Sara Kendell once read somewhere that the tale of the world is like a tree. The tale, she understood, did not so much mean the niggling occurrences of daily life. Rather it encompassed the grand stories that caused some change in the world and were remembered in ensuing years as, if not histories, at least folktales and myths. By such reasoning, Winston Churchill could take his place in British folklore alongside the legendary Robin Hood; Merlin Ambrosius had as much validity as Martin Luther. The scope of their influence might differ, but they were all a part of the same tale. -- Moonheart by Charles de Lint

Ahhhh, you found the Green Man Pub where the whisky is always single malt, the music is neverending, and the company superb, except for The Irish Gentry (or Hard Men as they are oft times called) in the corner as they are not to be trifled with!

Now listen -- a story is being told. . . . So do stop what you are doing as we should listen to what this particular teller of tales wants to share with us.

Of course, tales come in many forms -- be it one on one with a good series, such as Robert Holdstock's Ryhope Wood series; or a circle of friends around the communal fire late at night as our resident Seannachie holds back the dark just a little longer with his telling of Beowulf based on a superb version which isn't this one; or mayhap a really good television series, such as The Dresden Files; or even as we listen to a singer-songwriter tell a story in both music and words as Casey Neill does in his 'Riffraff' story off his Memory Against Forgetting album.

Which, as you could guess without me telling you, means that everything we review 'ere at Green Man are stories being told, and of course, our reviews are stories as well. Indeed you in turn will tell your story as well of what you read 'ere. . . .

(Our Librarian, Mackenzie, is making quite rude noises that some tales simply shouldn't really be told and he offers this well-known graphic novel as proof of this thesis. I must say he makes a compelling case!)

Now within our over fifty reviews this edition, you'll find stories of Hellboy re-imaged, another take by Fairport on 'Matty Groves', a second look at a recording we've reviewed before (and why we did so is a story in itself), whores who really kick ass, a new chick in urban fantasy, and much, much more!

But first, do listen in as the staff discusses the work and philosophy of a well-known writer. . . . Or, as our narrator puts it, Is Robert Anson Heinlein a jerk or not?

So, we review books here, of course. Mostly we're busy reading them -- but there's plenty of discussion, argument and plain old feuding that goes on around here in the process. And that's just between Staff members; the comments we get from authors are another kettle of live eels entirely. . . .

Maybe you have an image of the Library full of studious reviewers at rows of roll-top desks, poring over faintly glowing manuscripts. Or a sort of Platonic study hall out in the gardens, with gracefully reclining readers in tea-gowns and smoking jackets passing leather-bound volumes back and forth under the oaks. Well, all I can say is, you must have skipped reading these stories. And you've never frequented the Halls of Academe. . . . The reason we talk so much about the Pub and the Kitchen and the Great Hall is because that’s where the staff spends most of their time. And they rarely take books into the gardens, because MacKenzie gets homicidal if the books come back with green skirts.

Sitting at various angles in the Pub the other night, several Staffers were discussing literary giants in different genres. The subject veered fairly naturally from fantasy into science fiction -- SF basically being fantasy all started up modern, with BEMs instead of elves -- and before long the room was seething with of the Great Questions of Classic Science Fiction -- was Robert Anson Heinlein a jerk or not?

The argument was divided predictably along gender and age lines -- that is, most of the ladies said yes. And most of the under-50 crowd said yes. So the Heinlein admirers were mostly grey-haired and male, though a couple of the feistier older ladies maintained a fondness for his work.

'The juveniles deserve another look, folks,′ said one of these. 'There is some awfully good stuff in there, even in Podkayne of Mars.'

'No, I wanted to gang-slap the heroine for most of that book,” maintained one of the Several Annies from the Library. 'His female characters are either spinelessly adoring the menfolk or they're on their backs all the time!

Tim, from the Spine Repair crew, grinned like an idiot and opened his mouth for a comment that would have gotten him thumped. Reynard averted disaster by tossing a biscuit in his gob, undoubtedly saving Tim from needing his own spine repaired.

'The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress is one of the all-time best AI stories ever,' Reynard commented diplomatically.

'It's also an unashamed tear-jerker through the last hundred pages; I cry every time I read it. I thought Glory Road was a grand lark, too and terribly romantic in a masculine way,' said Corinne from Gardening.

She and Reynard then stared at one another in total mutual lack of comprehension.

A younger reader thought Stranger In A Strange Land was a tired old hippie apologia. Someone else said, no, it was a prediction of a future American dystopia. And someone else again insisted it was a pastiche on religious crackpots, citing Baker and Hubbard for proof.

'Heinlein was an engineer,' said Elliott-the-Truck hotly. 'He didn't commit pastiches!'

'Starship Troopers sucked!'

'That was the movie, you idiot!'

'His poetry was bloody awful!'

'He was a jingo-spouting chauvinist pig!'

'Not writing that soppy sentimental verse!'

'He wrote poetry?'See? All the depth and patience of an argument in the undergraduates' lounge. When things got down to one-word philosophical exchanges (Elitist! Ignoramus!), Jack finally intervened, demanding silence. It looked like beer was going to start flying, and this is always Going Too Far.Mackenzie was over in the far corner with Jack, where they'd been playing mumblety-peg with the steel-nibbed pens. Now he looked up and said --

'As the Bard observes -- Aye, my lords, but he's dead. It's been decades and no one's ever managed to get farther than agreeing to disagree -- the man was both old-fashioned and far out there on the fringe by our standards now. And you call yourselves researchers! Take it in context -- he's a voice from another world.'

'But he also personally hand-crafted a great deal of the modern SF universe. His are the giant shoulders later men talk about standing on. Stop quibbling about whether or not you liked his shirt.'

It got pretty quiet then. When I left, though, there was furious debate going on sotto voce over by the skittles table -- Was Tom Bombadil funny? Or just annoying?

Donna Bird says, in our Featured DVD review, 'Bless Acorn Media for sending us these wonderful DVD sets as they become available! I remember all too well the exquisite torture of watching some of the earlier Midsomer Murders episodes, well larded with commercial breaks, on the A&E Network. The experience of watching one all the way through without interruption is truly delightful! Cat asked me to review these two sets for you. You may also want to check out his review of four earlier episodes in this long-running and highly successful British mystery series. To be entirely honest, it's a bit of a misnomer to call Midsomer a series. With the exception of a very few main characters, there is virtually no continuity between the episodes. In fact, you can watch them out of order with very little sense of disorientation. However, the episodes do share some thematic similarities. For the most part, they all take place in the fictitious Midsomer region of England, an area comprised of charming little villages populated by eccentric individuals, some of whom are sexually perverted, murderous, greedy or otherwise not very nice.' Read the rest of her commentary 'ere.

Our Librarian, Iain Nicholas Mackenzie, was pulling strings this edition so that a review he did would be selected as the Featured Book Review. (Think Mayan dark chocolate truffles, thirty year-old single malt whisky, and similar goodies distributed to the editorial staff.) His choice? It's certainly an interesting one -- 'The Cat Who Walks Through Walls is, after over thirty years of my reading works beyond count by him, my favorite novel by him bar none. There are without doubt better written novels by Heinlein that stir strong passions in readers, say Starship Troopers and The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress, both of which can cause otherwise sensible readers to start hissing and spitting at each over the perceived political and social commentary in those books, and let's not even broach the matter of Stranger in A Strange Land as that work will really get the mojo rising in many readers!' Read his detailed review thisaway!

Hee! Camille Alexa says she has 'just finished the third of Tim Powers' triptych and I think my brain is broken.' (I think all of us 'ere at Green Man 'ave that feeling at times.) Read her reviews of (in order of the trilogy itself naturally) by starting with Last Call, moving onto Expiration Date, and finishing off your review reading with her final review of Earthquake Weather. Need we say that she garners a much deserved Excellence in Writing Award for these reviews? I thought not. And she gets to drink on the house in the Green Man Pub all this month!

Kage Baker really wasn';t sure what to make of Gene Wolfe′s latest novel, An Evil Guest. She could say this, 'In the end, however, I have no idea what the story was supposed to be about, what he meant, why he kept setting up plot elements and dropping them. Is it just me? Am I, a mere writer of boys'-own twaddle myself, unable to comprehend the great plan here?′ Think you might fare any better? Then go read this Grinch Award-winning review!

Kathleen Bartholomew takes an Excellence in Writing Award-winning look at a choice Southern Gothic novel -- 'Not Flesh Nor Feathers is Cherie Priest's third novel concerning Eden Moore. It is set once again in the lush Southern strangeness of the Tennessee River Valley that cradles Chattanooga. This one is a real tour de force, too -- it's like a perfect classic monster movie, full of genuine terrors, horrendous special effects and an all-star cast.'

Another Audible release gets reviewed by J.J.S. Boyce, to wit Kay Kenyon's Bright of the Sky novel as narrated by Christan Rummel, and you will read need to read his full review to see why the concluding remarks in his review aren't as harsh as they seem 'ere -- 'Although I fear I may be in danger of a Grinch Award for this review, there's solid world-building here, good characterization, and I'm looking forward to seeing what happens next in the series. In most ways, this is a decent and competently-written novel; it's just a shame, because it could have been a bit better.'

Catherynne M. Valente is a much loved writer with both the staff and readers 'ere as she even has her own special edition. But even the most loved (and talented) writer can stumble once in a while as Deborah J. Brannon notes 'ere in her Excellence in Writing Award-winning review of Valente's newest novel -- 'Palimpsest runs the risk that all hotly desired lovers do -- it fetches you in with a dream, teases you into a taut state of wanting, and leaves you desolate in the face of reality. Or -- here, have another analogy, for this work seems to throw itself at them -- like its namesake, you may fall in love with the gorgeous purity of its surface text, but flinch in horror from what lurks beneath, barely scraped away.'

Paul DiFilippo (author) and Jim Woodring (illustrator) have constructed Cosmocopia of which Craig Clarke says 'Frank Lazorg is a legendary artist of comics, book and album covers, movie posters, and more recently his own abstract ambitions. But since his stroke, he's done nothing new. Until one day he gets "a rather exotic foreign package with -- an odd smell" containing a brick of red powder in the mail from an old acquaintance. This powder inspires Lazorg to begin painting again. But when he finds that things can never be as they once were, he has a "sudden impulse" that leads him into another world.' And oh, what a world it is, complete with a puzzle for you to put together! Read the full review 'ere!

Macfarland sends us what seems like everything they publish and Faith J. Cormier found a really good one to review -- Superheroes and Gods -- A Comparative Study from Babylonia to Batman is just what the title says it is, and I loved it. Superheroes and Gods works on two levels. On the one hand, it's a compact introduction to world mythology. At least in my youth, everybody got some sort of introduction to Greek and Roman mythology in school. If you were really lucky (I wasn't, at least not in school), you heard about the Egyptian gods. The Shah-nama? Gilgamesh? The Bhagavadgita? Who?'

Faith is, like many a cat 'ere in the Green Man building and we 'ave many 'ere 'bouts, is a finicky being. So it is surprising she liked this anthology as she notes that she has 'long held that anthologies are dicey affairs. Concept anthologies, by which I mean stories written to order on an assigned theme as opposed to those where the editor chooses among stories that have already been written according to some criterion, can be even dicier. What's a poor editor to do if the writers don't share the same concept of the concept? Fortunately, Catopolis escapes that fate.'

Richard Dansky leads off his reviewing with a work by an author who doesn't, we'll freely admit, fare all that well with us -- 'There are a lot of different ways to read Orson Scott Card's Stonefather. You can take it as back story, an Edith Hamilton-style attempt to put some of the mythology of Card's Mithermage series into narrative form. You can take it as a kinder, gentler take on Ender Wiggin -- the hyper talented kid who wins over the world through sheer ubercompetence. You can even read it, if you squint hard enough, as an Obama parable -- honest, competent outsider comes to the big, corrupt city and forces change on the way everyone does business. Regardless of how you take it, however, there's not much to it.'

He next looks at two Swamp Thing graphic novels this edition with Andy Diggle's Swamp Thing -- Bad Seed being the first and this one he says is not the place for a person unfamiliar with this series to start -- 'If you don't know Swamp Thing mythology, then you'll be completely lost once inside the covers of Bad Seed. This is neither good nor bad, but merely a statement of fact. Those readers who understood Swampy's history, complex family life, and place in the DC cosmology (not to mention his ever-contentious relationship with weasel-faced hedge magician John Constantine) will be able to dive right in and hit the ground running. Those who just know the character tangentially, and who haven't read -- at the very least -- Alan Moore's run on the title will most likely be lost, confused, and dismayed.'

Joshua Dysart's Swamp Thing -- Love in Vain is the another one he looks at -- 'With Love in Vain, Joshua Dysart took over the reins of Swamp Thing from the rather more erratic storytelling of Andy Diggle, and the difference is obvious. What Dysart has to work with is an extended continuity that's mostly been resolved and a Swamp Thing that's mostly a tabula rasa. While the safer choice might have been to do a more straightforward, linear narrative, Dysart instead swings for the fences.'

Alan Grant's Batman -- The Stone King was problematic for Richard -- 'There are two problems with the GraphicAudio presentation of Batman -- The Stone King, and neither of them are what you'd expect. The actual voice acting is fine, ranging from competent to quite good. Richard Rohan's narration moves things along briskly, and if the production is relatively straightforward, it's also not distracting. No, the issues are more with format and with content.' Read his review to see what went terribly wrong.

Richard offers up an eulogy for us to note -- 'In its exceedingly brief lifespan, Wizards of the Coast's fledgling Discoveries line put some very interesting books out there. J.M. McDermott's Last Dragon wedded literary fiction to heroic fantasy, while Steve and Melanie Tem's Man on the Ceiling was my pick for best book of 2008. (Full disclosure -- Discoveries also published my novel Firefly Rain). And so, it was a tremendous disappointment -- and not just to those of us who were publishing through the imprint -- when Wizards shut it down halfway through its first year of existence. One of the last books to emerge under the Discoveries rubric was [Tim Waggoner's] Cross County, and it gives more evidence as to why Discoveries will be missed.'

Rick Remender, Mat Broome and Sean Parsons are the folks responsible for The End League -- Ballad of Big Nothing which is not something Dansky thinks they should boost about -- 'There are few more tired, less interesting tropes in comic books than 'let's take thinly disguised versions of the Justice League and make them jerks!' If that had been The End League's only sin, then it would simply have been unmemorable, the latest in a long line of thinly disguised Supermen, Batmen and Wonder Women knocking about in circumstances that probably never made the pages of Justice League for a reason. The problem is, The End League doesn't know when to quit. Rather than accept that it's pastiche and attempt to work form there, it keeps piling the knockoffs and impossibilities on top of each other until the entire thing devolves into an unholy mess.' Read the Grinch Award winning review by Richard Dansky for yet more gory details.

A Chris Roberson novel was to the liking of Richard despite the misleading dust jack copy -- 'Set the Seas On Fire promises, according to its dust jacket copy, to be a mix of Patrick O'Brian's high seas adventure and H.P. Lovecraft's brooding, otherworldly horror. It's not. It is a mildly diverting, competently written yarn, but in its own terms it's more 'Patrick O'Brien meets Hugh Cave at a barbecue at Armstrong Sperry's house, and they talk for a couple of minutes by the beer cooler before drifting to opposite ends of the party.'

Richard wraps up his reviews with a look at Kevin Smith, Phil Hester and Ande Parks′ Green Arrow graphic novel Quiver, which he says ' is a fan's love letter to a favorite character and era.′

Denise Dutton gets to the point fast -- 'Charlaine Harris, Katie Macalister, Kim Harrison... S.J. Day? There's a new chick in Urban Fantasy town, and with Eve of Darkness, she makes a provocative, compelling arrival.' Read her review 'ere. (Yes, there's a lot more to the full review!)

Cat Eldridge says 'The Women of Nell Gwynne's is one of the best novellas I've read in years. Indeed it is as good as the previous Company novella she did a few years back for Subterranean called Rude Mechanicals, and it's very bit as well-crafted as The Angel in the Darkness that was done for the Golden Gryphon Press. All three novellas certainly show [Kage] Baker's a writer well-suited to creating stories of this length! Let's hope that the ladies return for more adventures soon!' Read his review 'ere!

A novel by K.A. Bedford doesn't fare nearly as well after being read by Cat -- 'Time travel as a literary plot device, though fascinating, often gives me a headache as the logic needed to make it believable is a stretch at the best of time. Don't believe me? Go read the classic time travel story, Robert Heinlein's 'All You Zombies'. I'll be here when you get back . . . Now that made your jaw drop, didn't it? 'All You Zombies' is the time travel story against, whether they like it or not, anyone writing a sf time travel story must be measured against. (You should also read Fritz Leiber's The Big Time novella, and Time and Again, a 1970 illustrated novel by Jack Finney. Oh, and Kage Baker has a spiffy time travel series involving immortal cyborgs who get drunk on chocolate. Lovely stuff there!) So how does Time Machines Repaired While-U-Wait measure up to these works? Is it worth your time? No, I'd say it isn't.'

A choice bit of urban noir fantasy was next up -- 'Paths Not Taken is the middle story of John Taylor dealing with both being the son of Lilith, the only daughter of God, and her apparent role in creating Nightside as a place where neither Heaven or Hell could directly intervene. (Though they did tear Nightside apart during The Angel War in an attempt to seize The Unholy Grail.) Like Hex and The City, which was a truly great experience in an audio form, I somehow missed reading this story as I discovered within minutes of starting to listen to it. Yeah -- another Simon Green Nightside story that I haven't encountered! Bliss!'

April Gutierrez leads of her reviews with a look at an offbeat offering -- 'In the introduction to this first volume of Weird Tales, editor Scott Allie has penned a loving homage to any fan who's ever taken up a pen or pencil to write or draw their favorite comic book characters. He indulges in a bit of hyperbole, perhaps, when he says that the character of Hellboy has probably inspired more artistic fans than any other character. However, judging by the contents of this volume, comic professionals sure have a hankering to draw Big Red. Their clamoring for a chance to draw him led directly to the creation of this series -- their own outlet for indulging in their wildest Hellboy imaginations. Weird Tales -- Volume One collects the first four issues of the series, with thirteen stories that differ vastly in art style, tone and subject matter.'

April also looked at Ellen Datlow's Poe anthology -- 'This collection of nineteen stories, edited by Ellen Datlow, celebrates the 200th anniversary of Edgar Allan Poe's birth. For the collection, Datlow asked a variety of authors to write something inspired by Poe -- but absolutely no pastiches. The resulting stories touch on a wide spectrum of Poe's oeuvre -- prose and poetry alike -- some of which show their roots, others of which are a bit more sly with their provenance. Preceding each entry is a brief bio of the author; following is an afterword by that author.' So was it good, bad, or just plain ugly? Well, you'll need to read her review to get an answer to that question!

The Watchers Out of Time warrants a warning from April -- 'A caveat before diving into the content of this book -- while the cover touts this collection as a collaboration between H.P. Lovecraft and August Derleth, a close examination of the publication info reveals Derleth as the sole author of all fifteen stories. Derleth, Lovecraft's literary executor, put forth that the stories were inspired by notes left by Lovecraft after his death and called them a "posthumous collaboration." While it may be a bit of a stretch to consider the stories true collaborations, there is little doubt that Derleth is well-versed in Lovecraft's style and content. There have been many a Lovecraft pastiche or homage, but few as well-crafted as Derleth's.' Read her review thisaway for the skinny on this collection!

Michael Jones leads his reviewing off with a look at Sharon Ashwood's Ravenous -- 'She's a witch. He's a vampire. Together and separately, they bust ghosts, cleanse haunted houses, and deal with the other paranormal weirdness that's come into public view ever since the supernatural community revealed itself at the turn of the century. Holly Carver and Alessandro Caravelli have a great partnership going, one unencumbered by romance or deeper ties. After all, Holly's got a nice, normal boyfriend, and Alessandro doesn't get involved with his meals. Of course, things can always change.' Oh, a bloody romance!

Patricia Briggs' Bone Crossed is next for him -- 'With each book in the series, Briggs has expanded our understanding of the world Mercy Thompson inhabits, one full of werewolves, vampires, fae, ghosts and shapeshifters. In Bone Crossed, we get some revealing looks at the bizarre abilities vampires manifest, see more of Mercy's own untapped abilities, and in one gleefully chaotic scene, a rather telling look at how the Fae fit into the picture.'

A novel by G. Xavier Robillard delighted Michael -- 'Who is Captain Freedom? From his humble beginnings as an impressionable sidekick named Liberty Bill, to his glory days as savior of the world, to his forced retirement and subsequent adventures, this tell-all book, recounted in his own words, peels off the mask to provide an intimate look at one of the world's most popular (and merchandisable) heroes. We learn all of his dirty secrets, from just how he first became a sidekick, to how he earned that role as top-billed hero in his own right, to how he saved the world multiple times, and how it all came crashing down around him. From adopting a sidekick to finding his father, from the dreadful cat-tossing incident to his foray into politics, no subject is too personal, or too embarrassing. Captain Freedom may be one of the world's greatest (and commercialized) superheroes, but under the costume, he's only human (half-alien) and vulnerable like the rest of us. This is his story, and you'll never look at superheroes the same way again.' Read his review of Captain Freedom now!

More series fiction in the form of Rob Thurman's Deathwish is next on tap for this reviewer -- 'This series has always been a lot of fun, and Deathwish is no exception. The plot keeps moving right along, full of twists and surprises, and the author makes absolutely splendid use of mythology from around the world to populate the secret supernatural society of New York. Vampires, werewolves, chupacabras, mummies, rat-things, peris, and many more all have their parts to play, and Thurman has put her own spin on a number of them just to make them even more memorable. And yet, it doesn't feel crowded, like some of these urban fantasies do when you toss in too many critters and beasties.'

Want a guide to some of the best graphic novel series out there? Jack Merry has a suggestion -- 'Let's grab some tea and sit in the kitchen to ponder that while we watch Fiona and her staff bake bread and other goodies for tonight's repast. After all, a good reference guide is as much magic as a properly made stone soup, with its mélange of flavours, or a hearty bread with a nose-tickling aroma that makes your mouth water! So what does food have to do with this review? A lot actually as The Vertigo Encyclopedia is a very tasty stone soup indeed!'

Kestrell Rath liked Amber Benson's Death's Daughter -- 'Calliope Reaper-Jones thinks of herself as your average twenty-something executive assistant living in New York City. She even has the average worries of the average twenty-something -- how to liven up her nonexistent love life and her chances of being promoted to a cooler -- and much better-paying -- job. Then she finds the job of a lifetime -- as Death.' Read her review thisaway.

She next looks at a lecture (Neil Gaiman -- Live at MIT -- The Julius Schwartz Lecture) and two audiobooks with DC Universe characters and settings, The Flash -- Stop Motion and Wonder Woman -- Mythos. That's a lot to digest I'd say! Read her review to see how she puts all of these together in one comics media omnibus!

She also found something to sink her teeth into (and yes, I know that was a bad pun) -- 'In this collection of eighteen vampire stories, writers such as Suzy McKee Charnas, Jonathan Carroll, Thomas Ligotti, and Pat Cadigan push the boundaries of what editor Ellen Datlow refers to in her valuable introduction as 'metaphorical bloodsuckers.' Thus these speculative stories are concerned with going beyond the traditional portrayal of the vampire in order to explore a variety of experiences with vampirism itself, which can be anything from the memory of a traumatic event to a destructive relationship to the control a Kafkaesque agency has over an individual. It's an interesting experiment and, although the stories in the collection sometimes wander very far indeed from vampires -- and, arguably, the horror genre itself -- the variety and thought-provoking portrayals of our often conflicted relationships with individuals and institutions make this a worthwhile addition to the library of those readers who subscribe to a broad definition of the word vampire.' Read her review of A Whisper of Blood thisaway!

A great novel rounds out Kestrell's reviewing this edition -- ' This Is Not a Game is a fast-paced near-future science fiction story which uses the world of games to create a real-life thriller full of puzzles, traps, and double-crosses... In This Is Not a Game Walter Jon Williams provides an intricately-plotted and action-filled game-within-a-game story which is hard to put down. It's also refreshing to have a female protagonist who is neither a bubblehead nor a Buffy wannabe, but simply an intelligent and believable person who reacts to danger in a realistic way.' Cool, very cool.

Robert M. Tilendis says 'We seem to spawn subcultures at a dizzying rate these days, and those subcultures, as cultures tend to do, create art, music, fashion and lifestyles in their own image. As far as the goth culture goes, we've all seen the teenagers dressed in black doing their best to look gaunt and heard music groups such as Dead Can Dance (a number of which, by the way, have created some excellent music -- I'm a Dead Can Dance fan from way back), but I don't recall having seen a systematic look at the art produced in this milieu, a lack that Jasmine Becket-Griffith has attempted to rectify in Gothic Art Now.' Sounds promising? Well, it was not terribly good at all says Robert. Read why 'ere in his Excellence in Writing Award-winning review.

Robert has a new catch phrase as he notes 'ere -- 'Reading is not a spectator sport.' That's my slogan for the year, and it's especially apt when dealing with the work of a writer such as Alex Irvine. Unintended Consequences is Irvine's first collection of short fiction, published just before his second novel, One King, One Country, was released. And it demonstrates, as I had supposed from reading some of his later works, he always was unclassifiable.'

Janet Chui and Jason Erik Lundberg's A Field Guide to Surreal Botany was to the liking of Elizabeth Vail -- 'This book is a quick, happy hodgepodge of a read. While the plants cover a range of styles and topics, there wasn't a single one that wasn't fun to explore. Full of wry humour and gorgeous colour, this book will take you back to childhood days when new plants and worlds and colours were discovered every time you opened a fantasy novel.' Read her review thisaway!

She moves on to a collection next -- 'If one's first encounter with Jeffrey Ford (author of The Girl in the Glass and The Empire of Ice Cream) is with his latest anthology, The Drowned Life, one might be hard-pressed to pinpoint what Ford's genre leanings exactly are. He's not quite fantasy, he's not quite sci-fi. He's not exactly horror, either. Rather, Jeffrey Ford's latest collection makes the most abundant use of the uncanny -- the vague, ephemeral quality of otherworldly wrongness that can be blasted full strength (in such stories as 'The Drowned Life' and 'The Night Whiskey,' which are more strongly fantasy and horror) or slowed to a subtle trickle (the gentle 'What's Sure to Come' and 'A Few Things About Ants').' Intrigued? If so, read the full review now!

Oh, hullo. It's me, Robert. I was looking for Pix -- have you seen him? We were going to work on the CD reviews together, getting the blurbs ready for this edition, but he's wandered off somewhere. I guess I'll just have to do it -- we're getting close to deadline. Let me sit down at the computer -- I had set up a file . . . ah, here it is.

Hello, Mr. Robert.

Pix? What are you doing in there?

I'm not sure. I was working on the blurbs, like you told me, and I guess I just wandered in by mistake. But I've been busy -- see?

Ah, wonderful! Let me take a look here. Very good -- but who taught you to spell?

The Annies.

Hmm -- I'm going to have to have a talk with them. Well, I'll just tidy up as we go along.

It took a while, but Master Reviewer Donna Bird managed a close listen to an eponymous album by Balagan. 'One morning last summer I just happened to pick this CD out of the house collection to play while I did my yoga exercises. It sounded really wonderful. When I discovered that no one had reviewed it, I added it to my review pile. . . . Although listening to the CD can't duplicate the experience of watching a live performance of this group, I think that the music stands on its own quite well.' For details, see her review.

Donna treated herself to a collection of five CDs from Spanish folk group La Musgana -- and now treats us to her thoughts. 'As I was writing this review, I treated myself by re-listening to all these CDs. They are a delight to the ear, with sparkling production and lively music. What I find remarkable is how consistent the sound is, regardless of the time in which the music was recorded, the mix of musicians and instruments, or the respective producers. Take your pick, really!' That is, if you can keep it down to one.

Pix, are you sure that link code is right?

That's the way Mr. Cat said to do it.

Well, OK, if he said so.

The early days of rock and roll get a look from Senior Writer Scott Gianelli. '2007's Son of Skip James chronicles the transition from blues to rock, and focuses somewhat on the more spiritual elements of the blues. Then, on this past year's Heroes: Giants of Early Guitar Rock, Dion pays homage to many of his contemporaries who defined rock and roll in the late fifties.' So, was it worth doing? See Scott's review to find out.

Scott was equally captivated by the music of violist Ljova. 'Ljova is a unique and intriguing performer, and Mnemosyne is another broad exploration of the many facets of his personality in general and his musical tastes in particular." See what else Scott has to say about Ljova and the Kontraband.

Senior Writer Michael Hunter was graced with a pair of albums from Fairport Convention. 'It's almost tempting to use the old 'waiting for a bus' analogy -- you wait a while for a new Fairport CD and then two come along at once.' You can only ride one bus at a time, but you can find out Michael's Excellence in Writing Award-winning reaction to both these discs all at once.

From Master Reviewer David Kidney, we get a look at Under My Own Disguise, a solo album by near-legend Chris Darrow. Says David, 'This is the first time I've listened to Chris Darrow's solo albums, though. I have to say, it's not a big surprise that he never achieved the level of success of some of the others. His voice is an acquired taste, but the music contained on this disc is extraordinary!' But see David's review to see how easy this taste is to acquire.

Another one from David on a singer who might sound a little outside the norm, Charlie Louvin. Says David, 'I waited a long time for this album. Not as long as Charlie Louvin did, though. The liner notes tell us that he's been "singing about murder and disaster all his life." And that's 81 years. . . . Charlie Louvin could sing the phone book and make it interesting I think, but here he sings Murder Ballads and Disaster Songs and totally captivated this listener.' Get the gory details from David's review.

Pix, do stop pressing up against the inside of the screen. You're getting smudges all over. And what is that on your nose?

Oh, sorry. Paidreg gave me a brownie, with chocolate frosting. It was very good.

I thought you didn't get along.

He's been very nice lately. And he took a bath.

Well, be careful in there. Gods know what chocolate is going to do to the circuit boards. Alright, let's continue.

Ever ready to listen to folk music, Senior Writer Peter Massey found a lot to like in Gaelic Storm's What's the Rumpus. 'I liked this album from the minute I put on. Perhaps I am fortunate, because I get to listen to a lot of different folk CDs. Some albums have to be played two or three times, or take a little while to really sink in. Not the case with this one. It hits you right between the eyes and commands your attention.' See Peter's context-rich review for the details.

Master Reviewer Gary Whitehouse brings us a review of Written in Chalk, a new release by a stellar duo, Buddy and Julie Miller, and it looks choice. In Gary's words, 'Buddy and Julie have been together since the 1970s, and have been writing and performing music for themselves and others -- from Austin to Nashville -- for much of that time. They debuted in 2001 on Rounder, and now eight years later they have followed that album with what will surely be on a lot of Top 10 lists by year's end.' See Gary's review for a penetrating look at this one.

Gary also took a look at two CDs by artists in Portland (that's Oregon, by the way). 'Although these two musicians take quite different approaches to their music -- one pretty solidly in the alt-country camp, the other more folksy -- both make music that's straightforward and honest. And both benefit from sharp arrangements and backing that always serve the songs.' He goes into detail in his review of collections by Paula Sinclair and Kate Mann.

Gary had some thoughts about a new recording by Andrew Calhoun and Campground, Bound to Go. 'Every single one of these songs is beautifully performed and moving in its way. Together, they tell the story of a people who were oppressed to a degree that I find difficult to imagine, but who still found it in their hearts to sing and nurture hope. And the songs are beautifully recorded. Why don't I like this record more, then?' To find out, see his review.

Gary had a lot of fun with our next offering. 'Boy, talk about your instant classics. For the past 30 years or more, Ray Benson's ensemble Asleep at the Wheel has been the standard-bearer of western swing music; and of course for even longer than that, Willie Nelson has exemplified Texas music. The only question I have is, what took the two so long to get together and make this album?' See his thoughts on Willie and the Wheel.

Very good, Pix. I couldn't have done better myself.

Well, you taught me.

Hmm -- that's true. Well, let's send these off to the Chief and see if we can get you back out here where you belong. Maybe Liath can help us -- she downloaded you to begin with, didn't she?

Yes, but I think it was by accident.

Well, don't worry -- we'll figure it out. Meet me in the Archives, OK?

OK.

But clean that screen off first. And thank you for working so hard on these.

Already gone. Precipitous boy. Chocolate. In the network. Honestly.

Sorry -- have to run. Got to get the little guy back. Hmm -- maybe I'd better leave this computer on, just in case. . . .

(Editor's note: We did manage to fish Pix out of the network, and now that he's washed his face, he's safe in his cubby down by the kitchen, having a spelling lesson.)

In the nearly now -- come the Spring -- what will we be seeing here? That special brew is not quite ready to decant, but the pubmaster in charge promises it will be heady . . . a final fifth seasonal story podcast from Mr. Beagle, who appears to have found a corner of the year the rest of us forgot; a new and most entertaining two-way interview between himself and his business manager/editor/torturer/lackey, Connor Cochran; reviews of old and new live music; a comprehensive teaser covering the Beagle books and stories planned for release in 2009; and some insider thoughts from the people who have been working to record his fine stories, and design his book covers, and publish his works. Grand fun, to be sure.

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 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 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. Still have questions? Email our Editor here. Provided he's not in the Green Man Pub savouring a properly poured pint of Guinness while listening to Father Time tell a tale, he'll try to answer your question!

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Entire Contents Copyright 1993 - 2009, Green Man Review, a publication of Albion Publishing except where specifically noted such as the Blowzabella piper here which is used with permission of the bands. All Rights Reserved.A metafictional postscript -- all actual living beings referred to in the Green Man metanarrative have agreed to be there. Really. Truly. Confused? Just set back and enjoy our stories within stories. And do keep in mind that opinions expressed in the metanarritve do not necessarily reflect the views of Green Man Review or that of Albion Publishing. They might, they might not.

 

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Revised by a Several Annie 08 March before her bloody morning tea!

Archived 25th March, 2009 LLS