Sunday, September 25, 2022

Well, Hello, Esme!

 One of the books I picked up in London was A Blink of the Screen, a collection of short fiction from Terry Pratchett. While anthologies aren't usually my thing, this is Pratchett. 

Anyway, the collection is roughly 2/3 non-Discworld, and 1/2 Discworld, although a few of those are things written for other sources. (In particular, a synopsis written setting up the Discworld boardgame that eventually got written in book form as THUD!.) 

There are some stories that are really really good and stick out in the not Discworld section. Like "Turntables of the Night", in which DEATH goes to a Disco. The entire conversation between the anthropomorphism of Death and a DJ discussing artists they collect made this worth the buy. In another really odd one, "Twenty Pence, With Envelope and Seasonal Greeting" is a bit like if HP Lovecraft wrote a Christmas story. (Seriously. Much of the story is recounted by someone observing an insane postal worker driven mad by the world turning into Christmas Cards.) 

In terms of the Discworld section, the big one is the near novella that is "The Sea and Little Fishes" (which has deleted material in the Appendix). It concerns Witch Trials, and a committee of witches trying to convince Granny Weatherwax not to enter so someone else can win. Esme's way of dealing with this is delightful. Another standout is "Theatre of Cruelty", in which the Night Watch tries to solve the mystery of a dead puppeteer. Including the absolutely wonderful interview with a witness, once again DEATH. 

One really interesting story in here, "The High Meggas", is basically the origin of The Long Earth. One of the protagonists here shares a name with the eventual protagonist of the series, but past that the resemblance to what came later on is superficial. 

And of course, there's the lyrics to the Ankh-Morpork National Anthem, written for a BBC Radio programme about various National Anthems. Which was then set to music and sung by the Scots. 

Seen Here. 

Bonus joke is Pratchett's observation that most folks remain shocked to learn their anthem has more than one verse, so the second verse has a bunch of mumbling followed by a few words, as if the Soprano singing it remembered the ends of the phrase. 

I miss Pratchett. I'm always glad to have a reminded of why I miss him.

Sunday, September 18, 2022

A nightmare at midsummer.

 So, I actually finished Seanan McGuire's Be the Serpent Friday, but it's been a week. 

So, October and Tybalt are married and in bliss. Other than being summoned to Muir Woods for the debate on waking up Rayseline, who was last seen (awake) trying to kill off most of the court. Mind you, when October entered her dreams, a promise was made, which comes to the fore after she's wakened. Which is, essentially, Rayseline comes to be October's servant for a year, giving her a chance to heal. 

Which is all well and good until two of the court seers (sisters of Toby's best friend) start screaming in terror. Which leads to finding out one sister is dead, and the brothers are ok. 

Which is pretty much where the plot gets going, as we start digging deeper into the true nature of Fairie, and indeed, just about everyone in here ends up going off at Oberon at some point in time. (Frankly, he kind of has it coming.) 

Any rate, we get pretty deep into what actually caused the Broken Ride, or at least another perspective on it, and a hell of a lot of dirty laundry about the Courts and Claims of Oberon, Janet, Titania, and Maeve. We also get a really BIG freakin' cliffhanger after the main plot is mostly resolved. 

Then we get a really cool novella that explains the binding of Antigone the Sea Witch and how it came to be. 

While most people who've finished complain about the cliffhanger, I'm enjoying it, since I can't wait to find out what happens next. Particularly since the teaser we got prior to the book being released had me assuming this would be the book in which Antigone actually tries to kill October. It's not. Yet. 

Always fun, and I can't wait to see what happens next.

Sunday, September 11, 2022

As unto Sodom, but with less purpose

 So, wound up rereading John Rechy's The Coming of the Night over the past week. While it's a lot less verbose than City of Night, it covers similar territory while illuminating the end of an era. 

We're in Los Angeles in 1981, opening on Jesse in the morning, as he prepares to basically screw his way to a massive release in the night. (A note on structure here. We get multiple focus characters, and we follow them from morning until Night.) The Sant'Ana winds are blowing and the entire city is on edge. We meet Zha Zha, the drag queen porn director, doing a "rehearsal" in the hills for a closeted producer. We have Clint, who's come to LA to get away from some issues in NYC. We have the black cowboy who hates being fetishized for being clack, we get the muscle guy who's worried that his size isn't enough for people. We have the older queen, who sees himself as above the lowlifes out cruising the streets, even as he cruises himself. We have Paul, who's boyfriend is off screwing around in San Francisco. We have the straight hustler, doing men for money. We have Father Norris, who is asked by a woman in confession to go save her son, who has a naked crucifix tattooed on his back while he's busy hustling.And we have the leather guy, who winds up plotting the orgy for Jesse's birthday in the park at night. And lest we forget, we have the roughnecks out to go queer bashing. 

It's quite funny in several spots, as almost everyone in here keeps mentioning how to avoid a hookup once you think the other person is saying no, as Zha Zha's party finds the stars switching roles randomly; but there's also some really painful moments as Clint reveals that he's running for a gay cancer that took out one of his friends in New York, as father Norris chases shadows, as the queer bashers wind up getting bashed themselves. 

Ultimately, it's the portrait of the days right before AIDS, when sex and sexuality were the reward for the sheer amounts of shit society poured down upon the queers. Sadly, as we all know, it got worse. 

Well worth reading.

Monday, September 5, 2022

D&D Multiverse?

 Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman have returned to Dragonlance with Dragons of Deceit, their first collaboration in this setting in several years. 

We open on Destina, a Solamnic Lady who's father dies at the battle of the High Clerist's Tower (where Sturm died in Book 2 of the original series.) As time progresses, her life falls apart, as the keep her father left her gets taken over by her Uncle, and she winds up losing everything.

Hearing tales in Palanthas of Tasslehoff's adventures (in Legends), Destina seeks first the Greygem (last seen in Summer Flame; however, this book is set before the Chaos War) in Thorbardin, and then seeks out Tasslehoff in Solace to get the Time Travel MacGuffin Device to go back in time to try to keep her father from dying. 

There's a hell of a lot of silliness, particularly since Destina's big plan to get Tas to cooperate involved her turning into a Kender, made more complicated by the Greygem also playing havoc with magic. 

By the end, two characters who were dead prior to the start of the book wind up with Tas and Destina in an major event prior to the Cataclysm, with folks in the present (of this book) looking on in horror as history rewrites itself. (With both the Greygem AND Tas in the past, time can be altered.)

While I was amused by the novel as a whole, I kind of wonder what path the authors are shooting for with this trilogy. I mean, there's Destina's narrative of accepting the death of her father, there's the whole if Chaos is back in the 3rd age, can they prevent the whole of the Chaos War later on, and another bit of two characters who sort of remember their fates but are honestly kind of as they were at the beginning of the entire world, and what could they do? 

While part of me is hoping they're retconning the entire Chaos War (it was seriously a painful read, and one gets the impression it was forced by TSR), I'm also wondering if we aren't going to wind up with the first D&D setting with a Multiverse of Madness.

Wednesday, August 31, 2022

Not Quite the Illiad

Wicked Beauty, the 3rd novel in Katee Robert's Dark Olympus series, essentially rewrites Homeric epic poetry in a fun way. 

We have 3 narrators here. Helen (here, Perseus' sister, son of the former Zeus), Achilles (who in this is an orphan, raised in Hera's orphanage), and Patrocles (here the beloved son of of two lesbians who left Olympian politics to protect their family.) At the start, we learn the previous Ares has died, and Athena is running the trials to replace him. Zeus sweetens the pot by giving Helen's hand in marriage to whomever wins the trials. 

Helen isn't pleased by the latter, and enters the trials herself to retain her autonomy. Which sets her in opposition to Achilles, who is second in command to Athena, and his lover Patrocles.  Well, except for the fact that Achilles is so convinced of his own path to the title, that he really has no beefs with Helen. Helen, it seems, knew Patrocles as a child. 

As the trials begin, Achilles and Patrocles and Helen form a triad relationship, which amazingly allows for the two men to continue to have sex with each other as well as her. (In what bits of this style of writing I've read, two men generally won't touch each other once a woman gets involved. Not the case here.) 

One of the better parts comes from the revelation of what a jackass Paris is. Indeed, during his prior to the narrative romance with Helen, he spent most of his time destroying her self esteem. 

Honestly, even if this series seriously deviates from the source material, it has grown on me. I find myself amused by what the author can come up with to reimagine characters and stories. I do hope we eventually get a book focused on Hermes and Dionysis, since they remain the two most fun characters supporting the narratives.

Sunday, August 28, 2022

Darkness falls

 This is mildly delayed, mainly because of some personal trauma. 

I recently finished John Rechy's 1959 novel City of Night, which I had picked up in London back in July. I thought I had read this one before, but I think my head confused it with his later Coming of the Night (which is in my TBR pile now.) 

Te story concerns a nameless hustler from El Paso, as he passes through several big cities and his idea that all of them exist as part of a bigger city where it's always night, where people like him can hustle marks for money. While one gets the rather distinct impression our narrator is a cypher for the author, and most of the stories are just renamed people he encountered in his travels, the afterward does mention that many of the people in here are amalgams of people he did know, and a really nice thought about how every reader helps keep those folks alive. 

There's honestly not much of a plot here, we get tales of the narrators exploits mixed in with vignettes about friends and foes he meets along the way, and portraits of the gay world as it stood towards the end of the 1950s. We get probably the most explicit sense of his journey towards the end in New Orleans during Mardi Gras as a guy who he winds up with for most of the actual party confronts the narrator about his life, and what he wants from it, even as the narrator struggles to maintain the mask he wears as the butch number who is only interested in money. I mean, the overall theme that everyone is wearing a mask in relation to what it is the actually want is interesting, particularly in this day and age where we tend to look at our queer antecedents as being more fundamentally honest in their rather more gender bending ways. Honestly, what comes through here is the idea that all the ways we exress our inner me is a mask to cover our true emotional needs. 

Mind you, this isn't true for all characters in here, or more to the point, they express themselves and then add a layer over it. Like Trudi and her beads, which are the fates rattling their beads to bring people down. Or Miss Destiny, who actually uses language that would not be unheard of today about how G-d gave her the wrong equipment. (It's one of the few cases in here you could point a finger at and say that she would be trans under current definitions. Many of the queens running around in this narrative could fall under several categories, and it's always going to be a mystery where they would fall under today's labels. Something else in here that amused and saddened me was the couples who weren't scores or youngmen, who basically just wanted a relationship with another man, preferably without a transaction involved. 

This book also speaks to the narrative I ran deep into back in the 1990s about the people of the streets and the secret world most of us don't look at. It's depressing, and frankly post 1980, it gets even worse. But it's still there. 

Well worth reading to get a sense of the other side of the vaunted Family Values era.

Saturday, August 6, 2022

And we come full circle

 Realized that thanks to July being re-reads, I haven't had an opportunity to update over here in a month or so. 

Just finished Robert Jackson Bennett's finale to his Founders Series, Locklands, which was a pretty well written conclusion to a world involving people rewriting reality.

Sancia and friends have moved to Giva, and 8 years have passed as Tevanne has captured Crasedes and pretty much all the major land masses except for the islands. The time has come for everyone to confront one another, as Sancia, Bernice and Clef first have to find Crasedes, the prepare for the final battle to prevent Tevanne from opening the door to the creator's realm where all of reality can be remade. 

It's a long journey, and ends up with the Heirophants remembering their past, finding their original home, and a whole bunch of WOW. (I'd love to get deeper into this, but honestly, it would ruin a few major plot twists.) 

While the climax is satisfying, and a great place to wrap up this trilogu, the actual ending reminded me quite a bit of Clarke's Childhood's End. Which is not an insult in the least, but it does tend to fit a paticular trope that isn't used quite as often anymore. 

I do hope Bennett writes more, since his books are really well written and thought provoking.

Tuesday, June 7, 2022

How sweet the sorrow

 I actually finished Music to My Sorrow by Mercedes Lackey and Rosemary Edgehill a few days ago, but...

Anyway, here ends the story of Eric the Bard, unless he's going to show up in the new reboot that he hasn't in 2 books. 

This one basically finishes connecting the lines between Jaycie, Magnus, and Ace, as all of their parents get involved in a really complex revenge plan that winds up with just about everyone suffering eternally and deserving it. 

In the process, we find out the Elf Jaycie's dad is working with Ace's Dad, a White Nationalist preacher, who's side ministry for rebellious youth sucks in Eric and Magnus's parents. 

It's very convoluted, but eventually resolves itself quite nicely.

Friday, May 27, 2022

Coming back around

 Finished my reread of Mercedes Lackey and Rosemary Edgehill's Mad Maudlin, in which Bedlam's Bard, Eric Banyon finds out about his younger brother. 

Of the series, this is probably the one I remember the best, mainly because one of the plot threads overlapped with some digging I was doing when I read it. 

So, as we open, Eric has been seeing a psychologist who treats folks with magical ability, and dealing with trauma related to having parents who thought of him as a commodity more than a child. As such, he resolves to go see his parents in Boston. Which has the side effect of him learning of his younger brother Magnus, who evidently also has a degree of Bardic Gift. Magnus ran away from home for much the same reason Eric left Julliard at 18 to get the heck away. 

Magnus, in the meantime, is living on the streets of NYC with two close friends: Ace, aka Heavenly Grace, who is on the run from her father who was using her Talent to get more cash; and Jaycie, who's on the run from something else entirely.

Hosea, the banjo Bard/Guardian has his hands full with the Secret Stories going around the children in the homeless shelter he volunteers in (Bloody Mary, who lead the demons to heaven and took over) and his romantic interest, who's managed to get sucked into a cult based around Master Fafnir, who wants to supplant the Guardians with himself. 

As the book progresses, all the plots converge, as Ace's father's helper (an unseeleigh Magus Major) manages to target Eric with a spell, Fafnir manages to summon up Bloody Mary, and Jaycie and Bloody Mary's true identities are revealed

A few things struck me both last time and this time. The Bloody Mary thing being the first. There was a whole thing very similar to this that I found out about after reading involving children in Miami, if I recall correctly. One can't ignore the power of folklore among the youth. The other was the whol False Guardians plot with Master Fafnir, which seems to be echoing back on real life crap that happened long before I read any of her work. (There was a whole thing that you can google and decide for yourself on involving people making a myth cycle out of her Diana Tregard Investigations. Search for The Straw that Broke the Camel's Back.)

By far, this is probably the best of the series that these two collaborated on.

Monday, May 16, 2022

Slitter and Slither

 So, Morgan Brice's BadLands series continues with No Surrender, as we rejoin Vic and Simon in Myrtle Beach, dealing with a cocktail of wedding planning, the trial of the killer from books 1, the discovery of a serial killer on the Grand Strand from the 1980's, and the Slitter's fan boy sending cursed objects to people involved in the trial...

Which somehow all pulls together very nicely. 

Brice's M/M paranormal romance books have a really good tendency to be able to juggle multiple plots and weave them together fairly well, which is on full display here. I'm hoping that in a few volumes, when Vic and Simon do actually get around to getting married, all of the invited characters (from both the Morgan Brice series and the Gail Martin series manage to fit in the volume.