Archive for the ‘Reading’ Category

Good Omens

Maybe it’s just my corner of the Internet, but Good Omens is everywhere. My entire tumblr feed–normally a mixture of Star Trek, Lord of the Rings, Doctor Who, silly cat videos, and other assorted nerdy things–went COMPLETELY Good Omens.

This is, of course, because the mini-series came out on Amazon a little over a week ago, and apparently hit enough people’s buttons that the scifi/fantasy portion of the Internet picked it up and ran with it.

(I’m through episode 4 myself.)

While I’m not done with the mini-series, I am enjoying it. I don’t remember the book terribly well so I’m unsure how close it is to the original story. There’s obvious upgrades to bring the story into the present versus 1990 when the book came out (technology mostly), but beyond that, I just don’t really remember.

I mean, I do remember the book. Or I remember reading the book. It probably was at least a decade ago, if not longer. Books are interesting that way, aren’t they? Some stand out, and you remember them throughout the years. Others just fade away into a vague memory, and you couldn’t remember anything about them if you tried.

I remember Good Omens because it was the last chance I was giving Neil Gaiman. Have you ever run into that? You pick up an author that you should like, but something’s just not working for you. When I picked Good Omens up (and I actually think it was a birthday present or something) I had already read Neverwhere (lovely worldbuilding, lacking on plot and characterization) and Stardust (very different from the movie, more about that in a second) and had not particularly liked either of them, and was about to give Neil Gaiman up as Not For Me.

(I know the saying goes that the book is better than the movie, but I think that, objectively, this isn’t always true. My experience has been that it depends on which you did first, book or movie, and how much you enjoyed the initial version you were introduced to. Jurassic Park, for example. Movie first for me, and then I read the book some time after. It’s a fine book, but I prefer the movie. (The Lost World, however, is far superior in book form.) Stardust is the same for me. I really enjoyed the movie, and the book is very different, so I didn’t like it as much.)

(And then you have Howl’s Moving Castle, where the book and movie are wildly different and I adore both of them.)

But I liked Good Omens. I especially identified with Aziraphale, who basically just wants to be left alone to read his books. And I am glad I did read it, because my logic at the time was that, since I had liked it, and because I hadn’t particularly liked the other things Neil Gaiman had written, I should look more into Terry Pratchett, and the Discworld books are a gift (my favorite that I’ve read thus far is Equal Rites).

(And I eventually read American Gods, so Gaiman’s redeemed for now as well.)

Do I have a point? Not sure. I guess that Good Omens fits onto a short list of books that I remember where their being read affected something in real life. And that the mini-series is worth a look because it feels very true to the book, whether it actually is or not.

Watching the mini-series, squiders? What do you think? (Aziraphale is still my favorite.) Thoughts on Discworld or other Gaiman/Pratchett books?

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Promo: The Mercenary Code by Emmet Moss

Good morning, squiders! Today I have a promo and excerpt for you for Emmet Moss’s new epic fantasy novel, The Mercenary Code, which is book 1 of the Shattering of Kingdoms series.


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Epic Fantasy
Date Published:  May 2019

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The Shattering of Kingdoms, Book 1
Break the Code. Shatter the World.

Centuries ago, the murder of a beloved king tore apart the Kingdom of Caledun. The land was plunged into chaos and thousands perished in the aftermath. A new order was established in an attempt to return Caledun to its former glory. It failed, but in its place rose the beginnings of the Code.

During this same period, the mystical caretakers of the Great Wood retreated from the world of Kal Maran, their disappearance an ominous harbinger of the suffering that was to follow. The Great Wood now grows out of control. Cities, towns, and villages have fallen before the relentless march of the forest. Without the former guardians to keep her tame, the wood has become a place of peril, and dark creatures of legend now hunt beneath its leaves.

The summer season is now a time of armed conflict. The fall of the old monarchy has brought about a ceaseless cycle of combat. Grievances are settled by the strict tenets of a binding Mercenary Code and the men who would die to preserve its honour.

However, change is in the air. Political rivalries have escalated, and dire rumblings of a revolution abound. Thrust to the forefront of the shattered land’s politics, a mercenary fights for more than just riches. In the north, a borderland soldier wrestles with his own demons and looks to find his true purpose. And in the shadow of the Great Wood, a young man’s chance encounter with a strange visitor gives hope to a land divided.



Excerpt
chapter IX

Bider’s gaze wandered over the assembled enemy troops camped beyond bow range on the outskirts of the city. At least a thousand men lay to the west, another four hundred were guarding any attempt at a sortie from the south gate. A dozen distinct banners flapped in the strong wind, with each company standard easy to distinguish from Bider’s elevated vantage point. He studied the banners and counted only one northern company among the groups to the south. Most were unfamiliar him, and his eyes settled uneasily on the symbol of the black hyena belonging to Khali’s Reavers.

Nudging Orn, Bider gestured out towards the standard. “What’s the story behind the Reavers?” he asked. “You’ve been around since the early days of the Fey’Derin.”

“The Reavers are a bad lot,” Orn said, spitting over the wall. “A very bad lot.”

“That’s what I know, not what I want to hear,” Bider pressed.

Orn gave his companion a deliberate once over before answering. “Over the last century or so, there have been several unspoken rules in our profession,” he began, “One, is to always minimize casualties of the innocent, especially women and children. Another is to always accord captured officers fair and just treatment. Although such rules were never written into the Code, mercenary companies don’t take kindly to torturers —”

“So Khali’s men tortured officers?” Bider interrupted with alarm.

“If you’re going to interrupt, I’ll stop right here and now,” Orn growled. “Now are you going to shut that trap of yours or not?”

“Yes, sorry.” Bider answered timidly.

“As I was saying, there are several actions that are widely frowned upon. The last revolves around a company’s base of operations during the winter months. Be it a temporary encampment, or a permanent home city, it matters not. You leave the men and their families alone. There’s plenty of time for killing when the spring arrives.” Pausing to take a long sip from his ever-present flask, Orn shot Bider a suspicious look. “You won’t say anything to the Captain now will you?” he glared.

“Not as long as I hear this story …” Bider responded carefully.

“Well, it was three seasons ago, the year before you came on as a recruit, and the company was staying south for the winter. It was the first time the Captain chose not to take us back north to Briar, instead planning to stay near the eastern edge of the Caeronwood. Sergeant Fenton and the Lieutenant left the autumn campaign early with our newest recruits and built a relatively comfortable camp for the men. Rumours began to swirl by season’s end that a few southern companies had been contracted out later than the usual, and many mercenaries across the region speculated at what might be developing. Seems a few of the nobles in the Protectorate territories held the northern companies in some contempt, deeming them unfit to fight in southern lands.”

“But the Code states that the whole of Kal Maran is fit for any company to do battle,” Bider retorted.

“That’s right, but it doesn’t mean it sits well with some of the noblemen hereabouts. The Code isn’t perfect, and men’s hearts can be easily twisted, even by the most mundane of things,” Orn continued. “After the Battle of Cobourne, where the Fey’Derin fought for Lord Erion Brawn, word escaped that an early winter bounty was out on our company. It seems the Captain’s choice of employer over the years had angered certain factions, most notably Lord Yarr and his ally Duke Garius of Imlaris.”

“I’m not familiar with that name.” Bider said.

“He paid a large price to spearhead the campaign against our recruits. They hit the camp before we could muster our strength and warn them. That twelve of the fifty-six men survived, including Lieutenant Burnaise, is something of a miracle. It was a slaughter, and our young men had no chance. Bran, that big brute of an Axeman, still sports a nasty scar under that beard of his, but at least he survived, unlike many of his friends.”

“And it was Khali’s men that attacked?” Bider hesitated to ask.

“Aye, it was. They showed no quarter. Women who had arrived from the north or sweethearts from the nearby towns, it mattered little. Khali’s men murdered them all. Sergeant Fenton died trying to protect his young son and wife,” Orn replied gloomily.

“The Captain was cold that day. He showed no emotion, and yet we all knew he was hurting. His vengeance was swift and as unmerciful as the unjust attack. He mustered half the company and ambushed Garius as he travelled between cities. No one walked away from that battle unscarred. Captain Silveron ignored the man’s pleas for mercy and took his head, sending it in a box to Gadian Yarr.  Then we travelled north, taking a winding road through the Erienn mountain range, passing by Dragon Mount and the Silveryn Mages.”

“And the Reavers?” Bider asked, entranced by the sorrow etched in the storyteller’s words.

“We fought them the following season. Sergeant McConnal nearly destroyed their vanguard single-handedly, and the Captain, well he was both terrifying and awe-inspiring to behold. We haven’t seen those bastards in well over a year now, and it’s all any of us involved in that ambush can do to hold our tempers in check. There’s a reckoning still to come. The Captain swore on those dead men that he would kill the man who coldly slaughtered those innocents, and if I know the Captain, that day is coming.” Orn hung his head as he finished, staring solemnly at the ground.

A long moment passed, and Bider felt a pang of guilt knowing that he had reopened old wounds. Ignoring Orn as he took a second and then third pull from his silver flask, Bider slipped down the stone staircase and left his friend alone with his thoughts.



About the author:

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Emmet Moss lives in Canada with his family and cat. He is a sports enthusiast and an avid reader of fantasy and science fiction. The Mercenary Code is the first installment of his Shattering of Kingdoms epic fantasy series. Book two, The King’s Guard, is set for release in Fall 2019.






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Free Comic Book Day Round-up

The small, mobile ones and I had a full day on Saturday, but managed to get to Free Comic Book Day at our local coffee shop/comic shop/game shop around 9 am, meaning we beat most everyone and still had a good selection to choose from. I got four and the small, mobile ones each got two (I had to supervise the larger, mobile one, who was attracted to the most violent of the superhero comics and quite frustrated when I would not let him have them).

Here’s what we ended up with:

My Hero Academia/The Promised Neverland

Two mangas out of Shonen Jump (and rated T I see in retrospect, so I probably shouldn’t have let him have this either, sigh). The My Hero Academia one is literally some random battle with very little context (larger, mobile one does not care). The Promised Neverland half seems to be the very first part of the manga, and it is intriguing looking. I’ve stuck it on my library to-read list.

Pokemon

Larger, mobile one is periodically obsessed with Pokemon (he has hundreds of cards, and we’re going to go see Detective Pikachu on Friday), so here we are. Two stories in one again, the first half being Pokemon the movie and seemingly a literal retelling of Ash and Pikachu’s first meeting. The second half is Pokemon Adventures, and is the start of Red starting out to become a Pokemon trainer.

Defend Comics

There’s 5 comics stuck in this one, so you don’t get much of any of them: Pilu of the Woods, Apocalypse Taco, Nobody’s Fool, A Fire Story, and Bags (Or a Story Thereof). Pilu looks cute, about a lost dryad. Apocalypse Taco involves a lot of creepy goo monsters. Nobody’s Fool is maybe about watching a movie? There’s literally 3 pages in here so who knows. A Fire Story seems to be about losing the artist’s home to a wildfire, but, again, 3 pages. Bags could be good or not (the main character is presented almost as a child’s drawing as a person while everything else is realistic) but again, not enough in here to say.

Wolfie Monster and the Big Bad Pizza Battle

The monsters in here are cute. Wolfie and his brothers run Magik Cheez pizza, but there’s a new pizza chain in town that wants to buy them out. Smaller, mobile one was quite enchanted, and is probably about the right age for this overall.

Doctor Who: The Thirteenth Doctor

I think I get the Doctor Who ones every year. Unlike previous years, there’s only a single story instead of having bits of ones from multiple doctors stuffed in. On one hand, great, because it’s nice to see a bit of a story arc instead of just set-up or a scene with no context. On the other, how come poor Twelve never got an issue to himself? I am intrigued by the 13th doctor but have not actually gotten a chance to watch the last season yet.

Star Wars Adventures

I got this one last year too, which I only realized when I started reading this one. Han and Chewie are caught up in schemes again. Like last year’s free comic, you get an entire story, which I appreciate.

A Sheets Story

Seems to be a story about a girl dealing with the death of her mother by having an imaginary friend who is essentially a floating sheet. (The sheet is real enough, but Wendell the ghost is…probably not?) Seems like it could be a good story. Has an ad on the back for a comic called Mooncakes which apparently involves cute witches and werewolves and I’m here for that too.

Lumberjanes

I’ve heard of the Lumberjanes before somewhere, so I actually put back some steampunk horror comic to pick this up. There’s two mini-comics in here with different artists, so what I’ve picked up is that it takes place at summer camp? And they fight monsters. I dig it.

That’s me for this year. You guys pick up anything good?

Library Book Sale Finds: The Glimpses of the Moon

Howdy, squiders! I dug back into my collection of library book sale books and came out with The Glimpses of the Moon by Edith Wharton, circa 1922.

This is another one of those books where I try to imagine what I was thinking when I picked it up. Did I like the title? Did I think I should read something by Edith Wharton? Who knows?

Title: The Glimpses of the Moon
Author: Edith Wharton
Genre: General Literature
Publication Year: 1922

Pros: Beautiful writing. Just, really pretty.
Cons: I wanted to strangle the male lead for 75% of the book.

As a caveat, I use “general literature” for basically everything that’s not an obvious genre. This is a story about two people, married on a lark with an agreement that they can divorce if something better comes along for the other. They are fringe members of society, spending time with the wealthy, but not having money themselves.

This is not an overly plotty book, so I won’t spend a lot of time there. What it is is a look at the opulence of the twenties and what is important, and how relationships work in a world where you can buy anything you want. A lot of social commentary. Somewhat reminiscent of The Great Gatsby (which I despise) but less likely to drive you to depression.

I do take a bit of umbrage with the male lead, Nick. (See?) He has a mild crisis of morals over something the female lead, Susy, does, and instead of doing anything useful, runs off and doesn’t talk to her for the next five months.

Dude. You suck. I know the whole point of the book is about love and realizing what matters and blah blah blah, but you are trash.

I admit I got so mad at one point that I flipped to the back of the book, which I NEVER DO, to make sure things were going to get resolved, because if I had to read 250 pages of shenanigans with him just running off for good, well, it wasn’t going to happen.

The writing is so so pretty. The characters are so so frustrating.

So! Would I recommend this book? Not sure. The writing is gorgeous, the human study is great, the moral is…iffy. There is kind of the implication that whatever Nick did in the interim is okay because he came to his senses in the end, which maybe was a good message back in the day? But I really just wanted to slap some sense into him.

So! Up to you, really. You know what you like. I thought it was okay, but I’m not going to be picking up other books like it for a while.

2018 Books in Review

So, if you’ve been around for a while, squiders, you know it’s time for me to do my nerdy reading stats for the year before. This year I barely eked out my 50 books on the last day, whoops.

Books Read in 2018: 50
Change from 2017: -1

Of those*:
11 were Science Fiction
10 were Mystery
8 were Fantasy
7 were Nonfiction
4 were General Literature
3 were Short Story Collections
2 were Horror
2 were Dystopian
2 were Science Fantasy
1 was Satire

*Some genre consolidation was done here. YA or MG titles went into the general genre. All subgenres of fantasy or romance, for example, also went into the general genre.

Also, I listened to an audiobook this year (It was Blackfish City by Sam J. Miller) which was an interesting experience, but not one I think I’m going to do a lot of unless I’m doing way more driving than I am currently.

New genre(s)**: dystopian, satire
Genres I read last year that I did not read this year: essay collection, magical realism, romance
**This means I didn’t read them last year, not that I’ve never read them.

Wow, no romance whatsoever? Weird.

Genres that went up: science fiction, nonfiction, mystery
Genres that went down: fantasy, mystery

32 were my books
17 were library books
1 book was borrowed from friends/family

35 were physical books
14 were ebooks
1 was an audiobook

More of my own books this year. That’s probably a good thing.

Average rating: 3.48/5

Top rated:
Harpist in the Wind (4.5 – fantasy)
The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle (4.5 – mystery)
The Mousetrap (4.2 – mystery)

Oh, hey, not sure a fantasy book has been top in a while! A lot of 3.9s as well (Ready Player One, First-Person Singularities, The Sparrow, The Selection, Version Control, The Wanderer, Audrey, Wait!). I generally liked what I read this year.

Most recent publication year: 2018
Oldest publication year: 1904
Average publication year: 1999
Books older than 1900: 0
Books newer than (and including) 2013: 26

A lot of newer books again, so good job me!

And, as it might be interesting to look back on in the future, the first book I read for the year was Ready Player One (2011 – science fiction – 3.9/5), and the last I read was All Systems Red (2017 – science fiction – 3.8/5).

Read anything good in 2018, squiders?

Library Book Sale Finds: The Mousetrap by Agatha Christie

I don’t think I’ve done one of these all year. Whoops.

(For those who are new, I acquired a ton of books at a few library book sales a few years back, and occasionally I will read one. I like library book sales because I think you’re more likely to buy books you wouldn’t otherwise, so it’s a good place to find a new favorite author–or a book so ridiculous you have to share it with everyone you know.)

I love Agatha Christie so I tend to pick up everything by her that I find. (Because her stories are often republished under different titles, or shorts are moved around, this sometimes means I end up with the same stories multiple times.)

I suspect I bought this one because I’ve always wanted to see The Mousetrap, which is a play Agatha Christie wrote that’s been running continuously in London since 1952. It has a twist ending, which the audience is asked not to reveal (it’s probably somewhere on the Internet, because we can’t have nice things).

At the request of the author, the short story that the play is based on has not been published since the play opened. Luckily for me, this book is from 1949.

(Though, to be honest, we don’t seem to be sticking to that anymore. A simple Google search turns up a bunch of editions.)

(Of course, now I can never see the play because I know the twist. Or at least, I won’t be surprised. It is a VERY nice twist.)

The book itself is a short story collection (the original title being Three Blind Mice and Other Stories), with “Three Blind Mice/The Mousetrap” taking up about a third of the book. There are also four Miss Marple stories, three Poirot stories, and one featuring a Mr. Harley Quin, whom I’ve never heard of before, but am tickled by the name.

Title: The Mousetrap
Author: Agatha Christie
Genre: Mystery/short story collection
Publication Year: 1949

Pros: Everything
Cons: 
Not longer

(Varying dates for the individual stories, of course.)

I don’t have a lot to say about the individual stories–don’t want to give away anything–but it is a good mix, with some nonstandard twists that were very interesting. Miss Marple is my favorite, so I was glad to get so many stories about her (and they were all new to me, yay!) and am also fairly fond of Poirot, so it was all good.

I really enjoyed this collection. I would definitely recommend it, though, of course, who knows if other editions will have the same stories (aside from the first one, of course). Also, if you guys know any modern authors who write in a similar style to Agatha Christie, please tell me.

Have a lovely weekend, squiders! My show opens tomorrow, so I’m a bit in panic mode. It should be fine–it’s in good shape, I know my bits–but it’s a bit mentally taxing.

Mars Trilogy Readalong: Red Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson

Ugh, guys, I’m sorry this took me so long to get through. I don’t really have any good excuses, except I should have started more than a week before we were supposed to be talking about it, especially since it’s almost 600 pages.

To sum up, as I told my dog last night: this is not a hopeful book. This is a book about how humanity is stupid and self-destructive.

I mean, I hope we eventually get into a hopeful phase, but who knows!

Red Mars came out in 1992 and won the Nebula in 1993. It covers somewhere between 35 and 40 years of time, starting with the colonist selection process on Earth and following them through the trip to Mars and approximately 30 years on Mars itself. It’s told in eight sections, with a different viewpoint character for each section (though Nadia and Frank each get two), and each viewpoint character is a member of the First Hundred, as the first colonists are called over time.

Most sections cover a decent amount of time, sometimes years, and there is also usually a time jump between sections (though section 8 follows directly from section 7). The book sets up characters on various sides of different issues, such as terraforming (the greens “let’s do this as fast as possible” vs. the reds “leave Mars alone–what right have we to meddle?”), colonization, emigration, corporations, government, etc. Genetic engineering is also present, but aside from its relation to terraforming (they create specialized algae that can survive on Mars’ surface), at least in this book, it’s treated as a uniformly good thing (i.e., no characters are presented as against it). I will be interested to see if that changes as the books go on.

There may be SPOILERS moving forward, so be aware.

The plot of the book is fairly chronological rather than action based. While we do open somewhere in the middle, subsequent chapters and sections start from the beginning and run straight through. The First Hundred are selected, leave for Mars on the Ares, an immense spaceship with some artificial gravity, gardens, farms, etc. (even birds) to try and help with mental states on the long voyage. On the voyage, we see the first signs that people have different plans for the planet and different ideologies, and that some people lied throughout the selection process.

They arrive at Mars and get started building up the infrastructure necessary to produce air and water, build habitats, and start exploring. Things are good. But eventually those ideological differences pop back up, especially in relation to terraforming and whether or not they need to get Earth’s permission before they do things. And a large section of the First Hundred disappear, becoming the Lost Colony, without any warning.

As time goes on, more people arrive from Earth, different factions with different goals, and without cohesive goals or leadership, tensions start to rise. Big corporations start sending a ton of workers and “security,” sabotages start happening, people disappear–and Earth is no help, because Earth is also falling apart, due to global warming and increasing numbers of wars.

Eventually the “revolution” happens–a number of rebel factions, not coordinating with each other, attack, destroying towns (reliant on thin domes for their atmospheres) and killing people. The “security” forces retaliate, shooting down from orbit. There is mass chaos, with all these factions working for themselves and the Earth forces (mostly these corporate security forces as well as some UN-approved ones) trying to lock everything down. The space elevator is destroyed, crashing down to the planet. Phobos is destroyed. The First Hundred become targets–Earth is trying to peg them as scapegoats and ring leaders–and they manage to escape to the Lost Colony at the end.

SPOILERS over.

This was actually a fairly quick read, all things considered–depending on whose point of view the section is in. I found Nadia the easiest to read and Frank the hardest; I’m sure other people would feel differently. Even when the characters spend forever building habitats or exploring the vastness of Mars, the book never feels slow (though I admit I occasionally skimmed sections with a lot of place names, which just didn’t mean anything to me). It does a great job of showing what life might be like on Mars, and a great job presenting a number of characters who are obviously different from each other. I would recommend it if you like hard science fiction, especially near future stuff, or space exploration.

Also, apparently the first person walks on Mars by 2020, and colonizing by 2026, so we’d better get on it.

Did you read this with me, squiders? What did you think?

Green Mars is next. Let’s do the end of January for it, so we can get through the holidays without going crazy.