teaming up with Percy Jackson following the events of the book.  It just takes some of the magic out of it.

The story itself goes pretty much how you expect a teamup to go.  The two meet, fight each other, then decide the crocodile is more important, defeat it, and realize they don’t make a half bad team.  There’s not a lot of information exchanged, but it’s better than ntohing.  I mean, they’re boys, and media tells us that boys will be boys.  Which means they tend to think with their fists or their dicks or both before their brains.  Still, it’s not a bad start to the Egyptian/Greek adventure set.

Today’s last book starts a new chapter.  The Heroes of Olympus: The Lost Hero is where Rick Riordan says “yes, I am fully aware that the Greek gods are also the Roman gods under other names.  Did you think I’d forgotten that when building my universe?”  The writing style also changes from Percy’s first person narrative to a third persion split view.  The main characters are Leo Valdez, son of Hephaestus, Piper McLean, daughter of Aphrodite, and Jason Grace, son of Jupiter.  Each chapter is prefaced with the viewpoint character’s name, and that’s also what’s seen at the top of each page with the number, instead of the book title or author’s name.  A simple but effective way to keep track easily.  And yes, I am quite serious when I say that Jason is not a son of Zeus.

The Lost Hero opens with Jason waking up in the back of a bus, holding hands with Piper.  Not that he has any idea who she is, he barely even remembers his own name.  And yet, he knows quite a bit.  He can identify monsters and gods as well as any demigod, although he defaults to the Roman terminology instead of Greek.  There were some references to Rome in Percy Jackson & The Olympians, but not many.  When Chiron infiltrated Percy’s school at in The Lightning Thief, he did so as a Latin teacher.  Although part of that is because you’re not going to find many grade schools that actually teach Ancient Greek.  Still, the Roman aspects of things were generally glossed over in Percy’s hearing.

Besides, our heroes have more important things to worry about.  Some would be worried about Percy’s disappearance more than Jason’s abrupt appearance.  But the thing is, after the last time the gods and the Titans warred, that was only the start.  And now the giants are rising again and their patron is, well, nobody you want to mess with.  Not if you have any kind of choice.

Many of the characters from past books are present here, or at least have mentions or cameos, but the focus is, as I said, Jason, Leo, and Piper.  It seems they’re three of the seven halfbloods from the new Great Prophecy, and since the last Great Prophecy is the one that directly tied in to the climax of the war…you can imagine the stakes probably won’t be any lower here.

But that’s a story for another book.

On My Mind

I like musicals.  I’ve seen a lot.  There’s a theater, the Marriott, that only puts on musicals and my parents had season tickets for many years.  And they’d bring their kids to the shows that they felt were appropriate or, as we got older, that we showed interest in.  Plus shows downtown, though that was less often given the prices.  I’ve got a hefty collection of Playbills and I even have official Playbill binders to put them in.  The last one was added just a week and a half ago.  I saw the advertisement months ago on Facebook and there was no question at all – I had to see it.  My friend agreed.

We saw The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical.

It was only in town for a week and I’ve been listening to the soundtrack on repeat since the show and the more I listened the more I couldn’t get the idea out of my head of how much I wanted to reread the series, especially the first book of Percy Jackson and the Olympians and the second book of Heroes of Olympus.  I could go for just those volumes, but it goes against my grain to just skip around like that.  Besides, it’s been a while since I touched any of these.  And it’s not like the oldest books are that long.

So, here I am, having finished rereading Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief.  And I have to say, I am thoroughly impressed.  I knew that the musical was far truer to the book than the movie had been (from personal experience I tell you you can only truly enjoy the movie if you’ve never read the books) but I didn’t expect it to be so close.  Oh sure, they cut a lot of scenes short, especially ones that couldn’t be shown well onstage with a minimal set, but that’s only to be expected.  And they changed a poodle to a squirrel.  Probably a good choice.  But they still referenced many of the cut scenes.  And a lot of what they did keep were details I hadn’t remembered being in the book until I actually reread it.  Hell, they even lifted a lot of the dialogue, including the opening line.  I knew there was a lot of love that went into making this musical; I just didn’t realize how much until now.

Another interesting aspect of seeing this book brought to life is that a lot of the disillusionment, discontent, and sarcasm came through loud and clear in a way they didn’t always through text.  Which makes later plot points make a whole lot more sense…

Long story short, if you have the chance to see the musical, take it.  It’s no instant classic like Wicked or Hamilton, but it’s a lot of fun all the same.  and even if the songs weren’t as instantly memorable, they definitely do get stuck in your head.  Or at least stuck in mine, even before dint of repetition.

But let’s talk about the actual book now.  For those who didn’t know, The Lightning Thief is Rick Riordan’s first book featuring Percy Jackson.  He is, though he didn’t know it, a demigod.  And he’s been accused of stealing Zeus’ master lightning bolt.  All he knows is that his life has been turned upside down, his beloved mom is gone, and monsters are attacking him.  But he’s got a couple good friends who might just be able to help him stay in one piece while he quests to find and return the lightning bolt.

This is the book where Rick Riordan’s pantheon universe began, showing how the Greek gods (in this case) are a part of the modern world, although most of us aren’t even remotely aware of it.  But that doesn’t make this fact any less true, and it’s quite a pain for those with the heritage and perception to have to deal with it on its own terms.  They call it the Mist, the force that keeps mere mortals from perceiving reality as it truly is.  What I observe though, is that kids books or not, these are modern classics about people who could be real with a fantastical twist.

The shortest book in the whole series is Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Sea of Monsters.  Percy returns to Camp Half-Blood to discover it under siege and only one thing can save it: the Golden Fleece.  The only problem is…it’s not his quest this time. And there’s a lot more going on than meets the eye.  The underlying difficulties Percy discovered in The Lightning Thief have only grown stronger in the intervening year and mean to destroy everything he knows and loves, given time.

But that’s for the future.  This book is mostly about sailing around a sea filled with monstrous creatures of myth and legend and trying to get back before the camp is completely overrun.  It’s, well, a second book.  It has a simple goal, no real twists, and exists mostly to further the existing plots and set up a few new wrinkles.  It’s perfectly fine, but there’s just not much to it.  Like I said, it’s a skinny bugger, even compared to its series mates.

Tune in tomorrow for more of Percy Jackson.