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PostPosted: Fri Mar 11, 2016 11:23 pm 
Master
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Quote:
If would be fine if she knew what was going on and wanted to but she can't say no! She wants to say no but she can't!


...that's not how love works. That is really not how love works. Love is a hell of a drug and a thick chain to throw on someone, but it does not render a person utterly incapable of resisting their beloved's desires. Even maniacal, obsessive love can only impair one's ability to say no, it cannot suspend it entirely like flipping a fucking light switch! That's not how it works, dammit! For crying out loud, people regularly hurt, mistreat, and abuse the people they love, hell some people have murdered their loved ones. Couldn't the so called favour have been, "Do anything I tell you"? It would have gotten the same effect without this affront on human nature and psychology.

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Lys is lily, or lilium.
The pretty flowers remind me of a song of elves.
Something else too, perhaps in Japanese.


Last edited by Lys on Fri Mar 11, 2016 11:36 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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PostPosted: Fri Mar 11, 2016 11:28 pm 
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Lys wrote:
...that's not how love works. That is really not how love works. Love is a hell of a drug and a thick chain to throw on someone, but it does not render a person utterly incapable of resisting their beloved's desires. Even maniacal, obsessive love can only impair one's ability to say no, it cannot suspend it entirely like flipping a fucking light switch! That's not how it works! For crying out loud, people regularly hurt, mistreat, and abuse the people they love, hell some people have murdered their loved ones. Couldn't the so called favour have been, "Do anything I tell you"? It would have gotten the same effect without this affront on human nature and psychology.


You begin to see why this book pissed me off so much.

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PostPosted: Fri Mar 11, 2016 11:57 pm 
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Oh i can see lots of reasons why the book pisses you off so much, this one just jumped at me as particularly egregious to my sensibilities. The premise of a manipulative games master using artificially imposed love to control someone could potentially yield an interesting if disturbing story, but that would require said games master to actually work for it. I'm willing to bet that in this novel the main characters never have to put in any real effort into anything, they just succeed because they're axiomatically awesome. Am i right, Garvin?

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The pretty flowers remind me of a song of elves.
Something else too, perhaps in Japanese.


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PostPosted: Sat Mar 12, 2016 5:52 pm 
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I do believe I pointed out in the review that everyone else is an idiot so they can look like geniuses. I'm not sure I communicated my loathing for it effectively.

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PostPosted: Fri Mar 18, 2016 10:40 pm 
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The Usagi Yojimbo Saga Book 5
By Stan Sakai


“I will be doing this forever; I love Usagi,”
Stan Sakai Newspaper Interview 2011


Ah, Stan Sakai, the myth, the legend. Born in Kyoto, Japan in 1953, he is a 3rd generation Japanese American who currently resides in California. Mr. Sakai has worked on Spiderman with Stan Lee doing the lettering for the newspaper comic strip for 25 years (Stan Lee has a picture of Stan's daughter in his office, Mr. Sakai's son personally received a box full of signed works by Lee when Sakai mentioned how big of a fan he was). He got his start lettering comics (most notably Groo the Wanderer), before moving on to write and illustrate his own comic the Adventurers of Nilsen Groundthumper and Hermy (a medieval comic). It wasn't until 1984 that he hit gold however, Sakai was plotting out a comic book series that would be based on the life and times of Miyamoto Musashi a swordsmen from Japanese history... No wait that's underselling it, with a record of 60 duels undefeated, being the founder of the sword style called Niten ryu and writer of the Book of Five Rings, Musashi is an enduring figure in Japanese culture and in pop culture. He was a character in fictional tales before he died and his life has been so mythologized that it is impossible to separate fact from fancy. You can kinda of consider him a Japanese Robin Hood or Jessie James, a person who has been romanticized so heavily that who he actually was... Kinda ceased matter in a cultural sense really. In lot of ways the character of Musashi is vastly more important to Japanese culture then the actual person, but that character simply couldn't exist, nor would that character be as enduring or far reaching in his influence if it wasn't for the real person that he was based on it. It's an unending fascinating thing to examine and consider but... This is a book review so I'll just leave the thought there for you the reader to chew on. Anyways all of that considered it's no surprise Mr. Sakai turned to Musashi for inspiration. That's not what would make Sakai in my opinion (let's be honest my opinion is not humble) immortal. It was the combination of that inspiration with a random chance doodle he made. That of an anthropomorphized rabbit samurai with his ears in a top knot. The image took a hold of Mr. Sakai and the series quickly found itself in an anthropomorphized fantasy version of 1700s Japan.

Mr. Sakai started the comic series Usagi Yojimbo in 1984 and here we are 32 years later and not only the series still running strong but it is still considered a series with quality art, characters and story telling that both children and adults can enjoy. This is nothing short of amazing considering that we have series who couldn't keep that up for a 1/10th of that time! The series has won 5 Eisner awards and a Parent's Choice Awards. The series has been translated into 14 different languages officially (I am told there are many unofficial translations in Russian and Chinese but cannot confirm at the time of this review). Ironically one of the languages that it hasn't been translated into and one place that Usagi isn't very popular is... Japan. Even then, this is a successful series by any metric. I've been a fan of the series for years and I've been meaning to review these books for awhile now.

I'm reviewing the Saga collection which collects several graphic novels worthy of the series together often bringing together entire story lines into a single book. Book 5 takes place after Usagi ends his travels with his son Jotaro having decided not to tell him that he is his father (while Jotaro in turns decides not to tell Usagi that he is his son, both of them believing the other to be ignorant of the relation.). Emotionally exhausted by this Usagi decides to head to the Geishu province under the rule of Lord Noriyuko who counts Usagi as a welcome friend. Perhaps more importantly to Usgai though, it's also the home of Lord Noriyuko's vassal and guardian the lady samurai Tomoe. Interestingly, Lady Tomoe is actually based on a historical personage, the lady samurai Tomoe Gozen. She was a fighter for the Mimamoto clan in the Genpai war (which was in the 1180s, some time before the Japan of Usgai which is likely in the 1700s). Reputed to be beautiful, intelligent and deadly in archery and sword who met with an uncertain fate in history. The Tomoe in our story certainly lives up to her namesake with several characters talking about her looks but more importantly she's one of the few characters capable of fighting Usgai to a draw with a sword and a able to think quickly on her feet.
These are all good things because most of the book isn't about Usagi, it's about her. Thankfully Tomoe can carry a book or two, although Usagi is still a major part of the events (it is his series after all). The book examines her origins, how she achieved her position and gives us more insight into her family. We get to meet a relative of Tomoe's, Nokiro who was raised along side Tomoe. Nokiro is also an incredibly skilled swords woman but much crueler and darker in personality. Nicknamed the Blood Princess, she serves in a lot of ways as a mirror to Tomoe, perhaps showing what could have happened if she had let her anger (justified anger to be fair) at the way she was treated for being woman overcome all her other traits. We also get some hints of what the future may hold for Tomoe and for Usagi as well.

This was a welcome change of pace as the last book was taken up with a fair amount of Usagi's adventurers with Jotaro. While I really did enjoy the mentor-student relationship between father and son (and I drew a lot of amusement from the fact that both believe the other ignorant of the relationship), after awhile you kinda want to see Usagi in a more equal relationship. We get that with Usagi and Tomoe, who are both equals and treat each as such. Both respect the talents and skills of the other and is willing to listen to their opinion without being threatened by those same skills. Usagi is perfectly willing to follow Tomoe's lead without feeling his masculinity is undercut, while Tomoe is willing to do the same without needing to worry that Usagi is dismissing her because of her gender. It's a clean, healthy relationship that I am continually delighted to read. Plus either one of them can murder a small army on their own so when they get together? You didn't bring enough men to pull these two down. There are not enough men to bring these two down if they're at the top of their game. This book, is more then happy to prove it.

Stan Sakai has written other works but it is likely that Usagi Yojimbo is the work that will outlast him, even though I personally wish him decades more good health and joy. This book continues to uphold the high standards that the Usagi Yojimbo series is respected for and has earned. I certainly needed this after the crap that was No Game No Life! Book 5 of the Usagi Saga by Stan Sakai gets an A.

Next week, I venture into dark British fantasy to review a book b

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PostPosted: Sat Mar 19, 2016 7:24 pm 
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I haven't gotten to read many of the Usagi Yojimbo sagas, but I did read one, where he returns to his home village, and reconnects with his former love. She has married, and has a son (who I assume is Jotaro). There was tension between Usagi and the woman's husband, but they worked together when the son was in trouble. But what I remember best was the last two pages, where there was a flashback to Usagi and his lover exchanging gifts. The last page showed the woman pulling out a broken blade, that had been his gift to her, while Usagi, now back on the road, has stopped and untied his topknot. Opening up the cloth, we see the braid of hair she gave to him.
There were no words said in those last panels, no narrative boxes. Just the simple black & white drawings of two former lovers holding treasured gifts from their youth. The heartbreak nearly had me crying.

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PostPosted: Fri Mar 25, 2016 9:04 pm 
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The Knight of Swords
by Micheal Moorcock


Last week I called Stan Sakai a legend and I stand by that. Today we are talking about someone whom is a greater legend in a lot of ways. Micheal Moorcock, born in 1939 and got his start in the industry at the tender age of 17. Before he even finished high school he was editing pulp magazines. In the 1960s, as the editor of the New Worlds magazine he became a leading figure in New Wave Science Fiction. Like a lot of things in the 1960s, New Wave fiction was incredibly experimental and often started by rejecting the traditional that came before it. In this case New Wave authors rejected a lot of the traditions and starting points of pulp science fiction, seeing it as juvenile, stodgy and poorly written. While I'm personally a fan of a lot of pulp science fiction (Barsoom forever!)... They weren't entirely wrong. Pulp had started at this point to go a bit stale and formulaic, to be honest... Science Fiction needed the kick in the pants. It also brought in a number of new writers, and a good part of that number of those writers were women. While in the United States the New Wave was more diffuse, in the United Kingdom Moorcock used his editorship to build New Worlds into something of a fortress for the movement. To quote Judith Merril, a science fiction writer of the time

"galactic wars went out; drugs came in; there were fewer encounters with aliens, more in the bedroom. Experimentation in prose styles became one of the orders of the day, and the baleful influence of William Burroughs often threatened to gain the upper hand."

It is somewhat ironic to note that today Burroughs is very much considered a pulp writer but such is life. During the 1960s Moorcock would from time to time write under the name James Colvin, which as far as I can determine is the start of his extensive use of the initials JC (you may note that those are also the initials of Jesus Christ,Mr. Moorcock certainly did and even won a Nebula award in a science fiction story about a historical christ of sorts in Behold the Man). Mr. Moorcock would also win awards for literately works he wrote such as Mother London, King of the City (and others you may see in this review series in the future). In short even without his fantasy work, this is a towering titan of a writer, who is still at work today but it is his fantasy work that brings him to this review series today.

In the 1960s and 1970s, fantasy (even more then today) stood under the immense shadow of Professor JRR Tolkien. It was a overarching and far reaching influence in the United States, so imagine the weight of it in the nation of his birth. One where a number of critics, writers and readers could have even attended lectures given by the man. Mr. Moorcock himself had met Professor Tolkien and had mentioned that he found the Professor a likable man, he did not have such kind things to say about Tolkien's work. Calling it infantile, conservative and boring, Mr. Moorcock set out in the 1970s to do what just about every critic of a successful fiction is told to do. He went and wrote his own fantasy. In 1961 an albino, drug addicted, cursed bomb carting an evil soul eating black sword was lobbed into the fantasy genre. As you might have guessed I'm talking about Elric of Menibone, a character and a story that take a hold in fantasy in ways no one would have really guessed when it was published. Elric is a member of an elder race but with none of the grace of Tolkien's elves. He's is frail and must use drugs to maintain his physical health. He is addicted to using the power of his Black Sword Strombringer (a weapon that is frankly more iconic in fantasy then anything Tolkien came up with). He is flawed, Byronic hero with a tendency to get the people closest to him killed. If anything he resembles the bad guys in earlier works more then does the heroes. Elric much like Mr. Moorcock was an intense product and expression of his times and as with the New Wave science fiction... It was needed.

Mr. Moorcock's influence can be felt in American and British fantasy to this very day. If you're a warhammer fan? You have been enjoying the indirect results of his work, as Mr. Moorcock's work often turned around the conflicts of Chaos and Law (Games Workshop even uses the same symbol for Chaos that Mr. Moorcock coined, the 8 pointed arrows). Fictional works within the old warhammer fantasy universe (I'm not discuss this, this is a book review series, not a wargame series) like Malus Darkblade pretty much follow the path that Mr. Moorcock burned into the jungle for them. Along with this Mr. Moorcock helped popularized and expand dark fantasy and other expressions of the genre.

So what is my stance on Mr. Moorcock? I am opposed to many of his criticism on Professor Tolkien and fantasy in general. I am opposed to many of Mr. Moorcock's philosophical and political stances (he describes himself as an anarchist, I have many things to say about anarchy and none of them kind). I will also state that I there are fans of Mr. Moorcock that I absolutely cannot stand, they are type that make a moral stance out of what kind of fantasy writers you like to read, while looking for a boost on their high horses so they decry Tolkien fans as Crypto Fascists. To be blunt, people who say to paraphrase a friend of my “Have no other meaning for the word Fascist expect things I don't like.” I find such things pretentious and frankly tiresome. Tolkien's work is certainly conservative but fascist? This is a man who decried Fascism from day 1, not all right wingers are fascist, ladies and gentlemen anymore then all left wingers are communists. That said I will defend the quality and value of most of Mr. Moorcock's work to the death. Those of us who are fans of science fiction and fantasy owe Mr. Moorcock and his fellows a debt, his experimentation, his willingness to overthrow prior rules in the pursuit of a story and his willingness to tell tragedies helped expand and enrich the genres even to this day and beyond. Now that I've beaten the point into the ground... Let me discuss the actual book.

The Knight of Swords is a book in the Eternal Champion multiverse, basically a heroic character fated to exist in many times and places while waging a war to keep Law and Chaos in balance. Because if one side actually wins out over the other then everything goes batshit and the universe might actually end and we can't have that, all of our stuff is here after all. Elric is the most famous Incarnation of the Eternal Champion but the main character of this story is Corum Jhaelen Irsei, who while not being Elric certainly does rhythm with the albino. Corum is a young noblemen of the Vadhagh, an elder race that once feuded heavily with another race the Nhadragh but has since sunk into … Well I'll be blunt the Vadhagh are sinking into slow extinction. They live in small isolated family (by small I mean in groups of under a dozen) groups in castles with little to no contact with other family groups. Societies don't work this way! I've complained about this before but... Look you got at least have enough mixing that the younger members can find mates otherwise you're going to slowly decline into oblivion. The Vadhagh don't get that chance though, they are messily and violently wiped out by a younger, savage race. The race of humanity or as we're called in the book Mabden. Prince Corum is essentially the last of his race, as his family and every other Vadhagh he can find has been wiped out, victims of the barbarism of a younger race that operates out of hate, fear and the urging of dark powers. Corum tries to fight this tide but pays a heavy cost for it.

Corum starts on a journey of vengeance wanting nothing else but to kill the people who killed his people no matter what it costs him but he's turned aside when he is delivered to a Castle of civilized Mabden to recover. These Mabden had figured out the basics of civilization earlier then most and created a fairly decent society however the castle had been cut off from the rest of it's civilization. It's there he runs into Rhalina, the widowed ruler of the Castle who basically throws herself at Corum within 5 minutes of meeting him. As romances go... It's not one. I'm not terribly fond of Rhalina as a character. Her job seems to basically get kidnapped and held captive to force Corum to go on quests. She also faints a lots. Eowyn, she is not, hell she isn't even Lois Lane in this book. It's when she is kidnapped by a demi-god sorcerer that Corum gets busy with the main quest of the story.

In that quest he'll be sent off to a variety of impossible lands and meet strange barely possible people. This is honestly the part of the book I like best. I have to admit to being a sucker for a quest and Corum's is a dozy, being sent off to confront a god. Given magical artifacts to make up for his injuries at the hand of the previously mentioned savages Corum finds himself confronting a world wracked by a major change. It's a world where one age is ending and another one is beginning and he has to learn why the wheel has turned. In doing so he finds himself being educated as to the nature of the conflict that he has been enlisted to and informed that he's part of it now whether he likes it or not. Corum most certainly does not like it but he does what he needs to.

The story is rather straight forward and somewhat basic by today's standards but told with fantastical settings and peoples to provide the needed dash and color to make this work. Corum himself is fairly understandable character, as a person I certainly prefer him over Elric but he's well... Kinda dry in some respects. I've read the Elric and other books by Micheal Moorcock so I know what's he capable of and honestly that's reflected in my grade. The Knight of Swords gets a C+, better then average and certainly worth reading (at under 200 pages it shouldn't take you long) but compered to his other work? I mean I enjoyed it but the Elric novels took a lot of the same themes and ideas and frankly explored them better and with more depth. Additionally I feel the work hasn't aged very well. I'll admit I'm being biased on that and I intend to come back with some of Mr. Moorcock's better work in the near future.


That said, next week Baker returns with the White Luck Warrior.

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PostPosted: Fri Apr 01, 2016 7:46 pm 
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The White Luck Warrior
R. Scott Bakker


“MURDER! MURDER IS OUR SALVATION!”
Wutteat Father of Dragons page 556

White Luck Warrior is the second book in the Aspect Emperor Trilogy, which is itself the sequel series to the Prince of Nothing trilogy (aka Drusus Achamain is Not Allowed Nice Things!). For those of you who didn't read my review of the Judging Eye, I'll try to explain things as we go, just stay with me.

Kellhus, who has united the civilized lands of the known world into a single empire for the sole purpose of forging an army to attack the strong hold of the Consult (a group of genocidal aliens and their slaves, creations and worshipers) and destroy it before they can create a second No-God (a thing of unknown nature that prevents sapient creatures from giving birth to live young and allows for control over the Sranc, who I will get to later) has led the greatest army ever assembled in human history into the wild wastes where that fortress is located. He has in essence, conquered Europe, the Middle East and North Africa, used those lands to build a massive army and lead it marching into the wilds of west Siberia. The army is marching through lands completely barren of any human habitation, not even nomadic tribes and there's a good reason for that. These vast plains are utterly infested with Sranc, humanoid creatures created to crave the flesh of human beings. My own view of the Sranc is they are what is created when you have a bunch of manics in charge who care more about fear, terror and murder then creating an army that wins wars (as evidence I would like to point out that the Consult has been trying for thousands of years to wipe out sapient life and not only have they failed but they've had new forms of sapient life emerge into civilization). They're brutish and savage in a way that makes even most fucked up person looked angelic but they're also frankly pretty damn stupid.

Which does have me echoing a complaint I've had for decades now. Why? Oh WHY? Do people keep thinking ravening psychopaths are the best choice for super soldiers? Sure they can kill a lot of people but indiscriminate body counts don't win wars! Killing the right people at the right time wins wars (sometimes not killing the right people wins wars!). Sure it's hard to win a war without killing people but having legions of stupid motherfuckers with one tactic available to them is a sure fire way to get your ass handed to you. Course there are other tools in the Consult's armory the Ursranc for example are Sranc who are more capable of thought and able to obey complex instructions. We are informed of their existence in this book but we don't really get to interact with them beyond seeing them whip a yoked legion into battle (it's pretty simple, you chain up a bunch of Sranc and march them towards a bunch of men, while starving them and then unchain them when they can smell all the man flesh on the move). We see a lot of battles here, as the Sranc will flee the army until the mass of them reaches the point that the plains cannot support them, then in hunger and insanity the Sranc horde will mob forward until the army kills enough to force them to break.

There are logistical problems to consider here as well. The Army of the Great Ordeal as it is called, is vast. With soldiers, sorcerers, witches nobles and slaves from every nation in the known world. Hundreds of thousands of men and horses (and women as Kellus has trained women in sorcery as well) marching and fighting... The amount of food they need is vast and there is no way to keep constant supply columns going without stripping the army of the men it needs to ward off the Sranc attacks. Kellus has tried to reduce the logistical strain by breaking the army into 4 columns increasing their ability to live off the land (made difficult by the fleeing Sranc eating everything they can) but making them more vulnerable to attack. Add in to this that the Consult is aware of their march and is unleashing abominations to whittle down their numbers. The Army of the Great Ordeal is locked in a death struggle against wild Sranc, an enemy army of shadows and monsters and against an increasingly empty and hostile land... And this is only the trip to the actual battlefield. In the middle of this Sorwell, captive Prince of Sakarpus, the last nation between the Consult and the Empire and thus the last to fall, wrestles with his beliefs and concerns as he realizes that Kellus' war with the Consult is real but the goddess Yatwer demands that he kill the God-Emperor anyways (this is complicated by the fact that the gods cannot see the Consult and the No-God, meaning even if Kellus is telling the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth... They wouldn't know and would still try to kill him). What parts of this story line that isn't taken up with the army's struggle to survive and keep marching forward are filled by Sorwell internal conflict and the actions he takes has he veers back and forth between seeing the God Emperor as a divine agent on a real mission or as a lying demon leading everyone to their doom.

Meanwhile Drusus Achamain with the daughter of his ex-wife Esmenet (who is currently Kellhus' wife and Empress of humanity and trust it's as awkward as you think) Mimara and the ragged remains of the Skineaters venture deeper into the wilds of the north. The North was once the center of human civilization but was utterly destroyed in a war against the Consult, Drusus is something of an expert on this civilization because... Well he dreams the life of one of it's greatest heroes every time he goes to sleep, the founder of his school. Drusus has become an expert in digging through these dreams for facts and information. It's in these dreams that he realizes that he knows where a map leading to Kellus' birthplace is. This is important because Kellus is a Dunyain, the result of a eugenics and schooling program to create people capable of rejecting desire in exchange for rationality. They've focused on breeding for intelligence and motor control and relentlessly training people in full expression of their mental and physical gifts. This genetic legacy and training program enabled Kellus to walk into the first Holy War a penniless vagabond and walk out the God-Emperor of Mankind. The common way of explaining it within the book series is the phrase “Kellus to us as adults are children.” Ask yourself how easy would it be to outsmart and manipulate a society of people with the mental and emotional development and control of 5 years and you get an idea of Kellus' situation and abilities. Drusus intends to learn as much about Kellus as humanly possible and then wreck Kellus' shit as revenge for stealing his wife and basically screwing him over again and again. To do this he has lied to the Skineaters and led them into one of the dark heartlands of Sranc, an impenetrable forest that has driven off constant attempts by humanity to explore it and has swallowed up whole companies of hard bitten adventurers. Drusus means to push through it with a handful or so of men, a single Non-Man sorcerer (Non-Men are pre-human sapient who were made immortal at a terrible price, think Elves with all the nice parts taken out) and Mimara, who is learning more about her abilities to look into people's soul (aka The Judging Eye).

These abilities are terrifying and come at an awful cost but Mimara might not be able to survive without them. For that matter neither may Drusus. Mix in their relationship which whips between one between a father and daughter to a coldly hostile one and back as they both have to deal with the trauma of their experiences and the problems of the march. Especially has the Skineaters become increasingly insane. Captain Kosoter for example is going madder and madder as they head farther north and becoming as dangerous to his own men as he is to the enemy. Cleric, the Non-Man mage is impossible to predict as always and may turn on them on any moment (has he is the kind of Non-Man that kills the people he loves so he can remember them, the price of immortality being unable to remember anything but the most traumatic of events). Clerics true name and the reasons for his wandering now have to be discovered and brought to light or they may be murdered by their own allies. In fact, being murdered by their own allies in the wilderness is a concern that Drusus and Mimara will have to deal with and one that may be more dangerous to them then all the Sranc in the world.

Lastly in the Imperial City Esmenet is fighting hard to maintain any level of control over a rapidly spinning apart Empire. Without Kellus and his army, and in the face of revolts being inspired by the gods (who are blind to the Consults plots) and starting a feud with her brother in law Maithanet, who was basically made the Pope. She was egged onto this by her psychopath son Kelmomas, her youngest surviving child. Kellus often reminds me of a sociopath in his behavior but Kelmomas takes it to a whole new level, murdering his own twin to make sure his mother pays more attention to him in the last book for example. Getting her to feud with his Uncle weakening the Empire when they can least afford it because he doesn't want him ratting him out to Esmenet. Because of the madness of one small prince the entire Empire may fall to ruin, bringing all of humanity into a state of warfare and madness when they can least afford it, because if Kellus' army fails, if the Consult wins... Then the No God will emerge and every man, woman and child that falls in that war will have been a waste that humanity can ill afford. To be honest this remains my least favorite story line. While I go back and forth on whether I prefer the army story or the adventurers story line, I always kinda of sigh when we hit this one. That isn't Esmenet's fault although there are times I want to shake her until her teeth rattle but rather while the behavior shown in the story line is completely realistic (people back stabbing each other and going apeshit) I've never been able to really grasp the motivations. I mean for fuck sake if Kellus is lying (if he is why is he leading a massive army out into the wilderness?) then we're all going to find out soon. If he's telling the truth we literally do not have the time and resources to waste on this. But no, the rats have to eat each other right fucking now. It's depressing really.

In the midst of this is the character that the book is named after, the White Luck Warrior. A creature of Yatwer (a goddess) he is able to see his future, present and past all at the same time. Because of this he always knows which actions will work out best for him. Sent out to start tearing down the empire he is on a quest to murder the imperial family. We don't spend a lot of time with him which is good because the sections written from his view point have to be read 3 or 4 times sometimes to finally figure out what you're reading (maybe that's just me). I find the idea fascinating mind you but I feel I don't want to read it from a first person view.

You know I'm not going to lie to you folks, while incredibly well written and layered with history and atmosphere a lot of this book is depressing on a massive scale. While I like it... I frankly had more fun reading the Judging Eye. Because of this White Luck Warrior get's an -A. Tense, dark and moody but at times exhausting and depressing. Still a good read however. I should note that this isn't something I would hand to anyone of a young age or to anyone who can be thrown into a funk because of their entertainment.

Okay, next week? Let's do something fun... Hey I haven't reviewed a Superhero graphic novel yet have I?

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PostPosted: Sat Apr 02, 2016 12:52 am 
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The Sranc aren't depicted as being good soldiers. They're fast breeding, sub sapient cannon fodder that have impulses and instincts that guarantee they'll attack the Consult's enemies while not being smart enough to possess souls or overcome their instincts. They're goblins with an actual rational for being created as shitty, vicious troops.

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PostPosted: Fri Apr 08, 2016 7:39 pm 
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Hawkeye 1 My Life as a Weapon
Written by Matt Fraction
Art by David Aja

So... Superheroes. You know, I actually like superheroes. As a kid I read comics causally often scoping them out at a local Walmart (those were the days..). An older cousin of mine graciously donated his comic collection, which was made up primarily of Superman, Legion of Superheroes and Conan comics. I spent a lot of good time buried in those books but I would always drift back over to Marvel. Mainly Spiderman and X Men, with a lot of Captain America and GI Joe (these to shall be reviewed!). As I grew older I would drift more to the Avengers. Especially as the X-drama (if you'll excuse the term) grew heavier and bleaker and I felt that the characters I liked were being crapped on and marginalized (I was never a huge fan of Wolverine.. Well I find the new one interesting). But let me get to the comic itself.

Hawkeye My Life as a Weapon is the first volume of the 4th Hawkeye solo comic series to be produced. It started it's run in August 2012 and is still in production today. Volume one was written by Matthew Fraction, born in 1975 in Chicago Heights Illinois, Mr. Fraction is a long time comic book reader and writer. He is an Eisner Award winner and has worked on Iron Man, Iron Fist, the Uncanny X Men, Casanova and the Sex Criminals (which is a really weird series). David Aja is a Spanish born artist who as also won an Eisner for his cover art. Additionally Mr. Aja was a teacher of the fine arts at the University of Salamanca before becoming a professional illustrator. If his teaching is anything like his art, the comic book world's gain is the University of Salamanca's lost! I don't comment on the art in a graphic novel often because am I as qualified to seriously discuss art styles and such as your average dairy cow but I really like the art in this book. It's distinctive, interesting and matches the tone of the writing very well.

Let me talk about Hawkeye aka Clint Barton, especially for those of you who might only know him from the Marvel Movies (which I like don't get me wrong) because they're two very different characters. In the comics Hawkeye received his training from the villain Swordsman who made him and his brother into the most bad ass marksmen to ever marksmen. For awhile Hawkeye would travel with a circus using his craft but felt unfulfilled and decided to be a hero. To bad for him he ran into the Black Widow (back then she was a Soviet Villain, this was a long time ago) who conned him into the supervillain game. After a series of battles and misunderstandings Hawkeye was able to make his case and was accepted into the Avengers under Captain America's leadership. At first they didn't get along but these days Hawkeye is one of Cap's better friend (not as close as the Falcon maybe but pretty close). Since then Hawkeye has evolved into a mainstay of the Avengers despite not having any superpowers (in fact he was originally hard of hearing but was later cured). While like everyone else I kinda giggle at a man with a bow and arrow fighting alongside demigods, super soldiers and all sorts of other oddness... With Hawkeye it kinda works and it hasn't gotten into ridiculous territory like some other superheroes I could name (looking at you DC, we all know who I'm talking about here). Unlike his film version, he is not a family man and doesn't have a long term partner. He did have a wife at one point (The superhero Mockingbird) but they divorced. Which I'm honestly okay with... Unlike other marriage breaking events I could think of. What am I talking about? Let me just put this way, what was done to Animal Man's family was criminal. What was done to Aqua Man's marriage was stupid. Spiderman was a great superhero and I feel it's terrible that his comic book series ended in 2007. I'm not going to go any further because that would be a derail but I think I've made my position clear on some matters.

Anyways, the series itself shows just what it is that Clint is doing with himself when not an active avenger. What he's doing is apparently being awesome and crazy. Whether it's paling around with the normal citizens in his apartment building in New York City, dealing with his Russian Mob Landlord's attempt to run everyone out of the building so he can sell it for millions or yes, rescuing dogs from traffic! Most of the book takes place on the street level, with Clint mixing it up with track suit wearing Russians who believe the word bro is the best way to address anyone. That said there is a little trip to the hive of scum and villainy that is Maripoor, which had me laughing out loud. The writing is clever, somewhat irrelevant and playful while not taking anything away from Hawkeye and the trouble he gets into. Frankly I laughed a good deal reading this which I needed this week honestly. We got car chases, fist fights, arrows flying everywhere and proof that a boomerang arrow is a great idea (because it comes back!).

We also have Clint teaming up a lot with Kate Bishop, who is honestly pretty fucking awesome herself. Kate Bishop is a wealthy young woman who took up the mantle of Hawkeye when everyone thought Clint was dead (you know... Superheroes) and when he came back... They pretty much decided ah what the hell let's have two Hawkeyes, it'll be funny that way! Kate Bishop mainly stars in the Young Avengers' line up and you would think that she would be the Jr. partner in this but for the most part Clint treats her as an equal. Yes, she doesn't have the experience he does and he has things he can teach her (like don't leave home without your bulletproof vest) but she ain't a side kick. I like that. Of course we also see Clint fucking up pretty often when it comes to personal relationships so he does make his fair share of missteps. Basically Clint can be a bit of fuck up when he's not on the job but at least he's trying to help people and be a decent human being. Which is frankly all I ask, just try to be a decent person and Clint gives that his all, as this book is pretty much full of him and Kate helping people. Often at great personal risk and cost. Which is what makes him a hero, not the bow and arrows, not the custom but the fact that he keeps helping people even when it costs him.

That said, the book does suffer from a lack of an over arching story line and the time skipping in the first issue of the 6 collected here (5 from the Hawkeye series and 1 from Young Avengers showing how Kate and Clint made their peace) gets a bit jarring in places. It smooths out quickly enough though. So all things considered? Hawkeye My Life as a Weapon by Matthew Fraction gets a B+, I'll be getting the second volume, no question.

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PostPosted: Fri Apr 08, 2016 9:52 pm 
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Hawkeye has that same totally dauntless attitude as Wolverine, he never backs down regardless of the scale of opposition. He just doesn't have the adamantium and the ultracheese healing factor to back it up, which makes Hawkeye much, much cooler.

I do agree on his divorce being a good story, because man it suuuuucked because you like both characters and want them to make it work. Like when two friends are splitting up.

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PostPosted: Fri Apr 15, 2016 10:00 pm 
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Log Horizon II: Knights of Camelot
by Mamare Touno


Once again I venture into the lands of Japanese light novels! Some of you may remember me being a bit... Singed from No Game No Life (read the review, not the book) so I kinda decided to stick to safe ground and return to Log Horizon. I'm really glad I did though. Because here is where I found a great example of how to write an actually intelligent character. Something which is frankly hard to do I'll admit but I have through mostly accident found the first rule, if you want to write a convincing intelligent character your first best step? Don't write everyone else as an idiot. Mr. Touno has managed to do this quite well.

Let me recap, Log Horizon is the story about a group of people several thousand strong who were playing a massively popular MMO game called Elder Tales when a new expansion was released. The players find themselves trapped in a fantasy world inhabiting bodies that appear to be much like their characters in the game. However the world doesn't map exactly to the game, for example the NPCs behave like real people not video game characters. On the other hand the menu creation system (making items via menus) continues to function, as does the in-game voice chat and so on. Another depressing fact is that food (all of it made via menus) has no taste. Shiroe our main character accepted a job to save a low level player from a Guild in another city that turned into bandits and thugs. He was able to rescue her with the help of an old friend Nyanta. Nyanta is an older gentleman who plays a damage orientated class called Swashbuckler. Nyanta in this book kinda comes across as the guy I would like to be someday. He's patient, kindly, wise unfailing in his support to his friends and able to open up an entire barrel factory worth of kick ass when needed. Nyanta has also discovered something very, very important. How to make food with actual, factual taste and flavor. After months of eating food that tastes of soggy crackers... Well let's say he's a popular fellow and he's earned it.

Shiroe and his crew return to Akiba, the main player city and find that it is swiftly sliding to seed. The big guilds are seizing territory for monster hunting so they can gain resources and power. The small guilds are squabbling among themselves with an attempt to unite having fallen apart under the weight of that disunity. Additionally because there are no laws, while the players are physically safe within the city due to the no combat rule... People just don't work together. Worse some of the shadier guilds have turned predator and recruit the newbies (many of them children or younger teens) to use as slave labor, forcing them to work in sweat shop condition to produce items for sale, or to hunt monsters barely in their level to farm resources. While everyone agrees it's a shit thing to do.... Well there are no laws and no cops so what can you do? The atmosphere has become a grey cloak of despair and apathy as most of the players have let themselves drift into a tired old dream of minimum effort just to get by. I'm going to be honest this part hit me, because I've been there. When you're tired and worn out and nothing you do seems to matter. Those days when it seems all you can do is throw all your effort into treading water and you're just to exhausted to even be angry or upset about it... I'm honestly lucky that I am to stubborn, pig headed and maybe just to damn stupid to give up. It also helps that I have good friends. Speaking of friends Shiroe decides that entire city of Akiba needs him to be that friend and shake it out of it's depression.

The plight of the newbies is brought home to us by the introduction of two other characters. The twins Minori and Tohya, both of them in middle school, who randomly met Shiroe in the game before the change. Shiroe had acted like a mentor to the kids showing them the ropes of playing the game but when the change happened and everything became real... He got distracted and didn't contact him. Neither could the twins bring themselves to contact him and instead fell prey to one of those shady guilds and became slaves in all but name. Mr. Touno does a good job of conveying the despair and bleakness of people who feel trapped with no escape and you might be thinking that this book is a dark, sad experience but you would be mistaken. Because this is the book where Shiroe embraces the idea of civil responsibility and decides he's going to stop fucking around. He's going to pitch in and help build an actual society. Not just any society, but the kind of society he can be proud of. Not just because he can't stand how things are shaking out, not just because people need help, but because he deserves an awesome society and so do his friends. How is he going to do this? By selling food with actual taste.

I'm sure you're scratching your head at that but I'm not going to give away the plan. I'm going to say that Mr. Touno surrounds Shiroe with smart capable people who pitch in with him to carry out an audacious plan that combines out of the box thinking, political and business shenanigans and buckets of balls to free the newbies of Akiba. Ensure that it can never happen again. Reinvigorate the economy and society of the city and get everyone to buy into the idea of government and law. This book becomes a love letter to civil society and Keynesian economics without becoming boring or dry and I LOVE IT for being so. I also love it because Shiroe could easily become a Mary Sue (that is a character who is perfect in every way and every other character exists to show and more often tell us how the Mary Sue is perfect in every way) but instead he's allowed to have faults. To make mistakes and admit them, which allows him to grow. Additionally and this helps a lot if you want to avoid having a Mary Sue... People are allowed to be just as awesome in their own ways as Shiroe. While his plan was amazing, it simply wouldn't have worked without the help of other characters and their own skills and talents that Shiroe lacked. In the end his greatest strength in this book was his ability to get other people to buy in and help him by making his plan a winning one for everyone involved. Well... Everyone involved who wasn't a child enslaving fuckhead but to hell with those guys anyways.

I highly recommend the Log Horizon series to anyone who has interest in Japanese light novels or likes planetary romances. I really enjoyed reading this book and it also gave a bit of a 101 down low on how Keynesian economics works (if no one is buying anything, then the economy goes splat!). That said, there's not a lot of action in this book til the end and that's over pretty quickly. Which means in some ways the book is kinda a prelude to the action to come. I am giving Log Horizon II: Knight of Camelot by Mamare Touno a B+.

Next week, we return to the American Revolution but we take a look at things from the English side! Stay frosty friends.

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PostPosted: Sun Apr 17, 2016 12:12 am 
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A book I read recently, that I think you should check into is "Name of the Wind" by Patrick Rothless. I don't want to spoil anything, but I would love to see your opinion. The sequel is also out: "A Wise Man's Fear".

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PostPosted: Fri Apr 22, 2016 11:08 am 
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LadyTevar wrote:
A book I read recently, that I think you should check into is "Name of the Wind" by Patrick Rothless. I don't want to spoil anything, but I would love to see your opinion. The sequel is also out: "A Wise Man's Fear".


It would be interesting to read his view of those books. Rick got me to read them.

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PostPosted: Fri Apr 22, 2016 10:50 pm 
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I apologize, there is no review this week due to personal events. There should be a review next week however.

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PostPosted: Fri May 06, 2016 9:31 pm 
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Fusiliers How the British Army Lost America but Learned to Fight
By Mark Urban

First of all, let me apologize for the lateness of the review, things came up but we should be back on track this week (knock on wood).

Fusiliers as I will refer to the book from here out, is a history book focused on the Royal Welch Fusiliers. The Fusiliers were one of the British infantry regiments who served the entire conflict of the American Revolution from Bunker Hill to Yorktown. During that war they engaged in battles from New England to Georgia being present in a number of major battles. More importantly they underwent a series of tactical evolutions as the officers and non coms of the regiment came to grapple with the necessity of fighting on the American battlefield. The book is by Mark Urban, a British journalist, writer, broadcaster and current Diplomatic Editor of BBC's Two News night. A graduate of the London School of Economics and having served as an officer in the British Territorial Army (which makes him another reservist to appear on this review series). He joined the BBC in 1983 and left to join the Independent in 1986. He would rejoin the BBC in the 1990s, serving at time as a general reporter, an embedded reporter (being on the front lines for the first Gulf War) and a number of other crisis's ranging from Moscow to Afghanistan. Somehow during all of this Mr. Urban has written a number of military history books mostly focusing on the Napoleonic wars.

First, let me address the politics real fast, book does cover the American Revolution from the English as an American and a Patriot, I am on the side of the fence that the American Revolution was a good thing. That said I was interested to see what the English view would be, Mr Urban doesn't share his opinion in the book but he does show us the opinion of the troops and officers serving in theater as well as touching on the deeply divided public opinion in the United Kingdom at the time. That said, the opinion of the troops wasn't very divided (well, expect for a number of men who deserted for American land, and American girls) and honestly that didn't surprise me very much. For those of you wondering why, let me reveal a deep secret of military life. The people shooting at you are never very popular in the ranks, we tend to resent that in a deep but not at all secret level of our souls. Us enlisted troops are simple honest types that way. I also found very familiar the gripes of the army as they left America though, complaining about the lack of support from society and lack of leadership from their government. Hell, I've made those gripes before in the past after I got back from Iraq. So at the end of the book I actually feel some common ground with these men, despite having little else in common with them (well... There is Sgt Lamb). There's also the fact in both cases those gripes are true...

Speaking of universal constants, I was very surprised at one thing that the book very briefly touched on and that was the utter lack of a plan or overall idea of what victory would look like. In this book it seems like the British government was just kinda flailing around trying to make the revolution stop somehow. Due to how small the British Army was, there was simply no way for the British to achieve victory through simply military means. While Mr. Urban doesn't really go into detail on the strengths of the Continental Army of the rebelling colonies, it does show through in the quoted writings and over all analysis of the war. While the British Army won the vast majorities of battles, especially the major ones. Rebel armies were simply able to absorb loses and reform, this can be summed up in a quote from General Green of the Continental Army when asked what he intended to, “Rise, Fight, Get Beat, Rise Again.” While the British Army would often pummel rebel forces senseless, the survivors would simply regather and try again later. Meanwhile the British were dependent on their reinforcements coming across an ocean in days where the trip could take months. There were attempts to raise loyalist militia to support the regular army but frankly those forces never amounted to any import in the war. In such a situation, it becomes vital for there to be a political effort to woo away rebel commanders and troops and to create a post rebellion order that will ensure that this doesn't happen again and addresses the root causes of the rebellion in the first place. With a lack of direction from above what you are left with is every commanding officer dictating his own policy and trying to direct the course of the war, often find themselves in conflict with their own fellow officers and troops instead of actually fighting the bloody enemy! As you might guess I felt a distinct feeling that I've seen a later adaption of this story all to close and personal. I guess the moral here is learn History or you'll not just repeat it, it'll stomp you repeatedly.

But moving on past the sour grapes. I mentioned the tactical evolution the Royal Welch Fusiliers underwent, as they moved from a standard British line unit to becoming a light infantry regiment that fought in a open formation often advancing from cover to cover. The evolution starts before Bunker Hill on the march to Concord and Lexington, where British regulars dread ambush and colonial marksmanship. During Bunker hill trying to attack the colonial militia in dug in positions, using more conventional tactics the regiment suffers heavy causalities. Afterwards they swiftly adjusted to realities. Opening up their rank and file (translation: they stopped standing so close together while being shot at). I'm going to speak to this a bit, it's tradition these days to mock the silly people of the past for adopting such tactics in gun battles, but if you look into the realities they were working with... It does make a certain amount of sense. The muskets in use were not very accurate and mass target practice hadn't been adapted yet (this boggles me to but for that matter the NYPD didn't adopt shooting practice for police officer until Teddy Roosevelt made them do it). Add in to this the problem of controlling all these manics and making sure they don't waste ammo... It makes sense to keep them together. The honestly wasn't possible in the terrain of the United States in the late 1700s. There were simply a lack of wide open spaces to slam it out in the preferred Euro fashion. That said the British Army did adapt firing from cover and using open formations with admirable speed. What I found interesting was the adaption of shock tactics where troops would march as close as possible to the enemy before unleashing a single volley at once and charging in to finish it with the bayonet. Given that most of their enemies were poorly trained militia who simply could not accept and hold a charge... It was a very effective tactic and one requiring discipline and courage, given my own experiences it's a lot harder to hold your fire while heading at the enemy at a measured pace, while bullets and screams are flying around you and then to charge head long into them than you could really imagine.

Sadly the tactical flexibly and cold competence of the British troops was not matched by any great organizational ability on behalf of their commanders. To be blunt the training system outlined in the book might as well be nonexistent! With troops being trained on site by their regiment with nearly no basic training before arriving in theater. Fresh troops would be thrown into the next best thing to a prison ship (to be fair towards the end of the war a number of the troops were convicted criminals) and sent off to war. I found myself rather flabbergasted by this and frankly horrified at the burden this would have slammed onto the shoulders of the NCOs and Junior Officers. This also meant there was no unified training system! NONE! Such a thing is terrifyingly medieval and to consider that those same NCOs and Junior Officers still managed to hammer out one of the more professional armed services in the western world at that time is nothing less then miraculous! The in-depth examination of how officers in the British Army had to buy their commissions and promotions was no less horrifying. How this did not result in an utter shambles of a mockery of an army is beyond me and I am left with deep respect for the men who pushed this rolling boulder uphill to create a military that wasn't a mob lead by rich snobs It takes almost all my shuddering courage to consider what other European Armies of the time must have been up to. My courage nearly fails me however when the book presents me with the British logistics system. If I was that badly and inconsistently supplied by my superiors, I would frankly lose all interest in shooting anyone but my commanders and political lords and masters bluntly. That said I'm not blind to the problems faced by the men who were trying to make this ramshackle, rickety mockery of a system work. They had men who were usually illiterate and often not very trustworthy to work with, a transport system that would give the Romans nightmares and weeping fits and a political system that... Well it was a political system that justified armed revolution in a number of nations that were afflicted with it.

Mr. Urban's book provides us with a fascinating and sometimes terrifying look into the inner workings of the British Army during the American Revolution. I did wish at points he wasn't so mono-focused on a single regiment but his following of a single regiment and a handful of it's NCOs and Officers did help give me an idea of the journey and personal challenges that those individual men faced. Many of them were facing uphill battles against their own societies and families on top of fighting a war with next to no support, no real civilian leadership, far from home and surrounded by enemies. I found myself sympathetic to men I not only knew would lose the war but I wanted to lose to the war. The British side of the Revolution is in a lot of ways under examined for a number of reasons but this book convinced me that not only should there be more examination for it's own sake but that such examination would have lessons to teach us that remain viable in the modern world. Because of that Fusiliers How the British Army Lost America but Learned to Fight By Mark Urban gets an A. If you're interested in the other side of the Revolution, the time period, or military history in general, go ahead and give it a read.

So I've been gone awhile folks and I do apologize and thank you for your patience. To help make for that Tomorrow I will give you a bonus review of Rat Queens Volume III. See you then!

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PostPosted: Sat May 07, 2016 7:58 am 
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Good stuff.

Some points:

The colonists had quickly evolved away from the mass formations of Europe due to the nature of the terrain and the constant fights they had with the natives. When the French and Indian War went down, the regulars from the UK considered colonial troops utterly hopeless because of that.

But what you had is a lot of people for whom warfare was just a constant feature of life, and we've seen historically that the guys who are farming Tuesday, go fight a bit on Wednesday, and go back to farming on Thursday can make life pretty goddamn miserable for the regulars even if they rarely win a straight fight in the conventional fashion.

As for the conditions of the army, it's kind of like how the amazing thing in WWI wasn't that the French army mutinied, but that they took so long to do it. Existence in the UK was so utterly miserable that people endured tremendous suffering and peril to get away from it. I'm listening to an audiobook about the Caribbean pirates, and what boggles my mind is that the Royal Navy during the War of Spanish Succession lost fifty percent of their manpower throughout the war from noncombat causes. Not fifty percent of their losses, fifty percent of their total crews were killed or disabled from disease, malnutrition, accidents (OSHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA) and their charming habit of flogging people to death for the stupidest petty shit.

(Hence why the pirate's life was so popular.)

On the subject of the lack of planning, besides that being a regular feature of mismanagement, there's also the somewhat unprecedented nature of the event. Colonial empires at that point hadn't had any real experience with dealing with wide-scale revolutions. So you can kind of see how the higher ups would figure hey, give the kids a taste of the grape and they'll fall back into line. Especially with the aforementioned contempt for the fighting qualities of colonial troops.

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PostPosted: Sat May 07, 2016 10:30 pm 
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Rat Queens III: Demons

Written by Kurtis Wiebe
Art by Tess Fowler


“Never steal a girl's sweets.” Betty the thief


Rat Queens is a fun fantasy story that takes place on the world of basically every table top game you've ever played (if you haven't played, go ahead and pick up the dice, trust me). Our characters are an adventuring party of girls determined to out drink, out fight and out fuck every other living being on the planet or die trying. Having fought everything to orc armies, to trolls to the creatures of sleeping elder gods in the defense of the city Palisade, they doing a good job of it to. The first volume was about getting to know our characters and them growing up a little and developing a slight sense of civic responsibility. The second volume was getting an idea of what they were running away from in their pasts and how they come to grips with that. Well the third volume is about how sometimes you come to grips with your past and your mistakes and work through them to become a better person... And sometimes your past comes to grips with you and tears down everything you've tried to build. Not only can trying to bury your past come back to bite your ass, but what you don't know is going to hurt you in this story.

The setting for this is when they go on a little trip to see Hannah's old stomping grounds of Mage University (wizards are not good at naming things it seems) and things are going to get personal. See they're not sight seeing or attending a reunion. Hannah's father (stepfather if you ask anyone but her) has been imprisoned by the council for well... leading a revolution and losing. I say and losing because let's be honest if you lead a revolution and win... You don't thrown in jail. Hannah's a bit shocked by this because she's never seen her father as anything but the buried in a book nerd to the hilt type. Turns out like most children... What Hannah doesn't know about her father could fill an entire library. Unlike most children what Hannah doesn't know about her parents can and will hurt her. Dee also has family showing up in the form of a brother (seriously does Dee have family everywhere?) like everyone else in this volume Dee's brother has a secret of his own. Betty get's a bit of a reveal in this volume but honestly it's kinda pushed to the back of the line (I can almost see a fictional GM trying to get some Betty based drama screaming in frustration as everyone declines to follow up on it). Violet on the other hand takes a backseat on this volume. Which is fine, I mean Violet's a great character but this is suppose to be a team book after all. In this case Hannah is completely the center of the show here as the focus is entirely on her, her family and her drama. We find ourselves learning a lot that Hannah wanted to keep buried forever and her reaction to having this revealed is very telling as well. In short, Hannah doesn't deal with it well or very bravely in my view. But then emotional courage is a lot harder to do then physical courage.

Be fore warned coming into this volume, there is going to be some drama of the emotional variety. For the most part the Rat Queens have been able to operate as a unit against outside forces, but what happens when an outside force doesn't present itself and the Rat Queens have to manage internal conflicts? This is something that happens to every group and we're going to see how the Rat Queens deal with it. The answer to that is not calmly or wisely by the way. We're also going to see that despite their best efforts, they do have some growing to do. Some more then others. I won't say more because of spoilers, except to encourage you to pick up the graphic novel and remember there are better ways to solve conflicts with your friends. Someday I might even learn a couple of those ways.

I found the mage university interesting but we didn't really spend a lot of time there. I did like the idea that university politics mixed with cosmic magical power tends to result in ugly, violent messes where people die. Frankly from what I've seen the only reason that people aren't killed in university politics is because the people involved lack the money to hire professional killers and don't have the training or ability to do their own murdering. On the flip side, there are some serious issues to consider here. Necromancy for example is insanely dangerous not just to practitioner but to the people around them. We are talking about playing with the forces of life and death here after all. Or what about dealing with creatures from other levels of existence or making deals with them? After all these are actions that consequences not just for the person doing but for everyone who is unfortunate to within spell shot of them. I mean would you feel comfortable living withing 3 miles of a demon summoning school? At what point does the quest for knowledge and power have to take a back seat to you know... The basic safety of civilization itself?

Sadly we don't get to really come to grips with those issues, because Dee, Violet, Betty and especially Hannah aren't the kind of girls who are going to have that discussion or even think that deeply about it. Which I found sad, as it would have tied into the their infant sense of civic responsibility and realization that their actions have consequences but the action and humor made up for that. As a bonus was the origin story of Braga the orc, which tells us about her family and why she decided to abandon her people for a life of civilization and banging human men. I really enjoyed that story and I hope to see more about Braga in the future as well as the other supporting characters in the book (I am always happy to see more of the Dave's guys, just a hint!). Rat Queens Vol III: Demons gets an A-. Mainly because I didn't get see more of Mage University... There's no point in introducing me to a new exotic location guys if you don't let me explore it!

Next week Artesia returns and then Leviathan's Wake!

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PostPosted: Fri May 13, 2016 11:51 pm 
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Artesia Afield
by Mark Smylie

Artesia Afield was written and released in 2006 as the sequel to Artesia. The second book picks up fairly soon after the first one. Artesia having overthrown her King and lover Bran for his betrayal on both a religious and personal level has been selected to lead an army from the region called the highlands to the middle kingdoms, a group of allied feudal nations under the rule of a High King. These middle kingdoms are being invaded by the Empire of Thessid-Gola, an empire that has laid quiet for centuries as it's emperor lay in a magic slumber only to recently began expansion and warring again. This campaign of expansion and war has been fueled by dark magics and forbidden rituals which has many people trembling in their boots.

Course the Empire of Thessid-Gola isn't Artesia's only problem. In some ways it's her simplest problem. They want to conquer her allies and possible her home and kill her in the process yeah, but at least they're fairly open and honest about it. Her allies in the court of the middle kingdom on the other hands are full of the knights of the Sun God, the same order who were trying to kill her last book. They had to bury the feud... For now, on the account of the unending horde of foreign soldiers trying to kill them all. That doesn't stop them from being very clear on how much they would like to see her made into a torch, nor does it stop the other people in the middle kingdoms from sneering and whispering about her. Or for some people to express their displeasure at her actions in more direct and violent ways. Artesia is also frustrated that despite having led an army to help fight off invaders, the court of the middle kingdoms keeps her at arms length and well doesn't let her do much until the big throw down where they basically have no real choice but to let her throw down. That said there isn't a lot of politics between Artesia's men and the middle kingdoms here. Instead we have politics inside her camp, as we see some of the divisions between her followers (part of that being the division between her woman followers and her men followers).

We also meet a new culture the Islikids, a group of islanders in service to what appear to me to be demigods? Anyways those demigods are cruel and demanding masters to the mortal men in their service. To the point that even Artesia thinks they might be messing with things best alone. That's a bad sign given that she's not the kind of girl who really respects social boundaries. The Islikids aren't part of the Empire but they are allied to it and their dark magic and dabbling in the forbidden and outright unhealthy is frankly a bad sign as to where the Empire is heading.

We also see more magic as Artesia interacts with the ghosts of her dead, the fellow concubines of the king she overthrew and interacts with the spirits and spells of the empire and her own highlands. It's interesting to see because in a lot of ways Artesia does not walk in the same world as her soldiers or her allies or even possibly her enemies. In her world the ghosts of the dead advise, ravens speak warnings, gods and goddesses walk openly doing their divine duties with little care for the mortal realm. It's because of this that her enemies in the middle kingdoms and the highlands label her a witch, while her friends and followers label her a priestess and both may even be right in the end. I'll admit I find this part of the world of Artesia and the story utterly fascinating. I'm a Christian and my tradition being deeply and fully American can trace it's descent from the Puritans who first brought Christianity to their shores. While you would think my native Pentecostalism doesn't have much in common with the stern Puritans (you might just be wrong by the way) it does share a certain stark view of the world that has no rooms for spirits, ghosts and things not of heaven or hell. That views tends to spread to a lot of fantasy writings where mostly Christianish readers are more comfortable with mechanical impersonal magic systems and morality systems not to far from our own. That's not a criticism there, one does need to be able to relate to the characters you're reading about at a certain level. Magic and religion in Artesia operates completely different from say Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings (although it does share a few common points with Narnia... Hmmmm). It is not secular, it is not clean or mechanical and it is certainly not impersonal. It is dangerous, it is wild and very interesting, not unlike our main character herself.

We learn more about Artesia's early life and origins. We learn from her where she found her heavily enchanted and powerful sword (looting it from a dead warrior woman), we learn more about her mother and we hear of her father for the first time in the series. Course what we do learn is that her father sat there and watch as her mother was burned for being a witch. We also learn that her very skin is enchanted to protect her, which I found interesting as well. This came out in the by play between her and the smith Hymachus, who remains the most distinctive and recognizable of her male followers for me. That does bring me to a complaint, a lot of the male cast still blurs together for me. Next to no time is spent on any character that isn't Artesia and due to the speed of the story we don't get much of a feeling of her individual relationships, just how she relates to them on a whole. I would honestly like Mr. Smylie to slow down a little, let me get to know the other captains under her command and see how they relate to Artesia and each other as individuals. We also see her waging an internal conflict as to whether or not to claim the crown of Dara Dess, the citadel whose King she killed last book. She is hesitant because she knows once she does that there is no turning back and... She doesn't want to be a Usurper. Which I do kinda understand but let's be blunt here, King Bran took the throne by force and turned on the woman who was his main instrument in keeping it. As such I can't see much of a compliant when having been given the choices of be killed or kill, she decided to kill. If you don't want the tigress to rip off your head, don't poke her with a stick. Crowns should not rest on the heads of fools, not when the consequences of their foolery can doom entire nations.

That said the massive battle that is the capstone of this story is pretty awesome to read and the art is as always drop dead gorgeous. The Appendixes at the back are interesting reads but the good news is that even if you don't read them you can still follow the story and make complete sense of everything going on. I know this because the first time I read the book, I didn't read those Appendixes and I still felt pretty sure of everything. That said I wouldn't recommend this book for minors as there is quiet a bit of nudity both male and female and sex is pretty front and center here. The book is not porn by any means but I would keep this to the adults. All of that said Artesia Afield get's a A-, it's going a bit to fast I think but otherwise it's a damn good read and I encourage everyone to give it a shot.

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PostPosted: Sat May 14, 2016 11:11 am 
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Smylie's novel set in the same universe "The Barrow", has a lot more character development for its supporting cast.

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PostPosted: Wed May 18, 2016 11:02 pm 
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Looking at this thread again, two things come to mind.

A) With Stan Sakai's legendary rabbit samurai, it makes one wonder why the closest thing we've ever gotten to an animated adaptation was an episode of the 2003 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series. "The Real World, Part 1" was the fourth and penultimate episode of an arc about an enemy scattering the Turtles through different dimensions, with Leonardo arriving in Usagi's world (Usagi had already met the Turtles in the transdimensional Battle Nexus during that story arc). If you haven't seen it, I won't go into details beyond it involves Leonardo helping Usagi with his current mission to protect young panda Lord Noriyuki from a rival. I presume the Tomoe is the same one from the volume you mention, and we also seen Gen (presumably Genosuke), a mercenary rhino-samurai in their band. It's one of my favorite episodes in the series because I always loved the way the writers had samurai Usagi play off with ninja Leonardo.

B) As for Log Horizon, I've seen the anime adaptation through its first 26 episodes after someone recommended it to me on SB (after I brought up Sword Art Online for a brief appearance in "The Power of a Name", to be exact). That arc of the series may be my favorite, although the later arc also has a strong pull for me. Shiroe cements himself as a Magnificent Bastard and in a way that the audience loves, and his attitude and actions in that arc and others cement him, to me, as a far more enjoyable protagponist than Kirito from SAO. The comeuppance that the child-enslavers get for their actions is delicious.

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PostPosted: Fri May 20, 2016 10:18 pm 
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Leviathan Wakes
By James S.A. Corey


Take a space opera setting designed as a role playing game. Take a pair of talented writers. Take a cast of interesting characters and put them in space. Add in the greatest war in human history which as started due to a mystery. Now add in something worse. That's how you get Leviathan Wakes, a science fiction novel published in 2011, nominated for the Hugo in 2012 and the Locus Award in the same year. The book also serves as the basis for setting of the television show The Expanse, which I haven't seen... Yet, but it has been well received.

James S.A Corey is a pen name used by Daniel Abraham and Ty Francis (fun fact, the S.A in the name is actually the initials of Mr. Abraham's daughter). Ty Francis first worked out the setting of the Expanse as a pitch for an MMO game, but the company folded. It was possible that the setting would have been folded up and put in the back of a mental closet if not for Mr. Francis' sister who while taking a creative writing course asked him for a story idea and (as any writer would have told him would happen) wrote it wrong. So he rewrote it to match his idea and sold it. Mr. Francis would then go on to run the Expanse as a RPG setting on a message board where the inspiration for many of the characters would take root (being derived from characters people made for the game) but the game ended before they could get anywhere really interesting. It looked like the Expanse was heading for that mental closet expect for a meeting with Mr. Abraham. Daniel Abraham, who had been writing since a young age was at this a veteran writer. He had written fantasy, urban fantasy and wrote the science fiction novel Hunter's Run (along with George RR Martin). They both cemented their friendship when Mr. Francis was hired to work as Mr. Martin's personal assistant (I would like to take a moment and point out that Mr. Martin has helped a number of writers over the years and deserves nothing but credit for that). One of the things they did has friends? Role play in the Universe of Expanse.

While Mr. Francis had no great ambitions for a novel, Mr. Abraham did and saw that the Universe of the Expanse would make a great one. They worked alternating chapters and editing each others work (Mr. Abraham wrote the chapters following Detective Miller, Mr. Francis followed Captain Holden). So, the two of them set out to do the one thing that everyone warns you not to do, don't adapt your old campaign (everyone says this, with good reason, but it's amazing how many fantasy and science fictions start out this way).

The setting is what many traditional science fiction writers would consider an in between setting. It is not the 20 minutes into the future of Cyberpunk and it's related genres. It is not set in some far distant future where humanity has scattered itself across the galaxy. Instead humanity has taken space, but not yet the stars. The Moon and Mars have been settled. Mars is independent and working to terraform the planet to be capable of supporting life. Meanwhile humanity has also spread across the asteroid belt and into the outer planets. Wedging themselves into stations and hollowed out moons and worldlets driven mostly by Mars' need for resources to drive the terraforming process. The Belters has they call themselves have lived out nearly beyond the light of the sun for generations now. Developing a distinct appearance based on growing up in a low gravity and a distinct culture based on their cramped living spaces and being so on the edge of disaster that someone who lived their entire life on a planet, an environment that is not constantly trying to kill you, cannot really grasp it. This is reflected in the language that has developed in the belt, a mash up of dozens of languages and as many different grammar rules. A Belter can often have an entire conservation in this slang ridden patois that no one from the Belt could even begin to follow (this makes the Anthropologist in want to tackle the nearest Belter character and demand they do their duty to humanity and help me compile a grammar of this shit, because this shit is a cultural event!). This growing cultural separation is fueled by the resentment that the Belters feel towards the people and governments of the inner planets who frankly use them as cheap labor and do little if anything to address their concerns. As a consequence of this, revolutionary groups have sprung up across the outer system, uniting under the banner of the OP determined to stand up for the rights of Belters and stick to the inner system man. Meanwhile Earth and Mars, while allied for decades have their own divisions and resentments bubbling away under the surface. The whole system is a giant pool of gasoline and some jackass decides to go ahead and start lighting matches. As they always do.

The story itself centers around two men that are incredibly alike despite being different in every way. Detective Miller is a cop on Ceres, a hollowed out worldlet that is policed by a security corporation on contract. He's jaded, tired, divorced and a barely functioning alcoholic, who despite this is actually a fairly decent cop if he can unfuck himself for 20 minutes. Detective Miller is slowly and quietly working and drinking himself to death because he can't bring himself to care about much else. Things take a strange turn however when his captain assigns him a little side job. There's a rich family on Luna with an estranged daughter named Julie Mao. She's disappeared. Detective Miller's job is to track her, find her and get her back to the inner system, no matter what Julie Mao has to say about it. I've known men and women like Detective Miller, people who have without ever discussing it with themselves or admitting it, have decided to just let themselves slide slowly and unavoidably into a moldering death. Often because things have fallen apart and they no longer feel they are strong enough to pull their lives together, or sometimes because they can't bring themselves to care. More than often then I'd like, there is simply nothing to be done and no way to bring out of their slow, lazy spiral into the end. But sometimes, sometimes what they need is someone, or something that latches on to their focus and turns them from a drifting, sputtering glider, into a high powered guided missile. When that happens you have three choices, help, get out of the way or follow behind them. Because they will not stop and they will go right through you, if need be, no matter the cost. Detective Miller has just become a high powered, human missile that will not stop until he finds Julie Mao be she alive or dead.

Holden born on Earth, dishonorably discharged from the Earth Navy is the XO of a water hauler that comes down with a terminal case of exploded. Finding himself the Captain by right of survival and now responsible for the well being of a number of crew men (and women) who have also survived this attack. Captain Holden is younger, idealistic, believing all he has to do is discover the truth and get it out there and people will Do The Right Thing. He's also angry at a system that has both been failed by him and failed him and determined not to let it happen again. Like Miller he was mostly drifting through his life, not circling the drain but floating along comfortably. Content to simply slide through. Life however decided to smack him in the nose with a hammer and scream wake up at the top of it's metaphorical lungs. Captain Holden is going to find the people responsible for killing his old ship. He's going to keep his crew mates alive and he's going to get to the Truth and get it out to everyone, even if it kills him. Working with and for him are a couple of interesting characters, from the medic Sled, Amos the space mechanic (who is my favorite), Naomi the Belter engineer and Alex the Martian Redneck pilot. The by play and interactions of the crew are great and I really enjoy them. Captain Holden is a man who believes in right, truth and doing your damn job and he's going to do his level best to live up to those ideals. This honestly makes him a more likable character then Detective Miller and a vastly more relatable on a lot of levels. To be fair on the day I start feeling more like Miller then Holden, that may be the day I need to go in and talk to a shrink or 5.

You may be wondering about the remark I made earlier about this these two men being very alike despite having nothing in common. Captain Holden and Detective Miller have incredibly different life experiences, different world views, different ideas on how society and people work, on everything really. Boil that all away and you get two men with the same core however, men who want to do their job to the best of their ability and want everyone to just deal with each other decently. Detective Miller has been beaten down by life to stretch out his definition of decently and Captain Holden idea of doing his job well drives other to the edge of madness at times but that's what it is. There's also a lurking anger in both of them as they have been repeatedly denied the very simple things they want and while they express it in different ways, it's still there. As you might guess those shared personality traits only make things more difficult for both of them.

That said it's not a perfect ride, the transition between chapters gets a bit choppy at times. The rpg elements tends to peek through from time to time. Some of the actions scenes feel more like fights lifted from a rpg game then a written scene, those scenes are a minority though so the book manages to push through that. I also felt that more time could have spent on the complaints that caused the division between humanity in the first place. Still the setting and the characters get me through that. While the setting isn't hard science ficton, it feels like it could be. I really enjoy the setting and the divisions and how they're played out on the ground level as opposed to the top `10% of humanity that a lot of space opera focuses on. The characters don't explain why the tech works but they do have to deal with the effects of the tech working and the more time spent on the implications of technology as opposed to dry numbing recitation of how it works the better. All these things considered this is good space opera and good story. It's also despite being the first book in a series a complete story in and of itself. If I were to put this series down right here... I'd still have a full story that ends on a satisfying note. I'm giving Leviathan's Wake by James S.A Corey a B+. In all honesty I'm really interested in this story now and I'm pretty sure the series has no where to go but up (with more of Holden's crew).

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PostPosted: Fri May 27, 2016 9:45 pm 
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The Dinosaur Lords
By Victor Milan

The Dinosaur Lords is a great example of what you call a high concept novel. High concept basically means an idea that you can easily communicate in a few or even a single sentence. In the case of The Dinosaur Lords, that single sentence is “Knights fighting on dinosaurs.” Which, I'm going to be blunt here guys, is an awesome concept. I mean who doesn't like the idea of riding a multi-ton monster into battle? I've loved dinosaurs since I was kid and by that I mean like a lot of kids I was utterly besotted with them. Having grown up... Despite having acquired many more loves and tastes, I still love the damn things. Dinosaurs are awesome. There's no debating that. I'll gleefully sit down and watch a documentary on dinosaurs, or read a book on them or have a completely over the top debate over whether or not the Tyrannosaurs Rex was a predator or a scavenger (he was a predator obviously, although I'm sure the Tyrant King also stole any kill he could get to). So when I grabbed the novel, I was sure no matter what happened I wouldn't be bored.

The Dinosaur Lords was written by veteran writer Victor Milan, who was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma (my own home state) in 1954. Mr. Milan has literally been writing longer then I've been alive and has written and published over a 100 novels and short stories. He has written Forgotten Realms books, Mech Warrior books, cyberpunk, fantasy, science fiction so on and so forth. His most famous book was perhaps the Cybernetic Samurai, a cyberpunk novel released in 1985. I went ahead and looked into the Cybernetic Samurai which was an award winning book and might be appearing in this review series someday (if nothing else I would like to expose some of my readers, a number of whom are of tender years to the kind of fiction written in the 1980s. Especially the cyberpunk). But! We're not here to talk about Cyberpunk, we're here to talk about what, I at least think, is a fantasy novel.

The Dinosaur Lords takes place on the planet of Paradise, which our good author goes out of his way to tell us is not in any way, shape, or form Earth. On Paradise there are a small number of mammals. Horses, dogs, ferrets, cats and most importantly Humans, the rest of the wildlife is straight from the Mesozoic Era, that's right not just dinosaurs but all the creatures that shared the planet with them from the flying pterodactyls to the great monsters of the deep. Paradise teems with them and they all live here without respect for silly things like if they actually lived together on earth. Stegosaurus roams the land alongside the Tyrannosaur Rex (fun fact kid, there is actually less time separating us from the T-Rex then there is separating the Tyrant King from the Stegosaurus) for example. These facts among other things leads me to think that there is something of the artificial about Paradise (there's a sentence you could parse several ways). That said I got to give Mr. Milan points for depicting at least some of the dinosaurs has having feathers and vibrant colors. Something even Jurassic World skimped on. Another point is given to Mr. Milan for having most Dinosaur knights riding war hadrosaurs, because riding a multi-ton carnivore is dangerous and expensive. That said there are characters who ride Allosaurus and (of course) T-Rexes but it's a privilege reserved for wealthy high nobles who have the land and money to feed and maintain such monsters. Frankly I'm not turning my nose up at the hadrosaur as a war mount either. I mean sure it's a herbivore but so are horses and the average war hadrosaur is over 3 tons! If that wasn't enough Milan exercised his right as a fantasy Arthur to kick it up notch by giving hadrosaurs the ability to attack using special cries that can burst blood vessels and cause intense physical damage as if they were giant monstrous banshees. Now granted I'm pretty sure the real hadrosaurs likely couldn't do that, but I don't care. As long as a story is internally consistent I'm willing to accept some flubbing on the biology and abilities of an extinct species brought back to life specifically so I can ride it into battle and hit other people with sharp bits of metal.

Dinosaur Lords has 3 and a half separate story lines that run through it, 2 and a half of those story lines weave around each other while one stands completely on it's own. In one story line, bard and dinosaur master Rob Korrigan follows fallen lord Karyl Bogomirskiy, once the most feared military leader around but now fallen on hard times, on a job to raise an army to defense a province of pacifists. I'm going to take a moment to say I've always felt that strict pacifism (a refusal to engage in violence even in self defense) makes no damn sense. My life experience has taught me the hard way that there are people who will take nonresistance as an excuse to indulge their worse impulses and refusing to fight doesn't make the world better. It only gives those people free reign to be brutal monsters. That said there are times and places where refusing to engage in violence is the right idea. We've seen that demonstrated in history that people engaged in nonviolent protest and action can do what all the armies in the world can't but a blanket refusal towards violence is frankly madness in my view. Especially when there are armies specifically coming in to murder, rape and enslave people while specifically saying they're doing so because they know you won't fight them. I mean you live in a world where there are nobles who train raptor packs to hunt men for sport, how does nonviolence sound like a good idea here!?! Lucky for Karyl, he's able to find volunteers. Now he's just to figure out how he's going to beat armies full of men who trained their entire lives to kill people and their dinosaurs with small bands of peasants and townsmen who only realized that the pointy end of a spear is dangerous 3 weeks ago. Karyl is an easy character to respect but hard to like, we spend most of his story line inside Rob's head who is easy to like but at times hard to respect. That said Rob is a charming, earthy fellow so it's not like I disliked him as a view point character.

Our second story line follows the Imperial Champion Jaume, who is a pretty amazing guy. He's a knight who founded his own knightly order and the kind of guy who can stand up to a T-Rex without quailing. He's a poet who loves beauty and a honorable man who loves truth. However he's got a problem, see the Emperor of the Empire is pretty much a figure head and always has been (it's a kind of Holy Roman Empire situation they got going on here) but the current Emperor has decided to change that. Part of his solution is to send Jaume off to support the people attacking said province of pacifist. Course that's an issue when Jaume's own religious beliefs are more in line with theirs then with the Emperor's. Jaume agrees to lead the army because that's his duty which I understand it's his behavior on the campaign I don't get! Let me warn everyone that spoilers are following. Jaume's army is also suppose to attack and subdue a number of semi-rebellious nobles who have been playing bandits. His army is made up of his knightly order, imperial troops and a number of feudal levies led by nobles who have fallen into a religious sect which... Well encourages them to treat peasants like shit. When Jaume wins the battle against the rebels (no thanks to the nobles in his army) he arranges a truce and everyone seems happy but when those same nobles use a false flag of parley to break into the castle and town of the rebels and proceed to murder and rape everyone they can and Jaume is woken up in the middle of night with this news... He refuses to do anything, because... He's worried about the effect on the army or the empire. This flabbergasted me so much I went and checked with some medieval historians I knew just to see if I was missing anything. I wasn't. This makes no damn sense! If Jaume doesn't act, then no one will ever bother making a truce or surrender to him ever again because he's either a liar who can't be trusted or a weak man who can't control his troops. This kind of behavior means that frankly Jaume doesn't have an army, he has an armed mob that walks in the same direction he does and that's worse then having no troops at all! I may be spoiled by my experience in a 21st century military but this is not shit that William the Conqueror would have stood for and he lived over 900 years ago!

Next we have Imperial Princess Melodia who utterly frustrates me even more then Jaume. Why? Because her story line is she watches other people and talks about it with her ladies in waiting. She is in the imperial court and I think it's suppose to give me a sense of of the intrigue and plotting going on but Melodia is so removed from all of it I don't really get any good information. So I get a story line that involves talking about other people and watching other people do stuff and her being in a snit with Jaume (who is her lover) because she thinks this war is a bad idea to. She complains, sneers and pouts and frankly I don't really care for her and I'm asking what was the point of having her as a view point character? She doesn't do anything! Her entire story line is... You know what I'll come back to this. Lastly is Count Falk who is mostly interwoven with Princess Melodia, a former rebel who swears loyalty to the Emperor and bullied by his servant and mother plots and schemes to gain control of the Emperor's advisory council... Well he mostly carries out his servant's plots and schemes and then gets drunk and talks about how terrible Melodia is for flirting with him and not fucking him (she doesn't really flirt with him, she dances with him once and tells him she doesn't like him). Falk almost feels like an internet “nice guy” transported into a fantasy novel. Which is reason enough to loathe him (2 tips from my life guys, 1 if you have to tell people you're a nice guy... Then you're not a nice guy. 2 if the only reason you're nice to a girl is so she'll sleep with you? You're not a nice guy and she shouldn't sleep with you. I get the frustration, I do! I've been told no way more then I like as well but for fuck's sake guys get a grip! Okay back to the review) but there's even more reason to hate Falk. He's a bloody whiner! Everything is about how awful everyone is to him and how nothing goes his way and everything sucks... You want to slap him in the mouth and scream “You're in the top 1% of your society and you ride a T-Rex to war! Grow Up! You're embarrassing humanity in front of the dinosaurs!”

There's good stuff in this book, the battles and action are very well done and given to us from different view points so we get to watch from afar and be right in the front lines. There's also a good variety of action from one on one fights on dinosaur back and on foot to mass battles and everything in between. However I never got the same sense with the intrigue or the plotting. I'm left very fuzzy on what the different factions in the imperial court are and what they want. Additionally... This entire book feels like a prologue not a complete story and I HATE that. This is especially true of the whole Melodia story line which could have frankly been saved as chapters in the next book and acted as the beginning to her story line. Jaume's story doesn't come to a conclusion so much as kinda meander to a stop. While Karyl's story line which is the closest thing to a full story ends on a semi-cliff hanger. Look, there's nothing wrong with writing an interconnected series of books telling a single grand story but each book that I paid cash money for should give me a complete story in and of itself. I mean Larry Correia can do it, Kevin Herne does it masterfully in the Iron Druid series, I expect a veteran writer like Milan to do the same. It's not that The Dinosaur Lords is a bad story mind you, it's that it's not a complete story. Still I did like most of the characters and really enjoyed the battles and the world itself is very interesting so it's not like I felt I wasted my money. Still I can't in good faith give The Dinosaur Lords by Victor Milian more than a C+. Lack of a satisfying ending in any of the story lines and issues with the characters and the politics is holding down what should be something awesome. Hopefully the sequel can address some of these issues.

Next time: I am going to Phoenix Comic Con! But you're still getting a review! Let's see what I think of Gail Simone writing of the Red Devil of Hyrkania. See you next week!

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"it takes two sides to end a war but only one to start one. And those who do not have swords may still die upon them." Tolken


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PostPosted: Sun May 29, 2016 7:02 pm 
Resident of the Kingdom of Eternal Cockjobbery
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Ah Victor, the one member of the TLE crew who could write a solid story without burying it in rhetoric. You might want to check out CLD sometime.

Two of his Btech novels are now up on various epub platforms, btw. But the Nook versions, good god, they got the cheapest shittiest formatting they could.

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"'Flammable' and 'inflammable' have the same meaning! This language is insane!"
GIVE ME COFFEE AND I WILL ALLOW YOU TO LIVE!- Frigid
"Ork 'as no automatic code o' survival. 'is partic'lar distinction from all udda livin' gits is tha necessity ta act inna face o' alternatives by means o' dakka."
I created the sound of madness, wrote the book on pain


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PostPosted: Fri Jun 03, 2016 9:40 pm 
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Red Sonja: Queen of Plagues
By Gail Simone
Art by Walter Geovani


Oh... Where to even start here? With the long and strange history of the character of Red Sonja? With her creator Robert E Howard? The fabled career of Gail Simone? To Discuss Brazilian artist Walter Geovani? Not to mention the graphic novel itself? You know what? I'll start with Gail Simone.

I kind of feel like Ms. Simone is both a warning and an example to comic editors everywhere about what might happen if you turn to a fan and ask “You think you can do better?” Because as it turns out... she can. Personally speaking, I'm very comfortable in saying she's one of the better comic book writers out there, which is interesting because before becoming a writer she was a hair dresser who had studied theater in college. She first came to everyone's attention when she joined a small web site called Women in Refrigerators which took it's name from an infamous scene where Green Lantern Kyle Rayner came home one day to find his murdered girlfriend stuffed into a fridge. The website pointed out that an awful a lot of female superheroes and other characters were being murdered, raped or otherwise brutalized; to serve as plot devices in the stories of male characters. Which in a lot of cases turned them into well... props for the plot instead of fully realized characters in their own right. I'm going to risk jumping in the white hot gender wars of the internet and say Women in Refrigerators had a point. This isn't to say you can never hurt a female character, just that if you're killing Supergirl just to invoke angst in a Superman story you might not being treating Supergirl as a character in her own right. The same of course holds true in reverse. From there Ms. Simone wrote a column on Comic Book Resources and moved on to writing Simpson Comic Books. Then DC comics hired her and the rest is her becoming so beloved by comic book readers that when DC editor Brain Cunningham fired her on the 9th of December, the fan outrage was so powerful that she was rehired on the 21st of the same month (this would be the warning part for editors...). Red Sonja was written in the next year for the up and coming company Dynamite (who sadly I won't be discussing in this review, space and all).

Walter Geovani, the artist is a Brazilian born artist who had worked mainly on independent comics. Honestly I feel that Red Sonja is some of his best work so far (it's the latest example I've seen, to be fair) but I can see rapid improvement in the young man. Now I'm not an art critic, so when the improvement is so dramatic that I can notice it, it must be good. The art on Red Sonja is pretty damn good too; the action has weight and movement, and it conveys a certain brutality which is what you need for a character like Sonja. I'm actually left with high hopes for the man.

Let me talk about Red Sonja, who springs from the same mind that gave us Kull, Solomon Kane and most famously of all Conan the Barbarian. I speak of course of one of the more under appreciated fathers of sword and sorcery and maybe American Fantasy in general, Robert E Howard. I intent to write more about Howard in a later entry in this series but here's what you need to know for now: he's awesome, I love his work and will make no apologies for that. Interestingly enough Red Sonja wasn't written as a character in Conan's setting. She was instead a character in one of his historical works “Shadow of the Vulture,” set during the actual siege of Vienna. In it the character of Red Sonya is a red haired, gun slinging sword's woman who is after revenge on the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire and his consort Roxelana (Roxelana was a real person who became the wife of the Sultan, the first woman that was actually married by the Sultan in hundreds of years). It is revealed that Roxelana is actually Sonya's sister and she had betrayed the family to the Sultan.

Fast Forward to the 1970s, Marvel Comics is making Conan the Barbarian comics and they're converting Howard's other works into Conan stories to avoid running out of material. Roy Thomas rewrites Shadow of the Vulture into a Conan story and combines the Red Sonya of that story with another Howard character Dark Agnes De Chastillon (Interestingly Dark Agnes also inspired another character Jirel of Joiry who would become the prototype in turn for a legion of female heroes. This is what I mean about Howard not getting his fucking due!). Red Sonya proved to be a popular character (her first appearance was not in the scale bikini but that would come along shortly) and took off. Roy Thomas and friends would hammer together their own origin story in 1975 that appeared as a story in a Kull comic. It's... a very 1970s origin story I'm going to have to say. Red Sonya is basically a peasant girl whose family is brutally murdered while she is raped and left to die. While Sonya lays there the goddess Scathach (The goddess in question is based on a woman from Irish mythology, a Scottish Warrior Woman who trains the great Ulster Hero Cu Chulainn) appears to her and basically offers her superpowers, that she may be as a strong and fast and skilled as any man with a weapon. As long as she swears to never lie with a man who doesn't first kick her ass. I'll admit from the year 2016 that origin is a bit... well...look guys “I Spit on your Grave,” was a thing back then but it ain't anymore. Plus that vow really kinda bothers me, I mean, the only person Red Sonya can have a sexual relationship with is someone willing to beat the crap out of her? That's kinda of... Rapey. I'm not big on these issues so I kinda feel when I notice it, it's time to tone it down.

That's why we have Gail Simone who in this graphic novel gives us a 3rd origin story for the character. In Queen of Plagues we have Red Sonja dealing with her past, an invading army of men and monsters from the ocean deeps, a plague, and the fact that the woman she considers a sister has turned on her and gone batshit crazy. To be honest when I read the novel for the first time, I considered it the 2nd best origin (Shadow of the Vulture is the best one!). On reflection (having read it three times now) we have a story where Red Sonja is dealing with betrayal by a sister, a siege on a city by an expansionist empire of an alien culture and her own mental issues; the mixing of the two origins is actually pretty damn good and I find I like it. The only thing I disagree with is writing out the goddess (seriously I would just modify the deal to make it less 70s revenge porn). We get to peer back into her childhood where she was raised by a hunter, before her family was murdered before her very eyes by a wanna be warlord (that's a nice touch, it's not a real band of soldiers, but a bunch of thugs who think they're soldiers who do this, making the following scenes much more believable). We see this in flashbacks, as well as where Sonja learned to be a two legged whirlwind of death. She had been taken as a slave and taught to kill by a fellow prisoner Dark Annisia (who may herself be a nod to Dark Agnes, man, we got layers here!). She and Dark Annisia were freed when a man lead a coup to overthrow the brutal and wanton king of the city. Dark Annisia left, Red Sonja stuck around for awhile moved by the mercy and generosity of such a man. Sadly without support Dark Annisia had sunk into a kind of PTSD driven insanity where she believed herself literally hounded by the souls of the men and women she killed. This insane rage led her to a path that collided with Red Sonja and while they may regret it, neither one of them were backing down and neither one of were pulling their punches. I really wish we got to spend more time with Dark Annisia to see how she slid into her current stage. This is a very comic book version of PTSD and the reactions of people who suffer from it. I would have liked to see it treated with a more realistic tone. I would say that I hope in the future Ms. Simone gives something like that more consideration, because it's a real issue and some of my brothers in arms are still laboring under it. That said, Ms. Simone never treats it as anything but a tragedy and does not make light of it, which counts for a lot with me. She is after all, a civilian and as far as I know doesn't have a lot of direct experience with such things.

Red Sonja Queen of Plagues is a successful re-imaging of the character's origin that includes a lot of nods to her inspirations. The action is great, the dialogue rather snappy without being to modern which helps it retain a serious tone. Because of this Red Sonja Queen of Plagues by Gail Simone is an A. Ms. Simone's first appearance on this review series is a triumphant one and I hope for more to come.

Quick note, this is the first week I've had someone else proofread my review. Give a thank you to Ben Allen for his hard work folks. Next week, we go back to novels. See you then.

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"it takes two sides to end a war but only one to start one. And those who do not have swords may still die upon them." Tolken


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