Tag Archives: fantasy

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.

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!

Solo: A Star Wars Story

I came into Solo with pretty low hopes. I was afraid the actor would fail and the movie with it, and… okay, no, that’s the only thing I was afraid of. The plot looked fine from previews, and Donald Glover is a national treasure, so yeah.

But, good news! The guy playing Solo was basically fine. Maybe a little too happy smiles instead of smug smiles, but I’m perfectly okay with saying that’s because the character is years younger. He played fine off Chewbacca and Lando alike. (And the other characters that were new to his backstory, but I wasn’t measuring that against pre-existing opinions.)

Other than that? Fun Star Warsy action movie, with heists and counterheists, chases and escapes, criminal syndicates… you know, the kinds of things you’d expect out of Han Solo’s backstory. If I’m being honest, they found almost no way to surprise me; I knew a lot of this story before now anyway even if it has become canon via the screening and wasn’t before. But whatever. Like I said, it was Star Warsy and fun, and I’ve been happy watching those while knowing how the story would turn out for close to forty years.

There was one thing that made me cringe, but I’m pretty sure I can just forget about it.

Ship of Magic

I’m staring at this blank screen[1] in consternation. I obviously can’t go down to my car and grab the new Stephen King book I got on Tuesday, because then I’ll do an even worse job with this review than I’m already fated to. I would normally read my next comic (even though it’s Team America, ugh), but somehow I forgot to get the 1983 issues of that registered in Comicrack[2], so now they’re sitting at home waiting for me to get there and sync, before I can proceed with this (at least there are only five Team Americas left) next book that fate and the CMRO has decreed I be subjected to.

And anyway, I only justifiably could have read one comic anyway, so it’s not like I would have bought myself very much time.

Here’s the thing. I sincerely don’t know whether I liked Ship of Magic or not. For instance, I absolutely care about what happens to these people. I am interested in the puzzles that have been laid out. (What’s the deal with wizardwood in specific and the Rain Wilds in general? What’s really going on with the serpents? Other things that would be spoilers to point out are open questions[3].) I’m interested in the world building around the slavery cultures that were halfway around the world from the events of the previous series, and the plot developments arising from that world building. So of course I liked the book, right? Look at all that delicious literature on my plate! And two books to go!

But… I’m not sure I’ve ever taken this long to read a book that I actually finished. Or felt this much existential dread while reading this or that chapter. Or taken comfort in such objectively bad outcomes, because at least they were incrementally better than what I had been reading five pages earlier. I just… and there are two more books to go.

I’ll say this much. I’m glad there’s a Stephen King book in my car downstairs, instead of the next book of this series as there probably would have been without the accidental timing of release schedules. It will give me time to sit in my room and think about what I’ve done.

[1] Okay, technically no longer entirely blank once I started narrating, but come on.
[2] Which mysteriously started syncing with my Chromebook again, hooray!!! Almost worth losing most of the functionality as a game-playing device.
[3] Amber, for instance.

Moana

Today while I was working from home, Mary turned on Moana. I saw half of it once, and the first act twice since then (all of these because I have three nieces/nephews under the age of five). This makes it kind of hard to review, and probably I shouldn’t, but it would feel good to do something on time for once, I guess.

Anyway, she turned it on as background noise to hanging out with her mom, since my TV shows are too loud or something. Result: as soon as the neighbor started lawn-mowing near the “all is lost” part of her hero’s journey (which probably has a name I could look up, but here we are), I missed some of it I guess. But kid movie, so I can’t pretend I don’t know what happened on a review scale.

So, right, Moana. A polynesian chieftain’s daughter learns that she has been chosen by the ocean to go save the world from a whole bunch of death and destruction caused by a trickster demigod named Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, and she goes out on a boat to make things right. Also, there are songs.

It had some pretty silly long fight scenes to make it long enough I guess, and/or kids like that kind of thing, but as I alluded before, it’s a pretty tidy Campbellian archetypes story, with a climactic revelation that I can honestly say I didn’t see coming. And the songs were pretty good too. If you like that kind of thing, Disney usually does alright, right?

Avengers: Infinity War

Man, I screwed the pooch. It’s been what, two weeks since I saw Infinity War? In the meantime, it has been discussed to death, both with and without spoilers. Which is sad because it means probably that I can say nothing new, and anyway the only novel thing I had to say in the first place is kind of a spoiler.

But, here we go nonetheless, since I pathologically can’t just not review the things, I can only feel guilty about not reviewing them.

They have been calling this new Avengers movie the most ambitious crossover in history, ten years and eighteen movies deep. That’s not entirely right, because the first few movies leading up to the first Avengers did not foretell this. Not really. But as far as ambition goes, I cannot disagree. For the number of characters involved, none of them was ignored or given short shrift. (Not wholly true, as some characters were literally ignored by not being in the movie, but if they were in the movie, I mean.)  And the pacing was great. In a world of modern action cinema where scenes cut every minute or two, this was divided into 10+ minute chapters focusing on the characters involved from start to resolution of a scenario (or at worst, start to nadir, with the next scene fully exploring resolution). It’s hard to remember that movies[1] used to work this way, instead of snippets of individual strands that only weave together at climax.

So, A++ for ambition and execution. I also liked the plot and most of the character beats, although I understand why some people did not. Basically, my point is: if you have invested in eighteen movies and a handful of optional TV series leading toward this movie, you should check it out. They stuck the landing.

Spoiler-esque observation as first comment.

[1] Again, action / genre movies. I understand that your snows falling on your cedars always kept to that path.

Aftermath: Empire’s End

If you are looking for a book that explains why there’s wreckage all over Jakku in The Force Awakens, then Empire’s End is the book for you! If, however, you are looking for information on where Leader Snoke and the First Order came from, well, you’ll hear somewhere between one to five percent of that story, tops. (Which to be fair, at least until the trilogy of movies is over, you had to know that nobody would be allowed too close to direct backstory, in case the writers wanted to do it on film instead. I mean, you had to know that, right?)

On the bright side, I’m still very much enamored of the characters in this trilogy, and it’s nice to see someone telling a full-sized story in the Star Wars universe where Skywalkers are relegated to a side role at best. (There have been other such stories prior to 2015, but really not very many.)

Just in case there’s confusion, I should note that the book does a lot more than explain Jakku wreckage. But it’s the third book of a trilogy, so why go crazy with spoilers? It continues to do well what the other books also did well: present a living, breathing galaxy reacting to Palpatine’s demise and the birth of a new Republic, while telling a personal story about several people on both sides of the lingering conflict. In other words, if you care about Star Wars, this has star warsy stuff worth caring about.