Saturday, December 31, 2016

Four Shorts Read on the Plane Ride Home!

So now that I'm back home, I will fully admit - the reading spree I've been on lately has been while I was away on vacation.  The last 12 things I've read were all read while either in the airport or on a beach.  I even managed to read another four short pieces while I was travelling back home yesterday!  I wrote my thoughts down in a notebook after I finished each piece, so here is the edited versions of what I wrote.  :)

First I read "Legion" by Brandon Sanderson.  This was a super cool novella.  Stephen is a very special man.  He suffers from hallucinations of people, hallucinations which show up as he needs them.  Does he need the help of a historian?  Tobias is there for him.  Someone to help him defend himself?  There's J.C. the Navy SEAL.  Stephen has a mansion where each of these people have their own room because once they appear, they stay with him.

Stephen is approached by Monica, who works for a fancy research company. One of her employees, Razon, has stolen a camera that he created.  The camera supposedly takes pictures of the past.  So Stephen (and a few of his hallucinations) are recruited to track the camera down.  Their search takes them to Israel, where Stephen and company are convinced Razon has gone to either prove or disprove the resurrection of Jesus Christ. 

One of the coolest parts was when Stephen flipped through a book on how to speak Hebrew and a hallucination appeared who could translate for him.  So depending on how exactly everything works, Stephen may have in reality flipped through the book and actually learned Hebrew!  He just has the hallucination taking over that part of his knowledge!  It was so cool! :)  (And if that's how things work, it means he's a ridiculously smart man!!!)

The other really cool part was when we find out why everyone keeps J.C. around. ;)

This was a super fun story that i really enjoyed reading!  Sanderson writes excellent novellas!  :)

Also, I'm super pumped to discover there's a second Legion story!!!!  :)

Next I read another Shotguns and Sorcery short story that I got from Matt Forbeck's first 12 for 12 called "Friends Like These."  This story involves some of the same characters that were in "Goblintown Justice" (notably Max and Kai the orc), along with a bunch of others.  This time, Max's halfling friend Moira has been accused of murdering an elf.  It's up to Max to prove her innocence once again.  This time he has to travel up the mountain to talk to the elves Moria had dealings with, so we get to see a few different parts of the city.  I enjoyed "Friends Like These" well enough, but I kind of think I liked "Goblintown Justice" a bit better.

After that I read "Jewels in the Night" by Kevin O. McLaughlin.  I've never read anything by McLaughlin before and don't really remember why I got this short story on my Kindle.  It's about a small crew of soldiers boarding a Chinese spacecraft.  The Chinese ship just nuked the American lunar colony and was returning to Earth.  The Chinese ship was created in secret because the Chinese weren't supposed to have such a vessel.  The marines were the colony's defense but were too far away to stop the Chinese vessel when it attacked.  So the marines did the only thing they could do - they waited in suits out in space and attempted to latch onto the vessel while it came by to assault it.  There were seven marines attempting this; only four make it onto the ship.  No one has ever attempted such a thing before, so the Chinese crew were completely unprepared for the marines' assault.  The marines succeed in their attack, taking out the crew and sending the vessel back to Earth to detonate its remaining warheads on China.  It's a terrible choice, but the captain hopes it will end the war.

As terrible as this story was (specifically with all the nukes killing billions of innocent people), I really enjoyed McLaughlin's writing.  I'll have to look into his other work (or more of this series) in the future!

Finally, I read "The Colonel" by Peter Watts.  I don't remember getting this one on my Kindle either.  I have to say, this one was intriguing but I really wasn't a fan of Watts' writing style.  "The Colonel" takes place in the future of our world where people can band their brains together to create hive minds.  The Colonel of the title is very, very against them and has been fighting them for a decade.  As the story progresses, it is revealed that his son was sent out into space and was never heard from again.  So when one of the local hive minds gives him an unexpected clue, he decides to risk everything to find out more.

I assume this was some sort of prelude to a novel or something because that was where the story ended.  I was sad that there was no real resolution to anything as a result.  As intriguing as the world was, I highly doubt I'll read any more because I really wasn't very interested in it.

So that's the end of my vacation reading spree.  I managed to clean up a whole bunch of things on my Kindle, plus I read Witch World in the middle of everything, too!  And now we're at the end of 2016.  I don't have separate blog posts for everything (and I didn't bother writing a post here for a few books), but according to Goodreads I've read 73 things this year!  A good chunk of those things were either shorts (thanks to the last few weeks) or graphic novels (only 25 were actual books, be they short story collections, novels, or nonfiction).  I had hoped to make it through 20 of the anthologies/short story collections that I own this year, but that didn't happen (I think I read 4, and one of those was an accident; I've also got two others on the go but am not going to be finishing them any time soon).  But I just checked out this 2016 Reading Challenge which I printed off last December; it looks like I almost completed it!  Check it out! 


Tuesday, December 27, 2016

"The Evil That Befell Sampson" and "Sins of the Father"

I think I got "The Evil That Befell Sampson" and "Sins of the Father" as part of the Ministry of Peculiar Occurences Kickstarter that happened last fall.  I haven't read any of the books in the Ministry of Peculiar Occurences books before, but I did like her Books of the Order and thought that if I ever did read the Ministry books it would be nice to have the later ones already.  So I had no knowledge of the characters whatsoever when I started reading these short stories.  Both stories seem to be prequels to the actual series.

"The Evil That Befell Sampson" follows Eliza D. Braun in New Zealand.  She is helping her fiance's mother with a suffragist matter.  Kate (her fiance's mother) has been the preeminent
suffragist in New Zealand.  Some of Kate's friends, who are also suffragists, have suddenly withdrawn their support.  Eliza goes to see one of the ladies and realizes that she has been mind controlled by a bracelet.  There's no time though to deal with that because Kate needs to get the signatures of hundreds of women to parliament in time.  But of course things don't go smoothly - the guy who mind controlled the older lady isn't going to let them get those signatures to parliament without a fight!  

I have to say, this story was just ok.  For one thing, I got annoyed with it because there were a lot of stupid spelling and grammar errors in it.  The story also didn't really grab me, especially since Eliza and company sort of just dropped everything to get the scroll of names to parliament.  I know that it is important that they did this, but it seemed to happen a little too abruptly within the story.  

While I didn't really expect it, I've now seen the motivation for Eliza moving to London.  I thought that was a really interesting event that really builds the character.

After that I read "Sins of the Father," which I thought was a lot more interesting.  "Sins of the Father" is written from Wellington's father's perspective.  The man had some grand design in mind for Wellington, but Wellington has turned his back on his father's plans and decided to forge his own path.  The father has some contingency plans that he will activate to bring Wellington back into the fold.

Honestly not a whole lot happened in "Sins of the Father," but that didn't matter because the story was so heavy with foreshadowing events yet to come.  This story, much more than the other, left me wanting to read the Ministry of Peculiar Occurences books at some point in the future (but definitely not now). 

Monday, December 26, 2016

Witch World

60's Fantasy is always an interesting read for historical value, but I often find it's a bit hard to get through.  That's exactly how I felt when I started reading Andre Norton's Witch World a few days ago.  I picked it up in a used bookstore not too long ago and decided to read it.

Witch World follows the adventures of Simon Tregarth.  Ready to make his last stand, he is instead given the chance to journey to another world, one where his mind and spirit will be at ease.  He finds himself on the moors of a magical world.  He helps a witch woman escape from some foes, and ends up joining her nation of Estcarp, where he fights in the Guards.  Unfortunately Estcarp has enemies on all sides.  Worst of all is the mysterious Kolder, who have some sort of Power too strong for the Estcarp witches to break through.  Kolder has been creating an army of zombie soldiers out of men.  How will Simon and Estcarp stop Kolder's advance?

One thing which I was sad about was how much Witch World jumps ahead in time.  The synopsis of the book had me thinking the plot would be about Simon finding his place in this world.  And yes, it's sort of that over a long period of time.  But when he first made it to Estcarp I was really interested in him trying to communicate with the other people.  But then it jumped ahead a few months to a point where he could communicate fluently with everyone; I thought that was a real shame. 

I was also rather sad that the book followed Simon.  I found him a lot less interesting than most of the people around him.  Part two confused me for a bit when it switched to a completely different character for a few chapters; once I got over that shock, I found that I really liked her story.  But then it switched back to Simon and I was quite sad, especially since it never left his perspective again.  Don't get me wrong. Simon's a fine guy.  But he was one of those special chosen magical protagonists who got rather boring because of course he will survive everything and of course he's the only man in the world with the witches' Power.  I thought people like Koris, Loyse/Briant, and the unnamed witch (well, she was unnamed until the end of the book anyway) were all very interesting people who I would have loved to follow along with more.

I did find the Witch World itself to be a very interesting place (although I really wish I'd had a map while I was reading).  The many different cultures of people were varied and, to be redundant, very interesting.  I wish the book had gone into a bit more detail on all of them.

Likewise, the plot of the book was rather interesting.  I liked how no one in the world knew what exactly the Kolder were or how they worked.  So rather than having characters keeping information from Simon (and you the reader at the same time), you got to follow along as everyone pieced together what was going on.

I did find the ending to be rather abrupt though.  Koris saw through Briant's disguise suddenly and they seem to be together now; I'm not entirely sure how or when that really happened.  And the witch, in a rather offhand way suddenly gives Simon her name, they kiss then fade to black.  Like I said, very, very abrupt.

So that was my adventure reading Witch World.  I enjoyed it well enough and am glad that I read it.  But I have no real intention of continuing on with the series.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Two Hearts

Wow do I love stories by Peter S. Beagle.

"Two Hearts" is a story that takes place many, many years after The Last Unicorn. A griffin has made its home near Sooz's village. It's a minor annoyance until it starts taking children. A few knights are dispatched, but they all die. After the griffin takes Sooz's best friend, she sets off to find the king. She meets Schmendrick and Molly Grue on her way; the pair of them take her to King Lir's castle. But Lir is an old man now who gets confused. Although he agrees to rid Sooz's village of the griffin, everyone fears that the king will not return, especially since he has to strike both of its hearts to kill it.

I apologize that I'm half asleep as I write this, and not feeling at all articulate. I really liked reading about the further adventures of Schmendrick, Molly, and Lir. And Sooz was a fun character as well. "Two Hearts" was an interesting yet satisfying epilogue to The Last Unicorn. I'm super glad to have read it.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Four More Short Stories

Today was a nice and lazy day which I spent reading more short stories on my Kindle. This time I read "Paladins of Shannara: the Weapon Master's Choice," "Fable: Theresa," and "The Keeper: a Short Story Prequel to Forbidden." The first two were stories I had been saving for some reason...(I think in the case of "Fable: Theresa," I was planning on playing through the original Fable game before reading it, but never did finish it). Like with After Life, I have no memory of "The Keeper" but that's ok, I read it anyway.

"The Weapon Master's Choice" was obviously a story about Garet Jax. A lady seeks him out, asking for his help saving her people from a warlock. The warlock is a dracul, draining the souls from her people. Jax agrees to help, and finds himself unexpectedly falling in love with the lady. It was an enjoyable story from one of my favourite authors.

I think "Fable: Theresa" was my favourite story of the three. The blind seer arrives in a town to find a young girl who is being overwhelmed by her dreams. Theresa knows the girl hasn't much time left. So she sets off on a quest to save the girl, seeking out the only person who may be able to help: the warlock named Raven. She needs the help of a Hero to get her there. Since time is short, the only one around is Elijah Stane, a washed up old Hero who is drinking his days away. He failed his last charge and so is reluctant to help anyone else, but reluctantly agrees to help the blind seer (because she is determined to go on her quest with or without his help). Theresa knows that they seek a miracle, and that even if such a thing exists, it will come with a price; will she be willing to pay it? I loved this story, but then again I'm a fan of Peter David's Fable stories so this wasn't at all surprising.

Of these three stories, "The Keeper" was my least favourite. But it is, as advertised, a prequel story. But more importantly, it's a prequel story to Forbidden, which I know nothing at all about. Two hermit brothers are approached by an unfamiliar man. He tells them that they and the world are dead, but that he can help them live again. I think he meant that they were emotionally dead, but it wasn't super clear until the end. This was by no means a favourite but it was interesting enough. Unfortunately it didn't make me want to keep reading the series right now.

Oh yeah, and yesterday I also read "The Boy With the Silver Eyes" by Bruce Coville. That takes place in his Unicorn universe. A Hunter makes his son eat the flesh of the Unicorn he had killed, which changes his son forever. The son's heart is restless and seeks some unknown thing. So he journeys out, finding the songs of Earth, Fire, Water, and Air in the hopes of finally putting his heart at ease.

After Life

I do not remember getting Simon Funk's After Life on my Kindle. I started reading it for the simple reason that it is apparently a novella (I only say apparently because it was far longer than the other novellas I've read at about 120 pages, but it is still a novella). When I rated it on Goodreads I discovered that someone at work had recommended it to me. While I still have no memory of this whatsoever, based on the fact that it is science fiction, I now have an idea of who.

Anyway, After Life is the story of Alexander, a PhD who finds himself in a bizarre world where humans live easy lives, gaining nourishment from a fountain that spews wheat. Prior to waking up there, he had been undergoing an experimental procedure to scan a brain; the procedure was his own creation. While living in the bizarre world (which he increasingly believes is real), at night he dreams of events that happened to other versions of him. It's a really odd story that becomes more and more compelling the more you read (and start to piece together what happened at about the same speed Alex does). I don't typically read tons of science fiction, so this wasn't a familiar kind of story for me at all. 

I've been reading bits of After Life over the last few days, and finally decided to power through the last 60% tonight. As I said, this is a bit of a longer novella and even though I enjoyed it, I was kind of ready for it to be over so I could start reading something else. I actually feel like I should reread After Life at some point in the future because it deserved a bit more thought than I was giving it (particularly since I've found myself rather tired over the last few nights and not able to concentrate on it super well). Of course, any reread won't be happening for a long while because I have many other books/stories I'll need to get through first!

Saturday, December 17, 2016

"Goblintown Justice"

About 5 years ago, I backed Matt Forbeck's first 12 for 12 Kickstarter campaign. One of the stretch goals that got unlocked scored me the ebook version of Forbeck's short story "Goblintown Justice." "Goblintown Justice" is set in the Shotguns & Sorcery setting Forbeck had created earlier as a roleplaying game world (and which was the setting of his second 12 for 12 trilogy). To date I've only read his Brave New World trilogy out of the 12 for 12 stuff I backed. So while flipping through my Kindle stuff, I decided it was definitely way past time I read this.

"Goblintown Justice" finds Max Gibson embroiled in trouble. He leaves the Quill and discovers an orc he knows from his adventuring days standing over the corpse of a woman in the auxiliary city guard (whom both he and the orc knew from said adventuring days). The Dragon Guard arrives and arrests them both. The evidence is overwhelmingly against the orc. Max is released and instructed to find the killer fast if he wants to save his orc friend. So he heads down to Goblintown, the roughest neighbourhood in Dragon City, looking for answers.

This is my first experience with Shotguns & Sorcery; I was really liking the world. It's got crazy little touches, like the zombie horde outside the wall, that added to the already interesting mix of wild west and wizardry. The story itself was also rather entertaining, full of the crazy politics of Dragon City's diverse inhabitants. Honestly, I'm quite looking forward to reading the second 12 for 12 trilogy now (which I may get to in the near future...)

Friday, December 16, 2016

The 33, Episode 1: Pramantha, Part 1

It looks like the next few weeks are going to be dedicated to me reading a bunch of things I bought on my Kindle and never got around to reading. Today I just finished The 33: Pramantha, Part 1 by J.C. Hutchins. I believe I bought it around when it came out a few years ago. I didn't remember what it was about at all, but decided not to care and just dive right in.

Addisson Creel made some crazy deal a few weeks ago, that he would have his past debts forgiven if he agreed to be on call for the next 33 weeks to help someone called Mr. Ins. There's a chance Mr. Ins won't call on Creel; should that happen he'd be free to do whatever he wished. But of course that doesn't happen; Creel wakes up to a mysterious voice in his head, which brings him to a farmhouse halfway around the world. There he is introduced to members of the 33 and informed he will have to help them save the world. Part 1 ends after everyone sits down and explains everything that's going on.

I really like the idea of the 33. Hutchins wrote it to be serialized kind of like TV or the initial release of The Green Mile, which came out in small parts. And there's a lot of interesting things going on in the story. What is Creel's secret? Who is Mr. Ins? What caused those people at the beginning of the book's weird suicide game? But I found that I didn't really connect with Creel, which is a shame; I'm honestly in no hurry to read more of the series. It is quite possible it will get better as it goes though, so I'm not completely against reading more in the future. It's also got a pretty good rating on Goodreads, so that may help to sway me in the future.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

William Shakespeare's Star Wars: Verily, a New Hope

I've had William Shakespeare's Star Wars: Verily, a New Hope for a rather long time now on my Kindle. Life's been so busy though that I forgot it was there. I finally had some time to read it earlier today though; because it's written like a Shakespeare play I managed to get through it in a day.

So first, the good: this is Star Wars: a New Hope written in iambic pentameter. That's awesome!!! The dialogue was pretty amazing, and I loved a lot of the asides; the asides were super fitting and made what people said out loud much more interesting. Also, R2 D2 purposely pretending to only speak in beeps while being a Puck-style character was hilarious!

The bad: I did not like how Ian Doescher went out of his way to copy other Shakespearean plays. For example: at one point Luke starts talking to a Stormtrooper helmet like how Hamlet talks to Yorick's skull. I thought that was stupid and did not need to be there. Also, the Chorus was the most annoying thing ever. It made sense to be there at say the beginning when you would normally get the title scroll. But it would randomly show up in the middle of a scene, taking away from the hilarious dialogue. I hated that because it dropped you out of the action (even though it was often there to set the scene for the action). Also, in the majority of Shakespearean plays I've read, you get along quite well without the chorus - generally there's a few minor stage directions and otherwise characters tell you what's happening in dialogue.

So overall I'm glad I read William Shakespeare's Star Wars: Verily, a New Hope, but I didn't enjoy it as much as I thought I would. I love Shakespeare and I love Star Wars. Unfortunately the two together weren't quite as awesome as I expected them to be. :(