My, oh my, you missed quite a party when you weren't here for the celebration that we had for our newest Winter Queen, Elizabeth Bear. The feast alone will be legendary on both sides of The Border for centuries to come, and the music... Well, let's just say even I was amazed just who showed up to play!
While we cleaned up the considerable mess caused by the party, Jack Merry, typical Jack that he is when it comes to hard work unless it's a night of fiddle playing for dancers, was off somewhere reading the entire twelve volumes of Bill Willingham's Fables series. In fact, we at GMR are all rather enamored of the series, having reviewed most of the volumes to date. Take note that we'll be having a special issue this spring to celebrate Bill Willingham's creation, though if you'd like a head start, you can take a look at what's already up.
The series opens with two strong volumes, Legends in Exile and Animal Farm, which set the stage and introduce the core cast of fairytale characters stranded in New York as a result of their battles with The Adversary. Next, Storybook Love is really about anything but love, 'but more about ambition, deceit and treachery.' Then Willingham jumps back in time to cover the Fables′ last stand against The Adversary in March of the Wooden Soldiers, and forward again to show Prince Charming's current political ambition. The Mean Seasons is a collection of shorts building off the last story of the previous volume. There's more of Prince Charming, an intriguing development with Snow White... and more to Cinderella than ever imagined!
And just to show how much we love this series, we've even reviewed a single issue -- Number 75 -- too eager for the next collection!
Oh, Saint Nicholas who is featured in a very entertaining story in the Fables series is the subject of our story this edition. And what a story it is!
This edition has some top-notch reviews in store, including a serious novel from Terry Pratchett, an artbook of the Fables covers, a reissue of a classic Robert Silverberg novel and musically... some choice selections by our staff!
Speaking of choice selections, our next edition is celebrating another year of Green Man by having our editorial staff and honoured guests pick their personal choices for the very best books, chocolate, films, live performances, and recorded music in the last year as picked by each person! I'm sure you will find their choices fascinating...
Ahhhh, it was a long year. Looking forward to this one, though. All sorts of things I can stand seeing the back of, you can always hope, can't you? You want another one of those, or do you want to try Bjorn's new batch of Midwinter Ale? Right.
Ah, it was the annual New Year dinner for their local -- they'd be the Ancients and Venerables of our local Guild of St. Nicholas. They always come in here from the Guild Hall after the dinner bit and keep the party going. They say they start with a toast to the Guildmaster, Lord Winter, and His Lady at the beginning of the dinner and pretty much plan to not stop 'til the next morning -- the excuse, see, is that they pretty much don't get to drink during practically all of December. Hey, you think drinking and driving is bad, you try it in a sledge with eight reindeer to control!
Well, no, not everyone, of course, just the Santas -- the store elves and tree trimmers, candle lighters, gift wrappers, roast chestnut sellers, bell ringers, and professional carolers can usually get away with a tiddle here or there, but even so, it's professional pride and custom that keeps most of them pretty much sober and working hard.
That entire guild doesn't even bother with meetings or events from the end of November to after the New Year. I think they run around rescuing members from exhaustion and over-exertion, mainly.
Yeah, they spend most of the dinner laughing about things that happened, like the time Dan there on the end had two handfuls of his beard torn out by a kid who was sure it was fake, or the time Marta, the dark haired girl on the right, she's a Christmas pudding maker, she discovered that her daughter had decided to store the salt in the sugar bin after she'd made three hundred puddings. Good thing winter puddings are made well before Christmas.
Nah, we don't mind. They start off noisy and laughing, but sooner or later, they'll go pretty quiet, once the toasts start, and once most of the other customers have left. Reynard usually sends us off-shift and stays at the bar himself. Oh, people sometimes stick around and try to listen, but weirdly, they don't seem to remember much, other than getting this sort of, I don't know, confused, solemn but peaceful look on their faces and saying that everyone just talked, but they can't really remember any of it. Even Spike, who's usually impervious to just about anything. I once came in the morning after the dinner, and Spike was sleeping in the armchair there by the window. When I woke him up and gave him some ale for his breakfast, I asked him if he'd heard any good stories last night. He sort of screwed his face up in this confused kind of way, then smiled just like a little kid, and said, 'bah, well maybe, I guess. . . only, jus', you know, there's still a real meaning behind Christmas, innit?' Then afterwards, he didn't remember saying it, looked at me like I was crazy when I said something about it ten minutes later.
What? No! Of course we don't try to find out. They start keeping those naughty and nice lists as soon as Christmas is over, you know!
Kathleen Bartholemew's review of Sir Terry Pratchett's Nation describes why his 'ruthless honesty has always been most apparent in his works for children.' (Yes, Sir Terry! ) Read more of this insightful analysis in this week's Excellence in Writing Award winning featured review.
Where's the featured music review, you ask? After you read the book reviews, you'll see that we have a very special gift for music lovers befitting the time of year. So read on to discover what that treat is!
Skip Benninghouse writes that 'in Return to Inverness Fulton has eschewed not only the Eastern mysticism of his first tale in favor of Wicca and neo-pagan lore but also the annoying habit of constantly thrusting these metaphysical ideas in the listeners' ears.' See what else Skip's review has to say about this Meatball Fulton 30-year anniversary celebration of the first Jack Flanders audio adventure.
Donna Bird tells us she's 'been using Tarot and other meditation decks for divination purposes for roughly thirty years.' She snagged Emily E. Auger's Tarot and Other Meditation Decks when it came through our offices, and here's what she has to say about it in this Grinch Award worthy review.
Donna was excited to get a copy of People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks. 'The entire narrative,' explains Donna, 'centers on the book of the title, and is based on the true story of the Sarajevo Haggadah, a sacred manuscript that originated in Spain in the fourteenth century and is currently held by the National Museum of Bosnia.' Intrigued? Read on.
J.J.S. Boyce went back to look at an earlier collection of Kelly Link's short fiction, Stranger Things Happen -- 'A sense of the fantastic in her stories is just one facet through which real-life emotions and experiences are refracted.' Read his Excellence in Writing Award-winning review for more detail.
J.J.S. Boyce also looked at a re-issue of Robert Silverberg's A Time of Changes. 'Orb's reissuing of the 1971 Nebula best novel-winner provides a welcome opportunity to enjoy a sci-fi classic, both on its own merits, and as a snapshot of the state of science fiction literature at the close of the turbulent 1960s.' Sounds interesting, no?
Rachel Manija Brown says she at times found the prose of Kristin Cashore's Graceling 'so plain and flat that I occasionally stopped reading for a moment, overcome with vain longing for just one elegantly turned sentence.' But something kept drawing her back. More explanation in her thoughtful and honest review.
Faith J. Cormier reminds us in her review of J.M. McDermott's Last Dragon that not everything's for everyone. Find out why a golem's not a zombie, and why it took Faith longer to figure out how to describe this book than it took her to read it.
What did our own Cat Eldridge really think about Vertigo's release of Fables Covers - The Art of James Jean? He doesn't keep us in suspense, starting his review thusly -- 'I recently re-read the first twelve trade collections, plus the prequel, of Fables and I must say that it was even better this time than it was the first time!' Read the review here in its entirety to get a more detailed analysis.
Cat also takes a look at a new collection of Neal Asher’s shorter Polity fiction, The Gabble and Other Stories. Says Cat, 'Series are, as Larry Niven once noted, 'playgrounds of the mind' and short stories allow a writer like Asher to fill in details which just might get lost in longer works.' His review is thisaway.
Cat downloaded the John Scalzi-edited METAtropolis from Audible. 'Downloading was fast and painless -- always a good sign!' he says. But what about stories by the likes of Jay Lake, Tobias Buckell, and Elizabeth Bear? Read here to see what Cat thought.
April Gutierrez leads off with a collection from a familiar author to Green Man staff and readers -- 'Woods & Waters Wild is the third collection of Charles de Lint's early works from Subterranean Press, with a focus on high fantasy stories. Included are seventeen stories, fifteen of which were published between 1979 and 1991, and two which are original to this volume. An introduction by de Lint precedes the collection, providing some insight into the provenance and publication for each. The collection has been divided into five sections: 'Pastiches,' 'Angharad,' 'Dennet & Willie,' 'Thomas the Rhymer' and 'Miscellany,' with at least two stories in each." Read her review thisaway!
She also takes a look at Yokaiden, which she describes as 'the first volume of North American comic artist Nina Matsumoto's initial foray into manga-style works.' More in her intriguing review.
Fan of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis? Lory Hess is. She writes, 'If you have ever opened the door of a wardrobe with a secret hope of finding something there besides coats and mothballs, do open The Magician's Book'. Her Excellence in Writing Award-winning review of Laura Miller's work can be found over here if you'd like to know why.
Though perhaps you prefer Werecats? Find out if Michael thinks they make for good paranormal romance by reading his review of Rachel Vincent's Rogue.
Michael also claims there's 'a lot to enjoy' about Hands of Flame by C. E. Murphy. His full review tell all.
Does a book with a 'mixture of romance and mystery' and 'memorable characters and ever-unpredictable plot' sound good to you? If so, read Michael's review of Richelle Mead's Succubus Dreams to hear about a novel that 'has all of those things in ample supply.'
Or you could try Michael's review of Mead's new novel Storm Born, the first in a new series that has Michael 'genuinely excited' and 'looking forward to seeing where it goes from here.'
How about Michael's review of Jinx, 'the third in Jennifer Estep's surprisingly entertaining series about Bigtime, a city where comic book action goes hand-in-hand with romance and adventure'? Another worthy choice!
Tammy Moore gives us some insight into the first in a new YA series by Marlene Perez, called Dead is the New Black. She also tells us Perez's soundtrack for the novel (!) is 'a fun addition to the world. Especially when you remember the prophetic jukebox.'
She then writes of Ian McDonald's Cyberabad Days that 'The seven stories collected in this volume follow the rise and fall of this new India, from the luxurious, robot-monkey guarded palaces of the super-rich to the slums where the robotwallahs rule like tinpot gods.' More on that here.
Kestrell Rath is a definite horror fan who admits that she's a bit ambivalent about the works of H. P. Lovecraft. But she's not the least bit shy about recommending Kenneth Hite's Tour de Lovecraft as the place to start for those who want to get into the classic author's works. And doing so earns her an Excellence in Writing Award.
Robert Tilendis closes out the book reviews this issue with James Kennedy's The Order of Odd-Fish. He says, 'The first ten chapters are nothing less than a roller coaster ride, as Kennedy introduces new and ever more bizarre circumstances and characters.' See why this was Robert's 'however' (for he says 'there's always a 'however' in there somewhere ') in an apparently all-round excellent story.
We have some choice comments on some not so traditional English folk music this go 'round, from people who should know.
One Richard, Richard Condon to be precise, offers of another Richard this choice comment -- 'Richard Thompson is often described as a cult figure, a description that Thompson himself defines as meaning that he does not have hit records and, as a result, does not make a fortune from his art. Even adepts of the cult who have all his officially issued recordings will find things to rejoice at in Watching the Dark. It is also a marvelous introduction to Thompson's career for anyone unfamiliar with his work.'
Meanwhile Deborah Grabien sweeps up an Excellence in Writing Award for her passionate and insightful review of Fairport Convention's legendary Liege & Lief -- ' I just absorbed the music physically, like a lover's sweat against the skin. Today, able to bring a modicum of cerebrality to what is still a visceral process, I can parse it -- Swarbrick's violin cutting the mix like a jeweler's tool. Sandy Denny, her voice as uniquely smoky as Jacqui McShee's is clear, putting passion and fire into every note. The blend of drums and bass, always supporting, always speaking, never overshadowing Denny's vocals. And oh crikey, those guitars. . . .'
Over a pint of cider, Jack Merry weighs in with this exhaustive take on Jethro Tull's Songs from the Wood. 'I can say that while Songs From The Wood is ripe with folk motifs, but it is not folk music -- it is as modern as Ian [Anderson] himself. Yet, despite the use of both electric guitar and a full drum kit, it is not rock music. It is an intricate composite of both folk and rock and perhaps more than a drop of not-so-gentle madness.'
Next Lars Nilsson considers the matter of Ashley Hutchings -- 'There are few records that can claim to have made a lasting impact on the world of music, but a handful of them have had Ashley Hutchings as one of the ingredients. After all, he was a founding member of Fairport Convention, Steeleye Span and the Albion Band, and if anyone deserves the title 'inventor of folk rock' (folk rock used here to mean electrified folk music), it is he.' Read his in-depth look at Ashley Hutchings and friends thisaway!
In a review from our Archives, former Green Man staffer Steve Power weighs in on Present: The Very Best of Steeleye Span -- 'It is a double-album, one CD coloured blue and the other brown (if there is a significance to that, I'd love to know what it is) with interesting sleeve notes by Maddy, Bob and Peter. (The words would have been good, too, guys!). The lineup is close to that of the 'glory days' -- Maddy Prior (err, who else?) on vocals, Bob Johnson on electric guitar and vocals, Rick Kemp on bass and vocals, Peter Knight on fiddle and vocals, and Liam Genockey on drums.'
Says Gary Whitehouse of Bert Jansch's Moonshine, which was an integral part of his early college years -- 'One of the first things I did when I arrived at university that fall was to seek out some new exotic music... not Pentangle, but Bert Jansch's Moonshine. That fall, which was a dank and rainy one, I took my first college-level Shakespeare course, and Jansch's album was the perfect accompaniment to late-night readings of The Bard. It remains my favorite English folk-rock album. Let me count the ways...'
Mike Wilson gives us a judicious take on Fotheringay's two albums -- 'There are mixed feelings amongst fans of Sandy Denny about Fotheringay, the band she formed after leaving Fairport Convention... For me, setting the past and future to one side, Fotheringay stands alone as a remarkable recording. Originally released in1970 by Island Records, it captures some of Sandy Denny's finest song writing efforts.' And of Fotheringay 2 he says, 'I'm so glad that this album finally saw the light of day. It's a testament to the esteem in which the band were held that this project has been completed almost four decades after it was first conceived.'
That's it for our musical recommendations this time -- sort of makes us want to head out to a music store or two, dontcha think?
We should remind you about our special editions, which are our way of looking at specific writers and other subjects worthy of exploring in-depth. Of course, we've done several editions on master storyteller Peter S. Beagle, which you can find thisaway and over 'ere; a great edition on Charles de Lint; one on the ever fascinating trio of Brian, Toby, and Wendy Froud; naturally we did one on master storyteller J.R.R. Tolkien, who is much loved by our staff; and one on a fantastic new storyteller, Catherynne Valente, who is always worth reading as is master storyteller Patricia McKillip. And our newest edition is devoted to Elizabeth Bear!
Oh, we should mention that every year that we do both best books and best music in which many of the wonderful folks we review 'ere along with the editorial staff pick their choices of what they liked for that year. And our Editor just reminded me that we did (as if I could 'ave forgotten!) an edition devoted to the Year's Best Fantasy & Horror anthology.
For our main page, please go here; to search the roots, branches, and leaves of This Tree, use the Google search engine; every past edition of our fortnightly What's New can be found here; for a detailed look at Green Man Review, go thisaway; and lastly, you report errors over here.
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archived 18 April 2009 LLS