June 2009

Darkseid is!

JLA issues 10-15.

This is part of my comic book challenge 2009.

This one of my favorite JLA albums: cosmic stuff, alternate futures, Darkseid, Lex Luthor leading the Injustice Gang. What more can you want from a simple super hero comic?

The all-male JLA is investigating attacks which are done by hard light constructs about themselves. The man behind the constructs is, of course, Luthor who has brought together a big team of super villains to beat the JLA; Joker, Mirror Master, Circe, and a few others I’m not familiar with. Luthor also controls the mind of an alien and makes the alien work for him.

While the team’s heavy hitters are dealing with that problem, New Gods’ Metron appears to Aquaman, Green Lantern, and the Flash. Metron tells them that they have to find the Philosopher’s Stone which is also called the Rock of Ages. If they don’t, Darkseid will destroy all life from the universe. Somewhat reluctantly, the trio agrees and Metron sends them to other realities. Unfortunately, they don’t quite succeed. After an arduous search, they are thrown 15 years into the future and into their future bodies on Earth which Darkseid has conquered. A few heroes and heroines are still alive and the trio tries to convince them that they need to get to Darkseid’s time machine and reverse everything that has happened.

In the future, only Aquaman is somewhat his old self; Flash doesn’t have any powers anymore, and the Green Lantern was captured and brainwashed in to one of Darkseid’s zombie soldiers. So, it’s a good thing that they get help from the heroes still left: the Atom, Wonder Woman, reprogrammed Amazo, elderly Green Arrow, a female Aztec, and Silver.

I really enjoyed all the alternate universes; the Wonder World at the end of existence where the greatest heroes of all time are waiting for the final battle and of course oppressed Earth. The future Wonder Woman was very impressive.

I also enjoyed the sequence where J’onn and Superman are trapped into hard light construct and the only way for them to get out of it is for J’onn to start thinking like Joker who designed the trap.

The plot does have some holes in it, though. For example, if the trio left Earth 15 years ago, why are their older selfs there? I also felt that Luthor wasn’t using the Stone much. The rest of the Injustice Gang was also pretty useless. The hard light constructs of JLA were there just for some gratuitous super brawling. But I like the rest of it so much that I’m willing to overlook those.

All in all, a very enjoyable cosmic romp!

“I am, unfortunately, the Hero of Ages.”

The third and final volume in the excellent Mistborn-series. It’s one of the best epic fantasy series I’ve ever read because it plays around with so many of the usual epic tropes.

The third book turns some of the things we’ve come to know about the world on its ear. But at least I enjoyed that. Anything I’d say about it would be a spoiler for the previous books so I won’t.

Just like in the previous books, we get journal entries at the start of every chapter. This time they are scholarly thoughts about the situations of various people. I kept trying to guess who had written them.

The atmosphere is usually quite bleak and hopeless, both mentally and also physically because ash rains from the sky almost every day. But there are bright spot as well. Usually I don’t really care for this sort of bleakness but the mysteries of the world, the characters, and the writing style distracted me from the all the hopelessness enough to continue.

And the ending is great and so fitting!

I got in from Audible as an audiobook and I’ve already listened it twice. The series is excellent. Go read it.

Booking Through Thursday

Now that summer is here (in the northern hemisphere, anyway), what is the most “Summery” book you can think of? The one that captures the essence of summer for you?

(I’m not asking for you to list your ideal “beach reading,” you understand, but the book that you can read at any time of year but that evokes “summer.”)

It’s been very hot here in Finland today so it’s an appropriate question. The best way for me to get into a summer feeling is reading the books I read as a kid during summertime. The Famous Five and Nancy Drew. Sometimes the older X-Men comics, too, will also give me the carefree summer feeling.

Booking Through Thursday

Browsing through my blog, I found a link to this post about the “Sorted Book Project.”

The idea is to take a few books and physically sort them in such a way that the titles make some kind of sense … something that I’ve never quite gotten around to doing and photographing, but which fascinates me.

What title/combinations can you come up with?

What title/combinations can you come up with?

I’ve never even thought of doing that but I got a few good ones:
“Immortal Blood” “Pride of Chanur”
“Hunter’s Death” “Whose body?”
“Who killed Chaucer?” “Whose body?”

In fact, I think that both “Immortal Blood” and “Whose body?” goes well with many titles:
“Shadow Gate” “Whose body?”
“The Thief” “Whose body?”
Granted, it does make everything feel like murder mystery.

“Immortal Blood” “The Unsung Hero”
“Immortal Blood” “The Thief”
“Immortal Blood” “Lord of Snow and Shadows”

Hmm. It seems that almost any fantasy title can only benefit when IB is added to it. 🙂

By Morrison, Porter, Dell
JLA issues 5-9

This is part of my comic book challenge 2009.

For some reason, the Finnish super hero comics have always focused on Marvel and specifically on Spider-Man and X-Men. From the DC side, we got a Superman comic which ran a while a couple of different times. The latest was during Byrne’s relaunch. Batman has appeared as a second hero in the Superman comics and a while with his own run. But usually we get at most a couple of DC special a year. Now even these seem to have stopped.

JLA ran four issues in 2001. However, each issue was as thick as an American trade paperback. I’ve got all four Finnish issues but I can’t just find the first one right now. This second Finnish edition includes the American Dreams trade and a couple of stories highlighting the Green Lantern and the Martian Manhunter who aren’t known pretty much at all here.

Anyway, this trade feels to me like three separate stories rather than one coherent story arch. Granted, there are a few hints in the Zauriel story about the Key story.

The first story is about the Woman of Tomorrow, an android who was built by two evil geniuses to destroy JLA. During her brief time in the team she learns to value friendship and freedom. In the story, the JLA are hunting down a sphere called If which is wrecking havoc around the US.

I rather enjoyed the different characters which were introduced in the recruitment drive at the start. Although, I’m a bit puzzled by the whole “discrimination” accusations. Sure, they’re discriminating; they must only accept members that can be expected to *survive*. Perhaps law firms are also discriminating for only wanting to hire lawyers?

I’d classify this as a “nice” story; rather predictable one-shot with a character which is never seen again. Even though as an android she might even be logically resurrected.

The second story is the one I enjoyed the most: Heaven’s war against Zauriel the angel. Zauriel falls (or is thrown? We never know) from Heaven into the San Francisco Bay. In his wake follows couple of angels who have been sent to erase Zauriel from the Book (the Earth). JLA can’t allow that to happen, of course. And later, the angels’ boss shows up.

Meanwhile, Neron in Hell gives a couple of creatures (demons?) a chance to take the Moon out of its orbit. They gleefully do just so.

I really enjoyed the international feel of the JLA and the multiple threats. I also enjoy the camaraderie between Flash and Green Lantern. Although, after all the hype Asmodel was a bit of a let-down. I was a bit amused how Green Lantern couldn’t believe that Zauriel is a “real” angel. On the other hand, this revelation didn’t make any of the JLA to do any soul searching. None also had any qualms about fighting angels. But as far as I understand, none of the JLAers are particularly religious. Except for Diana.

I was a bit surprised how ordinary Zauriel appeared. He used idioms and was quite mouthy. Not at all how I would have thought an angel to behave.

The third story deals with Key and his ambition to rule the world with his brains. I’m not familiar with Key but apparently he’s an old opponent. Perhaps that’s why he takes over the Moon Base so quickly that we aren’t even shown how he did it. He has captured the JLA and keeps them unconscious. He injects into them a virus that makes them all dream about being in an alternate world. The twist is that Key *knows* that the JLA is going to figure out what’s going on and wake up. He going to use the brain energy produced by waking up and use it to his own nefarious purposes.

However, JLA’s possible newest member, the new Green Arrow, has teleported to the base and found out Key’s plans, much to the surprise of both of them. Key manages to shoot Arrow’s, er, arrows and after that Key pretty much ignores him. GA is, however, quite resourceful although I was surprised that he didn’t find any other weapons on the moon than his dad’s old trick arrows.

I rather enjoyed the alternate universes here, especially Superman’s and Batman’s.

American Dreams is a pretty standard JLA romp without much cosmic action or surprises.

This novel is available for free for registered users at Book View Café’s science fiction section.

This is an alternate history novel set in the court of Louis XIV. The vast majority of the book is historical, including most of its characters. The only exception is that sea monsters are real.

The Sun King has funded an expedition to bring sea monsters to his court. Alive if possible but dead if not. Father Yves de la Croix is a scientist and a priest, and his curiosity has driven him to lead the mission. He succeeds and is able to bring back one live sea monster, a female, and one dead sea monster, a male. This triumph makes him the Sun King’s premier scientist which turns out to be a rather precarious position.

However, the main character of the book is Yves’ sister Marie-Josèphe who is also a scientist. When they were children, Yves would study various animals and Marie would help him and also draw the autopsied animals.

But now they are both older and have been apart for years after their parents’ death. Yves sent Marie to a convent where she was very unhappy. Yves has started to think that it’s not proper for a young woman to assist him. However, nobody else is as knowledgeable and skillful so they fall back to their childhood roles.

Marie-Josèphe helps her brother any way she can; she feeds the live sea monster and tries to tame her, when her brother performs an autopsy on the dead sea monster (in front of Louis XIV and his court) she draws his findings, she tries to help him become more used to the court life, and she also tries to look presentable. She is also trying to fit in with the court but that’s not easy for a woman who was born and raised in Martinique and then lived for years in a convent. Many men notice her or use her to torment his own lovers.

Amidst all this, she starts to slowly realize that the sea monster might not be just an animal. However, the Church has declared sea monsters animals (rather than demons), so she doesn’t have any allies when she tries to desperately save the captured sea monster from death.

The Sun and the Moon is definitely a historical book. The level of detail about the king, the pope Innocent XI, and their respective courtiers is just amazing. There are also a lot of descriptions about Versailles and the gardens. The people also have sensibilities and opinions that truly belong to the age. To everyone in the court the King is the only person who matters and everything flows from him. Marie-Josèphe belittles herself constantly and humbly receives the sharp comments about how she, as a woman, is worthless and should be silent. While Marie-Josèphe has a curious mind and is especially interested in natural sciences, she can only study them because the men around her have allowed it. During her time in the convent the nuns forbade her everything, even the study of mathematics because they thought it was sorcery.

Most of the book has been written from the point-of-view of Marie-Josèphe but occasionally we see the point-of-view of others as well. Lord Lucien, Count de Chértien is one of those characters. He’s the King’s son out of wedlock although the King has acknowledged him and made Lucien of his closest advisors. Lucien is also a dwarf and his body gives him a constant ache and sometimes even sharp pain. He is absolutely loyal to the King. He’s also an atheist.

The third point-of-view character is Yves although very briefly.

Pope Innocent XI arrives to the court to seal his alliance with Louis XIV and enjoys the King’s hospitality for a while. He is very hostile to Marie-Josèphe.

The book has many plot threads in addition to both Marie-Josèphe’s and Yves’ growths and the story of the sea monster. One of them is Odelette, who is Marie-Josèphe’s slave. The nuns told her that it was a sin to own another human and yet they wanted her to sell Odelette and give the money to the convent. She refused. Odelette becomes very popular in the court because she’s very good at making ladies hair dresses. We also hear the story of the sea monster race and their unhappy history with land people. I also enjoyed very much the characters of Monsieur (the King’s brother), Madame (Monsieur’s wife), and Mademoiselle (their daughter).

This is an excellent historical tale (except for the sea monsters, of course) but it’s not an adventure book. The pace might be a bit on the slow side especially in the beginning.

Booking Through Thursday

One of my favorite sci-fi authors (Sharon Lee) has declared June 23rd Fantasy and Science Fiction Writers Day.

As she puts it:

So! In my Official Capacity as a writer of science fiction and fantasy, I hereby proclaim June 23 Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Day! A day of celebration and wonder! A day for all of us readers of science fiction and fantasy to reach out and say thank you to our favorite writers. A day, perhaps, to blog about our favorite sf/f writers. A day to reflect upon how written science fiction and fantasy has changed your life.

So … what might you do on the 23rd to celebrate? Do you even read fantasy/sci-fi? Why? Why not?

Yes, I read both SF and fantasy. Because I like them. Most of my favorite writers are SF/F writers (Lois McMaster Bujold, Neil Gaiman, Steven Brust, Anne Logston…) I like visiting places that aren’t real and in a way are, perhaps, more exciting than mere mundanity. Places where people live differently and have different values.

I don’t know yet if I’m going to do anything out of the ordinary. I don’t really know much about my favorite writers and frankly, I don’t need to. All I’m interested in is the writing.

This is part of my ebook and 2nds challenge.

This book continues the tale of USS Titan from the previous book, “Taking Wing” so it contains spoilers for that book. Here Captain Riker and his crew has to again face enormous challenges. He might have an ally in the Romulan Commander Donatra but she can’t really be trusted. We also get a new (to me, at least) race Neyel which is apparently an off-shoot of humans who had to adapt to living in smaller gravity. The Neyel are a warrior race although not all of them agree anymore with the ideology that they have to conquer and enslave other species.

At the end of the previous book, the Titan, her crew, and a handful of Romulan vessels were unexpectedly thrown 200,000 light-years away from Federation. This is, to say the least, alarming to many people in the crew – most of all to Tuvok after his experiences aboard the Voyager. However, the crew must rely on each other in order to save themselves, the Romulans, and the crews of Neyel ships.

The Neyel are in a complicated situation. They are fleeing their own home world because the very space itself seems to be unraveling near the world. However, not all agree that they should even survive the cataclysm. Frane is the leader of a sect called Seekers After Penance who is convinced that the unraveling isn’t a natural phenomenon but a ancient god who has come to punish the Neyel for their crimes against other species. The sect is illegal among the Neyel and the fleet command has dispatched ships to take them into custody. Drech’tor Gherran is the man who was sent to capture them and he manages to imprison the Seekers aboard his ship. Gherran is also Frane’s father. Suddenly, a fleet of Romulan ships attacks them. The Neyel ships are badly damaged but the Titan manages to rescue most the crews. When Captain Riker learns of the Neyel’s plight, he decides to see if there is something he might do for them.

There are a lot of characters in the book and also many plot threads. There is an admiral onboard which aggravates Riker somewhat. Admiral Akaar has also an old conflict with Tuvok. The Neyel have many problems. Donatra is a shaky ally at best of times. There’s also the conflict among the Neyel between the religious sects who are already surrendering to the “god” and those who want to do something to survive. In the end, though, I felt that the problems had far too neat and tidy solutions. The book also felt a bit bogged down because of the many characters and plot threads. However, I did rather enjoy the many non-human species.

Overall: I felt that Taking Wing was a better book with more tension and more familiar characters. But I do like the continuing characters enough that I’ll keep an eye out on when the third ebook in the series becomes available to us non-USAians.

This is part of my 2nds challenge.

Another collection of the charming Lord Darcy –stories set in an alternative universe where magic works and England is a great Empire. This collects four short stories: “The Eyes Have It”, “A Case of Identity”, “The Muddle of the Woad”, and “A Stretch of the Imagination”. All of them are, of course, murder cases among nobility and Lord Darcy investigates them.

The Eyes Have It: A rather notoriously lecherous Count D’Evreux is found shot in his bedroom. There’s no shortage of suspects and it seems that almost anyone could have killed the man; an enraged husband or father, a wronged woman herself, or even some of the houseguests. Laird Duncan and his wife are the guests at the Count’s Castle. The case isn’t easy for Lord Darcy and Master Sean, his trusted sorcerer side kick.

A Case of Identity: The Duke of Normandy himself calls in Lord Darcy when the Marquis of Cherborough goes missing. Apparently, the Marquis has been suffering from mild attacks of amnesia which might make things very difficult indeed. Also, he seemed to have disappeared from a locked castle without a trace.

The Muddle of the Woad: This time, Lord Darcy is enjoying a much needed vacation when the King John IV himself sends his lordship to solve the mystery of the death of the Chief Investigator of Kent. The poor man had been found naked and dyed blue in a coffin which had been made for the elderly Duke of Kent. The coffin had also been in the woodworker’s locked shop. The Duke himself had died on the previous evening. If that wasn’t enough for a mystery, the blue dye points towards a secret cult: the Holy Society of the Secret Albion. Now, the King himself is concerned and Lord Darcy starts to investigate.

A Stretch of the Imagination: the shortest story in the collection where an owner of a publishing house has been found hanged. But Lord Darcy isn’t convinced that it’s suicide. Of course, the owner wasn’t well liked – to say the least.

All of the stories are good and for most of them it’s possible to deduce who did it. The second story is perhaps an exception to this. But most of the time, the clues are there if you can see them.

Lord Darcy isn’t a really colorful character and we know next to nothing about his life outside work, although there are hints that he might not have private life at all. Master Sean O’Lachlann is Darcy’s faithful underling and friend, a Watson and CSI sorcerer in one. Darcy himself doesn’t have the Talent for magic. The rest of the characters vary from story to story and they’re often entertaining enough. I was a bit disappointed that the vast majority of them are males. Here, the women are very clearly mothers, sisters, daughters or wives to the more important male characters.

I find the alternative history aspects fascinating, as usual. There doesn’t seem to be much social change and society has been frozen in the strict, Victorian classes.

Magic is treated as a science and one magical theorist actually complains that the common people as too superstitious to understand the real scientific magic. Sorcerers need licenses and seem to be strictly regulated. The Church has all the healers. Apparently there are witches and hedge mages to whom the common people often go to.

It seems to me that this world doesn’t have any female healers. That might have been refreshing except that healing is tied strongly to the Catholic Church where, of course, only males can be priests. So, what happens to women with the healing Talent? Burned at the stake for being abominations? Although, most likely their Talents just go ignored. Also, Garrett would hardly be the first to have magical Talents segregated by gender. (Which I find rather unimaginative, boring, and unrealistic. And yes, I realize the idiocy of demanding magic to be “realistic”. Still, none of the talents that we know humans to have in reality, are confined to just one gender.)

But these are really nitpicks. I’ve enjoyed the Lord Darcy stories and his world, and I’ve already hunted down the third collection. Although there seems to be now a book which collects all the Darcy stories and includes four stories not in the other collections. Predictably, that one’s not available through BookMooch.

By the way, I noticed that many of Garrett’s science fiction stories are available in ebook format but the Lord Darcy stories aren’t. Why is that?

Here’s my latest review: Lee Denning’s Monkey Trap.

It’s a near future SF and I gave it four stars from five.

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