October 2010

This time at the Broke and Bookish blog’s Top Ten is about fictional crushes. I have quite a few of them but I managed to get them down to ten.

1, Perhaps my first fictional crush ever, as far as I can remember, was Sir Lancelot. Of course, I read the childrens’ version of the Arthurian stories so the whole adultery thing was swept under a carpet quickly. I loved how brave and loyal he was.

2, Robin Hood followed shortly after. I also loved his merry band of followers. Of course, I also loved BBC’s short Robin of Sherwood series. No other series has been able to surpass that one.

3, MacGyver from his own series. He always tried to help people and find a non-violent solution.

4, Commander Data from Star Trek: TNG. He was an outsider trying to fit in and best of all, he succeeded spectacularly.

5, Cutter from the Elfquest comics.

6, Then started my fantasy phase with no other than the brooding, goodhearted drow Drizzt Do’Urden.

7, Gambit from the X-Men comic although that comic is full of great characters so it’s hard to pick just one. Nightcrawler is a sexy swashbuckler, Cyclops is the (mostly) sane bedrock for the others to lean on, Colossus was a fighter with an artists’ heart, and later Longshot the lucky charmer from another dimension. Plus Magneto who might be one of the best fictional villains ever.

8, Marius from Anne Rice’s vampire books. He’s a sophisticated old Roman, for the most part, anyway.

9, Aral Vorkosigan from Lois McMaster Bujold’s books. He’s basically a paladin in an science fiction world.

10, Morrolan e’Drien who is a Dragaeran or Elf for us who don’t live there. By humans standards he’s at least a bit a bit unstable but that’s how Dragaerans tend to be.

Done already? Damn…

Around the blogosphere people are talking about how few women are writing SF. People are also composing lists of their favorite women SF writers. Like a good sheep I decided to join in. 🙂

First, of course, is the question of what is SF.
First I thought “space ships → SF”. However, this would leave out some obviously SF books. So, I added “modern with better technology that most people get their hands on today” but then I decided to just include anything set in the future.

Also, I though at first that anything which has magic, goes to fantasy section. However, then I’d have to define magic. Is telepathy magic? If it is, out goes Star Trek. Star Wars also obvious disqualifies because of the Force. So does time travel. So, that rule goes away, too.

So, all of this ended up being too complicated. In the end, SF and fantasy are often intertwined. So basically I included anything that feels like SF to me.

These are the women SF writers I like the most and intend to read in the future, too:
Lois McMaster Bujold whose Miles Vorkosigan series I adore to bits.
Connie Willis and her time traveling historians
Kristine Kathryn Rusch whose Retrieval Artist books are obvious SF.
C. J. Cherryh. The only series I’ve read from her was space opera, although less operaic than the others on this list.
Kristine Smith, also a space opera writer. (I see a pattern forming…)
Kage Baker whose Company series I think straddles the line between SF and fantasy.
Elizabeth Bear although it’s sort of cheating because I haven’t read her SF yet.

A special mention to Diane Duane whose Star Trek: TNG novel Dark Mirror is the best ST novel I’ve ever read.

In English translation the name of the book appears to be Twenty Years After. In Finnish, the name of the translation is the Return of the Musketeers. We also have a collected edition of all these later stories and this is the first story in that collection.

D’Artagnan has served as a King’s Musketeer for twenty years and he’s still a lieutenant. He’s bitter and doesn’t have much ambitions anymore. His three friends have all gone their own ways and they haven’t seen each other in almost twenty years.

The current Cardinal, Mazarin, is the Chief Minister and is trying to govern France. The current King is only ten years old and his mother, Anne of Austria, is his regent. Mazarin and Anne are lovers and have married in secret. Mazarin is depicted as a greedy and small minded man who isn’t a worthy successor to the great Richelieu.

D’Artagnan comes into the attention of Mazarin who is trying to find trustworthy men to work for himself. After both de Rochefort, the Musketeers’ previous enemy, and Anne speak for D’Artagnan and his three friends, Mazarin decides to trust them at least for a time and sends D’Artagnan to find his friends and lure them back into service.

The writing style here is as leisurely as in the previous book and this book is really just setting up the story to come. The narrator tells us a lot about the politics of the times and the political climate where young the King is popular and Mazarin is hated because he raises taxes.

At the start of the book, D’Artagnan is described as moving and acting like an automation but once he gets out of Paris and is looking for his friends, he quickly gets back his old, more lively manner. He starts to resent his post as a mere lieutenant and wants to get enough money to buy back his family’s old castle and lands.

The other musketeers have changed somewhat but have still their previous habits; Aramis is now a priest but he still has a mistress, and eats and lives well and Porthos owns several castles but years for his old adventuring days. Athos has changed perhaps the most; he has an adopted son who is the apple of Athos’ eye.

The story doesn’t yet even start properly in this bookbut I enjoyed a more leisurely paced book for a change.

I’ve read Zahn’s Star Wars books, which are the best in the franchise, but nothing else.

This book is set before the movie and features most of the prominent cast.

John Connor’s Resistance team is hit and the Resistance Command leaves them on their own. This, of course, angers all of them. John decides that they need to do such a big stunt that the Command can’t ignore them again. The team has noticed that there’s a staging area in Los Angeles. A Skynet staging area is the place from where Skynet launches its attack to terminate all the humans in the area and to scavenge everything possible to itself. So, John decides that his team is going to capture the building where the staging area is. First they need to do some scouting.

John’s wife Kate was a veterinarian and now she’s one of the few doctors in Resistance. She’s doubly valuable to John so he keeps her in the base and out of the fighting. However, she’s increasingly frustrated with this role.

One of John’s people is the pilot ace Blair Williams. She fights the HK units in the air and does scouting, too. The old mechanic, who patches up her plane, is a friend of hers and so are the few other pilots in the team. She’s haunted by memories of dead friends.

Meanwhile in Los Angeles, almost three hundred people have managed to gather together and live in large apartment building. Their leader was a hotshot corporate head before the Judgment Day and he’s convinced that if they don’t bother Skynet, Skynet will not bother them. Mostly, they fight against gangs and raiders who are all humans. The building’s security chief of sorts, a former US Marine Sargent Orozco, tries his best to protect the people. Among them is young Kyle Reese and a mute girl called Star.

Connor’s team concentrates on scouting the area and fighting the Terminators while the others, “civilians” as they are called by the Resistance, live their lives as best they can. Teenagers bicker over pointless things when they aren’t on watch. The humans are almost too human; unwilling to face the real situation and using strategies which have worked for them previously. Unfortunately, Skynet doesn’t play by the same rules and no place is really safe anymore.

The mood of the book is very somber if not downright hopeless. There’s a lot of fighting and not much character development except for the characters who don’t appear in the movie. However, that’s probably expected because the characters have to be the same in the movie. There’s also no new machines or plots.

From the movie I got the impression that Kyle and Star had been alone for a long time instead of being part of a community. So, it didn’t really click with the movie. Too bad.

This book has been almost five years in my to-be-read pile. To my surprise it turned out to be a short story collection. The stories were written in the 1930s. The stories have been reprinted in “Black Gods and Scarlet Dreams“ and “Black God’s Kiss “.

The stories all have the same main character Jirel of Joiry who is a red headed warrior woman with yellow eyes. She’s described as very fierce woman whose fury and hate burns brightly. When she has given her word, she will do anything to keep it. She’s the military leader of the land of Joiry and the loyalty of her men is very important to her. Apparently, she’s also the only warrior woman in her country, or this fantasy world for that matter. All her followers are males. There’s no mention of who is the ruler of Joiry so it’s possible that she’s the Queen. However, she’s referred to as the Lady of Joiry and not as the ruler.

The fantasy land of Joiry is a medieval country and it even has Catholic priests and religion.

In the “Black God’s Kiss” Guillaume has conquered Joiry. He sexually molests Jirel who vows to destroy him. In order to find a suitable weapon, she descends to Hell.

“Black God’s Shadow” is a continuation to the previous story. The man Jirel killed haunts her in her dreams. She feels guilty and again takes the journey to Hell but this time her goal is to free his soul.

In “Jirel Meets Magic”, Jirel hunts the wizard Giraud who has killed some of her men. However, the wizard has fled through a magic window into another world. Jirel follows him.

In “The Dark Land” Jirel is wounded in battle and is near death. However, at the moment of death, a supernatural creature takes her away in order to make her his queen. Jirel, of course, doesn’t like that.

In “Hellsgarde” Jirel has to enter a keep which has been abandoned for centuries except for the ghost of the murdered man. She encounters a weird and alarming court in the keep.

The stories have been written in the spirit of sword and sorcery genre and reminded me of Conan. However, in most of the stories Jirel is sexually assaulted and even though she is a warrior, she’s always helpless to resist. In fact, in two of the stories she’s rescued in the end. I didn’t like that and I doubt that Conan, for example, will have to be rescued in his stories. Unfortunately, there’s also a confusion between a would-be rapist and a lover. In the first story, Guillame forcibly kisses Jirel and at first she hates him, but in the end she realizes that she loves Guillame. Later, he’s referred to as her lover even though the sexual assault in the only physical contact between them.

Jirel is a single-minded character. Once she has a goal in mind she will do everything in her power to get it. As a warrior woman, she’s the precursor to the modern warrior women such as Xena and even Buffy. As such, she has a great historical impact.

I just noticed that the Broke and Bookish blog has a great meme: Top 10 Tuesdays. Even though today isn’t Tuesday I couldn’t resist last Tuesday’s topic: Top 10 favorite authors:

It very hard to limit myself to only 10 authors and even harder to put them in order but I managed it.

1, Anne Logston
2, Steven Brust
3, Kristine Kathryn Rusch
4, Lois McMaster Bujold
5, Naomi Novik (why isn’t her latest Temeraire book in Audible yet? What gives??)
6, Elizabeth Bear
7, Elizabeth Peters
8, Lynda S. Robinson
9, Brandon Sanderson
10, C. J. Cherryh

Cherryh replaced Roger Zelazny. I haven’t liked any of Zelazny’s other books as much as I like Amber.

Booking Through Thursday

When you travel, how many books do you bring with you?
Has this changed since the arrival of ebooks?

Depends on how long I travel. I’m a slow reader so I don’t really need more than one book but I usually have two.

I don’t have an ereader so no, ebooks haven’t changed this.

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