August 2008

Booking Through Thursday

Are there any particular worlds in books where you’d like to live?
Or where you certainly would NOT want to live?
What about authors? If you were a character, who would you trust to write your life?
(This came to me when reviewing a Jonathan Carroll book – I’m not sure I’d like to live in the worlds of his books.)

Sure, I’d like to live in worlds which have a reasonable level of equality between genders and classes and at least modern tech level: Star Trek TNG’s Federation, Bujold’s Beta Colony or Earth, or Stargate Earth. Note that these are almost always sci-fi worlds because I don’t want to live in the pre-industrial fantasy worlds. The fate of commoner women there aren’t one I’d like to have. How many of them would “allow” a woman to live childfree and do what she wants instead of what the society/family/nearest (unmarried) male wants her to do?

I’d certainly trust an author who is big on happy endings! 😉

By Willingham, Sturges, Akins, Pepoy

This gathers up the first five issues of Jack of Fables; the self-centered, misogynistic, glory hound antihero of the Fables. The story starts pretty soon after Jack’s previous (last?) story arc in the Fables. Jack had been a big movie mogul but unfortunately for him all of his (very lucrative) movies were centered on his tales as Jack the Giant-Killer, and Jack and the Beanstalk. While they gave him fame, recognition, and power, they also made mundane humans more interested in fairy tales and possibly the fables among them. This wasn’t good from the point-of-view of the rest of the Fables community and so Jack was ordered out of the business with just a measly million dollars with him.

So, Jack is hitch-hiking by the road with a suitcase. A van pulls up but it has people who force Jack into the van. Jack rants against them and then jumps off – unfortunately in front of a speeding truck. He gets mangled up and loses his money. But because he has a lot of power, he regenerates. The kidnappers get him again while he’s unconscious and when he wakes up they take him to the Golden Boughs the retirement community.

This is a community where a group of librarians have imprisoned Fables such as Alice, Humpty Dumpty, and Bunyan. The head librarian Mr. Revise wants to keep the Fables there until the mundanes forget about them and they change into mundane humans themselves. Jack, of course, disagrees.

I didn’t quite like this one as much as the parent-title of Fables but it’s still highly entertaining. Perhaps there are a bit too many US Fables and I don’t even recognize them. Otherwise it’s fun to try to see the Fables in the background. The story is quite funny though and stays well together.

This is the first written Vlad Taltos-book and the fourth in the current in the internal chronological order. After reading the previous ones I have to admit that this is the one to start the series with. It’s full of background information which isn’t told either extensively or at all about Vlad, his job and family, the world, the Great Weapons, and everything.

The book is short, quick to read, fast paced, and full of plot twists and witty banter. Vlad owns his own small sector of the city of Adrilankha as a crime boss and an occasional assassin. One of his superiors in the hierarchy of his House, the Jhereg, approaches him with an offer of huge amounts of gold if Vlad would dispose of a certain Dragaeran. The trouble is that there’s a very strict time limit which would seriously cramp Vlad’s style. However, the money is too good and so our hero takes the job. Mellar, the guy Vlad’s been hired to kill, has managed to steal the treasury of the House of Jhereg. If that knowledge to out the Jhereg would be in serious trouble in the future and so Vlad has to work fast and silently.

Soon enough Vlad finds out that Mellar is in the Castle Black. The owner of the castle is Morrolan e’Drien who takes the protection of his guests very seriously. He’s also a friend of Vlad’s. In fact, if Vlad, or any other Jhereg for that matter, would try to take out Mellar in the castle, it would probably lead to a devastating war between Morrolan’s House of the Dragon and the Jheregs. However, Vlad’s superior are ready to risk that in order to nail Mellar so Vlad has to be very, very sneaky and very quick.

Dragaera is a complex society. While there aren’t much sexism in it (except in the Jhereg House where the sexes have been divided into male assassin/thieves and female sorceresses), there are certainly more than enough conflicts between the seventeen Houses, nobility and the peasants, Dragaerans and the humans, and of course between individuals. The Dragaerans are the equivalent of elves in many worlds: bigger, stronger, far more long-lived, far better at using sorcery than humans. That’s why the Dragaerans rule most of the known world and think of humans as barely sentient creatures.

The society is also very high magic: people teleport and are routinely brought back to life unless their brain has been destroyed or they don’t have enough money. Instead of cell phones people use psionic contact.

Brust’s style is quite sparse and more concentrated on dialogue than description. However, he’s not quite as sparse here as in the later books.

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