The Fifth Season by N. K. Jemisin

Filed under:Fantasy — posted by Randolph on July 29, 2019 @ 1:41 pm

The Fifth Season is a fantasy novel set in a similar world to our own. The world is a single continent with a few short-lived islands along its perimeter. The people’s technology is roughly equivalent to Roman equivalent, although their science is more advanced by a bit. Their society is fractured into villages, called comms, short for communities. These are tribal and heirarchical with people at the bottom working for the right to live within the comm.

They have a magic technology based on Earth science. Their practitioners, geomancers, can sense even the smaller movements of the Earth and, when needed influence them. So they can suppress earthquakes, stronger geomancers can influence volcanoes. This comes at a cost, they draw heat from life and earth around them creating a small frozen waste around them, thus they are shunned by society and forced into strict training.

The writing is odd – in a pleasant way. Most of the story is in third person with limited access to the thoughts of a couple of characters. One of the threads is told in second person, which feels weird, especially being inside the head of other characters. The writing itself is easy to read, the sentences are not very complex. The characters are complex enough to be interesting and make the story compelling.

The book includes a glossary at the back of thematic words used in the book, making a nice reference. I found it helpful early on. There is also a map of the continent in the front of the book.

The book is good. I kept looking for time to read more of it and am looking forward to the two other books in the series.

Conan Omnibus Volume 4 by Timothy Truman

Filed under:Adventure,Fantasy — posted by Randolph on May 24, 2019 @ 6:06 pm

Normally, I really enjoy reading Conan. With this omnibus, I have mixed feelings.

On the positive side, the quality of the art is very good. A lot of detail goes into important images, he uses the page changes well and mixes the image formats on each page in a pleasing manner.

I also like the pacing. I find most comics paced too fast. The authors don’t make good use of timing or pacing.

The stories are decent, I wouldn’t rate them much above that. It’s moderately typical of Conan stories and they can become generic. These stories had a lot of the generic qualities.

On the negative side, I didn’t really feel like this is the same Conan as the Robert Howard stories. There is much more emphasis on the violence and his relationship to Crom is completely different. That doesn’t detract from the value of the story unless you are looking for a traditional Conan.

The other element that bothered me was a setting error. In a place where clocks are a rare wonder and, if I remember correctly, never appears in the original stories, Conan casually blurted out “I’ll be back in an hour or two.” Although minor to many, this really detracted from the setting for me. I doubt Conan has ever nor would ever have need nor understand mechanical time.

Overall, the book makes for a mild diversion, I can’t recommend it if you like the original Conan. The character’s behavior does not match the expected archetype. If you favor this version of the character, or just enjoy the story, it’s ok.

Hawkeye, Vol 1: My Life as My Weapon by Matt Fraction

Filed under:Fantasy,Humor — posted by Randolph on February 25, 2019 @ 6:11 pm

This was recommended by a friend and I was glad for the suggestion. The book consists of two short stories in the graphic novel. This is a collection of the first issues of Hawkeye comic books.

There are two protagonists in one persona, Hawkeye. The two are Clint Barton and Kate Bishop. The backstory is that Clint was one of the Avengers, with no special ability but an extraordinary talent with the bow. When he was presumed killed, Captain America passed the bow on to Kate, who possessed similar skills. The story works on the relationship between these to versions of Hawkman.

I found the characters and the stories are interesting. The artists, David Aja and Javier Pulido do a good job. I like the composition, both the scenes and the page layout. They make good use of color to delimit segments of different sequences within the story. Although I felt the pacing was too fast, a common issue with graphic novels in general.

The story is both exciting and funny. They way the two characters interact can draw you in and make you believe and like both characters. It is well worth a good read.

Aventures d’Alice au Pays des Merveilles by Lewis Carroll

Filed under:Fantasy — posted by Randolph on February 19, 2019 @ 1:47 pm

I plan to read Alice in Wonderland and Philosophy and thought it might be interesting to reread the book, this time in French.

My first observation was that the translator did a good job and most of the book was translated well – at least to the limits of my memory. Then I did notice some shortcomings, for instance the wordplay in the mouse poem relating the mouse’s tail to the tale being told just didn’t work in French. However, the translator did include good footnotes. Here, he explained differences in the French and English version. He also added some historical notes that I found added value to the story. This included some symbology that I was completely unaware of.

Some of the jokes and puns were, if my memory serves, and perhaps were replaced with new or similar ones taking advantage of the language differences.

Overall, it is a quick read, delightful and imaginative and well worth some time spent.

Myth-ion Improbable by Robert Asprin

Filed under:Adventure,Fantasy,Humor,Series — posted by Randolph on April 1, 2017 @ 2:23 pm


Myth-ion Improbable by Robert Asprin

This books is set earlier than some of the recent books, following Myth Directions. In this adventure, Skeeve gets hold of a treasure map that leads to a golden cow. At the thought of treasure, Aahz loses his senses, with Tananda, they begin a grand adventure. .

Only, the map is magical and changes as the proceed. They meet some odd characters, some peculiar dimensions. Meeting vegetarian cowboys, odd cattle, and redundant towns on their way to find gold, they face odd obstacles and find humorous solutions.

The Man with the Golden Torc by Simon R. Green

Filed under:Adventure,Fantasy — posted by Randolph on December 2, 2016 @ 7:49 pm

The Man with the Golden Torc by Simon R. Green

This is the first book of the Secret Histories novels, in which a family, the Droods, uses ancient secrets of science and magic to protect the human population from a large assembly of evils, demons, monsters, aliens, etc. Except the official story conceals a dark secret.

Eddie Drood does what the family asks of him. Being independent, he isn’t satisfied living under the roof and rules of the family matriarch, so he works among the normal humans, fighting the family’s fight. Until he is sent on a mission, doomed to fail, and is declared rogue by the matriarch with a kill-on-sight order. Most of the book is his story of trying to find out why this happened.

The book is full of odd and fun characters, each is a creative creation with an interesting story. There is also a large array of odd artifacts, each also creative and unusual.

The author almost gets in the way of the story. He enjoys setting up a situation, and then adding a one-liner to build its opposite. This happens in the characters’ stories, in idioms, settings, all too much. Some of them are very good, which keeps them from getting entirely stale, it is just part of his sense of humor.

The book has several allusions to James Bond. Eddie operates under the moniker Edwin Bond, and has an uncle James Drood with a history that sounds like James. This character sets a high-mark for establishing Edwin as a major operative.

The beginning of the book was a bit difficult to get through. As the author set the scene, he set up Edwin Drood as a masterful and powerful agent with a powerful tool. It felt like Deus-ex-Machina as he pulled new skills out to defeat opponents. But this was all stage setting to familiarize the reader with his abilities. The book definitely improves.

Toward the end of the book, it became a page-turner for me. The situations were exciting. However, I was quite disappointed in the ending, in which an entirely misunderstood plot element suddenly just solved all the problems. Oddly, it didn’t feel like it ruined the book. The story was good enough to carry the novel, the humor was good, and it was interesting. I will make time to read the second novel.

Batman: Gothic by Grant Morrison

Filed under:Fantasy — posted by Randolph on January 3, 2016 @ 5:03 pm

Batman: Gothic
by Grant Morrison

This is a rather dark Batman tale with the expected gothic overtones. The artwork by Klaus Janson does reflect the spirit well, but the story does not. The characters are a bit flat and the story a bit predictable.

Although certain liberties are acceptable with superhero stories, this story delves too far into the supernatural and feels out of place with the Batman cannon. It was not a satisfying read.

X-Men and Philosophy by William Irwin & Rebecca Housel

Filed under:Fantasy,Philosophy — posted by Randolph on October 21, 2015 @ 5:13 pm

X-Men and Philosophy by William Irwin & Rebecca Housel

Another book in the Blackwell Philosophy and pop Culture Series focusing on the X-Men. This book uses the X-Men comics and movies to introduce several philosophical concepts. Different authors touch on topics such as the meaning of being a person or mutant and what we can know about mutants – an idea that easily extrapolates to classes or cultures. Others touch on morality, identity, women’s issues, synthetic biology, among others.

Authors will help you see Magneto’s point of view, and why Magneto and Xavier can maintain a strong friendship in spite of significant philosophical differences. What is the human role, and what is the meaning of race.

As usual, I’ve found all of these books easy to read and interesting. They each introduce philosophical concepts using icons of pop culture making them easy-to understand and to remember.

In general, I thought this book had better philosophy than others, I found it more interesting. A couple of authors seemed to talk more about the X-Men than of philosophy, but they were interesting to read as well.

Sailing to Sarantium by Guy Gavriel Kay

Filed under:Fantasy,Series — posted by Randolph on September 8, 2015 @ 8:08 am

Sailing to Sarantium by Guy Gavriel Kay

The book is set in a fantasy-world equivalent of Byzantium. The title refers to going to Sarantium in order to find opportunity or the cost of failure in not standing up to that opportunity.

The protagonist is a mosaicist who goes to Sarantium in place of his master to build a mosaic for the King. There is some courtly intrigue and it has interesting and well-developed characters.

I’m not sure why it’s set in a fantasy setting, as the fantastic elements seems of negligible importance and could have been achieved by other means. It could easily have been set in Rome or Byzantium, among other ancient cultures.

The book got off to a slow start, but became much more interesting when the protagonist reached Sarantium.

Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett

Filed under:Fantasy,Humor — posted by Randolph on May 2, 2015 @ 8:54 am

Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett

It’s the end of the world, and things aren’t quite going as planned. The antichrist has been born into the world, unfortunately there was this mixup at the hospital. He is raised as a middle-class human only becoming aware of his powers.

The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, you know, War, Death, Famine, and Pollution. Their horses have become motorcycles, and they arrive with the intent of starting a nuclear war.

Now, Aziraphale, an angel, and Crowley, a demon, aren’t happy with the end of the world. After 6000 years, they’ve grown accustom to it. So they team up to try and change the outcome.

Pratchett and Gaiman have teamed up to bring an excellent and unlikely story of the end of time. There are a lot of interesting character that help carry the book in various directions.

A fan of either author will enjoy this book. It is funny, light, and a fairly quick read.


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image: detail of installation by Bronwyn Lace