SF book set in a world with superpowered people.

Publication year: 2013
Format: Audio
Running time: 9 hours, 54 minutes
Publisher: Buzzy Multimedia Publishing
Narrator: Noah Michael Levine

Eli Cardale and Victor Vale are roommates in Lockland University. They’re both loners and brilliant. Victor arrives at the school first and he really doesn’t want a roommate; he’s already been able to get rid of two of them before Eli arrives and is assigned as Victor’s roommate. At first, Victor considers finding a way to get Eli packing, too, but Eli starts to interest him more and more. They become best friends even though Eli gets the girl Victor is interested in.

For his final work, Eli decides to examine the EOs, as the Extraordinary people are called. For most people, EOs are urban legends, talked about but never seen. They have powers, some flashy but most subdued. Eli has a theory that near death experience can change a person into EO. Eli and Victor test the theory in secret.

Ten years later, Victor has just busted out of jail, with his cell mate Mitch. They have been joined by a 12-year-old girl Sidney and they’re digging up a corpse from a cemetery. Victor is determined to get revenge on his former best friend Eli by killing him.

The book chapters alternate between past and present. It’s also split into two parts: “Water, Blood, and Thicker Things” and “An Extraordinary Day”. Each chapter’s headline tells when it fits into the timeline. Victor and Sydney are the main POV characters.

This book is very similar to the darker superhero comics and the Watchmen movie. (But it doesn’t have a lot of violence nor does it have sex, so not that kind of “mature” comics. ) It examines the darks sides inside every person. People doing bad things for bad reasons and good things for bad reasons.

Victor is the only child of two famous therapists and he hates them. They don’t have any time for him, just sending him from school to school. Eli doesn’t talk much about his parents at all. They both love science and learning and they’re very ambitious.

Eli has a sidekick whom I found more interesting than Eli himself. Victor has a small group of people surrounding him. I liked his friend Mitch the most; he’s not what he seems at first glance. Sydney was also a great character.

I love superheroes so I liked this one a lot. When I loved the dark heroes and anti-heroes a lot more, I would have loved this book. But these days it’s a bit too dark for me to fully love it. Especially the university part of the book almost felt like reading about young Doctor Doom and his just as proud roommate. (Neither of them really remind me of Reed.) Perhaps the constantly repeated name Victor helped with the mental image.

Interestingly enough, this book has a lot of similarities with “Black and White” by Jackie Kessler and Caitlin Kittredge published in 2009. Both books have alternating parts in past and present, characters who used to be best friends and are now arch-enemies, and one of the characters is “good” and the other “evil”. But in “Black and White” the main characters are women and not as arrogant as these two guys. The worlds are quite different, though, since in “Black and White” superheroes are media stars. And the characters in “Vicious” are more cynical.

Tough Travelling hosted by Fantasy Review Barn.
Each Thursday, inspired by ‘The Tough Guide to Fantasyland’ we have in hand, we shall tour the mystical countryside looking for adventure and fun (and tropes) from all over fantasy.

This week’s topic is INDEPENDENCE BATTLES

The good fight. Casting of the chains of tyranny! No one in fantasyland refuses the call of the good fight. And what fight is more important in fantasyland than FREEDOM?

Star Wars: the Rebels’ fight against the mighty Empire.

Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien: Sauron wants to take over Middle-Earth.

Mistborn series by Brandon Sanderson: the Lord Ruler is a terrible ruler for most of the people and a small band rise up against him, even though he’s a god.

The Vampire Empire series by Susan and Clay Griffth: the vampires are a different race than humans and they are intent on keeping humans as cattle. At the start of the series, the vampires have taken over the Northern regions of the Earth.

Night Watch by Terry Pratchett: Truth! Freedom! Justice! And a hard-boiled egg!

In the Terminator movies humans fight for their survival against machines.

Collects Elfquest 16-21

Writers: Wendy and Richard Pini
Artist: Wendy Pini
Publishing year: 1989
Publisher: Father Tree Press
The comic has a continuous storyline, so spoilers for the previous collections.

Most of the Wolfriders survive the troll ambush and meet the final new elf tribe, the Go-Backs. They are warriors through and through, led by their fierce chieftess Kahvi. They ride reindeer but they don’t bond with them the same way that Wolfriders bond with their wolves.

The Wolfriders have come to the north, to a land of ice and snow, looking for the dwelling of their ancestors, the High Ones. Now, they can even feel its pull, from deep below ground.But the trolls have found it first and have claimed it for themselves. The Go-Backs and the Wolfriders must united their forces to get the High Ones’ dwelling back. A bloody battle awaits! Also, Two-Edge, the son of Winnowill, continues to play his riddles with both the elves and the trolls. He seems to be insane and nobody knows what he will do next.

One elf who is thought to be dead, returns! He brings more bickering and confusion to the elves.

Almost all of the questions about the original quest are answered in this volume. The next volumes continue with the Wolfriders lives, tough. This is a great and satisfying conclusion to the original series, so there’s no need to continue further. Personally, I love the elves and read happily the other graphic novels and comics, too.

The elf tribes are pretty different from each other. The Wolfriders and the Go-Backs are both warriors so their cultures look superficially the same. However, the Go-Backs revel in fighting and don’t even want a healer because “she’ll make warriors soft”. The Wolfriders respect every life and fight only when there’s no choice. The war in this volume makes that very clear. The Gliders from the previous volume are insulated and insular; they can’t even have children anymore. The Sun folk are the gentle farmers who don’t have warriors.

The grim tone continues in this final volume when the elves have to go to war. All of the Go-Backs, both female and male, go to fight and some of them die. Out of the Wolfriders, only one adult elf stays behind with the children: the gentle treeshaper Redlance who is a male. There are really no gender roles in the elven cultures as such. First, everyone does what is needed to survive and then what they want to do and have talents for.

Today the topic of Top Ten Tuedays is Top 10 books read so far in 2015.

It was hard to choose the best books. Fortunately, I’ve read a lot of good books this year.

1, Catherynne M. Valente: The Orphan’s Tales: In the Night Garden
I’m currently reading the second book in this duology. They’re wonderful fantasy, inspired by the tales told in the 1001 Nights and they have an unusual structure, tales within tales.

2, Kristine Kathryn Rusch: Masterminds
Masterminds ends the eight book series Anniversary Day Saga. I’m a fan of Rusch and she delivers an excellent ending, this time too. In fact, I really enjoyed the books leading to this tone, too.

3, Howard Pyle: The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood
Robin Hood is one of my favorite folkheroes and Pyle’s lighthearted retelling of the stories are very good.

4, Karen Lowachee: Warchild
A haunting book where the protagonist is orphaned very young and has to endure a lot.

5, Scott E. Tabert: A Midsummer Night’s Steampunk
Another very fun book. A stand-alone alternate history steampunk clearly inspired by the Shakespeare play in the title.

6, Diane Duane: Dark Mirror
My first tie-in book this year! Duane’s Star Trek: the Next Generation book is a chilling (in a good way) journey to the Mirror universe where our familiar heroes aren’t.

7, Terry Pratchett: Witches Abroad
Pratchett’s three witches tackle fairy tales coming alive.

8, Elizabeth Bear: One-Eyed Jack

Set in Las Vegas and it deals with characters who are archtypes from spy movies.

9, MeiLin Miranda: The Machine God
A steampunk book where the main character is a linguist and it’s not centered on violence.

10, Clay and Susan Griffith: The Rift Walker
The second book in the Vampire Empire series was just as much fun as the first one.

Best comics:
While the Excalibur reread was fun, I really enjoyed the Elfquest reread the best.

The second book in the Vampire Empire series.

Publication year: 2011
Format: Audio
Running time: 13 hours, 35 minutes
Publisher: Buzzy Multimedia Publishing
Narrator: James Marsters

The book starts three months after the end of the previous book, Greyfriar.

Prince Gareth of the British Vampire Empire has returned home and is dealing with politics. Unlike all other vampires, Gareth is on the side of the humans and wants to stop his brother from ruling the whole world. Prince Cesare is forming an alliance with other vampire monarchs in order to destroy the Equatorian human empire which holds lands in the warm south. Gareth doesn’t like this alliance but he can’t stop it from forming. Then he hears that his love Princess Adele is in danger and he hurries to her side.

Princess Adele is the heir to the Equatorian Empire and the only hope of uniting her Empire with the American Republic. The American Senator Clark came to Alexandria to marry Adele and thus form a human alliance against the vampires. However, Adele has noticed that Clark is bloodthirsty bore; she doesn’t want to marry him, especially because her heart belongs to the Grayfriar. But she also knows her duty and has reluctantly agreed, even though she’s trying to postpone the wedding as long as she can. When she hears that Clark and her father the Emperor intend to start the war with a strike against the vampire’s food source, she tries to stop it. Killing thousands of humans just to deprive the vampires of food, is deeply wrong to her. But the men insist that it’s the logical way and too soon her wedding day arrives.

But during the wedding, Greyfriar appears and kidnaps Adele. She’s happy to abandon her duty and escapes with him, leaving Clark roaring after them. Adele and Grayfriar travel to Egypt in order to escape the imperial pursuers and in hopes of finding allies. They are also seeking a way to defeat the vampires which doesn’t involve killing a lot of humans.

This was again a fun and quick read, at times almost a melodramatic swashbuckling adventure. Adele and the Grayfriar have now become the romantic couple at the heart of humanity’s survival. The book is fast-paced and has some very interesting twists which I didn’t see coming.

However, the book has so flaws, too. I think that Grayfriar’s desire to protect humans is pretty strange. He isn’t human, after all. Also, both Adele and Grayfriar are characterized as good, or great, leaders and tacticians. Yet, when the tactics include each other, they fail. For example, at the start of the book, when he saves a whole town from slaughter at the hands of vampires, Grayfriar’s concerned that he doesn’t do enough for humans. Yet, when he hears that Adele is in danger, he drops everything to help her. He doesn’t give another thought to humans he’s supposed to be protecting. Adele’s powers are growing and she knows that she needs them in order to defend humans from vampires. Her Japanese teacher Mamuru teaches her to use her powers. Yet, when her growing powers start to cause Grayfriar pain, she just blithely decides not to train anymore which could mean that the next time she has to use her powers against the vampires, she could lose and every person dependent on her might die.

The book also had lots of stuff I enjoyed. The people have decided that Adele and Grayfriar are a romantic couple and they write penny dreadfuls and plays about them. They’re hilarious! There were also some delightful twists I didn’t see coming and by the end, the status quo has been changed which I enjoyed a lot. Clark is also an enjoyable antagonist although I can’t help thinking that sacrificing a lot of people is the way that real wars are fought (and won?). Prince Cesare reveals another tactic against the humans which I also liked.

Most of the secondary characters from the first book return and we’re also introduced to a bunch of new characters when Adele and Grayfriar travel to Africa. My favorite secondary characters are Mamuru and Colonel Anhalt who commands Adele’s personal guard. Both have strong convictions and aren’t afraid to stand behind them.

The book doesn’t end in a cliffhanger but the great confrontation between the two empires is clearly coming.

Tough Travelling hosted by Fantasy Review Barn.
Each Thursday, inspired by ‘The Tough Guide to Fantasyland’ we have in hand, we shall tour the mystical countryside looking for adventure and fun (and tropes) from all over fantasy.

This week’s topic is FATHERS

Comes in two types in fantasyland. Either a semi-mystical figure proving impossible to live up to or the overbearing type who doesn’t understand why his daughter doesn’t accept the traditional princess role. He may be tough to get along with but usually does think he has his kids interests in mind.

My list is a bit different: :)

Two of the most prominent fathers in the Elfquest comic have pretty much opposite fathering styles:

Bearclaw was a real character. He enjoyed tricking humans, drinking and gambling with the trolls, and hunting. He had a bad temper and he even struck his son Cutter once or twice.

Cutter is a very supportive father. He lets his children be what they are without pressuring them. He’s fiercely protective of his family and tribe but he also knows when he has to let his daughter go and live her own life.

Oberon from Roger Zelazny’s Amber series is very much a mysterious father. He vanished without naming an heir and left his children fighting over the throne of Amber. He has over twelve children, most of them half siblings so the fighting was fierce.

Lord Allandale, the father of William Laurence, is perhaps the epitome of an overbearing father. Nothing Laurence did pleased him. The Earl didn’t approve when his son joined the Navy and he approved even less when Laurence got his dragon Temeraire and joined the Aerial Corps.

Everyone in the steampunk Seattle thinks that Levitictus Blue was an evil genius who was responsible for the destruction of Seattle’s city center and inventing the blight gas that turn people into zombies. However, his son Zeke didn’t believe that and ran away to find any proof that he could to clear his father’s name in Boneshaker by Cherie Priest.

Jesse Dawson is a modern day samurai who tries to save people’s souls from demons. He’s also a loving father and husband who always wants to return to his family in K. A. Stewart’s Devil in the Details. His daughter Annabelle is still very young.

Magneto was the leader of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants and his children were members. He’s manipulated his daughter Wanda a couple of times to join his Brotherhood even after she joined the Avengers.

Speaking of intimidating fathers, Aral Vorkosigan is a very difficult act to follow. Even if his only son Miles didn’t have a lot of physical problems due to a soltoxin attack, Aral is still the greatest general in Barrayar, the Prime Minister who kept the county together until the young Emperor was old enough to ascend to the throne, and later the Viceroy of an entire planet. And an excellent father, to boot.

Zeus fathered a lot of kids but was a very negligent father. In fact, gods in general aren’t terribly good parents.

Pa Kent is one of the most decent humans around. After all, he raised Superman. Even though Superman was technically an orphan, he was raised by pretty great humans.

Edited to add: Rick Castle. Another great dad.

A Discworld novel.
Publication year: 1991
Format: print
Page count: 374
Publisher: Gollanz

Desirata Hollow is a fairy godmother and pretty good at it, too. However, she’s never been good at planning ahead and even though she knows the moment she dies, she isn’t well prepared for it. She leaves her wand and vague instructions to Magrat Garlick in the hopes that the young witch will make a good fairy godmother to at least one young princess, Ella. Desirata also leaves strict instructions for Nanny Ogg and Granny Weatherwax not to interfere, hoping that when they find out, they will help Magrat.

Of course, the three witches are soon riding their broomsticks to the distant Genua with the intension of preventing Ella from marrying the prince. On the way, they realize that someone is making fairy tales to come literally true which isn’t a good thing at all. And more horrifyingly, they encounter foreign foods and customs which infuriate Granny especially. Also, Magrat is able to use the wand to change anything into pumpkins.

Witches abroad focuses on the nature of stories and how they affect people and vice versa. Granny also encounters someone from her past. They also muse about happy endings and how they can’t be forced on people from outside. The story is woven around the Cinderella story but if not inverted, at least turned sideways. Lots of other fairy tales make an appearance, too.

About half of the book is the witches’ journey to Genua and it had some of the funniest scenes in any Discworld book I’ve yet read; Granny taking revenge on some card sharks and Greebo, Nanny’s cat, eating a vampire while the witches are oblivious to the whole thing.

Witches are my favorite Discworld characters and they’re in fine form in this book.

“Most witches don’t believe in gods. They know that the gods exist, of course. They even deal with them occasionally. But they don’t believe in them. They know them too well. It would be like believing in the postman.”

“The wages of sin is death but so is the salary of virtue, and at least the evil get to go home early on Fridays.”

“The Yen Buddhists are the richest religious sect in the universe. They hold that the accumulation of money is a great evil and a burden to the soul. They therefore, regardless of personal hazard, see it as their unpleasant duty to acquire as much as possible in order to reduce the risk to innocent people.”

“And the people from the city – not the ones who lived in the big white mansions and went to balls in fine coaches, but the other ones. They were the ones that stories are never about. Stories are not, on the whole, interested in swineherds who remain swineherds and poor and humble shoemakers whose destiny is to die slightly poorer and much humbler.

These people were the ones who made the magical kingdom work, who cooked its meals and swept its floors and carted its nightly soil and were its faces in the crowd and whose wishes and dreams, undemanding as they were, were of no consequence. The invisibles.”


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