Tag Archives: fantasy

Blue My Mind

Another week or so, another movie or so.

This time, a not-particularly-horror movie that combines teen angst bullshit[1] with a modicum of weird body horror, which for the most part seemed out of place, to be honest? 15 year old Mia is going through puberty, which means she doesn’t like her parents, does like the mean girl clique at school, and wants to have all the sex and drugs and cigarettes it is possible for a nearly-legal German teen to have.

But also, strange things are afoot with, uh, her feet. And the family goldfish. What can it all mean? Was she adopted like she thinks, or did she just fall in with the wrong crowd, like her parents think? Does the body horror have any place in this movie? I can answer that one: no, but it did give them a way to wrap things up, instead of just trailing off into disaffected adulthood like most people making “bad” choices end up in fiction. So… yay?

I’m carefully avoiding the spoiler at the center of Blue My Mind, mostly because it was impossible to not know it from the presentation on my streaming service of choice, and the expectation that it would turn out to matter is mostly what ruined the movie for me. Counterpoint: I probably wouldn’t have watched it without that expectation. Counter counterpoint: would that have been so bad?

[1] but no body count

Fool’s Fate

I have not finished many series lately. The Walking Dead wrapped up a few months ago, and before that… I don’t know. It honestly might have been the Wheel of Time. Which is going back nearly 10 years I think? One conclusion to draw from this is that I have really way, way, way too many started but unfinished trilogies on my to-read shelf. Another is that there are definitely people who need to do more work on finishing their series, and here I am looking mainly at GRRM. But I think the first conclusion is definitely a relevant one, is all I’m saying, and maybe I’ll do something about that in the next months.

That turned out to be a bigger digression than I thought. Because, I finished Fool’s Fate yesterday, and, okay, that is not technically the end of a series. Maybe it was at the time, and then Hobb decided she could write more after all? I don’t know, but I know someone told me that it felt like the end of the series, and that this person was 100% right. If nothing else were written in this world, I would be… honestly, I’m so satisfied that to some degree I’m concerned about there being more written.

The first trilogy ended with the plot crisis averted, but the character crisis fully embraced, and that’s kind of how I’ve thought of Hobb’s writing as a result, despite evidence to the contrary since. The second trilogy ended with both plot and character crisis averted, but with the acceptance that the world was still turning.

[Because of the author, mild spoilers lurk below.]

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Mandy (2018)

Then I saw Mandy, and that… that was quite a thing. See, Nicolas Cage and his heavy metal-loving girlfriend Mandy live in the woods, idyllicly discussing things like what their favorite planet is and why her father made all the neighborhood kids kill baby starlings when she was young. Then, one of those weird ’80s Satanic cults comes to town, and the leader has eyes for Mandy. Except, unlike most ’80s Satanic cults, they can summon actual biker demons. Result: things go predictably awry for Mandy.

The only thing left for Nic Cage to do is borrow a crossbow and forge a weird halberd-shaped axe[1] out of a single piece of metal and go seeking bloody revenge. And… you know what, the problem with a concept this over the top is that they were too restrained. What this movie wanted, no, yearned to be was a rock opera. With characters straight up singing at each other while having their chainsaw swordfights. Is there such a thing as a metal opera? I’m guessing the answer is probably not, and that we came as close as we ever will with Mandy.

It’s a letdown, is what it is.

[1] Look, I know what you’re thinking. A halberd is an axe. But what I’m saying is, it’s a regular-sized axe, not a polearm, but with a halberd-like head for some reason. I guess the reason is because that’s what shape of mold he had lying around?

Golden Fool

I have really a lot of thoughts about Golden Fool, which (unless something changes) marks the approximate midpoint of Hobb’s travels in her world of assassins and Elderlings and dragons. That clause looks like the kind of clause you say to fill time, but I meant it to actually convey something, which is that the many swirling thoughts and confusions I have not yet expressed are probably in the right place. After all, if I don’t find myself with more questions than ever and my previously held answers upended in the precise middle of a story, when should I find myself in that predicament?

But anyway, the series and the world continues to be both really good and to not bother me as much as it has in the past, on an emotionally depressive level I mean. So those are both things that are great! In addition, they are pretty much the only things I can say that are not spoilers. Well, that’s not quite true. My one line not very spoilerly summary goes like this: this is the book where Fitz learns how to interact with humans again.

Everything else below the cut, though.

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Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker

This will be a long one. It will definitely contain a bunch of spoilers, but not for a while and not without notice. Also below a cut, but that’s only so useful unless you’re on the front page of my site, and nobody but me ever is.

Anyway, as you may be aware, there was a final Star War that released about a week ago. I’ve seen it twice, not on purpose. After we already had the Friday morning tickets, a Saturday evening show was demanded, so I had both showings scheduled before I had seen it once. Luckily, and apparently unpopularly, I liked it well enough to not be unhappy about a twice.

The key to not hating the movie is not looking for a sequel to The Last Jedi. I know that sounds nonsensical, but it isn’t. The thing is, these are trilogies. Return of the Jedi (which I can annoyingly no longer shorthand as Jedi) was a sequel to Empire (which I can still shorthand as I please) only in that Empire ended on a cliffhanger about the fate of Han Solo. Really, it was a sequel to the entire trilogy. More, Revenge of the Sith was a sequel to that entire trilogy, not to the second movie. More still, Return of the Jedi was retroactively a conclusion to the entire series to date, all six movies. Likewise, The Rise of Skywalker (however dumb of a name it is, second only I think to Attack of the Clones on the bad title scale) is a conclusion to the entire nine movie sequence. It’s also a conclusion, more or less, to the third trilogy, but that’s definitely secondary. My point here is that it’s fulfilling a different purpose than people seem to want it to have fulfilled; it’s tying everything that has gone before together. And I really think it does this well, on the whole.

And okay, I think that’s as far as I can go without lots and lots of spoilers.

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Fool’s Errand

My Hobbsian (and let’s be honest, to a very real extent Hobbesian) journey continues, with the first book of the Tawny Man trilogy. Fool’s Errand, in addition to being a thoroughly apt title, is a surprisingly focused book. We’ve returned to Fitz’s quiet, retired life (one cottage, one wolf, one teenaged ward, one sporadic booty call), and the Fool has returned from wherever the Fool has been[1], and catching up on the last 15 years of not much happening[2] takes up the first third of the book. Then, the remaining thirds are taken up by, well, you know Fitz was going to get re-involved in the Farseer family and the fate of the Six-or-Seven Duchies, or else how do you even have a new trilogy starring him? But all of the above covers maybe three weeks. Like I said: focused.

So, there’s this one small errand to be undertaken, and if it’s going to cost Fitz everything, that’s pretty much how these things go. Details would go to the heart of what the book and the trilogy are likely to be about, so I’ll stay out of them, but I’m not sure how long it’s been since I’ve been pounded so hard over the head by a book, regarding a single unifying theme; in this case, letting go.

The thing that surprised me the most is that I never felt the sense of personal misery from the first trilogy, nor of societal misery from the second. This was mostly a straight adventure story, albeit shot through with threads of quiet, persistent melancholy. But what I’m saying is, melancholy is so much nicer than misery.

Anyway, I’ll keep reading these quickly, because I’m coming close to needing to finish out the Malazan books, and I don’t want that big of a gap interrupting this story, in which I am already heavily invested.

[1] I mean, it’s pretty clear where, but spoilers. And I reserve the faintest sliver of doubt, based on notions of the other prophet and catalyst on the other side of the Red Ship Wars not being a mislead, but instead a clue. But it’s a very fine sliver indeed.
[2] Or a well-documented trilogy happening, depending upon where you fall in your beliefs about the books

Fairest: The Hidden Kingdom

I’m going to start in a couple of weird places. First, a word about Amazon. I understand that it has turned into something of a flea market, like, from an observational perspective. This doesn’t bother me because I can mostly tell what I’m buying and what I’m not. I hear people talk about counterfeits, and I believe it, but I’m either okay at this or lucky, and either way, yay. I bring this up because I just saw something unpleasant while preparing for this review. The link I found for The Hidden Kingdom indicates that it’s not Prime eligible and is being sold by a third party vendor, which is fine as far as it goes, except that it also shows the notification that I bought it from this link in 2013. When it definitely was Prime eligible and being sold directly by Amazon. Is that as messed up as I think it is? It seems deeply troubling. But where else am I going to buy, well, everything except food?

Then, a word about covers. I’m not a stranger to covers of comics collections that I read being only adjacent to work safe, and it’s not especially difficult to work around it. If I happen to have time for a reading break, it’s easy to read with the cover concealed, and when I do not I can just flip it over. So I’m a little annoyed that this book shows a different issue cover on the back side, which has an equivalent amount of Rapunzel nudity, only this time a kitsune is making out with her. Not a big help guys! And then, worse: the issues in this series were both written and penciled/inked by women, but the covers of the issues… you guessed it. Brotown. (The one to-be-fair is that the kitsune makeout scene cover is basically lifted straight out of the issue in question, but that doesn’t really alleviate much of my logistical or sexist concern. I don’t like being put in the position of having to come out against nudity in art, but, damn.)

Okay. That was a lot of words about not the book I’m reading. Cool. Moving on.

And then haha I didn’t move on, I did something else and later forgot I never finished the review, and now a month has passed. Super cool.

So, uh… there’s Rapunzel, right? And she’s on a quest to revisit her past between her early days as the adopted daughter of Frau Totenkinder[1] and her current days as a refugee in Fabletown[2], insofar as a) she wants to find her missing child that has been lost to her since its birth and b) she has been summoned by the past anyway, to Japan where the Japanese-style fables implausibly ended up while fleeing the expansionist emperor guy who used to be the bad guy of the series. Because that’s a lot of where she spent her time between child loss and fleeing the empire thing. Was in the land of Japanese fables. Before they went to Japan.

I am nailing this.

Then there’s also a one-shot wherein a tree lady dates a fox. With unexpectedly ominous hints about the future!

[1] Somehow, it never crossed my mind before to look up what the “toten” part of Totenkinder means in German. That’s awesome.
[2] This is a flashback, set some years before the series opened back in Fables #1.

Fables: Cubs in Toyland

Someday, I will write a review that does not start off discussing how far behind I am and how that’s highly unlikely to change. Today is certainly not that day, in that, at the end of a week of work, I got maybe halfway through my list of tickets once, and I’m positive that a lot of them are waiting on me to do work to proceed. Which is why I never read, which is why I’m actually not very far behind, or wouldn’t be if I hadn’t been on a long drive that included finishing an audiobook. But this is not about that.

As you will no doubt remember, most of my graphic novel reading lately has been Fables, for the purpose of getting caught up to the Unwritten / Fables crossover of 2015[1], in case there are any spoilers. Which there probably won’t be anyway, but why would I voluntarily do that to myself? So now I’ve ready Cubs in Toyland, which gets me to only a year and a half behind where I need to be. Cool?

This is an interlude book for the majority of characters, since the most recent big bad remains thoroughly defeated and the traps he has set remain unsprung, and nor has any new big bad reared a head. But it is a critical book for the offspring of Bigby Wolf and Snow White. One of the seven has recently been named the new North Wind[2], and the others are at loose ends trying to figure out what they are meant to be. Which is all fine and good, until one of them is swept into a far darker version of the Babes in Toyland story than I would have expected.

It’s a good book, though, and I continue to care what happens. 18 volumes in, not counting 10 or more side books / spinoffs, that’s a pretty good record.

[1] I know. I know.
[2] Probably this is tangentially spoilery, so don’t read more if you care about that. (If you did care you’d be reading the books I expect, but.) Bigby is the son of the former North Wind, and he does not want the job, and also it is apparently a genetically inherited position. Thusly. Is the North Wind important? Man, I don’t know, but I will say that the Winds are pretty dang powerful / primal forces, even by Fable standards. So, now you know.

Night of Knives

This is where the Malazan books get logistically weird. Because, see, Erikson had a fellow gamer partner back in the early ’80s or whenever they were building this world, which is ultimately my point, that the world builder behind the Malazan books is a they. And apparently the dividing line they have drawn is that Erikson writes about the Malazan Empire in decline[1], whereas Ian Esslemont writes about the Malazan Empire in ascension. Well, he does eventually. In a trilogy written later than this one.

Night of Knives is ostensibly about the Malazan Empire on the cusp of decline. That is to say, it is about the specific night when the Emperor Kellanved (but don’t say his name, just in case) died, or was deposed, or was assassinated, or if some darker rumor about what happened is the truth. (He said, nobly avoid spoilers from Gardens of the Moon.) But I said ostensibly, because it’s really about new characters reacting to the events of those twenty-four hours on Malaz Island, birthplace of an empire turned sleepy backwater port town that nobody has cared about in decades, that night when strange things were afoot that happens every so often in the island’s mythology, that night when the realm of Shadow is closest, when the Deadhouse stirs, when everything is ripe for a Really Big Event. Such as an emperor’s fall. Or whatever happened.

So. I liked the new characters, and I hope that the five sequels to this book that are as far as I know still set on that cusp I mentioned do something interesting with them. I liked a little bit more plain talk about the history of the empire; while it’s Erikson’s strength that he throws you into the world without a life preserver and trusts you to tread water until you discover the joy of swimming, it’s his weakness that he sometimes forgets to eventually throw you a life preserver anyway, because joy doesn’t cancel tiredness[2]. Or, this was always Esslemont’s story to tell, and Erikson has simply been staying out of the way for something like half of the series. Like I said in the first place, it’s really very strange having another person play in a world-building sandbox, without it being slash turning into a farmed industry a la Star Wars.

[1] Obviously it’s not ultimately anywhere near as simple as that, but it is absolutely the launching point of the series.
[2] To my surprise, I’m still happy with that metaphor upon review.

The Lees of Laughter’s End

Well, this is incredibly annoying.

As you may or may not be aware, I am deep in the guts of a reread / relisten of the Malazan books, wherein I have audiobooks for the ones I already read once (which is four-fifths of the original ten book series) and physical books for the ones I never read before or didn’t yet get to. I am doing this by publication date, partly because researching a series chronology is potentially spoiler-laden, partly because the main series already has no truck with a strictly chronological presentation of its story, and partly because that is what the authors of the world recommend. Fine then.

Except, I just read The Lees of Laughter’s End, the second story in the three story collection of the tales of Bauchelain and Korbal Broach (a probably evil wizard/theoretical necromancer and a completely amoral (in the literal sense) eunuch/practical necromancer), only to realize when I was pulling up Amazon to find a cover picture for the standalone book that it is the third story in publication order, even though it starts off merely days or weeks after the first one, Blood Follows, ended. Which is an understandable way to order a story collection, fine, but I clearly was not paying close enough attention to what was going on when I picked up the book and just started reading on the page after I’d left off. (Notably, this would have been even more likely / harder to deal with if I’d had it in electronic form.)

So much for doing a thing right.

Anyway. I think this may be the first Malazan book I haven’t really cared for. Here are a scattershot list of reasons why.

  1. The biggest one is ironically a strength of the series. It starts off res in the media of a really bad night on a ship bound for… you know, I have no idea where they were going? I suppose I know where they ended up, but that’s in dim and distant future from now. But my point is, things start happening fast and furious, and where a book or in some cases a series can benefit from in media res storytelling because you have time to ponder and cogitate and assemble pieces of the puzzle for yourself, a novella does not afford you that luxury. By the time things started being spelled out for me, the story was nearly over and I’d spent 80% of my readthrough confused. Whereas a couple of hours out of a book, or a lot of hours out of a massive series, that’s not nearly so bad. More time to care what’s going on now that it makes sense.
  2. I also usually like a good comedy of errors, and I think I know why I didn’t like this one. The reason a comedy of errors works, structurally, is because all these horrible, blackly funny things are happening to people you care about. All of the new characters in this one, okay, I did like them a little, but I was too busy being confused (see above) to really latch onto any of them; and as for the three main characters, I like one, appreciate one, and am completely creeped out by one. This is not the recipe for a successful iteration of the genre.
  3. Right in the middle of the story, there is an inadvertent crime against one of the bit characters by one of the main characters. It was not preventable, and nobody was at fault[1]. It was exactly the kind of fluke occurrence that fits right into a comedy of errors. Only, I’m really zero percent comfortable with this particular type of crime, played for laughs probably ever, but triply so when written by a male author and where the victim is female. The more I think about it, the less sure I am that I will continue to read these offshoots. But it’s long enough between now and the previous one that I will be reading next, because sigh, that I’ll probably make another attempt. Still, though.
  4. It’s really the “for laughs” that is crushing to me, because without that tone… What worked about the first book is that it was all from the perspective of the necromancers’ manservant, Emancipoor Reese, who has a very Edd Tollett[2] outlook on life. Everything was either happening to him, or through his lens, and that kind of comedy I can get behind. This was more, look how zany and also legitimately bad but in a zany way things can get, and Reese was involved in maybe 20 percent of the events, and mostly his bits were what was good, but I just cannot with my point 3. I was wrong that the first point was the biggest problem after all.

Yeah. This is a book that is nowhere near good enough to justify how problematic it also is. It has not soured me on the original main series, but on its own merits I strongly disrecommend it, and it may well have soured me on this side series.

[1] Because magic, basically.
[2] A member of the Night Watch in GRRM’s A Song of Ice and Fire Series. If you get it, you get it.