A Lot of books, and book-like things (comics, graphic novels, gamebooks) have been jumping into my path lately and mutely begging me to read them. I love books, and book-like things. I can’t stop myself from picking up a few of them. Not having done anything truly entertaining yet this week, I thought I’d talk about all the books I’m trying to read right now.
So, here they are, in no particular order.
Number 1. Jeff Freels is a friend of mine. He’s an artist, a writer, a game designer, and the bravest man I know. 99% blind, he has a little bit of vision in one eye, and he needs a jeweler’s glass to use that. He still produces countless line drawings, and the occasional colored picture like the cover of his book. The book is a collection of stories in a shared world context. I have Trollworld. Jeff has Elmspire. The two places have a kind of thematic fantasy similarity, but Jeff’s world is more human than mine. I’m on page 211 of 312. Marl’s Tale is a novelette of how a spoiled noble kid learns to be a decent human being. There are monsters and marvels aplenty–it could be Trollworld. I liked his wolfweres–wolves who sometmes turn into humans under the light of the full moon. His second tale, THE GREY KNIGHT, is a sad little tale of loss and reconciliation about a knight who has outlived his purpose and is going blind. Talk about writing from real life. Jeff and his wife have a blood condition that requires dialysis once or twice a week. With all these handicaps, Jeff remains cheerful and creative. I had the pleasure of meeting him a year and a half ago on my one and only trip to Seattle. He’s tall, thin, and pale–he made me think of a blind elf assassin. We had the pleasure of exchanging games and autographs. He has a site here: http://jfreels.com/. I encourage my readers to visit his site, check out his offerings, and buy something if you see anything you like.
Number 2. It would be presumptuous of me to claim that I know Jane Yolen. We have exchanged emails back in the day. I once submitted “Murder at the Ruptured Troll” for an anthology she was doing. She turned it down, but apparently got a good laugh out of the story. She was then, and is now, an incredibly talented fantasist–I read everything I see by her. This is a true graphic novel–not a collected comic book like something featuring the Justice League or the Hulk (both of whiich I have right now and plan to read this weekend). This is a fairy tale, and a growing-up story, about a young modern swordswoman who is also a defender of good. It’s modern urban fantasy, and the first 60% of it reads like your conventional teen tale of angst in high school. Outcast girl with one real talent falls in love with the impossibly handsome new guy at school. The art is engagingly done by Mike Cavallaro–I don’t know anything about Mike except that he’s a fine artist and suits this book to a T. One clever conceit of the book is that our young heroine, Aliera, is color-blind, and so we see all the pictures in shades of greenish gray, until . . .
Find FOILED. Read it! It won’t take you long. Of all the books I’m talking about today, this is the only one that I’ve finished. I did not know ahead of time, but I was quite pleased to see that one of the main characters would be right at home in Trollhalla. ( http://trollhalla.com ).
Number 3. My tale of connection to the authors I’m reading continues, although those connections are getting very tenuous now. I saw D.J. McHale in August of 2009 at the Borders bookstore in Phoenix, Arizona. He talked for about an hour of how he wrote the Pendragon series of books for teens. He had a plan, and it worked brilliantly for him, and McHale is now a very successful teen fantasy author. His new series is Morpheus Road. My son, Corencio, is reading this series, and this was the book he wanted to buy last week when we visited Borders again for Mother’s Day. I helped him get it. He has finished the book, and I have taken it, but so far allI have done is look at the rather macabre cover. I suppose I’ll have more to say when I actually finish reading the book.
Number 4. I don’t know Glen Cook at all. I just admire his writing tremendously. This is book two in a series called THE INSTRUMENTALITIES OF THE NIGHT. I don’t know much about it yet. I’m only on page 32 of 492. It reads a bit like his Black Company novels, but is clearly a completely different world.
Number 5. I saw George at LepreCon last weekend. He was the main Guest of Honor, and he was all over the place, apparently having a fine time. We exchanged about two sentences during the Meet the Pros party. I have read most of his GAME OF THRONES fantasy series–great gritty fantasy that feels like medieval English history. Yet the tale seems unfocussed–too many warring parties and a supernatural threat building that the main players are unaware of. And have I ever mentioned that I love superheroes? Well, I’m a huge comics fan and I do. This is the 19th book in his Wild Cards series of a world where superheroes are commonplace. Like most of the books, this is an anthology of conected stories, and George’s main function is editor. Good stuff. I’m currently on page 146 of 384, and plan to read more later today.
Number 6. I don’t know Sarah Hoyt at all. Never saw her. Never talked to her. Baen Books sent me this along with several other freebies back in January of 2010. They send me a package of free books every month. Sweet! I can’t possibly read them all. And I told them that I’m not on the Nebula novel committee any longer, and they needn’t send me all these books to read and review. I picked this one up when I needed something to read about four months ago, because I wanted space opera and it has a great sexy cover by Allan Pollack. I don’t know anything about Allan either. I am currently on page 206 of 370. Sarah writes great acton sequences and gets into the mind of her heroine well enough, but . . . DARKSHIP THIEVES is really a romance novel. It has science fictional settings and vocabulary, but classic romance structure, plot, and character development. Ergo, it’s a romance novel. That may be why it has taken me over four months to finish, and I’m only half done. I will say one thing for it, and others of its kind. Romance novels that masquerade as science fiction usually read a lot better than science fiction novels that masquerade as romance.
Number 7. I think I hinted up above that Glen Cook is my favorite heroic fantasy author right now. He will never replace Robert E. Howard , J. R. R. Tolkien, and Fritz Leiber in my affections as favorite all-time fantasy authors, but they’re all dead, and Glen is going strong. I know several fantasy authors including the formidable Michael A. Stackpole. I fancy myself as a fantasy author. I hate to say it, but I think Glen is a better writer than my friend Stackpole, and much much better than I am. (Not that either Mike or I are bad–Glen is just a better writer.)
Once again I picked up AN EMPIRE UNACQUAINTED WITH DEFEAT thinking that it would be more fantasy fiction like his Black Company novels. It isn’t. It turns out that this is an anthology of some of Glen’s earlier fantasy short stories. In those days he wrote like a combination of Robert E. Howard and Fritz Leiber. That is exactly the way I’d like to be able to write. These stories are less grim and more amusing. I’m on page 85 of 248.
Number 8. Glen Cook is definitely the star of this blog. Last on my list of books I’m currently trying to read is WHISPERING NICKEL IDOLS. This is another adventure of Garrett, private investigator, in a fantasy world. Sam Spade with a sword instead of a revolver. A sordid (sworded) tale of one slightly tarnished hero in a seedy decadent city full of elves, dwarves, trolls, and less wholesome creatures. Always a mystery with a magical twist to it. Funny stuff from beginning to end. I highly recommend the whole metallic series to anyone who likes their dames deadly and fantasy funny. I just started this one. I’m on page 5 of 359. My excuse for not being farther along was that I wasn’t certain that I hadn’t already read it. There have been a bunch of these Garrett books, and though I grab them when I see them, I don’t always see them.
And there are many, many, many more books, comics, graphic novels, and games around here that I really need to read some time soon now. If I can find the time . . .
Right now, I need to take a break, have some lunch, and then play some Runescape. I’m falling way behind in that fantasy world too.