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May 23, 2002

The Black Company

The first novel of "The Black Company," written by Glen Cook.

There are some books I read with a mixture of anguish and optimism. These are the "B Movie" books, the ones that make me simultaneously think, "How did this ever get published?" and, "Oh good, when I finally finish My Story[*] I actually have a chance."

There are also books that I go to my in-laws house so I can throw them down the stairs, repeatedly. You know, books the Book Swap looks at and just gives an evaluating, "Hmmmm."

This book belonged to the first category mentioned only by virtue of the fact that if you could get past the writing, there was an interesting story being suggested. Not an interesting story being shown, but told, as countless English teachers have reprimanded you.

The Lieutenant is a quiet man accustomed to the respect due his rank. He was so startled he said nothing. The courier became more offensive. Then the Lieutenant demanded, "What's your rank?"

That's a single paragraph. Alright, the book is "narrated" in a speaking form by "Croaker," a field surgeon with a romantic streak, implying that the words on the page relate to his other job, keeping the Annals of the Black Company.

The Black Company is a group of mercenaries who stick to their code, even if they're fighting for the "wrong side." This gives the book an interesting skew, as if there was another book somewhere on the other end talking about the adventure from the "usual perspective," of heroes against the Evil Undead Minions.

This book would prosper with a map alongside it. I usually find such maps extraneous, but I didn't feel I had a good mental picture of the countryside in this story, and when trying to "gain territory" with a military focus, however removed from the grit of real tactics, I like to have some idea of the environment.

Descriptions of the personalities are what drive any recognition of the characters in this book. Mistakes are made, people are killed (and worse!) Traps are laid worthy of dungeon master's notice, yet the system of how things work (especially magically) is not well-defined.

The story makes a certain kind of sense. It suffers slightly from the protagonist's syndrome, in an excuse to show more of "what's going on," the protagonist is given Special Treatment. On the other hand, the important points are resolved, the mysteries are winked at, and the writing improves.

The story contains prophecies, evil undead minions, grit, magical meihem, a couple of shapeshifters, a jibe at romances, evil wizards, good wizards, and sheep in wolves' clothing. It's a series you can miss, but I expect I'll probably be tracking down more of it.

[*] My Story: the story every writer is dabbling with for eventual finish.

Posted by Meera at 1:13 AM

May 14, 2002

Angel to move to Sunday

SciFi Wire is reporting that Angel was renewed, but will move to Sunday nights, paired with Charmed.

Interesting mix. But this might mess up my chances for trying to watch Alias again (sigh).

Posted by Julia at 11:50 AM

Angel - Benediction - 05/13/02

SPOILER ALERT! Just highlight the text in the page to see the missing words.

There, now that that's out of the way...

Holtz is just plain, darned Evil.

Evil with a Capital E.

That's why I love him, and why I'll miss him now that he's gone. To get Justine to stab him in such a way that it looks like a vampire bite, after giving the letter to Holtz...pure beauty.

I do like Connor/Steven.

This was just a wonderful episode all around. For a good recap, go here.

I enjoyed the bonding of Angel and Connor, after the fight in the bar. I was glad they brought back Justine, even if it's only for more torture and pain.

I personally didn't think Wesley's hesitation was deciding whether or not to warn Justine. I just thought his hesitation was deciding how to reply to Lilah, but maybe that's just me. I really, really can't see Wesley going over to the Dark Side, aka joining Wolfram & Hart. It would really ruin the show for me. But it looks like they're pushing him in that direction, and that's probably how they'll end the season next week, with a nice cliffhanger of him showing up on Lilah's doorstep.

I am STILL not pleased with the Cordy being in love with Angel sideplot. It will be easy to get rid of Groo, but I don't know...it's just wrong in my eyes. Almost as bad as Fred and Gunn.

Now Gunn, I could see him going over to W&H, but maybe I just don't like him as much as I like Wesley.

However, I will repeat the mantra to myself. "Trust in Joss. Joss will provide."

But he better not provide us with crap.

Rating - 8/10. And let's hope Cordy doesn't keep putting the "love glow" on everyone they meet.

Posted by Julia at 9:56 AM

May 2, 2002

Dune: House Atreides

When I was twelve, my father had me memorize the "Litany of Fear" from Dune. I used it one night as a meditation while trying to conquer my fear of heights while riding a swing in a pitch-black carnival outside Los Angeles.

I will not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.

I was with my friend Hope at the time, and we had gone to see the haunted house. We, um, were less than impressed, and came out of there with some lessons on what NOT to do if running a professional haunted house demonstration. (Please repair the "Aliens" costume so the nose isn't waving back and forth in the breeze like a black sock. Do not have "dead people" about to become zombies close enough to tickle. Do not let people like me and my friends into your haunted house...erm.)

The swing went around in a circle, and changed its speed, angle (height), and intensity, kind of like good sex. (Erm.) It was dark out, dark for LA, certainly, a city where light hangs in the air like a solid thing even after sunset. I saw that if I fell, for any reason, I could probably roll and absorb some of the impact in the dirt. Instead, I found myself repeating the Litany, and grinning.

I had read Dune and then at some point, I ended up reading Heretics of Dune and The Dune Encyclopedia (out of print, apparently. Check your local science-fiction convention.) A couple of weeks ago, my dad picked up Dune Messiah and Children of Dune so I read those as well... mixed bag, of course.

So let's talk about Dune: House Atreides since it's comfortably available (and cheap) in paperback. The authors are Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson, and if you read the notes, Mr. Herbert apparently found some of his father's notes and with the help of Mr. Anderson, they came up with a prequel to the events in Dune.

Overall reaction? I liked it, but it's very, very different than the other works.

After reading "Messiah" and "Children of" back-to-back one morning, my brain was kind of put into a certain "mode," taking on a bit of the style of the series in print and speech...just for a little while, luckily, but I could feel its influence. They were "back of the head" books, where a lot of the suggestive influence and the implications of what's going on are figured out by your subconscious, rather than in the conscious part of your mind. You don't sit there and think, "OK, so this happens, and this happens, so this happens, next." You allow the story to sink, and watch the flavours mix together until they bubble and suddenly, you've got a meal.

"House Atreides," on the other hand, is far more active in the conscious. It's a treat, kind of like "Smallville" in that you already know what's going to happen, so you get to watch how things unfold more leisurely. If there's a surprise, if when they filled in the blanks they filled them with potential failures, you can remain confident and rest knowing that eventually things happen the way you know they happened. There's more action, more clear involvement in the "now," whereas the other books happen in very subtle pieces of "meanwhile," and having a larger, sensual (of the senses) view than a more strictly scene-by-scene view.

One of the disadvantages in writing the prequel it seemed that the authors felt they had to have some gratuitous references to things mentioned in the first series. Places, items, the lot...which in some ways adds depth in reading the further novels, but to another writer (especially one used to writing works in other peoples' worlds) it's somewhat annoyingly transparent.

Could you read it as the "beginning" of the series? Well, certainly. I can't stop you: I don't have those kinds of minions. Will you enjoy it as much? I don't know. I kind of get the feeling that there's a bit of a nudge-nudge-wink-wink that was part of my enjoyment of the book that you'd miss in a clean read. While it rests fairly well on its own, it doesn't stand "clean." You might get the idea that there was an end-of-story marker, but really, there's still too much up in the air to leave everything there.

As for the story, it's about betrayal, murder, spice, politics, religion, genetics, sex, jealousy, treachery, achievement, and not at all about love. What more should I say?

Posted by Meera at 8:02 PM | Comments (1)

May 1, 2002

The Scorpion King

No, I haven't seen the flick. But I just read the Self-Made Critic's review of it. And I quote:

"...The Rock is going to become a star by flexing, smiling, and charming the chainmail thongs off of everyone in upper Egypt."

Hmm...sounds like a movie I wouldn't mind seeing. Maybe a rental, though...with Spider-Man coming out on Friday, and then Attack of the Clones not far behind, this will soon be forgotten.

Since I love the Self-Made Critic's reviews so much, I am going to also plug his Summer Movie Preview 2002. Later, you can laugh at how wrong he was.

Posted by Julia at 9:00 AM