June 2014

This season has seven episodes, with the two part Swords of Wayland.

Episodes: The Prophecy, The Children of Israel, Lord of the Trees, The Enchantment, The Swords of Wayland 1 and 2, and The Greatest Enemy.

This season has more magic than the previous season, particularly in the Enchantment and the Swords of Wayland. The writing is still very good and otherwise, this season is just as good as the first one. With only seven episodes, there’s no room for filler.

The series starts with Herne’s prophecy about a prisoner close to Robin. First Robin and the Merry Men think that Herne means Little John who is Guy’s prisoner. However, after they free Little John, Robin hears that Prince John has come to Nottingham with a mysterious prisoner.

The sheriff is away from Nottingham and Guy has to entertain the Prince. However, that’s increasingly hard for Guy who has never been a diplomat nor a courtier. Guy also has his own scheme: one of his men has infiltrated the Merry Men. Pretty soon Guy is stripped of his position and thrown in jail. Will and Robin have a conflict over leadership which escalates in the next episode.

In the Children of Israel, the sheriff is back and shows the depths of his cruelty and greed. He owes a significant amount of money to a Jewish man, Joshua de Talmont. The sheriff doesn’t want to pay him back, so he arranges a riot and during it almost all the Jewish people in Nottingham are killed. However, Joshua’s eldest daughter Sarah has caught Guy’s eye and Guy warns them. The family flees
just in time but Guy kidnaps Sarah. He just assumes that Sarah will happily marry him, renouncing her faith and overlooking his part in the riot.

Meanwhile, our heroes are trying to ambush the returning sheriff but they fail and Tuck is hurt. Will lectures Robin about how he will never be more than an outlaw and that they should just keep the money they steal. Will leaves and later he robs the de Talmont family. Robin’s gang asks help from villages for the first time but the villagers are afraid and refuse to help them. This discourages Robin but only momentarily.

However, the rift between Will and Robin is repaired pretty easily. It seems to me that it had more to do with helping the de Talmant family, than with Robin.

In the Lord of the Trees, we see the villagers worshiping Herne. During the time of the Blessing no blood must be shed. Of course, exactly at that time Guy has invited some French mercenaries to Nottingham in order to deal with the outlaws.

The outlaws celebrate the Blessing with villagers of Wickham. Even when Herne is shot with an arrow in full view of everyone, they still keep to the time of the Blessing and even though Herne himself says that he’s “just a man” he clearly has some magical powers. Even Abbot Hugo warns Guy not to underestimate the old gods and when Guy says “they never existed” and storms off, Hugo is clearly disturbed. He has just admitted that as long as the villagers appear to behave like Christians, he doesn’t care whom they actually worship. In the previous season he’s been shown as greedy for land and power, now he’s a heretic in addition to being a hypocrite. Interestingly enough, while witched and sorcerers have magical powers in this series, the priests and monks don’t. Except of course political power.

Speaking of magic, the Enchantment has plenty of it. Lilith is a witch and a follower of sorcerer de Belleme from the first episode of season 1. She’s trying to bring him back to life and so she casts an enchantment over Robin. Because of it, Robin doesn’t recognize his Merry Men or even Marion. When the band realizes what has happened, they have to hunt him down. This is an interesting contrast to the next episode.

The two-parter Swords of Wayland is my favorite of the two seasons. The outlaws travel to Wales to protect a village from a group of horsemen called the Hounds of Lucifer. They organize the villagers to fight back when the horsemen attack and even though the outlaws are victorious, they have to fight against the covenant which is a group of devil worshiping nuns. It sounds cheesy but I think the covenant’s reputation of piety was used very well against our heroes. The covenant’s leader casts a spell over Little John, Tuck, Will, Nasir, and Much, turning them against Robin and Marion.

And the final episode, the Greatest Enemy, where the Sheriff finally gets his revenge against Robin. At the time I was shocked and dismayed by Robin’s death but of course it fits very well with the myth of Robin Hood where Robin’s identity has changed depending on the story and era. This Robin was a peasant from the village of Loxley.

Overall, I really enjoyed this second season too.

One of the prequel series to Watchmen.

Writer: J. Michael Straczynski
Artists:Andy Kubert, Adam Hughes, Eduardo Risso
Publisher: DC
Publication year: 2012

Collects issues 1-4 of Nite Owl, 1-4 of Dr. Manhattan, and 1-2 of Moloch.

So far, I’ve liked this collection the best. In all three stories we get to see the back stories of the characters which expanded them further.

The Nite Owl story starts with young Daniel Drieberg who idolizes the Nite Owl. Dan is abused both at home and at school but he gets strength from seeing who the Nite Owl never gives up but gets back up even when he’s been knocked down by some robbers. Dan tracks him down and quite easily finds out his real identity. Once the Nite Owl, Hollis, realizes that Dan is just an enthusiastic boy who wants to become his sidekick, he starts to train Dan. Then Hollis declares that he’s retiring and leaves the Nite Owl to Dan. When Dan is working as Nite Owl, Rorschach offers to become his partner.

From the second issue onwards, the story focuses on their teamwork. They have very different backgrounds but they’ve both been traumatized in some ways and sometimes it’s not easy for them to work together. In this story, they are searching a man who kills prostitutes. The police isn’t interested in finding him and Rorschach has his own issues, too. Nite Owl runs into a high-class prostitute and is very attracted to her. She starts to help him with the case which, of course, leads into sex and romance.

This really fleshed out Dan’s character. I remember wondering why Dan would work with a psychopath like Rorschach but here we see them before Rorschach really snaps. Andy Kubert’s classic superhero style art fits the story well. Unfortunately, nothing about the story is remarkable or unique. Dan’s background is pretty average, too.

In Watchmen, we got to know how Dr. Manhattan got his powers through the accident. Here, we get to see the events leading to that. The story starts with him on Mars, thinking about his past and wondering why he’s never gone to the moment of accident or further into the past. So he does so and discovers something really strange.

The story explores his childhood, and we also get to see some alternate histories which I found really interesting. I’ve been a fan of Adam Hughes’ work ever since he was Wonder Woman’s artist. Now granted, his women look all pretty much the same, but otherwise I love it.

Dr. Manhattan’s story rehashes pretty much all of the major events in Watchmen, but from a somewhat different perspective. Both of the stories include the scene where the heroes gather in the “Crime Busters” meeting. That scene is really popular with all of the writers. Not a complaint, just an observation.

The Moloch story fleshes out the super villain. While his home wasn’t an abusive one, he looked strange and was tormented over it mercilessly at school. (Well, I guess balanced, happy people aren’t going to run around as either heroes or villains.) We get to see his crime career and later involvement with Ozymandias. Again his background is pretty average but I enjoyed the latter half of the story a lot.

Booking Through Thursday

How do you feel about explicit detail in your reading? Whether language, sex, violence, situations and so on … does it bother you? Faze you at all? Or do you just read everything without it bothering you?

It depends on lots of things. When I was younger, I grew bored with epic fantasy because of the interminable battles which didn’t have anything to do with character development and even less with plot. They felt like computer game battles where it’s expected for the characters to win without any serious injury or any consequences. I also tend to avoid detective stories with lots of gore, so I’m bothered by too much violence. (Yet, I often eat while watching Bones. Go figure.) I’m also far more bothered by violence in real life than fiction.

Swearing doesn’t bother me. It also doesn’t impress or fascinate me, unless it’s actually inventive, rather just repeating a few well-know words.

Sex scenes also depend on the context and what my expectations are.

As for other descriptions, it depends on the context and my (possible) emotional connection. I’ll happily read long descriptions of, say, USS Enterprise-D or Sherwood Forest or the economics of Ankh-Morpork. But if I don’t have an emotional connection, I’m far more likely to just skim it. So actually, in story which has new to me places or characters I’d first have to know something about them before I can appreciate descriptions.

And my dark secret as a reader is that I tend to skip long descriptions of clothing or poems. Why, yes epic fantasy, I’m looking at you and your way too long descriptions of, well, anything. 🙂

Today the topic of Top Ten Tuesdays is Top Ten Books I’ve Read So Far in 2014.

This turned to be quite difficult because I’ve read (and listened) only a few new to me authors this year. Choosing between authors whose style I greatly enjoy is pretty difficult. But here goes:

1, John Scalzi: Redshirts
Star Trek fanfiction! Well, sort of. Scalzi pokes fun about lots of things in TV space operas.

2, Edgar Rice Burroughs: A Princess of Mars
I’m rereading the Barsoom series this year. It’s still in my top 5 book series ever and starts very strong.

3, Lois McMaster Bujold: A Civil Campaign
One of my other top 5 series ever, part of the Miles Vorkosigan series. Civil Campaign isn’t the best in the series in my opinion but it’s still great.

4, Andy Weir: The Martian
This is a new to me author and I believe it’s his first book. In “the Martian” one man tries to survive on Mars, all by himself and only with equipment Nasa has left behind.

5, Donald Westlake: Hot Rock
Another new to me author. This is the first book in the Dortmunder series about funny heists.

6, Naomi Novik: Crucible of Gold
Another series I greatly enjoy. Dragons in Napoleonic wars!

7, Terry Pratchett: Night Watch
Third of my top 5 book series makes an appearance. Night Watch isn’t as ROFL funny as the many of the others in the Discworld series but it pokes fun at time travel, one of my favorite tropes in fantasy or SF.

8, Kris Nelscott: A Dangerous Road
Nelscott is a pseudonym for one of my favorite authors, Kristine Kathryn Rusch. This is a historical mystery book and starts the Smokey Dalton series.

9, C. J. Cherryh: The Cuckoo’s Egg
Not one of my favorite Cherryh books but still very entertaining story.

10, Peter Clines: Ex-Communication
Yet another favorite series, although not in top 5 (maybe top 15?). Zombies and superheroes.

The third book in the series and a direct sequel to the previous book.

Publication year: 1919
Format: ebook, downloaded from Gutenberg

The previous book, Gods of Mars, ended with a nail-biting cliffhanger where Dejah Thoris and the lovely and virtuous Thuvia of Ptarth are imprisoned for a Martian year into the Temple of the Sun together with their enemy Phaidor who is the cruel daughter of Matai Shang. When the door to the temple closed, Phaidor was attacking Dejah with a dagger and the men outside heard a terrible screm. Then the door closed. John has been waiting for six months for the door to open so that he could know who was killed. He was pretty desperate at first but then he was asked to become the ruler of the black Martians, the First Born. However, he declined and instead appointed his friend Xodar as their jeddak. Then he realizes that one of his earlier foes, Thurid, is up to no good. Thurid and Matai Shang are trying to free the women from their prison and John follows them. Unfortunately, they are able to kidnap both Dejah and Thuvia. John has to pursue them across Barsoom. He finds another ancient and secretive race of Martians, the yellow men.

This is classic pulp SF. Pretty much the only plot device in the book is kidnapping Dejah Thoris, over and over again. However, even though she spends a lot of time in the hands of her captors, she isn’t harmed, which shows old-fashioned chivalry which I, for one, was grateful.

Meanwhile, John has all sorts of interesting adventures, makes new friends and new enemies. The rulers of the cities and whole nations aren’t politicians but warriors and often exceptional in hand-to-hand sword fighting. The descriptions of places are as imaginative as ever and very evocative. The pace is relentless, throwing John from one dangerous situation to another almost constantly.

If you liked the first two novels, you’ll probably like this one, too.

The sixth City Watch book.

Publication year: 2002
Publication year of the Finnish translation: 2010
Format: print
Finnish translator: Mika Kivimäki
Page count: 392
Finnish Publisher: Karisto

Pratchett is a fine form here and this is one of my favorite Discworld books.

Commander Samuel Vimes is a bit scatterbrained because Sybil is giving birth. He’s also hot on the trail of a cold-blooded murderer Carcer. The criminal runs to the Unseen University and the police follows him. Unfortunately, both Vimes and Carcer are drawn into a magical storm and sent to the past. 30 years in the past into a darker Ankh-Morpok. Before Vimes can ask the wizards to help him, he’s arrested for breaking the curfew. He realizes that he can’t let Carcer to stay in the past and make a mess of it. He also hears that the man who should have been there, Sergeant John Keel, has been killed by Carcer. In Vimes’ past, Keel was attacked by local thugs but survived to become young Vimes’ mentor and idol. So, Vimes is in the strange position that he has to teach himself everything he’s ever known about being a copper… He also knows what happened during the Glorious Revolution of the Twenty-Fifth of May and even though he knows on an abstract level that he should let things happen as they did and just try to arrest Carcer, he just can’t let awful things happen. Especially to people he knows and works with. Or will know in the future.

This is one of the darkest Discworld books I’ve read because Pratchett set the book in a city which is led by the insane paranoid lord Winder whose secret police, the Unmentionables, run the city with terror and torture. Pratchett also includes lots of dark themes such as revolutions, rebellion, competence (or lack thereof) of military officers, and morality of people in generals and cops in particular. And phrenology. There are humor and funny lines sprinkled here and there but not as much as in some of his books.

The Night Watch is in terrible form. Taking bribes is business as usual and the Watch men also deliver prisoners to the Unmentionables, without ever having to confront the fact that they are bringing helpless people to torturers. Of course, Vimes has to take over and teach them to be real cops.

Most of the cast is new and those few which are familiar are, in fact, younger versions of themselves: Fred Colon as a young constable, Reg Shoe (before he became a zombie he was an avid revolutionist), Nobby Nobbs (a street urchin), Dibbler just starting out on his vendor career, and Vetinari who is an apprentice assassin. I found this refreshing. The Agony Aunts were especially interesting new characters (or at least new to me).

Especially interesting book for Vimes fans.
“Who knew what evil lurked in the hearts of men? A copper, that’s who.”

”The Assassin moved quietly from roof to roof until he was well away from the excitement around the Watch House. His movements could be called cat-like, except that he did not stop to spray urine up against things.”

“No! Please! I’ll tell you whatever you want to know!” the man yelled.
“Really?” said Vimes. “What’s the orbital velocity of the moon?”
“Oh, you’d like something simpler?”

”People on the side of The People always ended up dissapointed, in any case. They found that The People tended not to be grateful or appreciative or forward-thinking or obedient. The People tended to be small-minded and conservative and not very clever and were even distrustful of cleverness. And so the children of the revolution were faced with the age-old problem: it wasn’t that you had the wrong kind of government, which was obvious, but that you had the wrong kind of people.
As soon as you saw people as things to be measured, they didn’t measure up.”

”Raising the flag and singing the anthem are, while somewhat suspicious, not in themselves acts of treason.”

« Previous Page