‘Magician: Apprentice’ By Raymond E. Feist


I enjoyed it and I feel like it improved over the course of the book, but… I have a question for those who might know: did he shameless rip off Dungeons & Dragons or did D&D shamelessly rip off from Feist? Because the magic system seems like a good faith effort to justify/explain the D&D system of magic (which is all about creating a justification for why wizards shouldn’t be all powerful).

This was one of the books that I remember seeing in Waldenbooks and B. Dalton as a kid, with Feist being a prolific and popular author on the sci-fi and fantasy shelves of those now defunct (I believe) bookstores.

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‘Inventing A Nation: Washington, Adams, Jefferson’ By Gore Vidal


I was forewarned regarding Vidal’s dislike of Hamilton, but was surprised by his frequent dismissal of Jefferson (though I loved his depiction of the third president in Burr) and his seeming affection for and interest in John Adams (though the McCullough biography was still within a couple of years of peak popularity, so maybe he felt compelled).

No one in their right mind reads a history by Vidal in order to know history. Understand more, perhaps, but not to know it, if that distinction makes any sense to you. And I know enough, I feel, to know what to distrust and what might offer some new understanding.

But I have always found Vidal’s obsession with American politics vaguely surprising. It makes perfect sense and he was, really, a frustrated politician, in many ways, in addition to the family history. But his public intellectual style and Brahminic accent, not to mention his long time home in Italy, he always felt like someone who should have spent the life of his mind with Cicero rather than Washington.

A Fighting Man Of Mars


Yup. Still reading these. Next up is Swords of Mars, which features John Carter as the protagonist for the first time since the third book (I think Fighting Man is the sixth or seventh book). But let’s not talk about John; let’s talk about Tan Hadron and his lady love, Tavia.

What’s the plot? There’s a kidnapping, beautiful women (including the most capable female character yet in Tavia, who is able to fence and pilot rocket ships with the best of them!), and plot twist after plot twist. The heroes keep encountering the enemy, having him at their mercy and then somehow getting captured and dumped into a new and terrible situation. This keeps happening. There are three or four books worth of plot crammed into several hundred pages, so let’s just say the action never lags.

And I still love it!

The Fortuitous Meeting


An alternate history ‘novelette’ (that’s what the good folks at Tor call it) taking place in a 17th century Brazil, but with magic and monsters. It’s the intro to a series called The Elephant and Macaw Banner and to two characters, the improbably named Gerard van Oost and the freed (by Gerard) slave Oludara. I found the style to be a bit stilted, to be honest and have little desire to read more.

The Black Tides Of Heaven


BlackTidesThis was an interesting book, but it is, perhaps, hard to untangle those facets that make it interesting as a hybrid fantasy novel (with some elements of science fiction; I have heard the genre described as a ‘silkpunk’) with its sexual character, which is entangled with the author’s non-binary sexual identity. Characters are genderless until they make a decision (which, it seems, usually occurs in the late teens or very early twenties) to choose it and then there is some sorcery (the term used is ‘slackcraft,’ the ‘Slack’ being an all pervasive something that rather resembles the Force). The main characters are twins who choose different genders and different paths (one becomes a revolutionary, associated with a group that seeks to use technology to give the ordinary people more power, making them less dependent on ‘slackcraft’ practitioners, known as Tensors; the other marries an abbot, which, I guess, is ok in this world). The society is also matriarchal.

I am torn on this. I enjoyed it, but did I enjoy it enough to read more in the Tensorate series?

Forging The Darksword


If you are of a certain age and a certain neediness, you probably recognize the names of the authors as the duo behind the Dragonlance novels. Like me, you probably read them several times. And you are probably a little afraid of re-reading them because you suspect they really aren’t very good.

On the evidence of Darksword, maybe it would not be that bad. Not great. And maybe not even good. But not that bad.

Afterland


My mother introduced me to Mai Der Vang, calling me up after reading about her in The New Yorker. Took me a while to get around to getting a copy and once I did, it was a slow read, rather than something one can plow through. A lot of emotionally difficult poems about alienation, immigration, land mines (Vang is Hmong, an ethnic group notable for being discriminated against by virtually every government in Southeast Asia and which often found itself on the wrong side of bombs from both sides during various American adventures in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos).

Formally speaking, she frequently writes in couplets, which had the added effect of inspiring me to pull out a copy of Pope.