So Many Things I Can’t Tell You

The books really are blurring together now.  Today was Caged Earth and Whisper in the Wood, books five and six of N.E. Riggs’ series Shadows of an Empire.  Our young heroes (yes, they are young, Ilera is roughly nineteen in human terms and Banof is in his early twenties) are learning that you cannot keep major secrets forever.  The adult lianthe have discovered the fact that they have diemthe allies…and they’re not thrilled.  Meanwhile on the diemthe side, Umagan is learning the hard way that his altered human people are so incredibly stubborn that many will refuse to turn traitor.  They are incredibly honorable and this will be the death of many I am sure as they fight each other in the days to come.

But Ilera and friends are not the only people to have secrets and hoo boy I should probably have seen that one coming far sooner than I did.  I mean, it was well set up and everything but nope!  I was totally blindsided and I loved it.  Let’s just say it was a major reveal, of the type that indicates the series will soon reach a climax.  There’s at least two books left of course, one I’ll start tomorrow and one that should be available this summer.  But we’ll have to see if I feel the next book is the penultimate or not.  I’ve been wrong before when predicting series length.

Of growing importance in the books are the various spirits of the elements.  As a reminder, there are nine elements including water, fire, air, earth, metal, wood, spirit/mind, light, and shadow.  Each has an associative spirit.  We know that Banof has alliance with Hean, the spirit of Fire, and Teg the same for Jala of the Air.  Shuo of the Earth seems to have taken a liking to one of our friends and Fuiyo of Metal has long been associated with the ruling family of the lianthe.  Given her seeming ability to read thoughts and implant controls on people’s minds, it seems Mitek the diemthe empress has a connection to the spirit of Miel (spirit/mind).  And Noshe, the Wood spirit makes an appearance in, unsurprisingly enough, Whisper in the Wood.  Reikei of Water seems unpredictable but also shows up for the first time.  As for the light and the shadow, we’ve been hearing about them for a while.  Likra was the moon’s spirit, killed by Vijeth and her essence became the karyon, an item that can greatly boost a person’s elementalism.  Vijeth, the sun spirit, is imprisoned within the earth with the only access to him being a hole underneath the diemthe capital Daranvirmor.

So all of the spirits have been seen or discussed, but the ties that bind them (or not) remain in shadow for several.  I would also wonder if any particular spirit may have more than one alliance at a time, or if it’s a personal preference to stick to a single mortal at once.  Plus there’s a number of questions raised by the very big reveal in that last book.  I mean, it answered a huge number of questions too, but questions clearly beget questions.

As things go, the allies against the empress are truly beginning to work together, with no deceptions needed.  And the empress’ forces are ceasing to hold back, committing more and more effort to the war.  We’re starting to amass armies with totals in the five digit range instead of the four digits we’ve seen in earlier conflicts.  But these armies will be straining the various countries to the brink once assembled, so I don’t foresee them being held in the field longer than necessary.

Not to mention that both the lianthe and the diemthe meant to start the war up in earnest again in a mere half a year.  There is something special about the date, which I believe to be the five hundredth anniversary of the official conclusion of the last major war, which makes the timing perfect on both sides.  There hasn’t been a huge amount of detail on that yet, and it’s mostly been shunted to the side in favor of more immediate developments.  It’s a lot harder to focus on say, a meteor coming in two years versus a tidal wave in the harbor today.  Even so, plans are being made by the allies to take the fight to Daranvirmor.

And I cannot wait to see what happens next.

Lots of Lianthe

Today, despite far more interruptions than I had planned, I managed to finish books three and four, Into the Light and Twisted Minds.  And forgive me, but the books are starting to blur together a bit.  I’d say that’s a factor of reading them all in a row, but the truth is that it’s probably just an aspect of the series itself.  After all, I’ve been reading Michelle Sagara West’s Chronicles of Elantra for a number of years now and despite the fact that the books come out roughly a year apart I still have a hard time associating a title with each of the major plots.  I think that may be somewhat normal for a series that is not broken into discrete chunks of trilogies, duologies, standalones, etc.

Anyway, Ilera has finally realized one of the biggest goals in her life: meeting other lianthe.  However, the only lianthe she’s able to get to know for a number of days is Nizel.  Nizel is the presumptive heir to the lianthe emperor and she is…not the nicest person.  It takes Ilera a fair bit of time to figure out that Nizel considers her a threat to becoming the emperor’s heir, and that’s part of why she’s been so obnoxious.  Part of her attitude simply seems to be that she’s a spoiled brat – one of the oldest lianthe children and one of the most powerful.  Certainly the most ambitious (of the undisgraced).

On the other hand, it’s no bad thing.  Ilera has already learned that not all diemthe are evil.  Now she’s learned that lianthe are not made of goodness and light.  They are simply people.

In terms of lianthe, things really start to get interesting when Nikilaus finally brings in the lianthe ambassador to the Kingdom of Twin Suns.  He is Mareth, and likely the third most powerful nuthe alive, diemthe or lianthe.  He is absolutely thrilled to find out about Ilera for several reasons, including as an alternative to Nizel.  More importantly, he can tell Ilera who she is in terms of family and bloodlines.

Because of the circumstances of her finding, the reader has been led to believe that it’s remotely possible Ilera is the emperor’s child.  Well, we’re pretty sure that isn’t so, but remarkably enough it is still possible she could end up a princess.  After all, the emperor has no heir of his body and therefore he (hopefully) select an heir of appropriate power, lineage, and mien.  And everything Riggs has shown us clearly makes Ilera out to be a better leader than Nizel, as Ilera thinks of what she can do for the people and Nizela what the people can do for her.

We can also begin to understand that the north is not some unified whole as they’d like the south to believe.  We knew that Banof’s thirty-third rabet was different than the rest, that his soldiers followed him out of loyalty and perhaps some love instead of mere duty.  Northerners serve in the rabets because their families will be punished if they don’t, even killed.  This doesn’t make them grateful for their service, even less so if they’re assigned to one of the worst rabets, with a diemthe commander who cares nothing for human life.  The altered humans tend to be more loyal, but they too are human.

I think part of why these books blur together for me is because, in a different publishing situation, two or three of these novels would be combined into a single larger book.  For an independent author it might be more cost effective to write the shorter books, if only because then they can be published more frequently.  I don’t know the logic behind it, I just know that most of the self-published books I’ve read are, on average, two hundred pages shorter than the novels I usually gravitate towards.  Most new books I buy to read are in the 400-500 page range.  (I am overlooking anthologies and older books I buy used because those tend to be around 300 pages long and generally start at fifteen years old.  When I talk length of what I normally read I am referring to current publishing trends.)

As you can see, I am still enjoying my first plunge into the world of N.E. Riggs.  I am still finding typos – all words that are technically spelled right but incorrect for the location in a sentence.  IE, “taking” instead of “talking”.  Since this is par for the course on self-publishing I will continue to overlook it because I am having a good time.  And like I said, these aren’t glaring errors and they are difficult to catch if you’re only skimming.  They’re not the worst typo ever (Assassin’s Creed: Heresy) and they’re not a blatant mistake (looking at you, David Weber), just honest errors that happen.

What I have begun to wonder is how long the series is planned to be.  There’s an eighth book coming soon, so it’s possible we’re looking at ten for a nice round number.  Or if the author means to be clever, one for each of the nine elements.  Which would then make me sit and try and figure which book stood for which of the elements…

Or its entirely possible that Riggs herself does not know how many books will be in the series.  I am certain (well, I hope) that she knows how it will end.  But perhaps she is like one of the webcomics I follow wherein the outline of the plot is known, but sometimes it takes longer to expand on something than originally planned and what was to be a minor scene expands into half a novel.  It’s hard to say.  Still, the only way to make a better guess is to read more, and so I shall.

Change of Scenery

Bloody Fire is the second volume in N.E. Riggs’ Shadows of an Empire series, which is a particularly vivid image.  Where Tomb of the Moon featured protagonist Ilera on the cover, Bloody Fire shows Banof, the diemthe commander of the thirty-third rabet.  He is responsible for conquering the country of Giram and set the events of the (main) series in motion by sending soldiers to capture Ilera whilst she lived peacefully and quietly in her home village of Wallen.

We’ve been told that Banof is different for a diemthe.  That he is less cruel and thoughtless about his human and altered human subordinates.  Now, in the second book, we begin to see inside the heads of other diemthe, so that we may compare them.  Above all, we learn that Mitek, the diemthe empress is not a woman to cross.  She has more secrets than can easily be counted…and many we do not want to know.

Ilera is in motion this book, heading towards the Twin Sun Kingdom.  The walled border is nigh impassable, but she has hopes that her friends can smuggler her inside.  Deep inside the kingdom dwell the remainder of her lianthe race and getting to that safety from the rabets is all she desires.  However, her friends are loyal and steadfast, refusing to allow her to go so far on her own.

There are revelations in this book, new conflicts, and Ilera learns more about herself and her people.  But there is also hardship and heartache as the war that had been quiet erupts in earnest.  It seems quite likely that things will soon become as bloody as they were five hundred years prior when the diemthe all but eliminated the lianthe in the north.  Not to mention there are more and deeper questions raised on a number of subjects, including Ilera’s ancestry.

It’s hard to write this post.  I don’t want to give away too many plot points, but this is only the second book out of seven.  And having never read these before, I don’t know what little bits will be most relevant later.  Because I’m sure some will come up.

I have noticed a couple more typos.  Things like “foot” instead of “food”, wherein it’s a real world that spellcheck will not notice.  I honestly don’t know about grammarcheck; I’ve never trusted it myself and so don’t use it.  Actually, I very rarely utilize spellcheck, relying on my own skills to know if I’ve mistyped something.

Anyway, I’ve already begun book three.  I think, given the general length of the books, I’ll be getting through about a book and a half most days.  So I should definitely be finished in less than a week.  I just need to remember to carry two books with me tomorrow.

Comparing Worlds

I think I’ve not read a book quite like Sister Light, Sister Dark since first I found Diana Wynne Jones’ Dalemark Quartet, specifically The Spellcoats.  Jane Yolen’s book, however, is is set up a bit differently.  In The Spellcoats, the story we read is actually woven into two coats.  They are somewhat ancient, and have been dug up by modern day people of the fantasy world, transcribed and translated, and tied into history such as it is known.  In many ways it’s a study in how the stories of the day become warped and distorted so that even now, in our world, what we accept as factual history is simply one interpretation of events long past.

But where Jones bookends her story with the modern day, Jane Yolen has interwoven and indicated the difference.  Each section is prefaced with “THE MYTH”, “THE LEGEND”, “THE SONG”, “THE HISTORY”, or “THE STORY”.  The story is the main plot of the book, told in standard third person limited.  The myths are tales of the goddess Alta, songs are actual songs, and legends are word of mouth tales that may or may not be true.  History is where the discussion of scholars, primary sources, etc. takes place.  And it is there that things differ most greatly from the story.  So here I am as a reader, shaking my head at how wrong “history” has gotten the story whilst reflecting on how much history as I know it is that wrong.  And the answer is…I cannot possibly know.  I was not there, and what records exist can only be partial at best.

Aside from the actual structure, the story itself is a fairly typical prophesied heroine and part of a heroine’s journey.  (Though we haven’t seen a huge amount of it in the actual plot yet, there’s apparently something upcoming called the Gender Wars.)  It’s hard to say if the story itself would be as strong without the commentary, but I suspect not.  I do have to wonder if the commentary itself is at all inspired by Yolen’s heritage.  After all, she is Jewish and proud of it.  And commentary on commentary on what may or may not be fact is a very, very Jewish thing.

Needless to say, because this in-book analysis I’ve seen so rarely, the novel becomes all the more intriguing for it, which is no bad thing.  I also noted that the final line of the volume says “here ends book 1”, indicating a second.  For once, I didn’t bother to wait until I could investigate what a used bookstore might have on shelf and resorted immediately to isfdb.org which confirmed that yes, there was a sequel.  In fact, there was a third book as well, and an omnibus collecting them.  Suffice to say, I shall keep an eye out for the rest of these books.

The other thing of note I did today (since it’s the day after Memorial Day and I had to go to work) was meet up with N.E. Riggs today to get everything else in her Shadows of an Empire series.  And I do mean everything else.  There are a full seven books in the series (with an eighth forthcoming this summer) and a prequel novella.  Which I have, unsurprisingly, just finished reading.  To be fair, it’s not even sixty pages of story, which is very easy for me to whizz through.

The Economics of Liberation takes place some eleven years before Tomb of the Moon and focuses on the foundation of the Giramite resistance to the empire and the strengthening of the Giram Liberation Front into something worthwhile.  The major players Ilera meets are young here, and just starting out.  They’re not happy about their country having been annexed twenty-four years prior and they want to do something about it…they’re just not sure what.  So, one day, while they’re sitting at a cafe watching a thief get murdered by the rabet, they make a decision.  Within a week they need to have actually done something on behalf of Giram and against the rabet.  Alizabeth joins the Gilf with intent to move up the ranks.  Perry is a month shy of becoming a master Elementalist, but he will work with them still.  Mok is…uncertain.  He works in his mother’s flower shop, but he wants to do everything he can against the rabet.

In this week, he founds the resistance.  Remeber, the Gilf and the resistance are not the same.  The Gilf is a public and powerful political party, which also makes it highly visible.  The resistance has ties to the Gilf, but not everyone is a member of both.  The resistance is known, but hidden.  Their job is to protect people that the rabet takes an interest in, undermine the rabet’s authority, and smuggle as needed.  And it all begins here.

As it stands, I’m not sure that The Economics of Liberation has really added that much to my experience of Riggs’ world, but it wasn’t a bad read.  Frankly, it’s more interesting if you think of it in terms of our world and how our political parties work.  Still, I’ll have to see if there come any revelatory moments in the future that make me refer back to this novella.

In the meantime, I’ve a book two to stick a bookmark in.

War Bookends

Anyone who’s followed this blog a decent amount of time may note that I often start my day with comics when available.  They’re shorter than any book and mean I can put off making a decision on which novel or collection I read next.  In this case, I can read my comic over breakfast, then run my errands which may alter what book I choose to read once I’m home.

This morning’s breakfast read was The War of the Realms #4.  After the destruction of the Bifrost in the last issue, Freyja now holds the Black Bifrost in order to control who travels where and when.  However, she cannot hold off the legions of dark elves forever.  Odin comes to fight by her side, but even this may be too little too late against Malekith’s forces.  And back in Midgard, All-Mother Jane rouses the Avengers and their allies in preparation to take back the Earth.

Essentially, there’s not a lot of story in a single issue.  There’s just so many storylines and subplots that we get only the quickest glimpses of so very many Marvel characters.  But I’ve heard spoilers and I haven’t seen them yet because the previews come out so many months before the actual comics.  One thing is certain: the Marvel universe will survive this war.

Now, in terms of the DC universe, I managed to pick up Green Lanterns Volume 8: Ghosts of the Past today.  (You see what I mean by my reading selection being influenced by what I do in a day.)  Now that Simon and Jessica have proven that they are capable of handling the full duties of their jobs as Green Lanterns, it’s finally time to dive into Jessica’s psyche.  We’ve known that she’s got extreme anxiety as well as some kind of PTSD about dead friends, but we haven’t gotten any real explaination of that until now.  Now when villain Singularity Jain returns and offers Jessica a deal.

There’s also a bit where the Guardians of the Universe finally notice that Jessica’s been reprogramming her power ring to be more a friend and less a piece of jewelry and of course the little blue annoyances are less than pleased about it.  So now she’s got the universe on her ass, including Hal Jordan!  This is the Jessica-centric book I’ve been waiting for from the start.

Now I have noticed that I do not see solicitations for Green Lanterns in the previews. So I don’t think the series is ongoing anymore.  I certainly hope there’s a bit more to it than this, so that I have more to read.  I suppose if I really wanted more of Simon and Jessica’s adventures I could look into the Rebirth Justice League comics since the two are members.  In fact, I did have volume one in my hand today…but just wasn’t in a mood for it.  The Justice League does not usually do it for me.  Still, it’s an option that I may choose to revisit at some point.  For now, I do have so many non-graphic novels to choose from.

And yet for all those choices I ended up going with the other comic I bought today, Thor: God of Thunder Reborn.  This is of course the volume following The Death of the Mighty Thor where the Odinson has regained his name and position, even without Mjolnir, even without becoming truly worthy again.  At least, not yet.  And for the first time I am truly glad of all those flashes we’ve had of King Thor, the All-Father at the End of Time because approximately one-third to one-half of this volume is devoted to that distant future and oh my goodness is it interesting.

To be fair, the present storyline is also interesting.  It is, of course, further buildup to the War of the Realms, but Thori the Helhound gets a wonderful amount of page time and he is absolutely hilarious.  Frankly, this is the best volume about Thor Odinson I’ve read by Jason Aaron in quite a long time and I’m thrilled about it.  I’ll have to continue collecting them for certain.  Although I am seriously tired of all the stupid renumbering.  This is, I think, the third Thor #1 graphic novel I have from Aaron’s run.

As for tomorrow, I think it may be a good day for an anthology.  After all, I have plans.  Very good plans.

Yesterday’s Books

After Free Comic Book Day I determined that Spawn has stuck around for so long for good reason and that I was inerested in reading more, though not collecting individual issues.  So when I was wandering around yesterday and found Spawn: Origins Collection Volume 1, I was perfectly thrilled to pick it up.  It feaures the first six issues of the series, so I had read the first third previously.  Still, some of my questions were answered but there’s the bigger question of “where does Spawn go from here?”

Todd McFarlane is clearly a skilled man.  Not only creative in creating these characters and this story, but the art and layout is impressive.  When I’m taking time to admire how he’s chosen to change the panel frames or depict events offscreen with visually keyed sound effects, that’s fascinating.  Not to mention his character designs.  People I’m not supposed to like have appearances that make me uncomfortable, whilst those I’m supposed to support are easier on the eyes.  The amount of thought and effort that clearly went into these comics is remarkable.

For the time being, I’ll keep the two comic issues.  I got them for free and there’s no real resale value on Free Comic Book Day stuff.  At least, not at this time.  And probably never for Spawn #1, given that it was a reissue of a classic origin issue.  Not to mention that at the moment it’s not worth the time or effort to get them out of the box.  I did pick up a storage box a couple years ago and all inactive series and those I’m not currently collecting end up inside.  I was running out of easily accessible space for comics.  Thank goodness graphic novels just go onto normal shelves.

Anyway, the Origins Collection seems to be a high quality graphic novel collection of the Spawn comics, so I shall certainly keep an eye out for more volumes.  This seems like the perfect way to acquire the series.  Especially since this book is from 2016 – they’re definitely still out there at this time.  Note to self, check local comic shops next time I go.  I was planning on popping over to one this weekend anyway given the holiday and sales.

What I hadn’t planned on was going to more Half Price Books locations this wekeend.  But when I went to visit with friends, play games, and get the copy of Black Unicorn they’d found for me (finally completing the set, so at some point I’ll be rereading those), they pointed out how not-totally-out-of-the-way two additional stores were.  This was dangerous information, as I have returned home with far more books than fit correctly on the two shelves I use for my Pile.

As you can see, I scored big on anthologies, as well as finding quite a number of novelizations that tickled my fancy. For the record, I need to be interested in the original media in order to pick up the novelization. That is to say, a movie or video game (or something else) that I already like or am actively curious about. You can also see that I have finally gotten my hands on the second volume of the polyamory trilogy, so at some point I will finally be able to revisit it and make a final determination about the series. I also managed to track down the last book I needed for C.J. Cherryh’s Alliance-Union universe, so again, expect a revisit to the Chanur books in the future.

I wasn’t able to replace those two Glen Cook books with awful covers at this time, but the interesting fact about The Starfishers Trilogy is that I had picked up book one at Half Price yesterday. So now that’s in the sell pile and this is in the normal Pile. Plus some books picked up on the strength of author name and personal curiosity or interest. Needless to say, I have anthologies for days and books forever. Not to mention that this whole stack is in addition to the other books that were already sitting in my Pile. I’ve got quite a bit to keep me occupied. And yet I’ve already got another major book trip planned…but more on that another day.

Back to yesterday at the flea market con, there weren’t as many indie artists as I’ve seen in similar situations, but there were a fair number. Some were incredibly skilled and some were…let’s just say they should not be trying to make money without more practice. I won’t tell anyone they can’t do something, but there’s a reason everybody needs to practice before they can be considered “good” at anything.

However, of the indie tables, there was one I saw glancingly as we tried to make sure we covered all of the rows (the layout was awful for this and made for a lot of backtracking) and knew I’d have to investigate. It was a self-published author with a decent array of books and some obviously fantasy covers that caught my eye. Turned out one display was all fantasy books in a single series and the other was a science fiction series and an anthology. I looked at said collection and frankly, it read to me as not strictly genre, so I passed on it. The science fiction series was also a pass – the concept is fine if unoriginal, but the main character just didn’t sound interesting to me.

As for the fantasy series, that was intriguing. Enough so that not only did I buy it, but I here I am a bit over twenty-four hours later typing about it. Which says a lot right there, including the fact that I was not in the middle of a longer book. Anyway, this is Tomb of the Moon, book one in the Shadows of an Empire series by N.E. Riggs.

There are three main racial types in Riggs’ fantasy world. Humans, of course. Altered humans whose skin tone is what we’d call unnatural (we see both green and blue in this book) and who are taller, stronger, longer-lived and smarter than the norm. Last are the nuthe. Mostly these are diemthe, the ones who created the altered humans and rule the northern empire. The location of this story is sort of part of the empire but not fully – Giram was quietly annexed thirty-five years prior but has not fully given in. The diemthe commander responsible for the area is playing a long, quiet game intended to keep everyone as calm and peaceful as can be.

The other nuthe race are the lianthe. Five hundred years prior they lost a mighty war to the diemthe and have been hunted, tortured, and killed as a result. It is said that some still live in the Twin Sun Kingdoms, but borders between that land and others are very tight. Citizens of the Twin Suns may leave, but it is nigh impossible to smuggle people in. Still, now that the five hundred years’ peace Ilera has known in Giram is broken, it is the only place she can escape to.

If she can get there.

Tomb of the Moon is an engaging read, not bad at all for an author’s early work and self published. The only thing I take issue with is a description of setting guards at city gates. “Each of the seven gates would be manned by fifteen men total, ten of Davin’s guards and another ten from the rabet.” I mean, that’s just sloppy grammar checking and frankly, it’s the only major error I recall from reading the book. Which is no bad thing, given that I’ve seen typos in professionally published works as well as grammatical errors. I mean, the failure of math does bother me, but there’s nothing more I can do about it.

Still, I know there are more books and I’m certainly interested in reading onwards. Not necessarily at this moment given the time of day and the fact that I have brought home a rather silly number of books today alone. Still, I have a business card, web address, and other ways to find further information about getting my hands on more books. They were definitely some of the best priced indie books I’ve seen in a while and that makes me more inclined to find them sooner rather than later. In fact, I wondered as early as last night, when I stuck my bookmark in, if I would regret being cautious and only buying one book. I had such a strong feeling when I first glanced at the table that it was for me, and clearly I was right.

Ah well, hindsight is 20/20. But I really didn’t need to spend that much more on books this weekend.

Strange Happenstances

Of the non-comic materials I took home on Free Comic Book Day, only two of the books were brand new. I snagged Space Runners: The Moon Platoon at Barbara’s Bookstore along with that kids book, The Most Magnificent Mosque. Both came off clearance shelves because why not? I don’t mind picking up a cheap book on a whim. Sometimes it’s the best impulse buy of them all.

Jeramey Kraatz’s book (and is that a specially spelled name or what) is the first in his Space Runners series. I didn’t expect a huge amount from it – you’ve got a kid who wins a scholarship to the moon and not everything is as it seems. A pretty basic premise for a kids book. The protagonists are twelve years old (some might be a bit older but we only truly know Benny’s age) and the moon is sort of like an elite summer camp. The philanthropist responsible for all of this is one Elijah West, a man who came from nothing to become the wealthiest man alive and an inventor of just about anything. For example, the Space Runners are flying cars. Spaceworthy flying cars. Because, you know, everyone thought we’d have flying cars by now. Although I’ve seen at least one article doing in depth research about how they’re really less efficient than the cars we’re actually driving. And says nothing for what you’d do about traffic patterns with flying cars…

Anyway, our protagonist is one Benny Love. He’s from the Drylands, the American Southwest where people live in caravans traveling around to sources of water and food. He’s got two younger brothers and a grandmother still alive as he ventures to the moon and meets his annoying carmate, Drue. Drue is the epitome of a spoiled brat, although typical to this sort of story he does get better as time goes on and he learns the value of, you know, not being too obnoxious to talk to.

The scholarship goes to one hundred amazingly bright young people every year since its introduction about five years ago. They are some of the best up-and-coming minds and skillsets on the planet, and Elijah treats them as such. From custom spacesuits and clothing to riding up to the moon in his Space Runners to receiving a million dollars after the two week program, it’s pretty crazy.

The moon itself seems to a weird science/boot camp. The kids’ days are fairly regimented as they’re broken down into four groups to socialize, interact, learn, and compete. But, things being what they are, it doesn’t take long for Benny and his new group of friends to discover that there’s more going on beneath the surface of the luxury camp.

Like I said, The Moon Platoon is pretty typical in its premise. You’ve got kids meeting up for the first time away from home and the environments and resources with which they’re familiar, you’ve got adults who are either oblivious to a problem or clearly covering it up, and you’ve got the kids saving the day. To be fair, Kraatz tries to give logical reasons why it has to be the kids, but he didn’t do a good enough job to overcome my jaded sensibilities. I still feel that the escalation is too steep, especially given that the book doesn’t actually cover the entire two weeks of the camp. I estimate this to have been ten or eleven days in all, maybe less. (No, I’m not going to go back and count. I do decently well at understanding how much time has passed in a story.)

I don’t think I paid too much for the book, which cover price definitely would have been with me as the primary reader. But for a kid of 10-13 years with an interest in science fiction, cars, or space I think it’s a decent option. It is only book one (the spine is helpfully numbered to clue you in) of a series and one can hope that the other books are on the same level or better. I, however, won’t be finding out. It’s not a bad book, but it’s not good enough to spend more time or money on it.

Today was an interesting one.  I went to what in years past would have been the largest comic book convention in Lake County.  This year it was a one day affair…and half flea market, which I did not expect.  However, it was at that stranger bit of the place, outside the actual building, that I found this odd little gem.

Seussian illustrations are distinctive, as is the font they use for the man’s name on any cover.  But never did I think to find a NSFW Dr. Seuss book.  This was Dr. Seuss’s The Seven Lady Godivas: The True Facts Concerning History’s Barest Family.  For those who don’t know, ’tis said that Lady Godiva made a bargain with her husband and his price was for her to rider her horse naked through the streets of Coventry.  The villagers were all instructed to close their windows though, that they might not see the lady’s bare figure.  One man named Tom disobeyed, and so he became Peeping Tom.

However, in this 1987 reprint of the 1939 tale, Dr. Seuss claims he will set history aright.  (I honestly have no idea how much truth is included here but I assume very little.)  He says there were seven ladies in the Godiva family, each betrothed to a man of the Peeping family.  And after their father’s tragic death, they determined that each must find a Horse Truth before she could wed.  These “truths” are in fact sayings and idioms, leading to predictably silly instances that lead to their “discoveries”.

Frankly, the only reason this book is NSFW is because the ladies Godiva are drawn nude.  On every page.  From the cover to the inside papers to the story itself.  They are drawn in the typical Seussian style and without more details than breasts themselves.  It’s a cute little story, not told in rhyme, but with the same quirky humor we all know and love from the good doctor.  It is the last thing I ever expected to see, especially in that place on this day, but I certainly have no regrets on buying it.

I’ll just have to be careful about keeping it with the rest of my Dr. Seuss books, should young people ever come to visit.

Now this having once upon a time been Counticon, a comic book convention, it can come as no surprise that I brought home graphic novels.  And one of those I managed to find was Guy Gardner: Collateral Damage #2.  Given my changing opinions on the man, I opted to pick it up.  Plus it was only three dollars, which is, sadly, less than an individual comic issue today.

This particular story is, as it says, a part 2, so I don’t have the first volume.  Apparently Guy’s bar back on Earth got wrecked as part of a conflict that’s been affected by the Thanagarian-Rannian war.  If you remember, Thanagarians are bird people such as Hawkman and Hawkgirl, they use nth metal weapons that disrupt magic, and there’s a lot of other stuff that I don’t rememeber offhand.  Anyway, wha’ts important is that the Thanagarian-Rannian war disrupted the balance of power in the Tormock-Vuldarian war, leading to one of the two species being on the brink of extinction.

Guy being Guy, he manages to save the day purely out of vengeance for his destroyed bar.  It’s…not the best Guy Gardner story I’ve ever read.  The art makes everybody, including Guy, look super pissed off which just makes for an uncomfortable read.  I’m going to hang on to this comic for now, but it may end up leaving in a future purge.

I think that’s enough for tonight.  However I do have some more new books that may get read sooner rather than later.

A Typical Choice

When your next book has to be a mass market paperback simply because that’s the easiest to drag around the city, there’s only so many books in the Pile that will suit.  I mean, there’s a lot of them, but let’s be real.  Who didn’t suspect I would pick an anthology?

It’s another DAW anthology, though not a Fantastic one.  Although this does touch on the same concept as one of my Fantastic anthologies – assassins.  Places to Be, People to Kill is a 2007 examination of the idea, and contains a mere twelve stories.  Still, we’ve got authors like Tanya Huff, Sarah Hoyt, Tim Waggoner, and Kristine Kathryn Rusch.

Tanya Huff contributes an all-new story of Vree and Bannon, called “Exactly”, from the Quarters novels – one I’d never read before.  It is…the exception that proves the rule.  But every bit as entertaining as you’d expect.  Think of it as a fish out of water story in some ways.

“Fealty” comes from S. Andrew Swann and that was an intriguing and engaging story.  I’ve read the author before in other anthologies, but this is definitely the most memorable piece I’ve come across thus far.

I found Sarah Hoyt’s “While Horse and Hero Fell” to be a little predictable, but interesting.  I would read an expanded version of this story if she chose to write one.

“Substitutions” by Kristine Kathryn Rusch is another intriguing concept.  It’s also a good little story that can really touch you with welled-up emotion.  Perhaps not the most memorable, but a story I won’t mind rereading as I revist this book in the future.

Those are the only stories worth highlighting, but I didn’t really hate anything in this book.  The rest are fine, just average.  I suppose I can’t complain, especially given that there are some very good tales here.  It is what it is, and the book is barely three hundred pages.

Souvenier from my local comic shop was Orphan Age #1, missing its cover of course. One day, in a world not so different from our own, something caused all adults to die suddenly.  Twenty years later, those who were kids then are adults now and they’ve made their own societies.  It’s a lower tech overall, but they seem competent and can survive.  But the New Church is coming westward with guns and religion, which makes those in their path uncomfortable.

It’s an interesting start to a series.  I don’t see myself seeking out more, but if it crossed my path for cheap of free I could read on.

Read the Book, Burn the Cover

Mastiff is Beka Cooper’s third adventure (that we get to read about) and it opens with the funeral of her fiance, Holburn.  It’s only been a couple years since her adventure in Port Caynn, but a lot has changed in that time.  She’s become accustomed to running with Achoo, she’s had Tunstall for a full partner, and she fell in love with Holburn.

And out of love with him.  Really, before the Dog did something foolish and got himself killed, Beka had been thinking about breaking it off.  They quarreled more than anything else and she wasn’t happy.

That night, Beka is awakened by a pounding on her door.  It’s the Lord Provost himself, telling her to pack for a Hunt.  As she and Tunstall are sent on their way via griffin ship – a vessel magicked to speed across the waves that it might travel in hours instead of a day or two – every indication is dire.  And then they arrive at their destination and discover that more than just a kidnapped child’s life hangs in the balance.

For such a Hunt, the Dogs need a mage.  The Lord Provost has brought in Farmer Cape, a kennel mage from Blue Harbor.  He looks a lot like you’d expect given that name, and seems to be a bit thick in the head.  Beka, however, figures out relatively quickly that Farmer is nowhere near as idiotic as he’d like people to think, and that he’s quite a competent mage.  If he’s not powerful, he’s clever.  Or saving his power for necessities instead of showpieces.

To round out the Hunt team, the Lord Provost has also requested Lady Knight Sabine of Macayhill, Tunstall’s lover since Terrier.  She has the noble clout and connections the Dogs can utilize as they scour the land looking for one small boy.

Mastiff is a bittersweet ending for Beka, but more sweet than bitterness.  She says at the end that she won’t be keeping any more journals because nothing could possibly top this Hunt, although I do have to wonder.  Certainly she probably had a number of adventures afterwards, even if the scale was not so great.  And, more importantly, the climax of the book is another one of those crossroads of fate, where the gods cannot interfere as mortals determine the future course of the world.  Not everything changes all at once though, as Keladry of Mindelan will find out centuries later.

And, for those who like to string books along chronologically, the epilogue goes back to George Cooper, now an adult and having just won the title of Rogue from his predecessor’s body.  He’s also just seen a redhaired young lad, Alan of Trebond, for the first time…

What can I say?  The book is fine.  It’s a good conclusion.  I am not going to be rereading more of the series at this time for several reasons.  And I cannot stand the cover.  You’ve got the northern mountains in the background, Achoo and Pounce in the middle ground – though I really question the sizing on them, this is not my major issue – and Beka in the foreground.  Beka’s body is facing the mountains, and her neck is turned so that she’s giving the reader a three-quarters view of her face.  Which really shouldn’t be possible so it looks unnatural, as if her face was photoshopped onto this body.  Her armor isn’t helping either, as it looks to me like the artist just arranged rings so they looked nice and flowed with the shape instead of what actual armor would look like.  The unreality of it helps make her head look like it doesn’t go with the body.  And while one hand holds shackles, the other is just kind of hanging there in space and for some reason combines with her back and head to make me unhappy.  Looking at this cover is my least favorite part of rereading this book.

More Dogs

The second entry in Beka Cooper’s trilogy is Bloodhound.  No longer a Puppy, Beka is now a full Dog and not wholly pleased.  After all, she’s been through so many partners since leaving her training pair and not one of them was satisfactory.  Well, there was one, but he died.  Anyway, Beka’s back with Goodwin and Tunstall for the time being, and also she happens on a fellow Dog being cruel to one of the scent hounds.

Interfering has its price and now Beka has Achoo, a scent hound to care for.  Then she gets her first whiff of the main plot for this book.  One thing leads to another and soon she’s off on a Hunt in Port Caynn.

Unlike Terrier, there is only one mystery to solve, but to offset that that, we have a new location to explore.  And a new creature in Achoo.  Because we do like animal sidekicks in most of Pierce’s books.  I think Tempests and Slaughter might be the only one without any kind of animal friends.

Now, from the start Tamora Pierce has never talked down to her readers.  Her books discuss sexuality, menstruation, and more.  So when Beka is attracted to a man, Pierce doesn’t dance around it.  Oh sure, she won’t use actual curse words, or describe sexual acts, but that’s really all she holds off on.

Bloodhound is a fairly typical middle book for this type of trilogy.  The first volume introduces a character beginning a new job, new lifestyle, etc.  The second shows them more settled, though often there’s some kind of upheval, change, or promotion.  The third is where they get their ending, whether it’s happily ever after or not.

I’m a bit distracted, and Bloodhound is maybe not my favorite.  I obviously won’t skip it, but there’s other things I’d rather give my attention to.