Saturday, December 3, 2011

Lots of reading, less reviewing...

I've been guilty recently of a lot of reading, but less reviewing or commenting.  I feel kind of bad about that.  The less reviewing part, not the reading.  Especially because I've read some works that I think really deserve some shout outs or good reviews this year.  Since I've been too lazy and undisciplined to post the reviews a lot of these books deserve, I'm making a resolution to post on a more frequent regular basis.  In the meantime, a couple of major books I've read in 2011 that deserve high marks, along with a brief comment or two...

"Red Summer: The Summer of 1919 and the Awakening of Black America," by Cameron McWhirter.  The best history book I've read this year.  Powerful and well written narrative about the events of the horrific summer of 1919, when several major race riots and lynchings occurred.  McWhirter shows why the mobilization by many American black citizens during this period lead eventually to increased political savy and a renewed determination to fight for the promise of the "American Dream."
I'm looking forward to more from McWhirter. 

"Snuff" (Discworld #39) by Terry Pratchett.  There are a few authors whose works I've read in my life, that always reward me when I go back and read them.  Among these are P. G. Wodehouse, Raymond Chandler, Barbara Tuchman, and Jack Vance.   Pratchett ranks right up there with these other literary giants.  I'm currently enjoying the adventures of his character Sam Vimes (Commander of the Ankh-Morpork City Watch) as the ever vigilant copper Vimes attempts to take a vacation, despite his major desire to do no such thing...

Saturday, July 30, 2011


I was going to write about my central ideas regarding education and heroes, but I'll save that till later. I think Nina Simone sums up things quite eloquently...

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Review of "Maske: Thaery" by Jack Vance

Maske: ThaeryMaske: Thaery by Jack Vance

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

While I agree with with some other reviewers that Maske: Thaery is not one of Jack Vance's best books, this story of young Jubal Droad is still a good enjoyable coming of age adventure story, the type that Vance really seems to like writing.

I thought the culture of Thaery and the surrounding areas could have been a little bit more clearly explained, and that the book could have easily been a little longer, but as one of my friends who also read and reviewed the book remarked "even second rate Vance is fun to read." Thanks to Terrence for that wonderful quote, which I think pretty much sums up the literary gift that is author Jack Vance.

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Review of Dark Horse Comics "Conan Volume 5: Rogues In the House"

Conan Volume 5: Rogues In the House (Conan)Conan Volume 5: Rogues In the House by Timothy Truman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Before I start my review of this graphic novel version of Robert E. Howard's classic Conan story, "Rogues in the House" I need to mention that "Rogues..." is probably my all time favorite Robert E. Howard story, and certainly my all time favorite Conan story. I also thought the Marvel Comics version Rogues in the House & Other Stories writen by Roy Thomas and illustrated by Barry Windsor Smith is in my opinion the very best of the Marvel Comics Conan stories, so Dark Horse comics had it's work cut out for it in trying to do justice to the remake of this great story.

Having said, that I think they succeeded, at least in the extent that they've given new life to the story and added some tie ins to the Dark Horse Conan saga. I still don't think the artwork and the writing quite earns 5 stars, but it earns a solid 4 stars, and the introduction by Timothy Truman and the afterword by Mark Finn are very informative and are added bonuses.

If you're not familiar with the Conan saga, I'd suggest reading the preceding four volumes in the Dark Horse canon, as well as checking out the short story in one of the many Robert E. Howard collections that have it.

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Monday, June 20, 2011

The Halls of the Dead and Other Stories: Conan Volume 4 Dark Horse Comics (Graphic Novel)

Conan Volume 4: The Halls of the Dead and Other StoriesConan Volume 4: The Halls of the Dead and Other Stories by Kurt Busiek

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I read the Barry Smith illustrated Marvel comic version of this story way back in 1970 while on vacation in Hawaii. That version remains one of my all time favorite comics and artistic rendetions of the young Conan, so I approached this newer version with some trepidation. I must say that I was pleasantly surprised. I thought both the story (it's based on a short fragment of Howard's, not a full blown story, so there's plenty of room on the part of the creators to take in where they will) and the art were well done. The drawings of the Gunderman who is first Conan's adversary and then later his friend were pretty much as I thought they should be, and the drawings of Conan's deceitful girlfriend was pretty spot on as well I thought. Several authors contributed to the plot and dialog (Mike Mignola did chapters 3 and 4 for instance) and while that sometimes doesn't work I thought it worked very well in this instance. I read this in one sitting at the local bookstore cafe where my wife works and may even go back and buy it, so I guess I was pretty impressed.

As an added bonus, noted Howard scholar Mark Finn wrote the afterword where he mentions the epistolary relationship between Robert E. Howard and H. P. Lovecraft and how that relationship impacted both men's writing. Very well done, and probably alone worth the price of the book.

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The Goddess of Ganymede, by Mike Resnick

The Goddess of GanymedeThe Goddess of Ganymede by Mike Resnick

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I read this years ago when it came out, so my review is of course slightly based on the reaction of a 13 or 14 year old boy and how memory may have altered that reaction in the intervening decades. That said, I remember this as a fun read, grand adventure in the Edgar Rice Burroughs tradition of pulp magazine fiction. I don't remember many details, other than that the protagonist ends up on a Ganymede that is very similar to the Barsoom of Burroughs, where he has adventures of the type some call "sword and planet." I vividly remember how very very disappointed I was when the series stopped after the 2nd volume, "Pursuit on Ganymede" was published.

Pretty obviously a homage to Burroughs, and this was also written about the time that the paperback market was being flooded with any number of Burroughs and Robert E. Howard pastiches. That being said, I remember enjoying it more than some of the other similar books that were coming out at the time, so I'm giving it 3.5 stars and am strongly considering going out and buying a used copy just to see how it holds up.

Probably recommended more to the Edgar Rice Burroughs fans than to the present day Michael Resnick fans (unless you're a completist, like I tend to be) since his more modern writing has matured and has a different slant than this. Still, if you are a Resnick fan (as I still am) and want to see some of his early homage work you might enjoy this. As I said before, it was grand fun.

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