Tuesday, August 30, 2005

An Interesting And Popular Saga That, Somehow, I've Missed

The Bloody Sun is not only the first Darkover novel I’ve read; it’s also the first novel by Marion Zimmer Bradley I’ve ever read. After reading it, I can see that I’ve missed out on a lot of good stuff.

This is the story of Jeff Kerwin, who is half-Terran and half-Darkovan. He was raised by Terrans, but as an adult, he returns to Darkover, the planet he thinks of as home. Once there, he learns that he is descended from the Darkovan lords and is heir to their psychic abilities. He is soon accused of betraying Darkover to his Terran masters.

This book is extremely exciting. There are fight scenes, several mysteries, and a surprise twist that even I didn’t see coming. It’s definitely interesting enough to make me put the rest of the Darkover novels on my want list. Just about the only bad thing I have to say about this book is that it’s no longer available except in an omnibus edition—I was lucky enough to get my copy second hand. Anyway, I love omnibus editions, so I’d recommend buying it. I give The Bloody Sun 5 yo-yos.

Up next, The Book of Years, Volume 1

Friday, August 26, 2005

The Dead and the Undead

Vamphyri! is the second book in Brian Lumley’s popular Necroscope seriesI had previously read, and immensely enjoyed, volume 1, Necroscope. While I didn’t think this book was quite as good as its predecessor, I still thought it was exceptionally good.

This book tells the story of Harry Keogh, the vampiric Yulian Bodescu, and the British and Russian ESP spy groups. As the novel begins, Harry—the necroscope—is slightly dead, and sharing the body of his infant son. He discovers that the vampires, who he believed had been exterminated in the previous book, were not quite gone yet. Yulian Bodescu had been infected with the vampiric taint while still in the womb, making hm a half vampire. Now the ghost of the master vampire Thibor Ferenczy plans to use Yulian to return to life, but with the combined help of the two ESP branches, Harry tries to destroy the vampires once and for all.

As I said, I didn’t like this book quite as much as the original, mainly because Harry wasn’t in it quite as much. However, this book does have much of interest. We get the life story of Thibor Herenczy and his maker. We get to know other members of the British psychic spies. We get to meet a vampire who’s even more horrible than the one from the last book. The plot is excellent, and the writing is well up to par.

I definitely think this book is well worth reading, though you should definitely read the first volume first. I give this book 4.5 yo-yos.

Up next, I'm reading Marion Zimmer Bradley's Bloody Sun.

Monday, August 22, 2005


I just finished The nonexistent Knight & The Cloven Viscount by Italo Calvino, and I am very impressed. I'd never actually heard of Calvino before, but I stumbled across this book at a book sale, and since it was only $1, I bought it. Now I feel like one of those people who by an old painting in a junk store for a few bucks and later on find out it's worth thousands of dollars.

Before I get any farther I'd like to point out that these stories were originally written in Italian, and this edition is translated. I can't say with absolute certainty how much of my enjoyment comes from Calvino and how much comes from the translator. I'm going to assume that most (if not all) of it comes from Calvino.

This book contains two fantasy novellas. The first is "The nonexistent Knight," the story of an animated suit of armor called Sir Agilulf. He is a paladin in Charlemagne's army, who gained the knighthood by rescuing a noble virgin from rape. Another knight claims that the noblewoman was not a virgin and therefore Sir Agilulf is not a knight. So, Sir Agilulf goes off to search for the woman.

"The Cloven Viscount" is the story of a viscount who is bisected by a cannonball during a war. Only his right half returns home, but that half is evil. He sets about being wicked and eventually falls in love. Soon his other (good) half returns and falls in love with the same girl. Eventually, they fight it out.

Both stories were exciting and humorous. I found all the characters to be interesting and well fleshed out. My favorite character had to be Sir Agilulf's squire Gurduloo, who seemed to be either a lunatic or a nature spirit. I also found it interesting that Calvino made the viscount's left half the good half, when the left is usually viewed as sinister; it makes me wonder if Calvino was left handed.

Anyway, I definitely recommend this book. It gets 5 yo-yos.

Up next, I'll be reading Brian Lumley's Vamphyri!. If anyone has any suggestions on what I should read next (see previous post), please leave a comment. In fact, if anyone is reading this, please leave a comment.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Almost Painfully Mediocre

Today's book is The Charmed Sphere, by Catherine Asaro. This isn't the sort of book I'd normally read. I picked it up because I knew I'd be going to the laundromat, and I wanted something to read while I was doing laundry. The back cover made the book sound moderately interesting, though I did wonder why I'd never heard of the publisher--Luna Books. Once I got home, I discovered that Luna Books was an imprint of Harlequin Romance. I'd picked up a Romance Novel!

As a man, I normally stay away from romance novels. If this is a typical example of how romance novels are written, I can see that I made a wise choice in doing so; this book was very mediocre. The characters were mostly two dimensional, and the villains could have walked out of an old-fashioned melodrama. The pacing was extremely slow, and I found the plot to lack any real conflict. Okay, there was a battle or two, but really, two almost evenly sized armies with six powerful mages on the heroes' side and only one on the villain's, isn't much of a fight.

The book wasn't totally worthless, however. I found the idea of mages who work magic using shapes and colors to be interesting. The characters of Chime, Muller, and King Jarid were actually fairly well drawn (unfortunately they were the only characters who were).

I'd give this book a mediocre, 3 yo-yos.

I recently managed to get my hands on a bunch of "new" books. I bought three books at Borders, then I went to visit my dad at the rehabilitation center where he's recovering from a stroke, and they were having a used book sale, so I bought nine more. My next book is most likely going to be Italo Calvino's The Nonexistant Knight & The Cloven Viscount, which so far is excellent! After that I'm not so sure. Here's my list (in no particular order), and if any readers have suggestions on what to read next, please leave a comment:

Stephen King's Danse Macabre
David Brin's Startide Rising
Arthur C. Clarke's Childhood's End
Marion Zimmer Bradley's The Bloody Sun
Scott McGough's Outlaw: Champions of Kamigawa (Magic: The Gathering: Kamigawa Cycle)
Orson Scott Card's Lost Boys
Dennis McCarty's Flight to Thlassa Mey
Castle Fantastic
Brian Lumley's Vamphyri!
Peter Morwood's Book of Years Volume #1
Richard M. Dorson's American Negro Folktales

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

An amateurish piece of crap

Normally, I don't review movies very often, but when I rent one that is a god-awful piece of crap, I feel obligated to warn people against (if I ever rent something that is unexpectedly great, I'll probably review that too). Anyway, this past weekend,
I rented several movies, one of which was Dead Life.

This is the most amateurish movie I have ever seen. The acting ranged from horrible to mediocre. The film seemed to have been shot on an old-fashioned home-movie camera, by someone who'd never held a camera before. The sound was so bad in spots that the dialogue was indecipherable. The lighting was poor, as there were several scenes where it was either too dark or too light to see properly. The writing was just horrible, with a nonsensical plot and dialogue that sounds like it was written by a high school student. Don't think that the movie was completely terrible, they seem to have actually spent some money on the gore make up. Unfortunately, that was the only thing they seem to have put any money or effort into.

Stay away from this movie. I give it 1 yo-yos.

An excursion into SF

Ok, I decided to abandon re-reading Charles Fort, and switched over to Kim Stanley Robinson's Red Mars. This isn't the sort of SF I normally read. Generally, when I read science fiction, I prefer space opera to hard SF, and this book is closer to hard SF than to space opera. Still, I found it to be a very engrossing work. Mr. Robinson, has a real talent for creating vivid, memorable characters.

The story is about the colonization of Mars told by its first settlers. These settlers, called the First Hundred, who are a group of scientists. Soon after their arrival, other colonists follow, as do the big, bad corporations, who want to rule Mars and plunder it for profit. Soon many of the colonists rebel, and all Hell breaks lose.

It's a tale of political intrigue and scientific exploration. I found that I was interested by the politics, but not so much by the science; whenever I came to a bit where the characters would discuss the science, I'd skip over it. The characters range from iodealists to revolutionaries to political schemers to more-or-less ordinary people. Each of the sections in the book are told from the point of view of one of these characters, and it makes for a very interesting perspective.

The only thing I don't like about this book is the hard science, and that's just a matter of taste. So, I'll give it 4 yo-yos.

Up next, I'm reading something a little different: The Charmed Sphere by Catherine Asaro.