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.

Dracula by Bram Stoker

Filed under:Fantasy — posted by Randolph on April 19, 2015 @ 7:36 pm

Dracula by Bram Stoker

Dracula is well known, I found some of the differences between movies, common myth, and the book of interest. He isn’t quite as fearsome in this version. I think a lot of the issue is the dating of the book. A lot of what Bram Stoker does serves to reduce the horror. An example is the early introduction by watching him scale a castle. His behavior wasn’t consistent with his abilities.

Next is the structure of the book. It is told as a series of diary entries with the addition of a few letters. These come from several people, yet they are all told in the same voice with similar types of content and style. Each person has recorded dialog verbatim, even to the point of the awkward working and spelling of people of different cultures and backgrounds. It felt very unnatural.

Abraham Van Helsing seemed over the top. He has all the answers, he’s encountered vampires before, but his background isn’t adequately explained. He is overly secretive for a matter as grave as this, and parcels out information only sparingly.

The story, itself, could be brought up-to-date. For instance, instead of starting in Romania, I would have started in England with the arrival of the boat whose crew was dead. It could have started by taking the form of an investigation. There were some interesting events early in the book, intrigue around Harker’s apparent imprisonment, his interaction with the other vampires. This could be updated by introducing another victim, probably replacing Harker, and another plot thread in England.

Overall, the book fell short of my expectations. I felt no horror, and felt that Dracula didn’t present himself well. Coupled with the overburdened dialog of the stereotypical Victorian dialog made it slow at times and difficult to accept when belittling women or other minorities. The climax came a bit suddenly and was too abrupt. A rewrite could do wonders for the book, it is a good story.

A Lion Among Men by Gregory Maguire

Filed under:Fantasy — posted by Randolph on December 1, 2014 @ 9:44 pm

A Lion Among Men by Gregory Maguire

Although Gregory Maguire has written interesting stories around Oz, this isn’t one of them. The cowardly lion seems to have some potential, but it just isn’t met. He wanders through the story passively reacting to everything around him and not learning from his experiences. The author seems to recognize this shortcoming and suggests some growth in the last chapter, but it was too little and too late to save the story.

Much of the story is spent exchanging stories with Mother Yackle, who is a much more interesting character than Sir Brrr, the Cowardly Lion. He was doing some investigation for the wizard, and spends much of the book with her, recanting his stories in exchange for information.

The first two books in the series are worth reading, but stop there.

American Gods by Neil Gaiman

Filed under:Fantasy — posted by Randolph on August 24, 2014 @ 7:33 pm

American Gods by Neil Gaiman

What if gods walked the Earth as they did in ancient tales? Neil Gaiman answers that question in his own way, this story assumes that all gods from all pantheons are real, but not quite in the way you might expect. They have their abilities, and we discover some weaknesses.

The book starts off slowly, as the protagonist, Shadow, seems to flow randomly from event to event and place to place. Wednesday seems to be guiding the story, but the reader gets very little information about what’s going on, except that a war is looming.

There are a number of sex scenes early in the book that feel extraneous, and a bit over the top. I think the book would have been better without them.

There are a lot of dream sequences that seemed important. Some of the symbolism seemed to indicate changes in Shadow’s life. Many of the dreams just felt random.

The writing is good, it holds your attention. The second half of the book definitely picks up as you begin to understand what is happening. If the whole book were like the second half, I would recommend it, as it is, it is good, but difficult to get through in the beginning.

Blood of Wolves by Loren Coleman

Filed under:Fantasy,Series — posted by Randolph on May 18, 2014 @ 8:00 pm

Blood of Wolves by Loren Coleman

Set in Cimmeria and closely following the setting established by Robert Howard in his Conan series, Loren had created a new Cimmerian hero, Kern who sets out to defend Cimmeria from invasion. He gathers several followers in his quest as he chases a small group holding prisoners.

Loren set out to create a character similar to Conan, this book did not feel that much like the original series. Conan was mostly a loner, occasionally gathering one or two friends for an adventure. Kern feels more like a leader of groups. His followers are more like members of his clan than his close friends. To me, that is a big difference.

The setting does feel like Conan’s world. Conan is still alive, King of Aquilonia, and the characters frequently talk of his exploits. Even to the point of exaggerating their own adventures and retelling them as if performed by Conan. I found this fun.

The book has a lot of battles, described in moderate detail. It includes the supernatural and giants. Very much in the style of Howard.

The book was enjoyable, maybe I was expecting too much. Perhaps it if actually was Conan, I would have liked it more. I think Kern will grow on me. If you like the individual adventurer style of sword and sorcery, you should enjoy this book.

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image: detail of installation by Bronwyn Lace