They're worse than critics, they're amateur critics!
Said by musician Richard Thompson (Yes, we checked. He really did say it.)
Pippin, the late evening barkeep, was repeating to me a choice line she'd overheard a particularly pissed off and rather deeply in his cups hack writer tell another talent bereft writer when both thought Pippin couldn't hear them -- which is never a wise idea as she like all Fey has hearing far sharper than mortals do. To wit he said, 'I could say many other things, mainly dealing with the taste, skill, and rather questionable birth of the talent bereft reviewer, but I shall not.' Did I note that he is now sans publisher and agent after all decent critics (and readers too) treated his novel as the piece of badly written trash it is?
I asked her if she'd read the work in question and she said that she knew better than read any book with intelligent shape-shifting wolves in it with the exception of Bigby, aka the Big Bad Wolf, in the Fables series. Fair 'nough, I said to her as I pondered having yet 'nother Smashing Pumpkins Stout.
So if you need something much better to read than a badly written book with intelligent shape-shifting wolves in it on these increasingly cool evenings as summer all too quickly ends, our reviewers have been rather busy. And do make sire that you check out the bonnie bunch of film and DVD reviews that we have for you this edition!
But first, we're finishing our story of the Several Annies, the Library assistants 'ere, and how they came to be known collectively (and now affectionately) by that name. Let's just say that there is a terribly interesting story 'ere. . . .
As we all know, time flows differently on the other side of the Border, and it was three weeks before Liath was back to the Building. She returned on a Saturday, so it was a full four weeks before she graced Chix with Stix again. All the usuals were there early, plus a few who don't know one end of a knitting needle from the other. As so often happens, someone suddenly noticed that Liath was on.
We turned toward her as one. Liath looked up. 'Was there something? You know I can't talk about my missions for the Queen.' The sight of our disappointed faces must have been too much for her, and we were graced with one of her rare smiles.
'Ah yes, I remember. Now where was I?' We all settled back comfortably and she began.
'The next day, we set the plan into action. The girls were models of obedience. No matter what Rónán wanted, he got it. Only, they suddenly seemed to need a lot of supervision. 'Rónán, is this right?' 'Rónán, could you explain what you want again, please.' 'Rónán, where do you want the papyri?' Rónán indeed! For about a day and a half he was in fine fettle. Felt vindicated -- obviously these little chits couldn't do anything without him. Then it started to wear on him. He'd gotten used to having intelligent help, you see, though darn the fear of him ever admitting it. By the time the moon was almost full he was in a frenzy of impatience.
'A storm blew in on the day of the full moon, and by evening there were neither stars nor moon to be seen. Every cat in the Building, and not a few two-legged creatures, stalked around with hair on end. This room had been assigned as the Annies' workroom from their arrival. I knew the trap was being sprung, and I was in here alone, pacing much like you were, Young Annie. Then I heard a blast, the kind that only comes from a great and angry Magic.
'I hurried into the main Library. It was empty of living creatures, but most of the volumes that should have been on the shelves were in heaps on the floor. The air was thick with smoke, but fortunately I couldn't find any flames. This had gone farther than any of us had expected. What had that mad cousin of mine done with the Annies? A few of my colleagues crowded, terrified, at the door. I held up a hand to still their chatter. Then I closed my eyes and Saw where they had gone.
'Rónán has taken the Annies to Alexandria,' I said. 'I must go after them.'
'But how did he take them?' asked another of the Annies, the one with the beauty spot on her left cheekbone.
'The same way I brought them here, and the same way I followed them. By the time I got there, the Annies were dodging from pillar to pillar, trying to get away from the gouts of fire shooting from Rónán's hair. The place was on fire. 'Rónán!' I cried. No response from him. Then I whispered his name, and he turned toward me. 'Liath! It's all your doing! Bringing these little fools into my Library. I'll destroy them, and this bad joke of a human Library with them. What right have these mortals to dare to pretend to any knowledge?' Flames shot out toward me, and I moved to put wards around myself. Rónán was foaming at the mouth, cursing the four of us. 'By the Queen's milk, I'll kill you all,' he gibbered. That was his last mistake.
'The Queen doesn't like her name being used to curse, of course, and the King is none too fond of any insult to his Liege Lady. Once Rónán uttered his nonsensical curse, there were both of Their Majesties in an instant. One look from the Queen froze Rónán where he stood. One gesture from the King put out the fires.'
'Did they kill him?' breathed the third Annie.
'No, of course not. We of the Fey seldom resort to such punishment. Let's just say that he has had some time to contemplate his crimes in tranquility, and that I hope someday, for my aunt's sake, to hear that he has been rehabilitated. I brought the Annies back here and set them to cleaning up the Library. Soon enough, I was called to Court, and every other creature of the Fey associated with the Building along with me.
'Never again shall one of you take the position of Librarian for the Building,' said His Majesty gravely. 'You have too much power. Rónán could have destroyed the greatest of the mortals' stores of knowledge, as well as one that may someday rival it. Liath, you can remain as Archivist. Be the Building's memory, and help in finding a succession of mortals to run its Library.'
Liath bit off the silken yarn with those sharp little teeth of hers and held up another of her lovely amulet bags. The crystals refracted the firelight, sending multicoloured flames dancing around the room.
'And so it has been ever since. I persuaded one of the under-librarians from the Great Library to come and work here for a while. 'Tis thanks to him that we have the collections in the room with the pillars. Annie, Ana and Hannah served out their year and a day and then moved on. When new apprentices came, we kept calling them all Annie, but in remembrance, not scorn. All three of the original Annies came back for a time as Librarian, too.'
Liath gave us her second smile of the evening. 'I never could get Hannah to tell me what was the last thing she said to Rónán that set him off.'
Robert M. Tilendis sums up our featured book review (which garners him an Excellence in Writing Award) very nicely -- 'This edition of Glen Cook's Passage at Arms is a reissue of one of his early science-fiction novels, first published in 1985. Those who know Cook from The Black Company or Garrett P.I. may be surprised to learn that he has also written some first-rate military SF.' Read the rest of his most excellent review for the low-down on this novel.
Our featured film review is by Kage Baker, who takes an Excellence in Writing Award winning look at History Geek Guilty Pleasures via a DVD set starring Bruce Campbell. 'In the soul of every history geek, there is a hidden volume wherein are listed the names of History Geek Guilty Pleasures. Don't try to deny it, fellow history geeks; you know it's true. . .They take the sacred text of the past and whip it into a frothy smoothie rich in bawdy jokes, gross oversimplification, contemporary pop references, anachronisms and camp. And yet you find yourself watching, and giggling helplessly, because now and then there are in-jokes that only a history geek would get.' In this case, Kage is referring to a show called Jack of All Trades.
Frank Beddor and Liz Cavalier's Hatter M -- Mad With Wonder, Volume Two gets the once-over form Faith J. Cormier -- 'As this second volume of the Looking Glass Wars graphic novel collection opens, Hatter Madigan is still following the Glow, searching the world for Princess Alyss Heart of Wonderland, trapped in our imagination-poor universe instead of her own. And it is 1864.' To make sense of that will require you to read her fascinating review.
Another book is the source material for her second reviewed book -- 'Gaea is not everybody's amphora of nectar, not by a long shot. This sequel to [Robina Williams'] Angelos and Jerome and the Seraph starts out with an assault on a young woman who turns out to be Gaea, goddess and personification of the earth in the Greek pantheon. It weaves together the stories of Gaea's attempts at revenge on humans not just for the rape but for all the damage they are doing to the planet, God and the seraph Quant's efforts to convince her that revenge is a very poor idea but that a little wake-up call is in order, meetings with many major and minor members of Gaea's family to enlist their help, fascinating glimpses of God's Design Center and the efforts of Quant's beloved friars to become better stewards of their little corner of the planet.' Read her review thisaway!
A Laini Taylor collection tickled the fancy of Denise Dutton -- 'Once upon a time, long long ago in the distant land of 1970-something, a small girl eagerly awaited the yearly Scholastic book fair at her school, knowing that her parents would give her money to buy anything she wished. So she picked up fully illustrated fairy tales, some she'd never heard of before, with titles like 'Twelve Dancing Princesses,' 'Brave Little Tailor' and 'Little Match Girl.' I think I still have a few of them around here somewhere. If you like your fairy tales with a menacing twist, Lips Touch is a collection that is sure to entertain.'
In her first of many reviews this edition, April Gutierrez examines The Roots of Coincidence which she says 'brings together issues 243-244 and 247-249 of the long-running Vertigo title Hellblazer. These issues were penned by Andy Diggle, who helmed the series for 15 issues (as well as the Lady Constantine spin-off). He's joined on the first storyline, 'The Mortification of the Flesh,' by artists Giuseppe Camuncoli and Stefan Landini, while Leonardo Manco provides art for the latter story, 'The Roots of Coincidence.' The two stories are parts of a larger arc , a continuation of Diggle's The Laughing Magician, that draw to a conclusion in the second set of issues. Although this graphic novel should probably be read after the preceding volumes, it works well enough on its own merits if read alone.' Her review can be found thisaway.
More Hellblazer is up next -- 'Ian Rankin is well-known to crime fiction fans, particularly for his long-running Inspector Rebus series, which concluded in 2007 at seventeen volumes. Dark Entries marks his first foray into the realm of graphic novels as he teams up with artist Werther Dell'edera to produce a John Constantine story for Vertigo's new Crime imprint. For those who may be unfamiliar with John Constantine, he first saw life in Alan Moore's Swamp Thing series and then was given a series of his own, Hellblazer, which has been going strong since 1988, under a variety of authors and artists. Constantine is a skilled magus, somewhat of a smart aleck, rather unfortunate with luck (which tends to be bad news for anyone close to him) and has a bad cigarette habit. Crimes of an occult nature are right up his alley.' So how is Rankin as a Hellblazer writer? Read her review thisaway to find out!
Another well-known writer is the subject of her next review -- 'Lisa Rogak's Haunted Heart is biography of one of American's most prolific authors, Stephen King, who's been scaring readers for decades. In writing this book, Rogak joins a plethora of other authors who have already tackled King as a subject, each with their own angle. Haunted Heart is an unauthorized bio, for Rogak states that any bio that's officially authorized would be far too boring to read.'
Next she digs into the first volume of a new Vertigo series -- ''In Madame Xanadu, Matt Wagner delves into the (until now) unknown back story of longtime DC Universe character Madame Xanadu. Created in the 1970's, Madame Xanadu has served as something of a fortune teller to DC characters, but little has been revealed about her. In this series, Wagner dives back in time -- all the way back to the days of King Arthur -- to show readers her journey to her present day circumstances. It's not necessary to have read any of the DC comics involving Madame Xanadu to enjoy Wagner's re-imagining of her.' Now read her review of Madame Xanadu -- Disenchanted for all the details on this new series!
Her next review looks at the first Fables novel, but prolly not the last -- 'Peter & Max is a novel set in Bill Willingham's Fables universe. It's not his first prose effort for the series -- that honor goes to the short piece 'A Wolf in the Fold,' from the Legends in Exile graphic novel -- but it is the first novel-length Fables work. Previous knowledge of the Fables comics is not necessary for reading Peter & Max, although it would certainly enhance the experience. For long-time readers, Willingham provides a short note at the beginning to set the timing for the modern-day portion of his tale.' Read her review 'ere.
Lastly for her is a look at Fables -- The Dark Ages -- 'With this twelfth collection of his award-winning series, Bill Willingham tackles the aftermath of the Fables' victorious war with the Adversary, examining the effects on the Fables, Gepetto and the lands he formerly ruled. Winning, it turns out, isn't always everything; nor is it necessarily an end, but more of a beginning.'
The first of six reviews from Michael M. Jones is of an urban fantasy by Jes Battis, a genre he really loves -- 'Where do I start with describing the many ways in which A Flash of Hex, like its predecessor, Night Child, is awesome? For one thing, the cast inhabiting this world is both eclectic and believable, fully fleshed-out with complex personalities and rich interplay. Tess herself has formed an odd family unit, consisting of her partner Derrick (who's as out and proud about his sexuality as he's closeted about being a telepath) and Mia, the teenager (and potential vampire) they gained custody of following a previous case. As unlikely a group as they are, there's enough heart and spirit in their dealings with one another to sell it as a perfectly natural thing.' Sounds cool to me!
Jenna Black's Speak of the Devil drew this comment from him -- 'I'll be honest. I don't keep returning to this series -- four books and counting -- because I like the main character. Morgan's a self-absorbed, irritating person, the sort who invariably makes life much harder for herself than it needs to be. She constantly alienates and abuses everyone who might be willing and able to help her, drives away her allies, and tosses common sense and self-preservation out the window on a regular basis. It's hard to imagine how she's lasted this long. No, I'm here because of the supporting cast, and specifically for Adam and Dominic. It's pretty damn rare to find such a positive portrayal of a loving, committed homosexual BDSM-practicing couple in any series outside of the erotic section, and their presence more than makes up for Morgan's shortcomings'
He really, really likes long series, as can be noted here in his review of Rachel Caine's Cape Storm -- 'We're now eight books into what Caine has described as a nine book storyline, and while Joanne and the others have been through a lot already, this book pushes the limits once again, and alters the status quo in a way that may or may not be recoverable. We've seen Joanne die and come back, lose her memory and regain it, become a djinn and return to human, so it's anyone's guess as to how these latest changes will stick. It's interesting all the same to watch the author put her cast through the wringer, even as she invents new and interesting ways to ramp up the tension and the stakes. And believe me, things get pretty intense here.'
Larry Correia's Monster Hunter International, according to him 'is an over-the-top, gleefully loony homage to B-movie action/adventure, the sort of thing John Ringo might write on a slow day, or like what Nick Pollata did in his Bureau 13 series some years back. It's a mixture of hardcore combat sequences and male wish-fulfillment power fantasies, interspersed with more violence and mythology gone wild, written by someone who very clearly knows his guns and action movies inside-and-out.'
A Jim Hines' novel tickled his fancy as well -- 'Once upon a time, there were three very special princesses. Each one inspired a fairy tale, and in each case, the facts were either exaggerated or outright fabricated. Even so, there remains an element of truth to Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, and Cinderella. There was a princess who slept for a hundred years, only to be awoken by a prince. There was a princess who fought for her life against a wicked stepmother driven mad with vanity. There was a commoner who fell in love at a ball, rescued from her dreary existence by a prince. But these are not your everyday average ordinary Disney Princesses. Sleeping Beauty is Talia, whose fairy gifts grant her great skills at combat. Snow White is a powerful sorceress, specializing in mirror magic. And Cinderella is Danielle, whose own skills with a magical sword are nothing to scoff at. And now the true story of another fairy tale heroine can be revealed, as they investigate the mystery of The Mermaid's Madness.'
A review of Caitlin Kittredge's Witch Craft rounds out his reviewing this edition -- 'As the newly-appointed Lieutenant of Nocturne City PD's Supernatural Crimes Squad, packless werewolf Luna Wilder is used to dealing not just with the very worst her beloved city has to offer, but with the disdain and distrust of those who fail to see a need for her specialized team. Unfortunately, the need for the SCS is about to become quite evident, when Luna and her people are called in to investigate a series of mysterious fires. Places are burning, people are dying, and supernatural creatures rarely seen in Nocturne City are trying to kill Luna.'
Robert M. Tilendis says 'To re-invent an ongoing character who has been in existence since 1941 is no small undertaking, although in the case of Green Arrow, aka Ollie Queen, there is a lot of history to draw on -- this is not the first time Green Arrow has been re-imagined, not to mention resurrected. (This is an ongoing feature of comics, of course -- characters change as new writers and artists take over and want to add their own seasonings to the recipe.)' So how does Green Arrow -- Year One by Andy Diggle, with art by Jock fare? Read the full review to see!
Next up for him is something far more avant garde -- 'The Wall of America is a collection of Disch's short fiction, running the gamut from a mystifyingly surreal fantasy about two stuffed animals that may really be about an autistic child ('The Owl and the Pussycat') to a mordant and scathing look at the publishing industry and its attendant media circus ('The Abduction of Bunny Steiner, or, A Shameless Lie' -- a story which, incidentally, is not kind to literary agents or editors).'
Mia Nutick here with a lovely selection of film reviews for you. We have DVDs and theatrical releases this week, and it appears to be a mixed bag.
First up is Camille Alexa, with a DVD and two films that are currently showing in theaters. Her first offering is Season One of Blood Ties, based on the novels by Tanya Huff. Camille gets an almost Grinch Award for her review. She didn't hate it, you see. She was rather kind, really. She just thought it could have been better, and hoped for more. 'The good news is that I'd definitely watch more, if it were available, and not too inconvenient, nor too expensive. The bad news is, I wouldn't exactly mind if I didn't see more.' Read her not-quite-Grinchy review to find out more.
Camille also went to the theater to see two currently showing films, Ponyo and District 9. Of Hayao Miyazaki's Ponyo, she says 'It's like sitting down to read a novel, and between the covers finding a nicely illustrated Baby's First Alphabet.' She liked District 9 much better, saying 'While gritty, sometimes tragic, and often viscerally disgusting, this is a piece of Social SF in a very classic sense: here's a 'what-if' scenario, where science (interstellar space travel, recombinant DNA technology, powerful weapons attuned to biology) causes people to act, and changes the social makeup of the human community in ways that are both totally new and eerily, heartrendingly familiar.' Read her very thoughtful review for more on District 9.
Donna Bird brings us a boxed set of Miss Marple DVDs from Acorn Media -- unfortunately only Series Four, as they neglected to send us Series One through Three! Donna says 'As is typical of the Acorn Media boxed sets, the only special features are biographies of Miss Christie and Miss McKenzie, photo galleries and filmographies for the major members of the cast. But of course you don't watch these for the special features...' Read her thorough review of this set for an idea of just how good this series is!
Busy publisher and man with a plan Cat Eldridge took some time to review several DVD series for us this week. If you know Cat at all you know that he's a fan of the Midsomer Murders, and it's no surprise that he's pleased with the latest offering in that long running series. Very pleased, in fact. 'Indeed' says Cat in his review, 'they were the finest set of Midsomer Murders in the span of the entire series.' Find out more of his thoughts on Midsomer Murders -- Set 13.
Cat wasn't as happy with another Acorn release, an old Thames series from the Seventies called The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes. I think it's safe to say that he was completely unimpressed. When Cat says that something sucks eggs...well, it really can't be all that good. He says 'Matching the inferior grade as characters is the acting of the performers here who seem more than slightly embarrassed by the scripts that they have been given -- the writers use every bad cliche possible and even a few I thought that common decency would have suggested not using.' See more about it here.
Fortunately, he did like the third Acorn submission, the first season of a series entitled Van der Valk. 'Van der Valk is based in and around Amsterdam, where Commissaris van der Valk is a senior detective with a wife and children who are literally heard but not seen. Drugs, sex, WWII collaborators, political scandals, and, of course, murder are the primary themes of the series. But just as important to the feel of the series are the Amsterdam locations where all the exterior shots were done.'
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. Needless to say, we're very proud of the great edition on Charles de Lint we did.
We did 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; not to mention ones on Kage Baker, Neil Gaiman, Catherynne M. Valente, Patricia McKillip, and Elizabeth Bear
Oh, our Editor just reminded me that we did (as if I could 'ave forgotten!) an edition devoted to the now departed and much missed Year's Best Fantasy & Horror anthology.
We pulled together a look
at the Bordetown series that Terri Windling created, Go
for that article.
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. Still have questions? Email our Editor here. Provided he's not in the Green Man Pub savouring some kick ass metheglin while listening to Blodeuwedd tell her tale, he'll try to answer your question!
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Uploaded 9th September 6:30 pst LLS
archived 3rd October, 2009 LLS