I suppose I should be mildly grateful for the overwhelming power Christianity impresses the United States with. It gave me the day off which was a perfect opportunity to take the car in for service. And, me being me, I of course brought Werehunter and the last five short stories within, along with a second book for when I should inevitably finish the anthology. Originally I had thought I might skip some of these stories simply because they’re not quite to my taste most of the time. They’re not bad of course, just…stories I have no qualms about skipping. It’s happened before. But given that they estimated 1.5-2 hours, I figured better safe than sorry, read it all.
First up of the remainder of the book was “Stolen Silver”, the story Lackey once claimed would be the only Valdemar short she wrote because she saw no reason in wasting a good idea on short fiction when it could be expanded into a novel. (And it was, “Stolen Silver” became the prologue to Exile’s Honor, detailing Herald Alberich’s early days in Valdemar.) Obviously Werehunter was published before the Valdemar anthologies became annual events. Sword of Ice, the original Valdemar anthology, had been published two years prior, but if you check the credits you’ll find that Lackey is coauthor on two stories, having contributed nothing on her own but the position of editor. It wasn’t until Sun In Glory came out four years after Werehunter that she offered up an all new short story on her own, a tradition that has continued. So, she didn’t know when she wrote the blurb preceding “Stolen Silver” that she would become a liar. But there you have it.
“Roadkill” is a creepy story. That’s what it’s meant to be and it does the job. It’s only eight pages long, but there’s no reason to make a tale longer than necessary to do the job, especially in horror.
I know I’ve talked about “Operation Desert Fox” before. It’s the one that introduced me to Bolos and sparked me to find the first two books in the basement as well as buy the first of those anthologies. At some point I will get through the entire fifteen book series on this blog.
The last two stories are “Grey” and “Grey’s Ghost”. They are theoretically about the parrot Grey, but much more about the children of the British Empire sent to the homeland for safety and schooling. The environment you might recall from classics such as The Secret Garden or Sara Crewe (aka A Little Princess). They’re nothing kind of stories, which is why I wouldn’t have cared if I skipped them on this reread. But again, I had too much time to ignore them.
The other book I brought with me is one of my finds from Windy City Pulp & Paper. It’s been a while since I first turned up a Crossroads adventure, and I hadn’t thought to find a second from the same world. In fact, this one’s older. You see, this is Dragonharper by Jody Lynn Nye, another Choose Your Own Adventure book set in the world of Pern. The other book, Dragonfire (also by Jody Lynn Nye), stars Mirrim, rider of Path, and not one of my favorite characters. So I was not wholly engaged when playing through it.
But Dragonharper puts the reader in the shoes of Robinton. Now, whereas Dragonfire took place a bit after the original trilogy (it’s on the Southern Continent for example), Dragonharper takes place before. After all, Robinton’s older than Lessa and F’lar, so his adventurous days predate theirs. He was the Masterharper at the time Dragonflight opened, but Dragonharper takes the timeline back to his own Journeyman days.
Yes, I know what you’re thinking, if you’ve any real familiarity with the series. There’s already a book about this, The Masterharper of Pern. And you’re not wrong, but there’s a key difference here. Dragonharper was published in 1987 and The Masterharper of Pern was not released until 1998. I actually remember reading that book when it was brand new (and being so very excited to find out more about one of the most beloved figures of the entire series). In fact, I’m tempted to go reread it now just to compare how Nye’s interpretations differ from what McCaffrey finally laid down as canon. It’s been a while since I reread the novel, but I do believe the relationships within Robinton’s family were distinctly different, although his friendship with Domick might have been the same. I also know that the boy’s names were not Felar and Fenor before they Impressed – I can’t quite recall what F’lar’s was, but I know F’nor was originally Famanoran. And yes, I legitimately remember that off the top of my head for no good reason.
As far as CYOA go, I found that Dragonharper reminded me a lot of playing through The Witchfires of Leth, the Crosscroads companion by Dan Greenberg for C.J. Cherryh’s Morgaine Cycle. As long as you have a good feel for the protagonist and what he’d do in a given situation, you’ll find your way to the end with few missteps. Although I do feel Dragonharper has suffered a great deal over time, simply because McCaffrey did release The Masterharper of Pern. I feel that in the decade before that publication, Dragonharper was probably reasonably popular simply because Robinton has always been such a great character. Certainly he’s one of my favorites, which is why I enjoy both the Harper Hall trilogy and The Masterharper of Pern as some of my favorite rereads in the series.
I probably won’t go reread The Masterharper of Pern though. Not at this time. I remember that series far better than Witch World and would only want to revisit the book so I could compare details with Dragonharper. I am much more intrigued by the thought of revisiting Norton’s classic series.
So, last night I stopped by the comic shop. It’s been about a month, so I knew I’d have to have at least two issues waiting for me. I was in the area for game night at the library, but had some time to kill first. And then my eye fell on What If?: With Great Power. You may recall a while back I read a comic called What If? Flash Thompson Became Spider-Man. Well, that was one of a small series of possibilities released at the time, and this particular graphic novel collects the whole group. I knew I had the one story already, but I was intrigued enough by at least one other to pick up the book. Plus it was only $10 with one of the shop’s nigh-constant sales.
This was definitely worth $10. The first story was Flash Thompson as I’ve already read and discussed, so I don’t feel the need to go into any more detail today.
Second up is What If? The X-Men Were .EXE/men, which is probably the weakest and least interesting of the lot. In this alternate reality, cyberspace is where everything happens. Everyone spends a huge portion of their time online. It should be safe…but some people have the inborn ability to break the rules and protocols. They have the .exe gene. In this story, Charles Xavier asks mercenaries Domino and Cable to protect Eric Lehnsherr from a virus that would remake him into a true force to be feared. You know, it’s Magneto and Professor X and it’s cyberspace and it’s just…too foreign to really grasp onto and care about. Although instead of mutant powers, all the abilities have to do with being in cyberspace, so that’s somewhat well thought out. But like I said, this is definitely the weakest of the group.
Then there’s What If? Peter Parker Became The Punisher which is a bizarre combination to say the least. It’s kind of like if Peter became Batman, or Tony Stark when he’s at his most isolated and focused. A little bizarre. But, the ending is intriguing, allowing for some commonalities between this alternate version and the normal canon. I did see this particular comic in stores and passed it over, mostly because I’m not hugely interested in the Punisher. He makes a good cameo but as a main character seems somewhat predictable. What makes this story one of the stronger ones is that it hits a number of normal Spiderman highlights, just twisted to account for a different attitude on Peter’s part.
Then the book goes out a bit into left field with What If? Marvel Comics Went Metal With Ghost Rider. And this is one of the most bizarre and metatextual stories I’ve read in a while. Like, we’re talking Superboy Prime reading Superman comics meta. So, most of this story takes place at Marvel Comics, and I’m sure that if I knew anything about people who actually work for Marvel, or did at the time this was written, I’d catch a lot of cameos and caricatures. There’s this bizarre death metal band that are comic book fans, so they come to the office and our Ghost Rider is the intern who gets to show them around. But the band seems like pretty normal people. The only weird thing is that they want their special promo comic to be printed with their blood in the ink. And then the story goes completely off the rails. But I’m pretty sure I liked it. I think. This got weird.
The story that got me curious enough to pick up the book comes next, What If? Thor Was Raised By Frost Giants. It’s a reversal of the story we know, where Laufey slew Odin and took his son to raise as his own. But of course Jotun culture is much starker and harsher than Asgardian, so there are key differences between the two. But there’s also some similarities, often between Thor and Loki. It’s definitely an interesting take, and one I wouldn’t mind reading more of if they chose to write it.
Last is What If? Magik Became Sorcerer Supreme. I have to preface this by saying I have absolutely no idea who Magik is. Like most of the what if? stories here, the issue opens with a summary of who Magik, Illyana Rasputin, is and what happened to make her this person. Unfortunately, that doesn’t actually give me an understanding or appreciation of the character. The story itself is decent. It’s a complete tale, allows Dr. Strange to have his snark, and has a satisfying conclusion for what it is. I’m just unable to appreciate this as a what if story because I don’t know anything about the protagonist.
Overall, the book is pretty solid. The stories are mostly well-told and realized, and there’s the thrill of seeing “reality” as we know it twisted another way that’s just as plausible in many aspects. I don’t know that I would encourage Marvel to do these very often, but I might consider looking into other What If?s they’ve done previously. The inside front cover is an ad for volume one of the classic What If?s, so I imagine I could very well stumble across it at some point. Especially in two weeks when I run around on Free Comic Book Day.
As per usual, my bag from the comic shop had some extras thrown in. A couple issues of Comic Shop News (including the Free Comic Book Day special) and an extra comic. Surprisingly, one with a cover, so I know it’s Wizard Beach #1 (of 5), from this past December. It’s the story of a teenage wizard named Hexley Daggert Ragbottom. He’s a studious, conscientious, and responsible young man whose world is in grave danger. Magic is dying out and it looks like all those whose lives depend on it are fighting each other over the withering remains. Hexley’s father is uninterested in getting involved and refuses to let the boy do anything about it either. Hexley then decides to go to his uncle, who vanished long ago into the human world. His uncle Salazar was a better wizard than his father anyway.
However, when he finds Salazar, who tells him to call him Uncle Sally, Hexley is even more disappointed. Salazar, along with a large number of other wizards and creatures of magic, has become a beach bum. Nothing Hexley says stirs any of them to help and he keeps seeing new lows they’ve sunk to. How can he stir a beach full of lazy wizards to save their world? Will he ever chill out and relax? I have no idea because I wasn’t interested enough to consider picking up the other four issues. It’s not a terrible story thus far, and the art’s decent for the most part and highly impressive when using large spreads to show a densely packed landscape of combatants, but there’s something slightly off about it for my taste. I might’ve seen an ad for it since it’s from BOOM! Studios, the same people publishing Power Rangers, but I don’t always read through the ads.
It’s late enough that I don’t think I’m going to read anything else today. Or rather, the other short things I have to read, like the comics I bought, don’t quite appeal to me at the moment. To keep with some form of tradition, I should probably watch Prince of Egypt. Or the Rugrats Passover. Or both, though not at once. Maybe tomorrow I’ll put Ten Commandments on while I bustle around and just leave it playing. For anyone who’s complaining about seeing Endgame in theaters because of the three hour runtime, please note that I watch Ten Commandments, a movie covering three hours and forty minutes of time, every single year. And I usually just…sit there. And watch it straight. And count how many times they use the word “bondage” because the actors place such an emphasis on it.
I mean, I also own the extended editions of The Lord of the Rings, but ridiculously long movies are not a new phenomenon. Although movies like Ten Commandments did actually have an intermission when they were originally shown in theaters. I know because that, along with Cecil B. DeMille’s introduction before the credits (old movie, credits precede content), is included intact as part of the movie on my discs.
So, that’s it for today’s post. And in addition to not knowing what I’m reading next, I can’t begin to guess when I’ll post next. It could be tomorrow or Sunday if I have enough downtime. It could be Monday if not, or Tuesday if I pick something too long to finish in one day. Only time will tell.