Monday, September 26, 2011

Quick Reads Lately

I am still in the midst of moving but must find the time to read and unwind-the quickest things to hit the spot are graphic novels and here are the five latest.

The Outlaw Prince, by Edgar Rice Burroughs, Rob Hughes, Thomas Yeates & Michael Wm. Kaluta

Based on Burroughs The Outlaw of Torn I found this to be a great action-adventure historical. Taking place in 1243 during the reign of King Henry the third, we are shown how things haven't changed that much since King John was around-he still isn't fully respecting the Magna Carta and noble Simon De Montfort, Earl of Leicester is calling Henry out on it. Simon departs and Henry takes out his aggressions on court swordsman DeVac (whom is supposedly the finest swordsman in all of Christendom).
Henry insults DeVac who vows revenge.
So how does an angry Frenchman get revenge?
He kidnaps Henry's son, Richard, slaying the Lady Maud and an officer in the process-all so he can raise the prince as his own son and turn him into the greatest swordsman in the whole world and in general give bloody hell to Henry.
Some of this was a little slow, but you could tell it was all building-it is after all the adaption of a novel.
The graphic ends as Richard, now Norman of Torn is about to start dealing blood against the King, whom he no longer realizes is his father. This has definitely intrigued me to read what Burroughs himself said was, "the best thing he ever wrote..."

Batman R.I.P. by Grant Morrison and Tony S. Daniel

I've enjoyed some of Morrison's other writings and the art is absolutely superb (the best of all 5 graphics I mention here today) but I was continually wondering throughout What is Going On? Opening with a scene similar enough to the classic Killing Joke storyline, the Joker is giving clues to the Batman about some new villain? huh?
Said new villain-is he Dr. Hurt, is he The Black Glove? is he Thomas Wayne? huh?
He has a cabal of villains with him, none of which are particularly noteworthy (and I generally think Batman has the best villains in the DC universe) one of the new ones looked like he was supposed to be some kind of bucket head Ned Kelly wannabe-but I don't think they ever even gave us his name.
Anyhow, Batman is given a hypnotic trigger from graffiti tagged non-sense and goes into shock-they shoot him full of crystal meth and leave him on the street to die-no wait they expect him to show up so they can do something else to him, oh and his girlfriend betrayed him but he knew she was going to do that, huh?
I can allow plenty of suspension of disbelief when reading a comic book, I have no problem letting a lot of things slide...but I suspect that with Batman R.I.P., Morrison was going for an over the top,deep classic storyline and I'm sorry I think he failed at that.
R.I.P. is interesting, it makes you wonder about what the Batman is capable of to overcome and compensate for every scenario but somethings are just way too out there-I don't even want to get into the final epilogue chapter=serious Huh?
Did I mention the art was great?

B.P.R.D. The Black Flame, by Mike Mignola, John Arcudi and Guy Davis

We are still dealing with the war on Frog Demon monsters from earlier story lines and the BPRD is all over the place just trying to deal. Roger the Homunculus is adapting well as a team commander (emulating Captain Daimio) but dark days are ahead for the weird guy that doesn't wear pants. (see cover)
The title character, the Black Flame is a Dr. Doom type guy for the Hellboy universe and is my favorite thing about the whole graphic; a CEO for the Zinco corp, he emulates some of the bizarre Thule society Nazi's from earlier Hellboy stories (Nazis are the best villains just ask Indiana Jones) and as the Black Flame he attempts to bring in something big and bad to the world.
Storyline wise I was kind of underwhelmed-big bad monster comes-Liz fries it, and I've seen that too many times-that's what the big arc is-its the little stuff that's good and surprising, I just wish they could have come up with a more novel way of dealing with the Lovecraftian Katha-Hem.

Time of the Twins, by Margaret Weis, Tracy Hickman, Andrew Dabb, David Cole

I wasn't sure what to expect with this one, I did not care for its beginnings.
Only two years have passed since the War of the Lance (Dragonlance trilogy) and the nods to the previous characters seemed a little gratuitous and unnecessary to me. But Fizban did say he wasn't good with beginnings so...
Once things get moving I did enjoy this "new" staple of fantasy cannon.
The art was reasonably good and most everything seemed to flow once we got past reminders of Dragonlance. I still don't get some of the D&D tropes being force fed into the storyline but I could deal with those.
Having a character like Carmon hit rock bottom and bring himself back (with external pressure) was great-but his twin brother Raistlin, who I know is a fan favorite-yeah he's a super powerful sorcerer, but is that the only reason I'm supposed to like him? I could'a used something more there-I mean WHY does the priestess of Paladine, Crysiania, even fall in love with him? That was never clear to me-no reason, it just happened, I could have used anything, even a look, but no.
I would still gladly read the next in the series but I'm not sure that DDP press is even doing anymore of the D&D titles and that's a shame.


Dungeons & Dragons: Shadowplague, by John Rogers  and Andrea Di Vitto

I was almost ready to put this down with the first couple chapters, every hackneyed plot twist, every wisecrack you have ever heard, ever stereotype you have ever seen is splashed here-NO, bombarded upon you mercilessly. Di Vitto's art is pretty good and sheer wonder made me persevere further.
It does get better.
But a terrible beginning is a terrible beginning.
Everything you ever read about not writing a story like its your D&D game is right here.
Maybe if you've never seen an action movie or only read Paolini this stuff might seem fresh and hip to you-but it was only annoying to me.
By chapter 4 things have moved on a bit and the story became a bit more original-not real original, but enough that I didn't want to throw the book. What gets me is how I was so much more interested in the side characters we see for mere moments than I ever was in the main characters but...

By the end of the 6th chapter if there was a 7th I would have kept reading, but...

This is a big beautiful hardcover book, its supposed to match the newer D&D v.4 gaming books (which I don't own I'm old school-heh) the back cover says this was 24.99 gimme a break, glad I didn't pay that and I wouldn't pay that for volume 2-way too much for a so-so storyline. I don't know who Wizards of the Coast and IDW think they are fooling but seriously gimme a break. I would read Shadowplague 2 but I won't pay that for it.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Wandering Weeds: Garden of Legion

The in-no-particular order table of contents was just released for Wandering Weeds, an anthology I'm excited to be a part of. Glad to see a couple friends of mine in there too, that I didn't even know had submitted-Berin.
My tale Garden of Legion is a weird western with a bit of horror and action. I'll have a passel of these starring Porter Rockwell out soon.

Wandering Weeds TOC:

The Souls of the Wicked by Francis Pauli

They Call the Wind Mariah by Jaleta Clegg

The Tumbas by M. Pax

Weeds by James Hartley

Tumbleweed by Robert Borski

Cowchip Charlie by Charlene C. Harmon

The Colors of Blood by Kevin J. Childs

Tumblers by M. Baker

Desert Oracles by Katie M John

Feral Tumbleweeds by Monique Guilland

Fair Weather, with a Chance of Tumbleweeds by Andrea Tantillo

Legends of the Tumbleweeds by Duane Ackerson

Garden of Legion by David J. West

Sleeping Beauty by Louise James

Duncan Derring and the Lady Luck by Bryan Thomas

Beyond the Fence by Rebecca L. Brown

Thistle by Terry Alexander

Fun with Weed Eradication by Berin Stephens

I survived the sargasso sea by Eric J. Guignard

Crispy Fried Pickles at the Mad Scientist Café by Katherine Sanger

The Great Tragedy of the Illustrious Empire by Audrey Young

Oh, Dark Tumbleweed by Brian D. Mazur

I'll let everyone know more when I know more.

Monday, September 19, 2011

I'm Moving

Not the blog or any of that, just me and the family physically, so things will be on a little bit of hiatus for the next while.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Tisarian’s Treasure: Book Review

Tisarian’s Treasure, by J. M. Martin

A fantasy, pirate-laden treasure hunt with with enough wild savages, eerie creatures and even hints at romance to satisfy anyones hunger for a great quick read.

Opening upon a pebble strewn shore, their doomed ship burning, (with pirates bearing down on them) a handful of survivors struggle on an uncharted island to escape and yet still find the treasure they came searching for.

Narrated by Alexandre Mallory, a doctor, is intrigued by one of the other survivors, a woman named Katlin who seems to have the gift of clairvoyance. Together they evade a number of threats beyond the pursuing pirates themselves. With hints and warnings she lets Mallory know fragments of the fate that awaits them as they flee.

Set in Martin's fantasy world of Khaladune, I was carried along and every time I thought I knew what would happen Martin turned the tables. I thought I saw influences everywhere from the pulps and even The Golden Bough but always with a new poignant twist. Evoking the same spirit of classical fantasies, I greatly enjoyed this novella and look forward to reading more of Martin's work.

You can purchase this amazing novella here, here or here.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Book Review: The Key of Kilenya

I've been friends with Andrea Pearson for a couple years now and just recently received a copy of her first novel a YA fantasy entitled, The Key of Kilenya.

I don't read a lot of YA or middle grade books anymore, usually I'm into a little bit darker rougher fantasy and even though I would still call this a clean YA read,  Andrea has some fantastic imagery that made me take notice.

From the back cover blurb:

When two vicious wolves chase fourteen-year-old Jacob Clark down a path from our world into another, his life is forever changed. He has no idea they have been sent by the Lorkon—evil, immortal beings who are jealous of powers he doesn’t know he possesses—powers they desire to control.

The inhabitants of the new world desperately need Jacob's help in recovering a magical key that was stolen by the Lorkon and is somehow linked to him. If he helps them, his life will be at risk. But if he chooses not to help them, both our world and theirs will be in danger. The Lorkon will stop at nothing to unleash the power of the key—and Jacob's special abilities.

None of this is particularly fresh ground in the YA arena-I'm not arguing how hard it is to come up with a fresh take on things-its hard. But Andrea has populated her tale with all sorts of interesting fantasy characters and creatures revealed through her own lens and this is how we see old things new again-like Rogs, vicious bear creatures with human hands or how about some beautiful yet evil Lorkon woman in the woods who spews a cloud of flies at you?
I also liked some of the elemental barriers mentioned in Prince Dmitri's quest to retrieve his princess bride from the Lorkon. An invisible wall of water hundreds of feet thick-you'd drown unless you found the correct entrance or a fog of forgetfulness making you a prisoner in your own mind. I noticed that some other reviewers on Andrea's blog tour didn't like the snippets from Dmitri's journal but I did-I was almost more interested in his story than Jacobs.
Overall an imaginative and entertaining novel that I suspect my kids will enjoy when they are just a little bit older. You can order a copy here.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Kill the Irishman

"Since I'm Irish Catholic, I've got the best guardian angel there is. Besides, it's the man upstairs who pulls the strings." - Danny Greene

Loosely based on the true story of 1970's Cleveland mobster Danny Greene, Kill the Irishman like IRONCLAD is a misplaced gem. I had not even heard of the film even though I would consider myself a fan of most of the cast-a lot of gangster and character actors here, Christopher Walken, Paul Sorvino, Vincent D'Onofrio, Robert Davi, Vinnie Jones and Val Kilmer. But the big one, why I bought it, is Ray Stevenson (Titus Pullo~ROME) as Danny Greene.

Stevenson portrays Greene with a brutal cunning working his way up, only to get knocked down and pull himself up again. The guy was a thug and a criminal but truly one with heart and spirit that you would have wanted to be friends with.

The lynch pin of things truly going downhill is when Danny sets out to borrow 70K from the mob and the courier gets nailed by the cops-they say Danny still owes them, but he maintains he can't owe what he never received. A contract gets put out on the Irishman and he fights back...hard.

Now I love me a great gangster movie-with the caveat that it isn't the atypical "Crime doesn't pay" formula, which may be why I have generally liked British gangster movies more than American gangster movies. But this presentation, taking Danny's life and putting it into 2 hours still feels reasonably full without trying to tell us what to think.
Greene wanted to emulate his Celtic warrior ancestors and thus had his own code of honor. Caught between a rock and a hard place, he stuck to his guns and ended up crippling the mob with some incredible long time repercussions.

The film pulls no punches-just like Danny.

Highly recommended. I strongly suspect that my Robert E. Howard friends will get a kick out of Danny Greene - he seems like a real life Sword & Sorcery hero to me.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

The Broken Sword

I feel a bloody kinship now to tragic Skafloc and doomed Isildur. What great dark forces of cruel malignancy set forth to soundly destroy my honor and bestow such woe? Did the fickle Norns or taunting Fey seek to lay low that great joy of man? Would that I had lived in other times, when the talented smiths of yore tapped into that wellspring of arcane knowledge and knew how to heat treat the tang of ages.
Alas, the sword doth broke upon a trifling cut, here at the guard, and LO...I have lost faith with the mighty Cold Steel of Ventura California, no more shall I patronize their weak efforts. I sit now and lament upon my sun-bleached throne and remember...