Fantasist's Scroll

Fun, Fiction and Strange Things from the Desk of the Fantasist.


Space: Above and Beyond

Filed under: — Posted by the Fantasist during the Hour of the Rooster which is in the early evening.
The moon is a Third Quarter Moon

Oh My God!
Finally, after literally years of waiting Space Above and Beyond – The Complete Series is available on DVD. This was the finest science-fiction show EVER! Yes, I mean ever. Including Star Trek, in all its various incarnations, and both versions of Battlestar Galactica and anything else you can think of to date. It was real, hard-nosed, gritty science-fiction with compelling stories fille with drama and real meaning. Not psuedo, let’s-all-get-high-and-get-Roddenberry-laid messages, but the real deal. Every episode dealt with something that made you stop and think about what it meant to be something, to stand for something, or even to be human. There were funny parts, but not like in Star Trek that played for campy laughs. No, if there was something funny, it was funny the way things are in life, not some wooden slapstick played for laughs with goofy music.
And, of course, it’s the only science-fiction show to ever feature R. Lee Ermey. What can top that!?

Excuse me while I go spend a little money on whole lot of joy.


Review: Industrial Magic

Filed under: — Posted by the Fantasist during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning.
The moon is a First Quarter Moon

I finished reading Industrial Magic this week.
It wasn’t my usual fare, but it wasn’t bad. Probably not good enough to hunt down more of the series, but not bad. Honestly, the title is what got me. If I’d actually read the back cover, I probably wouldn’t have bought the book at all. I categorize this type of book as, basically, “chick lit fantasy romance”. But, again, that being said, it still wasn’t as bad as some of the stuff out there. For instance, I liked it better than Obsidian Butterfly, which I couldn’t even read past the first two chapters. When I read trashy fiction, I don’t want to read endless conversations with the main character’s old boyfriends, or potential boyfriends, or whatever. I want action. Plain and simple. I want something to be happening. I want plot based on events going on, not semi-romantic thoughts and feelings. In that regard, Industrial Magic delivered.
The basic plot is that a killer is stalking the heads of semi-secret magical Cabals, who are the sorcerous rivals of the more feminine, and witch-run, Covens and must be stopped. (So, yes, this really could have been a simple murder mystery without the magic, but, well, I guess that wouldn’t be as fun or sell as well.) The main character is a witch, Paige Winterbourne, who used to run a big Coven, but, in an earlier book, lost that position. Her love interest is Lucas Cortez, heir to the Cortez Cabal, but who is a crusading lawyer that fights the Cabals. It’s that connection that gets them drawn into the plot. They’re trying to find, and stop, the killer. And, to avoid spoilers, I’ll stop describing the plot there.
There’s magic all over the book, but, mainly, as a prop. Light spells being used instead of a handy pocket flashlight. Binding spells instead of a stun gun. Necromantic conversations instead of a CSI-type crime lab. Everything they used magic for could have been replaced with modern technology fairly easily without impacting the story. Except for one point when they “cross over” to the realms of death. Other than that, everything else could have been avoided by simply planning ahead. In other words, it was a wasted metaphor.
The other thing that bothered me was the Cabals. Sure, they were obviously some kind of metaphor for corporate America and/or organized crime, but at no time was the source of the Cortez Cabal’s fabulous wealth ever explained. They just were really organized and had a lot of money. Period. Ignore the writer behind the curtain. Frankly, I thought that was a shame. It could have been a really neat sub-plot. And, with the title, it was what I was hoping to see more about! Ah, well, at least I can still write my own take on that without worrying about repeating something that’s already been done.
All in all, Industrial Magic was a decent book, but not great. If you can find it at a discount book store, it’s worth getting.


Review: Pale Fire

Filed under: — Posted by the Fantasist during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning.
The moon is a First Quarter Moon

I finished Pale Fire by Vladimir Nabokov over the weekend.
It was an interesting book, though not quite what I expected. The story, as such, is told via an introduction and a series of comments on a poem. The commentor is, or believes he is, the deposed king of an Eastern European country called Zembla. He reviews and annotates a poem, called “Pale Fire”, written by his neighbor and friend in a little, college town named New Wye, where the former king now lives in exile and teaches Zemblan and Zemblan literature to students at the local college. Frankly, it’s a little hard to tell if we are expected to believe that the view-point character is, in fact, a deposed monarch or if he’s just quietly stark, raving mad. There is plenty of evidence for either argument, but, I believe he’s living out some kind of delusion that seemed harmless and charming to his poetic neighbor, who took pity on him and befriended him.
In any case, it was an interesting book and a literary departure for me. It was also not quite what I expected from the author of Lolita. It was far more accessable than I would have thought and, though sex and homosexuality was a minor theme, not as focused on abberant behavior as I feared it might be. The insanity or delusions of the main character were quite subtle and presented in that strange, calm, almost reasonable way that only the truly insane can present their view of the world.
One of the reasons I got this book was for that ficticious kingdom and language. I was a little dissapointed that there wasn’t more Zemblan represented in the book. The few words and phrases were really just there to spice and flavor the created kingdom of Zembla. Still, it does serve as an excellent example of how a little foregin flavor can go a long way. Again, I was impressed with the subtlty with which Nabokov presented his work. He paints his word-pictures with a very fine brush. The tiny details highlight the over-sweeping whole.
So, while it was not exactly “light” reading, Pale Fire was a very pleasant read, especially for a peice of “classic literature”. I heartily reccomend it.

(And, yes, this also appeared, yesterday, on my other blog, Diary of a Network Geek. So sue me!)


Review: Airtight Willie and Me

Filed under: — Posted by the Fantasist during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning.
The moon is a First Quarter Moon

Well, I finished Airtight Willie & Me this weekend. It was actually a fairly good book. Though, as I got further into it, I was a little surprised to see that it was actually a series of not really related stories. The book takes its title from the first story, which is about a scam artist getting out of jail and being scammed himself by his partner. The O. Henry-like irony is actually quite sophisticated. Well, considering the source. Seriously, it’s a little strange considering my normal reading, but that’s why I chose that book. It’s a look at life from a perspective that I will, hopefully, never see or truly understand. It’s different. It’s a change. And, obviously, based on the length of time it took me to read it, not a very long book, either. I got interested in this book thanks to IceT and an interview he did on MTV. He talked about Iceberg Slim, the author, and how reading his books had inspired Ice to rap. It sounded cool, so… Anyway, it was an interesting change of pace and one I can reccomend, as long as you keep in mind what it is you’re reading.
Currently, I’m reading Plot for about the third or fourth time. I go back to this book, and others in this series, when I have trouble writing. So, I read it every few years when I try to start writing again after a long hiatus. That’s where I’m at right now, ergo, I’m re-reading selected writing books to try and get jump-started back into a writer’s mind. We’ll see how we do in the coming months. Writing books are actually one of the few things that I’m likely to read more than once. I have so much to read that it’s very unusual for me to go back and re-read anything at all these days.
After that, though, I’ll be reading Pale Fire by Vladimir Nabokov. The description interests me because a fictional language is at the heart of the story and I’ve long had a fascination for invented languages. The story centers on a man who has written an “epic poem” about a kingdom that doesn’t seem to exist, but that he’s created in such detail that he has a language for it. It’s a little strange, and not at all how I think of Nabokov, so, I’m looking forward to it.


Review: Fluke, or I Know Why the Winged Whale Sings

Filed under: — Posted by the Fantasist during the Hour of the Rooster which is in the early evening.
The moon is Waxing Crescent

Another Christopher Moore novel down.
I really like his work, in general, and this one was no different. Fluke: Or, I Know Why the Winged Whale Sings is about, well, whales. Of course, in typical Christopher Moore fashion, it’s also about a whole lot more. And, it’s pretty complicates, a little convoluted, and more than a little funny. But, it’s a dry funny. The basic plot follows a whale researcher, his research assistant, a photographer, his girlfriend, his ex-wife, their moderately rich benefactor, and a Rasta-surfer gopher as they try to discover the meaning behind the whale’s songs and who might want to stop them from finding it. Moore hits all the big themes here. Everything from whale conservation to loyalty to sex and the meaning of life. It’s all in there, just like almost every one of his books.
It was a good book, but, not quite as good as I remember Practical Demonkeeping or Lamb : The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal or even Bloodsucking Fiends, but it was still good. I like his style. Dry wit and a slightly skeptical view of the world that just seem to fit together well when telling a story of such strangeness that even the characters have a hard time suspending disbelief. But, he does always manage to pull it off, somehow. And, any of his work is a great, light read that’s perfect for the beach.


Defying Gravity

Filed under: — Posted by the Fantasist during the Hour of the Hare which is in the early morning.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

Or, at least looking like you do!
I’ve always loved sleight of hand and optical illusions, so plans for a gravity-defying room really tickled my fancy. It’s actually an old trick and not more complicated than attaching things to a wall instead of setting them on the floor, but the pictures alone are cool. And, the author gives you some handy hints for ways to make it look good if you want to try this yourself.
Hmm, an upside down room in my house…. Naw, it’d never sell if I had to get out later. But, the idea sure sounds like fun.


Review: Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell

Filed under: — Posted by the Fantasist during the Hour of the Snake which is mid-morning.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous

I finally finished Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell: A Novel!
Though it was very long and not the kind of thing I usually read, it was atually a very good book. Of course, part of the hold up on my end was all the stress of the divorce, but I’m getting so that is my normal state of affairs, if you’ll pardon the pun. In any case, it was a different sort of book which came to my attention thanks to one of the many “Best of…” lists for fantasy literature. What caught my attention, in this case, was the very unusual setting for a fantasy novel: Great Britain during the Napoleonic Wars. The overall theme of the book centered on the rebirth of magic in England as brought about by the two title characters, Jonathan Strange and his mentor Mr. Gilbert Norrell.
I would be hard pressed to layout a single plot that describes the book, because there really wasn’t a single plot that dominated the action. Instead, it seemed to me that there were several stories going on at once that were interwoven. In fact, it was what I liked least about the work. It seemed to promote style over, well, over virtually anything else. Normally, that would spell disaster for me in a work, and may have been one of the things that made this particular book so hard to read at times, but, in the end, it worked. Among the more interesting sub-plots was one involving a Faerie King who steals away the wives of two characters in the book. As Faeries are wont to do in legend, he enchants them and makes their lives a kind of marzipan hell filled with music and dancing and celebrations of a somewhat inhuman nature.
Another story, if you will, is that of Jonathan Strange’s education and his competition with his mentor Mr. Norrell. At first, these two are the only “practical” magicians left in the world, and they are not even aware of each other. Soon enough, though, their lives become quite intertwined. The author, Susanna Clarke, uses the personalities of these two men to clearly illustrate two very different kinds of scholars and magicians. Each man embodies a different view of magic and how it should work and, of course, they are at odds. It is quite interesting to see the ways in which the two men rub each other the wrong way, but still need each other, as no one else in the world understands the things they each do. It is an interesting study of need, compulsion, desire, and, in a strange way, repulsion.

Though this was a very good book, I certainly would not want to make a steady diet of this sort of writing. There were far too many slow points and sections for my taste, but it was worth wading through them to gather up the gems of description and the pearls of characterization which Ms. Clarke scattered liberally throughout.
I reccomend the book to anyone who has read a lot of fantasy and is looking for a new challenge. But, it is certainly not light Summer reading for the beach!


Invented Encyclopedias

Filed under: — Posted by the Fantasist during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning.
The moon is a Full Moon

A favorite topic of mine.
Of course, you poor people who are regular readers here, besides being often frustrated at my lack of content, know that I love invented worlds. In fact, I’ve been playing a game in one called Ghyll. The game, as you might be aware, involves creating a fictitious world by way of writing a fictitious encyclopedia. It’s been loads of fun. But, we’re not the first folks to do it. I know of at least one other invented encyclopedia that describes a world other than our own: the Codex Seraphinianus.
Not only did the somewhat mysterious author invent a world as vast as his imagination, but he also invented a language and script to go with it. So, this entire book, which is now quite rare, is in an unknown language. A dead language of dreams. The entire book is like an artefact from aother world. And it’s quite beautiful.

I hope that makes up for last week’s less than spectacular Friday Fun Link!

Next Page »

Powered by WordPress
Any links to sites selling any reviewed item, including but not limited to Amazon, may be affiliate links which will pay me some tiny bit of money if used to purchase the item, but this site does no paid reviews and all opinions are my own.