Category Archives: Words

Jack of Fables: The End

The final volume of Jack of Fables is hard to review for two reasons. If I’m being honest with myself, the series had outstayed its welcome since probably the big crossover, or at the very latest whichever book after that involved the dragon. So for my perspective: I’m glad it’s over. But that’s an opinion, not a review.

Reason one why The End is hard to review: because it’s not only the last entry in a series, but also the ninth. So, spoilers galore. This is a common problem that I have, and the lesson I suppose is to read more standalone stories?

Reason two why it’s hard to review: because anything I actually would be willing to say is already covered by the title itself. This book right here? Delivers on its promise. So, what else even would there be to say? Was it satisfying? Since I was already done with these characters, one of them probably before he ever existed[1], it’s hard to answer that in true fairness. But yes, I’m satisfied.

….except for the perpetual Walter Mitty miniaturized blue ox. I never got that at all. But I’m glad I will never have to worry about it again, at least!

[1] Jack Frost

Memories of Ice revisited

My original review of Memories of Ice is really terrible, and it should not be read. I liked the story, and that part is still the correct opinion, but man is the review a rambling mess. I apologize.

But, I have now listened to that book again, as part of my ongoing reread (and eventually new read) of the entire series, and: seriously, this is an incredibly good series. With an incredibly good reader in Ralph Lister, so naturally he did these three books and then stopped. I do not want to have to get used to someone else!

Anyway, what can I say about the book that is not a spoiler but that also redeems my original review? Man, I dunno. I was definitely interested in the way this and Deadhouse Gates paired with each other, and wonder if anyone has provided a way to read them simultaneously. I mean, interleaved with each other such that the events on different continents are occurring in more or less chronological order. This would be a terrible way to first read them, as they each are so self-contained, but the occasional ways they interact are a lot more meaningful to me during this reread, while I have a decent idea of what’s going on overall.

As last time, the things I cared about were very different upon the revisit. Every scene with Itkovian or with the T’lan Imass was riveting, and every scene with Lady Envy was drenched in snickers. Even the ones that should have been maybe serious? But mostly, I found that this is very nearly a self-contained trilogy, and definitely a good one. Among my favorites, though that’s easy to say when so few exist.

I’m getting towards the part of the story where I remember less about how things are. So that will be interesting?

Vallista

New Vlad book! Which you’ll know if you’re a long time reader here is kind of a big deal. You’ll also know that the series is coming towards an end[1], which explains why I can say very little. Basically, Vlad Taltos is an assassin, he’s made powerful enemies and powerful friends, and this particular book is more about the latter than the former. Worth knowing: Vallista has straight answers to a number of longstanding questions about the nature of reality (which is one of the ways you can tell the end is near).

Also worth knowing (perhaps the only other relevant thing to know): Brust’s tenure as the only author I’ve read with no disappointing books continues unabated. In addition to the reliable storyline and voice of this series, I was especially amused by the chapter titles. But mostly, I continue to love everything about this character.

[1] Somewhere between three to five books left, if I understand what’s going on correctly.

The Walking Dead: A Certain Doom

Remember that time when people were in danger from zombies instead of each other? I mean, you don’t, because that was like 15 books ago, and nobody but me has read anywhere near that far in the Walking Dead. The good news is, if you jumped back into the series with A Certain Doom, it would feel like you’d never left? A herd of like a million zombies will make them dangerous again, yeah.

I can’t say a lot, as usual, but I’ll say these two things. One, another point where the series probably should have ended has been reached. Two, I do appreciate the ongoing attempts to redeem a character who is entirely irredeemable. Like, sometimes you can do things so terrible that it doesn’t matter how hard you try for the rest of your life. Except, the fact that you never stop trying maybe counts for something towards your memory? I don’t know how this works, but I’m a big believer in redemption, so a situation like this is uncharted territory for me.

Sleeping Beauties

I have been reading the new Stephen King book for like two months, which is just strange. I mean, there were various reasons behind the delay. I’ve been really busy at work all the time, for one, and a shoulder injury made me loathe to carry it around, for another. (I mean, the injury was not entirely debilitating, and neither is this the biggest book ever printed, but the two factors did not play well together.) These are all true facts, but at the same time, I don’t think any of them was the real problem.

Sleeping Beauties tells the story of a world without women, more or less. They’re all here, but once they fall asleep, they get shrouded in a mysterious cocoon and don’t wake up. (Well, they do, for brief periods, if you are too insistent; but that’s a bad idea.) Half the story deals with the world’s, which is mostly to say men’s[1], reactions to this sudden new reality, mostly via the small Appalachian town that acts as the setting. The other half deals with the supernatural underpinnings of the event, and what this all means to the women who are cocooned away.

That first half, wrapped up in a hypothetical reality, no matter how potentially troubling, is where the book shines. There are heroes and villains, small petty vindictive bullies, understandable antagonists, helpless children, and everyone in between. Stephen King has always been a deft master of interweaving motivations, and nothing much has changed in this regard. The second half, in which spoilers abound, is… well, it’s two things.

I don’t know much about Owen King[2], but I do not assume that he is what of this book I didn’t like. At least, not specifically. Because, the first thing is, King’s biggest flaw in my estimation is that his explanations sometimes get too big for him[3], and end up unsatisfying. That’s less true here than in some cases[4], but still highly visible. Intertwined with this is the second thing which is: two men are not really qualified to write about how women would deal with the spoilers I’m not going into. This is not my feminism talking, although it could be; it’s more that the outcomes on the page simply didn’t feel true to life.

Anyway, I still liked it. But it is definitely flawed.

[1] There are definitely a lot of women striving to stay awake, and they matter to the plot. But not, thematically, to this half of the story. If you find that to be some measure of problematic, know that you are not alone.
[2] The default author’s son, and co-writer of this book, in case you didn’t use the mouseover text.
[3] This is not the proper phrase for what I mean, but I cannot figure out something better.
[4] For example, Under the Dome, which would have been better if no explanation had been offered. The only worse answer I can think of is the one the TV show came up with.

Fool Moon revisited

I wish I could say I am horribly backlogged. That would be amazing next to the reality, which is that I just haven’t been doing much of anything. Too busy at work, too busy fighting with my broken comics collection, too busy watching TV. I mean, I’ve done other things in there I’m happy about, but finished books and new movies are not among them.

However, I have been on some road trips lately, and thus finally completed the second Dresden book, Fool Moon. As promised before, my running total indicates that six months have passed since the last book, and therefore, um, six months total.[1] Which is to say, October of year zero. Or at least fall instead of spring? But I think I remember October being right.[2] Also, and apparently I didn’t mention any of this before, but James Marsters (who you may be more familiar with as Spike) does a perfectly serviceable rendition of Harry Dresden’s narration. I mean, better than that, all in all. But occasionally he pronounces familiar words strangely, and on top of that I have an unreasoning love affair with the voice of Paul Blackthorne, despite him only performing 13 TV episodes (that are widely panned) before I had otherwise really ever heard of these books. That will always be the voice I hear in my head while I’m reading.

So yeah, that came out heavier against Spike than I meant it to. He really is good, he’s just not what I want. It’s okay, I’m sure I’ll come around more and more. (Especially since as of the second book he mentions chapter transitions, instead of the nonstop wall of text that the first one was.)

As for the story? I was just slobbering all over it the first time I read it, and this time that was not the case. Partly because it’s no longer a delicious new treat I’ve never had before, partly because I no longer have as big a pile of recently consumed Anita Blake to compare it to, and certainly partly because I’m better at spotting Harry’s character flaws than I was then. He absolutely got people killed under the guise of protecting them, and what’s worse is he hasn’t yet learned that it was his fault[3]. He may have said the words, but you can tell.

Otherwise, the main thing I look forward to in the series is when Murphy starts wanting to beat up Dresden for things he actually did, instead of things she unfairly blames him for doing (or not doing). There’s plenty of that to go around, without the misunderstandings about things he couldn’t possibly have thought to mention at the time.

[1] Later, this running total thing will be more useful.
[2] You know how I said reviewing audiobooks is problematic for me? This is what I mean.
[3] It’s also possible I’m just older and wiser than I was, then? In any case, this doesn’t make me dislike the book, or even Harry. Flawed people are mostly better; that said, it’s been a minute or three since I picked up a new Honor Harrington, hasn’t it?

The End of the World: Zombie Apocalypse

Change of pace!

I think I want to run a game, but I haven’t figured out what yet, since nobody wants to play 1st Edition AD&D. A while back, I got the first in the End of the World series on a whim, knowing it would be a series, and that their hook (aside from multiple scenarios per book, each such book centered around a different theme) is a game system that allows you to play yourself, just as the world is beginning to end. In this case, due to one flavor or another of zombie apocalypse.

So, the system? Is a little overly complex, for my taste. And okay, a careful reading of the previous paragraph makes me sound like I’m high, but the fact is, familiarity and nostalgia forgive a lot of complexity. But much more importantly than that is whether your simple, elegant system is successful at being simple and elegant. This one might be, if I’m comparing it to a game from 35 years ago where every rule is an edge case, but I’m comparing it to a homebrew system I stole from Ken Kofman like 20 years ago, and by those standards, this one is pretty hacky. So, y’know. (Also, I’m a lot pickier about rulesets these days, when nostalgia isn’t a factor.)

The far more important part of the book, therefore, was the 75% that followed the rules, in which five apocalyptic scenarios were explored. Each section has the player POV description, a description of what’s really going on, multiple plothook ideas, NPC/monster stats, a timeline of the apocalypse from minute one to year three or four, and then a post apocalypse section for roleplaying into the world that exists beyond the end of our world.

These? Were mostly good. I think there was only one scenario whose genesis and result I liked both of, but that doesn’t mean it would be impossible, or even especially hard, to mix and match. For reasons of potential game spoilers, I won’t go into what their scenarios actually are, but there were definitely some pretty good ideas scattered throughout the thing. Enough to make me want to buy more books in the series, if I can ever find them used. I doubt I’d run another zombie game? My only really successful GM experience was from one, so it’s probably better to try something different.

But I do love me a good apocalypse, so.

Assassin’s Quest

So, I have read a Robin Hobb trilogy. I definitely in a way had expectations that were met, but mostly I still think I didn’t. If that makes as much sense as I think it does, well, I blame the malort but will also elaborate by way of apology.

Assassin’s Quest starts off the way you’d expect, as a good old-fashioned revenge story against a man what done someone wrong. Fitz has been poisoned, betrayed, beaten, and ultimately murdered, and he ain’t gonna take it anymore! (I’m being flippant on purpose, partly to downplay and/or avoid spoilers, but also because it occurred to me while thinking about this that you could tell the same story if you are Quentin Tarantino, albeit with a spectacularly different outcome.) And that difference of outcome is I suppose the point, since about a third of the way through, Fitz’s quest changes suddenly and unpredictably from assassination to magical travelogue, and eventually, well, it would be all kinds of spoilers to explain, but if you are wondering whether the meat of the trilogy is resolved in one way or another, the answer is yes.

I liked the book, and in fact the trilogy as a whole (although the book less so). Pacing issues are the main reason, and again most of the rest would be a spoiler. But at the same time: if I care enough about characters in a story to be unhappy about where they end up, that is more of a positive thing than a negative. Which is the elaboration I promised above.

I’ll read more.

Bullet

I’ve made a huge mistake.

Honestly, that would probably be the right place to stop the review, but I just want to complain more, I so do[1]. Spoilers for Bullet, an Anita Blake novel from maybe 2010?, are a free-for-all from here on in. I will mostly be describing the first half of the book, mainly because the second half goes off the rails and becomes all but indescribable.

Scene one: Anita and her main squeezes (so, like, four of them?) head off to an art school dance recital, partly to reintroduce the characters but mostly so Anita can get a dose of guilt from a four year old and his catty mother about how much sex she has, and with how many people.

Scene two: one of the four dudes I mentioned earlier is in a snit because another one of the four dudes I mentioned has been refusing to bang him, since Anita might not like that. They decide to have a six-way (another dude, who has been on the outs with Anita but who is important to the local power structure, showed up to help) to prove to the pissy guy that he is loved.

Scene three: No, wait, they were all compelled to have the six-way by a dead vampire progenitor who it turns out isn’t dead and wanted to use the lust sex magic to take over Anita’s body and live again. But they noticed in time and stopped them, hooray!

Scene four: Some werelion that is pissy Anita won’t pick him exclusively (instead of the two vampires, two wereleopards, and werewolf that made up 5/6 of scene two, not to mention the random other folk she does on the regular) shows up and has beaten some of his pride members nearly to death since he thought maybe she’d banged them too. She uses some of her sex magic to save them before they die, only a vampire who uses death magic has showed up remotely to make them eat each other instead, and in the process of using her sex magic against his death magic, we devolve into instant full on orgy, which nobody can remember when they wake up.

It is important to note that maybe 12 hours have passed so far.

Scene five: That one werelion is still pissy, and picks a fight that results in a lot of people getting hurt, and someone else dying (maybe one of those four people from the beginning?! oh noes), and Anita shoots him in the face so much that he cannot heal from it, what with his head being fully destroyed. Presumably it is this scene from which the title arises? I have no way of knowing.

Scene the second half of the book: Anita is numb from the horrors she has seen, which are apparently just scene five? I’m numb from the horrors I’ve seen too, which comprises maybe rather more of the book by volume. Anyway, the remainder of what happens, in no particular order, are that she exercises off her aggression / numbness[2], finds out about someone taking out an open assassination call on her and the main vampire and the werewolf, uses creepy necromancy powers to drain the lives of some volunteers to save someone else (which makes sense that she would gain a lot of power from that) and then uses inverse creepy necromancy powers to refill the lives of the people she had mostly drained (which makes her completely nonsensically filled up with even more power, instead of drained herself), finds out about a rotting vampire in Atlanta that has gone mad and started killing everyone, and bangs a lot of weretigers because that will be important to them having enough power later to defeat the progenitor vampire that was apparently supposed to be the plot of the book; only after 400 pages of various people negotiating poly relationships, the author realized the book was too large to get bogged down in plot resolution.

It is important to note that maybe 28 hours passed total, and certainly not more than 36. It is also important to note that I have aged five years from the life-draining powers of this book. I didn’t read the third Robin Hobb assassin book partly because Mary was behind (she’s very much not, anymore) and partly because I wasn’t sure I could take more misery.

Well, I am now looking forward to misery that the author intended to induce, since it will be a nice change of pace!

[1] I’ve complained about Ms. Hamilton’s authorial ticks at length, so I shan’t do so again, especially when there’s plenty else to worry about.
[2] Yes, both were a problem. Don’t look at me!

Hack/Slash: Son of Samhain

After Tim Seeley wrapped up his Hack/Slash series, some other folks decided to pick up the torch, I guess? I’m a bit disappointed that they were not more successful at it. Partly because it means this probably really is the last book, and partly because it’s nice to see Cassie Hack treated as a fully realized character, instead of as a fully realized character who is obliged to dress like a goth pin-up for no internal reason.

But mostly because Son of Samhain could have been a legitimate next chapter. The supernatural serial killers, the Black Lamp society, all of that really is over. But the literal monsters that we never knew until know were lurking behind the scenes? They’re tired of playing second fiddle, and the new war lurking over the horizon’s horizon promises to be bigger than anything Cassie has faced before. Basically, if Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Supernatural had a crossover in a world where nobody had ever heard of either of those things, this is what it would look like. And that’s not a bad space to be in!

Plus, the literal meaning behind the slightly metaphorical title promised to unlock even more never explored chapters of Cassie’s future life. Not to mention that the child himself was reasonably cool, too. Alas.