Author Archives: Chris

Cinderella: Fables Are Forever

The first problem is, I don’t really remember what happened in the last Cinderella book. And, now that I’ve read my review, I understand why.

So, here’s the deal. Cinderella is a spy, the kind of actual spy who her own people don’t know is a spy unless they’re her bosses, because need to know and actual effectiveness and all that. What she is not, I suppose by virtue of being under the purview of a different author, is the kind of character who is allowed to make lasting impressions on the main plots of the Fables series from the safety of her side books.

Therefore, if you like Cindy as a spy character on her own merits (and I have decided that I do), these books[1] are fun, if ultimately meaningless, fluff. (With occasional clever visual cues that riff off the not as clever title cues that these are James Bond inspired.) If you do not, they are thusfar devoid of any content that you will feel bad about missing. Which is a pity, but only because I do like her on her own merits.

[1] In Fables Are Forever, her historical and modern competition (spy vs. spy style) with Dorothy Gale is revealed and explored in what I think is fair to say is a surprising degree of detail.[2]
[2] Actual review in the footnotes. This is a new low.
[3] Willingham is only here because they reprinted issue 51 of Fables in the collection, which it seems was Cindy’s first spy appearance, and which I seem to have mentioned at the time? (Or at least near the time.) So that’s cool.

The Unwritten: Orpheus in the Underworlds

A common thread among the past several volumes of The Unwritten that I’ve read is this: I start off wondering if I’ve ever actually read the series before[1], and then over the course of the book things seem more familiar, and by the time I finish the book and look over my recent previous reviews, everything is more or less back in focus.

You would think, therefore, that I could learn a damn lesson and get myself caught up, so as to no longer have this problem. (Or, for all I know, it has wrapped up by now?) But you would be wrong, for a reason that is actually not my fault. It turns out, here at the end of Orpheus in the Underworlds, that they have 100% unexpectedly set up a crossover with Fables. And the last Fables I read was published about two years earlier than the next Unwritten. So, um. Oops.

Who knew?

Aside from that little problem, this was a perfectly cromulent book. The fallout of events from a couple of books ago continues to be explored, from settings as diverse as the underworld[2] and a pre-teen’s badly spelled zombie fiction written on lined notebook paper. Multiple characters I did not expect to see again have reared their heads, but I think my favorite is the page or three of Eliza Bennet, lately fallen on rather hard times and willing to do most anything to survive.

It’s a pity nobody else has read these. Mike Carey is pretty great!

[1] Obviously I know I have, which helps me proceed to the subsequent steps, but it’s very disorienting, the dichotomy between what I know and what appears to be in front of me.
[2] I bet you didn’t see that coming!

Crucible

Crucible is the last book in the collapsed timeline that is Star Wars Legends. Chronologically, I mean. More have been written for earlier periods, and there are comics set like a hundred years later. But as far as actual books, it’s the one furthest out from Endor.

I have to wonder if they knew it was the last one, if not when it was being written, then by the time it was nearly finished / in early publication. There are definitely ways in which it feels like a coda on the series. Which could easily have been meant as a transition to what comes next, but I have a hard time believing that that particular book farm would have been willing to plow under the fields of these particular characters. (I’m trying to be vague because of spoilers, which seems silly for a number of reasons.)

Anyway, there’s this unchartable nebula or asteroid field or whatever[1] in which Lando has some mining interests, and there have been problems with pirates, so Han and Leia are visiting to be helpful, but once they arrive it turns out there’s a galactic scale financial scheme to unravel, not to mention some weird Force stuff going on, tied into (I swear I’m not making this up) some kind of Quest that the Jedi have been on since… well, I don’t know when? It feels like I would remember something as Grail sounding as this was, but I entirely do not. But I capitalized quest because Luke and the council had sent out ten Quest Knights to find whatever it is they were trying to find. So I guess it’s a big deal? Something to do with Abeloth and the big Sith war from the previous nine book series? Whatever.

None of that foreshadowing of future events is particularly important, because of how the series is now over. I just found it interesting in a slightly disbelieving kind of way. ANYWAY.

The sad thing is: I didn’t really care for the book. The plot was fine, although the bad guys were painted a little too dire to be handled in a single book (as opposed to a trilogy, minimum). But Luke and Leia were way too confrontational and even at times bloodthirsty, and nevermind everyone’s cavalier attitudes toward droids as sentient beings. It felt off, in a way that these have usually not done for me. Some of that may be thanks to Zeynep and Will of Force Visions (see delirium’s front page sidebar, if I have remembered to / remembered how to update my links, which I think I have), but I like to think it would have smelled wrong even if they had not started their incredibly in depth Legends project.

[1] I know this sounds like I’m being lazy, but it’s not me.

Fables: Super Team

I’ve said it before about other series for sure (and probably this one for that matter), and I’m certain I’ll say it again: once you’re to Volume 16 of a series (not to mention its spin off from beginning to end), it is hard to say a damn thing without just an incredible number of spoilers. Enough so to make me wonder why I keep reviewing late volumes like this.

Super Team chronicles Pinocchio’s efforts to beat the Fables’ latest big bad, Mister Dark, by emulating the comic books he has adored for lo these many decades of exile in New York City. See, if he puts together the perfect group of fables with the perfectly complementary powers, Avengers (let’s say) style, then they are guaranteed to win! Right?[1]

I will say these things about all that.

1) The book was perfectly fine, and I continue to like the series overall. (Unlike Jack of Fables, which I liked occasionally at best, and far less after the first plot with the literals ended.)
2) The one shots at the beginning and end of the main story were both better than the main story.
3) I think that’s because the ending was not effective. Like, I could see what he was going for, and it should have worked, but it was all so abrupt that it didn’t.

[1] Shades of Pratchett and million to one shots, methinks.

Ant-Man and the Wasp

If I think about Ant-Man and the Wasp outside the context of the comics in general and the Marvel Cinematic Universe in particular, it is an anodyne, albeit fun, heist movie sequel, which I have no idea if I would have bothered to watch. But there’s something to be said for a summer popcorn chase movie, and even if there weren’t, I do not think about these things outside their context very often. (Also, most heist / chase movies are not able to use a building[1] as the constantly stolen and restolen object, so that’s pretty cool. Thanks, Pym Particles!)

As a Marvel movie, it’s, yknow, also an anodyne heist movie. Better than Ant-Man, both in how it treated its heroes and its villains[2]. Solidly middle of the pack as a Marvel movie overall, and considering that I like these pretty well as a collective, middle of the pack is good news for me!

Also? Best blanket fort of all time. Including the one in Community.

[1] I’ve just realized that the internal physics of this pair of movies are irretrievably broken.
[2] While I’m not exactly classifying Hank Pym as a villain here, I do appreciate how his jerkish, just barely this side of bad guy, behavior actually ends up having consequences. (Though I could wish fewer of them were to his shrunk out of existence wife.)

Trader Redux

Because Mary is way behind me, it’s too soon to start the next Liveship book. And because Road Wars ended on a cliffhanger of sorts, I figured, hey, why not read the next Deathlands. This has done me no good whatsoever, because Trader Redux ended on a bigger cliffhanger than the last one did[1], and Mary has caught up maybe a chapter in the meantime[2].

So anyway. This one was better, with timelines significantly more in whack. The old guy from the 1890s who’s been tossed around via time travel went off to find himself, and the main character guy goes whitewater rafting[3] into the barrel end of a shotgun wedding, so there’s plenty enough going on. But the main point of the book, how will our heroes react to regaining their upon a time leader?

I would call that aspect of things “incomplete”. Which is part of why this one ended on a bigger cliffhanger than the last one. Even if it is the smallest part.

[1] Okay, yes, they all end in cliffhangers technically. But usually the cliffhanger is “where did we teleport to this time, it sure looks dangerous”, and whatever, that’s status quo. Cliffhangers along the lines of “how will the meeting with my old boss who I used to love back when I wasn’t a leader myself, but now not only have I changed, it looks like he has too” and “uh-oh, all my friends have vanished, probably because the house they were hanging out in has more radiation than you can shake a pointed stick at” are qualitatively different.
[2] She’s reading plenty of manga in the original Japanese, so it’s not like she’s a slacker. Just not doing me any good. In, uh, this particular regard.
[3] I think down the Snake River Canyon, although it’s not entirely clear. It is 100% not the Grand Canyon, despite what the more spoilery than anything I’ve said here (and that’s impressive) cover copy claims.

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

The first thing I did upon preparing for this review was to look up my review of Jurassic World. Thankfully, it came with correct opinions already firmly in place: the treatment of the female lead was abysmal, the children were badly tacked on, the dinosaurs and action disaster portions were exactly what I wanted them to be. So, it was a flawed film that I can understand would have been far worse to people who were unconcerned by the primary focus.

Therefore, I have pretty good news! The recent new sequel, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, has the same strengths and virtually none of the flaws of its predecessor. We pick up with the same two lead characters three years later, deciding what to do as the world learns that Isla Nubar[1]’s volcano is no longer dormant, and all the dinosaurs are about to go extinct, y’know, again. I’m not going to pretend there’s much tension as to their decision, but having established that some people are going to an exploding island to rescue some dinosaurs from oblivion, I’ll leave the plot at that instead of delving into any details of the remaining acts[2].

But so my point is, none of the old flaws. That’s awesome! I’m not claiming it’s a Bechdel ready film (although it honestly might be), but it doesn’t kick feminism in the crotch like last time. The kid is not annoying, and furthermore is actively relevant. (Spoiler: there’s a kid.) A thing I don’t know but wish I did is whether any of the previous sequels captured the same sense of wonder as those original herds of dinosaurs in the very first movie did for teenage me. Like, maybe they did not, but maybe they did and I just forgot because it was not the first time anymore? Which means maybe I’ll forget this too, but I had some sense of wonder, at least by proxy, when the paleo-veterinarian encountered her first dinosaur in the flesh. (Second spoiler: there’s a paleo-veterinarian.[3])

Which is, ultimately, the other really good thing about this movie besides that it fixed its progenitor’s flaws: Fallen Kingdom has an emotional core, around the literal fact of dinosaurs dying and dying out. Not only did I care about some of the characters, I absolutely cared about the dinosaurs. (Not just the one with a name.) I’m sad if this movie isn’t doing well, because it deserves to be.

Even if Jeff Goldblum was badly tacked on. (Third spoiler: Jeff Goldblum was badly tacked on.)

[1] the island off Costa Rica where the park(s) used to be, before things(es) went wrong
[2] …which is more than I can say for the trailers. I really hate movie trailers.
[3] I’m not thinking very hard about how you get that doctorate / degree sans practical application training. I’m also judging you if you are thinking about it very hard.

House of Chains revisited

It is hard to believe that when I read House of Chains, I was so far ahead of the curve that Tor had only published the first book in the series so far, and I was still buying Orbit copies, usually from amazon.co.uk. And yet now, thirteen years later, I still haven’t finished the series yet. On the bright side, that’s what this is all about, innit?

Since I have read this one, yep, audiobook. And they changed performers! I’m extremely torn here. Unlike what the reviewers on Audible’s House of Chains page will tell you, Michael Page is not terrible. He’s not quite as good as Ralph Lister from a range perspective, but at least he pauses for half a second between point of view character breaks in the text, instead of reading onward like an automaton regardless of the tonal / plot differences that should be apparent right then, not 30 seconds later when I finally figure out what just happened. On the downside, Lister pronounced everything exactly the way I always have, whereas Page is wonky on some of the names (which could be a difference of opinion) and on some of the terms (which 100% could not be; Soletaken is not pronounced sole-uh-tawk-en, and I will die on that hill). It’s an unfortunate trade-off, even though I think I like the pacing correction more than I dislike the other bits.

Spoilers from here on, I reckon, since this is after all a reread. Continue reading

Road Wars

Vacation nearly always equals Deathlands. And on the bright side, I didn’t run out of book before the plane landed, if only by about 20 minutes of reading.

Downside: Road Wars was the worst of these books in a while. It was not exactly bad, yet while it’s weird to say that I have standards for these books, it also turns out to be true. See, this is the culmination of an ongoing plotline from the past multiple books, in which the two main characters have learned that their old mentor from the first book is not dead of radiation cancer like they’d thought, and head out to find him. This results in a series of episodic encounters that may pay off in future books, while their friends who stayed home and their mentor (and the friend who found him) in old Seattle each have their own adventures. The problem being that these stories are split apart for dramatic effect, yet could not possibly have happened across the timetable in which the main characters are travelling from the friends to the mentor, across 1500 miles of nuked wastelands.

None of the individual stories were bad, and at least one of them was not merely fine but engrossing. Nonetheless, the skewed timelines bothered me really a lot, and took away from most of what was going on.

Still, light entertaining post apocalyptic fluff is not a genre I will soon tire of, and this was only relatively bad. Still far better than, for example, the last Anita Blake I read.

Small Gods

When people talk about Discworld, they say that the first books are uneven (which is true, but not in a way that bothers me) and that if they were to recommend a place for people to start, it would be with Small Gods. I now understand why that is, although I’m not sure how I feel about it for my own recommendations.

Like, on the one hand, this is a brilliant book that puts into words a lot of my thoughts about the institutions of religion and the tug of war they have with the concept of faith. I would happily recommend it to any person who likes social satire and has an open mind. It is a masterpiece of its genre. But on the other hand, it is so thoroughly divorced from the majority of Discworld novels I’ve read so far that it feels strange sending someone here for their first foray into the series. To the extent that it really is the same world, the smaller part falls into using the setting as a keystone for the brilliant satire I mentioned[1], and the larger part is artificially shoehorned in[2]. On the third hand, I have no idea what I would point to instead? Although Mort, or the first Guards book or the second Witches book all seem feasible. Or maybe the very first book, not because it’s first, but because it’s hard to accept any other Rincewind book later when compared to the other options, if you don’t have an attachment to him by starting there. (Also because Nethack.)

Long story short, I’m glad I read this, and I’m sad it took me so long. Learn from my example, if you haven’t read it yet!

[1] The shape of Discworld as religious tenet vs observable fact. The Turtle Moves, y’all.
[2] The ubiquitous food vendor guy really did seem like, no, you guys, look, it’s still Discworld. See? He’s right here, cutting off his own nose!