Tuesday, November 20, 2018

I'm beginning to get the jokes about Florida Man

Evidently I picked up Dark Light by Randy Wayne White at one of the many book sales I've hit over the past few years. As I was waiting on reserves to come in, I ended up grabbing it of of one of the unprocessed bags I have floating around full of used books.

Now the cover suggested supernatural, but but the prose itself is fairly grounded in reality, other than standard wish fulfillment, as our main character, Doc Ford, is a marine biologist who's also trained in 30 ways to kill a man.

Which will come in handy, as Sanibel Island, off the coast of Florida by Sarasota, has just undergone being in the eye of a Category 4. This sets up plot thread one, as the Indian Harbor Marina is currently defrauding customers by claiming all the boats were destroyed by the storm then keeping all the boats that weren't to either use or sell. Plot thread two involves one of the locals finding a ship that's been unearthed on the bottom of the Gulf that has some fairly valuable salvage.

Then Doc meets Chestra, a fairly young elderly woman living in an estate by the water with a story to tell about a relative of hers who died during a hurricane that passed through in the 1940's. Her story intersects with the story of Bern, who owns the Indian Harbor Marina, who's also been raping and killing young women on the island and back in Wisconsin.

All of which gets wrapped up in a story involving World War II escaped Nazi POWs who were in southern Florida, which explains the diamond encrusted Nazi emblem from the wreck of the Dark Light.

I will say the book kept my attention, made me seasick in a few points, and remained readable. But... it also was really odd in its resolution (whether or not Chestra was who she said she was), and the narration keeps switching from first to third person, which also means most of the bigger secrets are already revealled before other people know them. I may check out some of the other volumes at some point, but not right now.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Unfinished business

The copyright on Raven Hart's The Vampire's Revenge dates back to 2009, which would suggest that we're not going to see another book in the series, which is too bad, since this volume leaves several story lines unfinished.

After the really major events of the previous volume, we're down to just Jack narrating the emergence of the Slayer (his sort of girlfriend Connie), the war with the double-deads, and the joys of his grandsire Reedreck, greatgrandsire Ulrich, and his maker's mortal wife now evil vampire Diana.

Connie is still quite crazed as the Slayer at the outset, taunting and teasing Jack as they hunt down the vampires who managed to return from Hell during the brief opening of the gates in the previous volume. As we found out in the previous volume, said sould had the option to return to their own remade bodies or switching bodies with a mortal. Eleanor, Jack's sister in vampirehood, is one of the latter, having thrown one of her previous employees into a crow.

Eleanor has an agenda beyond Jack, she's out to get Diana for taking William away from her. Which means she's switching bodies right and left to get her revenge. Problem being, many of the double dead have similar ideas, leading to a really confusing St. Patrick's Day. This gets fixed with Olivia coming back briefly to summon two Celtic deities to take care of the problem.

Then we get Diana and Ulrich trying to poison the water supplies of both South Carolina and Georgia with radioactive waste.

And Connie trying to kill Jack, until about halfway through, when he manages to flip her human switch. Doesn't change that she's shacked up with his friend Seth.

Oh yes, and people who aren't dead or dying are leaving. We lose Melaphia and Renee to Melaphia's ex husband early on, then towards the end, the Egyptian were sogs take off. Add to that the return of Will, who loses his cool over the loss of his Dad and Connie and Seth likely trapped on an island that inspired Brigadoon... Yeah, I'm a bit sad that the series never continued.

It's been a fun series, and I will hold out hope it eventually comes to a better conclusion.

Friday, November 9, 2018

There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.

I feel like this review of Whitley Strieber's Communion would be incomplete without digging out this old chestnut. 

For those who maybe weren't around in the 80's, or not paying attention in the 80's, this is Mr. Streiber's account of his history of being abducted by these guys.

Indeed, while the tales of the Greys might have predated this book, it did make them a quite popular image of possible extraterrestrial life.

So, what's interesting to me about this is that most alien abduction stories have the big reveal at the end of the story; even in nonfiction accounts such as this, we normally hear about missing time, strange dreams, and disappearing rednecks long before we get the money shot of 4 feet tall beings with giant black eyes that like to probe humanity. Not so here. Streiber recounts his October 1985 kidnapping within the first few pages, then spends the rest of the book discussing how he came to recover memories of other visitations as well as a rather lengthy discussion of what these visitations could possibly be and possible evidence of alien visitation throughout history towards the end.

Summed up, Mr. Streiber undergoes hypnosis with doctors who have no idea at first what it is he's digging at, recalls not only two encounters in 1985 but visitations at 5 years of age and a few others at other points in adolescence, recounts a group therapy session with other abductees, and involves trying to verify specific events with other possible witnesses. These include his wife, who also undergoes hypnosis, although they try not to involve the son. Despite that, his son does have a few recollections that line up with the events as described.

While Streiber spends all of this describing himself as agnostic towards the reality of the experience, it's fairly obvious he things something happened, although he's not totally convinced its actual aliens, because it could also be future humans traveling through time, or alternate dimensional visitors, or any number of things that aren't a bit of undigested roast beef.

I think the big question any reader of this is going to have revolves around whether or not it's all made up. I can't answer that question. While I tend to give some credit to the idea of Visitors, it's not something I can speak to from personal experience. I can, however speak from personal experience on people claiming I made something up, that I must be misremembering, etc. I also find myself dealing with the old argument about recovered memories, which largely gets brought up against more normal things like people remembering sexual abuse or Satanic rituals at daycare.

Again, this blog is no place for the discussion of validity of such things.

Suffice it to say, the last chapter dealing with philosophy and possible Visitor interaction  throughout history is interesting, although it really goes far afield from the rest of the fairly straightforward narrative, as we discuss things like the meanings of triangles in relation to eternity; indeed, three becomes a magic number.

So yeah. In the end, I feel about as agnostic towards the entire recounting as Streiber himself claims to be.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

When Angel met Buffy.....

There are a lot of things going on in Raven Hart's The Vampire's Betrayal. While not all of them are original ideas, they're still quite entertaining.

As we sort of saw at the end of the last volume, Renee and William are home following events in England, arriving just in time for Connie to cross the line between life an death in an attempt to meet up with the soul of her son and ex husband. Since Melaphia has no intention of bringing her back, since she's the Slayer prophesied in a few ancient traditions, Jack invokes Papa Legba and goes to the other side to bring Connie back. While he's there, he witnesses the angels giving Connie her marching orders.

William, on the other hand, is a bit busy with issues of his own, such as dealing with ongoing plots from the vampire council and dealing with the fact that killing off one of his children has made her a sluagh, as vampires who die get special punishments, and this child in particular holds a grudge like a Sicilian.

Anyway, most of the focus in this one is on Jack, who's trying to reconcile his love of Connie with the fact that she's destined to kill him and every other vampire. He resigns himself to killing her before she comes into her powers, but stops himself when he hears a second heartbeat in her womb, which means he's just sired a baby dhampir, which is likely going to also be a bad thing. (Dhampirs are traditionally children born of a vampire parent and a human parent. Usually they get really coolk vampire hunting powers.)

As everyone could have guessed, Connie finds out about most of the backstabbing, then gets hit with her activation at the worst possible moment. We also have a few fairly major developments in the lifestyles on the Savannah Vampires, which should make book five that much more interesting.

As I stated at the outset, none of this is particularly original, and I had to remind myself these were written in the early mid 00's, thus all the 2012 references. However, it's well written and well paced, which makes most of the egregious sins quite forgivable. 

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Land of Illusions

I technically finished Land of the Dead by Andrew Bates on Friday, however, lazy is taking over.

Any way, we're again sort of focused on Thea the Hunter (who's friend Jake stick around for most of the book), Sforza the Mummy, Carpenter the Zombie, and Beckett the Vampire (who honestly doesn't do much in this novel. One wonders why he even got inserted in.)

So, Sforza starts the book off returning to Cairo and giving the readers a run down on Amenti politics and powers. Which mostly consists of other Mummies pointing out that Sforza's cult is not as well respected as their cults.

Then we catch up with Beckett, who figures out most of Chicago's vampires are under the sway of one of two Methuselas. As such, he leaves, fearing being under the control of Meneleus. He catches up with Carpenter in New York Harbor, loses a fight over the Heart, (not without doing some serious damage to the zombie), then decides his pursuit of the Heart is likely being influenced by other vampires, so he wanders out of the narrative until the epilogue.

T'hea tracks down her mother, who informs Thea about his actual parentage and her connection with Egypt. After Sforza arrives in Egypt and manages to blow up a tanker, word gets out, leading Thea and Jake to Cairo for the final showdown.

And what a showdown it is. While no one particularly ever acknowledges their special powers to one another, Carpenter's end game involves a bunch of extra zombies being created in Saqqara, several mummies in a resurrection temple, and two very annoyed Hunters. While things work out for the best eventually, the epilogue does make it clear Thea's crusade in Chicago is far from over, Sforza getting the Heart is only the beginning of his quest to bring back Osiris, Beckett getting out from under the influence, and oh yeah, Carpenter getting back to the Skinlands.

Now, keep in mind this is the second time I've read this series, so I honestly didn't remember that much about it. However, there was one conversation I thought was in here that wasn't in here. Given that there was never that much fiction written about the Mummy line, so I have no idea where that conversation exists.

All told, it's good RPG fiction, and given the character's are continually ignoring larger plot lines in favor of pursuing personal vendettas, it does seem to be written by someone who's played one before.

Monday, October 22, 2018

They did the Mash....

After the events in the last book, I wasn't quite sure how Raven Hart was going to continue with The Vampire's Kiss. 

As it turns out, it worked out well.

 We start with William in Russia trying to get information on his now undead wife's coterie's location. Given she and her vampire sire/husband Hugo and William's bio son Will ran off with a young child and William's newly created companion at the end of the last book, this is understandable. The trail leads to London, which is convenient since Olivia's resistance is centered there.

Jack, in the meantime, is stuck tending Savannah while William is overseas. Which means dealing with a pack of meth dealing werewolves and helping Werm open up his new Goth Club, which is being refurbished and staffed by Elanor's currently displaced hookers. (Frankly, I have yet to figure out why all the vampires in this series have an obsession with burning down each other's havens.)

Any rate, the two stories never really intersect, so we keep swinging back and forth between William trying to rescue Renee (and learning more of the secret history of the vampire world) and Jack's Werewolf issues and relationship issues with Connie. (Connie asks Jack to use his Voodoo powers to open the portal to visit her ex and her son.)

By the end, we have the next volume fairly well set up, with Melaphia going off the deep end having figured out Connie's biggest secret that not even Connie knows, meeting the council of vampires, and Jack doing something remarkably stupid.

One really wonders what the end game with this series will be, given the number of plot elements floating around. But it's still a fun read.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Anubis was a bad idea...

Bad attempts at puns aside, Andrew Bates's second installment of the Year of the Scarab trilogy, Lay Down With Lions, is a rather large improvement over the initial outing. (On the other hand, given some of the silliness in the first volume, one wonders if some of that came via play testing, because I can totally see a gaming group decide ramming a van through a security gate in broad daylight with armed security on site being a fabulous idea.)

Anyway, while this volume again focuses on Carpenter (the Risen), Nicolas (the Amenti Mummy), and Thea (the Hunter), we also introduce Beckett (the Vampire, who also would have been a better choice for Clan Novel Gangrel than Ramona), who's in Chicago doing research. Beckett gets sucked in to the current drama by virtue of the eldest Gangrel in the city, who offers to trade information in exchange for information about the Hunters. Now mind you, the eldest Brujah (Critias, who's a pawn of Menelaus) is convinced the new Hunters are in league with the Gangrel, but Khalid (the eldest Nosferatu), is aware of other things going on. (Evidently, Lodin is canonically dead in this. I forget how all that happened, since it was in the really old splatbooks.) 

So, anyway, Beckett comes in right about the time the explosion that opened book one, and promptly gets hit with Menelaus's Presence discipline that has him run all the way to Idaho. He comes back, after visiting a Mage in San Francisco, who provides him with an amulet that allows him to blend his aura in better to be less noticeable.

In the meantime, Carpenter has Sforza duct taped up like a mummy and user enchanted bands that more or less paralyze him. (Sforza designed these to hold Carpenter, so the irony is a bit thick here.) Carpenter does use some of his compulsion powers to get Sforza to open up about being one of the Undying. Which is fine, until Carpenter kills Sforza, who comes back in about 12 hours or so. (For the record, I read through the rule book once, about the time it came out. I don't really remember the mechanics.) Sforza manages to escape and set Carpenter on fire. His concern is more for the Heart, some object in a Canopic jar Thea currently has. Anyway. Carpenter comes back, goes and gets his fetter out of his ex's tomb, finds out his relic (a straight razor that crossed the Shroud with him) has a mind of its own, and goes after Sforza. (Really, one of the biggest truths about the Classic World of Darkness is that no matter how many world altering events are going on, supernaturally endowed characters will still pay more attention to personal grudges than anything that might advance the main plot.)

So, Thea and Jake in the meantime, are being hunted by various factions that want the Heart, including Sforza's gang and another gang that wants it for other ill defined purposes. They wind up being held by Critias's bully boys (and girls) in the Sears Tower. Who also wants the Heart, because Menelaus wants it. They've also destroyed Thea's roommate's will, making her essentially a puppet. End result, by the end of the book, several people go out 47th story windows, the Zombie gets the heart, and no one is happy.

I seem to recall that book three takes us to Egypt finally and everyone ends up having an English cozy moment where everyone gets revealed to each other. but we'll come back to that is another entry eventually.

Honestly, it was more fun revisiting Chicago by Night, which is likely why I enjoyed this book so much more.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Hell hath no fury like a vampire scorned

So, Raven Hart's The Vampire's Secret has one joke that borrows a bit from the old movie Major League, then it turns into a Soap Opera.

Towards the end of the last volume, William's sire Reedrek let slip that William's wife Diana was still around and kicking. This volume starts with Olivia, the British vamp who's essentially William's nephew telling William that the Diana in her book of female vampires is not his ex wife, then telling William's childe Jack, that oops, it really is.

Which does set up some interpersonal conflict between Jack and William, particularly when Diana sails into town along with William's heretofore unknown "brother" Hugo, and as an added bonus, William's biological son Will.

But first, we have William's creation of his mistress, Eleanor, as a vampire; the assignment of Voodoun loa as patrons of the family by Melaphia, Maman Lelee's descendant; and Jack and Werm's problematic invocation of Papa Legba, that accidentally brings a character back to life that died in the last book. (That one of the offerings is a KFC extra crispy drumstick makes me think he had it coming.)

Any rate, The arrival of the bloodsucking Brady Bunch also comes with the news that a vampire killing plague has broken out across the continent in the Los Angeles colony. As such, one of the visiting New World vamps is infected. That William's son Will was the one who spread it through the colony and indeed had been in Savannah befriending young Werm prior to Hugo and Diana's arrival only adds to the suds.

Indeed, Connie, the possibly Mayan goddess Jack's in love with gets to make some bubbles of her own, flirting with a human servant of one of the visiting vamps, then getting a crash course in Jack's nature when Will eats the human servant in front of Jack and Connie.

The entire novel winds up with a bit of a cliffhanger, with William at odds with his entire brood and alliance, Jack annoyed at everyone, and everything up in the air as to where everyone will land in the next installment.

Fun read, really soapy. While the focus is still very hetero romance, there is a bit of homophilial scenery when Will Jr. goes a hunting.

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Are you my Mummy?

So, in order to break up the blue vampires of Savannah series, I reached back on my shelves to find the Year of the Scarab Trilogy by Andrew Bates, Heralds of the Storm being the first.

Anyway, to give some background here, since this was really an odd series from White Wolf at the time...

Not long after they released Hunter: the Gathering (a table top Role Playing Game wherein characters are normal humans who suddenly get imbued and realize their are actual monsters all around them) during the Year of the Reckoning, they started a year themed Year of the Scarab, wherein most of the released materials had to do with Egyptian settings, characters, etc. The capper was of course Mummy: the Resurrection, a retake on previous books concerning mummies.

Anyway, this particular trilogy concerns mummies and their interactions with other denizens of the World of Darkness, particularly Hunters and the Risen (ghosts returned from the Shadowlands inhabiting bodies.)

As such, we meet Thea, an Egyptian American hunter who's mother works for Pentex through subsidiaries. Thea is a Hunter, working with a group of other Hunters on the North Side of Chicago. When we start, said group is busy stalking a vampire on his estate. Unfortunately, as we find out, someone else is working with them without their knowledge. That would be Dennis "Carpenter" Maxwell, a gangster who has come back from the dead to exert his revenge on the family that killed him. Problem being one of the grandchildren whom Carpenter had tried to take care of took a fatal wound but survived. (Yay! Mummies!)

Sadly, when the book ends, readers are aware that Nickolas Sforza is something, but not what. Nor do the Hunters, nor does Carpenter.

Instead, the reader has suffered through watching Hunters die, fight, and generally bicker; watched Carpenter extract revenge on the vampire that killed him in the 20's, and met Sforza, who kind of sounds like someone adopting traditions that don't belong to him.

It's readable, but it's also kind of silly and there were other fictions being released around this time that explored similar dynamics within the setting.

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Hard Hearted Hannah

Ok, so I recently won 5 volumes of Raven Hart's Savannah Vampire series, and I just finished the first volume, The Vampire's Seduction. Really debating on how to review this, since it was more Jackie Collins than Bram Stoker or Anne Rice.

We meet William, who was turned centuries ago by Reedrek, who proceeded to kill William's family in front of him. William has been in Savannah almost since the founding, having run away from his Sire and the old world vampires. Now, in Georgia, he ships younglings from Europe to the New World in the great hopes of creating Western Clans that can resist the European Dark Sires. In the mean time, he has a child of his own, Jack, who he turned during Sherman's march to the sea. Jack these days runs an all night car repair shop, drives fast, and has a crush on Connie, the Police woman who was adopted into Savannah Society after being found on the steps of a Mayan temple.

William spends most night at a local bordello, feeding and being tormented by the Madam. He also has two immortal dogs, both of whom become human at night. He also has a Mambo on staff, descended from Maman Laylee, a Hougan of some repute.

This is all well and good until one of William's ships comes in empty, remains of dead Alger on board. Using some rituals left behind by Laylee, William figures out Reedrek destroyed Alger and is loose in Savannah. Which leads us to Olivia, Alger's child, who mainly exists to explain the fun of female vampires. Who can actually drain their male counterparts during intercourse, along with something about this being nature's way of evening the score for losing reproductive capability once turned.

Anyway, Reedrek plays hard, manipulating every party involved to get what he wants, while William contemplates ending his own...unlife...to take out his Sire. (Evidently one cannot kill one's own creator without joining them in the afterlife.

And so it goes, as we see the creation of two new vampires through the novel, although one does fail.

I enjoyed it, as I normally do with vampire novels, since I enjoy seeing how various people play with the myths. I did feel that it was starting to cross into a Supernatural free for all, what with some shifters, ghosts, and all the voodoun coming in to play, but mostly, it stayed focused. My only minor gripe is one I have fairly often with Urban Fantasy, in that none of the characters are people I particularly identify with. Which is fine, I'm sure I'm not the target audience of the series. And I can enjoy it as it is, just wishing alger would have been more developed to give me someone to cheer for in the closing.