‘Shadowplay’ By Tad Williams


Point number one, Williams’ writing is not relentlessly grim, but his books are far too grim, at least, for the writer to go by ‘Tad.’ It’s just weird.

Second, I think I have merely transferred my bibliomaniacal tendencies to buy books towards checking them out from the library. Books on hold are being made available faster than I can read them (and certainly, fatherhood has slowed down my reading – a nearly seven year old, precocious, and active adopted child does not lend itself to quiet contemplation, though the trade off is certainly worthwhile). I had to renew this book once and I feel like the other two borrowed books in my possession will not be done before they are due. And I have more in the queue. We all have problems. This one, I suppose, is not even the worst of mine.

The level of ‘high fantasy’ – magic and monsters and the like – is higher than before. In fact, this series is actually, pretty textbook high fantasy, but it feels like it isn’t, because there is a certain grimness running through it.

I miss the realpolitik of the first volume, but it did a decent job of fleshing out the world and making the threats faced by the ‘good guys’ (two of whom are actually girls; arguably to primary protagonist is a self-possessed adolescent girl) more three dimensional than before.

But I still don’t feel one hundred percent convinced, though his writing is good enough, clearly, that I have now read five books by him (in two series).

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‘Shadowmarch’ By Tad Williams


I recently finished Williams’ Memory, Sorrow and Thorn series and this book (the first of four in a new series) is both better and worse than the earlier series. Better in that Williams has a better handle on how to manage the plots and characters, making it seem less sprawling than it really is. What is, in truth, place setting for future volumes, feels more organic. It also feels more mature, in a sense. The political scenery feels more realistically entangled.

There is, however, nothing so wonderful as the lengthy opening of The Dragonbone Chair, which lets you immerse in the quotidian life of the future hero as a lazy kitchen helper, as well as get solid glimpses of the forthcoming plot through his eyes, in part.

I will definitely keep reading, though I won’t rush out and get the second volume right now.

 

Triplanetary


The first of the Lensman novels by E.E. Smith, aka, E.E. ‘Doc’ Smith, Triplanetary never mentions Lensmen and you might not even know that it’s a series, except that the masterful, manly, monogamous, and magnificently named hero (Conway Costigan) is begging for more appearances.

Clearly the product of serialization, you can see where each installment began and ended. Pirates attack a space liner/cruise ship, but Costigan and Captain Bradley escape and lead a counterattack against the evil pirates. Then aliens appear and wipe out everyone but Bradley, Costigan, and a love interest. (Cliffhanger!) The escape from the aliens and send super technology info to Triplanetary, a space super spy/military agency, who finally and fully defeat the space pirates – but the aliens are back! (Cliffhanger!) Manly men in awesome space ships fight the aliens to a draw and peace is achieved.

The end.

Smith tries really hard to make his science believable by the standards of the day (he first wrote it in the thirties) and I’ll probably read more of these.

High Deryni


I had to read this via ebook. Not only did the library not have a hard copy, I couldn’t find hard copies on the Barnes & Noble website.

I don’t mind reading via ebook. I do it a lot. When I fly to Thailand next month, you can bet I’m bringing my nook e-reader.

But I remember browsing the genre shelves at B. Dalton and Waldenbooks and the books in this series were ever present. It feels strange that people don’t read them anymore, at least not like they used to. They have, I supposed, been supplanted by newer authors. People don’t listen as much to Suzanne Vega, the Pixies, and My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult anymore, either. Times change. People get older and the newer people feel much younger. The way of the world.

Neither here nor there.

The series has been growing on me. There are two more trilogies; one that follows and one that takes place long before the events of High Deryni. Will I read them? Maybe. I’m more likely to than I was when I finished the first book.

But even as the books win me over, they also always disappoint me. The ending is an anticlimactic deus ex machina that makes a decent portion of the final fifty pages seem pointless. And while fantasy can often be criticized for its portrayals (or lack thereof) of women, I would have hoped that a woman writer could have given us one strong and well-developed female character, but no. And the one romance is SO sentimental and cheesy. Ugh.

‘Black Panther’ By Ta-Nehisi Coates


In truth, it’s not fair to say this is by Ta-Nehisi Coates, since so much more than the writing goes into a comic book: the colorist, the penciller, the inker, etc. But we should be honest: we are reading this because his name is attached.

I haven’t been reading much in the way of comics lately, but ever since I heard that The Atlantic essayist was going to be writing for the Black Panther, I wanted to read it. And when I saw some comics in my local library, I figured I put volume one on hold.

Now here we are.

Leaving aside difficulty one: I haven’t read the arcs and stories that came more or less immediately before, so I really don’t understand what’s going on. But you just have to suck it up, honestly. Comics were around before you started reading them. They’ll be around after you’ve stopped. Just dive in and hope for the best.

So far, it doesn’t quite work. But I really want it to. Questions of power. Implied questions regarding a monarchy existing simultaneously in a liberal society. Gender. The inability to act or know what’s right.

But not enough threads come together. The dialogue can be a little over baked and too arch by half. Too talky and not well paced. And outside of the writing, the action sequences rarely popped.

Maybe I should have just gone for one his (non comic) books instead?

Mushroom Men From Mars


A battle of wills and stratagems betwixt Ru, the cunning and enslaving fungal sentience from Mars and Zaro, the last man not conditioned to avoid violence and war. And a secret tribe of Anarctican survivialists. And three or four deus ex machinas.

But you know what? It’s a brisk, snappily paced read, pleasantly and constantly propelled forward.

Also, these awesome ads at the end.