Tag Archives: Fantasy

Yet Another Acquisition and Tommyknockers Knockin’ at my Door

This one I had to get because, at the time, it was the only available copy on the internet and I already had number two. You never know if the one on the internet is the first of forty to show up tomorrow or the only one that is going to show up for forty years. So I bit.

I have to put a temporary halt on book buying. I can no longer even pretend that I am keeping up. Hell, last Friday I decided to reread The Tommyknockers by Stephen King on a whim.

Not totally a whim. It is one of my favorites. For one it was the first book I read in my very first place on my own. No television. Just beer and piles of books. And that was when I could read for 6 hours at a spin. Now I have to start fighting a nap within a half hour. That may be because I wear x3 magnification and hold the thing up to my face.

No television, no internet, no computers. Ah, those were the days, brother, those were the days.

Another reason I like it is it is a good story. Stephen King said in an interview it was his least favorite book and he doesn’t remember a lot of the writing. It was at the height of his drinking and cocaine days. And there are places in the book where you think, “ah, man, this was an eight-ball night for him for sure.” By this time he was a lot like Lucas I would imagine – editors as yes-men.

King’s strongest story-telling has always centered around friendship and this one is no exception. That, and the man knows the throws of alcohol abuse – quite intimate on that he is.

Anyway, it is one of my favorite science fiction / horror stories. Those are two genres that haven’t always mixed well, or believably. This one is a gem in my book. Love it. And it’s fast too. There is no hidden symbolism in King’s work, no meta-anything – just straight forward storytelling, contemporary Americana, and some shots of terror.

Hey, I just started a book called The Resurrection of the Son of God – go look up the table of contents. I need some rest after some of my reading!


STORMBRINGER II

Still not quite done with this book yet but…

I have a few more observations. First is the bleakness of it. In this world there are two opposing forces Chaos and Law. The reign of either spells the doom of man. Chaos is winning and Elric the “hero” (and, comparatively, to today’s standards he passes as one – he’s basically Conan with albinism who draws his power from his runeblade’s ability to suck out the souls of its victims) must defeat the forces of Chaos and establish the reign of Law. The reign of law will also spell the end of man. This would be the end of magic basically and the warrior man and bring about common man like us.

Something like that.

But either way, Elric and his race are fighting for their own doom. He does not save the girl she dies horribly, etc, etc.

The other observation is I believe Moorcock wrote this either on amphetamines or close to lethal doses of caffeine. The pace is relentless nobody stops for anything. And this includes the author who often did not check to make sure to carry through his character’s action through exposition.

There is one sea battle scene where three of the heroes are treading water amongst the debris of wrecked ships and dark Chaotic forces. Also one of their number is unconscious and is being supported in the rough waters by the other two. In comes their “guide” in some sort of bubble craft. He starts to “info dump” and they are having a page and a half discussion.

After a while I was thinking, “Why doesn’t this jerk let them into his craft, they’re going to drown gabbing away like this.” A few sentences later the writer has them exiting this bubble craft back at the guide’s lair (sorry, I don’t have the book in front of me I don’t have all these names on recall) in Nahrain (I think that’s it).

Hold it. What? But they never left the water! And – before any one contradicts me, you are wrong! If you do not take them out of the water, they stay in the water. It is not my job as a reader to, when they suddenly exit this bubble-craft I did not know they were on, to backtrack in my mind, “oh, well, they were on it the whole time!” No, you have just thrown me out of the story.

Another instance was merely clumsy. Elric comes to his wife Zonizoria (its close something like that) who is hiding from the forces of Chaos that have almost taken the whole of the earth. He tells her he must leave, he cannot stay long. And then proceeds to make sweet love to her and to stay all night until the next morning. And the next morning when he is getting ready are his three (or two?) war companions simply waiting for him as if they instinctively knew that even though he had to leave soon, that meant at least a full night’s sleep and making whoopee. Are these characters or things that are just there when they need to be? The way it is written makes it hard to feel anything or care when they later die.

Later on in the book they have to go steal a magical shield from some giant that protects against the maligning forces of Chaos so Elric can get in there and kill the baddies. The giant has known for eons, through prophesy, that Elric would one day come to slay the giant, himself, for this shield. When Elric and gang fight through the giant’s defenses and confront the giant himself, the giant, sad and resigned to his fate (he had been immortal, made mortal and spent eons fearing the encroachment of his death) he asks Elric mercy and lays the sword at his feet.

Elric agrees to let the giant die by the passage of time at not by his soul-sucking blade, and so the giant walks off and Elric picks up the shield and turns to leave. Oh, hell no, thinks one of his compatriots and murders the poor giant from behind – because? Prophesy. Oh, and Elric killed one of his own fighting through the giant’s defenses (and not entirely by accident) so the giant has to die because Elric couldn’t control the power and passionate rage that courses through him when he and his sword are slicing through the flesh and sucking up the soul of their enemy in battle.

That did get a reaction out of me. I felt sorry for the giant, and I thought “man, Moorcock, you dick. you had a nice moment there, but you had to ruin it for a little more blood.” Seriously, I bet George RR Martin worships this guy.

Anyway, that is probably all I’ll write about this book. I will remember some parts of it, but as you can see I can barely remember some of the names as I am reading it. It is not, by far, the worst book I have read in recent years. That still goes to Ann Leckie’s terribly galactic letdown.


STORMBRINGER

I am only about halfway through this book but I feel safe in calling this one. This book is stupid. The writing is inept while at the same time having pretension. I wish I had written down some of the stupid phrases I have read in this work so far. At one point Elric stands up from a sitting position followed by the phrase “his eyebrows lifted.”

What? his eyebrows lifted him out of his seat? His eyebrows lifted why? In relation to what event?

In another scene two warriors are having a discussion about a runesword. The main character, Elric, holds out his hand – “Give it to me,” Elric said quickly.

And then they proceed to stand there and talk a while longer. Why did he have to say “Give it to me,” quickly? It is out of place, there is no action requiring him to ask for it quickly. He just stands there holding it for a few more minutes of conversation.

The book is full of such disjointed, out of context writing.

It is also the sort of work that could not be put into film unless all parts were acted out by drunken cross- dressers. No one else could pull such laughable melodramatic seriousness. And the action, first this and then that, the world ends if you do this, the world will end if you do that. Literally the world will end. Within the first 20 pages we are buzzed into a full blown world war and extravagant backstory of Elric’s warrior ancestors and the rule of Chaos and blah, blah, blah.

I will finish it. It is not a hard read, and the book doesn’t let you vest any emotion in any of the characters so you slam through it. Can’t remember a character (ah, and it comes with numerous lands, people and gods that share a single characteristic – goofy names that are hard to retain or pronounce, and they are made up so you can’t go look in the dictionary) who cares! Just pay attention to the albino hero, Elric. He will succeed or he won’t – screw it on to the next book!

Not bad if you know you are going into pretty much worthless cheese.


THE LAST UNICORN by Peter S. Beagle

Finished this gem last night. I am a little old to have been reading the book but I thought I had a gap in my reading of fantasy classics. It wasn’t until near the end that it flashed upon me that I had already read this work as either a child or young teenager.

On another level the book is suitable for adult reading as well as it deals in subject matter that would be lost on children or even most young adults. It deals with the eternity of beauty, the ephemeral status of things that pass, what it means to be a hero (and the book gets it head on). A lot of themes almost passed me by as I was not expecting the book to cover any deep territory. They had almost passed me entirely by before I thought, “Wait a minute, this guy is saying something more here!”

The book ended on a sort of melancholy note (at least for the unicorn) as the unicorn had tasted the pain of mortality, of want and of loss and would therefore never be the same as she was before. The before state was of an immortal, unchanging perfection. From here you can see the philosophical and theological themes at work in the story.

The book was a delight to read. And was certainly what I needed after sailing aboard Lafferty’s ARGO. Not that I didn’t enjoy that thoroughly, but they make you work your ass off on that damned ship!


New Acquisitions in Fantasy

I found a good source for widening my fantasy reading experience. I hope. I haven’t read very much in fantasy as compared to science fiction. I feel that this is because while science fiction had many influences (including fantasy itself) a lot of fantasy is occupied by derivatives of Tolkein’s works. Current releases probably mirror George RR Martin’s work which is really just a nihilistic, modern take on conventional fantasy. In fact, I was in the science fiction/fantasy isle lat month and saw two such titles by different authors that began like “A Game of…” “A Dance of…”, much like in the late 90’s and early 2000’s you ran across YA books like “Charlie Bone and the….” Derivative.

The source for widening my fantasy experience is Lin Carter’s Ballentine Adult Fantasy series from the 60’s and 70’s (note – many of the works in the series predate the 60’s and 70’s by several or more decades, many being rereleases). Hat tip (yet again) to Mr. John C. Wright for bringing this series to my attention.

Right now I have about 50 pages of Peter S/ Beagle’s THE LAST UNICORN left and then Michael Moorcock’s STORMBRINGER. Then I think I may rip through these and then tackle R.A. Lafferty’s PAST MASTER again.

Happy Reading everyone!


The Force Awakens… Tired and Confused

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So I saw The Force Awakens on Christmas Eve.

Based on initial viewing – meh.

First the good points (and I’m going to be quick).

It did not look like the prequels, it had the look (so far as you can try such a thing) and feel (you can never really go back…) of the originals.

Also I knew as soon as the usual episode scroll rides to the top of the screen that we were not going to get bogged down in senate debates and Jedi council meetings, and conversations that take place on a couch, etc. We were going to get what we came for.

Unfortunately that brings right to the bad. I was almost, no I was, hoping for a council meeting, a senate debate or something. This was a JJ Abrams Star Wars, all guff and action and not a single attempt to explain anything.

Now explanation is not always necessary. In movies in particular, if you can express it through action instead of explanation through dialogue, that is the proper way. In Return of the Jedi we needed no explanation to know what is going on behind the mask as the Emperor is electrocuting his son before his eyes.

But The Force Awakens, as  I said, is a JJ Abrams film, he delights in doing things that have to have an explanation and then refuses to do so. It is as if the man enjoys pushing people out of the world of his own films.

Firstly, the trailers for The Force Awakens all had the black storm trooper (he is black when he takes off that helmet, his uniform is as any other stormtrooper) he looks like a man that has just suddenly emerged from a terrorizing nightmare. We are led to believe that this is the person of the new trilogy. But it is not, it belongs to some little girl. A girl who serves the modernly well-worn bromidic falsehood that little girls can fight and defeat men twice her size.

And that would be fine, if we were given some plausible (plausible here is plausible by the rules of the world created) reason for why she can do this. For instance, waif, Carrie Moss’s character, Trinity, in The Matrix Continue reading


No, I Actually Haven’t Yet (and then I start rambling about the prequels again…)

Luke-trial

No, I haven’t been to see the new Star Wars yet. I am a Jedi, I will see it in all patience when the time comes! Really though the wife doesn’t want to get sardined into an overpacked theater with a thousand cell phones. So I’ll wait until she’s ready.

She better not wait long. I’ve heard almost nothing but good things about it. It has a 95% rating at Rotten Tomatoes (which is one more than The Empire Strikes Back). Not infallible, but pretty impressive… most impressive. I doubt Abrams has beat out Empire for best Star Wars film (although he did have one of the screenwriters from Empire, Lawrence Kasdan) and I think it more that people are starved for even a decent (speculating, haven’t seen it yet) Star Wars installment after Lucas spent 8 years taking a giant dump on some of our childhoods.

I am assuming he stayed away from annoying children’s characters and fart and poodoo jokes and the like. George Lucas got the wrong idea about his films at some point (you can see it in The Return of the Jedi – teddy bears defeat the Imperial forces? really?). While the films were suitable for children to view, they were not by that fact children films. Herbie the Love Bug was a children’s film plain and simple.

Actually, one could contest whether the Star Wars films were ever suitable for children (at least below a certain age). You are talking about a monster (Darth Vader was a mechanical monster, half man, half machine) that ran an Empire of Nazi/totalitarian themes (Stormtroopers) who burnt some poor farm kids aunt and uncle to a crisp. An old wizard that gets cut down. And, let’s not forget a holocaust when a million (billion?) people are murdered by a giant laser. The body count in the original Star Wars was probably the biggest ever. Not onscreen, but still.

The second movie was even darker although the body count went down. We find that the monster who has just cut off the farm boy’s hand is his father. How’s that for an idea in a young kids mind? We have torture and not just torture, but torture for no reason. As Han said when his torture was over, “they didn’t even ask me any questions.”

The word for today kids is Sadism! Say it after me.

I’m not saying a kid couldn’t watch it, but saying it was intended for children from its inception just makes me wonder what kind of sick person you are then. Genocide? That’s a children’s theme for ya.

Lucas continued and intensified this confusion in his slipshod and confused prequels. Where in the same series you have the fart jokes for kids and the lizard poo poo jokes and the kid-friendly (but adult enraging) characters in a movie with the slaughter of who knows how many children. Numerous severed limbs. Pure evil, extermination of an entire class (the Jedi).

The prequels didn’t even have the benefit of being uplifting in any way like Continue reading


R.A. Lafferty Volume Three Posted on Amazon!

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I randomly go on and check Lafferty’s book status for prices and appearing rarities. But THIS was here when I just checked. Note the price of $100. Screw those guys, go through the publisher, Centipede Press. It is not available for order yet from them but it should be soon. They charge about $30 less for the book than Amazon and especially stupid B&N.

Amazon also says it ships in May, but its publisher says late December. Doesn’t really matter to me either way since I’m stuck in this school thing. I haven’t even cracked the spine of either copy of the last installment! Yeah, I’m sitting on extra copies.

I also check for Lafferty because the agency Jabberwocky got ahold of his stuff last year and are apparently sitting on it until I pass on. I suggest everyone get on their ass. Sell that material agents! I WANT THOSE BOOKS!!!!


Yet Another Lafferty Acquisition

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Upon Centipede Press, or Amazon, delaying the second installment of R.A. Lafferty’s short story collection yet again (this is the 4th or 5th month in a row) I decided I may be dead before any percentage of his vast writings are republished. So I give you Sinbad! the 13th Voyage.

This is from a very  small publishing house very late in his career. He was relegated to the small, independent publishing houses when the New Wave tide subsided and people decided they no longer wanted to think and read at the same time. I don’t know when he wrote it but its publication date is 1989 which is after his first stroke and after he had mainly stopped writing. I didn’t see any diminishment in his EAST OF LAUGHTER that was published in 1987. Then again a publication date and a writing date don’t exactly coincide unless you are James Patterson. This could have been written in 1971 for all I know. 

I’ll have to do a little reading up before I tackle this one. I know nothing about Sindbad except there being a comedian by that name. I know, that is embarrassing, but I’m not a freaking encyclopedia. I personally know one, but I am not myself one!

My next one will be AURELIA from 1983. The starting price on that one is $70 so I will see how the week goes first. I can’t wait too long though, Neil Gaiman has mentioned him twice in the last two weeks and once in the NY Times so there may be some collector interest out there.

GET BACK YOU! OR I’LL SEE MY BLADE THROUGH YER BACKSIDE! SHE’S MINE, SEE? MINE!!