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Book Review Anyone....Everyone?
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PostPosted: Wed Sep 08, 2010 8:26 am 
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Joined: Sat Dec 12, 2009 8:31 pm
Posts: 57
Hey, it has occurred to forward thinking me that we need to jazz up the content around these parts...and a book review thread might be just the thing. I guess it would be up to me then to kick things off but if you are reading this and want to add something...go for it! Course, we should keep it in the fantasy/horror genre since that is the theme here...at least until Mr. Werner starts writing his great romance novel. Maybe we could do a movie review thread too...anyone?

SWORDMAGE written by Richard Baker (a forgotten realms novel)

I recently read Mr. Baker's novel City of Ravens and really loved it.
The characters were fun and their personalities really pushed the narrative.

Going on the assumption that good writers write good books I
picked up another of his novels: this one called Swordmage,
the first of the Swords of the Moonsea trilogy,
part of the "new" Forgotten Realms.

The new Forgotten Realms doesn't seem drastically different from the
old one but shall we continue. Swordmage is different from City of
The Ravens in that it takes itself quite a bit more seriously. The good
guys are more in the mold of the strong silent types who are forced
to go about saving the world due to their own innate nobility. In other
words they are more your typical hero dudes. I found that a bit not
to my liking but fortunately there are plenty of really nasty bad guys
to liven things up and keep the pages flipping rapidly.

Swordmage reminded me somewhat of the Hobbit. There is a huge
battle that takes up nearly all of the last third of the book. Baker does
a great job depicting the action and it is exciting. There are also a
few unexpected twists that add to the fun. Anyhows, on to some of
the main story points before I bow out.

Heroic Geran finds himself chased out of Myth Drannor for chopping off
the hand of an enemy in a duel. Myth Drannor is the home of the
elves where Geran has gone to learn some magic to augment his sword
fighting skills. Afterwards, he and a halfling pal named Hamil return to
the city of Hulberg where Geran grew up as part of a royal house.

He goes there to honor a recently slain friend but instead lands in the
middle of a horrific mess. Sleazy merchants are attempting to take
control of the town with the help of Geran's worthless step cousin
Sergen who is evil but lots of nasty fun. If that wasn't bad enough,
someone is breaking into old tombs, a mighty Orc king has plans to
destroy Hulberg, an all powerful lich is operating within the city, and a
mysterious cult of dark wizards is seeking world domination.

Geran joins forces with his beautiful red headed warrior cousin Kara,
a demonic wizard named Sarth, and some homegrown patriots to offer
up some pushback to all the foulness. It makes for a pretty darn good
tale. Oh, I forgot about the ghost haunted Highfells where most of
the action takes place. There are some truly creepy encounters with
the long dead in these moor like lands. Hamil, the halfling sidekick
seems to be along mostly to whine and crack dry jokes but he does
make himself handy in a fight (and there are plenty of those).

Things progress a tad slowly at first, some background has to be
developed, but eventually things take a turn towards some true
Robert E. Howard style all out action and gore creating. I think that
perhaps I enjoyed Swordmage a bit less than City of the Ravens but
there is no doubt that Richard Baker is a talented dude and more than
worth checking out!!


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Re: Book Review Anyone....Everyone?
PostPosted: Wed Sep 22, 2010 1:12 pm 
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Joined: Sat Dec 12, 2009 8:31 pm
Posts: 57
Well alrighty then! Due to the almost overwhelming response to my first book review I feel compelled to write yet another. This book is a great one in my humble opinion. The stories are very diverse, weird, and often unique. Thus we trudge onward too...

THE COLORS OF MAGIC-A Magic The Gathering anthology

I love anthologies, especially fantasy anthologies. It is my belief that the short story is well suited to a good fantasy outing. Thus, I have read many and The Colors of Magic is one of the very best. I will attempt to rate every single story. (eleven in all) This book was edited by Jess Lebow by the way, and he did a fine job!

ANGEL OF VENGEANCE by Richard Lee Byers
Byers is a well known writer but this is the first of his works that I have ever read. I found it to be interesting. A wizard forces an angel to do his bidding. He orders said angel to murder an entire family, including friends and cousins. Kotara the angel is compelled to murder and torture these hapless victims to avenge the death of the wizard's brother. Each vengeance killing leaves the angel less angelic and more resentful of the wizard's binding power. The concept is good and the ending includes a well depicted battle involving the wizard, the angel, a powerful demon conjured by the wizard's enemies...and a dragon no less!
my score 7.5

REPRISAL BY Tom Leupold
This is a light hearted tale about a young man who must look after a highly regarded monarch who happens to be a horny drunkard. Appearances are everything and the poor boy constantly finds himself donning the Knight's armor and going out to fight battles that the royal dunce can't because he's lying drunk in some stable somewhere. Despite his many faults, Lord Rothchild is much loved and everyone wants him to do well. Thus his poor attendant must constantly "cover" for his beloved master. At last the young man must go out to slay a huge dragon that Lord Rothchild promised to kill. This story is a lot of
fun and I found myself really liking the characters.
my score 8.0

VERSIPILLIS by Paul B Thompson
I found this to be a truly great story. Paul B Thompson is no stranger to fans of Dragonlance, he is a very fine writer indeed and this is one of his best. This is essentially a horror story. A duelist is defeated, then trudges home alone. He becomes confused and makes a wrong turn right into Hell it seems. After being pursued by a strange monster, he discovers a bizarre boy who lives alone out in the backwoods. The duelist makes a deal with the boy. He drives away the panther monster that annoys the boy in exchange for demonic powers. With this power, the man hopes to kill his wealthy rival for a beautiful young maiden. Lots
of Robert E Howard style horror imagery in this one...oh yeah!
my score 9.5 I absolutely loved it!

A SONG OUT OF DARKNESS by Loren Coleman
This one really wasn't my cup of tea. However, it was well written and entertaining enough to be sure. A lot of mystical and metaphorical undertones that made it a bit tedious but there is some strong imagery just the same. A elf, something of a holy man, journeys to a dark foreboding swamp to try and salvage a pitiful group of refugees that have been subjugated by a powerful evil. Everyone he meets is in some weird twilight zone where they have virtually lost the will to live. I sort of take this story as perhaps an overcoming depression type allegory. I could be wrong but this story is sorta out there and vague.
my score 6.0

GOBLINOLOGY by Francis Lebaron
This is a very unique tale in the way that its told. The text is in the form of an archeology textbook with handwritten footnotes by a rival scientist who thinks the author is a drunken idiot. As such it was a bit difficult to follow but essentially the author of the book is describing some Goblin ruins as a great religious center while the rival scientist believes there is nothing there but a giant playing field. What they have really found is a football field and a goblin description of how said sport came into being. "What they called it was football," sort of thing. This story didn't impress me much and I sort of viewed it as a failed humor piece until the very end where the author politely implied that in reality there wasn't a lot of difference in ritualistic religion and a sporting event. Taken in that perspective I found an all new respect for the story and its concept.
my score 7.5

THE CRUCIBLE OF THE ORCS by Don Perrin
Don Perrin writes military style stories, usually in the perspective of the bad guys. It works pretty well for him and this is one of his better ones. An orc King who has recently been defeated takes on as allies a hard headed mage and some Goblins. Desperation has driven him to this point because he badly needs a victory over a powerful force of knights in order to keep his hold on power. Perrin keeps the reader wondering right up to the end as to how it all turns out. A serviceable story. An especially interesting bit about Orcs and chickens is included.
my score 6.5

DARK WATER by Vance Moore
I don't know much about Vance except that he is obviously a very sick individual who need help fast. This is one of those tales that had me asking myself, "what is wrong with me that I read stuff like this?" The story is the tale of two witches who participate in all manner of depravity, human sacrifice, animal sacrifice, poisoning, violence, madness, drunken debauchery, etc. Yeah, its a good one. Basically a horror story that slides into black insanity. A truly disgusting story that smells...literally!
my score 8.5

EXPEDITIONS TO THE END OF THE WORLD by J Robert King
Man, this is another really great story. A sea Captain endures tragedy and heartbreaking loss during his many journeys and adventures. Eventually he literally witnesses the end of his world. There is every reason to give up and kill himself but in the end, as always before, he somehow manages to find a reason to keep going despite the odds. I truly loved this one, a powerful tale.
my score 9.25

THE MIRROR OF YESTERDAY by Jonathan Tweet
Another terrific tale by a writer I'd never heard off. It is a story about a group of fledgling wizards who must do battle with a horrible assassin and her unstoppable Golem. This tale is extremely well written, action packed, and clever. There are also several unexpected twists and excellent pacing throughout all the mayhem. I loved the characters.
my score 8.75

BOUND IN SHALLOWS by Kevin T Stein
At first I didn't think I would like this story at all and even considered skipping it after initially stopping after the first couple of pages. Later, I picked it back up and eventually found myself deeply drawn into this riveting story. This one is unique in the way its told and the subject matter. It is also a very long tale and you have room to explore. The story involves a wizard who gambles magically with other wizards while large crowds watch and bet. Think of a cockfight on steroids with all manner of exotic creatures-a giant mantis or snake being preferred. The contestants literally draw the spirit out of their caged animals and send them into duels with other animals. However, the wizard holds all the control and decides every move the animal makes. The secret of success if breaking the other wizard's concentration, discovering the source of his magic, or breaking the opponent's confidence. There is also a beautiful waitress involved who plays an essential role in the very intense action. Also, there is a mysterious pendant that holds the key to success or horrible failure. A mysterious and mystical story...and a damned fine one. Told from first person perspective that adds to the weirdness.
my score 9.75

LORAN'S SMILE by Jeff Grubb
This is a sad and somewhat whimsical tale about an old wizard who losses the love of his life when he wife dies. Against all odds he tries all sorts of magic, technology, and creative pursuits in order to bring her back to him. This sends him on a quest to seek knowledge from other powerful entities...some well meaning and other downright malevolent. Eventually he finds what he seeks but in an unexpected way. This is a melancholy but entertaining story and a fitting end to a great anthology.
my score 7.75

Well there you have it...I highly recommend this book to anyone, regardless of whether you have any interest in the card game.


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Re: Book Review Anyone....Everyone?
PostPosted: Wed Sep 22, 2010 3:39 pm 
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Joined: Tue Jul 14, 2009 6:09 pm
Posts: 241
I'm still up to my neck in vampires, so i apologize for the lack of activity on my part. The Red Duke is being unco-operative.


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Re: Book Review Anyone....Everyone?
PostPosted: Tue Nov 16, 2010 12:31 pm 
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Joined: Sat Dec 12, 2009 8:31 pm
Posts: 57
I would like to make a few comments here about a book called NIGHT ARRANT by a fellow named Gary Gygax. Yeah, that Gary Gygax. I found
this book on a recent outing to a thrift store. I picked it up because it
contained nine short tales. I really love short stories so I decided to give it a shot...knowing nothing about Gygax's fiction writing ability. Surprisingly I really fell in love with these tales about Gord the Rogue. In fact, as a short story writer I would say Gygax was a master. I have read eight of the stories so far (am saving the last one for a rainy day) I enjoyed each and every one. Most of the tales are novella length, in fact one was a two parter that could qualify as a short novel. I could see lots of different influences in the Gord tales but Gygax brings it all together nicely in a highly imaginative way. Gygax is like Robert E. Howard in the sense that he appears to be a natural born storyteller.
The shorter tales are actually the best, they are tighter, better edited...and a bit more to the point. Still, I liked the longer ones too.

Gygax got a lot of grief from people who didn't like it that he used modern slang and cuss words in his dialogue. I really didn't mind at all.
I just enjoyed the stories. I don't know squat about the novels about
Gord that were written by Gygax but Night Arrant is a great book for lovers of fast paced and highly colorful Sword and Sorcery. I even got a kick out of Chert, the huge barbarian pal that follows Gord around and runs amok at every chance. Sure he was a Conan knock off but what is wrong with that. A lot of people compare the Gord stuff with the Grey Mouser tales by Leiber. Heck, I like Gord better!

Anyhow, Night Arrant is a fine collection of stories.


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Re: Book Review Anyone....Everyone?
PostPosted: Wed Nov 17, 2010 12:23 pm 
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Joined: Sat Dec 12, 2009 8:31 pm
Posts: 57
Hello, back already with something a bit different. This is not a review
of a novel but rather a review of a novella length tale. This tale is
called Frost and Fire and it was included in the Ray Bradbury collection
called R Is For Rocket. I just read this so its fresh on my mind.

Of course Bradbury is a master of masters. This tale first appeared in
Planet Stories in 1946 so its an oldie but goody. Bradbury would be
about 25 at the time he wrote this so obviously he was a damned fine
writer pretty much from birth.

The basic premise of Frost and Fire concerns the descendants of human
survivors of various ships that crash on a horrible planet. It has a sun
which blasts the planet with far to much radiation for normal life. The
hapless humans have tunneled deep into a mountainside where they must hide for all but 2 hours a day...an hour at dawn before the sun comes up completely, and a hour at dusk before it becomes freezing
cold. Worse of all the weird properties of the planet accelerate the
human life span so that everyone lives a maximum of eight days. Of
course you might die before that if you go to war to secure one of
the caves where people live up to eleven whole days!!..or get caught
outside your cave at the wrong time of day which is most of the time.

Along comes a highly intelligent and courageous citizen called Sim
who questions why and how does he escape. After many especially
dangerous attempts to change his life he manages to find a downed
ship that is still in one piece. Problem is, the ship is more than a hour
away. What happens as he seeks to reach the ship you will need to
read to find out!!

This is really a great tale and much longer than the usual ten pages
or so that Bradbury writes. I am not totally sure if there is a message
in this tale but it is sure entertaining. The thing that makes it so
great is how Bradbury can take something utterly fantastic and make
it seem so real to the readers by simply exploring the thoughts and
emotions that the characters have as they explore whatever world
or situation they find themselves in. I think that is his secret, he
uses our own mental makeup and imprints that upon his tales.
Whether his characters are being visited by the dead, exploring Mars,
or marrying a robot...it all seems so naturally or unnaturally human!
I wonder if The Twilight Zone wasn't inspired by tales like this.

Frost and Fire is excellent and its the only tale I've read from this
collection so far. If you haven't found yourself some early Bradbury,
what are you waiting for...the guy rules!!!!!!!!!!


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