October 2015

A short story collection centered on crimes done in the past.


Publication year: 2014
Format: ebook
Page count: 236
Publisher: WMG Publishing

Customs and laws have changed from time to time and place to place. These stories explore actions which have been crimes in the past but are no longer crimes. I liked all of these. The stories with slavery (Crowe’s and Nelscott’s stories) were the most disturbing to me. However, none of them were outstanding, to me.

“Stolen in Passing” by Dory Crowe: A slave has run away and is now looking for any safe place. However, he’s still in an area where the decent citizens are compelled by law to return him to slav-ery. With no other place to go, he runs for his half-sister’s new home. But she looks like she’s white and is already married to a white man.

“New World Gambles” by Leah Cutter: Set in Canada among the Chinese immigrants. Mei Quon is a scholar who has travelled to the New World in the hopes of a better life but the only job he has is as a companion to rich men. His current patron loves to gamble and Mei Quon has an understanding with one of the people working in the crooked gambling place. But then the Tong get involved.

“The Bank Teller” by Jamie McNabb: A stranger comes to town and quickly settles down as a bank teller. But he aims to do something quite different.
“An Education for Thursday” by Dean Wesley Smith: this is the most Western themed story in the collection. A woman rides into town, looking for revenge.

“The Curious Case of the Ha’Penny Detective” by Lee Allred: Conan Doyle wasn’t the only one writing detective stories in the 1800s. This story explores one of “Sherlock’s rivals”.

“The Horns of Hathor” by Richard Quarry: A murder mystery set in Akhenaten’s reign in Ancient Egypt! I always love those. The Pharaoh Akhenaten has forbidden the worship of the old gods and Chenzira the Scribe is sent to tell the temple of Amun-Re that the Festival of Opet is cancelled. The Pharaoh’s previous messenger was apparently killed by Hathor herself.

“Impressions” by Lisa Silverthorne: Set in London in the 1780s, a nobleman is looking for his wife who is supposedly dead. Young constable Fletcher gets clues from her death mask.

“The Raiders” by Cat Rambo: Set in a prisoner of war camp during the U.S. Civil war, some of the prisoners oppress the others and the guards look the other way.

“The Monster in Our Midst” by Kris Nelscott: In 1918 in Arkansans, black men are still being lynched and it’s extremely dangerous to investigate it. But Emerson West does that sometimes. When he receives a hair-raising postcard depicting a hanged black man, he volunteers to investigate.

“Blood and Lightning on the Newport Highway” by M. Elizabeth Castle: Making moonshine is the livelihood of some families in the Appalachia during the Prohibition. However, the Monroe family has lot of bad blood with certain Revenuer who has returned to town.

“Deathmobile” by Michele Lang: Little Rocky is just 11 years old but she comes face to face with the reality of New York in 1977, when the Son of Sam is threatening everyone.

“The Stonewall Rat” by JC Andrijeski: The main character, the Chief, works for the mafia. Stone-wall is a gay bar and the Chief is sent to find the rat in there.

A good collection with solid, interesting stories.

Tough Travelling hosted by Fantasy Review Barn.
This week’s topic is PURE GOOD

No middle ground, no moral middle, no grey area at all. Some people are pure avatars of goodness. Fantasyland seems to be full of them.

I have to disagree: a startling amount of characters are grey. Also some characters are presented by the author as pure good and yet they go around killing people. Usually that happens in a war but a startling amount of fantasy books have good and evil races. And (pure) good is presented in Western setting with Western values.

Still, the first person who springs to my mind is:
Sir Galahad. He’s actually a very interesting case because he (and his dad Lancelot) is a later addition to the Arthurian saga. He’s the perfect knight and one of the three who found the Grail. Sir Percival is another, earlier pure knight.

Carrot Ironfoundersson by Terry Pratchett is another person who I think is also “pure” good – and an excellent foil to his boss who might be the biggest cynic in fantasy (although incorruptible), Sam Vimes.

Samwise Gamgee by Tolkien is never tempted to take the Ring for himself and he loyally follows Frodo on all the adventures.

Drizzt Do’Urden by R. A. Salvatore is a drow, a dark elf whose whole race is Evil. He’s the only good one, except of his dad. He’s an example of characters who are supposedly very good and yet kill a suprising amount of people. Indeed, his only real skill seem to be killing people.

Comics have a few characters who are supposed to be as pure good as people can be. Lots of readers seem to think that they’re boring, and they might be if their goodness is never tested but just taken as given.

Superman and Captain America are both the epitome of goodness in their respective universes. They also refuse to kill anyone. (Except in alternate universe stories)

Spider-Man: with great power comes great responsibility. He not only refuses to kill, he has saved his enemies.

Thor: his hammer can only be lifted by someone who is worthy of being Thor. By Asgard standards.

The second book in the historical mystery series. This is set in Chicago in 1968.
Publication year: 2002
Format: Audio
Running time: 9 hours and 38 minutes, including an excerpt of the next book
Publisher: Audible
Narrator: Miron Willis

Billy “Smokey” Dalton is a black unlicensed private detective in US in the 1960s. After the events in the previous book (“A Dangerous Road”) he and 10-year-old Jimmy had to flee their home in Memphis and they’re trying to make a new life in Chicago. However, the upcoming Democratic National Convention is inciting violence in addition to political unrest. The police and the FBI are keeping an eye out for anyone who could be trouble, especially black men. Smokey is afraid that they will notice him and Jimmy, especially after his neighbor tells him that she had noticed someone watching him. Then Smokey finds out that someone is murdering 10-year-old black boys and the police aren’t interested in investigating, except for one black detective. Of course, Smokey has to investigate.

Jimmy isn’t Smokey’s son but Jimmy doesn’t really have a family and when he saw who killed Martin Luther King Jr. and people started to hunt him, Smokey took him under his wing. But they’re telling others that they’re father and son to avoid scrutiny.

Smokey has a job as a security guard but has to live together with a friend, Franklin Grimshaw, and his family. Both Smokey and Jimmy are loners but now they have to live in very cramped quarters, which makes them irritable. Smokey’s also keenly aware that he doesn’t know Chicago which makes his life difficult. He realizes that tension is rising between blacks and whites because of the political situation but he has no other place to go. Another complication is Laura, a rich white woman whom Smokey loves, but they both know that they can’t be together.

To me this was an excellent portrayal of the time period and the people living in it and a great follow up to the previous book.

The third and final book in the series
Publication year: 2014
Format: print
Page count: 423
Translator: Antti Autio
Publisher of the Finnish translation: Gummerus

The whole trilogy has lots of cool concepts and science which might exist at some point and the last book is no exception. Theoretically, it should be easier to read because most of the concepts have been introduced in the previous books. But it’s not, at least for me. This time we get to see lot more of the zoku society. They’re like live action roleplayers with high tech that brings everything really alive.

Sobornost (the bad guys) are fighting a civil war and the surviving characters are caught in the middle. The master thief Jean de Flambeur finds out just what he used to be like… and intends to steal a ring from Saturn.

Like before, I think that the setting is the major attraction with technology which behaves essentially like magic, and are named after magical entities such as djinn or dragons. For me at least, this actually made it harder to think of them as tech.

The book has lots of references to various comic book and fantasy and SF characters (even a Finnish one is seen once). Jules Verne is a clear inspiration, after all the most significant zoku society in the book is the Gun Club and its leader is Barbicane (from “From Earth to the Moon” and “Around the Moon”). I enjoyed them.

However, I felt that the characters and plot were buried under cool concepts and setting. I highly recommend reading “The Quantum Thief” and “the Fractal Prince” first and preferably back to back so that you don’t have the chance to forget the names and concepts.

The new Toby Daye book!

Publication year: 2015
Format: Audio
Running time: 12 hours and 47 minutes

Publisher: Audible
Narrator: Mary Robinette Kowal

I’m a fan of the series (obviously: this is the 9th book) so I love the writing style and characters. Of course, I can’t be objective about it. By the way, I don’t recommend this as the first book in the series: that would be “Rosemary and Rue”. This time Toby and her friends travel to another realm and they find out just how much some fae loath the changelings.

Toby and her friends have achieved a lot and have finally started to enjoy their life. Then Rhys, the King of Silences, declares war on Arden Windermere, the new Queen of the Mists, who is Toby’s friend and the boss’s boss. Apparently, the previous, false Queen fled to Silences and managed to secure King Rhys’ help with getting Mists back. However, Arden can send a diplomat to discuss peace and the diplomat has three days to do so. Arden sends her hero, Toby. Toby is horrified at first but has to agree. She takes a small retinue: her boyfriend, her squire, her “sister”, and Walther as her alchemist.

Changelings don’t have it easy in any realm of faerie but in Silences they’re born into servitude. They’re beaten and subjected to addictive substances or poisons at the whim of their masters. This of course angers Toby and her friends. In addition to changelings, King Rhys also disapproves of… well everyone except pure-blooded human looking fae. And he makes his views known loudly and often. Unfortunately, this makes him a bit cartoonish and not in a good way and a clear villain for Toby to bring down.

Like the previous books in the series “A Rose-Red Chain” gives us revelations about Toby and the people around her, although not nearly as much as the two previous books. Walther specifically is from the Silences and part of the former ruling family. That’s why the Sea Witch told Toby to take Walther with her. He also has some other secrets which were a wonderful surprise to me.

Once again, I greatly enjoyed the book. The regular cast is wonderful and we’re introduced to some new characters, as well. We haven’t seen much of Toby’s sister May lately so I was happy to see more of her. Toby also has to test the limits of her powers. On the down side, the villains were one-dimensional and I didn’t really believe that such a small realm which constantly snubs and insults potential allies could really win a war against the Mists. It could well be that we’re introduced to characters and situations which become even more important later.

Collects Uncanny X-Men #294–296; X-Factor #84–86; X-Men Vol. 2 #14–16; X-Force #16–18

Writers: Scott Lobdell, Peter David, Fabian Nicieza
Artists: Jae Lee, Al Milgrom, Greg Capullo, Harry Candelario, Brandon Peterson, Terry Austin, Andy Kubert, Mark Pennington

For a huge cross-over event across all x comics at the time, this held together quite well. The main enemy is Stryfe but Mr. Sinister and Apocalypse appear as well. Of course there are bad points, too. The cast of heroes is very big but most of them don’t make a marked difference. There’s even a point when Boom-Boom’s jaw is broken but in the rest of the issues it’s Polaris whose jaw is broken. There’s longwinded monologues from the villains, mostly Stryfe but also from the rest. Archangel makes a deadly mistake by not offing Apocalypse when he had the chance. Lots of unnecessary exposition. The whole thing winds around the Summers clan which some reader hate and other like. And people who apparently die, don’t stay dead. But the X-Men were mostly in character and I had a blast rereading it.

The event kicks off when Professor Xavier is at Lila’s concert talking about peace between humans and mutants. Some of the people in the crowd are listening but some talk back. Then, Cable appears and shoots Xavier! At the same time, Jean and Scott are kidnapped from a diner by Caliban and some other Storm Riders.
Xavier is quickly taken to the Mansion where the Beast and Doctor MacTaggert start to work on him. The professor has been shot with a techno-organic virus which is taking over his body but is still alive. The X-Men and X-Factor band together. Some of them go after X-Force who are the former New Mutants whom Cable took under his wing. Nobody knows where Cable is but the X-Men think that the X-Force will know. Unfortunately, they don’t but the X-Men take the kids as prisoners anyway. The rest of the X-Men go after the Horsemen and Apocalypse.

The Summers clan is at the center of the whole event, especially Jean and Scott. The writers don’t explicitly say it but Cable is the son of Scott and Madelyne (Jean’s clone) and apparently Stryfe is the clone of Cable. So, Stryfe has now decided to avenge his crappy childhood on his parents (Scott and Jean), brother Cable, and Apocalypse, the man who raised him. Jean isn’t his mother but he treats her as one. Of course, Madelyne is dead at this point so it’s not possible to get satisfaction out of her. Still, Jean could have protested as some point at being made to pay for things her clone had done. Mr. Sinister is also involved.

Still, the story sticks together surprising well and the art isn’t too different from one comic to the next. The only exception is Jae Lee’s art which I ended up enjoyed quite a lot. It’s more stylized and darker than the other artists’ work. However, I think following the story requires knowing the backstory; without knowing it the story can seem just a mess.

A short story collection.

Publication year: 2014
Format: print
Page count: 273
Publisher: WMG Publishing

This is another of the Fiction River anthologies. I’ve enjoyed the previous ones a lot and was looking forward to reading this one, too. I liked all of the stories but only a couple of them were outstanding to me. Still, some of them are part of ongoing or planned series and if I didn’t have a physical TBR pile of over 100 books (still…) I’d be very tempted to check them out. However, they work just fine as stand-alones. Only two stories have professional detectives (and three various agents), the rest are amateur sleuths.

“Case Cracked” by Joe Cron: Frank Dumpty is a detective in the Magic City Police Department. When a troll is killed Frank finally has a chance to go against one of the more corrupt characters in the city.

“Living With The Past” by Dayle A. Dermatis: A ghost of a Marilyn Monroe impersonator asks Nikki Ashbourne for help and even though Nikki’s life has just exploded, she can’t refuse.

“All She Can Be” by Karen L. Abrahamson: This is a prequel story to Abrahamson’s Cartographer series (which sounds very interesting!). Vallon Drake has the ability to control earth. She uses it in the service of her government and this is her first case; someone has changed US’s landscape and Vallon and her (asshole) partner have to take that person in custody and reverse the change.

“Under Oregon” by Kara Legend: Evangeline’s family has just moved to Oregon but their livelihood, the crops, are in danger. Evangeline makes a potion to save them but angers a local fairy.

“Role Model” by Kevin J. Anderson: Dan Shamble is a zombie P.I. His friend asks him to go to a Cosplay Convention and he agrees. One of the Stormtroopers is murdered. Shamble is on the case and he even gets a sidekick: someone cosplaying him. This was a lot of fun.

“Death In Hathaway Tower” by Ryan M. Williams: Emily Hathaway is the young Lady of the Tower and when a dead body turns up in her library, she has to deal with it. This setting has really ethereal elves which I’m always sucker for.

“Trouble Aboard The Flying Scotsman” by Alistair Kimble: Harland Stone has just resolved the Scottish Affair for His Majesty’s Dashing Chaps and is looking forward to a quiet train ride to London. But then the conductor claims that something has sabotaged the train and only Stone can help.

“Containing Patient Zero” by Paul Eckheart: Zombies in this world result from a virus – except for patient zero. Leroy Star is a reality TV star and also a convicted serial killer who is about to be executed. Unfortunately, he’s also patient zero and Doctor Joseph Nelson is brought in to see Leroy. Fortunately, Joseph knows who can help Leroy and prevent a zombie plague. Unfortunately, that’s person unlikely to help.

“Canine Agent Rocky Arnold Vs. The Evil Alliance” by Judith Nordeen: Rocky is a German Shepard who belongs to an FBI agent. But when the agent takes her dog to the dog park, Rocky is the one who has to figure out a mystery. Another fun story.

“An Incursion Of Mice” by Kristine Kathryn Rusch: Five rescued cats live in one house with their two human servants. Wall T is their boss and should have caught the mice incursion.

“They’re Back” by Dean Wesley Smith: A Poker Boy story where a vanquished villain returns to torment our intrepid heroes.

My favorites were “Death In Hathaway Tower”, “Under Oregon”, and “Containing Patient Zero”. All had strong atmospheres. As a dog person I also liked Judith Nordeen’s story a lot.

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