April 2009

Booking Through Thursday

Which is worse?

Finding a book you love and then hating everything else you try by that author, or

Reading a completely disappointing book by an author that you love?

I consider myself lucky because I haven’t experienced either. Sure, I’ve loved one book from a specific author and not liked the rest, and some of the authors I love have written books I don’t really like. But there are very few books which I loath and they don’t fit into either category.

But purely on a theoretical level I’d think that the second case would be more disappointing: I would come to expect something wonderful from an author and instead would get the complete opposite.

This is the final book in the Lord Meren –series set in the Ancient Egypt.

The Eyes and Ears of the Pharaoh Tutankhamun, Lord Meren, is more determined than ever to find the man who killed Queen Nefertiti. He has narrowed down his suspects to two men. Unfortunately, these men are so powerful that arresting them and questioning them might disturb the fragile peace that the young Pharaoh has managed to forge. So, Meren has to continue his investigations in secret.

One of his perhaps best leads in an old, addle-brained woman Satet. She was the sister of Neferitit’s cook. The cook and her husband have both died and Meren suspect that they have been murdered. Therefore, he took Satet into his own household both for her safety and so that he can better question her. She managed to remember the name of the leader of Nefertiti’s bodyguard and where the man currently lives. Unfortunately, shortly after telling that information Satet is also murdered.

With no other real leads, Meren plans to sail to Syene where the soldier lives. However, before he leaves, he meets an old friend: Anath. Anath is a rarity: a female spy. She grew in Akhenaten’s palace and the vizier Ay trained her to become a spy for the pharaoh. She has lived many years in Babylon undercover but has now been recalled. Meren and Anath reconnect quickly and Meren takes her with him to the voyage. She persuades him to stop in the old capital to see some letters that might provide a clue.

When Meren leaves, his son Kysen continues to pursue the case carefully. He meets with one of the suspects and invites him to dinner. Meanwhile Meren’s daughter Bener has also decided to help: she tries to befriend another suspect’s wife and ends up flirting with a suspect’s son. Kysen is not happy about that at all.

Slayer of Gods is more focused on intrigue than the previous books. It’s also a bit slower in pace than the previous books which is, of course, understandable since it’s tying up the threads from the previous books. There are also a few instances of the Pharaoh interfering in matters which feels a bit too much like deux ex machina.

Meren himself gets more and more irritable and short tempered which is, again, understandable when he’s trying to solve a murder that happened eleven years ago and he’s also trying to deal with powerful people without getting himself or his family killed.

Anath is an interesting new character and Bener continues to be as headstrong as before.

All in all, a good conclusion to the series.

Here’s my latest review: Misty Massey’s Mad Kestrel .

It’s a pirate story set in a fantasy setting.

Booking Through Thursday

It does seem like modern fiction just “tells the story” without much symbolism. Is symbolism an older literary device, like excessive description, that is not used much any more? Do you think there was as much symbolism as English teachers seemed to think? What are some examples of symbolism from your reading?

Many other people have answered this question today and have talked eloquently about symbolism, how it is the only quantifier between literature and mere fiction, how symbolism not only exists in modern fiction but is also just as necessary today as it was before. Some say that story is just a story and finding symbolism shouldn’t be necessary.

To some degree I agree with most of the above. However, I think that symbolism is in the eye of the reader – sometimes readers find symbols that the author didn’t put in because the reader and the author are different people and have had different experiences. Sometimes readers can’t find symbols that the author did put in. (I actually think that it would be pretty scary if everybody understood every text in exactly the same way regardless of wealth level, gender, age, culture or country you live in.)

I think it’s easier to pick up on references in older texts because the reader often knows about the myths and classical texts that an older text often refers to. The symbols in modern texts can be different and so require a different knowledge base to see them.

I also think that there’s nothing wrong with just wanting to read and let symbols and references come to you unconsciously if at all. It’s all up to the reader.

By Vaughan, Jeanty, Owens. Issue 10 by Whedon and Richards.

This is part of my comic book challenge 2009.

The second part of the eight season in comic book form. This trade gathers issues 6 to 10.

This arch brings back Faith and Giles. Giles has found out that one of the girls who got Slayer powers isn’t a good guy but intends to bring about the Apocalypse. Unfortunately, the girl is a rich English heiress so killing her isn’t going to be easy. So, Giles drafts Faith. He promises that after Faith kills Lady Genevieve, she can go to an early retirement away from Slaying and her criminal record. Faith agrees reluctantly and Giles starts to train her to be an English lady so that she can infiltrate into Genevieve’s social circle and strike unexpectedly.

Lady Genevieve Savidge, or Gigi, is a spoiled young aristocrat who wants to rule the world. Her trainer and bodyguard is Roden who is quite a powerful warlock. He can summon gargoyles out the air to defend Gigi. In order to prepare herself for the coming battle Gigi fights and kills other Slayers. She also seems to have an interesting ability to sense when another Slayer is near. Gigi and Roden are quite a formidable pair.

We also get some glimpses of the Scottish castle where Buffy and the gang have their base. Willow is trying to cure Dawn’s gigantism and Buffy is seeing terrifying dreams.

Both Faith and Giles are the same as in the show. In fact, I heard their dialogue in my head with the actors’ voices. I love the dialogue and the art is okay. I didn’t expect Giles to resort to assassination which seem a bit too dark for the Buffy gang to do.

In issue 10, “Anywhere but here”, Buffy and Willow are trying to find out more about the mysterious Twilight-group. Willow flies them to the lair of Sephrillian who minds an unstable reality field. There Willow and Buffy hope to be able to find some answers. But first, they see glimpses of past and future and eventually have to face some ugly truths in the finest Buffy fashion.

I liked both stories and I’m really interested to see how the story continues.

This is part of my ebook challenge and 2nds challenge.

This is the second in the Dante “Danny” Valentine series about a futuristic Necromance bounty hunter. This time she has to deal with the fallout from the previous book.

It’s been a bit less than a year since the end of Working for the Devil. Danny’s life is a mess. Her lover is dead and she’s having a hard time accepting that, her former lover is back and trying to make amends for walking out on her before, her whole body has been changed, her magickal power has increased, and her right hand is ruined. In order to keep herself from thinking things too much, she takes as many bounties as possible so that she can lose herself in the thrill of the chase and capture. Unfortunately, the thrill lasts for a short time.

Danny is now half-demon although she’s not sure what that means exactly. The demon Japhrimel didn’t have the time to tell her much before he died. All Danny knows is that her body is now stronger and faster, and can take much more punishment than before. Her psionic or magickal abilities seem to be stronger as well. Now she has to keep her emotions in check or she will bleed power all around her and disrupt the lives of other people. Her body has also changed outwardly; she now has a golden, perfect skin and her face has also been sculpted into perfection. Because her body heals herself now very quickly, her old scars have also disappeared. Only callouses from sword practice remain.

In between bounties Danny seeks out old writings about demons in order to find out more about her new self. Unfortunately, most of them have been written by Magi who are constantly competing with each other so they are of little help. That, of course, frustrates Danny. She’s also feeling guilty about how she is treating her old lover Jason, Jace, Monroe who follows her loyally to bounty after bounty. At the same time she’s trying to protect him because he’s, after all, only human.

After another dangerous bounty hunt, Danny’s best friend and cop Gabe gets in touch with her. It turns out that someone, or something, is killing psions in Saint City. The newest corpse is an acquaintance of Danny’s; Christabel Moorcock who was also a Necromance like Danny and they went both to the same psion school: Rigger Hall. Rigger Hall was almost literally a hellhole. The sadistic Headmaster was able to run amok and do everything he wanted to the children there. Rigger Hall is also the last place on Earth Danny wants to go back to. However, two of the three corpses had been there. So, Danny has to confront the biggest nightmare in her past.

This time we see Danny’s sensei who is a mysterious old man who is probably not a human after all. I continue to enjoy the friendship and loyalty Gabriele and Danny have for each other. Often despite Danny’s attitude.

Still, it’s fairly obvious that the world here is a patchwork of cool things and a lot is left unexplained. For example, if there is a Christian Hell and demons why is the other side full of pagan gods? The demons are ruled by Lucifer so they are pretty clearly from Christian mythology. Many pagan religions have their own underworlds and demon-like beings that aren’t seen here. If demons are a lot of stronger, faster, and endurable than humans, why aren’t they running Earth? Although, maybe they are, just behind the scenes. I also found it ludicrous that Jace would be carrying around assassins’ weapons in full view. Doesn’t that defeat the purpose of being an assassin?

This series is built on “what is cool” and unfortunately it shows from time to time. But if you like that, it’s fairly entertaining. Oh, and it contains a lot of swearing.

Overall: at the end of the book Danny is in a place where she starts to get interesting to me. I will most likely continue the series but after I’ve lowered my to-read-pile a bit more.

Booking Through Thursday

Yesterday, April 15th, was Tax Day here in the U.S., which means lots of lucky people will get refunds of over-paid taxes.

Whether you’re one of them or not, what would you spend an unexpected windfall on? Say … $50? How about $500?

(And, this is a reading meme, so by rights the answer should be book-related, but hey, feel free to go wild and splurge on anything you like.)

This is a bit of a sour point with me because I know that I’ll have to pay more taxes. Anyway, I’m not rich enough to use money on anything else than the basic bills. So, if I got a bit more money I’d have to save it for rent.

This is the sixth in the excellent Retrieval Artist science fiction series. There is no major disaster this time. Just a very personal one.

Rhonda Shindo and her thirteen-year old daughter Talia are living on Callisto, on of Jupiter’s moons. The city is practically owned by the Aleyd Corporation and Rhonds works there as well. Fifteen years ago, she signed papers which turned out to be the death sentence to a group of larva from where the alien Gyonnesse’s children are hatched. Naturally, the Gyonnesse wanted compensation but the Alyed Corporation argued the case in court and Rhonda has managed to live in relative peace. However, now a bounty hunter or a Recovery Man, called Hadad Yu has come to her house and kidnapped her.

Rhonda is, of course, panicked and tries her best to escape from the Recovery Man’s ship. She is most worried about her daughter. The group of Gyonnesse have declared that she shouldn’t any children just like they don’t anymore. However, Talia is a clone of Rhonda’s “real” daughter and the Gyonnesse have a strict differences between real and false children. So far, they don’t think that a clone qualifies as a real child.

Talia didn’t know that she’s a clone and this revelation by the Recovery Man is a shock to her. Her whole life is turned upside down. According to so laws, she isn’t even a real human anymore. Added to that is the kidnapping of her mother in a society where a minor or a dependent aren’t allowed by law to be without guardian for long. The corporation has draconian laws about minors without guardians. Fortunately, Talia has two defenders: a compassionate police officer Z’Grongo (spelling? This is again an audio book) and a very expensive lawyer whom Rhonda had hired years ago. Then there is, of course, Talia’s father and Rhonda’s ex-husband: Miles Flint who doesn’t even know that Talia exists.

Miles Flint is looking through the files of his previous mentor, Paloma, and finds that for some reason Paloma has a lot of files about his dead daughter, Emmeline, and also about his ex-wife. This shocks him and he can’t leave things alone. He must find out all he can.

Miles has a relatively small role in the book and he’s just one of the secondary main characters. Rhonda and Talia and the main characters here and their struggle is very moving and in the end even startling. We also see a few familiar faces; while Nicole Riccie doesn’t appear, Miles’s favorite female lawyer from the previous book does have a minor role. Miles is apparently even working together with the journalist Ky Bowls and I can’t wait to see what their working relationship is going to be like. (Difficult is my guess.)

The Gyonnesse are a fascinating new alien race. They seem to have very distinct and different notions about reproduction. They also don’t communicate with mouths. The company is also a very ruthless organization.

Another excellent addition to the series!

Booking Through Thursday

Some people read one book at a time. Some people have a number of them on the go at any given time, perhaps a reading in bed book, a breakfast table book, a bathroom book, and so on, which leads me to…

1. Are you currently reading more than one book?
2. If so, how many books are you currently reading?
3. Is this normal for you?
4. Where do you keep your current reads?

1. Yes.
2. Three: one audio, one ebook, and one print.
3. After I started to read ebooks and audiobooks, yes.
4. The ebooks and audiobooks are in my laptop. The only exception to this are the audiobooks I borrow from the library which I listen with my cassette or CD player. The print book is usually next to my bed.

By Morrison and Quitely

This is part of my comic book challenge 2009.

This is one of my favorite alternate realities where the JLA equivalent metahumans are actually the biggest baddies in their world.

The book starts very, very nicely: three shapes who are not quite Superman, Wonder Woman, and Batman are talking about the prisoner who got away. Then a weird ship of some kind crashes to the US countryside and Luthor steps out in his armor. There’s something about that opening the visually appeals to me very much.

The JLA is trying to rescue a plane coming down. They succeed but in the end the passengers are all dead. After a closer look, the JLA finds out that the passengers’ hearts are all on the right side in their bodies.

Next, Luthor starts his day in the office by donating the day’s armament budget to Greenpeace and giving his employees a 300% raise. However, he can’t do much else because the JLA pays him a visit. Luthor proceeds to convince them that he is, in fact, Alexander Luthor from the antimatter universe. He has come to this universe to beg for help from the heroes because in his world the metahumans are all bad guys. Of course, everyone is rather skeptical at first but in the end the JLA agrees to help him. Luthor has a plan which should guarantee that the JLA can take out their counterparts and save the other world in just 48 hours. Superman, Wonder Woman, Batman, Flash, and the Green Lantern leave with Luthor while Aquaman and J’onn stay.

Meanwhile, the antimatter-JLA, called the Crime Syndicate, isn’t idle, either. They continue to make people’s lives miserable in their own big and small ways. The Owlman tortures Commissioner Wayne in Gotham City while Ultraman deals out counterfeit money to destabilize the economy. They have also tried to track down Luthor and are aware of the existence of the matter-Earth. They would like to conquer it and Owlman has even a plan for it.

I really liked the twisted JLA versions. We get to know most about Owlman who isn’t Bruce Wayne. Superwoman, Power Ring, and Johnny Quick stay quite two-dimensional characters which might be understandable given the small amount of space that Morrison has to work with. Superwoman seems to be rather stereotypical seductive femme fatale which I personally don’t really care for. After all, why should she limit herself to just sexual appeal when she has powers to do a lot of different things? Anyway, I rather enjoyed Owlman and the twisted little scenario he had going in Gotham. Ultraman is an astronaut and not Clark Kent.

Antimatter-Luthor is his world’s only heroic figure and he loses every time to the Syndicate. He has no choice but to seek help. He seems just as altruistic as the super heroes in the matter-world. He’s also just as much a genius as “our” Luthor. I guess he has to be in order to survive.

The antimatter-Earth is a world where evil triumphs every time. Everyone in authority is corrupt. Everyone is looking for his or her own gain. (Frankly, I’m amazed that they’ve managed to get to our level of technology but that’s beside the point.)

Excellent story. I’d like to know more about the Syndicate members, though.

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