Tag Archives: fantasy

#20BooksOfSummer22 ~ On Stranger Tides

On Stranger Tides by Tim Powers

Channeling past summer blockbuster fun, I decided that I’d kick off 20 Books of Summer with Caribbean adventure and undead pirates: On Stranger Tides by Tim Powers.

Yes, the book was loose inspiration for the fourth Pirates of the Caribbean film. I haven’t seen the movie. I jumped ship on that franchise after the third film (I think), after very much enjoying the first one. That I can’t remember whether I’ve seen At World’s End is indicative of my philosophy here: I can forgive many sins for undead pirates, but even I run out of grace.

On Stranger Tides starts out pretty well. Jack, a young man bent on avenging wrongs to his father, is waylaid during a trip to Jamaica by pirates and pressed into their service. He also becomes wrapped up in the doings of a father taking his beautiful daughter to the Fountain of Youth for nefarious purposes. The first half of the book is concerned with traveling to the Fountain and avoiding the ghosts and insanities that plagues the path. It’s creepy and reminded me somewhat of Hodgson’s “The Boats of the ‘Glen Carrig'”. Unfortunately, the second half of the book is mostly a chase with Elizabeth becoming everyone’s McGuffin. It’s repetitive and, after giving Elizabeth a personality earlier in the book, disappointing. (I will admit that, while this is definitely not the Elizabeth of the films, my opinion of the character is probably colored by the movies.) There are also some instances of thick exposition and twist coincidence at the end that didn’t feel very earned.

Beat the Backlog: I purchased On Stranger Tides on Aug. 22, 2017 as a Kindle ebook.
20 Books of Summer: This is book #1 of (hopefully) 20.

#BeatTheBackLog Reread ~ The Last Unicorn

Picture of two editions of The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle. One is a fairly beat-up trade paperback. The other is a like-new hardback.

Katherine, how can a reread be part of #BeatTheBackLog?

For me, Beat the Back Log includes editions of books I’ve spent money on, but have not read. I don’t often buy multiple copies/editions of books, unless I’ve shamefully forgotten that I own the book in the first place. Usually, there is some reason for the repurchase/re-acquistion. My original copy of The Haunting of Hill House was water damaged during a trip to Florida. I decided to invest in a copy of Moby Dick instead of only rereading the Gutenberg ebook version because I want the experience of reading it in physical form and might decide to scribble in the margins.

In the case of The Last Unicorn, I purchased the copy on the right above in 1993 when I visited UNL’s bookstore the first time. I knew the animated movie that I had adored as a kid was a book, but that was the first time I saw it on a shelf. It had some wear on it when I purchased the hardback deluxe edition when it came out in 2007-ish. I figured, my old copy was getting worn out and this new one included the novella Two Hearts, which is a soft sequel to the original novel (which I also own in a collection). But then, every time I time I decided to reread The Last Unicorn (it’s one of my favorite books), I’d use the old copy.

At first, it was because of good college memories associated with the beat-up paperback: finding it at the bookstore, purchasing it along with a very over-priced chemistry textbook, reading it on a Lincoln–Omaha car trip. Then, it was because of negative associations with the hardback. See, in the 2000s–early 2010s, Peter S. Beagle had a resurgence as an author, seemingly sparked by his new business manager. This business manager was unfortunately a very unscrupulous man who ended up not only defrauding Beagle, but many fans of the author. His fingerprints are all over this deluxe edition. There’s an introduction by him, an author interview moderated by him, and just seeing his name by copyright symbols makes me a little sick. (If you don’t know the tale, Mr. Beagle eventually ended up suing said manager and won the suit. I don’t know how the fans have fared.)

But, I decided to finally read the deluxe hardback this month. And, honestly, I like my tatty paperback better. It has a nice font (I wish I knew what it was called) and I missed the illustrations by Mel Grant. The hardback also had some odd typography issues and was harder on my hands. As for the story? I’m always a little worried, on my fourth or fifth reading of a book, that I might this time find it boring. But I didn’t. There are always little things in The Last Unicorn that catch me, different things that resonate each time I read it.

Deal Me In 2022, Weeks 2 & 3

Deal Me In logo pic

All the Deal Me In details.

Week 2

Card Picked: 2♠️ – a wild card already!
Story: “The Bottomless Martyr” by John Wiswell
List: Since deuces are wild, I had my choice of stories. I decided to pick one from Uncanny magazine’s 2020 reader’s choice list.

Thoughts: Rang is a young woman with a special relationship with Life and Death. Her sacrifices, often horrendous fates befitting a martyr, can cause miracles for others, but can’t save herself. What can she be if not a martyr? John Wiswell has a light touch when it comes to world building. This is a story that is going to hit hard if you’re one of those people who always does for others, especially if it feels like duty.

Week 3

Card Picked: 8♣️
Story: “And Now His Lordship Is Laughing” by Shiv Ramdas
List: Nebula Awards (finalist 2019)

Thoughts: This is a magical realism revenge tale set in Bengal during the era of Churchill’s denial policies—in an effort to curtain the Japanese invasion of India in 1942, food and transportation methods were removed from Bengal, despite, you know, the needs of the people living in Bengal at the time. This is obviously not a happy story. In fact, it’s rough going because the horror here is based reality. This is a corner of history I was ignorant of.

Anthology ~ In Our Own Worlds

Cover for In Our Own Worlds, an anthology of LGBTQ+ novella published by Tor.

In Our Own Worlds is a four novella anthology featuring LGBTQ+ characters. It was a freebie I picked up from the publisher, Tor, in late 2019.

The first novella is The Lamb Will Slaughter the Lion by Margaret Killjoy. Welcome to Freedom, IA, where the peace is kept by a demonic deer! Not everyone in town thinks a demon who brings retribution on “predators” is a good idea. I like the play on philosophy here, but the story seemed dependent on the reader just going along with character actions when those actions don’t have much reasoning behind them. It wasn’t that characters did outlandish things, but there was the occasional leap of logic that seemed to come out of nowhere.

I had high hopes for the second novella, Passing Strange by Ellen Klages. I have read and enjoyed Klages’s short stories in the past. In fact, this novella is why I picked up the anthology: Klages’s magical realism in 1940s San Francisco seemed like a slam dunk. Alas, as with Nebraska basketball, Passing Strange didn’t do as well as I hoped. I’ve become a bit aware of how authors present exposition and there were a lot of As You Know, Bob going on. Also, the use of magic in the story was very minimal. It almost felt like an overlay on straight (no pun intended) historical fiction.

The third novella was A Taste of Honey by Kai Ashante Wilson. I enjoyed this novella the most*. Okay, I’m not sure I entirely followed chronology, but that’s fine. Aqib and Lucrio are compelling main characters and I was in it for their story/stories. I also enjoy world-building that isn’t spelled out for me; I don’t need every thing explained. In a way, this is an interesting contrast to Passing Strange. Both could tell straight-up stories of forbidden romances, but use magic to solve problems for their lovers (though with consequences). A Taste of Honey just infuses the whole narrative with that magic/science.

* I decided not to read The Black Tides of Heaven by Neon Yang. It really didn’t seem like my kind of story. Political machinations =/= A book for Katherine.

The Door in the Wall

The Door in the Wall

During my reading of The King in Yellow, I read H. G. Wells story “The Door in the Wall.” Since the collection was on my Classics Club list and I enjoyed the titular story quite a bit, I decided to finish the book before moving on.

The Chambers story “The Demoiselle d’Ys” is said to have anticipated Wells’ “The Door in the Wall.” In both, our protagonist crosses over into some other time or place. In “The Demoiselle d’Ys,” Philip is time-slipped into the past where he has a curious encounter. In “The Door in the Wall,” Lionel Wallace goes through a green door as a child and enters some sort of utopia. Though he promises to return as an adult, he never does, even though he sees the green door several more times throughout his life.

To a certain extent, I think Wells’ “A Dream of Armageddon,” bears resemblance to the Chambers’ story as well. In this case, a man named Cooper relates the “consecutive” dream he’s had. He has lived a whole other life within a dream world—what he purports to be the far future. At first this other world is Idyllic, but it turns dark when war breaks out. Cooper ends up living out his entire life and dying in the dream, similar to Philip’s snake-bitten fate in his time-slipped past.

Wells spends a lot of time in “A Dream of Armageddon” describing the beauty and terribleness of the war machines. This appreciation and dread of industrial machines is revisited often in these stories. In “The Cone,” a fairly basic revenge tale, I personally don’t know enough about smelteries to know when Wells is being fanciful, but his descriptions are vivid and full of grandeur. So also are the descriptions of deaths in “The Cone” and “The Lord of the Dynamos.” The victims meet their demises due to the evils of man rather than the evils of machines—the machines are only the tools—but their deaths are horrible in ways that only technology can seem to facilitate.

Man’s mind doesn’t fare well either in the industrial world. In “The Door in the Wall,” it’s Wallace’s business ambitions that keep him from going through the door again. The life of the protagonist in “The Diamond Maker” is pretty much ruined by his gem fabrication technology. (The story includes a long description of the actual technology.) The protagonist of “A Moonlight Fable” is also driven a little mad when he isn’t let by his mother to wear his very nice, spiffy suit. The suit is a thing of the modern world, which is being curtailed by the past, and the man just can’t take it.

Unfortunately, some of Wells’ 19th century attitudes are on display as well. When Neptune and a rogue celestial body are hurtling toward Earth in “The Star,” the “savages” believe it’s a good portent while the scientist are sure that humanity is screwed. (Neither are exactly correct.) “The Lord of the Dynamos” gives us Azuma-zi, a black assistant from the “mysterious East,” a savage of the sort that “give(s) souls to rocks and trees—and a machine is a thousand times more alive than a rock or tree.” Azuma-zi ends up sacrificing his abusive supervisor to the power plant’s main dynamo…

Wells does subvert colonial notions in a stronger manner in “The Country of the Blind.” Nunez, a sighted English mountain climber, finds a sequestered city where everyone is blind. Believing the adage “In the land of the blind, the one-eye man is king,” he attempts to conquer them. When that doesn’t go well, he tries to fit in, but eventually leaves when the head of the society demands that his eyes be put out. In a way, this is a tale of colonialism repulsed.

Whatever the subject matter, I do like Wells’ style of writing. While many writers might shoot for dry allegory, Wells is always lively enough that I don’t feel entirely preached at. Definitely a bright spot in the early 20th century writings I’ve been reading lately.

Deal Me In, Week 9 ~ “Paladin of the Lost Hour”

DealMeIn

Hosted by Jay @ Bibliophilopolis
What’s Deal Me In?

“Paladin of the Lost Hour” by Harlan Ellison

Card picked: A
Found in: Angry Candy, but also online at Ellison Webderland

And then the pillager’s fist came loose, and he was clutching for an instant a gorgeous pocket watch.

What used to be called a turnip watch.

The dial face was cloisonné, exquisite beyond the telling.

The case was of silver, so bright it seemed blue.

The hands, cast as arrows of time, were gold. They formed a shallow V at precisely eleven o’clock. This was happening at 3:45 in the afternoon, with rain and wind.

The timepiece made no sound, no sound at all.

The Story
This is my favorite short story.

When I decided on Angry Candy for Deal Me In, I debated whether to include “Paladin of the Lost Hour” because I’ve read it so many times in the past, but I couldn’t leave it out either. I read it (or rather listened to it) the day after Leap Day.

The story is about Gaspar, an old man who is the keeper of a watch that mystically holds the last hour of existence. It is also the story of a young veteran, Billie, who is not living, but simply marking time after returning from war. Their lives intersect and each are given friendship and grace. “Paladin of the Lost Hour” never fails to make me cry, though always enough time passes between my readings that I don’t quite remember what touches me and I’m therefore always taken by surprise too.

Some of Harlan Ellison’s stories are…oblique. Maybe they are satire anchored in a certain place and time (a problem I generally have with satire and allegory), or maybe they require a certain state of Ellison-ness to make as much sense as they should. “Paladin of the Lost Hour” isn’t one of those stories. Ellison won a Hugo for the novelette and a Writer’s Guild Award for the script adaptation that was an episode of 1985 Twilight Zone revival.

Pick a Card, Any Card

Endless Time playing cards are an apt fit for “Paladin of the Lost Hour,” clean and  cleverly designed. You can find out more about them at Kardify.

{Book} Trail of Lightning

Trail of Lightning (The Sixth World, #1)

Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse

While most of the world has drowned beneath the sudden rising waters of a climate apocalypse, Dinétah (formerly the Navajo reservation) has been reborn. The gods and heroes of legend walk the land, but so do monsters.

Maggie Hoskie is a Dinétah monster hunter, a supernaturally gifted killer. When a small town needs help finding a missing girl, Maggie is their last—and best—hope. But what Maggie uncovers about the monster is much larger and more terrifying than anything she could imagine.

Maggie reluctantly enlists the aid of Kai Arviso, an unconventional medicine man, and together they travel to the rez to unravel clues from ancient legends, trade favors with tricksters, and battle dark witchcraft in a patchwork world of deteriorating technology.

As Maggie discovers the truth behind the disappearances, she will have to confront her past—if she wants to survive.

Welcome to the Sixth World. (via Goodreads)

Why Did I Choose This Book?
Trail of Lightning was the January pick for the occult detective literature group on Goodreads. I had heard good things about the book in the past and it sounded pretty good. I was especially interested in how this fit into the occult detective sub-genre.

Plot
I haven’t really solidified my thoughts on what might be considered occult detective fiction. Thus far, I think of it more on the detecting end than the action-adventure end, of which this book has a fair share. There was some time spent in a library as Kai sought clues amid oral tales that had been recorded on CD. I really wish these had played a bigger part in Maggie and Kai’s investigation. As it was, the characters felt led around rather than making their own decisions.

Characters
Maggie is a haunted character. She’s been through trauma and a toxic relationship. She not as hard as she lets on. Her relationship with Kai is fraught, and considering her suspicious nature, I’m surprised she couldn’t see what Kai’s true powers were earlier on.

Setting
I have very poor reading comprehension when it comes to book blurbs. I totally missed that the setting of this book was somewhat post-apocalyptic. I kind of wish it wouldn’t have been. I think I would have liked a contemporary fantasy set on the Navajo reservation. It’s is a world I’m not familiar with and I don’t think it needed an extra layer of strangeness. That said, though not a fan of the post-apocalyptic, I found the setting to be the most enjoyable part of this book because of its juxtaposition with the Navajo culture.

Overall
If I read the second book in this series, and I might, it will because of setting. It’s a world I wouldn’t mind spending more time in.

Original Publishing info: Saga Press, 2018
My Copy: Overdrive/Kindle editions from Tempe Public Library
Genre: fantasy