books


Storybundle offers again two great book bundles:
https://storybundle.com/fantasy
Historical fantasy
Books from Jo Graham, Martha Wells, and Judith Tarr! Tarr’s “Lord of Two Lands” is set in Alexander the Great’s camp and made me fan of Tarr.

https://storybundle.com/japan
Haikasoru Japan Science fiction bundle

5 (or 10 if you’re willing to spend 15 dollars) Japanese Sci-Fi books and collections translated into English. I’ve read “the Lord of the Sands of Time” by Issui Ogawa and enjoyed it. Couple of more days on sale.

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A couple of great book bundles are available:

https://storybundle.com/fantasy
Women in Fantasy which is curated by Kristine Rusch and has 5 books for minimum of 5 dollars and 10 books for minimum of 15 dollars, among them Rusch, Judith Tarr, Laura Anne Gilman, and one Fiction River short story collection. 6 days left to buy

Storybundle has two others bundles, too: Gaming books and True Crime.

https://www.humblebundle.com/books/scificlassics_bookbundle
Meanwhile Humble Bundle has a group of Sci-Fi classics (Males in Sci-fi?) including Zelazny, Asimov, and Bester. (Personally I wouldn’t call Betancourt’s Amber prequels classics.) 12 days left to buy.

The fifth book in the Barsoom series.

Publication year: 1922
Format: an ebook from project Gutenberg
Page count: not in a Kindle book

This was one of my favorite Barsoom books when I first read them as a teenager. Alas, I can’t reread it without any knowledge of what the book contains but it still ended up as one of my favorites because of two elements: the strange species and customs of the enemy peoples and Tara.

The book starts with John Carter visiting the author. Supposedly, John has now learned to travel between Mars and Earth at will. He tells Edgar about his daughter’s adventures. Two young people adventure in lands not well-known to Helium encountering wicked villains, steadfast friends, and strange places and people. It’s a Barsoom book, alright.

Tara is Dejah’s and John’s daughter and she has always known that she’s going to marry the son of her father’s great friend, Kantos Kan. Tara doesn’t love the young Djor Kantos but when Djor starts to pay a lot of attention to another woman, Tara becomes jealous. She also meet Gahan, the jed of far Gathol at her father’s party. Gahan is instantly smitten with her and declares his love for her. She, however, isn’t impressed. In fact, she’s so furious that she leaves the party and in the morning, she flies her one-man flier into a storm. At first, it’s just an exciting adventure, but she soon realizes that she’s caught in a terrible storm which whisks her away into a strange land. Without any food or water, she’s in a bad situation.

Fortunately, she’s a resourceful woman and at first she manages to hide for a while but soon she’s captured by strange creatures called kaldanes. Unfortunately, the kaldanes eat only meat and so they intend to fatten Tara and eat her. The kaldanes practically worship intelligence to the point that they don’t even have much emotions anymore. However, Tara manages to charm one of them, Ghek, with her sweet singing. She’s kept a prisoner for weeks. Then she tries to escape but doesn’t succeed.

Meanwhile, Gahan takes his own vessel into the storm and tries to find her. However, the vessel is caught in the same storm and Gahan goes overboard. After wandering around for weeks, he ends up near the place where Tara is imprisoned. Tara, Gahan, and Ghek manage to escape but end up in another strange city, Manador. Tara doesn’t recognize Gahan so he calls himself Turan, a soldier of fortune so that she wouldn’t be uncomfortable.

Tara gets to do lot more than Burroughs’ usual women, most likely because for most of the book she adventures alone. Even after Gahan finds her, they’re kept apart most of the time. Although she still is captured and imprisoned a lot. However, she’s quite selfless, thinking of the worry she has caused to her parents and others, and as duty bound as the rest of the (good) Martians. She also doesn’t hesitate to use her slim blade on others. It’s also said a couple of times in the book that John has taught her to use a sword. So, it’s frustrating that she isn’t allowed to use her skills, even when she could have just snapped up a weapon and used it. She just her knowledge to judge the fighting skills of the men.

Once again, I loved the eerie Kaldanes and the Rykors. Kaldenes are essentially brains with spiderlike legs and crablike pincers. They live below ground and have a loathing for sun and fresh air. Much like the Lotharians in the previous book, they love intelligence to the exclusion of everything else. However, the Kaldenes have taken it even further: their aim is to produce a pure brain which will alone survive the dying Mars. Their servants are the Rykors, people who are flawless Red Martians except that they don’t have heads. Instead, the Kaldanes attach themselves to the Rykors and use them as bodies. Alone, the Rykors don’t seem to be sentient and without a Rykor, it’s hard for a Kaldane to survive above ground. I used to have nightmares about these and they’re still mightily impressive. Also, John describes the Kaldene rulers as very similar to queen bees; they lay the eggs from which all of the others hatch from but they don’t have drones. Essentially, they seem to be hermaphrodite queen bees. John insist on calling them kings and using the male pronoun for them. In a society which literally doesn’t have biological sex and neither social gender. The Kaldanes also use male and female Rykors for the same jobs equally.

In contrast, mostly the culture of Manator isn’t very different from the other evil cultures we’ve seen in previous books. Indeed, their arrogance and tendency to capture slaves from nearby cities (including Gathol) seems quite similar to the way that the Black Martians lived. However, as a teenager I was fascinated by the idea of playing chess (or jetan in this case) with living pieces where the pieces had to battle each other. It’s still a great idea but I was a bit disappointed when I found out how little time was actually devoted to the living chess games. (Now I want to get a computer game where the chess piece battle each other. Surely there must be some?)

Gahan is a stalwart hero, not really different from other heroes. In fact, Ghek was more interesting to me, although “he” seems similar to other strange culture sidekicks Burroughs’ heroes seem to collect.

Despite slight frustrations and disappointments, this is still one of my favorite Barsoom books.

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.

Third book in a series about superheroes after the zombie Apocalypse.

Publication year: 2013
Format: Audio
Narrator: Mark Boyett, Jay Snyder, and Khristine Hvam
Running Time: 10 hrs, 20 m

The zombie Apocalypse has overrun the world but there’s one spot of resistance where humans still survive. A group of superheroes is defending a fortified part of Los Angeles they call the Mount. They’ve battled not only exes, as the zombies are called, but sometimes also other humans, and a super villain who can control the exes, Legion.

The book starts thirty months after the apocalypse and almost a year after the end of the previous book, Ex-Patriots. There’s not much recapping of previous events, so I strongly recommend reading both Ex-Heroes and Ex-Patriots first. The book also deals with some characters and plot lines which were introduced in the first book. As in the previous books, this book is divided between flashbacks which are titled “Then” and chapters set in the current time, “Now.”

The Ex-Communication starts with a bang; Legion is attacking the Mount with the exes and he has made them wear helmets. This upsets the defenders and makes them unsure about themselves. However, the heroes are able to turn back the tide, but it’s obvious that Legion has upped the ante.

Then we get a first person POV “Then” chapter with Max who died in the first book. He was able to change into a demon form known as Cairax Murrain. However, it seems that he was a sorcerer and is able to cheat death. And Zzzap is willing to help him and persuade the other heroes to help, too. Unfortunately, they don’t tell much about it all to the normal humans and they draw the wrong conclusions, namely, that humans can return from being an ex.

In an other “Then” chapter we get a journal from a young woman who is trying to run away from the zombies. At first, the entries feel quite repetitive (in fact, I was starting to wonder if there was something wrong with the audio file) but that’s intentional. The girl is a interesting new character.

This book deals a little with how the normal people are dealing. The ones we see the most often are the ones defending the Mount and going on raids into the city. In this book, some have found religion and are (rather desperately) trying to find passages in the Bible which would give instructions about zombie apocalypse. Some of them want to think that being an ex is just a disease and people can recover from it. They are also going to elect a mayor to the Mount. None of the heroes want to be a candidate.

Most of the characters are familiar from the previous books. The main POV is from St. George, a Superman-type hero who is mainly concerned with defending the people and the Mount. The other POV is from Captain Freedom, a soldier who is was made into a super soldier. Both are experienced fighters.

This was a good continuation to the series and the heroes have to deal with a problem they haven’t yet met: magic. It might feel a bit out of place to some people in a series based on science, or at least science as known in comics, but plenty of comics have also magic so I didn’t have a problem with it.

The first in the Smokey Dalton historical mystery series.

Publication year: 2001
Format: Audio
Narrator: Mirron Willis
Running Time: 11 hrs, 20 m

Smokey Dalton is a black man, living in Memphis in 1968. He has managed to get a good education but has chosen to become a private detective for the local black people but to white people he’s just doing “odd jobs”. So, when a white woman walks into his office, he’s quite surprised. Then Laura Hathaway tells him that her mother has left Smokey a sizable sum of money in her will and Laura wants to know why. However, Smokey doesn’t know the Hathaways and becomes curious himself. He takes the case and starts to look for any link between himself and the rich white woman. Years ago a mysterious benefactor gave him a lot of money and Smokey suspects now that Laura’s mother did that, too.

Smokey is a smart and thoughtful man. He’s also good at his job and looks after people close to him. He’s an orphan and doesn’t have any siblings but he’s taken a couple of young men under his wing. Their mother isn’t capable to taking care of them and it seems that they could easily turn to crime.

The story is set against the backdrop of Memphis sanitation workers’ strike during which the racial tensions between whites and blacks reach a boiling point. Also, Martin Luther King Jr. is Smokey’s old friend, from elementary school. Smokey’s afraid that King is in danger and is trying to protect King when he comes to Memphis.

The historical time and place which comes to life in the book. As far as I can tell, the racial tensions are described well and believably. Several times we get to see that the white people honestly have no idea how blacks are treated. Many whites also behave with a casual racism.

The characters are great and I thoroughly enjoyed the book. That’s not surprising because Nelscott is a pen name for Kristine Kathryn Rusch.

I also really enjoyed the reader; he was perfect for Smokey’s voice.

First book in a humorous mystery series.

Publication year: 1970
Publication year of the Finnish translation: 1991
Format: print
Finnish translator: Erkki Hakala
Page count: 420
Finnish Publisher: WSOY

John Archibald Dortmunder has just been released from prison. He’s looking forward to that and also of the three hundred dollars he sold his cell for. Unfortunately, the warden decides to escort him to the gates, so Dortmunder doesn’t get his money. This isn’t promising. In fact, that’s a good description of how his life continues: despite good planning and skills, bad luck interferes constantly.

Dortmunder is a small-time criminal. He does some swindling gigs, such as selling subscriptions to book series which don’t exist. But he really shines in his job as crime planner: he looks over the place that needs to be broken into and assigns the right men for various jobs.

This time his friend Kelp has a job waiting: the Bambolo diamond which is being shown in the Coliseum Hall. The diamond is worth half a million dollars but it would be difficult to sell. Luckily they don’t have to sell it. Instead, they have a man who wants them to steal it for him and is willing to pay for it. Dortmunder is skeptical but after meeting Major Iko, he agrees to get a group to together and steal the rock.

Kelp and Dortmunder contact three other men who are the best in their own business. Stan Murch is their driver. He and his mother are mad about cars and even listen car races on records (LPs). Chefwick is one of the best lockpickers in New York. He’s also crazy about trains. Alan Greenwood is good generalist. The group manage to get into the Coliseum but Greenwood is caught, with the diamond. However, he has swallowed the rock so the group still has chance to get it, but they need to get Greenwood out of the prison. And then their problems only start.

This is a fun crime novel, from the criminals’ perspective. They all know each other and trust each other. All five also have distinct personalities and so has Major Iko who is very fond of gathering information about the men he works with. Iko is also worried about the costs but has to deliver equipment to the five men, when they need it. The plot moves at a fast pace and has a lot of twists in it.

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