Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Memory Lane: "Equal Rites" by Terry Pratchett

After some work and holiday delays, I continue to my return tour of the Discworld with Terry Pratchett’s third book of the series, “Equal Rites” ($9.99, Harper Collins).

A dying wizard comes to the tiny mountain village of Bad Ass to visit the local blacksmith, an eighth son who is, that very night, expecting his eighth son. It’s a magical number, and as soon as the child is born, the wizard passes his power on to it. Then, he discovers that it’s a girl, and he has accidentally unleashed the first female wizard on the Discworld.

Eskarina Smith grows up under the close eye of the witch who will become, arguably, the greatest power on Pratchett’s Disc, Esme Weatherwax. Granny’s hope is to turn Esk into a witch, but it soon becomes apparent that the wizard magic has hold of her.

To help the girl, Granny will have to leave her mountain home and travel to Unseen University in Ankh-Morpork, where they’ll face the daunting task of getting the all-boys club to admit a woman into their ranks.

Thursday, November 03, 2016

Tell-Tale Thoughts: "The Black Cat"

Ah, a series that I started with best intentions that, like so many things the last few years, fell by the wayside. But rather than wall it up in some damp catacomb, I’m going to try to revive it, mainly because I really want to revisit these stories.

I’ll begin with a story that was one of my favorites in my first few years as a Poe worshipper – “The Black Cat.” On revisiting the story, it’s really no surprise how much I loved it back then. It bears a striking resemblance to my favorite tale, and the one that started me on the journey, “The Tell-Tale Heart.”

Our narrator, a condemned man, tells a harrowing story of his descent into alcoholism and depravity, which changed him from a meek, easy-going animal lover to a murderous monster.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Review: "Senlin Ascends" by Josiah Bancroft

I read a lot of good books and an occasional few great books, but rarely do I find something that’s truly remarkable in just about every way. That’s just what Josiah Bancroft’s “Senlin Ascends” delivers, though.

“Senlin” first came to my attention as a runner-up in the Self-Published Fantasy Blog Off, but it’s grown quite a buzz of late with reviewers and other authors praising Bancroft’s work. And it’s most worthy of that praise.

The story begins with a small-town teacher, Thomas Senlin, headed off on a great adventure with his new wife Marya. Senlin has always been fascinated by the great Tower of Babel, which looms over the landscape of his world. It’s a massive structure with each level being its own kingdom, or ringdom, as they’re called. No one is sure how many there are, and each is full of wonders. Or so the handy guidebook that he’s studied tells him.

Thursday, October 06, 2016

Review: "Monster Hunter Alpha," by Larry Correia

Larry Correia’s Monster Hunter series came as a bit of a surprise for me. A quick glance at the covers and description, and I dismissed them as something that probably wasn’t for me. Then I read the first one and was immediately hooked. Now on the third book, “Monster Hunter Alpha” ($7.99, Baen), Correia throws another curve ball.

I’ve gotten used to the voice and attitude of his protagonist Owen Z. Pitt through the first two volumes, but this one switches up on us, instead following the story of the cranky old man of Monster Hunter International, Earl Harbinger.

The MHI leader’s former military commander gives him information that his arch-nemesis Nikolai Petrov has entered the country. Harbinger and Petrov, as we’ll learn through the course of the story, played a legendary and bloody game of cat-and-mouse during the Vietnam War. They’ve had a truce for years, but Harbinger knows that his old enemy’s presence in the U.S. can’t be a good thing.

Petrov’s trail leads him to Copper Lake, a small town in the upper peninsula of Michigan, where Harbinger's past and lost memories are destined to come back to haunt them.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Review: "The Path of Flames" by Phil Tucker

I remember a time, not so incredibly long ago, when I wouldn’t even accept a self-published book for review consideration because I’d seen so many awful ones. But, as Dylan famously sang, the times, they are a-changin’.

Over the course of the last year or so, I’ve discovered a string of fantastic self-published books, the latest being Phil Tucker’s “The Path of Flames,” a finalist in the second edition of Mark Lawrence’s Self-Published Fantasy Blog Off.

I read a number of the finalists in last year’s contest and found some great books and writers, so I decided to get started with them a little earlier this year, and my first foray did not disappoint.

Asho is a Bythian, the lowest rank on the scale of Ascendancy, the major religion of Tucker’s world. After each lifetime, the belief is, that the people are judged for their actions and either sent up or down in class based on them, until they pass through either the White Gate to join the Ascendant or the Black Gate for their punishment.

Thursday, September 08, 2016

Review: "The Fireman," by Joe Hill

I’ve never been disappointed by Joe Hill’s work, and despite some misgivings, that doesn’t change with “The Fireman” ($28.99, William Morrow).

A strange and horrifying virus is sweeping across the planet – Draco Incendia Trychophyton, or its common name, Dragonscale. The disease marks its victims with tattoo-like designs that are often beautiful, but just as deadly. Eventually, those designs will catch fire, burning the victim alive and usually anything within reach.

No one is quite sure where the spore that causes the virus came from or what to do about it, and as more and more people become infected, the world begins to panic.

Harper Grayson, a nurse with a penchant for breaking out in songs from “Mary Poppins,” is on the frontlines of the battle to save people from the disease, or at least make them comfortable, until she contracts it herself. That sets off a chain of events that destroys the life she knows and sends her into hiding from her husband and the cremation squads that arise in the chaos.

She escapes with the help of a mysterious man known as The Fireman, who leads her to a place where she just might be able to survive the end of the world.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Random Rants: Of Pokemon, dragons, magic and muggles

If my social media feeds are any indication, it seems that a large portion of the world population these days is filled with rage, sanctimonious indignation or pure nastiness. I guess some of that is to be expected in an election year, but this one seems worse than others in so many ways. This isn’t a political blog, and I have no desire to make it one, so that’s as far as I’ll take that line.

I bring it up, though, to point out how refreshing it is, from time to time, to be able to escape into some other world or perhaps pass a few minutes in some completely frivolous pursuit. Except even that has become cause for ridicule in some circles.