Post by Slam_Bradley on Jun 12, 2020 10:30:30 GMT -5
Crusaders: An Epic History Of The Wars For The Holy Lands by Dan Jones
Jones gives us an overview history of the Crusades from Pope Urban's initial preaching to the fall of the last of the Crusader states and beyond. As the author acknowledges any single chapter in the book is worthy of a monograph of its own. Usually more than one. But Jones does a couple things that are a bit out of the ordinary for a history of the Crusades. First he extends the scope beyond the Crusades in the Levant and Egypt and gives us overviews of the Northern Crusades in the Baltic and also the Reconquista. He also tends to focus on individuals within the grander scope of the sweeping history. Given the scope of the book some areas, events and periods are going to get shorted. That's the trade-off for a work that covers so much history in a relatively short work. But as an overview and a jumping off point to read further it's a great book and Jones is to be credited for going back to original sources for most of his research. Well worth a read.
Just finished Michal Chabon's Gentleman of the Road...
I discovered Chabon with The Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, and loved that book, but Gentleman continues the trend of me being disappointed by everything else I have read by Chabon. Gentleman of the Road is an attempt to do adventure fiction in the grand tradition of the classic pulps, and I had high hopes for it, but was left felling underwhelmed. It tries to capture the territory sewn by Howard (in his non-Conan historical adventure tales) Fritz Leiber, Bok and others, but comes across as a pale shadow of such. Perhaps because, as Chabon points out in his afterward, his working title for the book was Jews with Swords and he wanted to explore the bonafides of the absurdity most would see in the concept. The best part of the book are the chapter illustrations of Gary Gianni.
Set in Asia Minor in the early medieval period (circa 950 AD whilst the Vikings were active in Rus and the area ad the Byzantine empire was still at its zenith of influence) it features a pair of adventurers-Zelikman, an itinerant physician who is a Frankish Jew, a scarecrow of a figure with a fondness for hats, and Amram, a giant African mercenary. The problem is it took me half the book to figure out which was which and who was doing what in certain scenes as Chabon's efforts failed to really make them have distinct voices or stand out form each other in anything but appearance (I kept having to go back to the book flap and check-oh ok Amram is the African, or oh Zelikman is the Frank, which was annoying and interrupted the flow of the novel. Here's Gianni's depiction of them from the final chapter...
The book starts with them running a con on travelers in a canvasari to replenish their funds where they end up on the run and taking a job as bodyguards to escort a deposed war chief's son to refuge with family members but everything goes wrong in a series of misadventures and they wind up caught up in their clients rebellion to recapture the lost position. The prose is (pardon the pun if you will) too prosaic-it lacked the power and punch to effectively convey the sense of adventure and just felt like the story was meandering all over the place. In fact, my gut reaction was that it felt like I was reading a bad summary of an adventure story form someone's book report than it felt like I was reading an adventure story.
I appreciate the effort, and there were some good bits here and there, but overall, this was a miss for me, and I am fast losing any desire to explore more of Chabon's stuff. I am now ever afraid to revisit Kavalier and Clay for fear I wouldn't enjoy it this time.
I liked Kavalier and Clay a fair bit, though probably not as much as a lot of people. I did really enjoy The Yiddish Policemen's Union and would probably recommend it if you haven't read it and want to give Chabon another try. I've not read this one yet. It's on my list but I'm unlikely to get to it any time soon.
I've been continuing my exploration of Afrofuturism, but this time I read a GN adaptation of Octavia Butler's Parable of the Sower, and since it is a modern comics, I posted my thoughts about it in the What Modern Comics Have You Read Lately Thread here but since most of my exploration of Afrofuturism has occurred here, I am linking to it in this thread for any who care to follow it.
People don't want the Truth. They want only information that supports what they think they already know. -Vess from Invisible Kingdom
I see a comics culture that preserves and appreciates its past, but doesn't wallow in witless nostalgia. -Scott McCloud
Humans beings always do the most intelligent thing…after they’ve tried every stupid alternative and none of them have worked -Buckminster Fuller
Aliens immigrants come to Earth, and land their ship in the harbor offshore from Nigeria's largest city, Lagos. On the night this happens, a strange loud sound, like a sonic boom, is heard coming from the water, and soon after a tidal wave rolls in and engulfs three people who happened to be on the same beach that evening: Adaora, a marine biologist, Agu, a private in the Nigerian army, and Anthony, a hip-hop star from Ghana. They are taken under where they encounter the aliens, who ask them some questions (we never find out what they are) and are then dumped back onto the beach. Also, one of the aliens, who are all apparently shapeshifters, also comes ashore and takes the form of a human woman - she takes on the name Ayodele, and says she will act as an ambassador for her people. Once she announces her presence, it leads to great unrest and violence throughout the city. Meanwhile, local marine life in the lagoon also interacts with the aliens, and the latter apparently start to clean up the polluted water and also spur amazing and (to people) scary mutations in them. Over the next two days, everything changes, as humankind - ready or not, like it or not - enters a new era. Okorafor, a Nigerian American, really loves Lagos, and that comes out in this novel, as among other things, she paints a picture of the city's energetic diversity, where all of the various religions and cultures of Nigeria and beyond intermingle, often uneasily. Even though it takes place in the 'past' (2010), this is very much a wonderfully Afrofuturist novel (and I have to say, even though one of main characters is a hip-hop artist and there are references to hip hop throughout the book, the soundtrack in my mind for this story was George Clinton's P-funk).
Post by wildfire2099 on Jun 16, 2020 23:02:09 GMT -5
Now that I've read a few of them, I'm finding that the hard case crime books are all a bit TOO similar... it's not a bad story, but now I've read it like 10 times (I think I have 2 or 3 more yet to read)... not sure I'd get more just for the imprint.
Perry and company are looking for the secret of eternal life now that the Topides are gone, and they enter the vault under the palace to find.. more tricks and puzzles to 'test' them to see if they're worthy to find the immortals.
There's a few things here I like.... the side story with Sgt. Groll taking a Ferronian scientist exploring was fun, and it's good to add a bit to the cast.. there are 300 people on the ship after all, and we only know about 20 of them. I would have liked to see Perry discuss with Krest or grapple more with the fact that Krest sent the Topides into the sun when Perry was trying to trick them into retreating to save on casualities, but that is not mentioned or discussed at all... maybe next time.
They did come to an agreement to go bring the Arkonides 'home' after this, though, which I REALLY want to see, so many good story possibilities for that.
Oh, and what a net of hornets they will kick when they get to Arkonis!!!
The 'quest' has been a bit silly so far, too. Basically every step of the way is 'panic until one of the X-Men save the day'... not sure how that proves them worthy. Also, they actually use the X-Men phrase 'Homo Superior' in this book... I assume just one of those cases of parallel development, since it's unlikely Stan Lee would have been reading German language sci fi mags in 1963.
I'm hoping this whole 'quest for eternal life' arc either ends quickly so we can get onto more interesting stuff, or gets better, if the next 3 or 4 chapters are all more of this I can see losing interest.
The quest will indeed be over soon (disappointingly soon, I thought at the time).
Concerning the mutants: it's true that Stan and Jack probably weren't aware of the Mutant Militia when they came up with the X-Men, and besides mutants had already been a staple of science-fiction for decades at that point. There's also that due to the massive amount of material found in the Perry Rhodan series, it's very likely that it used this concept or that concept at some time!
Still, SF and comic fans very often notice the similarities... The most flagrant of which being the Posbis, part-mechanical & part biological alien invaders, who fly around in giant and massively powerful cubic ships. They either assimilate what they find or destroy it, and nothing we shoot at them seems to have any effect. That was back in... 1964!!!
Post by wildfire2099 on Jun 19, 2020 23:45:11 GMT -5
Goblin Slayer vol. 1 by Kuno Kagyu
I just recently watched the anime for this (which, though a bit fan service-y, is quite good), and saw that there was a whole bunch of light novels... family got me the first 2 for my birthday, so here I am.
It's very clear this author is a gamer, and alot of the joy of the book comes from some of the cool stuff Goblin Slayer does... using 'standard' spells in unique ways.. all to defeat goblins, usually the easiest of foes. Very cool.
The fan service/harem bits are slightly present in the text (there's far more describing the women than needed), but it's not bad enough to hurt the flow of the story.
The whole 'no names' thing did work a bit less well in print that it did watching the show, though... I suspect if I read this first, it would have taken me some time to get the characters straight.
This is also my first official light novel... it didn't read as fast as I feared, so that's good. The book has things play out in a bit of a different order than the show...which explains why there were a couple of head scratching moments there... I suspect things in the 2nd volume will flow nicely.
Post by Slam_Bradley on Jun 23, 2020 11:44:43 GMT -5
Swords Against Death by Fritz Leiber
Published as the second book of the paperback series this book actually contains seven of the first eight Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser stories, including the very first, "Two Sought Adventure." These are seminal sword & sorcery works and were, in their way, every bit as influential as Robert E. Howard's work, which is now much better known. The first five stories all appeared in John W. Campbell's Unknown magazine. While it's probably not as well known now as Weird Tales, at the time it was a far more prestigious magazine, with Weird Tales being just one step above the "shudders."
The stories follow our friendly rogues around Lankhmar, searching for treasure, fighting magic, being compelled by a geas and a gamut of very Dungeons and Dragons-ish adventures. Upon further review, these stories were very clearly significant influencers of Gygax and Arneson in the development of D&D.
While they will never be confused with great literature, they remain a huge amount of fun and an amazing nostalgic ride back to junior high and high school.
This is considered a prequel to Okorafor's earlier novel Who Fears Death, although the stories are not really tied together, and you can read one and not the other and not miss out on anything. It's actually set in the same world as the earlier novel, and provides some background for the dystopian nature of the world shown therein. The setting for Book of Phoenix is itself pretty dystopian. It's about a hundred years into the future, and the world is feeling the effects of climate change and similarly doing nothing about it because powerful corporations are calling the shots (sound familiar?). One of those corporations is called LifeGen, which conducts and then monetizes research into human genetics - to say, create treatments for various diseases or extend human life. The way they conduct their research, though, is horrific: they use live human subjects, mostly people of non-white descent from 'Third World' countries, and many of their products are actually bioweapons. They conduct this research in facilities called 'Towers' which are located throughout the US and its territories. The story begins in Tower 7 in New York City, and the main character is one of its unfortunate residents, a woman named Phoenix, who is a product of complete genetic manipulation. She's a little over 2 years old, but looks and to some extent thinks and acts like a woman in her forties. She has an amazing capacity for learning, having read thousands of books in her short life. And she's still mutating. Certain other residents of the Tower are people who had some kind of natural mutations that led to their capture so that LifeGen, which is called 'Big Eye' by the inmates (because they're under constant surveillance), could manipulate and heighten said mutations. Two friends of Phoenix are Mmuo, a Nigerian man who can walk through walls, and Saeed, who was taken from the streets of Cairo and then modified so he can only digest things like sand, rocks or chips of rusty metal (while normal food is poison to him). Eventually, with their direct or indirect help, Phoenix busts out of Tower 7, and destroys it in the process, and that's when the story really gets rolling. It's hard to summarize this without giving away too many plot points, but I'll just say that this is a really fantastic, if quite dark, SF story (with a few fantasy elements thrown in, something very typical of Okorafor's writing). As noted, the various mutated humans function like superheroes, which I'm sure many here can relate to. And while telling a good story, Okorafor weaves in very frank portrayals of a number of social ills like racism, colonialism and out-of-control capitalism. Some of the chapter headings also contain lovely illustrations by Eric Battle, which made me want more illustrations throughout the book, or even a comic book adaptation of the story.
Last Edit: Jun 24, 2020 3:39:30 GMT -5 by EdoBosnar