August 2012

Carl at the Stainless Steel Droppings is hosting the seventh R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril, or R.I.P.

The purpose of R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril VII is to enjoy books and movies/television that could be classified (by you) as:

Dark Fantasy.
Or anything sufficiently moody that shares a kinship with the above.

R.I.P. VII officially runs from September 1st through October 31st.

I don’t really care for horror, so I’ll be reading mystery and thriller books and perhaps dark fantasy.

Carl has several different perils. I’ll join

Peril the First:

Read four books, any length, that you feel fit (the very broad definitions) of R.I.P. literature. It could be King or Conan Doyle, Penny or Poe, Chandler or Collins, Lovecraft or Leroux…or anyone in between.

I’ve got loads of mysteries on my to-be-read pile and some Dark fantasy and thrillers, too.

Peril on the Screen:

This is for those of us that like to watch suitably scary, eerie, mysterious gothic fare during this time of year. It may be something on the small screen or large. It might be a television show, like Dark Shadows or Midsomer Murders, or your favorite film. If you are so inclined, please post links to any R.I.P.-related viewing you do on to the Review Site as well.

I’ve watched almost all of the X-Files for the past eight months and I’ve still got the last season to go. Also, I’ve just bought the first season of Sanctuary.

I’ll also join the group read of Neil Gaiman’s Graveyard book. I’ve fallen sadly behind on my Gaiman reads so this is a change to catch up a little.

1, Stacia Kane: Sacrificial Magic (dark fantasy)
2, Kerry Greenwood: Raisins and Almonds (mystery)
3, Locke & Key: Welcome to Lovecraft (horror)
4, Rowena Cory Daniells: Besieged (dark fantasy)
5, Jocelynn Drake: Pray for Dawn (dark fantasy)
6, Josh Lanyon: Fatal Shadows (mystery)
7, R. C. Daniells: The Price of Fame (paranormal mystery)
8, Elizabeth Peters: Borrower of the Night (mystery)
9, Susan Wittig Albert: Thyme of Death
10, Neil Gaiman: The Graveyard Book

Sanctuary Season 1

Reading pool:
Alexander Cipher by Will Adams
Tanya Huff: Blood Lines
Tanya Huff: Blood Pact
Carol Goodman: The Lake of Dead Languages
Tom McGregor: Death in the Wilderness
Robert Goddard: Past Caring
William Dietrich: Napoleon’s Pyramids
Steven Saylor: A Murder of the Appian Way
Kari Sperring: Living With Ghosts

Booking Through Thursday

Do you find yourself thinking that the books you read would be good on film? Do you wish the things you watched on TV or in the movies were available as book?

Some really can’t be converted, of course, but some definitely can (and it’s not always the ones you think will work). There’s something to be said for different forms of media, but a good story is universal … or is it??

Sometimes, when a book is very visual, I think about it as a movie, but more like visualizing a certain scene rather than the whole book.

I read tie-in fiction such as Star Trek: TNG/DS9, Buffy, Terminator, and such, so I don’t have to just wish that they were books. However, I don’t usually care for a novelization of a movie or an episode. I much prefer an original story with the same characters. Yes, there are original books set in the Terminator universe, both with John and Sarah Connor, and with original characters.

I imagine a book which has a lot of internal monologue would be harder to turn into a movie, but I suppose it’s doable. For example, many of the urban fantasy books I’ve read are written in the first person and the humor in the book comes from the internal remarks. I guess turning them into a TV show might change the tone of the stories.

Publication year: 1990
Publication year of the Finnish translation: 2003
Format: print
Finnish translator: Mika Kivimäki
Page count: 147
Finnish Publisher: Karisto

Something strange is happening throughout Discworld. Something or someone invisible is running through Ankh-Morpork and where he goes, nothing is unchanged. Even Death notices it in his home and the wizards of the Unseen University are desperate enough to summon Death. Apparently, the cause is Rincewind who is trapped in another plane of existence. It’s a million to one chance that he will ever get out. So, of course, he does.

Rincewind notices that he’s been summoned to a demon summoning circle and the teenaged demonologist, Eric, refuses to believe that Rincewind is nothing else than a demon. Fortunately, Eric believes that Rincewind is a rather less than powerful demon but he still insists that Rincewind fulfills his three requests: to be the ruler of the world, to meet the most beautiful woman in the world, and to live forever. Rincewinds snaps his fingers to show that he can’t do that – and their adventure through different times and places begins.

Once again, Rincewind’s philosophy of running away serves him well. He, Eric, and Eric’s talkative parrot run away from various threats and people who want to hurt them for various reasons. The wizard’s Luggage follows them loyally and saves them a couple of times.

Rincewind, Eric, and the parrot first arrive to the Tezumen empire in the jungles of Klatch. The empire is a satire of the Aztec empire with their bloodthirsty priests. Hell’s current king Astfgl also takes notice of the duo and he isn’t pleased.

Unfortunately, I don’t really care for Rincewind and the young demonologist got on my nerves a few times, but I enjoyed all the rest, especially the parody of a certain classical history city. We also get to see both the beginning and the ending of the Discworld.

For some reason, I was expecting this to be the story of the man who takes over from Death but apparently that’s Mort, not Eric. Overall, an entertaining story but not any of the best Discworld books.

Yesterday, the Broke and the Bookish blog had a short bookish survey and it sounded like fun, so here goes:

1. The book I’m currently reading: A Time to Heal by David Mack. It’s the penultimate book in the Star Trek: TNG series and I am going to finish the series. They’ve been sadly depressing and so somewhat not Star Trek like. I’m also listening Carolyn Crane’s Head Rush which is the final book in the trilogy. I really enjoyed the series and so far I’m really enjoying this one, too.

2. The last book I finished: Eric by Terry Pratchett. Unfortunately, it was a Rincewind book and I don’t really care for Rincewind. Otherwise it was pretty funny. For some reason I got it mixed with Mort so I was a bit surprised that Death didn’t have a bigger role.

3. The next book I want to read: I have so many of these. Maybe Difference Engine and then more Pratchett.

4. The last book I bought: I bought three books, actually: London under by Peter Ackroyd (about London’s early history and the places underneat the current city), Regenesis by Cherryh, and a short story collection about Finland’s history.

5. The last book I was given: I think it was a Christmas present. Sarasvatin hiekkaa by Risto Isomäki. It’s a Finnish science fiction book and it was pretty good.

A collection of nine short stories in the Gothic horror genre.

Publication year: 1914
Publication year of the Finnish translation: 2012
Format: print
Finnish translator: Inkeri Koskinen
Page count: 201
Finnish Publisher: Tammi

The stories:

“Dracula’s Guest”
“The Judge’s House”
“The Squaw”
“The Secret of the Growing Gold”
“A Gipsy Prophecy”
“The Coming of Abel Behenna”
“The Burial of the Rats”
“A Dream of Red Hands”
“Crooken Sands”

The first story is supposedly an extract from the manuscript of Dracula. Some sites disclaim it but a note from Stoker’s wife is included here. The narrator’s name isn’t mentioned but he seems to be Jonathan Harker who has a misadventure on his way to Dracula’s castle.

All of the stories are horror or mystery and most of them have supernatural elements, although in a few stories they are explained away. A few of them also have romantic elements. Most of the stories worked for me although some of them have comedic elements which I suspect are not intentional; for example in “The Judge’s House” the main character is warned that drinking too much strong tea will affect his nerves badly.

The story “Squaw” has an eccentric American who reminds me of Quincey Morris in the novel Dracula. Many of the stories underline the nature of Englishmen as brave, adventurous, and loyal but also as vain and stubborn. Unfortunately, the women are a far cry from Mina Harker; mostly they are delicate flowers who are quick to faint or have a hysteric fit. Some of the stories have first person narrator and some are told in the third person. However, in every story the main character is a British male.

The stories are old fashioned horror, without much splatter or violence. They rely more on atmosphere and psychological effects.

The Finnish translation has the translator’s introduction about Stoker’s life and influences. That was fascinating to read about.

Today I have a wonderful guest post from Australian author Rowena Cory Daniells:

Are we Hard-wired for Violence?

Years ago I read a book by Barbara Ehrenreich, titled Blood Rites. One of the things that I found fascinating was the concept of violence as a communicable disease. If you were peaceful and you came up against a violent people, they either wiped out your village (and all your genetic off-spring) or you became violent in self-defence, in which case you were now primed to use violence to protect those you loved.

Which brings me to zombies… stay with me, I do have a point.

I was thinking about the popularity of Zombie movies and TV shows. I used to think it was because zombies were already dead so you could kill them without guilt. But after reading an article the other day I think that is only part of the appeal.

It all boils down to survival pure and simple. Them and us.

Modern life is too complex. People feel like they are a very small cog in a very large machine and they can’t affect things. Politicians and big business prove corrupt and no one seems to want to make the ‘brave’ decisions that our world needs.

Bring on the zombie apocalypse and suddenly, life is simple. Protect the people you love, food and shelter. Wipe the board clean to start again and maybe this time we’ll get it right.

After we’ve wiped out all the zombies, (they’re dead already remember so we can shoot them without guilt) we can start again, so get out the machine gun and mow down those zombies.

The very act of violence can be hypnotic, as Jeff Sparrow puts it in an article in the Overland ‘the attractive power of deadly violence itself.’ In When the Burning Moment Breaks: Gun Control and Rage Massacres, Sparrow said:

‘Much of the most overt writing about the pleasure of violence, about the attraction of war, emerged from the First World War. Indeed, the outbreak of the Great War led to mass celebrations, in almost all of the combatant nations. How to explain that enthusiasm?

… historian Eric Leeds explains, ‘It was commonly felt that with the declaration of war, the populations of European nations had left behind an industrial civilisation with its problems and conflicts and were entering a sphere of action ruled by authority, discipline, comradeship and common purpose.’ The pleasure of war represented, in other words, an indictment of the peace that it shattered.

Peace meant that men and women were atomised, alienated and alone, impersonal cogs in the gears of industry; war offered an organic collectivity in which there would be a meaningful place for everyone. Again and again in the literature of 1914, you come up against a perception of modernity, with its factories and its technology and its bureaucracy, as soulless and anti-human: a world that was ‘old and cold and weary,’ as Rupert Brooke says. Battle, by contrast, was thought to restore the values of an age that was passing, understood (in idealised terms) as honour and purpose and camaraderie.’

And it is these very traits which fantasy is famous for. It has been suggested that people turn to fantasy because of its purity of purpose. In a fantasy epic you will find a battle good against evil. In fantasy the smallest of people (the orphan or the hobbit) can make a difference. But fantasy is also evolving.

In a post on Fantasy Faction Douglas Smith writes about the popularity of gritty fantasy.  He mentions authors like Abercrombie and multi-layered books, movies and TV shows like Breaking Bad and Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy. Douglas says: ‘I personally read all kinds of fantasy – the “Farm boy versus Dark Lord”, the “bunch of heroes on a quest”. But I am consistently drawn back to (gritty fantasies). I don’t expect these stories to drop the classic concepts in fantasy, but rather take them and put a new spin on them. For me, these authors are keeping the fantasy genre fresh and exciting – they are touching on concepts which are important in a real-world way.’

All of which brings me back to my original question. Are we hard-wired for violence? As a student of history, I find the same problems arising generation after generation. What is this fascination for power? Why do people fear what is different? And why is violence so much easier than negotiation?

In my new trilogy The Outcast Chronicles, I created a world just so I could explore these questions. There are a minority gifted people, who those without gifts fear. Power attracts the ruthless, who would be classified sociopaths by today’s standards. Poor Sorne is born a half-blood mystic so his father, the king, disowns him and rears him to be a weapon against the mystics.

But the mystics aren’t ‘noble savages’, they have their own problems. Rivalries between the males and females lead to paranoia. When Imoshen is born to the leader of the brotherhood, he hides her meaning to use her against the sisterhoods.

Sorne and Imoshen have to examine their world and their places in it and ask themselves what they really believe and what they value. Is violence the only way?

Rowena has a copy of Besieged to give-away (world-wide) to one lucky commenter.

The give-away question: What’s your favourite zombie movie or TV show and why?

OC  Trailer embed

Rowena’s Blog

Catch up with Rowena on Twitter: @rcdaniells

Catch up with Rowena on GoodReads

Booking Through Thursday

Do you like to talk about what you read? Do you have somebody to talk WITH?

Yes, I’d like to. Most of the time I don’t know anyone who has read the same books, though. However, it’s easier to talk about a book which is set in a media franchise (Star Trek, Buffy) because people have watched the show even when they haven’t read that particular book.

The sixth book in the “A Time To” Star Trek: TNG series.

Publication year: 2004
Format: print
Page count: 338 and an excerpt from the next book
Publisher: Pocket Books

The planet Tezwa near Klingon border was one of Federation’s secret weapons in the Dominion War. Fearing that the Dominion would either infiltrate or conquer the Klingons, a few Federation officials get the Tezwan Prime Minister Kinchawn massive weapons to build on the planet in exchange for material aid to use for the whole planet. Unfortunately for the officials, Kinchawn turns out to be a power hunger despot. He has replaced many of the leading Tezwan military men with his supporters and has also a majority vote in the planet’s ruling body, the Assembly. He’s afraid of the Klingons and decides to challenge them. He declares that Tezwa takes over a Klingon border colony. Not surprisingly, Chancellor Martok sends an attack force to show his displeasure. The Federation officials don’t want their secret weapons dealings to come to light and they send the Enterprise-E to negotiate. During the negotiation, Kinchawn kills the leader of the Klingon force and takes Picard and Troi captive.

The Klingons retaliate and the Enterprise is able to rescue the Starfleet captives. Unfortunately, Kinchawn uses the pulse cannons and destroys the Klingon fleet. Klingon retaliation is imminent and even with the cannons and a secret fleet of starships, Kinchawn is likely to loose. Also, the debris from the destroyed Klingon fleet has created an ecological disaster to the planet.

Federation’s president Zife orders Captain Picard to destroy the cannon’s planet side firebases by any means necessary. If the Klingons conquer the planet, they will find out about the cannons and will declare war on the Federation. Picard is dismayed but has no choice but to obey. He sends several four person strike teams to the planet. He also needs help from his old comrade, Ambassador Worf, to disable the Klingon fleet.

A Time to Kill moves at a good pace with short chapters. There’s plenty of action with the strike teams but also a lot of political maneuvering. We get to see Kinchawn plotting his rise to a dictator and the way his Deputy Prime Minister Bilok with his allies are trying to oppose him. Federation’s leaders are agonizing over their past decisions, some of them are covering their tracks, and a shadowy group of people are keeping an eye out on everyone. I’m guessing that they are the infamous Section 31 whom I don’t really care for. Worf also has to, again, choose between his loyalty to Picard and the greater good, and his own honor. The poor guy can’t get a break.

Characterization is spot on. However, Troi’s contact with Riker is curiously muted from the previous books where she could not only sense that he’s alive but if he’s in danger from orbit while he’s on a planet. Now, she can’t. Crusher and Troi seen only in a few scenes while they had big roles in the previous books. Also, some of the ongoing plotlines were ignored in favor of the Tezwan crisis.

It’s mentioned that the Federation is in a middle of an economic crisis because of the Dominion War. I’m not sure how they can have an economic crisis without a money based system but I’ve never been able to figure out just how Federation’s economics work. (I just know that I’d really, really liked to live in one.) It seems to me that, to some degree at least, their economy must be based on available energy for the replicators, but wouldn’t that be an energy shortage, then?

The politicians are a great contrast to each other. Federation’s president Zife and his aide Azernal are ready to cheat, kill, and lie to prevent a war between Federation and the Klingons. Admittedly, Zife is reluctant to sacrifice lives to that goal but he does it anyway. Meanwhile, Martok is determined to avenge everyone of his warriors and do it honorably but ruthlessly. And Kinchawn will do anything to further his personal goals, even sacrificing his own family. Which one would you like running your country?

Today the topic of Top Ten Tuesdays is Top Ten Favorite Books You’ve Read During The Lifespan Of Your Blog .

Most of my favorite books are part of a series. I’ve been bloggin for over five years now and I’ve read a lot of books so this was an agonizing choice. Of course, tomorrow some of my choices might be different.

1, Lois McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosigan series starting with Shards of Honor
A character driven science fiction series where characters mature and change.

2, Steven Brust’s Vlad Taltos series starting with Jhereg
A fantastical fantasy series about a wise-cracking assassin/witch and his smart-mouthed familiar.

3, Marie Brennan’s Onyx Courts series starting with Midnight Never Come
A lovely fantasy series about a faerie court set below London. The character change quite a bit as centuries go by.

4, C. J. Cherryh’s Chanur series starting with Pride of Chanur
A space opera series about the alien hani race who are based on lions.

5, Elizabeth Bear’s Promethean Age series starting with Blood and Iron

6, Lois McMaster Bujold’s Paladin of Souls.
Absolutely lovely fantasy book where the main character is a middle-aged woman.

7, Teresa Frohock’s Miserere
An intense fantasy book set in alternative world, with mature protagonists.

8, Kerry Greenwood’s historical mystery series starting with Cocaine Blues
Set in 1920s Australia.

9, Conniew Willis’ time traveling historians in To Say Nothing of the Dog or How We Found the Bishop’s Bird stump at Last

10, Ursula LeGuin’s classic SF novel The Dispossessed
This book explores the differences and similarites between anarchists and capitalists.

Collects Uncanny X-Men #145-161 and Annual 3, 4 and 5

Writer: Chris Claremont
Artists: Dave Cockrum, Joe Rubinstein, Bob McLeod, Bill Sienkiewicz, & Bob Wiacek

This a collection of classic Claremont tales. Most of the stories span a couple of issues and some subplots even five issues.

The collection starts with the X-Men confronting Doctor Doom for the first time. Arcade’s assistant Miss Locke has kidnapped all of the X-Men’s loved ones: Nightcrawler’s girlfriend Amanda, Jean Grey’s parents, Colossus’ little sister Illyana, Angel’s girlfriend Candy, Banshee’s wife Moira MacTaggert, and Kitty’s dance teacher Stevie Hunter. Apparently, Dr. Doom has kidnapped Arcade and Locke wants the X-Men to free him or she will kill the hostages. But Storm has a plan: she recruits old X-Men: Ice Man, Havok, Polaris, and Banshee. The active X-Men (Nightcrawler, Colossus, Storm, Wolverine, and Angel) head over to Doom’s palace and the other team tries to locate and free the hostages.

Dr. Doom captures one team and the other falls victim to Arcade’s Murderworld but of course, the teams manage to fight their way free. Doom encapsulates Storm into solid chrome. Unfortunately, she suffers from claustrophobia and this treatment makes her panic. Her mind gathers up elemental powers while she’s immobile inside the chrome. When she’s freed from the chrome, she almost destroys the palace and everyone in it before Colossus can talk her out of it. Dr. Doom and Ororo are attracted to each other but nothing comes out of it. This seems to be a recurring element in Claremont’s writing; later Ororo is attracted to Arkon and Dracula. Another recurring element is that Ororo misplaces her uniform and is wearing a lot less.

Meanwhile, Cyclops and her new employer/love interest Aleytys Forrester, a ship captain, have been washed overboard during a storm. They wake up on a new island which they explore for a few issues. Then they find out that they are on Magneto’s island. He has simply made the island rise from the sea.

In issue 148 Dazzler makes a brief appearance and Storm and Spider-Woman battle Caliban who is just looking for other mutants. Angel leaves the group because he can’t tolerate Wolverine and Banshee finds out that he has a grown daughter. This issue is quite melancholy.

In issue 149 Xavier sends the group to Magneto’s old base and they are attacked by Garokk who bears a grudge against Ororo. Kitty is ordered to stay behind but she sneaks aboard the Blackbird and is quite useful.

The next issue centers on Magneto. He gives the world powers an ultimatum to surrender, which they don’t do, of course, and the X-Men journey to his island. They unite with Cyclops and Lee. However, for the first time, we’re told about Magneto’s past as a Holocaust survivor and he starts to see that he’s becoming similar to the men whom he hates to much. This is a turning point to Magneto.

Next is a two-issue story arc which shows the true colors of Emma Frost. Kitty’s parents send her to school which is run by Frost and her cronies. Ororo takes Kitty to the new school and Frost take advantage of that; she switches her mind to Ororo’s body intending to infiltrate the X-Men. Meanwhile, Ororo is in Frost’s body. Interestingly, their powers remain with their bodies so Frost can now control weather and Ororo has telepathy which she isn’t used to.

Then starts a longer storyline. Shi’ar’s Empress Lilandra has been kidnapped and the clues point to Earth. Starjammer’s leader Corsair races to the X-Mansion to warn the X-Men. The Shi’ar give an ultimatum to the X-Men to find the Empress or the Earth will be ravaged. The Empress has been really taken by Deathcry and the Brood, and the X-Men will have to fight a lot of enemies, including the Imperial Guard, to assure Earth’s safety. However, Xavier falls into a coma. Scott finds out that Corsair is his father and learns more about his parents.

With issue 158 starts a string of one-shot issues. First, the X-Men decide to erase all knowledge of themselves from Pentagon’s files. Carol Danvers helps them get access but they run into Rogue and Mystique who are on their own mission in the Pentagon. However, Carol manages to erase all information about the team and about herself, too. Interestingly, Rogue is depicted here as an older woman with crow’s feet around her eyes and her two white streaks look like graying hair rather than the fashion statement they look like later.

The next issue is somewhat cheesy confrontation between the X-Men and Dracula. The famous vampire bites Ororo and tries to seduce her into a vampire. However, he respects Storm’s bravery, strength and beauty too much to force her to become a vampire. Yup, reads like a love letter to the wind rider.

The next issue, 160, is a classic. X-Men meet the demon Belasco for the first time. The demon kidnaps Illyana into his dimension where time moves differently and Illyana grows into a teenager until our heroes can rescue her. Belasco gives her an amulet with places for five stones and says that she will reach her destiny when all five are in place. 13-year-old Illyana returns with three in place and the X-Men don’t know how or with whom she’s spent her time in Limbo. However, Peter is still happy to get his sister back even though she’s clearly changed. I really enjoyed this issue because we get a glimpse of the X-Men from a different time line where they didn’t manage to flee from Belasco’s dimension.

The last issue centers on Xavier. He’s still in the coma and is dreaming about his past. Twenty years ago he encountered Magneto but knew him as Magnus. Together they fought the rising powers of Hydra. The issue also sets up the long Brood space adventure (one of my favorites).

Annual 4 explores Kurt’s past. In the middle of Kurt’s 21st birthday celebration, a strange statue explodes on his face and he seems dead. However, Xavier calls on Doctor Strange who confirms that the Nightcrawler’s soul has been taken. When Strange is scanning Kurt, his kidnapper appears: Margali of the twisting ways. She kidnaps the rest of the X-Men to Dante’s hell where the team has to fight a whole hell of horrors.

In Annual 5 the Fantastic Four investigate an alien woman who seems to shoot at nothing in the middle of New York. However, she’s a Shi’ar scout fighting against the reptilian aliens called the Badoon who wear invisibility suits. The Badoon ambush the FF, kill the Shi’ar, and kidnap Reed, Ben, and Johnny. Susan goes to the X-Men for help. Before she died, the Shi’ar managed to say “Arkon” and “Lilandra in danger”. So, the X-Men and the Invisible Girl travel to Arkon’s world. There they find out that the Badoon have taken over the world and the people need their help. Apparently, Ororo and Arkon are in love but decide to part ways because of their different duties. Arkon is quite a lover; when the Avengers visit his dimension, he and Wanda are attracted to each other and later he marries Thundra (so it’s not jut the women who are constantly in one romance or another).

This is an enjoyable collection of stories. However, they aren’t quite as good or memorable as the ones in the previous collection.

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