Saturday, July 13, 2019

And the Rock cried out no hiding place

Due to some timing issues getting to the library, I went ahead and started The Maelstrom's Eye by Roger E. Moore before starting some of the other books in the TBR pile.

Anyway, we're back with Teldin as his ship reaches the Rock of Bral, where he can contact the Elven Fleet. Which is fine, except unknown to everyone, the Scro are back and hell bent on exterminating the Elves. (Scro are Space Orcs.) Unfortunately, said Scro get in contact with a lich who can trace the cloak and contracts them to go after Teldin to get the Cloak. However, once they know what the Cloak is and does, they start their own plots to get it.

In the meantime, Teldin does meet up with the Elves, who inform him that his cloak is The Cloak of the First Pilot, which would allow him to control the legendary SpellJammer, thus why everyone wants it. Including the Elves.

What follows is essentially a drawn out chase across a few systems, as everyone goes after Teldin and we find out just about everyone has a spy on his ship. On the other hand, one character thought to be dead at the end of the first book comes back.

It is kind of silly, but it's also hard to to get excited when the ship lands on a "megafauna", a giant creature with a foot that's about the size of a continent.

Sunday, July 7, 2019

Why are we out of Rum?

I need to go watch Pirates of the Caribbean again, since I'm running out of Captain Jack quotes, and I just realized that between 4 more volumes of the  Cloakmaster Cycle and the two books I just got from the library all having nautical themes, I'm going to need them.

Anyway, it would seem that all 6 books of the Cloakmaster Cycle have different authors, which does mean that book 2, Into the Void, has some major tonal differences from its predecessor, making me wonder if this is going to be a case of Naked Came the Stranger in RPG format.

Anyway, we pick up with Teldin Moore as the Gnomish ship he's flying on is getting ready to leave Krynnspace. Sadly, the gnomes get attacked by more Neogi. Teldin happens to be out on a longboat when the attack happens, leaving him and 3 of the gnomes stranded as the gnomeship make evasive maneuvers.  Thankfully, they get picked up by a Hammership crewed by mostly humans, captained by Estriss, an Illithid.

The Probe is bound for Realmspace, specifically the island of Rauthaven, where Estriss is looking to buy strange artifacts at an auction. Which does take us out of Krynnspace and into the Flow for the first time. We learn bits of Teldin's cloak's powers, like the ability to change his appearance, which Teldin does end up doing in Realmspace, after the Probe rescues a stranded ship.

Once again, the Neogi attack, although this time we find out they have a spy on the Probe.

In the end Teldin gets betrayed by at least 3 people, as just about everyone except for some of the crew wants the cloak.

 Fun read, and it looks like the next book will explore areas that are specific settings for SpellJammer, which should be interesting.

Monday, July 1, 2019

But seriously, where did the rum go?

Finished the as of now last book in Morgan Brice's BadLands series The Rising while waiting to clock in this morning.

Again, we're dealing with Vic and Simon and various hangers on as a bad winder squall is making its way inland towards Myrtle Beach. Which is kind of a looming threat over the narrative as we deal with the real plot, which concerns an unearthed pirate ship washed into shallower water by a hurricane and some stolen knives. All of which centers on a Plantation house being haunted by the original owner.

Oh yes, and the Gallows Nine, the pirates hanged from the recently discovered ship who trafficked in cursed Caribbean artifacts.

Anyway, descendants of the people who convicted the Gallows Nine end up hanging themselves with brine soaked hemp rope, and the stolen knives keep winding up in the backs of people getting to close to the Plantation Owner's fetter.

As one might guess, Vic and Simon get dragged into this, with a showdown between possessed people with antagonistic ghosts riding them while the storm cuts the plantation house off from the road.

Again, these are fun reading, with the M/M romance adding a bit of naughtiness to the proceedings.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Gnomes.....In....SPAAAAAAAAAAAAAAACE!

So, thanks to Amazon, I've assembled what really amounts to the Infinity Stones of the Dungeons & Dragons, all six volumes of The Cloakmaster Cycle by David Cook. (I think Book six has a different author, but bear with me.) Set in the SpellJammer setting, book 1, Beyond the Moons begins on Krynn, home of the DragonLance setting. (Note for those getting buried under geeklore here. SpellJammer was one of a few settings in the overall game that allowed passage between different settings within the multiverse. SpellJammer was different in that that travel was generally done by using flying ships [sometimes literally sailing ships that could fly through the air and space] and crossing the phlogiston and traveling between the Crystal Spheres that house different worlds. DragonLance is a High Medieval setting where the main timeline concerned the return of both Gods and Dragons after a very long absence. Interestingly, one of the creators of the setting modeled quite a bit of it off Joseph Smith and the Golden Disks. The Gnomes of Krynn mostly live in Mount Nevermind, where they as a race are mostly engineers.)

Anyway, we center on farmer Teldin, a retired muleskinner who served in the War of the Lance. While he by the end answers the Call to Adventure, at the outset, his entire motivation is to farm melons and avoid fighting. However, this doesn't last long, as what Teldin's elderly neighbor Liam mistakes for a dragon is actually a SpellJamming ship that crashes in the melon patch. An unusual captain  gifts Teldin with a cloak as she dies. Sadly, the only survivor of the crash, Gomja the Grif, thinks Teldin killed the captain at first, which gets corrected fairly quickly, although it's half the book until they really trust each other.

What a Giff might look like.
 
Any rate, it isn't long before Teldin and Gomja find out the ship that shot down Gomja's former ship (referred to later as a Death Spider) is in hot pursuit and after the cloak gifted to Teldin. Seems the Neogi want the cloak for some reason. 
 
What a Neogi might look like.
 
Teldin and Gomja make their way to Palanthas, where the Scribe Astinus hopefully has answers on what's going on. They join up with a mercenary group run by an old comrade of Teldin's. For the sake of expediency, Gomja is cloaked and passed off as having been cursed by the Dark Queen. By the time we get to Palanthas,  we find out Teldin's old friend is employed by the Neogi, the cloak can change Teldin's appearance to others. Teldin also finds out he can't take the cloak off, but it does adjust its size at his command. As he wants to get rid of it, get Gomja out in space and go back to his farm....  Astinus agrees to a brief meeting after being gifted star charts. He send the pair to Sancrist Island, home of Mount Nevermind, where the only SpellJamming race on Krynn lives. This means stowing away on an Elven ship, who aren't exactly happy about passengers. (As a side note, and some nitpicking, the Captain is Silvanesti, who at this period in the timeline avoided contact with all other races. Also, he's a Red Robed mage, which would also be unusual for an Elf, since Red is neutral, rather than good. One wonders if the captain has a story that never got told.)
 
Gomja uses this interlude to teach Teldin combat techniques, which works out, since the ship gets attacked by minotaur pirates. Teldin manages to save the captain's daughter when she goes overboard, and Captain gifts the pair weapons. 
 
They finally arrive at Mount Nevermind, wherein we get to meet the Gnomes. This book mentions the Gnomeflingers aren't working, so they are forced to resort to what passes for Gnomish elevators, since the stairs are being repaired.  These elevators work by putting passengers in bucket attached to another bucket by a pulley. The other bucket is filled with rocks, and dropped, allowing the passengers to rise to a different level. (I never said Gnomes were GOOD engineers.) 

Any rate, The Gnomes have a new SpellJamming ship being built, named Unquenchable. Before they can get off the ground though, the Neogo show up and attack. Gomja and Teldin manage to organize the Gnomes into a fighting force quickly, although Teldin gets captured and tortured. After a few days, Gomja does manage to rescue him, although Teldin has almost escaped by that point. 

Teldin decides to join the Gnomish SpellJammers, thinking correctly that the Neogi will continue to attack Krynn until they get the cloak. Gomja leads some of the Gnomes onto another Neogi ship to crash it. We end, with the Gnomes and Teldin getting ready to leave Krynnspace and enter the Phlogiston while acting like tiny Captain Kirks. 

While this ain't exactly DragonLance fiction, it's still pretty amusing. I look forward to what the next volumes hold.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Oh won't you take me to...Lucky Town?

Lucky Town, by our pen named Morgan Brice, is a fairly short Holiday themed novella in the BadLands portion of the shared universe. We join Simon Kincaide and Vic D'Amato prior to their voyage from Myrtle Beach to Pittsburgh for Thanksgiving with Vic's extended Italian American family. We get a peek at Simon's WASP-y upbringing as his mother tries to convince him to come home for Thanksgiving for societal reasons, but Vic's family winds out. Which is fine, other than making me hungry, since Vic's family cooks for most of the first few chapters.

Simon has a vision in Pittsburgh alluding to someone who made a deal and was soul shredded when the deal ended. Said dealer has now made his way to Myrtle Beach, leading to tying together both parts of the novel. This is, of course, after Vic's ex shows up at a party and causes drama.

Anyway, said dealer has, as it turns out, made a deal with a Krampus, which leads to a Hoodoo woman, a Bruja, and Simon facing off with a hooven figure while Victor protects the person trapped in the bad deal.

As I said, it's a novella, so it's brief, but it is fun to read, and since the protagonists are a bit older then the boys in Witchbane, the relationship is a teensy bit less...adolescent, I guess.... although they do seems to enjoy each other's company a few times in 100 pages. I'll be interested to get into the next full volume to see how this falls out.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

In Guyana

I finished Further Tales of the City earlier as part of my goal to re-read the series prior to July's vacation. While this one continues the story, it's also the beginning of a more novel like structure for the narrative verses mini stories connecting over a longer period.

And what a story this one is. Unlike the previous volume, with the cannibal Episcopals, this one involves the aftermath of Jonestown, brought through by gay Cuban refugee DeDe Halcyon Day, who joined the People's Temple with her lover D'orothea at the end of the last volume.

As we begin this one, Jon and Michael are no longer together, but Michael is working with Ned at God's Green Earth, a nursery. Ned is the former lover of ______ ______, a movie star who's very closeted. (By all accounts, this was a cypher for Rock Hudson.) Michael is going through a Country Western phase, offset by the ABBA loving cop Bill Rivera, his friend with benefits.

Mona has moved to Seattle, because it's the eighties, so she never shows up.

Mary Ann is now dating Brian, who still is waiting tables and feeling bad about not making as much as Mary Ann, who has a job hosting afternoon movies and selling bargains during her promos.

Ah yes, and Prue Giroux, the shallow gossip columnist from Western Gentry who's dog Vuitton goes missing ion the park, meets Luke, a bum living in a shack in the park. Her Priest (and source of much gossip, Father Starr) sets them up to go on a cruise to Alaska to meet and have a socially acceptable way to have a romance.

Problem being this is the same cruise DeDe send her mother and her children on while she searches for something. That something would be the convoluted plot twist that Jim Jones had a body double who was the one who had the Congressman shot and then ordered the suicide pact. The real Jim Jones is back in San Francisco and living in a shack in the park.

Which all leads to "Luke" kidnapping the twins in Sitka, leading to a long wild goose chase across the Aleutians by Mary Ann and DeDe. 

 It should be noted that Jon is the doctor on the cruise ship, and Frannie manages to more or less get him to go see Michael.

Which, of course, his arrival happens as the Barbary men and Mrs. Madrigal have taken Mary Ann's coworker hostage to keep her from breaking the DeDe story based on Mary Ann's notes left at the station as she raced to Alaska.

Oh, we also get Michael's Gay Men's Chorus tour, his affair with _____ _____, and the marriage of Brian and Mary Ann.

Eventually we'll get into the next book, at which point you'll all get to hear me complain about Jon's off page death as AIDS enters San Francisco officially.

Sunday, June 16, 2019

On Repeat

I technically finished David Eddings's The Tamuli (an omnibus edition of Domes of Fire, The Shining Ones, and The Hidden City), on Friday, but with everything going on, I'm a bit behind on playing catch up.

Anyway, we're back to following around Sparhawk and his wife Elhana as they get sucked into the other continent, Tamuli. Essentially, the Elene Church has a separate branch on the Western end of Tamuli, which almost seems to be a cypher for the Byzantine nations. Which is part of the Tamuli Empire, which hosts nine nations states ruled by an Emperor who has a wife from each of the nine states.

We're also joined by the Church Knights who figured so big into the Elenium, as well as Sepherina and Araphal, the priestess and her goddess, although this time we see how the Eastern Styrics live.

And again, we have some of the same villains running around, a universal force directing the action, and its opposite number doing the same.

And we also have several strongish female characters, who despite their strengths, can't have a conversation that doesn't revolve around men. I mean seriously, while I appreciate them not being vapid placeholders, they still spend their page time talking about men and how to advance their men politically.

I mean, it's a good read with plenty of twists as each side tries to manipulate the other, but there really is no doubt as to how everything will work out in the end.

As fantasy novels go, it's well written, but given how much that genre has changed over time, I can't help but feel this has been a relic of an earlier time.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Winnemucca Woman

Finished Armistead Maupin's More Tales of the City this morning prior to my ultrasound, and again felt the pleasure of enjoying a good read. (Goal is to make it through all 9 volumes before July, but going on Library copies from this point forwad, since I've managed to lose my collection.)

Anyway, while some of the darkness we got a small peak at in the first volume pops up here, it's not nearly as much of a character as it winds up being in later volumes. I mean, really, the worst we get to deal with is the Cannibal Episcopal Cult at Grace Cathedral, and even that is not quite as bad as later events.

We start on Valentine's Day as Michael and Mary Ann make resolutions for their love lives. As it turns out, Mary Ann's boss (who was having an affair with their landlady in the last volume) left her a substantial gift in his will, allowing her and Michael to take an 11 day cruise on the Pacific Princess to Acapulco. Much to the chagrin of new boss Beauchamp, who's busy dealing with the revelation that his wife DeDe is giving birth to twins from a Chinese father. DeDe's mother, Frannie, on the other hand, is dealing with turning 60 when she gets a surprise for her birthday. Mona is having issues with being alone, so she hops a bus to Reno and instead gets suckered in to working phones at a whorehouse in Winnemucca. Brian, now living in Norman Neil Williams's little house on the roof, is busy watching a woman with binoculars in another building. And Mrs. Madrigal remains as she has been, with hers being one of the largest revelations in the book.

On the cruise, Mary Ann meets and falls in love with Blonde himbo Burke, who has amnesia about his 3 years in San Francisco. Michael resigns himself to being alone until he hits the only gay bar in Acapulco and runs into his former lover Jon. Sparks fly, and by the time they reach San Francisco, all of 'em are happily coupled again.

DeDe manages to befriend D'orothea unexpectedly after she leaves Beauchamp. Beauchamp, upset over the scandal of her children hires someone to beat her up to terminate the pregnancy. (The fact he's cruising the bathhouses looking for men is evidently less of a concern to him than his wife's mixed heritage babies.)

Burke, as it turns out, has issues related to his amnesia like a feal of fenced walkways and puking at the sight of roses. He also remembers a strange rhyme in his sleep and recognizes a man with a hair transplant.

Mona, out in Winnemucca, discovers her name in of the books, calls San Francisco, and the big secret comes out. Mother Mucca, nee Mona Ramsay, is her grandmother. Mrs. Madrigal is actually Mona's father (sort of).

Mrs. Madrigal does try to get Mona and Brian together, but the lady across the city causes issues.

Michael comes down with Guillain-Barre and winds up hospitalized while his mother writes him letters about she and her husband joining Anita Bryant's Save Our Children. Which does lead to a very powerful moment when Michael writes home to mom and dad, discussing his own homosexuality. 

By the end, we find out Burke's amnesia was due to trying to break open a story about a cult eating human flesh during Communion, we find out Brian's nightly appointment was actually Mona's mother, we find out what the anagram in Mrs. Madrigal's name is, and we get to see Michael and Jon happy for the moment. (Spoiler: this doesn't last. They're divorced and reconcile in the next book, then Jon dies off page in book 4.) 

While this volume ramps up the soap opera nature of the narrative, it's still so much fun to read.

Friday, May 17, 2019

I've got that JOY JOY JOY JOY deep in my heart!

With this author, I need to preface this with the fact he's my brother. Indeed, I along with my other siblings show up on the dedication page.


In other words, anytime I review something by someone I know, I do my best to remove my connections with them when reviewing, which is a bit like Jimmy Carter removing himself from his peanut farm after becoming President.

Anyway.

So, The White Angel of Death actually refers to a character, but she doesn't show up until about the midpoint. Which does make her a better character than say, John Galt, who doesn't show up in his novel that he's the main character of until 3/4 of the way through. Mostly, we're following around Michael "Mickey" Weston, a keyboardist for several local bands (most recently, the Balding Orangutans, who fired him, but kept his riff on their national hit "Monkey With Your Love".) Mickey works as a record store and is dating a girl named Trish, who mostly seems to want to argue. We open on Mickey's mom calling him to let him know his brother is in the hospital and likely dying. Frank not only is an addict, but he is also in late stage Acquired Manic Syndrome, the current plague. AMS basically screw with serotonin transmission, making the infected very happy. Second stage screws with the actual synapse, and third stage leaves you paralyzed but orgasmic, essentially left to die of a good time. The disease follows AIDS like transmission, through blood or other bodily fluid.

Frank, the brother, ends up spitting blood on Mickey, who does have a cut on his hand, and who does indeed contract the, I assume, bacteria. (The cure bears a similar name to antibiotics, so I assume bacterial.) As such, Mickey does indeed slowly start transitioning into his life of being a "Happyhead", one nickname for folks infected. While going to get tested, (which is when we find out about government response to AMS, which basically boils down to "You get cured, and if you refuse, we will arrest you and cure you whether you like it or not", under the theory that if the disease mutates into another transmission vector, people who don't deserve it will wind up with it), we also hear about White Angel, an organization run by Jane Alison Tippet, who' initial paperwork reads as if it's your right to die happy than live depressed.

Mickey tests positive on the first round, then demands the second test for confirmation. Then he starts refusing the cure. Indeed, with the sort of help of a coworker (who had AMS and got the cure, which essentially keeps you from ever recontracting the disease), Mickey starts joyholing, which is pretty much happyheads prostituting themselves to the uninfected. $300 an encounter, and the stamina to go 3-6 times a night. Just watch out for the cops, kid.

Mickey does actually get almost caught in a sting operation, and contacts the local White Angel chapter, who provides him a motorcycle and a contact in Chicago. (We start in Columbus. Sadly, most of the landmarks mentioned in this maybe 2 decades ahead of us setting are long gone, razed and built over with utilitarian capitalist venture that the average college student can't afford but make the parents think the area is safe.)

In Chicago, an encounter with his White Angel contact and the bartender who's a CDC mole ends up with him meeting Iz, who's part of an unaffiliated Permanent Floating Rave. The PFR is in a bad neighborhood, and the happyheads are paying protection money to a local gang to leave them alone while they all joyhole (or in a few cases, provide other outlets) for money. Anyway, thing eventually go south, and Iz, who really doesn't like White Angel ends up leading the remnants back to the main house, where Jane Alison Tippet herself resides and runs classes for AMS sufferers, as well as safe houses for them. Mind you, as we sit through Ms. Tippet's class, we find out her philosophy isn't much better than the governments. It draws from the fun 19th century theory that since more people eat up more and more limited resources, the poor should suffer so that more resources become available. Indeed, she thinks of AMS as a gift from G-d, a plague that lets the infected die happy. Which translates into shoving her charges into brothels, providing all the vices they could want, and keeping the money they raise.

In the background, we have national news that we gets bits and pieces of in the context of someone riding serotonin overload really isn't paying attention to national news. This means we hear bits about the Texangelicals and their militias, who in the end help defend President Burlinson from being evicted from the White House following his impeachment.

Honestly, reading this was a bit like remembering my own brief time on antidepressants back in '01, wherein there are some seriously bad things going on, but you don't really pay attention to them because your new brain won't let you. It's very interesting, with the darkness buried under layers of sex, love, and drugs.

Ordinarily I'd post a link to the place to purchase it, but evidently the publisher is slowly going out of business, and Chuck's trying to get the rights back to publish it again. You may get lucky on Amazon, you may not.

Monday, May 13, 2019

Under the boardwalk

On a whim, I picked up what's currently published of the other M/M paranormal romance of Morgan Brice, BadLands.

We start with Simon, who has a doctorate in folklore, who lost his university post and his lover and now runs a New Age store and runs ghost tours on the Myrtle Beach Boardwalk. He's also a psychic medium of some strength. Simon also keeps contacts with his Skeleton Crew, other folks with powers, most of whom are untrained. As we open, the Boardwalk is being haunted by the Slither Slasher, a serial killer hunting down predominantly seasonal workers but also folks with psychic powers.

We then switch perspective to Vic, an Italian cop who moved to Myrtle Beach after running into something supernatural while taking down a killer in Pittsburgh. While he is not a believer, he does come around as the story progresses. Particularly since Vic is working on the Slither case.

They first meet unexpectedly at a Boardwalk coffee shop, flirting over cappuccino. Then they meet as cop and store owner, as Simon uses his powers to contact the victims' ghosts. While he's under, he accidentally hears from one of the Pittsburgh ghosts, which sets Vic on edge.

Anyway, as is to be expected, Vic and Simon go through the initial rush of starting a relationship (complete with whatever the male equivalent of a heaving bosom would be) then end up backing away from each other as Simon playing Nancy Drew gets him under suspicion. Of course, by the end, Simon is vindicated and he and Vic are free to heave bosom together.

While it does fall under a formula, it's still fun reading, and focusing on older characters takes some of the...exuberance...out of the romance that haunted the Witchbane initial outing. While they are heaving quite nicely, they're also not violating several laws of refraction in the process. Worth checking out.