rip xi

A stand-alone secret history book.

Publication year: 1991
Format: Audio
Running time: 16 hours and 57 minutes
Narrator: Simon Vance

The book starts on that famous day in Switzerland in 1816 when Mary Shelly, Lord Byron, Percy Shelly, and John Polidori decide to write ghost stories. But this time, a strange creature attacks them.

But to the main character Michael Crawford the story starts on his way to his second wedding. He’s heavily drunk and puts his bride’s wedding ring on a statue, for safekeeping. However, in the morning he can’t find the statue anymore and has to buy another ring. The wedding proceeds but in the morning, Crawford wakes next to his bride who has been brutally murdered. He has some strange memories about the night, too. However, he realizes that things look very bad for him not only because he didn’t wake up when Julia was butchered but because his first wife eloped with a sailor and died in a fire. People whisper that Crawford started that fire, even though that’s not true. So, Crawford runs away with the help of one of his friends.

Crawford is a former navy doctor but since then has specialized in obstetrics. He takes another name and poses as a medical student. He also gets work as a doctor’s assistant and meets John Keats. However, Julia’s mentally disturbed twin sister, Josephine, is on his trail and tries to murder him. But a strange apparition saves him, and then Keats tells about the nephillim, creatures who are attracted to writers. However, in Crawford’s case he apparently married himself to one of the nephillim by putting a ring into the statue’s ring finger. Now, the creature guards him jealously. Keats knows a possible way to get rid of the creature and Crawford has no choice but to try it.

Powers has created here a fascinating type of vampire. The nephillim act as more than muses to writers: without them, the men apparently can’t create much. The nephillim also drink blood from the men’s family members and manipulate political events. They pretend to care for the writers and other people they bite but don’t, really.

Lord Byron, Mary Shelly, and Percy Shelly are important characters in the book. I rather enjoyed reading about them.

However, I think this book was way too long. There are long passages where nothing really happens.

The first book in a fantasy series but can be read as a stand alone.

Publication year: 1986
Format: print
Page count: 286
Publisher: DAW

Sandtiger is mercenary, or a sword-dancer as they’re called in this world. While he doesn’t like slavery, it’s a fact of life. When a gorgeous, blond Northern woman comes to him in a bar, looking for a slaver, Tiger knows she’ll be in a big trouble. He tries to help her, even though she doesn’t realize it at first. But when Tiger notices that she carries a sword, he thinks that she’s gone too far. Still, wanting to bed the exotic woman, he agrees to guide her to Julah, across the terrible desert.

The woman turns out to be Delilah, or Del, and she’s focused on a single mission: to find her younger brother who was taken captive and sold as a slave five years ago. The rest of her family was murdered, then. Tiger thinks her mission is insane, especially for a woman, but he humors her thinking he’ll charm her to his bed later.

But the desert if full of dangers from beasts to cannibals and slavers. Tiger does his best to protect the crazy woman against them all.

The only first person narrator in the book is Tiger. I thought Del was going to be a narrator also but she isn’t, she remains quite a mystery. Tiger can be frustrating at times but he’s also entertaining.

The world in this book is harsh. People will easily die in the desert but the humans are, as usual, the most terrible enemy. The Southern culture is based on slavery and the book gives us an unflinching peek at what it does to people: takes away their dignity, self-respect, and very life.

In these societies, women are second-class people at best, non-entities at worst. They need a powerful man to latch onto or they will be taken as slaves. Tiger reflects that culture: he simply doesn’t believe that Del can do anything. It’s also frustrating to the reader, when Del is denied again and again the chance to shine because Tiger steps in, literally.

This wasn’t an easy read because of the slavery and the way Tiger constantly puts down Del. And because of the misogynistic culture pervading the book. And the way that Tiger just has to sexualize every woman he comes across. And the way every man drools after Del.

Yet, there’s something compelling about the characters and the setting. I have the next book and I’m going to try it, at least.

The plot moves along at a good speed and gives constant twists and turns. I found that the desert was an interestingly different setting, although I’m a bit skeptical about the way the characters were supposed to survive it. No camels, for example.

The sixth book in the series is again a collection of short stories and a novella.

Publication year: 1997 (1973-1977 for the stories)
Format: print
Page count: 330 + an excerpt of Swords against the Shadowlands by Robin Wayne Bailey (has anyone read that?)
Publisher: White Wolf Publishing

The collection starts with six rather short pieces which don’t really offer any twists and not much adventure, either. Basically, our heroes are chasing girls. But the last, and the longest story, is mostly adventuring and the most worth reading.

The Sadness of the Executioner
: Death needs to make his quota and sets his eye on Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser. He sends an executioner for each, rather than just striking them down dead, so that the heroes have a chance against them.

Beauty and the Beasts: On the streets of Lankhmar City, the Twain are following an alluring girl (who, surprisingly, isn’t naked) whose one side is black and the other white. While following her, the Mouser and Fafhrd are arguing which one of them should have her.

Trapped in the Shadowland: The heroes are looking for their previous lovers. Instead the two find themselves in the desert, dying of thirst. They can just glimpse a cooler side but that is Shadowlands, Deaths domain. And Death wants them badly. Enough to do some serious magic.

The Bait: The most straightforward short story: The Mouser and Fafhrd awake finding a naked young girl standing between their beds. Each wants to have her first but strange warriors appear.

Under the Thumbs of the Gods: Issek, Mog, and Kos aren’t happy with our heroes who have worshipped, or pretended to worship, them for a short while and then abandoned them. Now, they want revenge and they do it in the forms of the girls whom the heroes have previously loved.

Trapped in the Sea of Stars: Our heroes have been sailing and nude girls forming from mist are trying to lure them either to their deaths or back home. Mouser waxes philosophical about Nehwon’s laws of nature which he apparently invents on the spot.

The Frost Monstreme
: Two beautiful girls find Fafhrd and the Mouser in a bar, bored out of their skulls. The girls claim to need heroes to guard their legendary home, the Rime Isle, from a fleet of Mingol pirates and their leader, the evil sorcerer Khahkht. They give the heroes plenty of gold for hiring more men like themselves but are whisked away by an icy sorcerous wind. Fafhrd immediately seizes the opportunity for action and hurries off to find ten more Northern berserkers. Mouser is a bit slower but in the end also goes to look for ten fighter-thieves. They agree to meet in a middle of ocean near the legendary sea port. But getting to the port is harder than they thought.

Rime Isle: Fafhrd, the Mouser, and their hand-picked heroes have arrived to the Rime Isle but immediately things take unexpected turn: the town people haven’t hired any mercenaries and haven’t heard about a threating Mingol Fleet. However, the Mouser and Fafhrd get secret messages from the girls that they want to meet in secret. The adventure includes various twists and two gods which have been worshipped in our lands.

While reading this one, I wasn’t sure if I’m going to continue with the series. (I have the last two books.) But after the ending of “Rime Isle”, I’m curious to see what the duo will do next. However, I didn’t like the stories here nearly as much as the previous volumes. There’s just so much musing about how worthless and traitorous girls are that it’s not a nice read for me. There’s also less adventurous feel to the stories. Perhaps Leiber could have explored other countries from which we sometimes only know the names. On the other hand, in the last two tales our heroes are maturing; they’re becoming leaders of men rather than lone vagabonds. We’ll see if that trend continues.

Still, I think this is the weakest book so far and not the place to start reading this series.

The third book in the Vicky Bliss mystery series. This time John Smythe lures Vicky to Stockholm looking for Nordic treasure.

Publication year: 1983
Format: print
Page count: 296
Publisher: Avon Books

Three years after the end of the previous book Vicky gets an anonymous note which can only be from John. It contains one rose, a one-way ticket to Stockholm, a reservation for a night in a cheap hotel, and a cryptic note: Wielandia Fabrica. Vicky wants to get away from the miserable rain in Munich, so she travels to Sweden. Her boss grumbles, mainly because he wants her to continue the erotica book she’s writing, but lets her go. There, she feels right at home: she’s always felt out of place everywhere because she’s tall, blond, and beautiful. In Sweden, she’s surrounded by other tall and blond people.

However, one tall and blond man, Leif, acts very suspiciously even though Vicky enjoys his company. John is quite elusive, using several amusing disguises and just tries to get Vicky to return home. Instead she accepts an invitation from a distant cousin Gus Johnson. He’s an elderly gentleman and appears to be in danger so Vicky wants to warn him. However, she’s not the only one who travels to Gus’s small island home.

This was a very entertaining book. I’m not sure if the plot made any sense but it moved fast and was a lot of fun. Most the characters are new and they were entertaining, too. We also got to know stuff about Sweden’s history and art, which was great.

The second book in the Vicky Bliss mystery series.

Publication year: 1978
Format: print
Page count: 357+ an excerpt of He Shall Thunder in the Sky
Publisher: Avon Books

Vicky Bliss works for Professor Schmidt at the Munich National Museum. He also adores her. Schmidt comes across a forgery which even he can’t prove isn’t the real deal, except that the original Charlemagne talisman is part of the Museum’s collection. Vicky realizes she can do two things at once: she convinces her boss easily that she can look into a possible forgery ring and get a paid vacation while doing it. The replica was found in a dead man’s pocket and the police can’t find any information about him. However, the corpse had also a small strange slip of paper which Vicky thinks means the Street of Five Moons, in Rome.

So she heads to Rome. She thinks she’ll do a little investigating and just enjoy her new expense account the rest of the time. However, her hunch turns out to be correct and soon she’s trying to figure out who is the master criminal behind everything.

This was a fun and fast read. Vicky is a delightful first person narrator, even though she isn’t as clever as she likes to think. She has a doctorate in medieval art and the book is filled with references to art. I really enjoyed that. Rome was also a great setting!

The secondary characters are all new. Fairly quickly Vicky wraps the eccentric Count Caravaggio around her little finger and gets invited to his palace, so we get to know his plump and pretty mistress, aged mother, and gorgeous son who likes to paint but don’t have the talent. Vicky suspects them all at one point or another. Also, the count has a secretary, the charming and frustrating Sir John Smythe whom Vicky suspects most of all. The whole cast is fun and I quite enjoyed Smythe’s and Vicky’s snarky exchanges.

The plot is fast-paced. Vicky is clearly narrating this at some point later because a few times she points out “if only I’d known then what I know now”. They didn’t bother me, though. I’m a fan of Peters’ Amelia Peabody series and I think she uses a similar style there.

Collects CSI: Crime Investigation – Serial issues 1-5.

Writer: Max Allan Collins
Artist: Gabriel Rodriquez, Ashely Wood
Forensic Research, Plot Assist: Matthew V. Clemens
Publisher: Titan Books
Publishing year: 2004

This is a comics miniseries based on the original CSI TV-show. It uses most of the same techniques as the show and has the same characters: Gil Grissom, Catherine Willows, Nick Stoakes, Sara Sidle, Warrick Brown, and Captain Brass. Set in Las Vegas, the comic starts with philosophical musing about Vegas. Like in the show, the comic has two plots.

In the primary plot, someone is killing prostitutes and on the second grisly crime scene Gil realizes that the killer is imitating Jack the Ripper. Unfortunately, there’s a Ripper convention going on, so there’s no shortage of suspects. In the second plot, a young woman’s body is found in a dumpster behind the Majestic casino. Sara and Warren investigate that.

The comic focuses on the cases and the characters get no real chance to shine. The most humor is found on the scenes where Warrick and Sara have to go through garbage and compare the killers to human garbage. The Ripper con could have given a chance to interview several suspects but that’s not used. The con is mostly an excuse to show cleavage shots.

The art is ok. The murder flashbacks are painted in a different and startling style from the rest. The collection has also interviews from three actors on the show.

An ok read aimed, of course, for the fans.

September has started and it’s time to enjoy R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril challenge, hosted by Carl at Stainless Steel Droppings.

Welcome to R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril XI.

Many of you are probably frequent participants in this event, but for those who are new, or returning after an absence, I grew up reading scary stories illustrated by the incomparable Edward Gorey, watching horror films starring Vincent Price, and generally discovering the literary wonder of authors like Bram Stoker and Edgar Allan Poe. I did go through a brief high school, early-20’s phase where the overly gorey films like Nightmare on Elm Street were my fancy, and while I do not look down on anyone who continues to embrace that kind of entertainment, my first love when it comes to those lengthening Autumn nights are stories in the gothic vein, classic and modern mysteries, and the kind of atmospheric stories, in any format, that give you chills up your spine and make you want to pull the covers up tight.

It is in that spirit that this event began.

Reading and watching television are solitary activities, but can be expanded to a community if you get together to share what is exciting your interest and to discuss like passions. That is the entire point of R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril.

R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril XI takes place from September 1st, 2016 through October 31st, 2016.

There are only two expectations if you want to participate with us:

1. Have fun reading (and watching*).
2. Share that fun with others.

There are multiple levels of participation so that you can imbibe as much, or as little, as you desire/as time permits, and still consider yourselves a part of this community event.

The genres familiar from previous years are thrillers, mystery, dark fantasy, suspence, gothic, and horror. This year I’m concentrating on reading authors I’m familiar with. I still have three unread mystery books from Elizabeth Peters, the Serpent on the crown, Street of Five Moons, and Siluoutte in Scarlett, so I’ll try to finish them. Also, I’ve only two more books left in Kris Nelscott’s excellent historical mystery series: Days of Rage and Street Justice.

I might also get caught up with Walking Dead (the tv show). I’m at least two seasons behind.

The review site is here.

So I’m joining

Read four books, of any length, from the very broad categories earlier defined as perilous. They could all be by the same author, a series of books, a random mix of classic and contemporary or whatever you like.

1, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation – Serial
2, John Helfers ed.: Fiction River: Visions of the Apocalypse
3, Elizabeth Peters: The Street of Five Moons
4, Elizabeth Peters: Silhouette in Scarlet
5, Fritz Leiber: Swords and Ice Magic
6, Jennifer Roberson: Sword-Dancer
7, Tim Powers: The Stress of Her Regard