November Summary

November’s Reviews:

The Towers of Midnight by Brandon Sanderson and Robert Jordan

The House of Lost Souls by F. G. Cottam

I Am Number Four by Pittacus Lore

The Mark of Nerath by Bill Slavicsek

Terror by Dan Simmons

In the coming months I’m going to work a bit harder on reading on my nook. Working in a library the siren song of free books, which often accumulate in rather large stacks as I check things out faster than I can read them, is difficult to ignore. Truthfully I’m getting a bit weary of the stacks of books littering my living space and my car; I’m starting to feel a bit claustrophobic. So I’m doing my best to track down digital versions of books I want to read whether it be from Barnes and Noble, Book Depository, Smashwords, or any number of other places that sell ebooks.  No big themes planned for December which, still being employed in retail, is typically an unnecessarily hectic month.  On a whim I’m going to be working licensed fiction into my reading a bit more; a result of curiosity more than anything else.  That’s it for now, I’ll be back later this week with a review of Scalzi’s The Lost Colony.

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Review: Terror by Dan Simmons

Terror by Dan Simmons
Terror by Dan Simmons

Terror: A Novel
Dan Simmons
Little, Brown and Co., 2007

Dan Simmons has always been an author interested in history and literature.  This interest is present in Hyperion, in relation to the titan, the Canterbury Tales,  and British poet John Keats; important in Illium and Olympos which mashes together elements of The Tempest and The Illiad; and essential in Drood borrowing from Dickens; his latest Black Hills involving the Battle of Little Big Horn; and here in Terror.  While I have fondness for Simmons’ earlier work, I love the Hyperion and Endymion books and enjoyed Summer of Night, my interest in his later works has waned.  This maybe says something about me rather than Simmons but there you have it none-the-less. Thus my relationship with Dan Simmons’ Terror can only really be described as adversarial.  There are no other books that come to mind that I have struggled with even half as much as The Terror.  I’ve owned the hardcover since it’s original release and made only one previous attempt at reading it.  This time, come hell or high water, I promised myself I would finish this book.  Of course, forcing oneself to read a book I’m clearly not too invested in makes the reading all the more difficult; a notion supported by the fact that it took me the better part of 2 months to read this novel.  The Terror bases its story in historical fact, namely the journey of the HMS Erebus and the HMS Terror to find the Northwest Passage.  Simmons’ adds into the mix a spectral monster that, along with the cold and the scurvy, whittles away at the crew of both ships.

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Review: The Mark of Nerath by Bill Slavicsek

The Mark of Nerath by Bill Slavicsek
The Mark of Nerath by Bill Slavicsek

When it was revealed that with the advent of 4th Edition that the newest edition of Dungeons and Dragons would be abandoning the setting of Greyhawk for its stock setting there was some outcry amongst fans.  Not much, given that Wizards’ utilization of Greyhawk was, to put it mildly, sort of half-assed anyway it didn’t seem like too big a change.  The “points of light” setting was an interesting concept, bits of civilization in a sea of darkness and danger that would leave room for players to expand their world however they saw fit.  However, over the last few years and with the release of the new Essentials line of products Wizards of the Coast has been moving to form a more cohesive background for their Points of Light setting.  The Nentir Vale, first introduced in Keep of the Shadowfell (or maybe before, but that is the first I remember of it) has been slowly becoming a more geographic distinct and well defined, albeit rather small in the grand scheme of things, place.  The release of Wizards’ head of R&D Bill Slavicsek’s novel The Mark of Nerath continues that trend.  While not quite world defining The Mark of Nerath expands upon the settings introduced in the adventures and supplementary materials that Wizards of the Coast has featured since the release of 4th Edition.  Which, while great for people who have explored those places with dice in hand, doesn’t quite work as well for the uninitiated.

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On Dragon Age 2

It’s starting to look like Dragon Age: Origins was something of a swan song.  The last hurrah from a publisher whose bread and butter was the in-depth computer RPG.  That is hyperbole…at least to a certain extent.  Recent announcements from Bioware as to the changes in Dragon Age II, namely that you are playing a specific character, a stark departure from the “old school” vibe that Dragon Age: Origins embraced.  This isn’t anything new on Bioware’s part, it is afterall what Mass Effect does, but the change does strip the series of Baldur’s Gate successor mantle that rested so aptly on Dragon Age’s shoulders.

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Review: I Am Number Four by Pittacus Lore

I Am Number Four by Pittacus Lore
I Am Number Four by Pittacus Lore

I Am Number Four
Pittacus Lore
Harper, 2010
When I first caught the trailer for the film version of I Am Number Four I was excited to learn that it was based on a book. Reviews I encountered frequently referred to I Am Number Four (which has a pretty awesome title) as sci-fi; something of a rarity in the fantasy-saturated YA market. Unfortunately I found that I Am Number Four is sci-fi in the same way that Star Wars is sci-fi; pretty much not at all. While marketed towards the teen crowd I had hoped I would find something a bit more mature instead what I found was a soap operatic teenage power fantasy.

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Review: The House of Lost Souls by F. G. Cottam

The House of Lost Souls by F. G. Cottam
The House of Lost Souls by F. G. Cottam

The House of Lost Souls
F G Cottam
Thomas Dunne, 2009

Yes, October is gone but I’m still finishing up with some scary books that took me a bit longer to read than I intended.  The first of those, The House of Lost Souls, is a recent entry to the haunted house genre.  My initial impressions of the novel were extremely favorable but were later mitigated by a lengthy flashback sequence which interrupted what I felt was the stronger narrative thread and slowed the novel down considerably.  The novel centers around the mystery and horror of the Fischer House, a brooding castle-like mansion whose former owner traveling in circles with likes of Aleister Crowley and whose legacy of dark magic still touches the world to this day.  The novel focuses on two characters the nervous Paul Seaton, whose early encounter with the Fischer House has ruined him, and Nick Mason a special forces operative whose sister’s encounter with the house stirs the evil it contains.

Note: there are some spoilers towards the end of this review.

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Review: The Towers of Midnight by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson

The Towers of Midnight by Brandon Sanderson and Robert Jordan
The Towers of Midnight by Brandon Sanderson and Robert Jordan

The Towers of Midnight
Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson
Tor, 2010

Reading The Towers of Midnight, the 13th and penultimate volume of The Wheel of Time, one thing becomes glaringly obvious: the final three volumes could never, ever, have been one book. In fact we are probably lucky that we are getting only three. In the previous volume, The Gathering Storm, Brandon Sanderson managed to more-or-less maintain a theme across the two big narratives that spanned the novel; a feat possible due to the very fact that there were really only two main POVs. In The Towers of Midnight the narrative is spread a little a thinner. While Perrin and Mat form the bulk of our perspective there are many other characters who play integral roles in wrapping up, or beginning to wrap up, numerous plot threads. While the deliberate move towards wrapping up plot threads that have seemingly been dangling for ages is certainly appreciated the overall effect works against this entry; robbing it of the strength seen in The Gathering Storm.

Minor spoilers below!  Consider yourself warned!

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Comic Thoughts: Superman Earth One

Superman: Earth One
Superman: Earth One

If you had cornered the 12-year-old me and asked him if he liked Superman, he would have likely responded with a derisive laugh.  For what it is worth back then I certainly enjoyed the spectacle of the Death of Superman and the following Reign of the Supermen, but I never would ever in a million years would ever have called myself a Superman fan.  Cut forward 15 years, and enter New Krypton.  Suddenly I was sold.  All of a sudden I’m buying not one Super title but three, religiously following the exploits of Supes and his family as the sudden appearance of Kandor, rescued from its bottle city, opened up a fascinating new element in the Superman mythos.  While that arc ended with War of the Supermen, and I’m still on board for J. Michael Straczynski’s “Grounded” arc happening in Superman.  However, “Grounded” is a far cry from sci-fi tinged action of New Krypton and War of the Supermen so, just I was starting to miss the big action of the last few years of Superman titles the JMS penned graphic novel Superman: Earth One was released last week.

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October Summary

Early October with the sudden and unexpected hacking of my gmail account (then used to send out email for a modified 419 scam) scared me away from the internet for a bit which slowed both my reading and my posting here. I’m slowly coming back now and managed to kick out quite a few reviews last week. Unfortunately a previously scheduled four-day weekend worked against me since it was rather full of plans including w00tstock NY (awesome!), a Halloween party (awesome!), copious amounts of Fallout: New Vegas (also awesome!), and a pretty wicked cold (not so awesome). I am still just over halfway finished with both The House of Lost Souls and The Terror. Unfortunately, both those reads will be put on a slight hiatus as I plow through today’s big new release: The Towers of Midnight.  Also this month my little rant on the difficulty of finding new horror novels was republished over at io9, a fact I considered to add at least a +2 to my geek cred.  I do have another Comic Thoughts post I’m working on, but I find talking about comics a lot harder than fiction (I don’t know why) this one on the fantastic Superman: Earth One.  I’m also just about done with the audio version of Bujold’s Cryoburn, her return to Miles Vorkosigan and wish there were more just around the corner; if you haven’t read anything by Bujold you really ought to!  The full list of my October reviews is below.

Powerglove: Saturday Morning Apocalypse

Out of the Dark by David Weber

Chasing the Dragon by Nicholas Kauffman

Handling the Undead by John Adjvide Linqvist

Solomon’s Grave by Daniel G Keohane

The Lucid Dreaming by Lisa Morton

The Caretaker of Lorne Field by Dave Zeltserman