Author Archives: Chris

Powers: Z

Considering how close I am to the end of the published Powers series, you would think I would not have gone three and a half years since the last one I read. That’s just weird. Even more contrary to expectations (well, mine at least), that gap is not the problem I had with the book.

Powers: Z is… well, okay, they’re all about murders. But this is about the murder of the guy who killed Hitler at the end of World War II. Who you would think would be popular enough to have been mentioned by now, especially since apparently our immortal main character used to hang out with Z during and after the war. But okay, comics retcon all the time, and that would not have caused me to blink if the rest hadn’t been so confusing. Which I cannot really explain without massive spoilers, and I’ll just respond if someone asks instead of assuming they’re needed.

But my problems, at broad strokes, included a) my occasional inability to distinguish between the present and flashbacks to the 1950s, b) caused in part (probably) by those flashbacks not actually being very important from either a plot or (worse) a character development perspective. Other than the basic “look, these guys were mobsters in the 1950s, and the people in the modern day plot are also mobsters” parallelism, there just really wasn’t anything there. Finally, c) the fifth issue in the book ended with some really big dangling plot threads, whereupon the sixth issue covered a completely new murder with no apparent tie to or resolution of the prior story, all for the sake of a last second character-driven cliffhanger. Which I sound negative about, but I would not if I hadn’t ended up feeling so much like I didn’t get a complete story in the service of said cliffhanger that I actually spent some research time seeing if there was a missing issue or a misprint of my book or something. As far as I can tell: there was not.

But all the Amazon reviews of the book are very positive, so maybe it’s just me regardless? I have no idea.

The Expectant Father: The Ultimate Guide for Dads-to-Be, part one

There are two things working against me here. 1) I am not used to reviewing reference books, and 2) I’ve been reading The Expectant Father slowly because the chapters are divided by months, and I’m trying to not read the whole thing in a row so I have a better idea of what to understand in the moment, instead of all at once and then I forget things by the time they’re relevant. As such, I’m only about four chapters in and have something like two-thirds of the book to go, since there is a big delivery room chapter. So this is at least part of why the review is split into two pieces.

Anyway: I do not know how valuable of a resource it is in terms of actual learning / time-specific knowledge. I think it’s probably closer to good than bad along that axis? It spends time talking about how things are for the interloper, how things are for the host, and how things are for me, and man, who knows if any of it is actually right, is my point. But it’s probably good, is my other point.

What it is definitely good at is making me feel like I have a handle on things. Which is, y’know, shockingly important! Or probably not especially shocking, in retrospect. Hopefully it proceeds along the same continuum as I continue to read it. All will be revealed in the second part of the review.

Summer Knight revisited

I am shocked to see that we finished listening to the last Dresden Files book less than six month ago. It really seems much longer ago. Which means that yay, still accomplishing something here. Anyway: as usual, the first and most important part of Summer Knight is timeline placement. This occurs in June (midsummer, really) of year 2, a good eight months after Grave Peril.[1]

Huh. I just realized why it seems so long: we didn’t really spend any time listening to the book between the August road trip and today. As a result, I do not have a ton of deep insights into the plot of the book, or the way things are going with the series. I do know that a) Marsters is still a good narrator, even if he keeps randomly not knowing some of the technical language of fantasy, and b) Butcher has definitely hit his stride.

Here’s a little behind a cut, mainly because my footnote definitely has a spoiler, so I need to anyway.

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Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker

This will be a long one. It will definitely contain a bunch of spoilers, but not for a while and not without notice. Also below a cut, but that’s only so useful unless you’re on the front page of my site, and nobody but me ever is.

Anyway, as you may be aware, there was a final Star War that released about a week ago. I’ve seen it twice, not on purpose. After we already had the Friday morning tickets, a Saturday evening show was demanded, so I had both showings scheduled before I had seen it once. Luckily, and apparently unpopularly, I liked it well enough to not be unhappy about a twice.

The key to not hating the movie is not looking for a sequel to The Last Jedi. I know that sounds nonsensical, but it isn’t. The thing is, these are trilogies. Return of the Jedi (which I can annoyingly no longer shorthand as Jedi) was a sequel to Empire (which I can still shorthand as I please) only in that Empire ended on a cliffhanger about the fate of Han Solo. Really, it was a sequel to the entire trilogy. More, Revenge of the Sith was a sequel to that entire trilogy, not to the second movie. More still, Return of the Jedi was retroactively a conclusion to the entire series to date, all six movies. Likewise, The Rise of Skywalker (however dumb of a name it is, second only I think to Attack of the Clones on the bad title scale) is a conclusion to the entire nine movie sequence. It’s also a conclusion, more or less, to the third trilogy, but that’s definitely secondary. My point here is that it’s fulfilling a different purpose than people seem to want it to have fulfilled; it’s tying everything that has gone before together. And I really think it does this well, on the whole.

And okay, I think that’s as far as I can go without lots and lots of spoilers.

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Fool’s Errand

My Hobbsian (and let’s be honest, to a very real extent Hobbesian) journey continues, with the first book of the Tawny Man trilogy. Fool’s Errand, in addition to being a thoroughly apt title, is a surprisingly focused book. We’ve returned to Fitz’s quiet, retired life (one cottage, one wolf, one teenaged ward, one sporadic booty call), and the Fool has returned from wherever the Fool has been[1], and catching up on the last 15 years of not much happening[2] takes up the first third of the book. Then, the remaining thirds are taken up by, well, you know Fitz was going to get re-involved in the Farseer family and the fate of the Six-or-Seven Duchies, or else how do you even have a new trilogy starring him? But all of the above covers maybe three weeks. Like I said: focused.

So, there’s this one small errand to be undertaken, and if it’s going to cost Fitz everything, that’s pretty much how these things go. Details would go to the heart of what the book and the trilogy are likely to be about, so I’ll stay out of them, but I’m not sure how long it’s been since I’ve been pounded so hard over the head by a book, regarding a single unifying theme; in this case, letting go.

The thing that surprised me the most is that I never felt the sense of personal misery from the first trilogy, nor of societal misery from the second. This was mostly a straight adventure story, albeit shot through with threads of quiet, persistent melancholy. But what I’m saying is, melancholy is so much nicer than misery.

Anyway, I’ll keep reading these quickly, because I’m coming close to needing to finish out the Malazan books, and I don’t want that big of a gap interrupting this story, in which I am already heavily invested.

[1] I mean, it’s pretty clear where, but spoilers. And I reserve the faintest sliver of doubt, based on notions of the other prophet and catalyst on the other side of the Red Ship Wars not being a mislead, but instead a clue. But it’s a very fine sliver indeed.
[2] Or a well-documented trilogy happening, depending upon where you fall in your beliefs about the books

Knives Out (2019)

As you cannot in any way ascertain from my shoddily maintained review site, it’s been a little while since I saw any movies, and so when Thanksgiving and its multiple days off and/or light work load came along, it thusly became movie time. Of course, that’s been nearly a week, so I can not remember what other movies were in contention anymore, only that what we actually saw was Knives Out, a (per the previews) rollicking mid-century Agatha Christie style whodunnit country house murder mystery.

And, okay, except for the part where it’s a modern setting instead (which means, alas, no butler), the previews run to the accurate. Which is nice, in that a) they looked pretty great, which of course explains how I got here, but also b) there was not the slightest sliver of a clue about the eventual outcome. The premise is basic enough: rich old mystery novelist turns up dead after the night of his 85th birthday party, and either everyone or no one is a suspect, with no one taking an early lead because of how he appears to have cut his own throat.

Obviously, I can say no more about the plot, but I can say a fair bit more about the movie, which is mostly this: you can tell that everyone involved had an incredibly good time. Most especially Daniel Craig playing against type as a consulting detective whose biggest action scene is a jog through the woods, and Chris Evans playing against type as an entitled asshole whose negative qualities are thoroughly masked by being hilariously above the rest of his equally entitled family. If I find a way to phrase that better I will, but I’m not holding my breath. “We’re all entitled assholes here, but the fact that you think none of you are and it’s really only me makes you, in some ways, worse, and in all ways worthy of my scorn-filled sarcasm.”

Yeah, that’s only barely better, and it needed the first part to make even as much sense as it does. Long story short: he is A++ at being the polar opposite of Steve Rogers, and I can dig it.

And anyway, those are just the two I chose to mention. I could go on, but there’s no point. Just go see it, unless you hate the genre, because it does not surpass genre at all. It might just have brought the comedic side of the genre to its peak, though.

Zombieland: Double Tap

I think this is the worst I’ve ever done. I’m over 90% sure I haven’t missed any reviews and this is the only old one, but damn. Did I read a book and later forget? Probably not, since I take my Hobb slowly, and because of the standard refrain of busy busy work towne, not to mention a board game convention and other various life distractions. Then again… uh-oh, I’d better check the Deathlands stuff. I think that was only while camping and has already been addressed.[1]

But seriously. This is awful. I also have not been updating Librarything with my possessions for like the past year maybe, and okay I actually haven’t purchased much either, but still, that is also a huge problem. I wish I could see an end in sight to this situation, but…

Also, though, at some point probably in October maybe, I saw a movie. Which was the ten years later sequel to Zombieland. And that ten years is definitely a thing. It is completely fair to say that Double Tap is an unnecessary sequel, and I went in with appropriately low expectations. Which is nice, because while it was unnecessary, it wasn’t unwelcome. It’s a zombie comedy meditation on the idea that your chosen family can require just as much work as your real family, and that putting in the effort can be worth it.

Of course, that’s an easier sell when the world’s population has plummeted and whatever family you’re holding onto or pushing away may be the last chance you have at it, but extremity, like wine, is a place where truth lives.

Also, it was still pretty funny.

[1] Update: oh good, that’s the previous review. But now I’m mildly wondering if I read a graphic novel in between. I’m… pretty sure not?
[2] I honestly don’t know whether that’s a good thing. Never saw it.
[3] That, on the other hand, is definitely a good thing, and explains Rosario Dawson’s character entirely, start to finish, soup to nuts. Which is totally a real thing that people have ever said.

Crossways

As usual, a weekend in the woods means another Deathlands book[1]. I don’t have a lot to say about it, because it was extremely transitional. Also because reviewing these is starting to feel a little like reviewing individual issues of comics? I think the latter is more true because this one was transitional. Like, when you have a really good four to six issue Spider-Man or Avengers run, and they’ve set up hints about what will happen next that’s big, but in between there are a couple of episodic villain of the week bits, with maybe two panels each dedicated to “no really, the next story is about to happen”? This is that but in book form.

And don’t get me wrong, the aggregate story is not hurt in the least by the transition, but there’s not a lot to say about it, nevertheless.

They’re still teleporting around, there are still dropped hints about teleporting Samurai too, plus a cast change and the first seeds of the big story that will follow whatever resolution occurs with the Japanese teleporters. Also: Crossways has enough dining establishments in a row to make me realize I can’t really wrap my head around either the economy or the distribution chains that would make some of the dishes they are making on the regular possible.

This last bit makes me sad, because I don’t want to accidentally ruin the series thirty books in by overthinking whether the world is plausible.

[1] Except I didn’t actually read a lot, and then took the rest of the month to finish. At least I am reading, unlike in August.

Fairest: The Hidden Kingdom

I’m going to start in a couple of weird places. First, a word about Amazon. I understand that it has turned into something of a flea market, like, from an observational perspective. This doesn’t bother me because I can mostly tell what I’m buying and what I’m not. I hear people talk about counterfeits, and I believe it, but I’m either okay at this or lucky, and either way, yay. I bring this up because I just saw something unpleasant while preparing for this review. The link I found for The Hidden Kingdom indicates that it’s not Prime eligible and is being sold by a third party vendor, which is fine as far as it goes, except that it also shows the notification that I bought it from this link in 2013. When it definitely was Prime eligible and being sold directly by Amazon. Is that as messed up as I think it is? It seems deeply troubling. But where else am I going to buy, well, everything except food?

Then, a word about covers. I’m not a stranger to covers of comics collections that I read being only adjacent to work safe, and it’s not especially difficult to work around it. If I happen to have time for a reading break, it’s easy to read with the cover concealed, and when I do not I can just flip it over. So I’m a little annoyed that this book shows a different issue cover on the back side, which has an equivalent amount of Rapunzel nudity, only this time a kitsune is making out with her. Not a big help guys! And then, worse: the issues in this series were both written and penciled/inked by women, but the covers of the issues… you guessed it. Brotown. (The one to-be-fair is that the kitsune makeout scene cover is basically lifted straight out of the issue in question, but that doesn’t really alleviate much of my logistical or sexist concern. I don’t like being put in the position of having to come out against nudity in art, but, damn.)

Okay. That was a lot of words about not the book I’m reading. Cool. Moving on.

And then haha I didn’t move on, I did something else and later forgot I never finished the review, and now a month has passed. Super cool.

So, uh… there’s Rapunzel, right? And she’s on a quest to revisit her past between her early days as the adopted daughter of Frau Totenkinder[1] and her current days as a refugee in Fabletown[2], insofar as a) she wants to find her missing child that has been lost to her since its birth and b) she has been summoned by the past anyway, to Japan where the Japanese-style fables implausibly ended up while fleeing the expansionist emperor guy who used to be the bad guy of the series. Because that’s a lot of where she spent her time between child loss and fleeing the empire thing. Was in the land of Japanese fables. Before they went to Japan.

I am nailing this.

Then there’s also a one-shot wherein a tree lady dates a fox. With unexpectedly ominous hints about the future!

[1] Somehow, it never crossed my mind before to look up what the “toten” part of Totenkinder means in German. That’s awesome.
[2] This is a flashback, set some years before the series opened back in Fables #1.

The Institute

It’s nice to have read a book within a reasonable timetable for a change. I mean, sure, The Institute came out nearly a month ago, but I’ve only been reading for a week or two. (I think?) Since I’ve been taking a lot longer than that lately and for shorter books to boot, I’ll gladly accept the win.

My last impression is one of sadness. Because, okay, anyone can just be walking down the street and get plowed into by a bus van, and bam, lights out. That is the way of the world. But this is the first time I’ve seen an author photo of Stephen King and thought that he looked old. Which means there’s a time limit outside the confines of happenstance.

If I were terribly clever, I would now tie in the plot or theme(s) of the book into this sense of impending loss. And okay, maybe I could at that[3], but I don’t want to get too deep into spoiler territory. So, instead, let’s start over.

My first impression of the book was… well, okay, it has a pretty confusing intro. I say confusing because it has nothing whatsoever to do with the visible plot of the book, as judged by the cover. And, in retrospect, this is 100% awkward. I don’t mind, because I will give the man a lot of leeway, but if you are really interested in the structure of writing, yeah, I cannot say this is a stand-out entry.

My middle impression of the book was extremely favorable! See, there’s the hyper smart kid, one of those people who is a supernova in a world of candles and light bulbs, right? I’ve met one or two of them, and while I don’t consider myself a dope, I’m smart enough to know the difference between me and someone like that.[1] And via a few dozen pages of plot events occurring, he finds himself in a prison for children who have certain small talents.

Everything else follows from here. Why was he taken? What do they want? What can he do about it? Everyone wants to compare this book to It, because the main characters are mostly children, and… I mean, that’s a true point of overlap between the books, but man are they nothing alike. And almost none of the things I love about that book are present here either. Some of the kids are outsider types, but some are not, and it is certainly not the meat of their friendships. There’s no sense of the sweep of a dark and disturbing history[2], no slice of small town life through a lens as warped as conservative ideology paints our mid-century past, only warped in the opposite direction. In all the ways that make that book matter, they’re nothing alike.

Which is not to say I did not like The Institute. It’s a lovely adventure story with characters I cared about. But it’s a fun book, not a great book. Which is okay! It’s just irritating to compare the books on the basis of “kids vs evil”.

Long story short: I hate writing reaction reviews, and I’m sorry that either of us had to sit through this one.

[1] Also, happily, it means I don’t have to dwell on how King didn’t write him nearly intelligently enough, what with the twin excuses of how would I know the difference past a certain point, and that, supernova or not, he’s still twelve.
[2] Although if the book were twice its length perhaps there could have been. This is not a thing I can recommend, though.
[3] Anyway, after further consideration, the thing I was thinking of doesn’t even really work.