Category: mythology


And, in a turn of events I’m sure no one saw coming, I am late posting my postponed review. Who would have thought, right? I’d have had it if not for that sleeping curse. But it’s here now, much to everyone’s delight. Thanks to the awesome folks at Tor, here’s The People’s Police. Enjoy!

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When Officer Martin Luther Martin was ordered to serve his own eviction notice he didn’t expect to wind up the face for the following police strike against the loan lizards trying to foreclose on everyone. When bordello owner J. B. Lafitte called the strike on being self serving, only helping the police, he didn’t expect them to agree. When MaryLou Boudreau first woke up from dancing with a full hat and no memory of how it wound up that way she never expected to wind up as Mama Legba, television personality and horse to the Loa. No one expected Papa Legba himself to address Luke on tv or the question he would ask. “What do you offer?”

This one might get a little weird, there may also be a few spoilers so heads up. Norman Spinrad’s The People’s Police is a bit of an odd duck as far as fantasy or urban fantasy novels go. It’s well written in many respects, but I’d have a hard time calling it a fun read. It’s got definite fantasy elements, but is also almost cynical in its approach to politics and the way we’re governed. It’s got a really political thesis, but then avoids a lot of what makes that thesis political, becoming sort of a preaching to the choir deal. It’s actually a little hard to come up with much of an opinion on it because of all that, I’m really not used to that.

So, start from the beginning, does the story live up to its blurb? Yes and no. The actual blurb for the book doesn’t really say much, so it’s hard for the book to not fall into it. At the same time the book lacks a certain degree of coherency for much of its run which, in addition to making it feel like it could have been trimmed a good deal, also leads to it feeling very scattered in places. Several characters could have been worked in much better, but instead weren’t introduced until the last probably fifth of the novel. The same can be said for certain events not having enough lead up and so winding up feeling misplaced.

We also get some weirdness with the language of the book both in that Spinrad occasionally chooses to write in characters’ accents, something I’m not a fan of, and that multiple characters will more or less verbatim use really specific wording. That bit is very like being beaten over the head with propaganda, like video game levels of it that you’re supposed to know what it is so you don’t take it seriously, which doesn’t fit because it’s part of the book’s main idea. It feels clumsy or like Spinrad doesn’t trust his audience to get it.

Here’s the kicker, none of that singly or grouped together runs a serious risk of killing a book for me, at least not usually. He’s also got some stuff that’s usually near guaranteed to get me invested. There’s good character work, any number of scenes are strongly written and play well to the reader’s senses, and the weird cynical optimism often works in the book’s favor. It doesn’t set though. We get a lot of back story in the first half of the book, but a lot of its told rather than shown. The supernatural aspect is interesting and the in book discussion had potential, though I feel like maybe Spinrad could have used something other than the Loa or done more to actively show his work. I know next to nothing about Voodoo, so I could easily be missing the mark entirely on that one, but still. Even the character work falls flat in places with a later character’s focus on his religion making him feel very cardboard where he, if introduced earlier, could have been much more dynamic.

I’m sitting at the point where I can easily see people getting really into The People’s Police and any number of other people reading two chapters and reselling it. Its writing is technically pretty good but lacks flavor, for lack of a better word, and has enough little things that I’m just neutral on the whole thing. So that said, The People’s Police gets a three out of five.

So, once again, I’ve been gone for what seems like forever. I know, I know, shouting into the void here seeing if anyone’s still there. So, I’ve got a review for an older book that I picked up ages ago. It goes long with this one, I’ve tried several times to slim it down but when I have I’ve gone off on tangents or felt like I wasn’t getting my point across. Enjoy!

When her favorite sword is broken by a clumsy actor at her night job Sara Beauhall, blacksmith by day prop mistress by night, agrees to reforge the blade to avoid reshoots. That’s when things get weird. An extra claiming to be a dwarf tells her that she has become the guardian of Sigurd’s blade, Gram, the bane of Fafnir and that she is now destined to slay a dragon. A dragon that shows up not long after triggering events that may make her a heroine fit for the tales of old or destroy her utterly.

So, J.A. Pitts’ Black Blade Blues is interesting, using a main character who is into weapons and combat and renaissance faire stuff but who doesn’t really have any interest in fantasy and throwing her into a situation out of Norse mythology. It has a lot of promise there and in some ways it lives up to it, in a lot of others it falls entirely flat.

Fairly early in the book we are introduced to two important things for Sara. One is her religious upbringing and the attitudes her father sought to impose upon her.  References to Sara’s father came up way too often for my taste given that they really didn’t affect the plot and in a lot of ways seemed contradictory. The other is her girlfriend Katie. These two are actually where a lot of the falling flat came from for me since a lot of the drama of the book comes from Sara’s discomfort with her sexuality as a result of her father’s parenting and the fallout from her not dealing with it at all. This of course means that instead of talking to her girlfriend about her discomfort like an adult, she snaps at people because she thinks they’re making reference to her relationship and immediately assumes Katie is cheating on her when she starts hanging out with one of her ex’s. This hurts the book a lot for me, in part because of how excited I was when I first realized that the main character was gay in a book that wasn’t specifically LGBT marketed. I can understand that how she was raised effecting her feelings about her sexuality, but I would have liked for her and Katie to talk about it rather than it being step one on her path to rock bottom.

The rock bottom thing was, at best, badly handled. In the course of the book Sara loses her relationship and both jobs and has one former boss who hates her, but none of that sticks and again isn’t really necessary to the plot so much as it adds cheep drama. Because she and Katie don’t communicate, when Sara winds up borrowing a coworker’s sweats and doesn’t think to change out of them, Katie assumes that Sara is cheating on her. At one point she gets bodyjacked by magic and nearly has sex with some guy her boss was flirting with, grossness aside, it only serves to ruin her job and isolate her. Events towards the end could have taken the place of both events without the unnecessary grossness. It all ties into a feeling that the author has never met a woman and was writing the characters based on what he’d seen on tv and in video games.

Part of being the guardian of Gram is that Sara gets, essentially, branded with runes that give her powers but also affect her personality. Sara becomes a berserker with anger issues and unstable emotions to go with it. Thing is we aren’t really shown her personality before hand for a comparison, so its left feeling like this is just how she is. The issues with Sara are made worse by the fact that every other major female character also seems to share her emotional instability. That thing about her and Katie not talking like adults and Katie’s assumption of cheating based on cloths and nothing else, check. Boss jumping down her throat, ending their friendship, and firing her so hard she barely got to grab her stuff before she left over a guy she’d only recently met, while she knows Sara is a lesbian, check. It’s all very over blown and deeply uncomfortable. Again, it seems to be there mostly for cheep drama. Give me a reason for all this in the book its introduced in.

So, after all that, what did I like about the book? The minor characters, especially the Black Briar lot, are interesting. I’m left wanting to know more about the dragons and what happened to the Norse pantheon. One of the side characters has an interesting arc happening that promises to have far reaching effects for the series. And the hook for the next in the series almost has me interested enough to give it a shot and see if Pitts gets better about the stuff that’s bad. There’s a legitimately interesting story under all the contrived drama and pointless extra stuff. I’m interested in the world more than the people in it with this one.

Unfortunately, despite its potential, I don’t trust Pitts as an author not to have done the same things in the next book. That leaves Black Blade Blues with a one out of five.

These Are Words

So, this blog has been pretty well dead for so long that I can’t even remember what my plans were for it last time I posted.  I’ve been dealing with problems in school and with work and with life in general, and I just kind of let this fall by the wayside.  I don’t have a review today, and I won’t tomorrow, but I’m going to start posting things, maybe live blog the book I’m reading or something to that effect.  But after all the stuff that’s happened I’m putting down words and staking my place on the net again.

So, I’m a bit late with this one.  Blame the kitten, Jonesy seems to have decided that the best toys ever are my hands and the cables to my laptop. It would be adorable if it didn’t make me worry that she was going to electrocute herself.  That aside, I’m back to working again and have another review partly done for either later this week or early next week.  All that said, this is a review for one of the books that I got last summer, so it isn’t entirely current.  Enjoy the review!

During World War 2 a group of English children were sent to a small town to keep them safe from the war.  In the time they were there each of them was entrusted with one of thirteen ancient artifacts for safe keeping.  These artifacts are all that stand between humanity and a realm of flesh hungry demons.  Fast forward to the present and the septuagenarian keepers are being killed off one by one and their artifacts stolen.  It will be up to bank teller Sara Miller to take up the broken sword and stop nothing less than the end of life as we know it.

Michael Scott and Colette Freedman’s The Thirteen Hallows had promise.  It wasn’t treading any new territory with the plot of hapless heroes with a magical MacGuffin trying to stop some big mysterious evil from destroying the world.  But there was way too much gratuitous stuff for it to be good, and it can’t all be attributed to the villains’ demonic alignment and the dark magic that they’re using to get at the hallows.  Plus, the characters each seem to be clutching their own personal idiot ball whether it is the detective who insists that Sara is an insane serial killer despite evidence to the contrary or the evil sorceress who can magically track our totally mundane heroine but can’t kill her and take the sword.  This is going to be one of the ones that I get a little long winded about because there’s a lot that could have used a second look.

So, the gratuitous stuff, it’s mostly violence and there’s some sex.  The violence could have been hand waved by saying that the levels of brutality used were necessary in every case that popped up, I think it was mentioned that the keepers had to be terrified and in agony for the magic to work.  But it wasn’t needed for the murder of Sara’s family or the random neighbor who tried to help the first on screen victim.  The sex might have been used once or twice for magic stuff, but mostly it seemed to play into the main villain’s being oh so evil just because they can be and sex is apparently the best way to show that.

Following that, the characters were flat.  The villains were evil because why not, the heroes were only the heroes because the plot needed them to be, and the police were really really dumb.  I can’t stress this enough, the characters were just poorly written and that bothers me.  I like my fantasy novels, or any novel I read for that matter to be character driven and these guys didn’t cut it. The main characters where flat enough that I almost started cheering for the villains, but they somehow managed to be even flatter again, evil for evil’s sake.  The worst case for me was the senior cop, Detective Inspector Fowler.  The writers needed a reason for Sara and Owen to stay on the run rather than turning to the police, this could have been accomplished by having the police laugh them off after they told them everything or by having the villains frame Sara for killing one of the officers that were investigating her family’s murder or any number of other things.  Instead, old cop digs in almost immediately and decides that Sara must be some kind of psycho killer despite her reactions indicating otherwise and the sheer number of statistics that suggest that women generally don’t kill people in that violent a manner.  If he had jumped on after the evil junky’s death, then I would be fine with it because people saw her do that.  On the other hand, the comparison between him and his partner, Sergeant Heath, made her one of the only characters in the book that I came anywhere near liking.

Speaking of Heath, the quality of descriptions in this book were also all over the place.  The reader gets lovingly written scenes of violence and gore and yet the only descriptions we really get for her were that she’s blond, butch, and nicer than her partner.  Again, if there had been better reason given for the attention to gore, like if the police were checking the crime scenes and slowly piecing together what was happening with bits of ritual that were left behind among all the blood and viscera.  That would have been cool, and could have given credence to Fowler’s insistence that Sara was a crazed killer until evidence piled up that it was the Dark Man and his sorceress accomplice or one of their underlings.  But it wasn’t, and that seems like a waste.

So, where does this leave me on The Thirteen Hallows?  It had potential, I can say that of it, but that potential was squandered on hollow characters and overall mediocre writing.  It was a fast read but more in a “when does this get good” way than a “this is amazing” way.  This was the first thing I’d read by either author and, while I’ve heard good things about both in reading to see who they were, it may be the last thing I read by either of them.  The ending left room for more books and anything I can find online suggests that there’s supposed to be a sequel at some point but I have a hard time seeing where I could go from here.  I’m giving this one a one out of five for characters that I couldn’t bring myself to care about and a story that couldn’t seem to decide what it was or what it wanted to be.

Yeah, I’m back on this again and ignoring that review that I’ll be posting probably either later tonight or sometime tomorrow.  Here’s the thing, I’ve been a fan of Barbara Gordon since back in the nineties with Batman the Animated Series when I had no clue that the comics were any different.   Back then, I had no idea that The Killing Joke had happened or that there was a second Batgirl.  This was the character that I wanted to grow up to be.  She was like Velma but with more attitude and she got to work with Batman.

Fast forward to sometime during high school and I’ve heard of The Killing Joke but not read it.  I’ve heard that there was a second Batgirl and that she was rather poorly delt with for a chunk of her run in the cape.  But I hadn’t really started reading comics yet.  The Sandman, sure but that was because the school library had it in trade paperbacks and I had free time while being a library aide.  It was around this time that I started to get more interested in comics as a whole, so I’d started reading up on DC’s super heroes to see who I wanted to focus on.

Fast forward again to around February.  Holy cow there’s going to be a Batwoman monthly comic!  Issue #0 is coming out and The Question is going to be in Birds of Prey!  I was practically dancing in my seat with this one.  Plus I was trying to keep up with the Odyssy of Wonder Woman arc of Wonder Woman because I wanted to see how they changed the character.  And follow it through to Flashpoint and my various rants on that, it’s really one of the things that sticks out at me as a forced money grab even now.  But I’ve finally got that Batwoman ongoing as part of my draw list, and Birds of Prey is still pretty cool even without Lady Blackhawk or Huntress.

It’s kind of itchy though, reading Batgirl and seeing Barbara go from tough leadery Oracle to a Batgirl so full of self doubt that I almost expect that the villain is going to wind up doing himself in rather than her winning.This is where I get to the meat of my ramble, don’t worry the rest was just back story.  Now, not all of the sources agree, but apparently Babs was Oracle sometime during those three years post-Flashpoint.  Why isn’t she still?  I’m basing this mostly on the character I was reading back in Birds of Prey but it’s hard to see her giving up the autonomy of being a hero on her own to step back under the Batmantle.  Out of the chair she’s still the same character, or at least she should be.  Post-Flashpoint Batgirl seems to assume a Barbara who never quit being Batgirl prior to The Killing Joke, one who would go back to that after having been Oracle.

This is a character who questioned her reasons for crime fighting right up through the eighties when she quit and was then shot in the spine for being related to Batman’s supporting cast.  Except it isn’t anymore, maybe.  What was DCnU Barbara Gordon like before the Joker shot her?  Was she Silver Age Batgirl with her Batpurse and day job as a librarian?  Was she BtAS Batgirl the plucky not quite side kick?  Heck, was she Stephanie Brown with red hair and no history as Spoiler?  I’m growing tired of DCnU Batgirl’s near constant self questioning.  I understand that she’s not at a hundred percent yet and I understand that Gail Simone is laying the basis for the rest of the comic, but the more I read the less I like Babs and the more I want to just quietly go back to finding Oracle’s appearances in trade paperbacks.

This is one of those situations where I want to see what other people have to say about this.  I’m going to keep reading for at least the next arc to see how DCnU Babs develops, but I’m thinking that this may not be something that stays on my draw list much longer. What do you think internets?  Does the current incarnation make more sense to you that it does me?  Where do you think Simone is going to go with Batgirl from here?

Like it says in the title, I’m really not sure what I’m talking about today so this will probably go a little where did all of this come from I swear there wasn’t a giraffe in my bag when I packed it!

After writing the post asking if anyone thought that Slendy could be successfully brought into the relm of books I began trolling the piss out of a friend of mine because she’s easy to freak out.  So I decided to try writing the project I mentioned.  I’ve been noticing weird things lately, the trees are watching me. OK, no this isn’t turning into a slenderblog, I just felt like writing that.  It got me thinking though, what makes for good horror?  Here’s the top five things that I’ve come up with.

5) Group Fear – One of my favorite things to do with the slenderblogs is to read/watch them with my friends and see there reactions.  It’s great to watch one of them freak out when something big happens like the Thin Duke going after the main character(s).  An audience feeds off of its own fear even across the internet and the fear builds and readers get this great kind of freaked out that later readers miss out on to some degree.  Horror movies in theaters are great because of the other audience members also reacting.

4) Monsters in Odd Places/ Times – The Faceless Fellow can and has shown up at any time of day in just about any area.  Sure water is supposed to drive him off and supposedly he can’t see anyone above about the second story as human, but he did peek in that window in Marble Hornets and he is always surrounded by fog.  Monsters are expected to show up in the dead of night, possibly while it’s raining cats and dogs, so putting them out in full day light especially if they’re not being used for a cat scare works great.

3) Backstory – Mr. Happy has tons of backstory, mostly built by the internet hivemind and then polished by the slenderblogers.  It’s been built upon by hundreds of people since that first picture appeared on Something Awful and there’s enough variation to make it feel very much like one of the urban legends that have been around forever, like Bloody Mary or the thing that lives under the hill.  It’s creepy and leaves a reader wondering what is being left out and what could be worse.

2) Ambiguity – We don’t even know what Slender Man is exactly, but like the Blair Witch before him we get freaked out by him.  What is he?  What does he want?  Why is he here?  Are we making him stronger by writing about him?  If so, why do we keep writing about him?  With the Blair Witch, the audience never sees her only what she does to the film makers.  Or before that even, Psycho has Norman Bates’ mother who dotes on him so much that she murders the woman who stays in the motel, but she’s been dead the whole time.  People fear the unknown, so it only makes sense that the unknown would make for good horror.

1) Character Reactions – One of the biggest things that makes The Tall Guy terrifying in Marble Hornets is the way everyone reacts to him.  He’s just standing there slendering around, but Jay is flipping his shit over it because holy cow it’s going to take me away and eat my soul/eyes/memories.  Masky gets to attack people just about every time he’s shown, but the Gentleman in the Suit seldom attacks directly.  Which one has people training cameras on themselves and running for their lives?

That’s what I’ve been able to think up.  What do you guys think?  What makes you jump when things go bump in the night?

A friend of mine and I had a conversation earlier today regarding the Slender Man and horror movies.  It’s one of those things that makes a really good story when handled well, such as with Marble Hornets or Just Another Fool.  What I’m wondering is if it  could be applied to literature effectively.  We’re talking a Lovecraftian monstrosity that stalks and kills anyone who pays to much attention to him (it?) here, a monstrosity that already has a ton of back story and exposure from all the ARGs and Slenderbloggers.  Would it apply well to literature?  To books that don’t up date with something new every few days or weeks?  The amount of hits that places like Dreams in Darkness and, again, Just Another Fool get even after being finished could suggest so.  Would the Slenderbloggers and the guys who run the ARGs react well to a novelist adding to their mythology?  Would they tie it into what they were doing as a kind of “those poor fools what have they done”  or would they decry someone trying to capitalize on the ground work that they laid?  At the end of the day, would there be enough interest outside of the internet to make it worthwhile to a publisher to print a novel that played with Slendy or would it be ignored by all but the already present followers online?

What do you guys think?  Is Slendy something that could work in a book or should he stay online?   Heck, maybe sound off with your favorite Slenderblog or ARG while you’re at it.

As I said earlier in the day, I’m sorry about how late this isClasses and life in general have been kind of crazy lately.  Enjoy!

I’ve been a fan of Orson Scott Card’s since I first picked up Ender’s Game back in seventh grade, so when I got a chance to read The Lost Gate I jumped on it.  It’s a great mix of the mythic and the modern day, very similar to some of Neil Gaiman’s books.

Danny’s the odd man out in his family, a mage with no magic among gods with no worshipers.  A drekka with no place in the North complex.  That is, until the day when he discovers that he’s a gatemage and his world becomes a deadly game of cat and mouse.  Gatemages are killed as soon as they are discovered among the families with exception to the weakest of the weak, those who can sense gates but not make or use them.  Danny is neither weak nor willing to die, so he runs to save his own life and to give himself a chance at learning about his powers.  We see Danny grow up, meet new people, and learn what it means to be human.

As I said back at the beginning I’m a big fan of Card’s Ender series of books, and it looks like I’ll be a fan of this series as well.  Danny is a trickster hero who relies on his brains to stay out of trouble.  He avoids direct confrontation, preferring to misdirect an opponent to taking them on alone.  Like Ender before him, Danny worries about becoming a monster due to some of the choices he makes.  It could’ve gotten a little tiresome, but Card uses Danny’s self doubts to make him a more human figure in comparison to the casual monstrosities of his family and some of the humans that me meets.  I like that Card doesn’t write down to his audience, he seems to expect them to keep up with him, this is a habit I tend to find terribly lacking in current young adult literature.  This is a series that I would start buying for my younger cousins as well as for myself.  That said, my one complaint is how quickly Danny mastered his magic.  It seemed kind of like in a super hero comic where the hero gets new powers just as they need them or, failing that, right before they need them.  Over all, I give The Lost Gate a five out of five.