March 2015

Collects X-Men #244-264, Annual #13

Writer: Chris Claremont
Artists: Marc Silvestri, Jim Lee, Dan Green, Steve Leialoha, Glynis Oliver, Scott Williams, Josef Rubinstein

This collection starts right after the end of Inferno and the first few issues are just a cool down from it. In the first issue (244) Dazzler brings the other X-Women to a mall for shopping. However, a group of mutant hunting humans are summoned there to capture a teenaged girl who lives in the mall stealing and throwing around fireworks. Yep, Jubilee was introduced in this issue and Gateway teleports her to the X-Men’s dreary headquarters.

Issue 245 wasn’t published here.

The next two issues the X-Men (Rogue, Psylocke, Storm, Colossus, Dazzler, Havok) fight Master Mold, a Sentinel made up of Nimrod and a Sentinel. Wolverine leaves the group and Psylocke and Carol had a heart-to-heart about how difficult it is for Carol and Rogue to share the same body. The only way for the team to beat Master Mold is to send it through the Siege Perilous and it takes Rogue with it.

We also get to briefly see Senator Kelly’s gorgeous blond wife who is one of Hellfire Club’s girls. However, she dies in the fighting and instead of blaming the giant robot which shot the car where the Kellys were, the Senator… decides that mutant are responsible and want to… build more giant robots!

Next, the Nanny and the Orphan-Maker attack. They change some team members into children in order to control them. However, when Havok fires at Nanny’s flying machine, he accidentally kills Storm and one of the most bizarre plot twists starts.

In issue 250, Zaladane kidnaps Lorna Dane and through the use of High Evolutionary’s machine, takes away Lorna’s mutant magnetic powers. Instead, Lorna gains strength, invulnerability, and grows taller.

In this collection, the X-Men team dies, again. This time the team (Psylocke, Dazzler, Havok, and Colossus) goes through the Siege Perilous in order to avoid a Reaver ambush. Only Wolverine is left and he’s quickly becomes a prisoner. With Jubilee’s help he escapes but his healing power is at its limit and requires constant help.

This is the collection where Psylocke gets her Asian body and ninja skills. She’s brainwashed by Hand and used by the Mandarin. We also get to see an all-new X-Men team which includes Moira MacTaggert, the recovered Banshee, the witch Amanda Sefton, Legion, and a couple of Moira’s assistants. Legion is also playing against this X-Men team and helping their attackers. And Storm returns as a little girl.

These stories were weird even by X-Men standards but I enjoyed them. Back then, it was hard to wait for the next comic to know what would happen next.

Tough Travelling hosted by Fantasy Review Barn.

Each Thursday, inspired by ‘The Tough Guide to Fantasyland’ we have in hand, we shall tour the mystical countryside looking for adventure and fun (and tropes) from all over fantasy.

This week’s topic is BELOVED MOUNTS

A combination of suggestions from several people, as it seems many want to talk about the various animals that people in fantasyland ride. So be they horse, bear, or other let’s talk about favorite rides.

Nightrunner and the other wolves: In the Elfquest comic each member of the Wolfriders tribe is bonded to a wolf. Nightrunner is the young chief Cutter’s wolf. The wolves aren’t sentient or exceptionally intelligent, “just” animals. Of course, they live far shorter lives than elves and so each elf bonds with many wolves during his or her life. We get a short, touching scene when Nightrunner leaves Cutter for the last time.

Temeraire from Naomi Novik’s fantasy series and his friends. Ah, dragons! One of my favorite fantasy creatures! Most of the dragons in fantasy are sentient, such as in the Anne McCaffrey’s Pern books or in the Dragonlance books. Many of them aren’t mounts, of course.

Thoats from Edgas Rice Burroughs’ Barsoom series come in two different flavors: the fierce warrior Tharks ride huge and nasty tempered war mounts and the red Martians a smaller breed. Both types have eight legs and are steered with telepathy. I don’t think we ever learned any of their names, though.

Pegasus, the original flying horse whose master, Bellerophon, needed magic to tame him.

Iorek Byrnison from The Golden Compass is a war bear and not usually a mount but he let Lyra ride him.

Goliath, the lovely black warhorse of Etienne Navarre, one of the heroes of the movie Ladyhawke. Fantasy is of course full of horses from Lord of the Ring’s Brego and Shadowfax to Talat the old warhorse in Robin McKinley’s Hero and the Crown.

A steampunk book.

Publication year: 2013
Format: ebook

The second book in the Drifting Isle Chronicles and part of the Storybundle’s Steampunk bundle. All of the books are written by different writers. They happen in the same city but have different main characters.

Caspar Goldstein is the heir to Goldstein Industries but much to his father’s dismay, he has no interested nor talent to become a businessman. Instead, he loves to race steampowered cars and has a talent for that. More than anything, he wants to win the Autocarriage Cup. But during a qualifying race for the Cup, Caspar sees one contestant deliberately crashing into his best friend’s car. Angry, Caspar deliberately collides with the troublemaker in turn, almost totaling his own car. His friend, Lukas, breaks his leg and is out of the races. Caspar is bruised and has a concussion but is still able to race, if his aunt Hildy can repair the car. But soon he has bigger problems than the Cup.

Clara Koh is Caspar’s assistant and also Hildegar Goldstein’s friend. She also helps Hildy with her secret project. Hildy has gotten her hands on a new substance which is called black mercury and is testing it. Everyone else thinks it’s a waste product but Hildy thinks that it can be used to increase engine performance. She’s invented the first flying machine, the autogyro, but it doesn’t fly very far. When Hildy wants to test black mercury in her autogyro, Clara won’t let her do it alone. Together, they find out that Hildy is correct: black mercury does enhance the autogyro’s engine remarkably. This doesn’t go unnoticed by the media or by mysterious people who want the secrets of black mercury for themselves.

Hildy and Clara make the historical first flight to the floating island, which is right above the city of Eisenstadt. However, they don’t have the time to explore it any further but return almost immediately. The authorities ban the use of autogyros and are sending their own expedition which is shown in the next book, The Machine God.

Clara and Caspar are the two POV characters in the book and they’re very different. Clara is very practical and level-headed woman, to the point that even she herself wishes she could be more spontaneous, while Caspar is a spoiled man who has never taken any responsibility for anything. They bicker a lot but they clearly like each other a lot and Clara spends a lot of time worrying about Caspar.

This was a quick, fun read with plenty of action. I liked the secondary characters a lot. Hildy is an inventor and almost reckless in testing her inventions. She’s also frustrated because she’s under that thumb of her brother Max, who leads the Goldstein Industries. She’s doing secret projects in order to get enough money to make her own company. Her other assistant, in addition to Clara, is Til, a huge but gentle mechanic always looking out for her. And then there are the pigeons. In this world, pigeons can talk and Minnie is Clara’s companion. Min tends to speak before she thinks – and she mostly thinks about food. She and the other pigeons are a great comic relief and also dependable companions.

Carl from Stainless Steel Droppings is hosting the Annual Once Upon a Time challenge:

Saturday, March 21st marks the official start date of the ninth annual Once Upon a Time Challenge. This is a reading and viewing and gaming event that encompasses four broad categories: Fairy Tale, Folklore, Fantasy and Mythology, including the seemingly countless sub-genres and blending of genres that fall within this spectrum. The challenge continues through June 21st and allows for very minor (1 book only) participation as well as more immersion depending on your reading/viewing/gaming whims.

The Once Upon a Time IX Challenge has a few rules:

Rule #1: Have fun.
Rule #2: HAVE FUN.
Rule #3: Don’t keep the fun to yourself, share it with us, please!
Rule #4: Do not be put off by the word “challenge”.

I’m going to take part in

Read at least 5 books that fit somewhere within the Once Upon a Time categories. They might all be fantasy, or folklore, or fairy tales, or mythology…or your five books might be a combination from the four genres.

The new gaming category sounds great, too. I’m an avid roleplayer but of the pen and paper kind, not so much computer games these days, and I also play a lot of board games. But I haven’t written about them much and I don’t know if I will. However, if anyone else is writing about them, I’m quite curious to read. 🙂

I’m planning to read Elizabeth Bear’s One-Eyed Jack and also at least one version of Robin Hood tales, namely Henry Gilbert’s and most likely something from Gutenberg. And Fables comics.

1, Helene Wecker: The Golem and the Jinni
2, Kalayna Price: Grave Witch
3, MeiLin Miranda: The Machine God
4, Ekaterin Sedia: The Secret History of Moscow
5, Howard Pyle: The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood
6, Kalayna Price: Grave Dance
7, Jennifer Roberson: Lady of the Forest
8, Edgar Rice Burroughs: Pirates of Venus
9, Catherynne M. Valente: The Orphan’s Tales: In the Night Garden
10, Elfquest: Fire and

11, Elizabeth Bear: One-Eyed Jack
12, Elfquest: 2: The Forbidden Grove
13, Elfquest: vol. 3: Captives of Blue Mountain
14, Terry Pratchett: Witches Abroad

The next Retrieval Artist book!

Publication year: 2015
Format: Audio
Running time: 10 hours, 36 minutes
Narrator: Jay Snider

The book starts 55 years before the bombings on the Moon, in a prison where the mass murderer Pierre Luigi Freimon is incarcerated. His clones are the ones who bombed the Moon. Jhena Andre is one of the guards. Another guard calls her, and tells her to bring a lot of evidence bags. Despite her misgivings, she does so and is coerced into smuggling DNA out of the prison.

The now part of the book actually deals with the aftermath of the Peyti Crisis which happened a week after the Anniversary Day bombing (in the book Blowback): hundreds of Peyti lawyers tried to finish off the Moon with poison. However DeRicci, Nyquist, and Flint derailed that plan. But now, they are trying to find out who was behind the whole thing. Little by little, they find traces which chill them.

The Peyti are imprisoned and Nyquist and the other police officers are trying to question them. Meanwhile Luc Deshin, a former crime boss, is making his own inquiries in order to save his family and the Moon. Miles Flint has a more personal problem in addition to finding the masterminds behind the bombing: his daughter Talia has become increasingly withdrawn and fearful. But it’s no wonder: she has gone through several traumas in a short time.

The investigation is again in the forefront of this book and tension is getting higher when the characters realize just how high the stakes could be. All of the characters are feeling the strain and Nyquist (who’s now dating DeRicci) is afraid that she will crack under it. His concern is really very sweet and very much warranted.

A great addition to the series but this isn’t a self-contained book and doesn’t have a clear ending. I’d recommend starting with the first book, the Disappeared.

Tough Travelling hosted by Fantasy Review Barn.

Each Thursday, inspired by ‘The Tough Guide to Fantasyland’ we have in hand, we shall tour the mystical countryside looking for adventure and fun (and tropes) from all over fantasy.

This week’s topic is MUSICIANS/BARDS

BARDS often join questing parties and provide entertainment around the campfire. Sometimes their music even holds a little bit of magic. Or a clue to an ancient mystery. Or…

I’ve always liked bards and I’ve played more a few of them in various roleplaying games. But they aren’t really numerous in books or movies.

Alan-a-Dale, from various versions of the Robin Hood legends. However, he tends to be a very minor character and often left out completely.

Danilo Thann from the Elaine Cunningham’s Forgotten Realms books. He’s a member of the Harpers, a secret organization that tries to do good in the realms. Cunningham’s books about him and his reluctant partner Arilyn Moonblade were some of the first FR fantasy books I read after Salvatore and they left (clearly) a lasting impression. The first book is Elfshadow.

Orpheus from the Greek legends.

Apollo who is, among other things, the god of music and poetry.

Fafhrd from Fritz Leiber’s stories was originally trained as a singer although he’s far better known as a thief and a swordsman.

The Fables comic book, there’s Boy Blue who sings and plays the trumpet. He’s also so quiet and gentle that the reader may forget that he’s been through quite nasty fighting.

If you consider superhero comics to be fantasy (rather than science fiction) there’s Dazzler from the X-Men. She’s actually a pop star and would rather be a singer than a superhero.

The Asterix comic has the eager but unfortunately tone-deaf bard Cacofonix.

The Tintin comic has the great diva and opera singer Bianca Castafiore.

Publication year: 1971
Publication year of the Finnish translation: 1996
Format: print
Page count: 175
Publisher: Book Studio
Finnish translator: Leena Peltonen

The Pastel City, also known as Viriconium, is the product of thousands of years of cultures which have all died away. Some of them invented rather high technology but most of the tech have been forgotten and the rest aren’t understood. Viriconium stands as the last bastion of civilization on the Earth.

But then, their king dies and his heir, Queen Jane also called the Young Queen, is challenged by another prospective heir from the North, Canna Moidart called the Old Queen. She’s the daughter of the king’s brother. The country is plunged into war.

The main character is one of the previous king’s elite warriors: Lord tegeus-Cromis “who fancies himself a better poet than swordsman”. After the king died, his warriors thought that they weren’t needed anymore and they left, each going his own way. Cromis lives like a hermit in a tower by the sea. An airship crashes nearby and Cromis rescues the lone survivor. The survivor turns out to be a passionate supported of the Old Queen and tries to kill Cromis. However, he doesn’t succeed and Cromis decides to go to the Young Queen and offer his help. The Young Queen gratefully accepts and sends him north to lead her army.

Along the way, Cromis gathers some of his old comrades. He also encounters an odd mechanical vulture which tells him that he must go to Cellur’s tower because the threat to the whole world is huge and Cromis is needed. However, Cromis ignores the bird and continued to north. The bird tags along, often reminding that he should be going to Cellur’s tower.

This feels like quest fantasy set in a science fiction setting. The characters ride horses and fly in crystal airships. Battles are fought with both swords and titanium exoskeletons. Cromis is a melancholy man and the whole world feels down right depressing. The only humor comes from the dwarf Tomb who uses the aforementioned exoskeleton to slaughter his enemies.

I liked the premise of the world: forgotten technologies left behind by long-dead civilizations. But characters left me cold and the grimness was a bit too much.

11th book in the Barsoom series.

Publication year: 1941
Publication year of the Finnish translation: 1976
Format: print
Page count: 268
Publisher: Taikajousi
Finnish translator: Seppo Ilmari

This story was published originally in four parts but they form a whole. Storywise, this feels like a culmination of many of the tropes Burroughs used in his earlier stories; they’re all used here. A kidnapped gorgeous woman, new cultures which have stayed hidden until now, the main character putting on some new leathers as a disguise, vile villains, and heroic heroes. Yup, it’s a Barsoom book!

The narrator is once again John Carter. He’s come to visit Edgar on Earth and tells him a story about Llana, his granddaughter, although she’s not the main character, John is. The story starts when John is looking for adventure and solitude. When he’s flying above Horz, one of the biggest dead cities of Mars, he sees a group of Tharks attacking a red man and he has to help. Together John and his new friend Pan Dan Chee kill all the Tharks. However, Horz isn’t dead after all: a hundred warriors come appear and take John captive.

It turns out that Pan Dan Chee and the other warriors from Horz aren’t red Martians but have white skin and blond hair. They are of the ancient Martian race which people think have died out. They have been hiding out in Hortz and don’t allow any outsider to live. Their jeddak is sad but resolute; he must condemn John to death and Pan Dan Chee, as well. They are sent to the old dungeons.

In their further adventures, John encounters his granddaughter Llana who was kidnapped by a too-eager suitor but escaped. Naturally, John tries to take her home to Gathol. This is, of course, not easy.

This is actually a pretty good representation of the Barsoom series, full of adventure. Apparently, these were written as a parody of Burroughs’ own previous works. It is quite remarkable how none of the bad guys recognize John even when he has shown his remarkable strength and fighting skills and even openly told people that he’s from Jasoom. Unfortunately, it also has the same problems as the previous books: very black and white world where the good are beautiful and the bad people are easy to recognize on sight. Good guys also get along very well. Enjoyable, if you like that sort of light reading.

Llana is actually pretty good female character even though not as independent as her mother Tara. But she doesn’t really have a chance to shine; most of the book she’s off-stage. We’re told that she’s good with the sword but she isn’t given a chance to use it.

Booking Through Thursday

Two part question:

In an ideal world, what kind of book cases would you have? Built-ins? Barrister ones with glass doors? The cheapest you could find so you could have lots of them?

And … what kind of bookcases do you REALLY have?

I’ve seen pretty awesome bookshelves in various fantasy works which I’d love to have. Morpheus’ library in the Sandman comics comes to mind; not just books which are but which have been dreamt of…

I’d love to have lots of built-in bookcases. In reality I have a pretty haphazard collection of various bookshelves. But they’re still sturdy and able to carry the weight of hundreds of books and comics. Of course, more and more of the books I buy are in electronic format so they don’t require cases at all.

A Star Trek: TNG book

Publication year: 1994
Format: print
Page count: 337
Publisher: Pocket Books

Last November, during Sci-Fi Month, I got the urge to reread some of my favorite Star Trek novels. Back when I first read Dark Mirror, I thought it was the best of the bunch. And it didn’t disappoint on reread.

Dark Mirror was written before the DS9 Mirror universe episodes so it doesn’t align with them. And that’s good. As much I enjoyed the DS9 Mirror universe episodes, this was far more chilling tale. Here we get a good look at what our beloved TNG characters would have been in a society which focused on ruthless conquest instead of peaceful exploration both in society as whole and also at individual level. The main characters are LaForge, Troi and Picard whose counterparts are, well, evil. Troi has more telepathic abilities rather than just emphatically sensing others’ emotions and it’s possible that they are the result of a far more ruthless training. She also enjoys others’ pain and enjoys casually invading other people’s thoughts against their will. Our Deanna finds her nauseating but also curiously interesting. The other Picard is just as ruthless in his own way and also enjoys causing others pain, especially Beverly. Apparently, he had murdered Jack Crusher and then taken Beverly as a lover. Poor Wesley is just looking for the right moment to kill him.

On the Mirror Enterprise, Troi is the security officer who has even more power than Captain Picard. Her job is internal security, keeping everyone else on their toes. She even monitor’s the crew’s thoughts.

Federation itself doesn’t exist. Instead Earth has formed an Empire whose purpose is to expand and subjugate all others to their power. This isn’t a new philosophy, as our Picard finds out when he looks at the Mirror Picard’s bookshelf. It seems that humans have been far more ruthless for thousands of years.

The first away team which is sent to the Mirror Enterprise is Troi and LaForge and they got to show their skills and training well.

However, the focus is on the regular crew and their reaction to this universe. The twisted characters aren’t explored much and I’m not sure I would have enjoyed it much, either.

As a lighter subplot, Riker and Worf explore Earth opera.

This is still one of my favorite Star Trek books, even though it’s far darker than usual Trek books.

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