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Re: Books.

Post by Radbaron » Tue Mar 03, 2015 5:03 pm

I just loved the Aliens VS WW2 series.

By any chance, do you have any ginger?
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Re: Books.

Post by Don Alexander » Wed Mar 04, 2015 2:30 am

Don Alexander wrote:Well, now my interest was piqued! My Day 2.4 had been the first of a 2.5 week vacation, and instead of returning to Robot City or starting on Wheel of Time, I continued with Le Guin.
And now, after reading wayyy too many pages, I return to finally write some reports and spam up this thread again!

Ursula K. Le Guin - The Telling: This is, to my knowledge, the newest full novel of the Hainish Cycle, from 2000. My physical copy is something rather special, it's a galley draft, a trade paperback which emulates the coming hardcover and has been sent to language editors to check for further mistakes. Astonishingly, I did not find a single one, and I usually have a good eye for that. Anyway, it is a very typical UKLG story. Take, on the one hand, an alien world, but then introduce the familiar (humans or nearly humans, as it is a Hainish seed world), and use this setting to tell a story mirroring aspects of our own Earth. This world is Aka, which has not shown up yet in any other stories.
But first, our tale begins on Earth itself. Sutty is a girl of Indian ancestry, and in her youth, our planet suffers under the rule of terror of the Unionists. I was delighted in predicting Commander Dalzul would show up :D , to be worshiped as a God but to also end the rule of the religious fanatics. Thereafter, Sutty flies to Ve and begins studies of a newly discovered world, Aka. She is then sent there as an envoy of the Ekumen - but when she arrives, something like 80 years later, she finds an extremely transformed planet. It turns out someone has sent the Akans (a Pangaea-World with a single supercontinent and a quite monolithic culture) a little technology package via ansible which gives them all the blueprints to achieve technological superprogression. Think early Steam Age to Space Age in half a century! And this has allowed a tyrannical regime to achieve rule - the Corporation. Now all citizens are "producer-consumers" and everywhere, neon banners exhort the Great Leap to the Stars!! In other words, it's a mirror of China's Cultural Revolution. And in advancing, the Corporation has forbidden the old "religion" (as so often with UKLG, not any kind of God-worshipping theism, but more of a variant of Taosim) and all the old ways as superstition, and suppresses them with ardor. Sutty believes herself to be the only one who even remembers the old forms of writing. After a long bureaucratic battle, she gains permission to travel from the great coastal city (~Shanghai) to the hinterland, in the hope of rediscovering and preserving the old culture, which is based around stories and fables - the eponymous Telling. Of course, the government sends a monitor to keep her from finding out too much...
A quite quick and very enjoyable read at about 250 pages. As often, the protagonist was a highly sympathetic person, a self-assured woman who is also historian, scientist, and freedom fighter.

Ursula K. Le Guin - Four Ways To Forgiveness: A collection of four rather long short stories/novellas, and again a Hainish cycle book. A bit older, 1995. Very similar to The Telling in taking an actual historic period of Earth and projecting it on to an alien world. In this case, that period is slavery, and the worlds are Werel and Yeowe. Werel, by the way, is NOT the Werel of Planet of Exile and (more indirectly) City of Illusions - UKLG later admits she completely forgot she had used the name before... :-j
Several thousand years ago, the "black" people of a southern continent on Werel invaded the northern continent and enslaved the pale-skinned people there, the "dusties". They formed a capitalist empire driven by slavery which has remained astonishingly stable. The world is separated in "Owners" and "Assets", and, furthermore, there is an extreme difference in the rights of Men and Women - think the more extreme leanings of Muslim faith. While Owner women are of higher status than any Assets, they are separated from the men and basically prisoners in the great plantations. The Asset women are fair game for any men to "use" (the euphemism for rape) and over the millennia, the original separation between "black" and "white" has become a muddy grey. Several centuries ago, the very first Observers of the Ekumen arrived. Werel denied them landing rights, stylized them as an aggressive "alien empire" and initiated a rapid technological advance. Just half a century later, the first fusion ship lands on Yeowe, another ~Earth-sized planet one closer to the Sun (think, kind of, Venus). This planet is significantly hotter than Werel, and features no sentient life. Several powerful corporations establish rights to brutally exploit the planet, using "human resources" in the most atrocious manner. Finally, after several hundred years, a single incident flares into a revolution (just as with the Arab Spring), and while the Corporations try to suppress it in almost unspeakable ways (I daresay the atrocities described in this volume exceed anything which happened here on Earth), they are destined to lose this war. And of course, now Werel itself fears revolution... All this background is given quite extensively in an appendix of the book.
Betrayals: The first - and shortest - story begins these tales in a reasonably harmless manner. On Yeowe, long after the revolution, an old woman lives in a house in a swamp, with her pets, Tikuli, the foxdog, and Gubu, the spotted cat. :x Not far from her, an old man has taken to living in another deserted house, and one day he becomes sick. She starts caring for him, and they grow together. This man is not just anyone, but Abberkam, who was once the leader of the first political party to emerge from the revolution, a xenophobic group who would have established a tyranny almost as bad as the Corporations. But he becomes corrupt and is disgraced, making way for a true democratic party which also welcomes the Ekumen. So hardly a sympathetic patient! But he regrets his misdeeds and seeks absolution. All in all, a cute story. Still... I really wonder if Abberkam torched Yoss' house there in the end, to force her to live with him - after all, he had already prepared her room for her and everything, claiming he "knew she would come back"... The story IS named Betrayals after all. At least he saved poor Gubu!
Forgiveness Day: This was my favorite story in the book! :) It is the one rather classical, plot-driven story. Solly is an envoy of the Ekumen to one of the smaller nations on Werel (who are all puppet states of the main nation of Voe Deo, which I decided rhymes with "rodeo"). She is a "space brat", daughter of an Ekumen observer, who essentially grew up travelling from world to world and is, outside of relativistic time distortion, over a millenium old. She's also a VERY sexually liberated woman - who suddenly lands on a world where women have essentially no rights even if they are not Assets, but where the view on sex is decidedly Victorian... She gets a cultural advisor, a man she gets along with well, and a bodyguard/monitor, Teyeo, who is this huge ebon warrior, a veot, which is a lineage of traditional warriors (think: Samurai) who are most often also gareots, owners with only one or no slaves. Teyeo is absolutely disgusted by Solly and her slanderous ways. But then the revolutionary war also reaches the capital of this country, and Solly and Teyeo are kidnapped by amateurish revolutionaries and land in a prison cell where they must get along to survive... You can guess what becomes of them. ;)
A Man of the People: One of UKLG's coming of age tales, initially. It tells of the youth of Havzhiva on Hain itself, I think one of the few tales which tell more of humanity's true homeworld. Despite a million years of space age technology, parts of the planet have specifically back-evolved to more "primitive" societies. So it is seen with distaste when a visiting aunt, who is a Historian (gasp!) "pollutes" young Hazhiva, who decides he'd rather travel the Universe and learn. He ends up on Werel and has some very bad experiences during the revolution.
A Woman's Liberation: In many ways the centerpiece of the book, it tells us of the revolution on Werel through the eyes of a young female Asset. For a short moment, her life seems to immeasurably improve, as the young Owner of her plantation deems himself progressive and frees all of his slaves. His more conservative neighbors have different views and quickly squelch any hopes of freedom. This tale was harrowing as fuck, think Twelve Years a Slave levels of gruesome, and then some. :-T Of course, all the way at the end, it ends well... And it is revealed - something I had guessed a long time before - that the historian and teacher Hazhiva has taken as a wife post-revolution in the former story is, of course, no one else than the protagonist of this one.
All in all, a really good book, though parts of it were really hard to stomach. Considering I usually read to escape, it was not almost my cup of tea.

Ursula K. Le Guin - The Wind's Twelve Quarters: This is one of UKLG's oldest short story collections, from the mid-70s, containing stories going back to the early '60s. I'll only mention some specific ones.
Semley's Necklace: This seems to be the very earliest Hainish Cycle story. As it was later used as the prologue to Rocannon's world, I assume I have read it, but I did not remember it all. The planet Rokanan is "proto-Le Guin", instead of telling us of cultural revolutions, she mixes Barbarians, Hobbits, Dwarves in a kind of Sword but no Sorcery tale. Semley, a barbarian queen, pursues a necklace, a lost heirloom, and eventually finds it as a museum display on a planet 25 light years away... This tale is still set in the League of Worlds time, and the Shing are mentioned, though not named, as an enemy force which is approaching.
April in Paris: This was kind of juvenile but fun and hilarious. A depressed middle-aged man in our "now" manages to summon a medieval alchemist in his Paris flat. Neither have girlfriends, so they begin to trawl time for booty. :))
The Rule of Names: Together with the preceding story, The Word of Unbinding, a tale of Earthsea. On a small island, a bumbling wizard (Mr. Underhill - was that not the name Frodo gave in the Prancing Pony?) serves the population. Then, a dashing, much more powerful wizard arrives, seeking information on the horrible dragon which once vanquished the island of his ancestors. The ending of this tale had me in stitches, it was so awesome.
Winter's Tale: Another Ekumen story, playing on Gethen, the Winter World, a planet where everyone is usually genderless but also rather hermaphroditic, and can then turn male or female during a special period of breeding (where they are also horny as all get-out). That aspect has little to do with this tale, though, which deals with a ruler whose mind is poisoned and who is spirited away to the Hainish system to be cured.
Vaster then Empires and More Slow: An Ekumen story, which could also be standalone SF. A team of "deep explorers" lands on "World 4470" far outside the sphere of the Hainish seed worlds. This world is fertile, covered in vast grasslands and forests, but devoid of animal life and especially sentience. This according to one of the team members (who are all damaged in some way, as only crazy people would willingly go on such missions) who can read thoughts and thus detect sentience - and who is, by the way, a horribly abrasive asshole. But then, people start getting this feeling that something in the forest is watching them... This was a REALLY good story, by far the best in the book, with a real space horror feeling. Loved it!
Direction of the Road: On inertial systems. Highly creative.
The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas: This story has its own Wikipedia page. It seems to be really famous. I did not really like it, though. :P
The Day before the Revolution: This is probably the chronologically oldest Hainish Cycle tale, it is a prequel to The Dispossessed, telling of the anarchist philosopher Odo and the circumstances just before, well, the Revolution...
All in all, some good tales, some mediocre, some plain baffling... Decent.

Ursula K. Le Guin - The Birthday of the World and other Stories: In reading all this UKLG, I researched what all she had published, and found that there is a further short story collection, the newest one, from 2002, which consists mostly of Hainish Cycle tales. I have much of UKLG's writings, but was missing this one, so I ordered it off Amazon - cost nearly 10 Euros! Similar to Four Ways to Forgiveness, the underlying theme of most of these tales is love, relationships - and in this case, also, sex.
Coming of Age in Karhide: Exactly what the packaging says! Karhide is the capital of the Viking-like culture on Gethen, and indeed this tale makes some references to Winter's King from The Wind's Twelve Quarters. Now for that whole gender-switching thing! :D Boy, I think this is like the culmination of Le Guin's sexual writings. Quite raunchy, and also often very funny. Wonderful story.
The Matter of Seggri: A pretty weird tale made up of multiple documents, including on in-universe (!) short story which is basically pure porn!!! Seggri is a really weird world where males and females are extremely segregated. The males live in fabulous castles, spending their lives being pampered and playing dominance games to decide who is allowed outside to breed with the females in what are essentially whorehouses where the males are the prostitutes. The women live outside and have a rather normal way of life, all in all, except that, of course, things like marriages are completely unknown - and lesbianism is rampant (though it is situational, almost every woman would pounce on a chance to get laid by a guy). Less good.
Unchosen Love: The first of two stories on O, dealing with the four-way sedoretu marriages known from A Fisherman of the Inland Sea or Another Story. Here, a young man traveling the world gets ensnared by another guy who lives in a formerly rich great house near the sea (formerly rich as the nearby river has created a delta, and now the house is miles from the sea). Ensnared in the sense that while he does love his boyfriend, he feels very much alone in the house, especially since it does not seem possible to create a sedoretu. His boyfriend has a potential mate, but her girlfriend seems to be a hardcore lesbian man-hater! And then there's the wonderful woman he sometimes meets deep in the night on the roof, but who he never sees during daytime...
Mountain Ways: Arranging sedoretus is a national pastime on O, but it becomes really hard when you are a farmer woman way up high in the mountains. A female scholar from the lowlands visits, and they fall in love, and while there are two more candidates for a sedoretu, only one of them is a man! What to do? Both stories were good and quite cute.
Solitude: A quite weird world where everyone lives in almost-solitude. The women form spread-out villages where each house is just barely in sight of the next. The men just live as hermits in the desert. It's pretty damned messed up. The Ekumen sends observers, a woman and her son and daughter, who grow up in this culture. Personally felt it was one of the weaker stories.
Old Music and the Slave Women: A return to Werel/Yeowe, the fifth Way to Forgiveness. Several stories of FWtF featured an Ekumen envoy named Esdardon Aya (which means Old Music) as a background character. Now he becomes the protagonist. Embroiled in the Werelian revolution, he is kidnapped by government forces and kept prisoner in an ancient palace. It's kind of a mix of Forgiveness Day (rather plot-driven tale with lots of violence and action) and A Woman's Liberation (full of really gruesome inhuman shit). Good story, but again, not for the weak of stomach.
The Birthday of the World: The titular story could take place in the Ekumen, but if so, it is without the external influence of the Ekumen - an undiscovered planet, in a sense. In a Maya-like culture, the ruler is also God. Once a year, when everyone, including the world, has their birthday, God is granted visions. This time around, they are horrible and foretell the destruction of all!! Then God dies, a False God takes up arms, and finally, a burning house falls out of the sky as prophesied... More on the weaker side.
Paradises Lost: Definitely not a story of the Ekumen, while at the same time hard SF, set in, as UKLG labels it, "the generic future", the SF world that is an extrapolation of our own, using the known laws of physics (though I have to say UKLG is not very firm when it comes to those...). This is both a coming-of-age, and a Generation Ship story. Roughly half a century from arrival, the members of the Sixth Generation are now growing up, and preparations for arrival slowly begin. But the Angels - which are, to put it bluntly, a religious cult - who claim that the trip is the destination ("we are already in heaven, we are all angels"), become ever more powerful, and begin a campaign of sabotage to ensure the trip is eternal. When a weird navigational "error" strongly accelerates the ship, turning 50 years to 5, things come to a head. This was a STUNNING story!!! For me personally, it dethrones Another Story as the best by UKLG, and it alone (by far the longest, more of a short novel) made this collection worthwhile! :)

Wow, that was... long!
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Re: Books.

Post by Don Alexander » Wed Mar 04, 2015 3:16 am

Okay, for post two, I'll keep it a LOT shorter!

I had started The Telling on the 17th of January, and it took me over a week to finish the above-mentioned books, and this despite my vacation where I had barely anything else to do. After that, I decided to... call it A Day. :P

Day 2.5

Arthur Byron Cover - Isaac Asimov's Robot City - Book 4 - Prodigy: One day, there's a new building in Robot City. Well, one that really sticks out. A huge cube balanced on a tip, rotating, covered in rainbow-reflecting mirrors. It serves no purpose. It is... ART! The robots have begun to exhibit mental evolution. Next to the robot who dreams up this crazy architecture, there's also a wacky trio which has dedicated itself to rediscovering jazz! :)) But then the architect is murdered. Derec immediately as a suspect, but to prevent the positronic pathways from blowing, he gathers the robots to stage Shakespeare's Hamlet, placing the suspect in the villain role.

Rob Chilson - Isaac Asimov's Robot City - Book 5 - Refuge: The disease that had originally gotten Ariel banished from Aurora is now culminating, threatening her very life. Following the footsteps of the creator of Robot City, Dr. Avery, Derec and Ariel travel via the Key to Perihelion to... Earth! Where mankind, paranoid of both robots and the outside world, dwells in the Caves of Steel.

William F. Wu - Isaac Asimov's Robot City - Book 6 - Perihelion: Ariel has been saved, though the price was high. She, Derec, and their robot and alien friends return to Robot City to finally confront Dr. Avery, and discover the truth to Derec's identity.

I quite liked the first two of these. They were inconsequential but fun romps, especially the return to the world of Elijah Bayley was cool. The final book was a letdown, though... Anyway, thus endeth the Robot City hexalogy.

Anne Rice - Exit to Eden: Hooookay. Let's do this! Leeeeeroy Jerkoffkins! I kind of ran out of excuses to ignore this book any longer. :P
My vacation was nearing its last days already, my original reading plan was completely sunk anyway, and I finally wanted to get this over. This book had been one of my purchases 2006 in Missouri, and long before I had officially began to read it in late summer 2010, I had sampled the sex scenes. Let's just confess it, they were really good wank fodder. Back then. But that was years ago, and I guess my perspective on things has changed. This time around, I was not aroused. Not one single time. I was annoyed. I mean, sure, the book is explicitly erotic literature. I can't fault that. And it's quite well written and all. While I'm not the person who needs someone in a book to identify themselves with to enjoy it, my enjoyment of a book can be strongly dampened if the characters are, on the one hand, the anti-thesis of what I identify myself with, and on the other hand, people who I am extremely jealous of because they have all the things I'd like but likely never will obtain...
So here we have two people, one male, one female, both impossibly beautiful, both incredibly rich, who are able to dedicate their lives to seeking sexual satisfaction, oh, and also travel willy-nilly across the country on one huge shopping spree. I'm not claiming that's exactly what I'd like from my life, but these people have... options. And one of the extremely annoying things about the book was that Elliott should not have any options!! So he signs a contract to live for two years as a slave in The Club, because allegedly, he is a submissive, and he should enjoy being degraded and used in every creative way possible. But as soon as he meets Lisa, this guy, who was almost exclusively gay beforehand, totally falls in heteronormative love and becomes a rebellious brat who is anything but a good slave. This kind of turned the premise of being a novel about BDSM totally upside down... Not that I desire to really read about BDSM (it's the one big sexual playground I'm not interested in at all), but the whole idea of The Club at least was kind of cool... And then it's like "Let's get out of here as soon as possible!" Oh, and, spoiler alert, in the end they end up marrying and shit.
The book is from 1985 and it included some interesting aspects. First of all, there's bush EVERYWHERE!!! =)) A Golden Age... :P Now, of course, in general the novel was extremely open to all manners sex. No room for homophobia, misogyny, or prudish ways. But there's one sequence in New Orleans which kind of weirded me out - and is likely to weird out a lot of other people these days far more than poor little heteronormative me. Our power couple visits a travesty bar in which trans people perform. All, it seems, male-to-female transsexuals, who have undergone both hormone therapy and operations, BUT who still retain their male genitals (i.e. <=> Senna). Now, these performers are, on the one hand, praised, called beautiful and wonderful. BUT on the other hand... They are referred to as "he". And there is no mention of them being genderqueer, really, it sounds more like they are people who are taking a hobby (their "freakishness") to a valiant extreme. As if they one day decided "it would be cool to look externally like a woman, I could make loads of money becoming a tranny performer!" (Politically incorrect word used on purpose to highlight the situation.) Also, Elliot wonders if it's all worth it, I mean, castration??? So, this stuck out like a sore thumb.
All in all, this was the first book in a looong time that I gave only a 2/5 on Goodreads. Simply because I did NOT enjoy reading it. It's not you, Anne Rice, it's me. It's a totally subjective rating. It DRAGGED! I finished it on a Sunday night and it's only 300 pages but small font and I kept looking at the page number and it was like Achilles trying to catch up with the turtle. In the end, I was incredibly relieved to have conquered it. Yeah, I'm a stubborn bastard. :P I paid for it, I'm not just gonna toss it away, especially after it goaded me for like four years to finally finish it. Ah, well, still a better love story than 50 Grades of Shae...

So, I've caught up to the end of January now...
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Re: Books.

Post by Artemisia » Fri Mar 06, 2015 3:01 pm

I'm currently reading The Time Machine by H.G. Wells. If you want, I could always post some of my thoughts on some of the books I've read over the last few years. Next I'm reading Sharon Kay Penman's The Dragon's Lair and then Festival of Death, Except the Dying and Gideon's Press.
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Re: Books.

Post by Don Alexander » Fri Mar 13, 2015 9:51 pm

Books! BooksBooksBooks! BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOKS! :D

Okay, this exaltation is like over a week too late...

As already mentioned in the HWYD thread in the context of my miserable return journey, I visited my parents, and indeed my main "mission" was to pick my mother up from the airport. And one the goals I was pursuing was to get my books!

As mentioned here and here, I had ordered a total of twelve books from Amazon.com. The last seven missing Michael Moorcock Omnibus volumes, three R. A. Salvatore Omnibus volumes, and two further normal Moorcock books.

Not long after arriving in the US, my mom unpacked all the books, which had arrived safely at her sister's place, and had taken some pics for me. Looked good and everything was exactly what I wanted. I made the suggestion of perhaps being able to save shipping by putting multiple cheap books in one package. I had also thought there was some kind of surface mail option. Well, that failed! My mom found out only airmail is possible, then she put six of the books into a big box (without really securing them in it with any kind of shock-absorbant stuffing... :-w ) and sent that off - it cost over $70!!!! :-o The other six, she said, she'd be able to bring home in her luggage.

A few days before I went home, she asked my dad if my package arrived, but he never answered... So I was VERY happy when I got home to find it there, waiting for me! :ymparty: It was quite battered, and the customs had opened it, but it seems they decided it was not really worth anything, and sent it on. Either they or someone else also resealed the whole thing in a kind of transparent bubble wrap, which was a good idea since the package had a lot of empty air in it and was quite battered. :-s

When I opened it, one book was slightly damaged, the back cover had folded in the middle... /:) Everything else was okay! #:-s It turns out my mom did not really listen to me, and (from her perspective, logical, of course) packed for weight, not value. So, next to the three R. A. Salvatore Omnibus volumes (The Sellswords is quite small, not trade paperback size, but has a TINY typesize!), it contained three Moorcock Omnibus volumes, including two of the expensive ones (Sailing to Utopia and Elric: Stealer of Souls). Well, the latter two are also really thick and heavy, at ~600 pages each and hardcover.

The following day, I picked my mom up, everything went fine, and at home, I began digging in her suticases like a kid at Christmas! :D I had a moment of panic since she had told me all my books were in suitcase A, where I found only three - and none in suitcase B! I finally looked in suitcase C, and there were the rest. #:-s

Since I was traveling by train, I only returned home with four of the Moorcock volumes (#8-#11, as I already have #1-#7 here), and left the rest, including a book I finished during my short vacation (see below, one day :P ), at my parent's place. I'll be there again in a few weeks time for Easter vacation, and will arrive by car, so i can pack the rest on the way back. :)

I still can't quite believe that everything worked out so well, and that I have completed this book series!!! :YMDAYDREAM:

PS.: The Mountains of Majipoor I had ordered in January? Never arrived. :( At least it looks like I will get my money back - all €3,19 of it. :P
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Re: Books.

Post by Don Alexander » Mon Mar 23, 2015 12:11 am

Just a few hours into February, I got around to starting with my actual reading plan: The last three books of Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time!! I had bought them back in April 2014 but did not dare look into them for a long time since I was worried that once I started, I'd simply not be able to put them away... I know myself well there, see Under The Dome and A Dance with Dragons. I had taken 4/5 days for those two, respectively, and had not done anything else except eat something every once in a while and basic hygienic measures...

WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD!! :-!

Now, a lot has been said in this thread about the Wheel of Time, and way, way more has been said on the Net... Indeed, after finally finishing the series, I then spent a further six hours to just read the entire TvTropes pages on the series!! :)) I mean... SIX HOURS? That's like another small book in and of itself. And of course loads has been said about Brandon Sanderson taking over, and actually improving upon Jordan's writing style... I was quite intrigued when I noticed what seemed to be just such an improvement (roughly after the scene where Rand annihilates Semiraghe with balefire) and later read that indeed a significant part of Book 12 has already been penned completely by Jordan, and, I assume, was just taken over almost as is.

Something Sanderson did not really help with was the characters... It's amusing - I reread a bunch of posts in this thread a while back and came across one where DnE writes us that he's never been able to really get into A Song of Ice and Fire because he was unable to like any of the characters - I guess DnE needs Good Guys. :P I've never felt this restriction and can quite often cheer for the anti-hero or even a well-done villain. MY problem is that such characters essentially do not exist in WoT.
In stark contrast to ASoIaF, where almost everyone is different shades of grey (and the whitest characters die the quickest deaths too...), characters in WoT come in basically two flavors: Flawed but Good at the Core vs. Unrepentant Evil Which Must Die. And WoT is very much a story of Light vs. Dark. Pretty much all of the Bad Guys did not have much going for them except Being Bad. I sincerely had my hopes that Cyndane, the reincarnated Lanfear, would make a face turn in the very end, but while she DID turn against the Dark One, it was just to offer Rand a Together We Shall Rule the Galaxy pact... 8-| And the Good Guys, especially the women, have always been THE greatest problem in Jordan's writing. I kind of managed to sympathize with our Power Trio. Rand is sufficiently torn and nearly goes Anti-Christ on everyone, Perrin is rather boring in his straightforwardness but you also can't really criticize him, and Mat is at times annoying but often shows flashes of genius. Many of the male side characters are pretty one-dimensional...
The women are the utter worst, though. I kind of like Min because she's tomboyish, and she sticks to Rand. Berelain, the First of Mayene, was also kind of cool simply because she's a drop-dead gorgeous manipulative bitch (in a positive sense) who uses her looks to get things and has no shame. Sounds like a horrible person but among the rest, this wicked Femme Fatale at least sticks out! Pretty much all the other women seem to hate men - who are always woolheaded sheepherders who need to be guided because they could not even tie their shoes if it were not for women!! It's funny (in a bad sense) - women on WoT are almost always empowered (after all, almost all of the mages are female), but then they have to be such insufferable bitches (in the bad sense)!! Also, Jordan seems to have a fetish for punishing women...
Another thing that often annoyed me is that the contents of the books felt so... I'm sorry, the best word I can find is American!!! There is essentially NO sex!! Oh, sure, a few times per entire 1100 page book, it is made unmistakably clear that a couple has had sex, or will have sex (most of all Perrin and Fayle). But I don't think ANY of these cases did not either involve a married couple (i.e., Perrin & Fayle) or a couple deeply in love and fated to marry in case they save the world (i.e., Rand and his threesome of girls). Rape? Nopers. Simple fuck buddies because, you know, the world is coming to a fucking end, so let's fuck? Nopers. Brothels or stuff frequented by soldiers or sailors- do they even exist?? (A few times, there are vague hints concerning the camp followers of the armies). Aes Sedai seem almost asexual. Furthermore, while there seems to be essentially no stigma attached to homosexuality in this world (which is politically correct), almost everyone is not just heterosexual, but even oh so very heteronormative. A few times, it is stated that some dude likes dudes (always a very minor character, and it's done in an offhanded way, and no one comments on it further - so no homophobia), and there's the thing about "pillow friends" among the Aes Sedai novices, but again, with very few exceptions, it's a "passing phase" into either asexuality or heteronormativity (the Greens and their multiple warders).
Next point: Swearing. First off, most people seem to think swearing is a disgusting thing. Only a few characters tend to use it regularly. Mat Cauthon does, and regularly gets scolded for doing so. But when people swear, they shout things like "Light!" and other things that may be seen as offensive in Randland but are completely harmless in our world. It's kind of like the Firefly characters using Chinese to swear to keep within TV ratings, except boring (and, afaik, the Chinese swearing in Firefly, when translated, was quite sharp...). I'm not sure ANY evil four-letter word was used in the series. Seriously, how can multiple cultures exist that have not developed swear words related to sexuality???
Finally, violence! Since this is a book series about The End Of The World As We Know It, there is of course Massive Amounts Of Death. Yet even here, it is rather sanitized, on a LotR or Chronicles of Narnia level. Kind of PG-13, with just a few excursions into R. Most people seem to die rather cleanly, and almost all violence is battlefield-related.

So, all in all, sounds pretty bad, huh? And indeed, I would NOT recommend this series to just anyone who says they like fantasy. I have a friend who has devoured ASoIaF but I'd never give her this, she'd probably stop after 100 pages just because the women are all such stuck-up beeotches...

THAT said... IT WAS SO WORTH IT!!!!

I guess it was 1997 when my mom bought the first book for me, which turned out to be The Dragon Reborn, volume 3 in the series. :P I quickly got 1, 2, 4-6 though and totally devoured them in Spring 1998, my very first semester at university, and I followed up ordering book 7 as well (the first one which was less good). The following years, I chugged through Books 8 and especially 10, and enjoyed the plot speed picking up in book 11. Knife of Dreams was published in the mid-2000s, so it has been something like NINE years since I last read the series (one funny aspect was that upon returning, I had forgotten which of the characters I was "supposed to" hate especially, like Egwene and Fayle... :P ). If I were zgwortz, I'd have re-read the first 11 books first, but I want to finish before I die. :P Still, I got back into everything quite quickly (helped by the "World of..." book I had read last fall).

Robert Jordan & Brandon Sanderson - The Wheel of Time 12: The Gathering Storm: I just may have read this book faster than I've read any other big book before. I had a remote observing shift starting on Wednesday, so I had just three days of vacation left - and I pretty much did it!!! Okay, I finished a bit after midnight on Wednesday morning, but it was pretty much 72 hours for over 100 pages!!! Knife of Dreams, as mentioned, already had the effect of finally wrapping up plots, of gathering threads, of rectifying and canalizing the huge floodplain the plot had become in Crossroads of Twilight (if I read TvTropes correctly, that book portraits just TWO DAYS from the perspective of I dunno how many characters...) - but it also felt a bit rushed since Jordan knew of his illness. Now, Sanderson is able to go at it with a much more leisurely pace, while still giving the feeling of momentum. Tar'mon Gaidon really IS approaching, and doing so fast! All in all, I really liked the book, and would already say it's better than anything since Lords of Chaos (Book 6). The book has several absolutely excellent subplots. The whole deal with Hinderstap was BRILLIANT and felt not only like a great short story unto itself, but also like a plot for a really fun fantasy RPG adventure. The second plot I loved was the Seanchan attack on Tar Valon, where Egwene really comes forward as a force to be dealt with - not to mention that this sequence already shows off what WoT may be best at: Battles.

Robert Jordan & Brandon Sanderson - The Wheel of Time 13: Towers of Midnight: This just may be the second longest book (after King's Uncut The Stand) I've ever read, at 1250 pages. I of course started right after finishing TGS, but, as stated, I now had to work again, so it took me until the Night after my birthday to wrap it up, nearly two weeks. A small part of this was also the fact that I liked this book the least of the final trilogy, as it happens so often, it had the "Two Towers" effect. TGS made it clear that The End is coming, and it's coming fast! But then TOM was almost completely More Of The Same, another 1000+ pages of building anticipation. I was also pissed that the titular towers - which are a bunch of real fortifications on Seanchan which the "intro wind" passes through - never showed up again!! Of course, there are some other important towers, like Tar Valon, the Black Tower (which does not contain an actual tower) and the Tower of Ghenjei which is featured in the climax of the book. At least now, a month later, I don't really recall any special subplot that really shown for me.

Robert Jordan & Brandon Sanderson - The Wheel of Time 14: A Memory of Light: This. This is it. This is why you suffered through Path of Daggers and Crossroads of Twilight. This is why you read the preceding 14-fucking-1000 pages. This is what you waited 23 years for (or, in my case, still something like 17). I loved Under the Dome. Loved Neuromancer. Loved Mockingjay. Looking further back, I'd rate 5/5 (or have done so) The Mote in Gods Eye, and probably the first three books of ASoIaF. But THIS blows everything out of the fucking water!!! Okay. So it does not (for me) beat things like It, The Stand, Imajica, Rama II... But I daresay this is the most awesome, most jaw-dropping, most fist-punching-for-great-justice book I've read... maybe this millennium!!!!!
So the series is 14 volumes long, something around 15000 pages, and deals with nothing less than the Armageddon of an entire world. Only when you take these factors into account is it even conceivable that the entire 1150 page book (minus obligatory though all in all damned short outro and a few small scenes beforehand) is.. okay, not ONE huge battle, but ONE HUGE, unrelenting war!!!! The first ~700 pages deal with four separate battles. And the Good Guys get their asses handed to them in three of those, and gather their surviving forces for one Last Stand (while the fourth battle is at Shayol Ghul itself, to keep anyone from "disturbing" Rand while he battles Shaitan himself). And that final battle, which is of course THE Last Battle everyone has been speaking of, is a single whopping 250 page chapter!!!! And it is droolworthy beyond measure. There are so many ridonkulously heroic scenes, so many oh-so-evil countermoves... I have mostly complained about the Bad Guys being shallow cardboard True Evil folks, but who cares, when Demandred arrives with a gigantic army full of channelers from the mysterious eastern nation of Shara (where he has played out a prophecy-fulfilling Dark Messiah story of his own as "Bao the Wyld"), wielding what is now the most powerful male sa'angreal in existence, and just turning into a one man nuclear clusterfuck bomb who burns hundreds of foes out of existence with balefire each shot, and who fights THREE of the greatest swordsmen the Light has to offer, AND an extremely powerful channeler, killing the first swordsman, almost slaying the second, easily causing the Ashaman to tuck in his tail and flee... And finally, he faces Lan Mandragoran, THE ultimate sword fighter of this age, and even Lan has to use a "trick" to finally kill Demandred, letting the Forsaken run his sword through him ("Sheathing the Sword"), but strategically in a place where he can survive the piercing if he gets help quickly enough (not to mention where he doesn't just die immediately...)... And then beheading a suddenly parry-less Demandred. Not that Lan even anticipated surviving. "I did not come here to win. I came here to kill you. Death is lighter than a feather." This Crowning Moment of Awesome beats every other Crowning Moment of Awesome, be it Egwene's Dying Moment of Awesome where she pretty much channels herself into crystal to wipe out Mazrim Taim and the entire force of Sharan channelers, or Rand tricking Moridin to take Callandor, thereby gaining control of him and using him to channel the True Source to reseal the Bore... (It is also the moment with which the Last Battle chapter ends, despite the battle taking another 100 pages - it's the essential turning point, not yet the victory of the Light.)
Now, in such a Total Fucking War environment, obviously, people die. Droves of them die, and now, finally, almost no one has plot armor anymore. Though... not quite. If you're a main character, you survive - except for Egwene. Funnily enough, she's the only "main girl" (well, I guess Nyneave counts too...) who is not coupled to Rand. Which brings me to one slightly annoying point. If you are part of a couple, and you DO die, expect your SO to die quickly as well. This is partially validated due to the Aes Sedai warder bond (Egwene blows herself up not long after Demandred slays Gawyn Trakand), and, I guess, also partially validated by "Now I have nothing to live for anymore" the other way around (Gareth Bryne after Siuan Sanche's death). Still, and especially considering pretty much everyone has gotten paired off by the end, this leaves no one to mourn their SO... A bit too Disneyland for me.
And considering all the bad things I said about characters above, the Last Battle also has at least one guy who becomes really interesting - the Ashaman Logain, the False Dragon (the guy who nearly got killed by Demandred in magical battle). While it's made clear he is an incorruptible fighter for the Light (he manages to withstand the Turning to the Shadow ritual several times in a row), this has hollowed him out, and in the end, he seeks the sa'angreal Demandred had been wielding (alas, sealed up in crystal after Egwene's death spell, and then the entire mountain collapses), wishing to rule the Black Tower through Doctrine of Rule by Fear. While it's clear he will not turn evil, it looks a lot like he's going all Tsundere Clegane on us. Of course, in the end, he neither gets his magical boom stick, nor does he remain bitter because suddenly hundreds of people are admiring him for his deeds...
I've already complained above about everyone evil not budging and choosing the winning side in the end. Another complaint is that while not all Forsaken die, none remain at loose in the end. Moghedien, always the Spider, almost makes it, just to be rendered damane by some Seanchan sul'dam who just happened to be around and somehow immediately judges her to not be one of the Aes Sedai because she's behaving skulkily... 8-| Damn!!! More Disney! Can't at least one small, almost ineffectual seed of evil remain in the world, plotting and trying to return to glory?
Another point that did not touch me personally so much but might have mightily annoyed others was the fate of Padan Fain/Mordeth/Mashadar/Whatever. This enigmatic, Gollum-like creature develops into an Alternate Evil over the course of the series, a powerful Thing which slays Darkfriends and Trollocs with as much glee as it kills those of the Light (and turning them into mind-controlled zombies as well). He/It arrives at Shayol Ghul and threatens to upend the entire battle, then meets Mat Cauthon, like the ONE person in the entire fucking world who is immune to the mists of Shadar Logoth, who immediately stabs Fain with what is pretty much also the one fucking weapon in the entire fucking world that can kill it. Oh so neat. It reminded me of the dreadful anticlimatic death of Randall Fflagg in The Dark Tower ( :-L :-L :-L ), except that I did not really care much for Fain.
The Ending of the Ending of course is always a topic unto itself. I liked it, it wrapped up almost everyone's thread of fate (rather sorely missing: Gaul, Bain & Chiad), and the little scene where Rand lights his pipe by simply WILLING it (not being able to channel anymore at all) and rides off into the sundown in a new body... just glorious. It was so Fuck you, reality, I'm the Kwisatz Haderach, bitches!!!!

And with these words, I shall wrap this up before I write even more way too much... :P
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Re: Books.

Post by yiraheerai » Thu Mar 26, 2015 8:43 pm

I've been reading Good Omens for the better part of the last two weeks at night right before bed, barring emotional drainage, unfocused eyes, and other events that had me going "Tomorrow." I'm coming back from a period where reading books hasn't been a thing for me in probably a good three to five years. I read as fast as a turtle walks :P

The shame aside, I really liked it. It was witty, it had more than few good life lessons in it, and in an amusing/surprised twist, I kind of liked the Antichrist. What i liked most, though, was the relationship between Aziraphale and Crowley. For beings that had been made by their respective sides and certain inclinations toward Good and Evil respectively, they had a surprising influence on each other. I've called it "corruption," simply because they would do things not expected from their Side and more suited for the other Side. I think corruption fits nicely anyway.

I finished the story, but there's a few more pages about the book and Gaiman's take on Pratchett and Pratchett's take on Gaiman to read. I think it should be interesting.
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Re: Books.

Post by Don Alexander » Tue Mar 31, 2015 12:01 pm

Hm, Good Omen, I have that here. Though I have read nothing by Pratchett yet. Kind of waiting to get a more or less complete collection on of these... decades so I can read everything in chronological order.

Okay, further catching up to do!

Now that I had finally finished The Wheel of Time, I had the choice: Either finish off my "high priority stack" once and for all (Tolkien's Lost Tales and the two last Earth's Children books) or...

Go for the Big One!!!

Now that I would presumably (at that time - late February) have all Michael Moorcock Eternal Champion Omnibus volumes, I might as well get at it. It's necessary reading if I want to fulfill my New Year's Resolutions, after all.

Now, for those unfamiliar with the writings of Moorcock: In his Eternal Champion series, he uses the archetype of a warrior (mostly male, but can be female though I have met none so far) who is reborn again and again, to fight an eternal battle in the name of Balance. The setting is the Multiverse, a place where almost any genre is possible, be it straight Sword & Sorcery, quite hard Science Fiction, Steampunk, Alt History... Moorcock uses his archetype to explore all these settings, and, hence, a lot of different genres under the general umbrella of Fantasy & SF.
Next to the Champion themselves, further archetypes repeatedly occur through the ages and the worlds. There is the Eternal Consort, that is, the love interest. There's the Eternal Weapon, mostly in the form of a blade - most famously Elric's Stormbringer, the Black Sword. The Black Sword does not always manifest at full power (and there have been hints there are actually two weapons encompassing different principles), but if it does, it's a souled weapon that, while increasing combat skills incredibly (it essentially takes over the bearer, turning him into a lightning-quick slaughter machine), also yearns for blood and souls... :ymdevil: Finally, there is what might be called the Eternal Companion, a friend and swordbrother/sister (I guess) to the Champion, often red of hair.
In the Multiverse, there is not really Good and Evil. Instead, the forces are Law and Chaos. Okay, too much Chaos is basically the same thing as Evil, but too much Law is also a bad thing, as it implies absolute standstill, the end of change, of evolution. The best of both worlds is Balance, in which the positive tendencies of Law are spiced with the curiosity and creativity of a decent dose of Chaos. It is this that the Champion is called to battle for, and depending on which side is overbearing in the conflict, the Champion may fight for either the side of Law or Chaos, and sometimes not really for either.

And now let's dive in.

Micheal Moorcock's Eternal Champion, Volume 1 - The Eternal Champion: The first volume of the series not only bears the title of the entire series, but also begins with the book that bears the same title as well. As I had mentioned some time ago, reading these omnibus volumes will strongly reduce my book shelf, as I have a lot of these books as single editions as well, and in a few cases, I even have them twice, since they appeared under two different titles (I have not grokked completely why this happens, my best guess is that, as a British author, a lot of Moorcock's books came out under alternate titles in the US?) [My Opera spell check knows the word "grokked". I am quite astonished, that is some subtle geekery there!] The Eternal Champion delivers wholesale on the promise of book reduction, I own all three books that are gathered within the Omnibus, and one of them indeed twice under two titles.

The Eternal Champion: John Daker is, to my best reasoning, a man of our own world. A scholar, married, with a child, living in London sometime during the writing present, so early 1960s. His life is, all in all, bland and unremarkable. But then he starts to have weird dreams, someone is calling him, naming him Erekosë. and he remembers being many other people in many worlds as well. This listing of other identities of the EC inspired me to make a comparison... and indeed! It was mentioned in the author's foreward that most of the books in the Omnibus volumes are revised, sometimes the third (and allegedly final) revision. Here I found clear evidence, for some names were changed (like that of Corum) and several were added (Von Bek), obviously Moorcock did not yet have a comprehensive master plan back in 1961. Daker/Erekosë is unique among the Champions in that he remembers his many past lives (in a fragmentary way) and also, it seems, his future lives! This burden wearies him, as only he can truly grasp that he is caught in a cycle from which he can't escape. A curse. War forever.
Anyway, after some days or weeks Daker/Erekosë makes the transition and arrives, hovering and naked, above the grave of a long-dead namesake. He has been called by King Rigenos and the king's daughter, Iolanda, to aid the armies of mankind against their eternal enemy, the Eldren, the Hounds of Hell, said to be inhuman and utterly horrifying monsters with no redeemable qualities. Right at this point, I had that genre-savvy itch that such unabashed hatred could only mean Erekosë was being enlisted to fight on the wrong side... This world, though it is supposed to be Earth, is very different from our own in terms of continental arrangements, and later in the book, it is stated that the Eldren are the actual original inhabitants. Also, it has a weird technology level. Quite medieval in many ways, but the architecture of the cities is splendid in a high fantasy way, with huge palaces and impossible tapering towers... Toward the end, we find out that the planet was supertechnological many millennia ago but the Eldren renounced the horrible instruments of war advanced technology brought forth.
I wasn't particularly impressed by the novel. I had already noted that many of Moorcock's novels are very short, and this is not so much due to lack of plot, but a very telegraphed writing style. Events that would make for a 400 pager from most other authors (and 1000 from Robert Jordan :P ) are crammed into 130 or so pages here, and it's just not really good reading. The plot was also rather predictable (which is already kind of spoiling it, considering what I said above :P).

The Sundered Worlds: And now for something COMPLETELY different!!! I own this book as a single volume under the name The Blood Red Game, and indeed, in the revised version, the novel is split into two parts which carry one title each (TSW, then TBRG). This single volume has an utterly atrocious cover artwork and looks like total pulp crap... And, astonishingly enough, I found it to be the best book in the series! It's a trippy SF novel playing in a far future of humanity, where mankind has spread across the galaxy. Three friends, Renark the Wanderer (restyled to Renark von Bek in the revised version), Asquiol of Pompeii (a planet, not the Roman town) and Talfryn, meet up on a desolated hellhole which rocks a TOTAL "the greatest hive of scum and villainy in the Galaxy" Mos Eisley vibe. Renark posseses a somewhat supernatural power, he can locate objects at supralightspeeds and essentially has a full 3D realtime map of the galaxy in his head. What is weird is that both Renark and Asquiol (who is even listed in The Eternal Champion) seem to be aspects of the Champion (Talfryn is probably the companion). They have come to this dump because the Shifter is approaching. The Shifter (I had to think of the Puppeteer Worlds in Larry Niven's Known Space) is a weird Solar System which travels orthogonally to the layers of the Multiverse, which causes it to pop in and out of existence in many Universes along its "orbit". This almost uninhabitable desert planet only has a colony on it because the Shifter has appeared several times in space near this system, but the appearances are unpredictable, so many of the inhabitants lead grueling lives just waiting for it to come, like some Cargo Cult (of course, most get killed off quickly). But Renark with his supersense... Renark knows where it is. And the funny thing is, while everyone else is looking for some kind of mystic treasure, Renark and his friends basically just want to get out of dodge as completely as possible (Asquiol was once the governor of his entire planet before he did some bad shit that got him kicked...). They launch with a good head start and enter the Shifter system, only to encounter fucking hostile aliens who nearly blow them out of the sky. Then a lot of really weird shit happens (physics in the Shifter system ain't so stable...) and finally, Renark and Asquiol meet The Originators, who are the next best things to Gods in the Universe (think the First Ones from Babylon 5), who tell them their Universe is coming to an end and they have to transport all of humanity to another part of the Multiverse (giving them the technology to create ships capable of doing that). Asquiol begins to organize the salvation of humanity, and finally they transition, leaving just Renark to experience the Big Crunch - he somehow is not obliterated but instead experiences Apotheosis, becoming One With Eternity... @-)
In part 2, mankind reaches their destination Universe, only to find the galaxy is occupied by another species (humanity are the aliens now) who react in a very hostile manner, immediately wiping out much of the Human fleet... :| They then challenge Humanity to the Blood Red Game, a weird but also very cool psycho game in which teams of opponents links via a telepathic mindmeld and pretty much try to mindrape each other in the most horrible of ways... The enemy have been playing this "game" for a long time now and are close to overcoming the humans when a savior arrives from a most unlikely direction...

Phoenix in Obsidian: And now back right to where we left off! I own this one twice, also under the name The Silver Warriors. Erekosë, after fighting alongside the Eldren and genociding ALL of humanity lives for an entire century with his eldren friends and his Eternal love, Ermizhad of the Eldren. For a short while, one might say, he experiences bliss - only to be called away once more. Now he is Urlik Skarsol, Lord of the Frozen Keep, riding a sleigh drawn by polar bears (haha, badass!). The name drove me bonkers. I'm used to Ulrich/Ulrik, but now, it's Urlik! I pronounced it wrongly in my head all the time. This time around, he just comes to riding across frozen wastelands under an enfeebled, red Sun. He rages that he has been taken from Ermizhad. He finally comes upon a city by a sluggish, salt-ladden sea, a city filled with the decadent remnants of a dying humanity. Have they called him or is he in the wrong place again?
I thought this was the weakest of the three novels. The plot meandered, and had some really weird shit going on (the Moon collided with the Earth and all it did was form a mountain range called Moon?), and again everything felt lossily compressed.

To Rescue Tanelorn: The final story in the volume is a short story, and it introduces Tanelorn, the mythical city where a final rest and retirement is promised to the weary warriors of the worlds. It reminded me a bit of King's Dark Tower, in the sense that it is a kind of anchor point transcending the universes of the Multiverse. A Lord of Chaos has assembled an army of beggars to finally smash Tanelorn, and some unlikely heroes must set out in a quest to find salvation. This story had some interesting Ansätze, but it was even more compressed than the rest of the writing, making it the weakest offering in the book imho.

All in all, not really that good a beginning, I'd rate the stories 3, 4, 3, 2 of 5, respectively, and give the total book 3/5. Despite this, I got through the book in just a few days, reading the first novel on the same day I had finished The Wheel of Time, and the rest in the following days.
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Re: Books.

Post by Don Alexander » Tue Mar 31, 2015 1:06 pm

It's the end of February when I begin with Michael Moorcock's Eternal Champion Volume 2: Von Bek. This is the weightiest of all the Omnibus volumes. Similar to the first, it contains three novels and a short story, but two of these novels are actually 300 page affairs. And it took me a lot longer to read...

The War Hound and the World's Pain: The place is now Earth, our own Earth, almost. Our hero is now Ulrich, Graf von Bek, the Kriegshund (correct would be Kriegshund - War Hound), a German nobleman who is a mercenary captain in the 30-Years War. After the dreadful sack of Magdeburg, he becomes disillusioned and leaves his men to ride off into the Thuringian Forest mountains (!!!) to encounter a strange castle. Not a single animal lives in the surroundings. The castle is well-kept, the larders stocked, but it is completely empty. Von Bek rests a week, and, when he is leaving, comes across a procession of... zombies!! Which are carrying a palanquin... from which a beautiful woman emerges to stop Von Bek from killing all her slaves. Highly disturbed, he accompanies her back to the castle, for Sabrina, the woman, lives there. And after falling in love with her, and bedding her... he finds out she is a witch in Satanic Service!! And she tells him he himself must have lost his soul to the Dark Lord already, because that's the only way to have entered this castle. She then leads him to Lucifer himself, a golden angel of indescribably beautiful countenance, who offers Von Bek a deal: Find the Holy Grail and bring it to Him! For in these dark times, only the Grail may cure the World's Pain, and Lucifer sees it as the only way to return to the Grace of God, for he is weary of God not talking to him anymore. Thus, Von Bek sets out on his quest, which first leads him to further cities I have passed often in my travels through Germany, like Schweinfurt and Nuremberg! He acquires a crazy companion, a young Muskovite mercenary formerly in the employ of a witch hunter, a man named Klosterheim who soon becomes an almost indefatigable antagonist in service of the princes of Hell, for most of the demon lords are not happy at all with Lucifer's plan to reconcile with God. Much of the quest leaves our Earth behind and plays in the "Middle Marches", which is a kind of next-door Universe to Earth ("the world between Heaven and ours") populated by myths, legends... A kind of fairyland.
While the book is rather short, it only contains one part that seems strongly compressed. It's also a pretty new book, from 1981, obviously after Moorcock had evolved as a writer. All in all, it was loads of fun, especially because of all the early renaissance German atmosphere. :D

The City in the Autumn Stars: Being a Continuation of the Story of the Von Bek Family and Its Association With Lucifer, Prince of Darkness: This is actually the first book I do not own as a standalone volume. 160 years have passed, and Manfred, Ritter von Bek (not Count, as his father still lives, indeed, he is something of a runaway) is a young idealist who has joined the French Revolution. But now the mob rules the street, the Terreur of Robespierre, and Von Bek has become disillusioned ( a common motif, it seems), and tries to flee France, pursued by Montsorbier of the Comittee of Public Safety. During his flight, he meets both the Eternal Consort, in the form of Libussa Cartagena y Mendoza-Chilperic, the Duchess of Crete, and the Eternal Companion, the Scottish Chevalier de St Odhran, who is not only a balloonist, but also a scam artist. After some further travels in search of Libussa (who helped him escape Montsorbier but then disappeared), von Bek and St Odrahn travel to Mirenburg, a fictional city in a just as fictional little country of the same name, and a kind of mirror of Prague (with a very strong German influence) and perhaps Lichtenstein. Here, an alchemists convention is taking place. The two decide to scam the city and the alchemists by promising to build a huge, steerable balloon with which new lands that St Odrahn has allegedly traveled to (he has a forged map, and it's all bullshit of course) can be explored. Strange things star happening, Montsorbier shows up, and then Klosterheim (!), and when the balloon is ready for a test flight (which is actually meant to be their daring escape with the riches they have accumulated), they are joined at the last moment by a returned Libussa and Klosterheim, and transition soon thereafter to the Middle Marches and an alternate Mirenburg, the City of the Autumn Stars, where a great ritual is to be held (with the Grail as its centerpiece) which is supposed to usher in a new age, with those who perform the ritual as its masters. And, of course, Lucifer shows up again (much to Von Bek's chagrin, who had declared the stories that his family were the Keepers of the Grail and did the Devil's work to be total superstitious crockery... :D ).
This book, though it felt very long, was nonetheless the best Moorcock book I've read so far. Loads of fun, but probably horrible especially for American readers, as it does evil things like quote Goethe verbatim in German... :P

The Dragon in the Sword: On the back cover, this book promised to be "Erekosë and Von Bek team up to face ADOLF HITLER"!!! Fuck yeah, I thought. Well, what a disappointment. :( The book starts as a direct continuation of John Daker/Erekosë/Urlik Skarsol trying to get away from the ancient Earth and rejoin Ermizhad. A ship comes that traverses the seas of the Multiverse, and it's hinted that Erekosë actually has multiple new incarnations before giving up and returning the the old world. Finally, he comes to grips and finds the ship again, which brings him to a little island as a man approaches his new form. This man is (another) Ulrich von Bek, who had tried to assassinate Hitler, was caught before being successful, imprisoned in a concentration camp (pretty unrealistic, I think they'd have just shot him immediately), and then he managed to escape, sought out Lucifer (!!!) and learned how to get to the Middle Marches - where we are once again. This time around, it's yet another world, the Worlds of the Wheel, a place with, I think, six partially interconnected worlds around the hub, which is pure Chaos. Almost the entire plot of the book is a scavenger hunt for a sword which contains the soul of a mighty dragon (hence the title). Yeah, there IS a scene involving none other than Hitler, Göhring and Goebbels, but it was... rather laughable? It indeed allows Von Bek, in a verrry indirect way, to perpetrate the downfall of the Third Reich, but it was highly unsatisfying. Erekosë still doesn't really come any closer to finding Ermizhad, especially after meeting an Eldren woman who looks very similar to Ermizhad - who then falls for Von Bek! =))
I took me some days to get though this book, and I finally wrapped it up during my little vacation at home, even leaving it there because it weighs quite a lot.

The Pleasure Garden of Felipe Sagittarius: I actually read the final short story first, which was slightly stupid as I completely missed the joke when it was revealed that one of the characters is actually named Klosterheim. This story (it seems the protagonist was actually made a von Bek only in this revised version) has nothing to do with the other novels and definitely does not play on our world. In a postwar Berlin which has seemingly been devastated by the Martian Walkers from War of the Worlds, detective Mirko Von Bek is called upon to investigate the murder of some guy named Dschugashvili in the garden of the chief of police, Otto von Bismarck, whose second in command is a mousy man named Adolf Hitler. They later also meet a retired and embittered drunkard of a math teacher in a bar named Albert Einstein... And Hitler finally shoots Bismarck because he was having an affair with Eva Braun.... As you can see, this was totally over the top, and also great fun.

I've caught up!!!!!
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Re: Books.

Post by Don Alexander » Sat May 30, 2015 1:07 am

Well, now! Two months no posts! :P

This has indeed mostly been because I have not been reading very much... Immediately after wrapping up Von Bek, I began with Michael Moorcock's Eternal Champion Volume 3: Hawkmoon. Hawkmoon seems to be Moorcock's second most famous (and beloved?) character after Elric, and this book (which comprises of four volumes originally called "The History of the Runestaff" - I own all four as single books too) was purported to be "dark fantasy". I have to admit, I did not like it that much, which is why I took quite a while to read it.

Hawkmoon's world is a far future of our own Earth - maybe 2000 years or so? In the oldest legends, mankind evolved into a star-faring society, but then some great catastrophe happened and the Tragic Millenium followed. From the ashes rose now powers. Much of Hawkmoon takes place in Europe. The old nations have splittered into baronies and other small fiefdoms. In what was formerly Great Britain, the Dark Empire of Granbretan arises, a kind of Roman Empire taken to the extreme, where everyone wears beast masks and everyone is a horrible pervert. They rediscover many scientific secrets of old, as "sorcerer-scientists". As Europe is divided, Granbretan conquers and enslaves all...

Michael Moorcock - The Jewel in the Skull: All? No. One small Gaulish village... Well, actually, it's a small region in the Camargue in former France, but hey, that's Gaul... The first novel does not begin with Hawkmoon but with another rather famous Character, Count Brass, who receives an emissary of Granbretan, Baron Meliadus of Croydon. Meliadus is initially friendly, trying to convince Count Brass (who is never called by another name) to ally with Granbretan. Oh, and he'd also like the Count's daughter Yisselda's hand in marriage. Brass declines the offer, Meliadus tries to abduct Yisselda, and is kicked out. Meanwhile, after valiantly defending but ultimately losing the city of Cologne, Dorian Hawkmoon, Duke of Köln (who should be Dorian Falkenmond...) is tortured by Granbretan and has a black jewel implanted in his skull which is kind of a smart phone with Facebook on with all default settings on. :)) He is sent to Kamarg to spy on Brass. There, Brass and his friend Bowgentle manage to supress the jewel and Hawkmoon sets out to seek a mage in the far east (roughly Iran) who is said to be able to remove the jewel. Oh, and of course he falls for Yisselda who also falls for him - here we have the Eternal Consort again. On his journey, he also meets the Eternal Companion in the form of furry Oladhan. He finds the mage who indeeds inactivates the jewel, and manages to save a city and her queen from Granbretan in the process. Hawkmoon is told he serves the Runestaff, and artifact of incredible power which serves Balance. I managed to read this book in a few days, finishing it on my horribly long return journey after my March visit home.

Michael Moorcock - The Mad God's Amulet: I managed to wrap this one up in two days. Hawkmoon and Oladhan embark on their return journey, but are delayed, to say the least. They encounter forces of Granbretan in a ghostly city, and manage to gain the commander, a Frenchman name Huillam d'Averc, as an unlikely ally. d'Averc turns out to be the coolest character in the books, kind of a snarky Tony Stark to Hawkmoon's Captain America... The three journey into the Black Sea and encounter the servants of a sorcerer named the Mad God, finding out that Yisselda is in this guy's power! Of course, the intrepid heroes manage to kill the sorcerer and free Yisselda, thereby also gaining the titular Red Amulet, and artifact of great power. After further arduous journey they return to Kamarg and with the help of a transdimensional machine from the ghostly city, they manage to shift Castle Brass into another dimension and escape what should have been the final crushing assault of the forces of Granbretan.

Michael Moorcock - The Sword of the Dawn: I started this, reading some pages, and then, for the first time in months, I stopped reading... :| It just wasn't captivating enough. So, somehow, a poet from Granbretan manages to reach veiled Castle Brass, thanks to some teleporting rings. Hawkmoon and d'Averc use these to travel to Granbretan, where they pose as ambassadors of Asiacommunista and infiltrate the court of Kin-Emperor Huon. From their, they travel to what was once Wales to find the mage who made the rings. They find him, but, pursued by Meliadus, they teleport themselves to a land which turns out to be Amarehk. In contrast to the legends in Europe, America too has been greatly changed by the holocaust. The two travel by boat down the Mississippi, come to Narleen (New Orleans) where they raid the palace of a pirate lord and Hawkmoon gets the Sword of the Dawn, another powerful artifact and of course a manifestation of the Eternal Weapon. Hawkmoon is told he must travel to Dnark (New York) and get the Runestaff, but instead sets out for Europe. It takes me until early April, once again at my parent's place, to finish this book.

Michael Moorcock - The Runestaff: Finally, I decide to get it over with and finish the entire volume a day later. Of course Hawkmoon does not manage to get Europe - fate drives him to Dnark, where he defeats further Granbretan forces and acquires the Runestaff. In Londra, Meliadus tries to usurp the throne of the Kin-Emperor, and it all ends in a gigantic battle in which most of the characters (!) are killed. Finally, a Granbretanian noblewoman who had initially been introduced in the third novel (and who goes through quite a bit of character development, doing a face turn) seizes power as the new Empress and vows to make up for all the sorrow the former Dark Empire has caused.

This is not the end of the Tale of Hawkmoon. The final, 15th volume of the Omnibus series, called Count Brass (originally The Chronicles of Castle Brass), not only wraps up Hawkmoon's tale but will also represent of of the three (so far) possible endings of the Eternal Champion saga.

So, all in all, I found the books somewhat boring, they represent more of Moorcock's early, compressed writing. That final battle is done in like 10 pages... :/
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Re: Books.

Post by Don Alexander » Sat May 30, 2015 1:46 am

I of course immediately transitioned into the next volume, Michael Moorcock's Eternal Champion Volume 4: A Nomad of the Time Streams. These books, similar to Von Bek, consist of newer material, and it shows. I liked them a lot!! This trilogy (I own two of the three books as single volumes) is considered one of the prototypes of Steampunk. All three novels are done up as "found footage". The author claims to have discovered an old chest of his grandfather's (also named Michael Moorcock) which contains a manuscript, an alleged "based on true facts" book written by his grandfather for which he never found a publisher as it was deemed "too fantastic". The grandfather then sets out to learn more...

Michael Moorcock - The Warlord of the Air: Moorcock's grandfather is staying on a fictional island in the Indian Ocean - the time is the early 20th century - when he happens upon a ragged stowaway, a man named Oswald Bastable. Bastable tells Moorcock his harrowing adventure. He was a British soldier in India sent with troops into the Himalaya to a weird and evil city. There a huge earthquake occurs, trapping Bastable under the ruins of a temple. He finally makes it out and is rescued... by an airship!! He has entered an alternate future, it is 1973 and the level of technology is actually similar to what we have now (as written in the seventies, of course...). But someone once decided that a heavier-than-air craft was physically impossible, so there are no planes, just airships. Oh, and also, the First and Second World Wars never happened, and the world is very different from ours. America is rather unimportant, whereas the old colonial powers still rule the world. Over the course of his travels, Bastable, who has encountered a wonderful Utopia in Britain, must learn that most of the world is oppressed and enslaved (yep, these books are pretty leftist). After meeting the anarchists Una Perrson and Count von Bek (! This is a name change in the revised edition), they land in China where a revolutionary leader fights a war against the colonial empires. To break their resupply lines, they embark on a deep penetration mission to drop a new weapon, the NFB (Nuclear Fission Bomb...) on the shipyards of Hiroshima... Great idea, to do so from an airship that can't go faster than a car on a highway. Not to mention the scientist who developed the bomb underestimated the explosive yield by about two orders of magnitude. So, yeah, the nuke Hiroshima and themselves. Bastable does not truly die but gets blown back to 1903 and finally lands on that Island with Moorcock. Then he disappears to China to see what it's like in this world (which is also not truly his own).

Michael Moorcock - The Land Leviathan: Moorcock follows Bastable's trail into China and finds the place where the Chinese anarchist had set up his army - here he meets the "Red Republican Chrononaut" Una Persson! She hands him a new manuscript from Bastable. This time, when he changes worlds, he hardly changes time, it's 1904. Several decades earlier, a child was born in Chile who developed into a super-genius who single-handedly launches the world into the technology of the 21st century - and beyond. This leads to an utterly devastating world war. America, Europe are wiped out, and the pinnacle of civilization is South Africa ruled by Mohatmas Ghandi! :)) Out of Africa comes the "Black Attila", a mighty general who hates whites and leads his forces to conquer Europe and then America, utilizing, finally, a massive "hypertank" the size of the Great Pyramids of Giza to annihilate Washington... Of course, it all goes to hell in the end again.

Michael Moorcock - The Steel Tsar: New novel, new world. Now it is the late '30s, the Confederacy won the Civil War and became its own nation (but is on good terms with the USA), the October Revolution never happened... Bastable spends time in Singapore, which is then attacked by the Japanese. He manages to get to the same island where he initially met Grandfather Moorcock, and finally lands in Russia, where an anarchist names "The Steel Tsar", Iosif Dshugashvili, is trying to destroy the nation. Once again, there's an atomic bomb... This tale was allegedly handed to the actual Moorcock by Una Persson, and in the end, it is revealed that she and von Bek are part of a group of time travelers who are desperately trying to prevent The Bomb from being dropped, but of course, they keep failing.

All in all, three very fun books, which I also managed to read in just two weeks time. Which is of course pitiful compared to my earlier reading speed. But, hey, it could be worse. And it did become worse...

Final side note: I return from my Easter vacation with all the books I ordered, thereby finally, totally and officially completing my Omnibus collection! :-bd
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Re: Books.

Post by Don Alexander » Thu Jun 25, 2015 9:54 pm

Time for more spamming :P , as I have made quite a lot of progress! :-bd

After finishing A Nomad of the Times Streams, I commenced the most central of all of Moorcock's works: Michael Moorcock's Eternal Champion, Volume 5: Elric - Song of the Black Sword. This omnibus contains four novels/collections - almost, as the first short story of the fourth book is printed as the title story of the 14th omnibus. As separate volumes, I own the first book twice (it was illegally published in the US under a different name, with some editorial changes), and also the third book.

Michael Moorcock - Elric of Melniboné: Not the first one written, but the Origin Story of Moorcock's most famous hero. Elric is the 428th emperor of Melniboné. The Melniboneans are a non-human, sorcerous race who are very similar to concept of "dark elves". 10,000 years ago, they ruled the known world, but now their kingdom is reduced to a single island. The rest of the (known) world is ruled by humans, who are called the "Young Kingdoms". Elric is an albino, strong of sorcery but weak of body, who needs to perpetually take magic herbs to sustain his strength. Melniboné is a crumbling, decadent kindom, and its inhabitants are cruel, sadistic, and feared across the world. Indeed, Elric's patron deity is none other than Arioch, Duke of Hell, well known already from Von Bek. Still, Elric is a peculiar Melnibonéan, he has something of a conscience, and therefore, Yyrkoon, brother of Elric's betrothed Cymoril, plans to usurp the throne and, as 429th Emperor, lead Melniboné back to glory. When Imryyr, the capital city, is attacked by a pirate fleet, Yyrkoon tries to kill Elric by drowning him. Saved by a powerful water elemental, Elric returns and kicks Yyrkoon off the throne he has hardly been able to warm. :)) But Yyrkoon manages to flee, abducting Cymoril (whom he incestuously desires). Only after months, and contacting Arioch, does Elric find the location of Yyrkoon. Using a magic ship which can travel over land and sea, he finds and defeats Yyrkoon, and obtains the Black Sword, Stormbringer, whose power makes him independent of the drugs. Yyrkoon is spared, and then "punished" by being given the throne of the Dragon Isle! :-o But only as regent, for Elric plans to travel the Young Kingdoms for a year, to learn about the humans and thereby try to establish better relations with the surrounding coastal nations.

Michael Moorcock - The Fortress of the Pearl: This book is quite interesting because it is much newer than most Elric material, from 1989. Seems Moorcock, possibly on purpose, left holes in the Elric chronology to fill out later. During his "1-year travel", Elric reaches the decadent city of Quarzhasaat in the Sighing Desert, which used to be powerful before the Melnibonéans transformed the formerly lush land into a vast desert. There, Lord Gho Fhaazi coerces Elric to bring him "The Pearl at the Heart of the World", allegedly an artifact of vast power, with which Fhaazi wants to buy a place in the Council of Seven which rules the city. He does this by poisoning the albino and then doling out a limited amount of antidote. Elric embarks upon the journey, meeting a desert tribe whose holy girl has been (mentally) abducted. He promises to save her and enters the dreamlands, a series of seven planes which lead to the Fortress of the Pearl. He is accompanied by a slew of companions, among them the dreamthief Oone, who seems to be none other than Una Persson of Nomad/Jerry Cornelius fame, and Jaspar Colinadous, who we will meet again later with another kind-of-elf... And his wonderful flying kitty Whiskers! :x (A black and white cat with wings which is sentient, can fly, and is also one bad mother in combat...). They stand against different foes, foremost the Pearl Warrior, who seems indefatigable. Elric finally reaches the Fortress, obtains the Pearl, saves the girl... Oh, and also makes sweet love to Oone, which will have consequences much later!! ;) Hereby, he is healed of the poison, and returns to Quarzhasaat, where he goes totally berserk and pretty much lets Stormbringer feed on the entire city... :ymdevil:

Michael Moorcock - The Sailor on the Seas of Fate: I started on this book on my return journey from my hometown in early May when I went to that wedding, but then took until the end of May to finish it. The book is a conglomeration of three partially strongly rewritten novellas, the three parts known now as Sailing to the Future/Present/Past. The first story seems to show up much later, in the very final book, The Quest for Tanelorn, there from Hawkmoon's perspective, here from Elric's. He is saved from pursuers by the Dark Ship which Erekosë traveled on in Phoenix in Obsidian in the first omnibus. He meets none other than Erekosë, Hawkmoon, and Corum (see below, volume 7), as well as 16 further powerful warriors. They all join together two defeat two utterly inhuman and powerful sorcerous entities named Agak and Gagak, which threaten to destroy the entire multiverse and are in the form of two huge, intertwined towers.
In Sailing to the Present, Elric teams up with a merchantman named Smiorgan and confronts an undead Melnibonéan sorcerer who has abducted a woman who he thinks is his ancient, long-dead love reborn.
Finally, in Sailing to the Past, Elric and Smiorgan join an expedition of Duke Avan's to a forbidden southern continent and the lost city R'lin K'ren A'a, where they experience much death and give a titanic jade statue back its eyes - who turns out to be Arioch...

Michael Moorcock - The Weird of the White Wolf 2: The Dreaming City: This was the original Elric story, from 1961, which was originally planned as a complete stand-alone. Elric has learned that Yyrkoon has declared himself emperor and also put Cymoril in an enchanted sleep. He aids a group of raiders to get to Imryyr, the Dreaming City (in a parallel to the first novel), with the hope of deposing of Yyrkoon and rescuing Cymoril. Instead, Stormbringer makes him slay Yyrkoon - and then Cymoril herself... :-T Meanwhile, the raiders overwhelm the defenses and sack the city, burning it to the ground. The nation of Melniboné, and almost all of its inhabitants, are vanquished! Total Party Kill!!! And so Elric goes from a brooding hero who is trying to better the standing of his people in the eyes of the world to a renegade known as Womanslayer...

Michael Moorcock - The Weird of the White Wolf 3: While the Gods Laugh: A year later, Elric sits around glumly in a tavern in a northwestern Young Kingdom, when a woman named Shaarilla (who soon becomes his fuckbuddy) approaches him with a quest to find the Dead God's Book, in which ancient but long since dead gods have written the answers to all the questions of the universe. On their journey, they meet a man named Moonglum who from here on becomes the Eternal Companion. After many a peril, they find the book indeed - which crumbles to dust because that tends to to happen to books which have not been opened in 30,000 years! =)) FAIL!

Michael Moorcock - The Weird of the White Wolf 4: The Singing Citadel: Elric is asked by Queen Yishana of Jharkor to confront a mysterious otherworldly castle which has appeared on her lands and is abducting anyone who approaches it by the use of enchanting music. Her own court mage, Theleb K'aarna of Pan Tang, is unable to do anything about it, and soon he becomes jealous of Elric and becomes his enemy. The Singing Citadel itself is the creation of Balo the Jester, a trickster deity who is sacked by Arioch and forced to "come home"...

All in all, these tales were nothing spectacular but lots of fun to read, while still suffering some from the compressed writing style I have mentioned above.
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Re: Books.

Post by Don Alexander » Thu Jun 25, 2015 10:36 pm

I finished up Elric just a day after writing here about omnibus volumes 3 and 4. I immediately continued on with Michael Moorcock's Eternal Champion 6: The Roads Between the Worlds. This omnibus combines three SF novels Moorcock wrote in the mid-60s. I also own the first two as separate volumes.

Michael Moorcock - The Wrecks of Time aka The Rituals of Infinity: Residents of Earth - now called Earth-1 - have discovered there are a bunch, something like two dozen, parallel universes, all containing further Earths. But strike forces known as D-Squads are creating "unstable matter situations" which are transforming and tearing apart these parallel worlds! Our hero is Faustaff, Professor Faustaff, a huge man in all dimensions, nearly two meters tall but also something like 200 kg in weight - despite that, he is magical with the ladies, and quickly obtains a new girlfriend on Earth-3 who is a quite bad example of an old SF hood ornament female... Soon, they find themselves pursued by a ditzy blond woman who is more than she seems, and a rail thin dude by the name of Klosterheim... :D (Steifflomeis in the original - the renaming actually induces an error in the story, as someone comments that the name sounds like it is German, but the word makes no sense even in German - which is not true anymore for "Klosterheim", which simply means cloister home) In a plot that really reminds me of the movie The Thirteenth Floor (which itself is based on another, roughly contemporary book), Faustaff finds out, especially after the dramatic destruction of Earth-15, that all Earths, including his own, are just computer simulations!! Then Earth-0 is created, and to "activate" it, demonic rituals must be performed... Fun book with some really cool ideas.

Michael Moorcock - The Winds of Limbo aka The Fireclown: In a future underground city nation of Switzerland, a messianic figure, Emmanuel Bloom, known as The Fireclown, preaches doom, destruction and sun/fire worship. Such rabble-rousing is not seen lightly by politician Simon von Bek (originally Powys) Minister for Space Transport of the Solar Referendum Party, who wishes to become president. The Fireclown is supported by Helen Curtis, niece of von Bek, of the rival Radical Liberal Movement, who is running for president herself. In the middle is Alain von Bek (originally Alan Powys), grandson of Simon von Bek, who becomes Helen's lover and who begins to fight for the Fireclown after suspecting that a cache of nukes was placed in the Fireclowns realm as a part of a conspiracy. This was a highly political novel with a lot of twists and turns and, in Helen Curtis, contained a strong female almost-main character, which was really nice. :)

Michael Moorcock - The Shores of Death aka The Twilight Man: This book started with some really messed-up premises. In a far future, an alien invasion has caused Earth "stop rotating", oh, and they also crashed the Moon into the Pacific, which, for some reason, did not utterly annihilate the planet. Furthermore, the planet actually does still rotate, once every 365 days, it has become tidally locked. This does cause the night side of the Earth to freeze, but does not turn the dayside into a boiling desert... So that attempt at hard SF was pretty fail. :P The hero is Clovis Becker (originally Clovis Marca), seemingly of the von Bek line, who was born of incest between father and daughter in a tower in the twilight zone, where the sun is always at the horizon. He flees home and wanders on to the day side, where he will later seek a legendary scientist named Orlando Sharvis in a quest for immortality. I thought this was the weakest of the three books.

Overall, the omnibus was a fun read and a quite different brand of SF from the one I'm used to.
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Re: Books.

Post by Don Alexander » Thu Jun 25, 2015 11:51 pm

I finished up The Roads Between the Worlds in just a few days, and continued with Michael Moorcock's Eternal Champion 7: Corum: The Coming of Chaos, originally known as the Swords Trilogy, of which I also own the first two as separate volumes. Corum is something of a "white" version of Elric. Once again, his race, the Vadhagh, are a "we-don't-call-them-Elves-but-yeah,-they're-Elves" type. In this case, they are a dying race again, but a very peaceful one, consisting of an unknown but low number of families living in very separated castles in a European-American-style world. This world consists of a total of 15 planes, grouped into 3 times 5. The Vadhagh have the power to easily gaze into the other four domains, and legends report they used to be able to see into all 15. But since some hundred years, these 15 worlds have been won by the forces of Chaos. Corum's world is ruled by our good old friend Arioch, here more well-known as the Knight of Swords. There is another similar race, the Nhadragh, who used to be enemies of the Vadhagh, the two races mostly wiped each other out in a huge war, and now there are so few left that they can coexist in peace. This page here highlights the (possible?) links between the Vadhagh, the eldren of The Eternal Champion and Von Bek (The Dragon in the Sword) and the Melnibonéans.

Michael Moorcock - The Knight of the Swords: Corum Jhaelen Irsei, the Prince with the Scarlet Robe, is sent by his father to find out why they have not heard from any other Vadhagh in a long while. He discovers that the Mabden (elsewhere known as... Humans), a barbarian race, have risen in power under Earl Glandyth-a-Krae, they have smashed the Nhadragh, taking a few survivors as slaves, and now are undertaking a genocidal crusade to wipe out all the Vadhagh. No matter where Corum goes, the Vadhagh castles are burning, their inhabitants slain, raped, defiled. And so it is with his own family. He is the very last of his race!! He is then captured by Glandyth and tortured, losing a hand and an eye before he can shift himself to another plane, where he is rescued by a mysterious shadow giant and his servant, the Brown Man (a kind of anthropomorphic bear). Travelling on, he finds a castle by the sea inhabited by... Mabden! But these are an outpost from a continent across the ocean, where a much more civilized form of Mabden rule. He falls in love with the mistress of the castle, Rhalina. An attack by Glandyth is averted by the appearance of a ghost ship, captained by Rhalina's former husband (former, because he's, ya know, dead). The ship is under the command of a sorcerer of near-god-like power, Shool, who then gives Elric back hand and eye - the Hand of Kwll and the Eye of Rhyyn, two artifacts, body parts of two lost gods of ancient antiquity. The Eye allows Corum to gaze into all planes, and the Hand commands an army of undead creatures. Shool (holding Rhalina captive) sends Corum to Arioch's fortress to steal the Sword Ruler's heart. Corum manages this, and destroys the Heart, banishing Arioch from the Five Planes (and also indirectly destroying Shool, who had unknowingly derived all his power from Arioch to serve as a "pet rival" to the Chaos Lord...). It turns out that the Shadow Giant is none other than Arkyn, Lord of Law and former ruler of the plane.

Michael Moorcock - The Queen of the Swords: After a period of peace, the forces of Chaos mass and strike again against the world. Jhary-a-Conel comes splashing into the story - we met him before as Jaspar Colinadous! - and here is wonderful Whiskers again. Jhary is quite unique in being the Eternal Companion version of John Daker - he is able to remember/know most of his incarnations and there blabs on about Elric, Hawkmoon and all kinds of Eternal Champions. He was washed on the shore of the castle Moidel's Mount after unluckily encountering the Wading God, a mysterious, huge entity which traverses the oceans, seeming to look for something. Arkyn, Lord of Law, is still weak after his long exile, and tells Corum and his companions hope might be found in the legendary City of the Pyramid, which is supposed to be the last bastion of Law in the Five Planes ruled by Xiombarg, the Queen of the Swords. They travel there, meeting a deposed King. The four travel across an insane and very cool landscape, including a desert which is not of sand but entirely of dried blood - the battlefield where, hundreds of years earlier, Chaos defeated Law to acquire the Fifteen Planes. Again and again, Corum uses the powers of Hand and Eye. With these, he can summon undead creatures, who, as a price for combat, take the bodies and souls of their victims back to the undead cavern realm, thereby freeing themselves and damning their former victims to be the next undead army. Since the Undead are essentially unbeatable, this army becomes more powerful with each iteration, as it is sent against ever more powerful foes. They finally come upon the City of the Pyramid - which turns out to be a Vadhagh flying fortress which crossed dimensions back in the Nhadragh-Vadhagh war!! Corum is not the last of his race! In one of those "This sounds like a D&D adventure" moments, the companions must return to their world to get a bunch of rare minerals (Uranium?? The Vadhagh city is actually not magical, but extremely advanced technology, they have laser cannons, anti-gravity, stuff like that!), which they task Arkyn himself to do. Meanwhile, the forces of Chaos have reached the capital city of the peaceful Mabden nation. Corum robs them of at least one advantage by defeating their own Dark Eternal Champion, a damned demon knight who is sworn to serve Xiombarg through the eternities. The Queen of the Swords herself then shows up (being, like, dozens of miles high, it really was Gainax ending time), tries to influence the battle directly - and is smote upon the mountainside by Balance itself, because directly influencing the destinies of mortals is a big no-no. b-(

Michael Moorcock - The King of the Swords: Ten of Fifteen Planes are now under the rule of law again. But Mabelode, King of the Swords, is using his underling, dear Glandyth, to spread death and destruction. A spell hangs over the land, driving everyone to murdering madness, the forces of Law slay themselves. Out three companions set out again, often in the grip of jealousy and hatred against each other. They travel into Mabelode's domain, where Rhalina is taken prisoner and out of the action. Corum and Jhary learn that hope might lie in the Vanishing Tower, a mysterious, well, tower that hops through the dimensions, home of the evil dwarven sorcerer Voilodion Ghagnasdiak. Jhary gets in but the castle disappears before Corum can enter. He then meets none other than Erekosë and Elric (wonderful dialogue along the lines of... Corum: "I banished Arioch, Knight of the Swords." Elric: "Oh, Arioch? He's my patron god..."), and together they enter the Tower, becoming a single entity - very similar to the part from The Sailor on the Seas of Fate - and defeat the dwarf. In his treasury, they find some leet loot, including nothing less than the Runestaff. :| I think it was also around here that Corum lands on what is pretty much our own Earth in the late Middle Ages (so pretty much the world of Von Bek), meeting a witch who once had a Vadhagh lover, who straight out states that the Vadhagh - and therefore the Eldren and Melnibonéans - are Elves. :D Elric and Erekosë had both been questing for Tanelorn (and it seems that the battle in the Vanishing Tower will be retold from Elric's Perspective in the book of the same name, first volume of the 11th omnibus...), and now Corum and Jhary, after parting with the two other aspects of the Eternal Champion, find their own Tanelorn. A weirdly deserted place, except for a statue in its center. No, not a statue. A bound... god!! Kwll!!!! Missing a hand. Corum strikes a bargain. You get your hand, and you help me defeat Mabelode. Sure, says Kwll - then immediately reneges!! Kwll and Rhynn exist only to seek pleasure across the multiverse. But Corum and Jhary manage to convince him. They travel to Mabelode's court, free Rhalina and leave Kwll and Mabelode to duke it out. Now, up to this point, Mabelode was styled as this really fucking powerful Chaos Lord... But he fears Kwll. Because in the Multiverse, just because you are a God does not mean you are all-powerful. There are tiers of deities, and it seems "they don't make 'em like they used to", and Kwll is from "used to". At parting, Kwll tells Corum to toss the Eye of Rhynn into the sea off Moidel's Mount - it turns out the Wading God is Rhynn! And he never found the eye because it could only be found if it was not near the Hand of Kwll. Corum and companions travel to the isles of the Nhadragh to defeat Glandyth and disrupt the spell that was driving everyone mad. Then Kwll comes and nonchalantly tells Corum that he and Rhynn have slain all the Chaos Lords and their minions!!! Which is followed by one of the greatest lines I've read so far in Moorcock: "For good measure, we slew the Lords of Law as well." =)) Now Corum and everyone else will live without any gods on these planes! So, yeah, Kwll and Rhynn are fucking badasses!!

All in all, these tales were rather similar to Elric, and also similarly good. Not the best, but worth the read. I took several weeks to finish The Knight of the Swords as I was writing stuff myself, but then I began to burst-read!
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Re: Books.

Post by Don Alexander » Fri Jun 26, 2015 12:51 am

Volume 5 was Sword & Sorcery followed by SF in Volume 6. Now we had Sword & Sorcery in Volume 7, so let's have SF again! Michael Moorcock's Eternal Champion 8: Sailing to Utopia is the first of my newly acquired volumes, and the first hardcover. It contains three books (I have the first as a separate volume) and a short story which are all independent but linked by two features: a) Earth is in a mess, environmental chaos and political upheaval threaten the very existence of mankind. b) The protagonists undertake voyages in ships, though none of the nautical kind.

Michael Moorcock - The Ice Schooner: This book was a big surprise! It seems to be roughly based in a 1920 novel named The Rescue by a guy named Joseph Conrad. But much more importantly, it is a loose retelling of... Moby Dick! I wonder if there is a term for "Ice Age has returned to future Earth" settings like this and Silverberg's Time of the Great Freeze. So, anyway, it's the future, and much (all?) of Earth is covered in ice. The oceans are a blasphemous legend, and the fickle rest of humanity dwells in the eight Cities, on an ice plateau that used to be the Mato Grosso region of the Amazon... Konrad Arflane (~Ahab), a former whaler and ice schooner captain fallen on hard times, saves the life of Pyotr Rorsefne, Ship Master of Freigalt, the richest of the Eight Cities. Despite wanting to leave (Arflane is a quite wonderful grump! :D ), he is forced to meet the Rorsefne household, and immediately becomes very interested in Ulrica Ulsenn, daughter of Pyotr (and there is an illustration of her in front of the volume, and dayum, I can understand Arflane...), who is, alas, married to businessman Janek Ulsenn. We also meet Manfred Rorsefne (~Ishmael), the quite dandyish cousin of Ulrica, and Long Lance Urquart (~Quequeeg), bastard son of Pyotr, living legend, best harpooner ever. Pyotr is the only surviving member of a secret expedition to *gasp* New York City, allegedly home of the Ice Mother, the monotheistic deity of these frozen times (Arflane himself and especially Urquart are very strict followers of the Ice Mother's doctrine). Pyotr passes away, and his will stipulates that his heirs will only get at his fortune if they take the majestic ice schooner Ice Spirit to NYC. All of the protagonists board the ship and embark on a fateful journey which few will survive... According to Moorcock, he wrote this book between penning some of the Cornelius novels, just to show he is able to write standard SF... And he did it VERY well. The style isn't really Moorcock at all, which, I daresay, is something of a good thing for such a book - could easily have been by Silverberg. The book is rather gruesome and nothing for ethically inclined vegetarians since it deals a lot with whaling.

Michael Moorcock + Hilary Bailey - The Black Corridor: Boy, this was a hard read. I pretty much hated the first half of the story, because all the protagonists were imminently unlikable. The narrative structure is somewhat similar to the movie Memento, though not quite so complex. The now takes place in a spaceship on its way to the planets of Barnard's Star (which have been disproved to exist :P ). Protagonist Ryan is the "captain", the one awake person. The other eleven are family and friends, all in suspended animation. During the journey, he reminisces about how they got on to this journey. He used to be a successful businessman, owner of a toy factory. But in those days, xenophobia and racism were spreading in England, pushed by an organization named The Patriots. And here, xenophobia does not mean hating "the niggers" or "the chinks", it already means hating the Welsh, the Scots, the Irish! :-o English society descends into chaos and slaughter. And as these memories scroll through his head, Ryan begins to see more and more phantasms, illusions, in the darkness around - and in - the ship. Again and again the narrative also features interactions with the ships computer which tries to keep him sane - but may it be malfunctioning as well? For some reason I can't quite fathom, the more the story progressed, the more Ryan descended into madness (not just in the ship, but also in his attempt on Earth to get to the ship), the more awesome it became! Seriously, someone should make a movie out of this!! It's part V for Vendetta, part Sunshine... A really fucked up space horror trip (the title is perfect, both space and Ryan's failing mind are corridors of blackness), which is alo rather unique for actually featuring quite a lot of F-Bombs... Hilary Bailey seems to be Moorcock's wife, she was writing a book about societal collapse which was not getting along well - Moorcock took those parts and turned them into the flashbacks while writing the space ship present entirely on his own.

Michael Moorcock & James Cawthorn (writing as Philip James) - The Distant Suns: This book has a rather interesting genesis, the title originally belonged to what became The Black Corridor (and a small part of that book shows up here verbatim, though it is excised from my omnibus volume). After transferal, this book was serialized in an Indian newspaper (!), part of an effort in the 60s and 70s to get the Indian population interested in science. Alas, it's... pretty bad. :-?? Our hero is none other than Jerry Cornelius, but it seems one should connect him by name only to the actual Cornelius. The authors kind of tried a hard SF approach here and once again failed miserably. Just in the first pages, I facepalmed quite often. A spaceship, crewed by Cornelius, his wife and another scientist, launches, and does so at six g, causing all of them to pass out! What kind of logic is that?? :-Q Soon therefater, they have reached 50,000 miles per second and a while later it is said they are "gradually accelerating"... The Solar System planets they passed were also quite a mess, Saturn was, like, blotchy purple or some shit. Any amateur astronomer could have done that better. Anyway, they travel to Alpha Centauri to look for habitable planets, because, once more, the Earth is close to global holocaust. They find a huge gas giant which is circled by multiple moons which are more massive than Earth - and one of them is circle by a... moon-moon? - moooon? - of size between Mars and Venus (0.6 g surface gravity) which is habitable and inhabited. What follows is a bunch of seriously pulpy Flash Gordon adventures... The second part of the book became somewhat better. I found that Moorcock fell ill and the other author took over, and Moorcock states the other guys' parts are actually better... Ahem... Anyway, this was a bit of a derpy ending to the omnibus volume after two really good stories.

Michael Moorcock - Flux: But wait! The short story. Indeed - but I read it, actually, before even starting The King of the Swords. Another one of those restyled to be a Von Bek story. Europe has become one gigantic, overcrowded city, and, guess what, society is about to collapse. The leading politicians decide to send Von Bek ten years forward in a time machine so that he can take real data, then return and they can match the data with a bunch of plans they have to save everything. The time machine is in Geneva, and when Von Bek comes to Ten Years Later, the city is almost empty. He finds a library (above the entrance: "Men Only"), and finds out that things have gone Horribly Wrong. Someone had the bright idea (among others) to stop overpopulation by making women and men hate each other (where was the experiment conducted? Bavaria! :)) ) - clearly supported by Arti :P - and that then spread, leading to gendercidal warfare... Von Bek tries to return but lands pretty much at the end of time where humanity is extinct but other species have achieved sentience, but they are fighting a losing war against some kind of artificial cube lifeform - a kind of Grey Goo scenario. Time machine repaired, but the path is disrupted, Von Bek essentially becomes one with the cosmos and an omnipotent god, who then remakes Earth just as he wants it, preventing mankind's end... Rather weird but in the end still better than The Distant Suns.

Originally, I had wanted to stop here but I found a reason to march on...
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