Anansi Boys by Neal Gaiman

Filed under:Fantasy — posted by Randolph on July 14, 2022 @ 3:47 pm

This book is billed as a sequel to American Gods but bears little resemblance to the former other than the theme that gods walk on Earth among men.

This is the story of Charlie Nancy, Fat Charlie, who dislikes his father whom he regards as extravagant and irresponsible. Nancy is getting married, his fiancé wants him to invite his father to the wedding. This precipitates a road of discovery into his own past and his family, including an unknown brother.

Charlie’s and his brother have an unusual relationship, uncomfortable, maybe untrusting, but grows as they are thrust together.

Charlie is a rather weak character, both literary and his personal character. Not particularly likable, but his growth through the book changes him greatly.

The writing is above average and is engaging. And the book is funny. There are only a few primary characters, interesting and mysterious, and Charlie meets a number of peculiar characters in his journey.

Secondhand Spirits by Juliet Blackwell

Filed under:Fantasy — posted by Randolph on July 14, 2021 @ 4:58 pm

I was looking for a quick read and this caught my eye. It’s about a witch, Lily Ivory, who moves to San Francisco, partially to escape her life as a witch, and opens a vintage clothing store. Lily begins an investigation into a missing girl, which relates to some paranormal events.

The book is billed as a mystery. Although there really is no mystery involved. Lily knows the details pretty much from the onset, I think it’s more of a Fantasy/Adventure with a lot of humor thrown in. Lily is constantly encountering odd characters with even more peculiar traits, each bringing a surprise turn to events.

One, Brownwin, is a wikkan, becomes her business partner and provides an impetus to maintain her witchly ways. Another encounter involves a warlock who tricks her into taking a creature off his hands that becomes her familiar.

The characters are fun, even if a bit flat. The story is fairly dynamic and often funny. I might try another in the series, I was hoping for more of a mystery.

Transformation by Carol Berg

Filed under:Fantasy,Series — posted by Randolph on April 9, 2020 @ 1:48 pm

Transformation is a fantasy novel about the relationship between a contemptuous and overbearing prince, Aleksander, on his way to becoming emperor, and his slave, Seyonne. The story is told from the Seyonne’s point of view.

Carol slowly builds the character of Seyonne. At the start of the book, he lives solely in the present, his past repressed or forgotten, the future irrelevant. It becomes apparent that he has some special abilities to recognize or see things others cannot. His magic was taken from him in a ritual when he was captured. He had been a Warden, a man with some magical abilities skilled at fighting demons.

The early story of the slave is very graphic and, for me, difficult to read. It deals with punishment, his attitude on survival and his slave past. At the same time, Aleksander sees him only as property and a tool. He things nothing of withholding food or punishing Seyonne.

Once he starts seeing things, his tie to Aleksander become stronger and their relationship really starts to develop. At this point I found the book quite compelling and easy to read.

The characters are very interesting and the story is well-told. Carol Berg has created an interesting world with full cultures that interact with the characters to help make this a fascinating story.

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 notes about the symbology that I had been 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.


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image: detail of installation by Bronwyn Lace