Category Archives: Words

Field of Dishonor

A thing worth noting is that I have only the barest memory of the plot of these Honor Harrington books. She’s supremely competent, and always correct in a ’90s hawkish conservative kind of way, and half the book is other people talking about how awesome she is. I read The Short Victorious War, let’s see, basically six years ago[1].

At that time, I correctly predicted that Field of Dishonor would immediately follow from a timeline perspective, while incorrectly predicting that I would therefore read it any time soon. The book is, as I also predicted, a complete deviation from the series so far, in that it’s 100% political (well, and personal), but 0% military, except insofar as it’s military politics. This is never quite offputting, but boy does it bring into sharp relief how much everyone (except the bad guy, obvs) in the book thinks Dame Honor is the absolute bee’s knees.

Despite the percent of the book dedicated to lavish praise of the main character (and despite the fact that Weber has decided that to be an effective conservative icon, one must be rich as well as titled, and therefore dumped nearly nine figures into her lap), there was ample intrigue and suspense to keep me entertained for the entire book, with one exception, which I am forced to drop below the cut due to spoilers for the finale and epilogue.

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Bitter Fruit

Eventually, I liked the plot for Bitter Fruit. Cryogenically frozen bioterrorists first rebuild the Celtic empire[1] and then plot to wipe out most of the already dregs of humanity that yet remain, a hundred years past the nuclear holocaust that already basically marked the end of the world. Luckily, we know who can probably stop them! (Oh, this is a Deathlands book, if you didn’t actually know yet who could stop them.)

I say “eventually”. While this was not the first book in the series to have a new author, it was the first book where I noticed. Characters subtly out of character[2], a big change in the way book transitions work[3], and most damning, a possible change in the gender egalitarianism of the series. I’m reserving judgment on that last bit, as one data point is not a trendline, but all the same, none of the female characters have ever used sexuality to extricate themselves from danger before this author, so. (The main male character has at times tolerated sex while in danger, which I suppose is technically rape, and also I do not object to using sex as a tool in the toolbox when required. I’m just leery of it from a first time to the series author, after having spoken so much about the quality of the books to date.)

Worst news: this new author will be popping up frequently for a little while. Man I hope someone smacks him around and sets him straight.

[1] Well obviously empire is not the right word here. People isn’t what I want though, and kingdom is nearly as wrong as empire is, albeit a little less inadvertently snide.
[2] Just because you call a dude laconic, if he talks all the time and in much more detail than he used to, I’m both going to notice that and also judge you for not having known what laconic meant in the first place, nameless (unless I went to wikipedia and checked again) Deathlands farm writer!
[3] Instead of “end a book, pick up the next book immediately where the prior book just ended”, this was “end a book, skip forward by about three chapters of what I would have expected to read, but those three chapters wouldn’t make any sense at all if they’d been written, which I guess is why they had to be skipped, but since I noticed, you didn’t actually accomplish much.”

Lords and Ladies

I haven’t read any Pratchett in a minute, which, okay, what else is new regarding literally anything else I also read? But nevermind that. I’m trying. Plus, there are so many comics I also read, which you don’t / can’t even know.

Lords and Ladies is another Discworld witches book, quite nearly back to back, and also following right upon the heels of Witches Abroad[1] insofar as this chronicles what happens when they return home. Which[2] is: a Shakespeare pastiche, where Magrat finds that she is to be made queen while the other two witches deal with the kinds of creatures that appear on midsummer night. You know, fairies. And as any Dresden fan knows, they ain’t to be trusted.

The book was moment to moment at the quality I expect from a Pratchett book, even at a 30 years remove as I seem to be. And the pastiche itself was dandy. But the book started off with this underlying implied theme about how people should talk to each other instead of keep each other in the dark, which after the Wheel of Time is a theme that is near and dear to my heart.

…but then at the end, they said, nah, this worked out fine without any of that pesky telling the truth and keeping our friends in the loop stuff, and that has left such a bad taste in my mouth that I’m retroactively meh on the book.

[1] I read WA six years ago, even though it’s two books back. Sheesh.
[2] I held out as long as I could

Hack/Slash Resurrection: Blood Simple

I appear once again to have come to the end of the adventures of one Cassandra Hack, Esquire and her associate, Vlad. I don’t know if this is the end or not, but I’m definitely happy that there was no attempt at a grandiose Ending. It just feels like the kind of series that should trail off. Maybe it can be picked up again someday and maybe not, but I like that the possibility exists, and that even if they never come back, she can still be wandering America, looking for more slashers to dispose of, and we’re just not hearing about it anymore.

Blood Simple, despite everything I’ve just said about endings and such, seems in retrospect (i.e. now that I know it’s the last book) to have concerned itself mostly with tying up loose ends. The first bookend to the set revisits Cat and Dog Investigations, consisting of a teen wunderkind and her demonic skinless dog-thing named Pooch, as they (and Cassie and Vlad) look into a haunted house at the behest of area psychics, followed by our heroes and Vampirella versus a vampire town that maybe I should have recognized from previous Hack/Slash tales when it wasn’t a vampire town yet, but I did not, and then the closing bookend is Cassie versus censorship.

All in all, the book was fine. I’ve read better (the first half of the original run, before it got too far up its own ass with convoluted continuity and too big bads) and worse (the recent Vampirella crossover, for example, which really was bad at these characters, but also I do not remember Son of Samhain fondly), and maybe someday I’ll read better or worse again.

But I don’t think I expect to.

Dexter Is Dead

I have cleared an entire series from my to-read shelf. This comes with a pretty huge sense of satisfaction, since I’ve done such a poor job of reading almost anything over the past few years. (Well, okay, a lot of comics.)

The problem is… I really wanted to like Dexter Is Dead. I’ve liked the previous books generally, and I really liked the TV series quite a lot. And I even kind of fancy myself capable of understanding the feeling that accompanies when TV bypasses what you’ve written in your book series, or takes everything in a completely different direction or (and this is the especially tricky one) comes up with so many ideas about how to proceed that they get stuck in your head and now you’re constantly thinking, what if I write the Oops All Plagiarism book on my next attempt.

So, and here’s the thing. This book felt like it was written mainly to close the door in the character, rather than because there was a really solid idea for a story here. Dexter is no longer a serial killer taking care of the murderers of the world that slip through the American justice system, and hasn’t been for a couple of books. I don’t even see this as a noble failure, just a “there, now nobody will bother me about writing more of these”, and it’s really disappointing. I think I would have been happier if his story just petered out instead of coming to a definitive end in this particular manner.

Oh, well.

In positive news, I can say this: cliffhanger from the previous book was entirely resolved.

Stoneface

What do you say after 34 books in the same series?

I guess the first thing I’ll say is that I like how they’ve added some new villains and secondary characters that will maybe pop up again in the future, because it’s important not to get bogged down and run out of new ideas. (Plus, one of them has cool mutant powers like the main lady character, Krysty Wroth, and it’s nice to have positive mutations as more often than a one-off, since they sure don’t skimp on the negative mutations. Thermonuclear radioactivity, what are you gonna do? shrug emoji)

The second thing I’ll say is that even though it’s arguably lazy to set a book a hundred years in the future and then rely on the present as grist for your novel mill, I really do like when we get bigger glimpses into the way the world was when it ended, and this is a big one indeed. What would you say to a mountain full of pre-nuke government officials who have been keeping themselves alive with cryogenics and constant organ transplants? I, for one, can dig it. …and then there’s a suspiciously familiar cult, too. It’s an embarrassment of 20th Century riches, is what.

The third thing I’ll say is I have a disappointment, particularly because of how often I’ve been surprised by progressive egalitarianism throughout the series. When you call your book Stoneface, and it is partially set in and around Mount Rushmore, with characters[1] from the indigenous Lakota people, well, I was really hoping they would bring up the Six Grandfathers at all. But that’s a lot to ask of 1996’s authors, you know? In a lesser men’s adventure series, which let’s be honest is basically all of them on the “how progressive can this genre be?” scale, it would never have crossed my mind to be disappointed here.

Counterpoint, though, I really like to hope I would not have read 34 books deep into such an alternative series. Despite what it looks like, I do have standards.

[1] one of them even a potential recurring person from my prior mention

Double Dexter

A couple of months ago, as you will no doubt recall, I read the wrong Dexter book. Since these are not 100% episodic, this presented a bit of a problem for me in terms of going back to right myself. Because, you know: yes I always know how the book is going to turn out at least mostly, but I don’t usually know how the incidental incremental advances in Dexter’s domestic and professional life will turn out? Except this time I did.

Anyway, Double Dexter chronicles the time Dexter got caught in the midst of pedophile clown slaughter, and then the witness got away, and then (let’s be honest, somewhat implausibly) got obsessed with the idea that maybe he, the witness, could start murdering bad guys, and then he sets his aim on the main bad guy he (still the witness) knows about, which is to say: our hero.

The main thing I got out of this book is that it’s probably good Lindsay decided to wrap up the series, because Dexter’s “look how smart I am” but clearly he isn’t so smart as all that schtick only works if the author, on some level, believes Dexter is in fact pretty smart, but just misses small tricks now and again. Whereas in this book, I felt like Lindsay was making fun of his creation, and, that is just not the series I want to read.

So, after whatever my next brief palate cleanser turns out to be: the finale! And I will have gotten another series off my to-read shelf, woo.

Ahem. This makes me sound like the series is a task, and therefore why am I even reading them? It’s not as bad as all that, even if this book was for certain the low point of the series. But the weight of that shelf (mostly metaphorically) has been holding me down for some time, and my greatly-reduced incidence of book-shopping over the last few years does make it feel like accomplishments are possible. So you see.

Fables: Snow White

It’s funny, when you think about it a bit. Snow White has been a main character (arguably the main character; definitely top five all along) in the Fables series for the eleven years of its run that I have reviewed, and yet this is the first time Willingham has named a book after her. It was enough to make me wonder if he was running out of ideas, and… whether that’s a fair assessment or not, I am nearing the end of the series and its associated spinoffs both, brief research tells me.[1]

Anyway, the first bit of the book wraps up the stories of Bufkin and his barleycorn girlfriend Lily (from the Castle Dark arc), and the battle to free of Oz from one of the Emperor’s regional governors. It was… fine? Towards the end, I liked it quite a bit, but I definitely think it would have fit better at the end of a previous arc instead of the beginning of this one.[2]

Later, the story of a bro who shows up claiming to be Snow’s first common law husband, before even Prince Charming, which… my knowledge of the story of Snow White doesn’t precisely fit with her ever having met a man prior to the dwarves, much less pledged to marry one. Which makes the whole rest of what happened feel like this was an excuse to move some pieces around the board in very specific ways.

Don’t get me wrong, the sequence of events told a good story, and I still want to know what happens next, even as I’m left with difficulties envisioning that there has been much of anything left to happen next for quite some time. But the precipitating event here, I just can’t buy it, so everything else is at least slightly tainted.

Oh, well.

[1] I wouldn’t have opted to, but I also don’t own all of them, so I’d need to know what to buy regardless.
[2] Unrelated brief (semi-accidental) research here tells me most of these were at the ends of prior comics, but only collected together in graphic novel format here, all together. Which explains why they felt as odd as they did. I stick by my “end of a book instead of beginning of a book” assessment.

Dexter’s Final Cut

A really long time ago, when I bought Dexter’s Final Cut (at Half-Price books per uzh, back when I went book shopping just for fun, since I hadn’t yet bought all the Deathlands books and also there wasn’t a multi-year global pandemic yet[1]), I remember thinking that it was, you know, the last book. There’s a clear implication! Later, there was one more book which had an even more final title, and a new one hasn’t happened since then, so I accept.

Anyway, those two books, the only ones of the series I bought in hardback, have been staring at me for many years now, and I finally thought to myself, self, start finishing your serieses that are sitting on your to-read shelf. Like, take advantage of the lack of making it get bigger to make it get smaller! And that seemed like pretty good advice, so I grabbed it after all those years, and I read it, and haha it’s actually a pun on him being attached as advisor to a new cop show being filmed in Miami. Characters include the really annoying popular actor, the salty comedian who hide darkness behind his jokes[2], the impossibly, ethereally beautiful actress who is nevertheless just a smidge past her Hollywood prime, oh, and the serial killer who has been stalking her for months.

The intersection of Dexter with these new characters went in a very different way than I expected, and in fact some latent humanity that has never before been present was awakened, and under other circumstances I think I’d very much want to talk about these things in a spoilery fashion, because they made a lot of sense despite being unexpected, and that kind of emergent character development is of great interest to me. (Plus I’d get to riff again on how he’s not nearly as smart as he thinks he is, aspects of which make the series a lot more comedic than I’d have guessed it would be, back on day one.)

But instead I’m just sad, because while pulling up the link on Amazon, I saw an unfamiliar title, and goddammit, I skipped a book. So I’ve just read the next to last book in the series, which ended on a pretty badass cliffhanger to boot, and… I need to go read book six instead.

Ugh. This has never happened to me before, I swear. (…except for the time I read Wishsong of Shannara not realizing it was the third book in a trilogy, but I was like 12 then.)

To recap: ugh.

[1] One of these is no longer true, and the other one is sort of semi-over, except for, you know, small children (of which I have like one and a half) who are not presently capable of immunization.
[2] You know, like every comedian. Also, he wasn’t very funny? Which I blame on the author, who is good at situational humor but not good at spoken humor. (Or maybe the comedian wasn’t supposed to be funny? But the remainder of the text doesn’t bear out that reading.)

Eclipse at Noon

A thing you would have no real reason to remember: Circle Thrice[1] ended on a cliffhanger. (Also, I read that a year ago?? I do not read enough. This is not the first time I’ve said this lately, but.) So anyway, though, cliffhanger.

That aside, Eclipse at Noon is mostly about old enemies and new riverboat rides. I’ve never been on a riverboat, but it mostly sounded like what I expected cruise ships to be like, except for the paddle and all. Also: smaller than that. This continues to make me wonder if cruise ships were just a lot fancier in the ’80s and ’90s versus how they are now, which is sort of middle class chic, for some reason.

Anyway: the story was approximately what I’ve come to expect, with guns and mutants and the promise of more teleporting around (although not any just lately). Also, some random old enemies that we’ve never heard of before, but as good a job as this series does of recycling old encounters into new ones, I cannot fault them for once in a while saying, look, guys, remember this stuff that happened to us before the series started?

The title thing, though: I can perform some mental gymnastics to force a metaphor about how just when things were finally going nicely for the first time in a while, with the cliffhanger resolved and some fancy big meals and a riverboat ride in the offing, oh no, their “high noon” is being “eclipsed” by this sudden old enemy machinations thing, but… yeah, I’d prefer more literal and less maybe metaphorical but maybe just “this sounds kind of cool, right?” titles, for my cheap men’s adventure sci-fi thriller series. I guess I’m just old-fashioned that way.

[1] That is, the previous Deathlands book.