Friday, February 27, 2009

Black Company

I still don't have any pictures handy, so I'll wait on posting that update.

I did, however, finish reading The White Rose and now I'm already ploughing ahead into my three-in-one book of The Books of the South. Specifically, I'm now more than halfway through Shadow Games, which the omnibus edition puts first (they put the two actual books of the South together in order, but then have The Silver Spike tacked on at the end. In publication order, it came out the same year as Shadow Games and before I bought this omnibus, it was actually my intention to read The Silver Spike first and then start the real books of the south. Since The Silver Spike is kinda a spin-off, I suppose it doesn't really matter too much, though.)

Anyway. Fun stuff. I have really warmed up to Croaker as a narrator. I know he doesn't narrate all of the remaining books, but I've kinda come to like him after all. It was a bit of a struggle; I do like my third person with more description, but Croaker's got an interesting personality that really shows through in the narration.

The the storylines; epic sorcerers, who with absolute power find themselves absolutely corrupted (so far, pretty much completely without exception) in an otherwise somewhat rather mundane world is exactly my vibe. I really like it.

Monday, February 23, 2009


Well, I'm back from my trip to Big Bend National Park, Big Bend Ranch State Park, and other associated weird places in south Texas. Spencer and I went hiking there with Grandma and Grandpa and had a blast, saw cool stuff, and were a heckuva lot warmer than we would have been had we remained in Michigan that week.

But, I'll make that the subject of another blog. With pictures. Right now, I'm just going to mention that I spent a fair amount of the time on planes and in airports (as you can probably imagine) and I took The Black Company with me. Anticipating that I might finish that and want to read some more, I took the follow-up book, Shadows Linger. Unexpectedly (at least, I didn't expect it) I nearly finished them both in just two days of travel.

I've read them both before (more than once even), but I've never read beyond the original three books of the Black Company series. A few months ago, however, I picked up the next three books in Omnibus format, and I decided that before I read them I'd re-acquaint myself with the original three. Right now, I'm about halfway through the third book, The White Rose after which I'll read the Ombibus Books of the South which includes the formerly solo novels Shadow Games, Dreams of Steel and the technically spin-off book, The Silver Spike.

I like these books. The style is not my favorite; it's too conversational, too Spartan, lacking in details, and generally not as fun to read (for me) because I'm always aware of the narrator and never completely "sink" into the text. Not that Croaker isn't a competent and interesting character to serve as a viewpoint character in a first person story (he plays around with that a bit by giving us other viewpoints in the second and third books: Shed the inkeeper turned murderer, Corbie the disguised version of an older Raven, and Bomanz, the too-curious wizard who kinda sorta started all the problems that the books chronicle) but I just don't prefer that style of writing.

However, the story itself is enough to win me over. As do the tropes and conventions that The Black Company sets up. The Black Company is often called the first "military fantasy"---taking military fiction and placing it in a fantasy setting. It's also unabashedly dark fantasy; not only does it contain a fair number of horror elements, but it also is grim, gritty, and focuses on the nastiness of human nature. It combines elements of Sword & Sorcery, namely the mundane vs. the rather nasty magical, the amoral viewpoint and the rather gritty nature of the stories, but has elements from High Fantasy as well, including the world-shaking consequences, Dark Lords, and epic battles. "The Lady"---revealed later to be Dorotea Senjak---is one of the more intriguing characters in fantasy; a Dark Lord who isn't really all that dark when you get down to it, and who is later very humanized and made sympathetic towards the end of the run (of what I've read so far; apparently that trend will continue as I get to the Books of the South and the Glittering Stone story arcs.)

Anyway; reviews of the "new" (to me, anyway) Black Company books when I'm done with them. Afterwards, I'm not sure what I'll read, but I'm kinda angling towards the second Malazan book, Deadhouse Gates.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009


I finished Force Unleashed and since I had already played the Wii version of the game all the way through, I thought the novel was somewhat superfluous. I mean, it did a better job with character motivations, interior monologue and whatnot, but the action sequences were kind of weak, and the plot was the same. Eh. Nice cover art, but it's the same as the game. Maybe I can pick up the RPG supplement?

I also finished James Silke's Prisoner of the Horned Helmet. It's fairly turgid. Which is why it took so long for me to get through it, of course. Silke is a huge fan of over-the-top metaphor. Except sometimes you can't tell when it's metaphor and when it's real. I was really surprised when the flaming eyes of Gath of Baal actually managed to catch someone on fire. Oh, you mean that was literal? Weird. I kinda wish I hadn't also picked up the next two in the series at the used bookstore when I got that one, because now I'm going to feel obligated to read them eventually, and this book didn't do much for me. The characters were kinda weak, the plot was predictable and cliched, the descriptions and action set-pieces were bleagh, and all in all the book was mediocre in just about every way.

Now that it's done, I picked up Splinter of the Mind's Eye which I've had for years but never read for some reason. This was an Alan Dean Foster book that was published in 1978, and the plot was worked out between Foster and George Lucas as a potential low-budget sequel to Star Wars. Foster actually wrote the novelization of the film, too, for that matter, which was published before the film's release. It's interesting to see which ways the story could have gone. Clearly Vader is not yet Luke's father, nor the Emperor's main man here (he's referred to as a "henchman" of Tarkin) and the relationship between Luke and Leia wasn't even a glimmer in anyone's eye (the romantic tension just in the first chapter is pretty palpable.) Of course, I've mentioned more than once that the idea that Lucas had all the details of his story mapped out this early is patently ridiculous, but this is pretty blatant evidence to that effect right here.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Well... nevermind

I lied. I finished Secrets of Sarlona and instead of picking up my Force Unleashed or my Prisoner of the Horned Helmet to finish it, I grabbed The Guide to Absalom.

Oh, well.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Update (D&D)

I'm almost done with Secrets of Sarlona, in fact, it's likely that I'll finish reading it if I take a break from work at some point to go to my car and read it. I've only got 20-25 pages left, and with illustrations and everything, that's really only 15-20 pages of text at most. Maybe not even that.

So; for game-related reading, I've got Libris Mortis, Weapons of Legacy, Monster Manual V, Expanded Psionic Handbook, Complete Psionic and Guide to Absalom to read. I'll probably start with the last of those listed. I'm also trying to re-read Monsternomicon II, but I got sidetracked. And I may yet pick up another book or two also.

In the meantime, I'm still camping on Force Unleashed and Prisoner of the Horned Helmet as novels that I'm taking forever to read. I actually think my plan is to finish Sarlona and then finish one (or both) of those novels before picking up another gamebook. It's getting a bit ridiculous how long I've been camped on those novels. Given that I have so many novels on deck still to read, I need to start making some more significant progress.

I also got the Shelley Mazzanoble book from Interlibrary Loan; the Confessions of a Part-time Sorceress; billed as the girlie-girl's guide to Dungeons & Dragons from a girly girl (in her thirties, but still) who took a regular corporate type job at Wizards of the Coast, got introduced to D&D naturally while working there, and had it become a real, significant hobby for her. I thought it was cute, but clearly I wasn't the target market for the book. The description of D&D was too simplistic to be useful to me, and I'm not sufficiently girly to get the rest of the book for the entire run of it: about halfway through I decided I'd seen enough to have had the experience and I could comfortably quit knowing I wasn't missing much that I still needed.

Still, I recommend it as a fun read, and for female gamers who can probably relate to it more, it's probably even better.