Wednesday, June 26, 2019


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.