September 2015

Publication year: 1942
Format: Audio
Running time: 7 CDs
Publisher of the Finnish translation: WSOY
Narrator: Lars Swedberg
Publication year of the Finnish translation: 1972
Translator: Eva Siikarla

Jerry Burton is an injured RAF pilot. His doctor suggests to him that he and his sister Joanna should go to a peaceful country village to recover. They go to Lymstock but quite soon they notice that the village isn’t quite as tranquil as they expected: someone is writing anonymous and very malicious letters. People throw the letters away and pretend that they’re all nonsense but some start to say “where there’s smoke, there’s fire”. Jerry comes aware of the letters when he and his sister receive a letter which accuses them of being lovers and not siblings.

Then a woman apparently kills herself over one letter and the police gets involved. Also, Jerry and Joanna start to help Meghan who is 20-year-old woman but whom everyone treats like a school girl or even ignore her completely. Meghan’s mother divorced her father when Meghan was just a little girl but Meghan’s mother has remarried and seems to devote all her time to her husband and young sons.

This is written in Jerry’s first person POV. Ms. Marple doesn’t appear until after the half-way point and is very much in the background until the very end. The book focuses on the people of Lymstock who just love to gossip. The village has a collection of people you’d expect to find in a small English village, such as the doctor and his spinster sister, the vicar and his wife etc.

This is a quick and entertaining read. I didn’t figure out who did it.

The 8th book in the series.

Publication year: 2013
Format: print
Page count: 432
Publisher: Del Ray

William Laurence washes up in a sea shore. He has no idea who he is and how he has gotten there. Fortunately, he’s saved by a local nobleman.

Meanwhile, Laurence’s dragon Temeraire, the dragon transport ship, and the rest of the dragons have problems. Laurence fell overboard during a storm and the ship was damaged. Temeraire wants to go immediately to look of his captain even though the nearest land mass is Japan which doesn’t allow foreigners. However, he has to help with the ship and Iskierka is having their egg and wants Temeraire to make sure it’s safe before he goes.

Back in Japan, Laurence has remembered his name… but doesn’t remember anything about the last eight years. He thinks that he’s still a ship’s captain and dealing with the very suspicious Japanese is difficult. Fortunately, he speaks Chinese and lots of the Japanese speak it, too. Laurence manages to escape but not without help and he meets the local dragons, too.

The book has three parts. The first is set in Japan, the second in China, and the third part returns our favorite dragons to the fight against Napoleon.

The amnesia forces Laurence to take a long hard look at his life and the people around him. This brings quite a lot of angst and slows the pace a lot. However, I quite liked the Japanese dragons and the clash of different sort of honor definitions and rules.

The rest of the book advances the overall plot and the book ends in a cliffhanger. And I have no idea when the next book might come out.

Overall I liked this book a lot. Amnesia plots are a bit hit or miss with me. They can be hilarious (Buffy’s “Tabula Rasa” comes to mind as well as Star Trek TNG “Conundrum”) but can also go very, very wrong. This is in between for me. Not hilarious at all, since it just brought more angst to, well, everyone and it seemed that Laurence is really unsatisfied with his life which is sad. Other things bring to humor to the book, though: Iskierka is jealous of Temeraire’s Chinese lover and it was fun for a few incidents but got old really fast.

The clash between cultures is always interesting and there are several cultures here compared to the British (and each other). Novik also references a few historical incidents which I almost always like.

The first part has a lot of introspection and so it’s pretty slow but the last third makes up with that when the dragons join the war effort again.

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 A LADY AND HER SWORD

Fantasyland is full of threats. A lady and her sword can keep those threats at bay.

The two who immediately sprang to mind:

Xena the warrior princess: she has many skills, including superior swordswomanship.

Buffy the vampire slayer: Buffy uses often her bare hands or stakes but she does use a sword, too.

Kate Daniels by Ilona Andrews: I’ve only read the first two books but even though Kate’s an urban fantasy heroine, who usually use guns, she has a sword.

Aliera e’Kieron by Steven Brust: she’s of the House of Dragon and currently she wields the Pathfinder which is one of the most powerful enchanted weapons in her world. It’s a sword.

Mira by Jocelynn Drake: Mira is a 600-year-old vampire and she has the natural ability to create and control fire. However, since her enemies, the naturi, use swords, she also often have to use them, too. And Mira does saves the world.

Eowvyn by J. R. R. Tolkien: she was instrumental in bringing down the Witch-King of Angmar.

Talia by Jim Hines: she’s also known as the Sleeping Beauty. She’s one of the three princesses starring in Hines’ Princess series. She’s an expert swordswoman with a dark past.

October Daye by Seanan McGuire: Toby is a changeling and at the start of the series she’s a private detective and a Knight. She uses a knife most often (easier to transport in modern San Francisco) but she also has been trained as a knight so she can use a sword and sometimes does.

by Robin McKinley: she’s the main character in the Hero and the Crown, a princess who is shunned because of her strange looks and lack of magical talent. She’s known as the Dragon-killer.

A stand-alone murder mystery/time travel story. It was part of Storybundle’s Time travel bundle.

Publication year: 2013
Format: ebook
Page count: 322
Publisher: WMG Publishing

Snipers is a murder mystery which also has time travel elements but the SF part never dominates. The past is Vienna 1913 and the present is Vienna 2005.

1913 has three storylines: one is an assassin who goes around killing certain people to prevent them from doing stuff, one is William who has a nuke with him and he trails his victim Stavros Papadopoulos, and the third is Johann Runge, a detective ahead of his time with regards to police procedure. The modern story follows Sofie Branstadter, a historian and a famous non-fiction writer who wants to write her next book about the Carnival sniper, and Anton Runge, Johann’s great-grandchild.

The assassin is determined to kill some people in order to change the future (his past). However, Johann Runge is hot on his trail. Runge even writes a non-fiction book about the assassin whom everyone calls the Carnival sniper. His book is hugely successful but because Runge didn’t catch the killer, he’s widely thought of now as an unsuccessful cop even though he solved a lot of other cases. Sofie’s parents were killed by an unknown murderer when she was just a little girl, so she’s fascinated by the Carnival sniper who is also world’s first serial killer. She wants to get new evidence and starts by exhuming the killer’s first victim, Viktor Adler. The Austrian courts agreed to Sofie’s request to dig up Adler’s body and see what can be learned from him. To her surprise her team finds strange kinds of bullets which seem to be top secret in 2005.

I’m a fan of Rusch’s SF and mystery stories so it’s not surprising that I enjoyed this book a lot. Sofie has her own problems and reasons for writing about the Carnival sniper and Runge is a meticulous detective. The assassin and William also have they own motivations so they aren’t just faceless lunatics. The story has quite a few surprises so I don’t want to tell too much about it.

Writers: Jim Lee, Scott Lobdell, Whilce Portacio, John Byrne, Fabian Nicieza

Artists: Whilce Portacio, John Romita Jr., Scott Williams, Andy Kubert, Bill Sienkiewicz, Art Thibert, Tom Raney, Hillary Barta, Rurik Tyler, Josef Rubinstein, Al Milgrom,

Collects Uncanny X-Men #281–293, X-Men Vol. 2 #12–13, material from X-Men (1991) 10–11

This is clear example of 1990s X-Men: a large team, lots of plotlines, some of them “soap opera”. Bishop’s origins are intriguing and I always love time travel stuff. But his mystery is far from solved in this collection and I have vague memories that they weren’t really resolved at all. Also, it has a lot of stories which don’t have much to do with Bishop. The writing makes everything a melodrama and continues storylines which I think were started in X-Factor. But for me at least most of these were entertaining stories. Unfortunately, I don’t care for Portacio’s art. It also seems that the writers’ can’t handle happy couples: Jean and Scott were separated into different teams and Scott starts to dream about Betsy (!), and everyone else’s love life is a mess or a melodrama. I was also disappointed to see Morlocks killed off.

The collection starts with a bang: Hellfire Club’s Emma Frost asks for help from the X-Men. Apparently someone has been murdering the Club’s leaders and Emma could be next. Xavier sends the gold team to see what’s going on. Storm, Iceman, Colossus, Archangel, and Jean Grey go to the club and get into fracas with the Hellions. But that dies down quickly. Then Emma mind-tortures a young woman in armor who attacked her. However, a green haired man calling himself Fitzroy appears in some sort of power armor which is also able to withstand psionic attacks. He seems to lead the attacks on the Hellfire club.

Meanwhile a new group of self-repairing Sentinels attacks the Reavers in their Australian base (yes!). Their leader Pierce manages to escape through one of Gateway’s portals to the Hellfire club where both X-Men and the Hellions have to fight the Sentinels. In the end, though, it seems that both Emma Frost and Jean Grey are dead. The Sentinels leave, with the Hellions and Emma’s body. But Pierce is killed! (double yay!)

However, Jean was able to put her mind into Emma’s body which Xavier is able to sense. The gold team X-Men (+Xavier and Forge) track the Sentinels to their Artic base and attack. In the base, green-haired Fitzroy is in the process of sucking up life energy from his captives and using his powers to open up a huge time portal. Super powered people pour out from the portal and on their heels are Bishop and his two assistants, Randall and Marshall, who are some sort of mutant police intend on either killing or capturing Fitzroy and his goons. When Fitzroy reveals that he can’t send people back to the future, Bishop and his goons start killing the mutants.

When Bishop sees the X-Men, he’s at first filled with hero worship but when the X-Men stop him from killing, he turns against them, claiming that they are impostors. Bishop and some of the other mutants manage to escape. Meanwhile, Xavier puts Jean’s mind back to her body.

Then, the X-Men go to the Sahali Island where a void has opened up. The Japanese scientists try to control it by bringing in Sunfire. The scientists have built him an armor which will channel his powers more effectively than ever and they think that he can just blast the portal out of existence. Unfortunately, the portal absorbs the energy and strikes back with it. Also, strange creatures crawl out of the portal and attack everyone near it. However, soon the X-Men notice that the creatures are just people in armor. But too late: the portal sucks in everyone near it including Storm, Jean, Iceman, Archangel, Colossus, and Sunfire.

The team ends up on different parts of the world on the other side of the portal and meet different people. It seems that the portal leads to another planet where one group of people have seized power and others fight against them. Peter and Jean end up with the rebels and the leader of the dominant group, Avatar, brainwashes Warren to kill on her behalf. However, the strangest thing of all is that Peter finds his big brother in this world and he’s a mutant. Mihkail Rasputin is a former cosmonaut thought to be dead. Peter idolized him and is heartbroken to find out that Mihkail doesn’t live up to his legend.

Meanwhile, back on Earth Bishop and his two flunkies continue to kill mutants who have come from another time and the local people, including the police, think that what they’re dealing with is mutant powered gang violence and blame it on the X-Men.

Finally in issue 287, we find out Bishop’s story. He comes from a future where XSE is a mutant police force and the X-Men are revered. LeBeu is the last known X-Man and he seems to be in some sort of prison/guest house and access to him is very limited. During his last mission on his own time period, Bishop stumbles on a tape where Jean says that she’s the last X-Man standing and that the X-Men were betrayed by their own.

The X-Men capture Bishop and after a private talk with Xavier, he joins them. Some of X-Men aren’t happy about it. Xavier gives Storm the task of trying to acclimatize Bishop to current times.

X-Men issue 12 and 13 dig into Xavier’s past: it seems that his father worked alongside Ryking who confined his own son to an intuition once he found out that the boy was a mutant. The boy is now man and has come for his revenge on Xavier. Gold team tries to defend their teacher.

The rest of the collection is devoted to gold team’s adventures and troubles in their personal lives. Bobby introduces his Asian girlfriend to his parents and his father disapproves of her. The meeting turns into a fight with ninja cyborgs. Forge asks Storm to marry him but before she can give him an answer, he accuses her of being so emotionally stunted that she can’t have a life outside the X-Men and leaves the group with Mystique.

The last issues pit the X-Men against Morlocks. Now Mask leads the Morlocks. They attacked Callisto (who has a very shapely body now and lives among the humans) and when the X-Men attempt to investigate, they attack the X-Men (Storm, Jean, Archangel, Bishop, Iceman, Colossus, and Xavier). Also Mikhail Rasputin allies himself with the Morlocks and against the X-Men (and all of humanity). At the same time, Callisto and Archangel have to confront their past with the Morlocks.

Collects X-Men Forever vol.2 issues 11-16. The third and final volume of X-Men Forever vol. 2.

Writer: Chris Claremont
Artists: Rodney Buschemi, Greg Adams, Robert Atkins, Rick Ketcham, Sandu Florea, Andy Smith, Cory Hamscher, Ramon Rosanas

We finally get to know what’s up with the two Storms. First, the X-Men (Cyclops, Jean Grey, Gambit, Rogue, Mystique, Nightcrawler, Havok, Polar, Sabertooth, and Shadowcat) fight Storm’s forces in Genosha. She’s trying to annex the island but the X-Men prevent that. Then the X-Men go to Wakanda and confront the adult Storm, who is now the Queen of Wakanda. However, Storm has invited the Avengers (Captain America, Vision, Scarlet Witch, Thor, Quicksilver, Hawkeye, and Spider-Woman) to assist her. Dr. Strange guest stars and another old X-Man dies.

In the final issue, the X-Men mourn their dead and look hopefully in the future because now they have allies and don’t have to fight the Consortium alone.

I was happy that the mystery around Li’ Ro and the adult Storm was explained but the other plotlines were left dangling.

This wasn’t a bad series but I thought the second volume was better than the first. It had some very interesting plots, like Kurt and Rogue switching powers but also some less successful stuff. Adding Mystique to the team was fun, too. It’s not the best X-Men story ever but it was mostly entertaining. However, I can’t really recommend the series to anyone but the most hardcore X-Men fans and those of us who aren’t too thrilled with the current continuity (surely I can’t be the only one?), and of course those who like alternate worlds a lot (like me). The whole series is available through Marvel Unlimited.

I’ve completed almost all of my reading challenges so I decided to add another: Worlds Without End is hosting Pick and Mix reading challenge:

Do you find that your eclectic reading list doesnt match the criteria for most challenges? Then the Pick and Mix is perfect for you since any book on WWEnd’s awards, book lists or series is suitable for addition.

The only requirement is that you post a review or even just a brief comment about your reads on the Pick and Mix forum page and make an occasional comment on what other participants have added. Sharing our thoughts makes the whole reading experience more enjoyable. But you can add as few or as many proper reviews to WWEnd’s database as you desire.

Challenge Details
Genre: Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror
Challenge Span: January 2015 – December 2015

Reading Levels
Select your reading level below. You can adjust your level up or down at any time during the challenge.

one scoop = 10 books + 0 reviews
a carton = 20 books + 0 reviews
luxury choc-box = 30 books + 0 reviews
the whole sweet shop = 40 books + 0 reviews

I picked the first level: one scoop. But I’m hoping that I’ll end up with a carton.

Books read:
1, Elizabeth Marshall Thomas: Reindeer Moon
2, Elizabeth Marshall Thomas: The Animal Wife
3, Kristine Kathryn Rusch: Snipers
4, Seanan McGuire: A Rose-Red Chain
5, Vicki Pettersson: The Scent of Shadows
6, Jeff VanderMeer: Annihilation
7, Daniel Suarez: Influx
8, Philip K. Dick: Martian Time-Slip
9, Cherie Priest: Fiddlehead
10, Linda Nagata: Memory

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 PORTALS TO ANOTHER LAND

Fantasyland often has some unique entry points; not every traveler is born within its boundaries. It is a regular event for someone from a non-magical place to suddenly find themselves in this world of dragons, magic, and danger.
I haven’t read much portal fantasy and I associate it with children’s books.

Narnia: the first one which comes to mind is the wardrobe in “the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe” which led to the world of eternal winter and talking animals where humans were just a legend.

Wonderland: Alice fell down the rabbit hole and ended up in a very strange world indeed.

Oz: Dorothy flew with a tornado into in “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” and found quite a magical world.

But a few books meant for adults also use an entry point to fantasy land:

The London Below: in “Neverwhere” Richard Mayhew is drawn into a side of London which is invisible for the ordinary people.

The Woerld: in “Miserere” teenagers are sometimes drawn into a rather harsh magical world through portal.

Fionavar: five ordinary students are drawn into a magical world. I’ve only the haziest of memories of this story because it’s been a very long time since I read “the Fionavar Tapestry”.

A case could be made for:

Barsoom: while Mars isn’t literally a magical place, in “A Princess of Mars” John Carter was the only Earthman to be able to fly through space to get there.

An independent sequel to the Reindeer Moon; a historical fantasy book set in the Paleolithic Age.

Publication year: 1991
Format: print
Page count: 316
Publisher: Pocket Books

This book is set among a different tribe and about 10 years after the events in the Reindeer Moon. It’s written in first person and the main character is Kori, a young man. He’s the son of Swift, who was a secondary character in the previous book, but because Swift and Aal, Kori’s mother, have divorced Kori has grown up among her mother’s people. Even though Kori thinks that he’s already a grown man, his mother’s people treat him like a child and this frustrated him. When Swift visits the tribe, Kori sees his father pretty much for the first time and immediately starts to hero worship Swift. When Swift leaves, Kori goes with him.

Swift came to Aal’s people to find a wife for himself. Swift already has a wife that she’s childless. The only person he’s interested in is Pinesinger and so he gives gifts to her parents and takes the young woman with him. However, Kori and Pinesinger had sex before so the situation is a bit awkward for them. Swift gives his son a wife, but the little girl is just a couple of years old so Kori has to wait for her to grow up which frustrated him.

So, Kori starts a new life with his father’s people. While most of the things they do are familiar to him, hunting deer, reindeer, gathering fuel and berries etc., they have some customs which are unfamiliar to him and nobody bothers to tell him, so he has to learn through mistakes. Then one day, he encounters a strange woman who is swimming in the river. Kori immediately wants her and promptly kidnaps her. However, this could start a fight between her people and Swift’s people, so the men are worried and want Kori to take her back. But Kori keeps her.

Many of the elements from the Reindeer Moon are the same as in this book: the harsh struggle for survival in an environment which can be unpredictable and sometimes starkly hostile. But there are differences, too, and I was a bit surprised by them. The biggest of them were rigid gender roles. Yanan’s tribe was just two small families so everyone had to do what they could and they sat around the same camp fire. But here men hunt and women do pretty much everything else. They even have separate camp fires: one for men and one for women. Men also talk about women disparagingly which I don’t remember reading in the first book at all. Right from the start Kori tells us that men are “open like daylight” and women are “closed as darkness” full of secrets and anger. When something goes wrong a woman is blamed and when something goes right a man gets the credit no matter who has actually done these things. Also, men own women, hunting grounds, and lodges. A man can have multiple wives but a woman can have only one husband at a time. Teaching skills seems to be pretty rigidly defined by gender. One of the women in Swift’s camp hunts, but not well; of course most of the time she does other work and so lacks the experience that the men have.

Maybe I should have expected that but I’m still disappointed. All this gave the tale an undercurrent of misogyny which rather soured the reading for me.

I think Kori is a teenager by modern standards even though he thinks of himself as an adult. He’s a good hunter and could be a lot better if he got more experience and guidance. He’s frustrated because he can’t get that with his mother’s people and much happier when he moves to his father’s people. Yet, he’s very impulsive and headstrong. When he abducts the strange woman and makes her his slave, he isn’t really interested in her; he just lusts after her and wants the children he’ll force her to bear. He doesn’t bother to learn her language or to find out anything about her customs. Nor does he bother to teach her his language. One of the other women does learn her language, so it’s not impossible. Kori even renames the woman Muskrat; she tells him her name and he refuses to use it.

The tribes seems to be very xenophobic. When Muskrat has different skills and uses them, the others make fun of her and Kori feels that she shames him. They also constantly compare her to an animal just because she has different customs. Especially different religious customs frighten them.

In the Reindeer Moon, Swift saw that it’s possible for a wolf to help humans to hunt. However, that wolf befriended a young girl and Swift abused the wolf so that wolf wouldn’t work with Swift. Now, he tries again but again he doesn’t seem to understand that an animal will work only with the person who is kind to it and feeds it. Swift doesn’t bother to do that. This subplot interested me a lot but it was just a small part of the book.

The book has very little magic in it, far less than in the first book.

Again, the book is very well researched.

A stand-alone fantasy set in the Paleolithic Age.

Publication year: 1988
Format: print
Page count: 393
Publisher: Pocket Books

Yanan is a young girl living with a small group of people, including her mother, father, and little sister Meri. They live in tundra where part of the year their world is covered in snow and survival becomes even more of a struggle than during the summer. The people have to rely on each other and work hard to survive. Most of their days are spent setting traps, hunting (and often coming back empty handed), and gathering berries, roots, and even pine corns to eat. Because the group have several people, some of them have the time and energy to make clothing, too. It’s written in first person.

This is Yanan’s coming of age story. She’s a willful girl whose life isn’t easy, admittedly sometimes because she defies customs and is punished for it. The people she lives with form an extended family and it’s important to get along with everyone. But that’s not easy for a teenager.

The book has some fantasy elements, too. In the second chapter Yanan reveals to us that when she died, her group’s shaman (her aunt Teal) captured her spirit so that Yanan could help her people after death, too. She can take the form of an animal and rematerialize into the world. As an animal, she needs to eat and sleep, and mates sometimes, too. Teal and the group’s other shaman command her to help the tribe but it seem to me that the spirits can’t really do much. The group has another servitor spirit who was also part of the tribe before he died. However, when the sprits take animal form, they often seem to forget who they are and just live as animals until the shamans call them back.

The authors has done a lot of research and notes the sources at the back. I think it’s an excellent glimpse into the world where our ancestors could have lived in (excluding the magic, of course).

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