Category Archives: Words

End of Watch

81rLDztUK7LThere was a time when I claimed that Finders Keepers was not a sequel to Mr. Mercedes. Likewise, I can now claim that End of Watch is not a sequel to Finders Keepers. Sure, they’re in the same continuity and with mostly the same characters, but except for acknowledging that those things happened in the past: not a sequel.

But: End of Watch is a sequel to Mr. Mercedes. So, y’know, there’s that? Now that I’ve clarified the interactions between the books, though, how am I supposed to review the third book of a trilogy, absent massive spoilers? I’ll say these things:

  1. It was good, and I liked it.
  2. I liked it less than either of the other two books, but not enough to dim my enjoyment of them; all of the characters remained meaningful and important to me throughout. (Holly Gibney, especially, is pretty much the best.)
  3. I think the main reason I liked it less is because after two books of solid mystery detectivey stuff, throwing in a supernatural element just did not seem to belong anymore. If you read this as a standalone book, which it would be maybe barely possible to do, you would not have this problem. All the same, I had it.

So, yeah. That was definitely a book I liked reading, and I hope King keeps writing new books like usual. The fact that they cannot all be the best in no way detracts, y’know?

The Omen Machine

512jJDaPiILEight years ago, I declared myself free from a hell of my own making. Eight years is a long time, you know? Not as good as getting a ten year chip, but pretty impressive nonetheless, right? Don’t worry, I’m not buying it either.

Yeah, I’ve done something horrible. I thought I was hate-reading, and it would be entertaining after the fact. But instead… yeah, there will be spoilers everywhere. I do this so you don’t have to even though you never would have, purely because I am stupid. Learn from Observe my mistake, and laugh well.

What happened was, Goodkind wrote more books even though the series was over. And I eventually (a long time ago, really) bought the first one. We’ll never know why, I’m sure. The Omen Machine picks up very soon after the series ended, with a purpose other than objectivism, unexpectedly! Would that I could say it was a purpose other than screeds, though. See, there’s some dude with a bone to pick[1], and via means that are not at this time particularly clear, he starts seeding minor, clear as day prophecies all over the place. Then Richard Rahl[2] spends hundreds of pages arguing with his subject nobles individually and in groups, or sometimes with his friends instead, about how nobody should pay attention to prophecy in the first place, but they all (well, his friends less so) keep insisting, “but we waaaaaaana!”, so while never changing his initial opinion, he also argues that at the very least, leave prophecy to the people who understand it, that is to say him and his friends.

I mean, nobody could have interest in all of this back and forth in the first place, but it’s really critical to note that Ayn Rand’s most commercially successful disciple is making even a partial argument from authority that his pissy strawmen should stop choosing for themselves and let the government take care of it.

Also, your faithful reviewer adds as an aside, there’s a really cool AI in the basement that can see the future and is struggling with the whys and wherefores of its existence. I am really disappointed the book couldn’t have been about that instead, you know? But that’s what Goodkind does. He takes the kernel of a good idea, and plants it in a sea of shit. Which I suppose is how gardening is supposed to work, but not everyone who understand the principles of gardening has a green thumb.[3]

[1] Who we meet for a hot minute in the middle of the book, never to return. Because, God help me, there are more books.
[2] The main character of the series, you may recall.
[3] Nice try, metaphor. Thought you were going to escape me, didn’t you?

Gardens of the Moon

51Fl5aumCbL._SL300_First thing: I’ve read Gardens of the Moon before, but I’ve never reviewed it. Some number of years ago, I tried to read it again in conjunction with the person who maintains this site for me, but he failed me, so I only got through like the first third. But now, in the wake of having gotten an Audible subscription in order to listen to the Nightvale book for “free”, I decided that maybe the thing to do is use that book a month to listen to series that I would otherwise have to reread to get caught up on.

This has as its upside that I can read new books in the meantime, and as its downside that I have been slowly, by piecemeal, listening to the same book since February. As you can imagine, that’s way, way too long to hold onto a book[1] if you aren’t previously familiar with it.

That said: these are an exemplary series. I know I like later books a good deal more than this one, but everything that was troublesome about it has been rendered fine and dandy by my general knowledge of the world, and what is left behind is a beautifully meandering prologue into what promises to be an even more beautiful story of the end of the world. As opposed to Martin, who while also writing a story about the end of the world, is writing the grim, filthy version of it.

Last, the narration: it took me a while to warm up to Ralph Lister, but in the end, it turns out he’s an incredibly talented artist. I cannot come up with as many different voices as he has done, much less keep them all straight in my head over the course of a doorstop fantasy novel. That said, the direction or perhaps assembly of the book leaves a lot to be desired. You know how scenes change within a chapter, and there’s a line break in the book to delineate it? There damn well needs to be a pause in the audio to match that, or things can get very confusing, even when I have read the story before. Man, I hope they figure that out by the next book, or, ever.

[1] I feel bad for my father now, to whom I’ve been reading It for better than two years. Um. Oops. I’ve been busy?

Hack/Slash: Final

71itNyUBO5LAnd thus comes to an end (at the auspicious and (let’s be honest) inevitable volume 13, no less) the adventures of psycho killer killer of psychos Cassandra Hack and her longtime partner Vlad. Looking back, this is definitely a series that would have benefitted from binging, in that it started out episodic but then turned out to have a guiding arc that I didn’t spot until far too late to pay the proper amount of attention. Like, as of Final[1] I have pretty much wrapped my head around most of what’s going on, why I care about it, and what it means for the characters. But there were two or three previous books where I was definitely floundering, which is a pity, because the series ends very strongly indeed, which maybe means that it was strong back when it felt like it was a slog, too.

So yeah. If you like snarky, cheesecakey horror comics that will probably never win any feminism awards despite frequently passing the Bechdel Test, this series is probably the only example of that. Enjoy!

[1] It is important to note that there are two new volumes that have been published since the so-called final one. Not loving that, especially because it ended so cleanly.

Witches Abroad

513Bs4HYbmLI seem to be reading more lately? I dunno. House is more unpacked than not, and things that are left to do, I cannot really progress on without outside interference. Either way, I’ve also been reading more of the partial series I have scattered all over the map, instead of new stuff. In a way that’s good, because progress, in a way it’s bad because there’s so many things I still have no idea about even though they’ve been talked about lately. That is the problem of lacking infinite free time, I suppose.

So I read another Pratchett. In Witches Abroad, he studies the nature of fairy tales, mirrors, and family relationships[1]. Mostly the nature of fairy tales, though the characters say it’s the nature of stories. That said, the characters are analogues for the Fates, so any story they’d be in would have fairy tale elements nearly by definition. See, this one fairy godmother (only distinguishable from any other witch, so far as I can tell, by her possession of a magic wand) died prior to handling all her affairs, so she sets the witches from Wyrd Sisters[2] on a quest to wrap things up. So they head off to Genua, which is to say New Orleans, and proceed about their appointed tasks.

I know I’m very near the threshold where these books are basically always of high quality, so it’s nice to be able to say that yep, this one was really quite good, very funny throughout and with the characters who are currently my favorites. Yay, Discworld!

[1] The last one is a bit of a stretch, in that it’s not untrue but also in that most of these books have been about family to some degree, especially if you accept “the family you choose” as fitting the paradigm.
[2] Who I suppose will be henceforth known as the witches in any of the Discworld “witches” books.

Cinderella: From Fabletown with Love

815fU8q1ldLImplausibly, I’m like six years behind on the Fables series of interwoven comics. At least, it seems implausible to me? There’s probably no good reason why, though.

From Fabletown with Love marks the second spin-off of the main series, this time focused on Cinderella. Who, awesomely, is an international interdimensional spy in the top secret employ of Fabletown’s law enforcement / governing apparatus. Aside from that premise, though, there’s nothing much to talk about here. It’s a first book, and mostly all that is established is her credentials. So, if you like the Fables series generally, no reason you wouldn’t like this, and also no reason you’d be six years behind like some people I could name. If you don’t, I don’t see this one winning you over.

Unless you really like spies, and that’s what’s been keeping you away until now, I suppose?

The Walking Dead: No Turning Back

517KPsoOcxLFor a wonder, the latest Walking Dead has a title that isn’t trite and a storyline to match. No Turning Back chronicles the aftermath of Rick Grimes’ meeting with the latest, direst threat to his community. See, everyone is scared and reactionary, because of the spoilers at the end of the last book. Now Rick has to decide how far he will go to hold it all together.

Which, y’know. Yet another big threat, I’ve seen all that before. Rick struggling to decide whether his soul or his community’s safety is more expendable, that’s the kind of human drama I can still get behind. I’d be annoyed that the question isn’t resolved in this volume, but if it had been, it would definitively be in favor of him not taking some action that crosses The Line, so uncertainty is the best I could have hoped for.

Downside: still more books coming.

Moon Fate

51B5enw1nlLApparently, the Deathlands series is completed, at 75 books, as of sometime last year. That’s kind of cool, because it implies that I might ever finish[1]. Not a habit I’m used to, what with Marvel comics that have been published continuously since 1961 with no end in sight.

I’m not sure that has any special relevance, but I learned it while doing research into the author of Moon Fate. (James Axler is a farm name, you see, assigned to any number of actual writers in the series, but not a real person in his own right.) The sad reason for this research was that there was a tonal shift so drastic, I briefly hoped there had been a change of the usual author to explain it. Here’s an implausible number of words about that.

Weirdly, even now, I can’t tell if I’m being unrealistic. In thumbnail, Ryan Cawdor is returning from the events of Chill Factor to rejoin his friends, but due to a series of the kind of tragic event that is so typical in a post-apocalyptic hellhole, they end up split once more, with he and his girlfriend captured by vengeful mutant “stickies”, so called because they are part of a common lineage in the Deathlands whereby their arms are covered with incredibly strong octopus-like suckers, strong enough to strip flesh right off any “norms” they might come in contact with.

And here is where problem one crops up. Normally stickies are, in addition to being strong and violent death machines, quite lowly ranked on the intelligence scale. Which is fine, killer mutants are a staple of any nuclear holocaust. But they were lead by an especially intelligent throwback to humanity, who of course was a figure from Ryan’s past. I don’t mind that they had a bad time together and the stickie wanted revenge. I mind that, after going to all the trouble of making him a leader who was intelligent and strong-willed enough to organize his troops instead of the usual ravening hordes, the story still treated them as mindless enemies. A story where the mutants could also be human would have been much cooler.

In any case, not enough to put me off the story, but then there was a rape scene in which a female stickie took Ryan into her quarters for to satisfy her carnally. And… I mean, there was only the one mostly human throwback, so I’m not saying I have a problem with the run of the mill mutant being a grotesquerie. And if the rape scene had been reversed, with lead female character Krysty Wroth being the victim, that wouldn’t have been any better, for all kinds of reasons. Still, the scene where Ryan was being forced to perform oral sex was just relentlessly anti-female, in a way I have thusfar thought this series was better than. And like I said, I read over the caveats and feel like I’m being way too sensitive about this; because yes the scene could have been left out entirely, but once you accept its presence, I can’t really see anything unrealistic about it. All the same, it felt skeevy, and I hope it doesn’t happen again.

Third, not that I much care about this, and especially in comparison to the other two, but I have no earthly idea what the title had to do with anything at all.

Anyway, leaving aside those complaints, the book was at least a nice change of pace from the standard “teleport somewhere, right a wrong, move on” template the series quickly fell into. I mean, yes, that is technically exactly what happened, but the trappings were all different, what with resuming from a split party, visiting friends, and staying in town for months rather than days or hours.

[1] Given that this book is #16, I’m already 20% of the way through!

Serenity: Leaves on the Wind

513Coa7zVcLUntil a credit card error combined with an email filing error caused me to miss several issues in a row (and I was already months behind on actually reading them even then), I collected Buffy and Angel comics set after those shows had ended. In addition to those, a handful of Firefly comics were released, but these were not of the full-sized sequel variety the others had been. A three issue follow-up story with only one spoiler of any consequence, and a second batch about which I, perhaps tragically, remember nothing (but it was past stories instead of future), and then by the time the third set happened, I had already had the card failure of which I speak, I guess?

Leaves on the Wind is not only the fourth collection; it is also, finally, a full-fledged continuation of the story with (I believe) more to come. In addition to the fruits of that spoiler I mentioned, mostly this one is about the fallout of the big revelations broadcast by Malcolm Reynolds about the Reavers and how they relate to the Alliance; you know, the ground covered in the movie. There are people who don’t believe a word of it, people ready to start a whole new revolution, people looking for all kinds of bloody revenge. You know, the usual.

Definitely worth reading, but read Those Left Behind first.

Aftermath

51EAv3L9PGLSo, the one good thing about a new Star Wars timeline is I’m only one book behind now, right? Haha nope, there are already like six books, plus seasons upon seasons of animated television I never got around to watching. Oops.

Aftermath is set in the months after the Battle of Endor, in the midst of the rise of the New Republic. The main thrust of the story is a group of folks who find themselves on-world for a secret meeting of the remnants of the Empire, who are trying to figure out what their next step is now that the head has been removed from the snake. Some of the aforementioned folks want to get word out to the Republic fleet, of course, but for the most part, there are as many agendas as there are characters. (Which is, I reckon, as it should be.)

Then, blah blah speeder chases and dog fights and laser battles, you know how this stuff goes. What made the book interesting (besides that it kicked off a new continuity, I mean) was all the vignettes about the state of the galaxy scattered throughout the book, none of which were in any way related to the main plot. I don’t mean to imply that the 50 some odd books I’ve read in what I think they’re now calling Star Wars Legends did not end up making it feel like a lived in galaxy, with trillions of sentient beings going about their lives. But something about the concerted effort Wendig put into making his new continuity feel immediately as lived in was very successful. Not to mention appreciated.

Ultimately, I don’t think anyone is going to get anything deep and meaningful out of these books, but it was good enough that I’ll keep looking for them.