Salt-Man Z's reading journal: 2014
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◄◄◄ Continuing on from my 2013 journal:
Yearly threads seem to be the trend, so I might as well follow suit. I should have my 2013 retrospective blog post put together in the next week or so; I'll link that here instead of the 2013 thread. In the meantime:
The Wounded Land by Stephen R. Donaldon - Diving back into my Covenant reread (building up to The Last Dark.) I'm setting aside The Book of the New Sun for the time being; I just don't have the time to reread it in full again, and rereading just The Shadow of the Torturer seems to have scratched my BotNS itch for now. Anyway, I've always had a soft spot for the Second Chronicles, as they're such a departure from the First: Linden Avery, the Sunbane, the world beyond The Land; all very cool. The Sunbane in particular captured my imagination the first time. So far I've only reread the 3 chapters of the prologue; once again, I find myself enjoying it more than I feel I did the first time around. (Doesn't make the whole Lord Foul cult sacrifice thing any less weird, though.)
I've been contemplating a Donaldson re-read lately, too - before finishing out his series. Been too long since I read the first ones. It's a curiosity point, now, what I will make of the series from a different life perspective. The books have enough depth to them that I don't fear the suck fairy.
The Transformers Classics UK, Volume 1 by Simon Furman, et al - Oh, man, this is so cool, you guys. The original Marvel Transformers comic started 30 years ago, and hooked me but good when I was young. What I didn't know at the time was that over in England, not only was Marvel UK reprinting the US comic, but they were also writing their own original stories that interweaved with the US stories; Transformers UK ran 300+ issues and featured hundreds of issues' worth of stories that didn't make it stateside for a long time. Within the last 10 years, many of the UK-exclusive stories were reprinted in the US by Titan Books or IDW, but not all of them. Finally, the volumes of The Transformers Classics UK (4 out right now, out of what I'd guess will be 7 or 8 giant TPBs) collect all of the TFUK original stories! I've quite literally been dreaming about finding all of these issues in comic book stores or garage sales or wherever for 20 years now, and to hold the first 4 volumes in my hands (thanks to Christmas money from my grandma) is pretty amazing. The stories themselves (at this early point) are okay, the art's a little weird at times, and the scanning job is less consistent than I'd prefer; but just the fact that these volumes exist now, coupled with the dozens and dozens of pages of history, background, and interviews compiled by fan and writer James Roberts, is nothing short of a dream come true.
The Wounded Land - Holy crud, I love this book. Couldn't put it down yesterday, and I'm now 2/3 through. There's just something about a "return after hundreds of years to find everything ruined/changed" story that particularly resonates with me. I've been trying to think why that is. I know when I was little I had a dream where my brother and I rode our Big Wheels around the side of our house into a beautiful flower-filled field; sometime later, I had the same dream, except this time the field had become a lifeless, barren plain of mud. Prince Caspian (which was read to me as a child) fits this trope, as does the "Return to Oz" movie. Regardless, TWL has this in spades (the Sunbane! the Clave!) and is my favorite of the Covenant books at this point.
I never went past the 1st one because I couldn't suffer the "unbeliever" part. That's how I noticed I do want to believe in my fantasy! I liked every other book by Donaldson so I really should try the Chronicles again.
The thing is, as a leper, Covenant can't afford to believe in the reality of the Land, or the power of his white gold ring. He doesn't want to believe, but certainly Donaldson works to make the Land "real" to the reader; by the Second Chronicles (if not by The Illearth War) it's made pretty clear that the land is real, regardless of Covenant's doubts. But unbelief forms the crux of the main trilogy; as Covenant discovers by the end of the third book (and as he articulates to Linden Avery in The Wounded Land) it doesn't actually matter if the Land is just a delusion or dream (as he believes it to be): what matters are the Land's need, and his actions there. Even if it isn't real, he needs to act as if it were, which I found to be a pretty neat message.
I have the Thomas Covenant books here somewhere. You've made me curious - I may need to give them a try.
^ You should!
The Transformers Classics UK, Volume 2 by Simon Furman, et al - Decent stories, but (and I've always felt this way about the few TFUK stories I've read) the 11-pages-per-issue format just doesn't do it for me. I just don't get immersed into the story. And it certainly doesn't help when 1-2 out of every 11 pages are spent recapping previous events! And whoever did the Photoshop cleanup on these scans was just being lazy; it's most noticeable with the speech bubbles, which have obviously been brightened up, but only with a single click of the bucket tool: the insides of letters (like O, A, R, etc.) as well as the spaces between tightly-spaced letters are still dark—and it's pretty distracting at times. Still, this is a solid collection, and James Roberts' detailed backgrounds and histories are fantastic as usual.
The Transformers: More Than Meets the Eye (Volumes 4 & 5) by James Roberts & Alex Milne - Just...just phenomenal. THIS COMIC, you guys. Wow. (See also my journal entries on previous volumes.)
The Transformers Classics UK (Volumes 3 & 4) by Simon Furman, et al - These volumes are where the UK stuff starts to really diverge from the US stuff—not they're not compatible, it's just at this point that the UK series begins to incorporate the Movie cast (which the US will continue ignore.) A lot of classic UK stuff starts here, some of which I'd only known about second-hand: Target 2006 (the reprint collection of which I actually already own), Optimus back on Cybertron, Megatron's body possessed by Straxus, the debut of Death's Head. Good stuff, but it feels like the best is just yet to come.
The Wounded Land - So good, though it did start to drag a little when Covenant's party made the trip clean across the map from Revelston to Seareach. And I'm not sure I ever made the connection before, but surely the skest (child-like acid creatures) are the same things that later turn up in Mordant's Need? Anyway, again this was a better time 'round; I found myself actually getting emotional during the caamora at Coercri. Great book.
Welcome to the Jungle by Jim Butcher - In anticipation of my hardcover of Ghoul Goblin arriving this weekend (fingers crossed) last night I did a reread of the first Dresden Files graphic novel. Not great, but still a solid entry to the universe, and Dresden's voice throughout is fantastic. (My favorite part is still the panel whose caption tells of a stop for "indispensable wizarding supplies", while the art shows Dresden rolling through a burger drive-through.)
The One Tree by Stephen R. Donaldson - As soon as I put down The Wounded Land, I told myself, "I have to finish Stonewielder before I start the next book." Ha-ha. That vow survived for about 12 hours.
Stonewielder - There's no way I'm finishing this before the Dust of Dreams reread starts up, so I've just set myself the low bar of making sure I read 10-15 pages of this each night before anything else. Two nights down, three weeks to go...
I'm confused about Ghoul Goblin, when I went to look at Amazon, there were #1, #4, #6 and so on. Is this a graphic novel series? Or are those small parts from the completed whole?
It's a six-issue series; I bought the hardcover collection. (Look for ISBN 1606904388).
Ghoul Goblin by Jim Butcher, Mark Powers & Joe Cooper - This is the second original graphic novel set in the Dresden Files universe. The first was Welcome to Jungle (see above), which was followed by adaptations of Storm Front and Fool Moon (neither of which I've read.) Ghoul Goblin takes place immediately after Fool Moon, and sees Harry leave Chicago to take a case involving a family curse. The writing credits simply say "Jim Butcher & Mark Powers", so I have no idea how much of this is strictly Butcher and how much is not. The narration and dialogue nails Harry's voice, but it doesn't have the same memorable lines that WttJ did. But it's a meatier story than the previous one, spanning 6 issues instead of 4, so it feels more involved. Unfortunately, the ending seems a bit rushed, with an almost-literal deus ex machina coming out of left field. I really dig Joseph Cooper's take on Harry; he's a little more cartoony and simultaneously less comic-booky than Ardian Syaf's version from WttJ; lankier, and more goofy and vulnerable. If I had to pick a favorite I could go either way, but gun to my head I'd probably have to go with Cooper. The only hitch in the artwork (at least compared to WttJ) is that it has a very rough, unfinished feeling. There's no inker credited, so I'm assuming we're just looking at Cooper's finished pencils. The coloring is glorious, though. Overall, it's a Harry Dresden story, which automatically means I enjoyed it, and I think I like it better having gotten to ponder it for a couple of days. I'm not sure it's worth the $25 cover price for the hardcover version, but you can find it cheaper online (I got mine for $14 plus shipping.) One thing the hardcover has going for it is (what I assume to be) a faux-leather finish, plus Butcher's original outline for the story; it's interesting to see the deviations the finished product took from the original write-up.
I keep going back and forth on this. I think I won't get it at this time though. I've kind of cooled off of Butcher since the last two novels, and I'm thinking I would rather start from the beginning of the series and read through it again instead of purchasing more stuff like this. I thought you were the one who got me started on Butcher? Maybe it was AHWolfy? Hmm. Thanks for the review, it was very helpful.
You're welcome! Maybe it was Wolfy, but I think I tipped you off to Welcome to the Jungle, at least.
I do like to have these kind of odds-and-ends for Dresden, though; someday when I finally reread them, I want to do it all in chronological order. :)
The One Tree - I always thought this was a fun, episodic romp with lots of "Holy cow!" moments. It can also be a bit draggy at times: Linden's depressed, then Covenant's catatonic, then Linden's catatonic, etc. But it really is just so good. I don't know why I wasn't madly in love with this series the first time. I really liked it then, but I love it now. Officially halfway through the Complete Chronicles now. I'll hold off on starting White Gold Wielder for just a bit, until I can get a little more caught up in some other books. (Yeah, we'll see.)
The Aleph by Jorge Luis Borges - My copy of the complete Collected Fictions (which I highly recommend to everybody) has been sitting on my nightstand since I got it, and last week I got the urge to reread "The Aleph" (which I had read last year by the same translator in The Weird anthology.) Man, I love that story (about a single point in space where all of existence can be seen simultaneously) even though it is pretty rambling for the first 75% or so. But the end gets me every time; I can quote it by heart now: "Our mind are permeable to forgetfulness. I myself am distorting and losing, through the tragic erosion of the years, the features of Beatriz." After that, I decided I might as well read the entirety of The Aleph, though I've read roughly half of it in another translation in Labyrinths.
Dust of Dreams by Steven Erikson - Started this last week for the Tor.com reread. Hooray! The penultimate volume of the Malazan Book of the Fallen, I've only read it once before, so I've been really looking forward to this reread, especially since we'll be doing it back-to-back with the finale, The Crippled God.
Robots in Disguise, Volume 4 by John Barber & Andrew Griffith - Another solid collection. Things really ramp up with the return of Megatron and the manipulations of Prowl, but things are much more than meets the eye! A nice twist ending, too. This series may play second fiddle to Robert's MTMTE, but man, it's a solid book in its own right.
White Gold Wielder by Stephen R. Donaldson - Halfway through this now. My initial memory—that the trek across the ice wastes back to the Land was interminable—was not in error; the first third-to-half of this book drags. But now we're back in action, with Covenant on his way to face down the Clave. Back to the good stuff.
Dust of Dreams - I had (and still am having) such a hard time keeping up with the Stonewielder reread. And then we have Erikson's book, which is so much denser and richer, and the pages just fly by; I can crank through a 3-page chapter like it's nothing. Even though not much has happened 200 pages in, the writing is just that good.
saltmanz, funny story about these books. I was at a friend's house and he pulled them from a box of childhood items and starting talking about how the Thomas Covenant books where his favorite in high school and he still remembers them and they were just the best. He rarely speaks that way about books, so I decided to purchase them from amazon then and there. Problem being, I was using a very tiny smart phone and I'd had WAY too much to drink (Some people drunk-text ex-boyfriends. I buy books. The curse of a bibliophile). So, I ended up buying this hodge-podge of Covenant books, doubles and such. I ended up giving the extras to him, and he bought entire new set because his old ones where falling apart.
All this nonsense just to say that one 1) I should never buy books while drunk and 2) I haven't yet started to read these and they are already endeared to me!
@16 empress: Funny story! You should definitely read the books. :)
@17 Jim: I honestly don't remember a thing about the end of WGW, beyond
@16/19: I can't stand the taste of alcohol in any amount, so I don't drink; but with Amazon one-click shopping a fingertip away on my phone, that's probably a very good thing! :D
White Gold Wielder - I just have to make a note here. Donaldson has said that when he conceived the Second Chronicles, he came up with the Last Chronicles as well, and planted seeds in the former to enable him to eventually write the latter. Rereading WGW I came across this passage where Covenant speaks to the Haruchai Cail:
Mind = blown.
White Gold Wielder - Yep, it was good. Wow. And uplifting, like Jim53 says. And now I'm in love with Pitchwife's poem, "My Heart Has Rooms".
My heart has rooms that sigh with dust
The Runes of the Earth by Stephen R. Donaldson - I couldn't not start in on this. I've already read the entire prologue (5 chapters, 85 pages.) It's nice being able to read this immediately following WGW and catching all the references. (Heck, the prologue is titled "My Heart Has Rooms".) I remember when I first read TRotE, I thought the language felt a bit different than the previous 6 books, and it does this time, too. I think (so far) the difference is that there's a lot of dialogue and action in the "real world" portion. The First Chronicles were from leper outcast Covenant's POV, so there wasn't a lot of human interaction, and in the Second, it was from Linden's POV, but limited to interactions between Dr. Berenford and (of course) Covenant himself. This time around, though, you've got Linden at her job, at her home, interacting with coworkers and family, etc. But now we're off to the Land again at last, so we'll see how things go from here out!
The Runes of the Earth - I don't why I don't love this book more. It just feels different, and I can't really put a finger on why. I feel like I should be able to give it four stars, but I just can't pull the proverbial trigger. That's a heckuva cliffhanger ending, though.
Fatal Revenant by Stephen R. Donaldson - Loving this so far (about 100 pages in.) Covenant's back, but he's being an absolute a-hole to Linden. It's almost grating to read, but the mystery involved is super-intriguing. I'm hooked.
I'm still alive! Just not been reading as much lately (I blame DOOM, as usual.)
Fatal Revenant - Wow! This was fantastic. I almost gave it 4.5 stars, but the second half was considerably weaker (slower) than the first. A nice cliffhanger ending, too, though it could have used a little more "punch". Definitely the highlight of the Last Chronicles so far!
Against All Things Ending by Stephen R. Donaldson - The penultimate volume of the entire Chronicles. It initially had a working title of "Shall Pass Utterly", and I was sad when the change was announced, but now I have to admit it's one of my favorite book titles, period. And especially relevant given the final events in Fatal Revenant. Unfortunately, the book itself is not moving along very quickly (partly my fault, as mentioned above) but I'm now 100 pages into it, and mostly it's been people standing around talking in the same place they were at the end of last book. It looks like the real action's about to start with the next chapter, though, so cross your fingers!
I wouldn't hold your breath - I don't believe anyone moves until 3/4 in of the novel. Then everyone dashes about in the final book.
Against All Things Ending is a good title but the book itself is the weakest of the series.
@25: Well they teleported
William Shakespeare's The Empire Striketh Back by Ian Doescher - Got my ER copy (not an ARC! I love it when that happens) on Friday, started in on Saturday, and finished it up yesterday. It was so much better than I was expecting! When I heard about the first one—Verily, A New Hope :)—I thought, "That's cute, but I don't really care." When LTER offered up review copies of the second one, I thought, "Eh, why not?" I went in expecting (a) a tongue-in-cheek parody, and (b) that it would be dull to read. But neither of those things turned out to be true. Instead, it's a faithful adaptation that enriches the original story (the asides and soliloquies are fantastic) and the iambic pentameter is both easy to read and comprehend. (I was afraid I'd get lost in the meter and lose track of the actual words, as often happens to me with poetry, but nope!) I highly recommend it to anyone familiar with Star Wars.
For those curious for a taste, here's the epilogue, which I love:
Against All Things Ending - Actually finished this two weekends ago. It's a very slow book (with only a couple of set pieces) but that slowness is necessary for the story, I think. I especially loved how Linden's storyline turned out.
The Last Dark by Stephen R. Donaldson - This is it. The end. I'm about 1/3 of the way through. It's pretty good, but I'm waiting for it to get great. I see time travel is back into play, which I've been kind of ambivalent to throughout this series (though it was missing from the previous book.) Much like Matt Stover's Caine's Law, it looks like Donaldson is using his series finale to weave all his history neatly together.
The Last Dark - Wow. It's really over. It took a while, but here we are. This might be the weakest book in the series—it's pretty slow, and doesn't (IMO) pack the emotional punch of the First and Second finales—but it caps the entire Chronicles off in a way that's absolutely fitting.
Skin Game by Jim Butcher - Thanks to the unexpected generosity of another LTer, I received a copy of this long-awaited volume (the 15th in the series) in the mail! I held off for a few days to finish The Last Dark, but then tore through this in three days. Another fine Harry Dresden adventure, with the return of some favorite characters (both allies and enemies), some unexpected (for lack of a better term) "leveling up", and the resolution of a couple plot threads that have dangling for a while now: (massive spoiler)
Scourge of the Betrayer by Jeff Salyards - The author was kind enough to send me an early copy of Veil of the Deserters a month or so ago (though that book has since been published earlier this month), so I'm doing a quick reread of the first book to catch myself up first (and also because it was pretty darn good the first time around, and I've been wanting to reread it—and it's short enough to justify doing so.) Amusing story: I'm reading it on my Kindle this time around, but only because the hardcover is at the bottom of a 6-foot stack of books, and I don't want to go to the trouble of digging it out. :)
Good to hear Skin Game lives up to the others! I haven't read the spoilerish part of your post yet, since I haven't read the book. It's still in the pile next to my reading chair. Soon, soon.
"I haven't read the spoilerish part of your post yet, since I haven't read the book."
Yeah, you'll definitely want to avoid clicking on that. :D
>27 saltmanz: Curious about these two last lines of your hidden spoiler:
Our story endeth, though your hearts do burn,
And shall until the Jedi doth return.
Is that definitely what it says? Because "doth" is singular. I thought "the Jedi" was plural, referring to a group, like "the French." If so, it should say "do" in the last line, just as it does in the next-to-last. Or is it referring to one single specific Jedi as "the Jedi"?
I'm not a likely prospective reader of this book in any case, but I am interested when an author apes an archaic style. I agree with Ursula K. LeGuin, who said that no one should try to use those constructions without learning the grammar of them and getting it right.
@32: Yep, that's what it says. In fact, the title of the next book is William Shakespeare's The Jedi Doth Return. It could very well be that the singular is correct: by the end of Return of the Jedi, there is only one Jedi, and that's Luke.
I'm still alive! The reading bug has left me alone lately. Once again I blame the "vidja games" (DOOM has been consuming more and more of my time; there's been just so much amazing user-created content put out in the last 20 years, with more still being made every day.)
Anyway, most of my reading the past month and a half has been Transformer comic trades (borrowed from the library) or short stories from The Weird or Borges (back to working through The Aleph again).
The Transformers: Robots in Disguise, Volume 5 by John Barber, et al - Issues 17-22 of the series. Kinda treading water while gearing up for the big "Dark Cybertron" crossover event. The standouts here are the issues devoted to the backstories of Shockwave and Soundwave. Soundwave's in particular was great.
The Transformers: Dark Prelude by James Roberts & John Barber, et al - This volume collects the toy pack-in comics that were (again) put out to pave the way for "Dark Cybertron". Each issue is a "Spotlight" that focuses on a particular character: Orion Pax (before he became Optimus Prime), Thundercracker, Megatron, Bumblebee, Trailcutter, and Hoist. Megatron's issue is one of the best TF comics I've ever read, really getting inside Megs' head and his love/hate relationship with Starscream (not as slashy as it sounds); Nick Roche (writer and artist) is amazing. Orion Pax was a really fun story, if relatively unimportant. And Trailcutter and Hoist are basically missing episodes from Roberts' More Than Meets The Eye comic, which means they're hilarious and a lot of fun.
The Transformers: Dark Cybertron, Volume 1 by James Roberts & John Barber, et al - The first half of the big crossover event between RiD and MtMtE! The plot doesn't move a ton, and the threat is still kinda vague, but it's still a lot of fun—especially the portions with the MtMtE crew. The artwork is all over the place, with what feels like a dozen artists. But still enjoyable. Looking forward to the concluding volume, whenever that drops.
The Transformers: More Than Meets the Eye, Volume 1 by James Roberts, Nick Roche & Alex Milne - Reading "Dark Cybertron" got me in the mood to revisit the entire MtMtE series (of which I own the first 5 volumes.) I breezed through volume 1, and am currently 2/3 through volume 2. Not much to say that I didn't say last year; this really is the best TF comic series ever created.
The Crippled God by Steven Erikson - I finished Dust of Dreams back in May (don't think I mentioned that) and now we (by which I mean the Tor.com reread) are on the final book of the Book of the Fallen. We had a little over a month's break between books, which is better than the year or so that I endured the first throuhg. :) I'm picking up on a couple things here and there that I missed the first time, but nothing mindblowing yet. But again I notice how easy it is for me to read Erikson. Last night, I went to bed thinking I should try catching up for today's reread chapter, and when I saw it was over 25 pages (hardcover) I despaired—but the pages just whipped right by I was astounded.
Scourge of the Betrayer - Still plugging away at this one. I feel bad that it's taking so long, given how short it is (and that its far-longer sequel is sitting on my nightstand.) It's good, I just haven't been inclined to read it much. But I'm almost done now.
Chris casts Thread Necro! It's super effective!
I need to get my 2015 thread started, but I want to do a quick catch-up post here first.
I suffered quite a dip in reading from about August to November last year. Part of it was being bored on the book I was on, and part was DOOM rearing its head again: I spent a lot of nights playing DOOM instead of reading in bed like I normally do. I also read a lot of Transformers comics (thanks to a Humble Bundle deal) but I won't go into those here.
READ IN 2014
The Crippled God by Steven Erikson - Not a whole lot to say here, other than that it's even better the second time (as if there was any doubt.) Still a supremely satisfying conclusion to one of the most ambitious fantasy series written.
Scourge of the Betrayer by Jeff Salyards - An enjoyable military fantasy that really feels like a prologue to the rest of the series.
Veil of the Deserters by Jeff Salyards - The series' big picture finally starts to come into focus toward the end. Salyards has a deft ear for dialogue/banter, and it'll be interesting to see where the series goes from here.
Tomorrow and Tomorrow by Thomas Sweterlitsch - An ER win. Capsule review: "Sweterlitsch writes a taut and disturbing murder mystery, but the real star here is the near-future world he's created, subsumed in an unholy trinity of implanted technology, social media, and corporate advertising: vulgar, intrusive, and frighteningly plausible."
Assail by Ian C. Esslemont - This is the book that took me 2-1/2 months to read. It was just slow going. I appreciate it a bit more that I'm done with it than I did while reading it: it's a decent capstone to ICE's "Novels of the Malazan Empire", an admittedly-uneven series that nonetheless nicely fleshes out the Malazan world. Just wish this one had been more interesting.
Vampire Hunter D by Hideyuki Kikuchi - I found the first three books of this series on the clearance rack a couple years ago. I wanted something a little shorter/lighter, so decided to give them a try. The first one was...pretty bad. But it did get (relatively) interesting at the end.
Vampire Hunter D: Raiser of Gales by Hideyuki Kikuchi - I didn't totally hate the first book, so I gave #2 a try. Ended up setting it aside about 1/3 of the way through before picking it back up in January. It improves on the first book, but only marginally. I don't know if it's the translation that's terrible, or if the translator just superbly captured the awful prose style from the original Japanese. Either way, I'm not sure I'll ever read the third, and I even turned down the chance to pick more volumes up for $2 each.
William Shakespeare's The Jedi Doth Return by Ian Doescher - I loved The Empire Striketh Back, so when I got a good Half Price Books coupon, I used it to nab this. Not quite as good as Empire, but still pretty amazing. I can't wait to read the prequels (yes, they've been announced.)
Wolfy: I've never seen the anime, so maybe that helps? It was honestly very much like reading a cartoon (or a comic), where D would draw his sword in a sixth of a second! and he's so gorgeous and mysterious! The story itself was just OK, but the narrative voice drove me crazy: very informal and hyperbolic, and prone to expository dumps about the world or how D is so amazing.
This topic is not marked as primarily about any work, author or other topic.