Monday, April 20, 2015

The First Chronicles of Druss the Legend (Gemmel)

The First Chronicles of Druss the Legend, by David Gemmell, 1994

This book is labeled The long-awaited sequel to Legend, but it is, in fact, a prequel. First Chronicles is not the first book in the series. It isn't even the second. However, if you picked up this book, there is little you would miss or would have to wonder about. In other words, you could read this before Legend, if you wanted to read them chronologically, but I wouldn't.

In fact, prior to this, I read The King Beyond the Gate, which was a sequel (or follow-up) to Legend. I was impressed by it enough that I loaned it to my brother and told him to read it now. I wanted someone to talk to about the book. He finally did -- and then turned around and bought the other three book in the series at that time. So I got to read his copies of Legend, and after rereading King, Quest for Lost Heroes, which is farther in the future, and finally Waylander, which is a the earliest in the timeline for all of these, so far, predating Druss's adventures in what are collectively known as the Drenai Saga.

Somehow I moved on to other things and put reading more David Gemmell on the back burner, which is a shame. He passed away several years ago after writing so many other things, not just in this series.

This book takes us back to when Druss was a young man, before he became a Legend. (And the plot of Legend was that he had retired from it long ago and was being called back in -- and had to live up to that status.) You meet his father and learn of his grandfather and the origin of his great axe. The book follows Druss's search for the only woman whom he has ever loved and who loves him, Rowena, after she is kidnapped by raiders along with the rest of the young woman of his village. It's not a shorty story; it's a long journey across the land and the sea and into war to find her and win her back.

It's a satisfying read. There's little magic but there are other fantasy elements, including spirit realms and demons, but the focus is on the men and women. And the axe. Don't forget about the axe.

I actually read this book before some of my earlier entries. When I was catching up, I went through the recently read entries on my e-reader, forgetting that I've had this paperback sitting on a shelf for quite some time. (True story: I started this book during the summer while lounging in the pool, but I switched to magazines which I wouldn't care if they fell into the water.)

Friday, April 10, 2015

Doctor Who: Engines of War (Mann)

Doctor Who: Engines of War, by George Mann, 2014

The Time Lord who rejected the name "The Doctor" nonetheless picks it up again, mostly because readers need to call him something. Likewise, so do the rest of the Time Lords on Gallifrey, including Rassillon, the Daleks, and, of course, his latest companion.

Taking place in the middle of the Great Time War, the Doctor is part of an attack fleet that's ambushed by Daleks. He crash lands on the planet Moldox, infested not only with Daleks, but with Skaro Degradations with new weapons. The Temporal Cannon removes the target from history, though gaps seem to remain. Even though a soldier never existed, his cot is still there, even if you can't remember whose cot it was. (Problems like this occurred with the crack in the universe in the first Matt Smith series.)

The Doctor and "Cinder", whose family was killed by Daleks when she was a child, head off to Gallifrey where the Council decides to kill the Daleks by destroying the Tantalus Spiral and annihilating billions of lives (along with Daleks), which are acceptable losses to save trillions of others. Oh, and kill the Doctor. The Doctor does his best to make sure that neither of those happen.

Long time fans of the series (from before the revival) will be rewarded, but no viewers won't be left scratching their heads.

It reads like a long episode, and that's not a bad thing. It's a satisfying read, but it doesn't really give us more insight into the War Doctor, except that he's already tired of War. He rejects the name Doctor, but that's all he ever seems to be. Again, not that that's a bad thing.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

How To Be a Zombie (Valentino)

How to Be a Zombie, by Serena Valentino, 2010

After years of vampires and werewolves hogging the moonlight, zombies have finally found their place in the sun (which the creatures of the night avoid anyway). This book, published in 2010, is a How-To guide for the recently deceased/recently risen on how to be the best zombie possible. It's written like a series of click-bait articles you might find online, but this is something different.

For one thing, the reader isn't assaulted by pop-up advertising. For another, Serena Valentino knows a lot about the different types of zombies that have appeared in popular culture, and it shows.

The book is a bit of a balancing act. For one part, it's written for the undead to adapt to their new life and gives tips on how to fit into society. This part is actually well-researched for something that isn't real. (Or is it?) The other part is for zombie fans who want to cosplay zombies, but these could also be geared toward friends of the undead wanting to help their zombie friends fit in and give them a sense of belonging. Tips on how not to get eaten by your buddies are included (along with tips on not eating your buddies, of course).

It was a fun little read. I picked up the book in a lot that I won at a raffle. It was the only book in the pile that didn't seem to be a paranormal teen romance, so that's what I started with.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Yo Mama Jokes for Kids (2015)

Yo Mama Jokes for Kids: Large collection of over 200 funniest Yo Mama jokes for Kids!

I won't bother mentioning the author. Not fair? Probably not. Then again, I didn't have to list this book, either, but I'm trying to keep a list of the things I've read.

Years ago, people used to post a lot of dumb stuff in usenet. (For all I know, they still do.) Everything now and then, someone would gather up material into a "canonical" list that went on for pages. It could be amusing ... or it could be extremely repetitive.

This book is extremely repetitive. Once you get one joke on a topic, you don't need half a dozen more just like it. (By the way, some of the jokes are repeated verbatim a page later, so 200 jokes is an incorrect figure.)

Worse, many of these jokes are old. "How old are they?" They're so old Joan Rivers told them about Elizabeth Taylor. They're so old that Cain told them to Abel because he wasn't self-aware. (The latter, not so much, but the former, absolutely.) Granted, there are a handful that refer to recent events, technology or pop culture, but for the most part, you could find most of these reading social media for an afternoon.

I might've raised an eyebrow once or twice, but never laughed out loud or snorted.

Likewise, 200 one-liners is barely a book, so don't pay for this one.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

1632 (or The Ring of Fire) (Flint)

1632 (or The Ring of Fire), by Eric Flint, 2000

In the year 2000, a freak occurrence, referred to as The Ring of Fire, sent the town of Grantsville, Virginia back through time and space, swapping places with a plot of land in central Germany in 1632, in the middle of the Thirty Years War. The small mining town quickly realizes the unlikeliness of a second cataclysm putting right what had been torn apart and sets out to acclimate to their way of life. And, of course, survive. Their weapons and technology give them a great advantage, but they no longer have the industry to produce that technology. Nor do the have the industry to produce the industry ...

An alternate timeline is born as the United States of America is founded 144 years early (and on a different continent). History plays on around them.

The book divides its time between brutal battles fought across Germany, building a new society and some overlong passages on just how well the Americans are getting along with their new neighbors and each other. Putting a new government together has its growing pains. By the end of the book, you get a sense that things will go well even though there's much more to do and more dangers to face, but you'll be satisfied that you weren't left hanging until the next book.

1632 is the first of a series, but is a fine standalone read. It has launched a shared world of sorts, with other established authors writing stories. The first sequel will be on my "To Read" list before I decide how much farther I'll go with the series.