'He did. I'm . . . undercover.' He glanced around the bar again, and didn't seem at all pleased or comfortable with what he saw. It wasn't so much that he looked judgmental, more . . . mystified, and perhaps even uneasy. He looked back at me and smiled almost shyly. 'I don't get out much, these days. It's been a long time since I was out in the world. I was chosen to approach you because I have . . . some special knowledge of the missing item. You see, normally I'm in charge of the Forbidden Library at the Vatican. The secret, hidden chambers underground, where the Church stores texts too dangerous or too disturbing for most people.'
'Like the Gospel According to Pilate?' I couldn't help showing off a little. 'The translation of the Voynich Manuscript? The Testimony of Grendel Rex?'
Simon R. Green's Nightside novel, Agents of Light and Darkness

As befits our GMR Library story this edition, we're doing all literature reviews -- Though I was busy drinking the newly tapped St. Eketerina Imperial Stout (which is brewed in the tradition of eighteenth Century English brewers who supplied the court of Catherine the Great) in the Pub while listening to the Neverending Session and thereby 'forgot' to attend the editorial meeting where we went over what was being reviewed this edition, I did later take a glance at the tote board for this edition and so I can you tell some of the highlights. . . .

Let's see.... Oh, there's a good one! Our Book Editor April Gutierrez notes in her review of Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader, 'Here at GMR we are rather fond of our graphic novels, trade paperbacks and manga. But it's the rare -- very rare -- case where we review individual issues of a title or series.' Read her review to see why we did so!

Horror, or dark fantasy as some not terribly bright critics call it these days, figures into several reviews you should look at -- Craig Clarke got hooked on a certain author after reading and reviewing The Horror Stories of Robert E. Howard so he'll next review The Best of Robert E. Howard, Volume One -- Crimson Shadows while Cat Eldridge continues listening to Simon R. Green's horror-tinged Nightside series with the very first one, Something from The Nightside.

(Yes, he listened to the latter ones first. Chief Editors are truly queer creatures. Indeed right now, he's reading The Spy Who Haunted Me, volume three of Green's Secret Histories series, which Michael Jones will be reviewing, and a Nightside short story, 'Razor Eddie's Big Night Out'.)

Now what's that near the bottom of the tote board? A late add in a scribble from Mia Nutick, our Film Editor? Hmmmm.... We usually leave the really late reviews for the next general edition.... What could have warranted adding in? A film?!? Oh, I see. And you will too when you take a look- see at our Featured Reviews this edition!

The indexes were quietly sobbing again in protest as the librarian's apprentice misfiled 'McZweygle, Doris F., A Receipt Book for the Proper Preparation, Garnishing, and Serving of the Salmon of Wisdom' (sadly, the magic charm of the traditional Alphabet Song can only extend its power so far), while the library ladder looked on with its characteristic air of mockery, gleefully anticipating the inevitable row which would occur when the Master Librarian returned. During the previous week's dust-up a transformation spell had gone quite astray, with the result that most of the objects in the library had been left feeling out of sorts and unsettled.

The indexes, poor things, felt the disorder most keenly and their restless rufflings had even spooked one of the library cats (although, to be fair, why a cat suddenly levitates straight up into the air and teleports itself from a room, well ...ours is not to reason why).

When the librarian's apprentice misfiled 'Ware-Elfrinke, Basil, On the Particulars of Lexomancy and the Care of Cataloguing Systems for Magical Libraries,' a soft sound -- something between a sigh and a shuddering breath -- shivered faintly upon the slightly dusty air of the library. Master Librarian Mackenzie claimed that the dust in the library represented the knowledge which sticks to the persistent and undaunted scholar.

The librarian's apprentice, who was slightly allergic to dust and had a special filter for his vacuum cleaner in order to keep his own tiny room dust-free, sneezed three times in quick succession before continuing on with his shelving duties.

As the afternoon waned and the anticipated return of the Master Librarian drew ever nigh, the pair of gargoyle bookends on the Master Librarian's desk began to nervously furl and unfurl their wings, and the library ladder practically wriggled in a paroxysm of anticipatory delight....

Book Editor April Gutierrez brings us our featured book review this go 'round, with a look at the new trade paperback Air -- Letters from a Lost Country, the latest from Cairo author G. Willow Wilson. Without giving anything away, did April think it's worth checking out? Oh yes indeed, if you go by this quote, 'Wilson's stellar narrative works in not just a forgotten land, but also Aztec mythology, mysterious technology and a long lost aviator. The story is unpredictable, engaging and impossible to set aside.' Look for a review of volume two later this year!

Richard Dansky went to see the recent Wolverine movie and had this to say about the flick, 'Ultimately, there are two ways to take Wolverine. Enjoy it for what it is, or be disappointed by what it isn't. There's certainly enough to support either approach. For my part, I preferred the former, particularly since doing so allowed to wash the taste of the execrable X-Men 3 out of my mouth. Is it perfect, or even good? Not particularly, but it can be fun, and on at least one level, that's enough.' Read his full review for the nitty gritty on this early summer blockbuster.

Deborah J. Brannon was completely enchanted by Ari Berk's The Secret Life of Giants. ' Considering how delighted I am about this book as an adult, I can well imagine I would have been over the moon as an adolescent! . . . This is a book that I want to share with children.... Such a cleverly designed and captivating volume of fantasy demands nothing less than the inquiring and imaginative minds of children ready to discover tales of hidden folk....' That seems to sum it up, all right. Deborah earns herself a Excellence in Writing Award for her whimsical review.

Deborah was equally taken, if not quite so effusively, by Jacqueline Carey's Santa Olivia. 'It is a remarkable maiden voyage into urban fantasy for Carey; I can only fervently hope that it will not be her last. For if there's any flaw within Santa Olivia, it is this -- this is just the beginning of Loup Garron's tale, for I cannot accept it as the last." Read her review to find out why.

What does Craig Clarke have to say about Del Rey's most recent addition to the Howard anthology library, The Horror Stories of Robert E. Howard? 'Compiler and editor Rusty Burke has done a great job putting these 40 stories and 20 poems in an order that makes sense, and not just in a chronological or other arbitrary order -- the pieces that 'belong' together and actually have some connection to each other appear one right after the other. This gives The Horror Stories of Robert E. Howard a smooth flow that I've rarely experienced with a short story collection....' You'll have to read his Excellence in Writing Award-winning review to find out the rest!

Faith J. Cormier takes a look at The Spanish Bride by Laurien Gardner this week, a historical fiction exploring the sad lot of Catherine of Aragon through the sympathetic eyes of one of her ladies-in-waiting, Estrella de Montoya. Does Gardner manage to capture the socio-political milieu of 16th century England accurately or the emotional story of Catherine of Aragon captivatingly? Find out in the review.

Faith also takes a look what might very well be the last installment of Flytrap -- a real pity as this tenth issue seems to be chock full of excellent things for everyone. Read Faith's write-up to discover why you want to get your hands on Flytrap #10 and its pages full of choose-your-own-adventure fiction, post-apocalyptic grannies, and kinky plant-on-fish love.

We can always count on Richard Dansky for insightful and informed commentary, and his Excellence in Writing Award-winning review of Camelot 3000 by Mike W. Barr and Brian Bolland is no exception, '.... [Is] it any good? The answer is, with an awareness of what it is and where it came from, yes.... [For] all that twenty-five years of advancement in comics narratives will make the modern reader see where Camelot 3000's plot creaks, or rushes, or misses opportunities, the fact remains that it is still unmistakably enjoyable, breathtaking in its ambition and lightning-fast in its pacing. Read it and enjoy it, not only for what it was, but for what it is.'

Richard also took a look at Bob Booth's The Big Book of NECON. 'To get the most out of The Big Book of NECON is to understand that this is, for lack of a better way of putting it, a family album, carefully put together by NECON originator and legend Bob Booth to share with the world. Read in that light, it becomes something more than an outstanding anthology. Rather, it's a tribute to the convention and its enduring community. . .' Sounds like fun.

Denise Dutton was rather disappointed in Susan Schneider's Science Fiction and Philosophy, 'I had high hopes of putting Science Fiction And Philosophy on my bookshelf right next to Battlestar Galactica and Philosophy, but instead I plan on giving it to a friend of mine who is a scientist.' To find out the reasons for this move, examine Cat Eldridge brings us a thorough essay on Swords of Haven and Guards of Haven by Simon R. Green, two volumes that compile six titles of the Hawk & Fisher series. Check out the review which succinctly characterizes the nefarious City of Haven, deftly depicts the main characters, and then tells you which Hawk & Fisher books to read in what order and why.

Next up, Cat gives us the lowdown on Simon R. Green's Something from The Nightside as narrated by Marc Vietor, filling us in on private detective John Taylor and the eerie, terrifying quality of London's Nightside -- as well as the quality of the audiobook!

Riffing off his response to Green's Nightside novels, Cat next tackles Grimjack - Killer Instinct by John Ostrander, 'John Gaunt, alias Grimjack, was born in The Pit, the nastiest slum of the pan-dimensional, border shifting, and quite unreliable city of Cynosure, where magic and technology, humans and aliens, honor and deceit, all exist in an uneasy truce. Cynosure, like the secret heart of London known as Nightside, is an urban nightmare taken to an extreme. Demons, vampires, gods of all sorts, crazed cyborgs -- both series have them in spades.'

In Welcome to Tranquility, we find a Californian town providing a peaceful home for retired superheroes and supervillains. What, together? Yes. Together. Of course, nothing is as it seems to be -- but is that mystery worth the ride? Cat thinks so.

April Gutierrez is on the beat this week with a variety of Neil Gaiman reviews. First up is a rare review of a two-comic run long before its collection in graphic novel form -- April takes a look at Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader, a eulogy for Batman rendered by characters both familiar and strange.

She also gives us a succinct look at Black Orchid, a woman 'supposedly impervious to bullets, [who] can fly and is a master of disguise.' She's also 'neither human nor plant, but a hybrid of both.' Is this a superhero worth reading about, especially when the story serves partially as a pageant for other characters such as Poison Ivy and Swamp Thing? April says yes.

Midnight Days is a collection of one-shot stories -- 'In the volume introduction, Gaiman himself describes these stories as 'curiosities and oddments' and they are, in the sense that they're largely unrelated, and here, unmoored from their original context. Nonetheless, they're still delightful gems worth a look-see.' Which characters and worlds do these stand-alones play with? Read April's review to find out.

Violent Cases, illustrated by Dave McKean, struck April as an intensely uncomfortable narrative that she concludes is '[v]isually stunning' with 'a host of intriguing things to say about perception and memory.' Find out here how she came by this opinion.

April's last Gaiman title for this edition was Signal to Noise, again illustrated by Dave McKean. 'By itself, Signal to Noise is a powerful, emotional story with amazing artwork. When read in conjunction with Violent Cases and Mr Punch, their themes resonate even more strongly, and give readers an early glimpse into the breadth of Gaiman's writing.'

The Lory Hess Excellence in Writing Award-winning review of Inventing Niagara -- Beauty, Power, and Lies by Ginger Strand can have no better introduction than its own opening paragraph, 'As I was growing up on the West Coast, Niagara Falls was only an image to me, a picture in an encyclopedia, a line from a popular song. When I moved to New York, I knew that sooner or later I would have to make the pilgrimage. It was a cold, damp early-spring day when I did, and I found the Falls impressive, but not quite as stunning as I'd expected. It was too cold to go on the Maid of the Mist boat ride or enter the Cave of the Winds, so after staring at the immense volume of descending water from all accessible angles, I needed to take a hike just to get warm. Looking for a way along the river, I found myself in a strange, abandoned-looking garden that no one seemed to care for or use. Somehow, that image remained with me more than that of the Falls themselves, an unanswered question -- what happened here?'

Shakespeare needs little introduction, as the Green Man Master Librarian Iain Nicholas Mackenzie well knows. However, the publisher's claim that this iteration of William Shakespeare Complete Works (edited by Jonathan Bate and Eric Rasmussen) is 'the definitive Complete Works for the twenty-first century' definitely needs some substantiation; find out more in the review.

Mia Nutick admits one thing right up front -- 'I love zombies.' So when Night Shade Books produced John Joseph Adams' The Living Dead, it's no surprise that Mia was, to use her own word, 'gleeful.' And as it turned out, says Mia, 'This is one of the best anthologies I've ever owned. There are stories that I found less than appealing to my personal taste (no zombie pun intended) but even those tales are clearly well done. They simply weren't my cup of brains. They might be yours.'

About Greer Gilman's newest literary offering, Cloud and Ashes -- Three Winters' Tales, Kestrell Rath writes, '....[C]lassical Greece had a title for professional musicians -- the word was rhapsode, and it signifies one who stitches songs together. Such musicians were often portrayed in art as wearing a cloak and carrying a staff, implying that, rather than being court musicians with specific patrons, they traveled from town to town, weaving together the stories of both high and low culture, mingling epics about kings and queens and heroes with the local tales of country matters. This sewing together of high and low, of myths about the immortals mingling with folklore about the seasons and the cycles of the sun and moon, makes an apt description for the world Gilman presents us in Clouds and Ashes, and for the style in which she tells these tales.' But is such intoxicating story-weaving a substantive feast or merely a trifling distraction? Read Kestrell's review if you'd have the answer to that question.

Robert M. Tilendis continues his trek through the career of Robert Silverberg with Trips, 1972-73, volume four of the new series of collected stories. He found it a mixed bag, 'Like its predecessor, Trips is a fascinating examination of a time through the lens of a writer who was in the process of establishing himself as a major figure in science fiction. It has all the richness of the field, as well as some of its flaws...[T]here are stories here that I'd just as soon have skipped. There are also some breathtaking examples of Silverberg at his best.'

Robert's been having a surfeit of words lately, so he found Iain McCaig's Shadowline -- The Art of Iain McCaig to be lots of fun, and just what the doctor ordered, 'If this sounds somewhat whimsical, well, why not? (I've only given you the barest outline -- the story itself is much richer, much funnier, and much more entertaining. I didn't even mention the mouse or Bot.) And this all takes place amidst page after page of McCaig's sketches, renderings and concept designs.' To find out what was so whimsical, you'll have to check out Robert's review.

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 now departed and much missed 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 Lord Summerisle tell a tale of Beltaine, he'll try to answer your question!

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Posted by a Several Annie who's now off
to read something fun / 14 May 2009

Uploaded 16 May 2009 8:21pm LLS