Salt-Man Z's reading journal: 2015
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The Book of the New Sun by Gene Wolfe - My fifth full read of the quartet, started in December. I will never be able to fully explain the love I have for this book.
The Urth of the New Sun by Gene Wolfe - The "coda" to TBotNS feels totally different from its predecessor—being both more overtly science fiction and spiritual—and that dissonance initially kept from rereading it alongside each TBotNS reread. But it gets better, more powerful, each time (this was my third) and I can't see myself not including it my semi-annual reread in the future. I still long for a nice leatherbound hardcover collecting all 5 books...
The Wurms of Blearmouth by Steven Erikson - Erikson's novella series (following a couple of side characters from his Malazan Book of the Fallen epic) is rather uneven, ranging from dull to fun to confusing to brilliant. The best entry before this didn't even hardly include the main characters! But Wurms is perfectly marvelous, pulling in a lot of the overarching themes from the Malazan saga into a bite-size (yet still satisfying) novella.
The Dresden Files: War Cry by Jim Butcher & Carlos Gomez - The third original-story comic book series set in the Dresden Files universe. It's also my least favorite of said original-story Dresden Files comics. Harry and a couple of Wardens are besieged by vampires in a house containing a terrible secret. It's not bad, and (as always) is a fun entry in the universe, but it's more or less forgettable.
Blood of Ambrose by James Enge - The first in a loose trilogy of stories about Morlock Ambrosious. I read my first Morlock story in the Swords and Dark Magic anthology and knew I had to read more, and it only took me a little over 4 years to do it! Ambrose is not at all what I expected: despite the occasional goofiness, it mostly presents itself as a perfectly-serious fantasy story, and the main character isn't even Morlock! Enge has no fear of shaking things up, so that at least half a dozen times the story veered off in a direction I could not have anticipated. Great stuff.
This Crooked Way by James Enge - The second Morlock book is a "fix-up" of previously-published short stories rewritten and interwoven with some new material to make a more-or-less cohesive narrative. It's a little weaker of a book because of that, but some of the individual stories are really good.
The Wolf Age by James Enge - The third book sees Morlock fall in with a society of werewolves. Enge just goes crazy creating a full-blown werewolf society, and his avoidance of the status quo and willingness to go absolutely anywhere with his stories makes this one completely unpredictable. The end comes out of absolutely nowhere, and, well...hrm. Let's just say that Enge has been writing a Morlock prequel trilogy, and I definitely need to track that down when it's finished.
I also read some various Morlock short stories on my Kindle: Traveller's Rest, A Book of Silences, and Fire and Sleet. They were all fine (more Morlock!) if not entirely memorable.
Some more catching up to do...
The Transformers: Dark Cybertron, Volume 2 by John Barber & James Roberts - So this is the second half of the big crossover between the two main Transformers titles. The whole thing is a bit uneven, and doesn't necessarily even make a ton of sense, but the conclusion hinges on some good character work, which redeems it in the end. Glad it's over, though, so the two title can once again go their separate ways.
The Transformers: More Than Meets the Eye, Volume 6 by James Roberts & Alex Milne - Oh, man. Awwww, man. I'd been waiting for this. This kicks off "Season 2" of the MTMTE comic, and the biggest and most exciting change comes as a direct result of the ending to the "Dark Cybertron" crossover. Megatron—as in, the big bad Decepticon founder and leader, Megatron—has renounced the Decepticon cause and become an Autobot. Beyond that, he's now captain ("Co-captain!" ~Rodimus) of the spaceship Lost Light as it re-commences its mission to seek out the legendary Knights of Cybertron. And it. Is. So. GOOD. Roberts always excels at character stuff, and he outdoes himself here with Megatron. Just phenomenal. And the gripping sci-fi adventures in the collected 6 issues is great stuff, too. I've already read it twice, and it convinced me to stop waiting for the collected editions and start buying the individual issues ("floppies") at the local comic shop every month. It's that fricking good, you guys. Seriously though, more people need to be reading this series.
Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie - Got this as part of the ER program last summer. I didn't feel in any rush to read/review it, though, since it had been out for a while and already won a ton of awards. Finally ended up picking it up my off nightstand at the end of February and almost couldn't put it down. The hype is well-deserved. Here's the mini-review I ended up writing:
"Though Leckie's pronoun usage is maddeningly distracting from the start (it makes sense in-story, I guess, but still comes across as pretty ham-fisted) the story itself is gripping as heck. Halfway through, it blew my mind. And as an added bonus, the ending wraps up nicely enough that it can still function as a standalone, even though it's the first in a trilogy. Easily the best science fiction book I've read in a couple of years."
And a quick current update before I finish catching up on March's reads:
"This Rich Evil Sound" by Steven Erikson - So I popped into Half Price Books yesterday to peruse the clearance rack (as you do) and found a hardcover copy of Postscripts #10 for $2. It's got a story in it by Steven Erikson (one of my 3 favorite authors) that's only available in an older, probably even rarer, collection, so I had to snap it up. Read the story almost as soon as I got home, and it was just beautiful. Depressing, and sad, yes, but the way Erikson builds an atmosphere of mounting dread couched in the gorgeously vivid imagery of a harsh and silent Manitoba winter is just amazing. This one's gonna stick with me, I think.
I'ma give up on catching up for now. Two of the books I'm skipping over I did full-blown reviews for, and you can read those here:
My review of Dead Boys by Gabriel Squailia
My review of The Fold by Peter Clines
And now back to your regularly-scheduled reading journal:
Quest for Tomorrow series by William Shatner
In Alien Hands
Step Into Chaos
Beyond the Stars
I got the first book in this series as a gift from my parents way back in 1997, and slowly picked the others up at Half Price Books as I came across them. I finally found the 3rd book (the last one I was missing) this February, and resolved to read it this year. I'm not one for reading back-of-the-book blurbs, as they can spoil more than I'd like—and I find it more fun to go into a book blind anyway—but one of them (book 4) caught my eye a number of years ago which got me intrigued.
Anyway, medium spoilers for a 15-year-old series no one's likely to read:
The series revolves around Jim Endicott, a teenager who's mother encoded some Big Secret into his DNA. The first book sees him hunted by the human government for the secrets he (unknowingly) holds. Nothing special, but an enjoyable enough read. The second book explodes into galactic politics, introducing two advanced alien races that take an interest in Jim. The stakes are raised, etc. The third book expands the scope yet again, going completely cosmic/multiversal at the end, and pulls the most impressive trick in the series: Jim uses his powers to go back in time shortly before he was born and "nudge" history just enough to wipe out the current timeline and set history on a different course. The epilogue of book 3 revisits an early scene from the first book, but with a radically different ending. Cool. The last two books then take place in a splinter timeline, and tell their own completely-unrelated, self-contained story starring Jim Endicott. It's another entertaining story, but it features another Threat To Humanity plot featuring two previously-unseen alien race and, outside the briefest of mentions, completely ignores all of the background of the first three books, making it difficult to feel comfortable with the arc's resolution, knowing most of the dangers from the first half of the series are still Out There and active.
Perfectly enjoyable popcorn space opera, though. They read quickly and throw a couple of interesting concepts out there. I give each book (and the series as a whole) my baseline "I enjoyed it" rating,
Ha-ha, apparently I gave up on catching up and keeping up. I'm reviving this thread now so that I can jot my thoughts down on some short stories as I read them:
The Gods of H.P. Lovecraft ed. by Aaron J. French - This was my latest ER win, which means I owe them a review for it. I've been terrible at reviewing recently, so I need to a better job with this one. So here are some notes on the stories so I can recall them when review time comes:
"Call the Name" by Adam LG Nevill - A very moody story about apocalyptic climate change heralding Cthulhu's awakening in the 2050s. Dunno what it is about climate change stories, but I find them truly terrifying (Steven Erikson's The Devil Delivered is another fantastic example.)
"The Dark Gates" by Martha Wells - This was a weird one. The hallmark of Lovecraft's work is the supernatural horror lurking just beyond the edges of the real world. And yet...this story doesn't take place anywhere near the real world. Instead, it's some weird urban fantasy-meets-steampunk-style offshoot of our own that features dirigibles, sorcerers, and human/faery half-breeds. So I was biased against this story going in—or, rather, as the nature of the story's world unfolded. For all that, it's a fun little caper. And if I had to rationalize its setting, surely it would be the case that if Yog-Sothoth (whom this story concerns) is the keeper of all the gates in the universe, then some of them must lead to other, alternate Earths.
The Gods of H.P. Lovecraft ed. by Aaron French - It strikes me that Lovecraft didn't reveal much about his mythological entities, at least not to the extent that they're being explored in these stories. So it feels weird reading some of this stuff—mostly the after-story blurbs about each individual "god" (and yes, many of the entities represented in these stories aren't gods at all, but "Various Races and Entities of H.P. Lovecraft" would have made for a less attractive title.) Anyway, the blurbs are all very concrete about each creature's motives and behaviors and I feel like HPL was much more vague about his creations. I know a ton of other authors have played with his mythos, both back in the day up through the present—particularly August Derleth, who apparently injected a lot of Catholic good/evil stuff in. I haven't read any Lovecraft stuff outside of HPL himself, so I can't help but think that this book is based more on the "Lovecraft expanded universe" than Lovecraft proper. Doesn't make the stories poorer, it just feels "off", like the book leans more toward "fanfic" than anything else. Anyway, on to more of the stories:
"We Smoke the Northern Lights" by Laird Barron - This was...weird. Some kind of alt-history maybe? Sci-story set in the mid-20th century with a recovered space probe and some time travel, AI, preteens of a powerful tech family trained in Asia to be killers... Just bizarre. And that's without mentioning the mysterious entity "Tom" who appears at the beginning and end, and is never explained (and is maybe Nyarlathotep?) Actually a very cool story, but holy cow is it out there.
"Petohtalrayn" by Bentley Little - A more straightforward about a student who delves into the history of Nyarlathotep and gets maybe more than he bargained for. Pretty nasty at the end.
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