By now you know the Deathlands drill, or have been ignoring reviews of the series and will ignore this one too. The main things that stand out about Shadowfall are the introduction of a new ongoing antagonist (a mutant hypnotist who collects hair, nominally for the sale of wigs) and the inversion of the usual formula, where the ruling baron of the area is typically a power-hungry sadist and tyrant who needs to be toppled.
A thing I found interesting is that this was one of the few places where… let me back up. See, Krysty (the redhead who can sense the limited future enough to warn of impending doom, or else have a good idea of whether her friends are safe or not in real time, over long distances) has been wanting Ryan (her boyfriend, the one-eyed leader of the traveling group of… heroes? mercenaries? I guess ronin would be a pretty good analogue) to settle down somewhere pleasant and make babies. The thing I found interesting was that this was one of the few times since she’s wanted this that they voluntarily left a locale where settling down would have been feasible, and she didn’t say a single word about it.
The thing you should find interesting about this is that the lack of consistent characterization is a noteworthy outlier.
 Power vacuums are not really a problem for our heroes, since they will be teleporting somewhere else by the beginning of next book at the latest.
 Appropriation being what it is, I should first note that this is my assessment, nobody has said anything like that in the books (not that they wouldn’t, because really, this is mid ’90s authorship, but they didn’t), and second note that I really can’t think of an American cognate for ronin. The only thing close is some Westerns tropes, but most of those are lifted wholesale from Japanese samurai / ronin stories and dressed up with six-guns and leathers in the first place, so you see my problem.
 There have been hints in fact of some probably but not definitely Japanese people popping up in weird places and slaughtering folks, which I expect to pay off in a book or two (and which may be what put the lordless samurai comparison in my head in the first place, come to think of it). None of this would be relevant, except that they’re being referred to as Orientals, which by 1995 really should have been out of common usage. So that’s been an annoyance.
Werewolves of the Heartland is an untethered to specific continuity side story featuring Bigby Wolf and, well, it says it right there in the title, don’t it?
See, there’s this city in Iowa fully populated by werewolves, and although that isn’t precisely why Bigby is in town, it quickly becomes the main reason. Not least (but not, I think, most either) because they’re tied into his past days murdering Nazis during World War II. Having established all of this in the first two issues, the rest of the book is how he solves the problem.
Good if: a) you really like Bigby as a character, or b) you want to see as many possible variations on werewolf boobs and dongs as you can imagine, although in this case that’s going to be approximately one example each. Tons of nude werewolves / untransformed men and women, but only one type of anatomy per sex. It was honestly distracting.
Bad if: a) you expect anything that happened to have future plot consequences or b) you don’t care for the new artist for this side project. Which I suppose I’ve already alluded to above, but the uniformity of figure drawing from the neck down was not the only thing I took issue with. These are crude representations, as a stylistic choice rather than a lack of talent I’m sure, but man is it not my style. Oh, or c) if you are reading the book in public, say at the DMV while trying to get your vanity plates transferred to your new car. Because, damn that’s a lot of boobs and dongs.
 Okay, it falls under the third full plot in the series, which is arguably over now but may just be winding down instead; too soon to tell, but it could be placed anywhere in that multiple book region.
 Real life timing wise, it is around 2012, which resulted in a funny (to me and maybe three other people) reference to the ABC show Once Upon a Time.
There are now thirty Walking Dead books. That’s nearly 200 issues of the comic, for values of nearly that are two to three years out. But still!
As has so often been the case since the war with the Saviors wrapped up, there is really only one important question that a reader of New World Order should have. “Is Kirkman telling a new story with this new group of organized people who seem to have actually restored civilization from the ashes of the zombie apocalypse, or is he about to rehash another ‘man is the real monster, so let’s watch Rick Grimes kick another opposing viewpoint’s ass!, but with a minimally new twist on events this time’ story. Which would make this round… four, I’m gonna say?
I actually do think it’s going to not be that simplistic, is the good news. Also the bad news, because now I’ve got my hopes up.
I ate too much yesterday. As a result, I watched a movie last night despite exhaustion, because I was too full to go to sleep. (I mean, to do so comfortably.) Unrelatedly, I finally got Shudder working again on my Roku. The intersection of these facts is that I watched a semi-random movie called Follow. It had an interesting enough plot description and was 78 minutes long, which was just about right for my needs.
There’s this bartender and his girlfriend who live together, and there’s also a girl at work who is way into the bartender, and an annoying guy at work who is an antagonist to the bartender. And, apropos of almost nothing, a weird neighbor teen who sings Christmas carols a lot. (Also, it’s the holiday season, which will be important in a moment.) Having established all this, plus some character beats about how the girlfriend is a bit morbid, we cut right to the point, which is where the intriguing description comes in. She has an early Christmas present for the bartender, one that he is not quite sure what to make of. Before he has a decisive reaction one way or the other, he blacks out and wakes up the next morning to learn that everything about his life has taken a hard swerve to the left.
Everything else (so, the remaining 70 minutes or so) is… well, I took it as a character study. Push a person in an unexpected direction, and then watch and see where they end up. And it worked pretty well for that. Another way to read it is as a study of madness and unreliable narration. At least, if you knew for sure what was going on for the first half of the movie, you’re more confident than I was! It’s tense, it’s spooky, it’s way dark, and… it’s pretty okay? The problem with a character study is you have to really accept the character. I understood him a little bit, but I’m not sure I liked him enough.
I finished the second second Robin Hobb book and its review just before my annual five day camping trip, which was good timing because I wanted small easy books to read, instead of dragging around a doorstop in the woods. But then I made a terrible mistake. In the midst of packing, every book I intended to bring (and the Kindle) were left on a shelf. Which meant, a day or so later when it was time to read, I had nothing!
This is I think the third worst thing that has ever happened to me on a camping trip.
So, I downloaded Kindle software onto my phone and picked the book that sounded the most like what I wanted at that moment, out of the books I have Kindleized. Which was The Maze Runner.
I already saw the movie (but apparently did not review it? wtf), so there were not like a ton of surprises? Though, much like the movie, motives are still unclear to me. Anyway, it’s a teen book about teens in a maze. Also, they have no personal memories. But mainly there’s this maze, and they’ve been there a while, but everything it about to change. (Also, mazes are cool.)
This book mostly asks questions that I assume future books will answer. Why are there a bunch of teenage boys left in a maze with no apparent solution? Why are they supplied? Why do new boys keep coming? Why can’t they remember anything? Why are there murderous monsters in the maze? Why only boys? (I’m not sure if I expect an answer to this one.)
I only read like one and a half chapters while camping, but it felt a lot better knowing I had something to read if I wanted to than before that, when I didn’t and everything to read was like 150 miles away.
I’ve read another Robin Hobb book, which is nice because the book was nice!
I mean, don’t get me wrong. It wasn’t nice. The place where the characters ended up was as bleak and unrecoverable as ever. Like I said: Robin Hobb book.
But the thing about Mad Ship is that it got me to the point where I understand what’s going on in the series. See, I thought it was a family drama about incredibly deep misogyny from the same kinds of outsiders who are totally fine with slavery, but with cool magic ships who are alive and sea serpents (who are also alive, but it’s less notable). And those things weren’t cool enough to get me past the malaise and dread the characters were going through, for no real point.
Instead, it turns out to be a grand tragedy spanning millennia and revealing vast stores of information about this series as well as the previous one, while working on incrementally improving some of the worst excesses of Ship of Magic. And I know that maybe doesn’t sound perfectly amazing? But it was so much better than the previous book, you guys.
Oh, also, <spoiler alert>, there’s a crazy ship in this book. (Spoiler because I am differentiating from an angry ship, although come to think of it that would also apply.)