Sunday Status Update: May 1, 2016

This week, Red Sonja addresses the subject of dragon-slaying.

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews Red Sonja: Why is it that you never run into a little dragon? I mean, they used to be fairly common, didn’t they? Little terrier-sized and horse-sized dragons? Seems like it would be sensible to kill them at that age, before they can grow into monstrous barn-sized death machines that can carry off a cow in each claw and devastate the local economy just by being around. But no one ever seems to figure this out. They never go on dragon hunts to keep the population in check. No, they wait until it’s so big its wings can shadow an entire castle, and it’s got the royal riches for its horde and devoured or torched most of the villagers except for those omnipresent hollow-eyed minstrels plunking out gloomy dirges about claws like spears and wings of terror. Then, then, you come to me. You butter me up and you tell me what great things you’ve heard about my heroics, and then you tell me I can ask for whatever I like so long as I go off and kill that giant murderous fire-breathing lizard. And that’s when I laugh in your face, because I am just a woman who hits things with my three-foot piece of metal. On a good day, I might be able to slay a smallish bear. No, keep the money and goooood luck.

João: I finished Ian Esslemont’s The Return of the Crimson Guard which I enjoyed very much and thought was a nice break from the Erickson books. While there were parts I wasn’t a big fan of, particularly Ghelel’s storyline which could have been cut, and some characterization problems, this one is much stronger than Night of Knives. I am moving onto Toll the Hounds but my copy has yet to arrive and I am not in a huge rush to read it, partly because I am a bit tired of it all and want to rest for a while (though I won’t read any other fiction because I want to be able to say that I went through them all in succession, for whatever that’s worth).

Kevin: WOW! This week, I was blown away by Lois McMaster Bujold’s VORKOSIGAN SAGA. I’d been familiar with her Chalion books and meant to get to the VORKOSIGAN SAGA earlier, and I’m quite glad to have finally reached that point on my to-read list. Since Bujold wrote the Saga a little out of chronological order, I’m reading the novels in a different order than publishing order. It’s been three days, and I’ve devoured Shards of Honor, Barrayar, The Warrior’s Apprentice,The Vor Game, and Cetaganda. This series is definitely something sci-fi/space opera fans should check out; I’d recommend starting with The Warrior’s Apprentice, as the previous two novels in chronological order aren’t quite as excellent as the ones about our protagonist, Miles Vorkosigan. Happy reading!

Marion: I finished Eudora Welty’s 1972 Pulitzer-Prize-winning novel The Optimist’s Daughter, which I enjoyed, but had a few problems with. Even with the problems, Welty’s prose is a like a long walk along the seaside, or around a placid lake. I read Alex Grecian’s The Yard, a history-mystery set in Scotland Yard in the immediate aftermath of Jack the Ripper’s murders. The story moved right along, with a bushel of characters and if there were a few (dozen) anachronisms… well, not everything’s perfect. It’s clearly the first book of a series. I was positive that BBC’s Ripper Street was based on this book, but apparently not… it just has the same time period, the same premise and similar characters. I also finished Caliban’s War, by James S.A. Corey, and thoroughly enjoyed it! I’ll be going out to buy the third book in THE EXPANSE series soon. Today (Friday) I cracked open Louise Erdrich’s magical-realistic novel The Antelope Wife.

StuartPeter Watts‘ Blindsight (2006) was one of my favorite hard SF books in years, but the sequel Echopraxia (2014) was a big disappointment. I’ve been determined to tackle more hard SF, so I listened to Greg Egan‘s Quarantine (1992), all about quantum physics, eigenstates, consciousness, wave collapse and altered reality. Pretty heavy-duty concepts, but very interesting. The audiobook, however, features one of the most pilloried narrators I’ve seen on Audible, Adam Epstein. His “foreign accents” are comically inept, if not downright insulting, and overall he’s pretty amateur, but as the audiobook was only $1.99, you get what you pay for. Next on the list is Egan’s Permutation City (1994), which Joao really loved. In comics, I’m midway through Vol 4: Season of Mists of Neil Gaiman‘s SANDMAN series, and re-read Vol 1: Preludes and Nocturnes and Vol 2: The Doll’s House. You really gain a lot of insight the second time around, since the stories are subtly connected. 

Tadiana: In the last few days I’ve finished my rereads of two great books, Richard Adams‘ Watership Down and Brandon Sanderson‘s Mistborn: The Final Empire. I also read Rider of the Crown, Melissa McShane‘s more adventuresome sequel to her romantic fantasy Servant of the Crown, set 25 or 30 years later. I like both books quite a lot, but in different ways. For my ongoing 2016 Classics Bingo challenge with a Goodreads group, I read a 1943 Newbery Award Winner, Adam of the Road, set in medieval England, and have begun reading Daphne du Maurer’s Rebecca.

Tim: This week, I read a lot of old Doctor Strange comics. I often have an unreasonable affection for Silver and Bronze-age comic books — if nothing else, they are at least rarely embarrassed of themselves, so I can retreat to them whenever all the tongue-in-cheek winking and lampshading in certain modern works gets a bit wearying — but there were definitely points in this read-through where I felt a bit more embarrassment would have served the authors well. One on occasion, Strange is hard up for money and sinks so low that he contemplates performing a “magic show,” only to be told that magic isn’t selling tickets like it used to. The anxious sorcerer reflects that there must be some way of settling up his financial woes, but the usual villain attacks distract him before he can start an enchanted car wash or something. Later on, when his servant reminds him of their monetary troubles, Strange waves his hand and makes cash out of thin air. The matter never comes up again. Also, that is either counterfeiting or theft, so… yeah. Your superhero, ladies and gentleman. Still, at least the art is good, after a lamentable first few issues, and there’s some dorky fun to be had in seeing characters loudly talking to themselves in otherwise empty rooms about how terrified they are of The Dread Dormammu (a flame-headed alter-dimensional tyrant clad in what appears to be a hot pink diving suit).


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TIM SCHEIDLER, who’s been with us since June 2011, holds a Master’s Degree in Popular Literature from Trinity College Dublin. Tim enjoys many authors, but particularly loves J.R.R. Tolkien, Robin Hobb, George R.R. Martin, Neil Gaiman, and Susanna Clarke. When he’s not reading, Tim enjoys traveling, playing music, writing in any shape or form, and pretending he’s an athlete.

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10 comments

  1. Tadiana, I’ve also quite enjoyed McShane’s The Crown of Tremontane series. I think Servant is still my favorite, but all the books are enjoyable. Exile of the Crown tells more of Zara’s story. I first read The Smoke-Scented Girl–which is also interesting but so stand-alone (I think).

    • Melita, I loved Servant of the Crown–in fact, I reread most of it before reading Rider. It’s a very romance-driven story but sometimes those really hit the spot for me. I haven’t read Exile yet but it’s in my short-term plans. I thought Smoke-Scented Girl was a superb story, especially for an indie author. At least so far, that one’s a stand-alone story. I’ve only reviewed it on Goodreads (this was before I joined Fantasy Literature) but one of these times I’ll polish up that review and have it posted here as well.

  2. Red Sonja and Tim’s comments were particularly funny this week – I think they should get together for a coffee or quest or something!

  3. Kevin, you really plowed through 5 Miles Vorkosigan books in three days? I really have to revisit that series again, I really loved them back in the day.

  4. sandy ferber /

    Tim, are we talking about the “Doctor Strange” comics of the late ’60s that used to be drawn by Steve Ditko? I used to love those, back when! What a style that Ditko had! https://www.blackgate.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/Steve-Ditkos-Doctor-Strange.jpg

    • Exactly the comics! The art is pretty incredible, though again, I find the writing a bit haphazard. Dr. Strange clearly wasn’t a character they were pouring a lot of resources into for most of his early career. He had his moments here and there, but for the most part I’m being carried along by the weird vibe and that artwork more than by the authorship.

      • sandy ferber /

        I agree with you, Tim…I tend to recall Ditko’s amazing artwork more than the story lines of those ’60s “Doctor Strange” comics. Do you think Benedict Bandersnatch will do a credible job in the role? I still haven’t forgiven him for that last “Star Trek” movie yet….

  5. Kevin, I’m with you on the Vorkosigan series … except that Shards of Honor (Cordelia’s story) is one of my favorites in the series. I love her POV, though Miles is great. You’re coming up on Mirror Dance, which is another of my favorites.

    • April /

      An excellent series. In audio is even better. I plan on revisiting these very soon.

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