Dune: Part 1 (2021 Movie)

Oh man. What a movie! When this was being produced and talked about, I had my reservations. The gender change for Dr Kynes smacked of pure woke bullshit. The “Part I” let us all know it wasn’t a complete movie and that was worrisome as well. As an avid fan of the Novel by Frank Herbert (having reviewed it 3 times since 2011), I do consider myself a bit of a snob when it comes to Dune.

Thankfully, I follow a couple of people who reviewed Dune Part 1 when it hit the cinemas back in October. Those reviews relieved all my fears and actually got me excited to watch it. I pre-ordered the blu-ray as soon as it was possible and it was released January 11. Because I’m a member of prime, I got it that day. Since then, I’ve watched it 3 times plus all the “extras”.

Let’s deal with the “problems”. Kynes being changed to a woman didn’t matter because they completely neutered the character’s impact on the story. In the novel Liet Kynes is not only the Royal Ecologist for the Emperor, but is also the de facto leader of the fremen, leading their secret ecological fight to transform Dune into a watery paradise. In the movie, Kynes helps Paul and Jessica escape and then is killed by Sardakar almost by accident. It was laughable, in a pathetic way. I “almost” felt bad for the woman playing Kynes but not that much and she was just such a non-entity that the change didn’t bother me like I thought it would. The other issue of this being Part One has already been resolved as this was such a success that Part Two is a green lit.

This follows the first half of the book and ends where Paul and Jessica head out into fremen society. As such, this was a real setup movie with lots of introductions to the universe. I thought they did a good job and kept it interesting with the whole Harkonnen / Atreides feud. I also liked just about every casting choice except for Lady Jessica. As minor as it may seem, her hair wasn’t red enough for me. I know my mental picture has been influenced, greatly, by the SyFy (that’s syphilis to the uninitiated) Channel’s miniseries in the early 2000’s. That is a very minor complaint though, so I’m not sure I can even really call it a complaint.

Saskia Reeves was a wonderful Lady Jessica from the tv mini-series

One thing I did miss was the dinner scene soon after the Atreides take control of Dune. It is very memorable and informs the reader/viewer about a lot of the political scenes going on. I didn’t miss it on the first watch but on the second and third I realized it was missing and did feel it rather keenly.

The musical score was absolutely top notch. I felt like Hans Zimmer watched the finished movie and then wrote this weird, throat singing, chanting, atonal sound track that fit the barbarity of the desert of Dune and political fighting and betrayals that occur. I thought the music fit the movie perfectly. However, as a musical score on its own, it’s an abysmal failure. I listened to it on youtube and it was shudderingly jarring and I gave up before I got to the halfway mark. I will NOT be buying the cd of this sound track. Here’s the youtube embed so you can listen for yourself.

Since I got the bluray I also watched the extras. What few there were. While there were many in number, a lot of them simply repeated the same things or the same scenes over in a different way. There was no commentary track (something I tend to like) nor were there very many of the technical “making of” parts. There were a few bits and bobs of that stuff, but not anything close what I have come to expect from extras. There were no interviews with the cast, another thing I tend to enjoy.

Looking at this, it comes across as a check list of issues I had with the movie. The problem with that is that I really did enjoy the movie but it can be harder to write about what I enjoyed than what I didn’t. For instance, I thought Timothy Chalot was a great Paul. He was small and wiry and looked like a young adult and not just a small old person. The Bene Gesserit “Voice” was done wonderfully too. I liked how the ornithopters were portrayed. I’ve always imagined them as mechanical sparrows but the change to make them more like dragonflies than birds worked aesthetically. The little bit we see of the sandworms and how the sand acts around them fit perfectly too. There were enough “little” touches that I wouldn’t mind getting a directors cut some day 😀

My issues in watching this (and hence why I’ve watched it 3 times so far) is because it is VERY easy to mix up what I’m watching with the previous Dune screen incarnations. The 1984 David Lynch version was such an odd duck that you almost have to like it just for its weirdness but trying to keep track of what was from that movie and what was from the book gets intermingled in my mind. Then throw in the aforementioned SyFy mini-series and it’s sequel series, Children of Dune and suddenly, well, there is a TON of information to keep track of. What was original to this movie, or what came from the 1984 film or the Mini-series OR the book itself? I think it is a testament to Frank Herbert that Dune has inspired so many incarnations and that us fans continue to lap them up and give them a chance.

I thoroughly enjoyed this movie and am very glad I bought the bluray. It is making me look forward to the sequel that much more. If you are tired of Super Hero movies but still need that bigger than this world feeling, Dune Part 1 might just fit the bill. If you liked the book, I think you’ll like this too. It IS an adaptation but one that I am quite glad has been realized. A solid thumbs up.

I realize this is a bit longer than my usual posts, so thanks for sticking it out to the end. Cheers!

The White Tree (Cycle of Arawn #1) ★★✬☆☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot, & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: The White Tree
Series: Cycle of Arawn #1
Author: Edward Robertson
Rating: 2.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 432
Words: 190K



Synopsis:

From Cycle-of-arawn.fandom.com

Dante Galand is a teenager living in the nation of Mallon, not far from the capital of Bressel. One day, while exploring the woods around the village where he grew up, he stumbles upon a ruined temple of Arawn, god of death and the power of the nether, summarily banned in Mallon on religious grounds. In the temple he finds a copy of the Cycle of Arawn, the holy book of Arawn’s followers. The temple is guarded. Dante kills the guard, takes the book, and heads to Bressel to research.

In Bressel, he hires Blays Buckler, an armsman of the same age as Dante, to watch his back while he studies, fearful of the other Arawnites who continue to hunt him and the Cycle. During a fight with the pursuing Arawnites in an alley, Dante subconsciously summons a shadowsphere, a basic trick of the nether. He and Blays flee Bressel and spend the next couple weeks camped by a pond in the woods outside Bressel before the Arawnites catch up and they move on. They make their way to the small city of Whetton, where they face down and kill another pair of Arawnite hunters, one of them a nethermancer. The next day, Blays is arrested by the guards of Whetton for the killings. Dante escapes by chance, having not been in their room at the time.

Unwilling to leave Blays to the gallows, Dante holes up in a mausoleum in the local graveyard where he meets an old man named Cally, who tells him about the Arawnites’ scheme to use the Cycle as bait for new nethermancers and begins to teach Dante how to use the nether, starting with the use of your own blood to amplify the nether’s power. Dante spends a good deal of the week reading the Cycle- particularly the story of Jack Hand- and contemplating ducks. On the day Blays is due to be hanged, Dante attacks the guards, causing a very large mess and saving Blays. As they ride away on stolen horses, Dante passes out after exhausting his control of the nether.

He wakes up in a temple Cally has been living in, and spends several days recovering and reading the Cycle- the part of it written in Mallish, at least. Cally eventually tells Dante, Blays, and the other two men rescued from Whetton that they’ll have to leave soon. He recommends heading north, to the Dead City, Narashtovik. It’s where Dante will be able to find teachers and knowledge about both the nether and the final third of the Cycle, which is written in Gaskan. It’s also the source of a string of recent attacks and general unrest centered in Bressel and Collen. Cally suggests that if Blays and Dante are able to work their way into the city and kill Samarand, the current High Priestess of Arawn and ruler of Narashtovik, they will be able to avert a religious war directed at Mallon in the name of Arawn, who they plan to release from his godly prison.

Dante and Blays leave Cally’s temple with Robert Hobble, one of the other men from Whetton. They’re attacked on the road by half a dozen Arawnites led by Will Palomar. They drive their attackers off, but Robert is badly injured. Dante heals Robert as best he can, and they continue on. They stop in the town of Shay, where they meet Gabe, a norren monk of Mennok and an old friend of Cally’s. While at Gabe’s monastery, the town is caught up in the Unlocking, wherein all of the undercover Arawnites hidden in the Mallish temples of other gods revealed themselves and attacked the others. After a fight for the temple, Gabe sends the three of them on their way. They cross the Norren Territories without incident and make it the rest of the way to Narashtovik unmolested. Robert leaves them just outside the city and they continue alone.

After a few days of research and resupplying in Narashtovik, Dante presents himself at the Cathedral of Ivars with a copy of the Cycle. It’s not the one he found in Mallon, the true original copy, but one of passably similar age found in a ruined building in Narashtovik itself. He and Blays walk right into the cathedral and all but throw the book at the first priest they find, which happens to be Nak Randal. Dante demands a place in the Arawnite order and a teacher. Larrimore, Samarand’s Hand, is summoned to deal with them. They are eventually granted a place inside the walls of the Sealed Citadel. Dante spends his time learning Gaskan with Nak and Blays spends his time training with the Citadel’s soldiers. After a brief stint in the dungeons over the issue of the non-original Cycle, a fact since discovered by the priests, Dante gets a minor promotion and Larrimore begins to send him and Blays on errands in the city like rounding up petty criminals with minor nethereal talents.

In time, Dante is set to creating reservoirs of nether by infusing old bones with the power and writing on them in blood. It also comes to light that Samarand was once a priest on the Council of Narashtovik under Cally. She spearheaded the effort to have him removed as the High Priest on the basis of advancing age. When Cally was finally forced out fifteen years before the start of the book, she took over the position. A week before the Council is set to leave to free Arawn, an assassin nearly kills Dante in the middle of the night, sent by Cally on suspicion that Dante had given up on the plan to kill Samarand. He and Blays hide the body in a haystack outside, and within a week they’re riding out of the city with Samarand, Larrimore, half the Council, and a large escort of soldiers and priests for Barden, the White Tree. They’re attacked by local rebels, displeased with Samarand’s war, partway to Barden and defeat them.

Under Barden, Samarand and the six Council priests set to a massive, draining ritual to unleash Arawn. Dante and Blays wait, biding their time until they can strike. The ritual is nearly complete when the priests realize something isn’t right. Dante steps forward with the true original Cycle and all hell breaks loose. Cally reveals himself, having been disguised as Jackson, one of the Council priests, for some time. He immediately goes into battle with Samarand while Dante and Blays turn on the rest of the priests and soldiers. One of the other Council priests, Baxter, turns on the rest of the Council, though he’s quickly killed by Larrimore, who arrives from the bottom of the hill and demands answers. During the fighting, Dante knocks a limb free from the great bone tree. It’s conveniently sword-shaped, and he takes it. In the end, the battle comes down Cally against Samarand and Dante against Larrimore. When Samarand and Larrimore both lie dead, along with the rest of the Council priests present, Cally speaks to the gathered soldiers and assumes command. On their return to Narashtovik, he tells the remnants of the Council what happened under Barden. Olivander, next in line for the seat of High Priest, nearly came to blows with Cally over his hand in Samarand’s death, but in the end let it go in the name of rebuilding the decimated Council. Dante demanded a seat, and Cally supported it, making Dante by far the youngest Councilman at sixteen.

After a couple months of learning the city and his place in it and of generally relaxing, Dante talks with Blays. Spring is coming and Blays is restless, and means to leave. Dante decides to go with him. He gets nominal approval from Cally to make the two of them official delegates to Bressel, though they intend to do whatever they wish and Cally knows it. Cally tells Dante to consider how Narashtovik might help the cause of norren independence- he had apparently promised Gabe that he would fight for it, in exchange for help reclaiming his seat at the head of the Council. Dante and Blays leave Narashtovik and head south. They stop in Whetton and visit Robert Hobble before continuing on to Bressel.

My Thoughts:

If you’ve ever read Lloyd Alexander’s Prydain Chronicles, or are even a bit familiar with Welsh mythology, the name Arawn should be familiar to you. He is a death god and as such is considered to be a pretty bad guy. Robertson either digs deeper into Welsh Lore than I care to, or just does whatever the feth he feels like and makes Arawn the great god who helped humankind and was locked away because of it. Not going to get any sympathy from me. Death is evil and at some point will be destroyed, thank God.

Do you really want to free this guy?

Anyway, this had potential. But that was it. It was overlong, over written, confusing at times and odd word choices that removed me from the flow of the narrative were used. The most egregrious was the word “smited”. I can’t find that word in the Merriam-Webster dictionary. I have a feeling the writer used the rules of the english language and created that word based on that instead of looking up the proper form, which would been “smitten”. If any of you can find the word “smited”, please let me know.

The story contained should have been no more than 250 pages. Lots of extraneous detail (probably put in for “world building (heaven save us from that filthy thing)), little side journeys or happenings that didn’t advance the plot but fluffed the page count, it all just added up to one big Bloviated book.

Then you have the character of Dante. He’s this 16 year old who saw some guy heal a dog way back when and so decided to become a disciple of Arawn (or at least read the religious book of Arawn) to become what is in essence a wizard. How does he do that? He reads the book and his innate ability allows him to. There were a couple of times where he uses what is a huge burst of magic to push people back and I had to wonder why he didn’t use a much smaller amount to twirl a sword through the air and kill people. Nothing says “cool magic” like a flying sword. While the magic system wasn’t layed out for us the reader, that didn’t bother me. What bothered me was that Dante didn’t try to figure them out for himself. Or if he did, it was lost in all the wordiness and lost.

Finally, why did Dante interrupt the ritual near the end to prevent the return of Arawn? If he’s such an upstanding god who just wants to be buddy buddy’s with humanity, and whose religious book can empower people, why? The reason given is that then the acolytes of Arawn would go off to war. But don’t you think Arawn himself might have something to say about that? If they bring him back, he’s not going just be a puppet for them to use.

By the end of this book I was ready for it to be done and I had zero interest in the rest of the trilogy. Robertson isn’t a good enough author to cut down his own work, so I’m not going to waste my time on any more of his books.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

Asterix and the Banquet (Asterix #5) ★★★✬☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot, & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Asterix and the Banquet
Series: Asterix #5
Authors: Goscinny & Uderzo
Translators: Bell & Hockridge
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Comics
Pages: 51
Words: 3K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia.org

Inspector General Overanxius arrives in the fortified Roman camp of Compendium on a mission from Julius Caesar to lead the local garrison against the village of indomitable Gauls. Centurion Lotuseatus warns him the Gauls are dangerous, but the attack goes ahead, only to be soundly repelled. Undeterred, Overanxius erects a stockade around the village to prevent the inhabitants from spreading their rebellious ideas through Gaul.

Asterix bets that he and Obelix will escape the village and go on a tour of Gaul, collecting regional culinary specialties for a banquet upon their return. Overanxius promises to raise the stockade if they succeed. Asterix maps out a route, while Obelix fetches a large bag to hold their shopping. The two break through the stockade, while the other villagers create a diversion by attacking the barricade on another front. Overanxius has a rider despatched to alert the entire occupation army to be on the lookout for the pair.

Rotomagus (Rouen): Asterix and Obelix make their way to the Normandy region, where a Roman patrol recognizes them. They flee and escape via a wealthy Roman couple’s yacht up the Seine, while the patrol is stymied by the unhelpfully vague responses of local residents.

Lutetia (Paris): Upon arrival, Asterix and Obelix negotiate the traffic jams and buy a ham from a pork butcher shop, where from this point on, Dogmatix (unnamed until the next adventure) follows the duo through Gaul. Fearing detection by a Roman patrol, they purchase a gleaming used chariot and handsome horse from a dishonest salesman to make their escape. They soon discover the horse is slow and was only painted black, while the chariot loses its lustre and a wheel. The duo gets back on track by knocking out the driver of a Roman breakdown chariot and stealing his vehicle.

Camaracum (Cambrai): The Gauls stop in a humbug shop to buy boiled sweets, but are spotted by a Roman patrol, which they beat up, trashing the shop in the process. Unfazed by the damage, the shopkeeper says Gauls are aware of the bet and then demonstrates his solidarity by knocking out the patrol leader. Back on the road, Asterix and Obelix get past another patrol by posing as breakdown men, towing a legionary, Spongefingus, in his damaged chariot, only to then cast him aside on the road.

Rheims (Reims): Asterix and Obelix abandon the breakdown chariot and buy some wines. They are found by Spongefingus, who has recovered from his “accident,” but Asterix knocks him down by using a cork exploding from an amphora.

Divodurum (Metz): Leaving Rheims, the pair detours into a forest, where the scent of roast boar leads them to the house of Unpatriotix, who feeds and then betrays them. Roman soldiers come to the house but capture only Asterix, as Obelix is out hunting boar. When Obelix discovers the ruse, he knocks out a legionary to get imprisoned too and rescues Asterix. After beating up the Romans at the prison, Asterix declares it is too late to buy any of Divodurum’s specialties and decides to buy some in Lugdunum. As they leave, the Gauls commandeer a Roman postal cart.

Lugdunum (Lyon): The two Gauls abandon the postal cart and, after crashing through a Roman blockade, meet Jellibabix, head of the resistance movement. He pretends to betray the Gauls to Prefect Poisonous Fungus, but lures the Romans into a maze of back alleys, where the legionaries become hopelessly lost (the prefect’s plan to leave behind a trail of pebbles to find his way out backfires when a legionary picks up the pebbles). Jellibabix gives the duo a parcel of sausages and meatballs, and arranges a chariot for them.

Nicae (Nice): En route to Nicae, Asterix and Obelix become stuck in holiday traffic bound for the Gaulish Riviera and stop at an inn for lunch. In Nicae, they buy salad and are once again spotted by a Roman patrol. They escape by sea and commandeer a vacationing Lutetian’s rowboat.

Massilia (Marseille): The Gauls stop at Cesar Drinklikafix’s inn where, aside from having goat’s milk and boar, they buy fish stew. Again, the pair makes a premature departure when a boy warns of approaching Romans, but Drinklikafix and his friends stall the soldiers by blocking the road with a game of pétanque.

Tolosa (Toulouse): En route to Tolosa, Asterix and Obelix stop for the night, unaware they are in a Roman camp. Next morning, they beat up the Romans, but then surrender after learning the centurion intended to take them to Tolosa by cart. The Gauls are chained up, but repeatedly break their chains, much to the blacksmith’s dismay. Out on the road, the centurion rides on ahead to bring over the prefect, but in his absence, Asterix and Obelix beat up the Romans again, make off with the cart, and buy sausages in Tolosa.

Aginum (Agen): The Romans announce a 50,000 sestertii reward for information leading to the arrest of Asterix and Obelix. An unscrupulous innkeeper, Uptotrix, invites the two Gauls to his inn, where he gives them a bag of prunes and serves them drugged boar. Suspecting betrayal, Asterix orders Uptotrix to taste the boar, which causes him to fall unconscious, although Obelix is unaffected despite eating the rest of the boar. The pair leaves the cart in Aginum and takes the horses, one of which collapses under the combined weight of Obelix and the shopping bag.

Burdigala (Bordeaux): En route, the Gauls rest for the night by a roadside, where their bag is stolen by two Roman highwaymen, Villanus and Unscrupulus. The next morning, Asterix and Obelix pursue the thieves, who are caught by a Roman patrol and mistaken them for the Gauls. In the town square of Burdigala, General Motus shows the “Gaulish outlaws” to the public, only to realize he has the wrong men when Asterix and Obelix arrive to reclaim their bag. The public attacks General Motus and his men while the heroes regain their bag and buy oysters and white wine.

Gesocribatum (Le Conquet): Before leaving Burdigala, Asterix and Obelix spy a ship offloading menhirs and meet Captain Seniorservix, who is honored to let them aboard as Obelix helps unload the menhirs before the ship’s departure. At sea, the ship runs into the recurring pirates, whose own ship is sunk by the Gauls. On arrival in Gesocribatum, Seniorservix smuggles the Gauls ashore in sacks. Asterix and Obelix get out when a Roman patrol is passing by, but they beat up the Romans and escape.

Eventually, Asterix and Obelix reach the stockade outside their village and, after beating up the Romans yet again, give them a message to tell Overanxius they have won their side of the bet. That night, Asterix shows the food and wine to Overanxius and Lotuseatus, before demonstrating the village’s specialty, ‘the uppercut’, which knocks out Overanxius. Moments before the punch, Dogmatix barks for the first time, making Obelix notice him. Dogmatix is given a bone and the villagers enjoy their banquet.

My Thoughts:

I think I have settled into the rhythm of this comic. Considering that each comic tells one story, that’s a good thing. I’m not looking for anything deeper now, just brawling Gauls having fun 🙂

That is all that there is to this. I think that is the secret to its staying power too. It’s not complicated, it isn’t based on any politics or ideas of the day (which age books and stories extremely fast), it is just Asterix having light hearted adventures with his best friend Obelix. In one of the earlier reviews I mentioned the formula for these books. As long as I don’t pay attention, that formula works perfectly.

What that does mean though is that pretty soon, my “reviews” are going to consist of the synopsis and me saying something like “Yep, I liked it” and that’s it. I’m not looking forward to that time I have to admit. I like to be able to write something about each book I read, to make it stand apart from the thousands of others I’ve read but some times that desire meets the cold cruel wall of reality head on.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

For the Emperor (WH40K: Ciaphas Cain #1) ★★★☆☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot, & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: For the Emperor
Series: WH40K: Ciaphas Cain #1
Authors: Sandy Mitchell
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 281
Words: 91K



Synopsis:

From Wh40k.lexicanum.com/wiki

Part One

Ciaphas Cain has a problem; since leaving the Schola Progenium as an Imperial commissar, all he’s ever wanted is a nice, safe posting, far away from any action, where he can keep his head down and count the years until his retirement. Unfortunately, his unwanted reputation for heroism follows him wherever he goes, together with the risk of imminent death. Even a lofty posting to a brigade headquarters isn’t safe, since most general officers tend to see him as the perfect man to lead the most daring (i.e., suicidal) missions they can imagine. His only safe option, he reasons, is to request a transfer back to a serving line regiment.

He is saddled with the fractious Valhallan 296th/301st , the amalgamation of two Valhallan Ice Warriors regiments torn to pieces by Tyranids on Corania, while it is en route to Gravalax. The fact that the unit’s new and surprisingly young C.O., Colonel Regina Kasteen, is genuinely glad to see him (a Commissar) and Jurgen when they step off the transport, gives him an idea how bad things are.

The 296th was a rear-echelon all-female regiment, while the 301st was a battle-hardened all-male one. The remnants of the two units openly detest each other, and the male troopers understandably resent Kasteen’s promotion (by virtue of simple seniority) over their more combat-experienced senior officer, Ruput Broklaw.

Less than a week after Cain’s arrival, a riot breaks out in the troop ship’s mess hall that leaves several troopers and naval provosts dead. Cain manages to stare down the rioters, preventing an all-out bloodbath from engulfing the rest of the ship.

In conference with the regiment’s senior officers, Cain declares that the regiment will never be an effective fighting force unless its troopers learn to work together, so he orders them integrated together at squad level, and, in order to preserve their pride, re-designates the regiment as the Valhallan 597th (296 + 301); the two former regiments, he explains, are not being abolished, only reborn and redefined. Kasteen and her subordinates are skeptical, but he lightly reminds them that another Commissar would have happily ordered wholesale executions to restore discipline, and that the Departmento Munitorum would be equally pleased to re-designate the regiment as a Penal Legion.

Gradually, the troopers begin to adapt to the change, and morale recovers. But it threatens to dive again when the captain of the ship demands that the worst of the rioters be tried for murder and shot. Cain has no authority to overrule the Navy, so he works out a clever compromise: the five troopers found to have committed murder are tried and convicted, but instead of execution, he orders them held until they can be transferred to a Penal Legion, or, failing that, “volunteer” for a particularly dangerous mission.

By the time the ship has reached Gravalax, the 597th is united in regarding Cain as one of their own.

Part Two

The regiment’s official mission is to police Gravalax and discourage the local populace from defecting to the Tau Empire, which seems set on annexing the planet. Right away, Cain notices the conspicuous lack of the respect, or fear, he is used to seeing among Imperial populations whenever a Guard unit makes planetfall. He also gravely notes the enthusiasm with which the people have adopted Tau styles of dress and architecture.

Soon after the regiment establishes its base, Cain is surprised to be hailed by an old friend, Toren Divas from the Valhallan 12th Field Artillery, also deployed to Gravalax. The two men spend a night out on the town, and Divas, half-drunk, mentions rumors that the situation is serious enough that an Inquisitor is poking around. While staggering home, they run into a gang of pro-Tau locals, and are nearly beaten to death, before a Kroot warrior, Gorok, appears and tells them to go home.

Cain and Kasteen are invited to a reception at the Governor’s palace, where they are introduced to the vapid (and, Cain suspects, inbred) Governor Grice, the local Imperial envoy Erasmus Donali, and a Rogue Trader named Orelius. Cain has heard enough gossip to suspect Orelius of being the rumoured Inquisitor, but he is most captivated by the young lounge singer providing entertainment for the party, Amberley Vail. They share a few minutes of conversation, and a dance around the room, before the footman announces the arrival of the Tau ambassador.

Moments after the Ambassador pays his respects to the governor, a bolter is fired, and the Ambassador falls dead. No one saw where the shot came from, but some in the Ambassador’s entourage accuse the Imperials of killing him. Cain steps in and narrowly prevents a firefight, pointing out reasonably that whoever killed the Ambassador is trying to provoke war between the two factions.

Unfortunately, news of the crime has already spread, and word comes in that there is rioting in the streets between pro-Tau and anti-xenos extremists. Kasteen voxes the regimental headquarters, ordering them to support the PDF in restoring order, but not to engage the Tau for any reason. When another hidden agent destroys the Tau’s transport skimmer with a rocket, Cain and his Guard escort reluctantly agree to escort the Ambassador’s party back to their compound. Doing so forces them to shoot an over-zealous PDF lieutenant and his squad that mistakes them for Tau sympathizers, but returning the Tau safely helps prevent open war, although the rioting that engulfs the city for the rest of the night is savage.

Part Three

Cain’s actions have brought him to the attention of Lord General Zyvan himself, who frankly is reluctant to draw the Imperial Guard into a protracted conflict with the Tau over a “mudball” like Gravalax. Instead, the Guard regiments are detailed to box in and neutralize the rebellious PDF elements who are still fighting, while Donali makes it known that Cain is heading the investigation into finding the Ambassador’s killer.

As Kasteen and the 597th are preparing to advance against a rebel stronghold, Cain invents a task that will let him absent himself – putting the fear of the Emperor into a loyalist PDF unit that is maintaining a somewhat slack perimeter around another rebel garrison.

Accompanied by Lieutenant Sulla’s platoon, including Sergeant Lustig’s squad (who escorted him and Kasteen from the Governor’s Palace), Cain visits the PDF, only to find that they are desperately holding their own against a much larger rebel force, having been instructed by “the inquisitor” to keep guard while the inquisitor was investigating something in the undercity. Cain acts quickly, igniting a promethium stockpile that starts to collapse the rebels’ fort on them, before receiving an urgent call for extraction from the Inquisitor’s party over the vox. Given the choice between charging into a burning building and taking the blame for an Inquisitor’s death, Cain chooses the former without much thought. With a borrowed Chimera, he and Jurgen extract the Inquisitor’s party under heavy fire from the rebels… only to be stupefied when the Inquisitor introduces herself – Amberley Vail.

Meanwhile, Sulla manages to break the back of the rebel position with a reckless, albeit effective, charge, led by herself and her Command Squad.

Part Four

No longer hiding her real identity, Inquisitor Vail meets in private with Cain and Zyvan, and fills them in on the strategic situation: by itself, Gravalax is not worth fighting a protracted, bloody war with the Tau, especially when the Imperium’s military resources may be needed elsewhere, with ominous signs of a new Tyranid Hive Fleet on the horizon and Necrons awakening all over the galaxy. On the other hand, simply letting the Tau annex the planet would invite them to do the same to other Imperial worlds.

Vail concludes that the cleanest way to resolve the situation is to find and destroy the third party hoping to provoke war between the two sides. That will mean leading another team down to the undercity, which she was investigating when they were attacked. Since her original team was killed or injured, she needs Cain to supply her with another. With a sinking feeling, Cain realizes that she is “inviting” him along.

To Cain’s further dismay, the escorts she selects to accompany them are the five condemned troopers from the Righteous Wrath, promising a pardon to any who come back alive – and the terrible, patient vengeance of the Inquisition on any of them who get treacherous ideas. The one bright spot is that Jurgen volunteers to come along and watch Cain’s back.

But just as they are descending into the undercity, they receive word that the PDF has rebelled, attacking Guard and Tau alike. The Governor has panicked and ordered the Guard to mobilize, and the Tau are doing the same. War has broken out across Gravalax, and the Guard and Tau forces are only a hairsbreadth from opening fire on each other.

Under the city, they come upon a Tau scouting party on the same errand, which fortunately includes Gorok (the Kroot Cain encountered earlier). The two parties are able to broker a temporary alliance, and continue on together. Coming upon the bodies of some humans killed by their mysterious enemy, Gorok samples their flesh, and declares it “tainted” – which gives them the first idea of their true enemy: Genestealers, infiltrating the population and trying to throw it into anarchy and make the planet easy pickings for an incoming Hive Fleet.

Aboveground, General Zyvan orders the 597th to place the Governor under arrest, seeing it as the best way to pacify the Tau. However, when they reach the governor’s palace, they are opposed by a force larger, better-armed, and more vicious than any of them expected.

Stumbling onto a genestealer, nest, Cain and Vail’s party is all but wiped out, and the two of them are separated from Jurgen when a wall collapses on him, apparently killing him. Cain and Vail have to find their way back to the surface, relying on Cain’s innate sense of direction in an underground environment. For a moment they argue over whether he really knows where he’s going, putting him in mind of “a couple of juvies on a disappointing date” – an image so incongruous with their situation that both of them burst into hysterical laughter.

After this release of tension, they are able to focus on finding their way back to the surface – and neither of them can muster much surprise when a route from the genestealers’ nest takes them to a secret cellar beneath the Governor’s palace. Just then they are rushed by a brood of purestrains, and have to fight their way through. To Cain’s surprise and delight, Jurgen appears in the tunnel behind them, along with the last remaining trooper from their party. Then the trooper goes down, shot in the head by the Genestealer Patriarch: Governor Grice. Seeing the third arm extending from Grice’s chest, Cain swiftly realizes where the shot that killed the Tau ambassador came from.

Outside the Palace, the Valhallans are alarmed when the Tau appear in force – Hammerheads, Battlesuits, the works – and almost equally surprised when the xenos open fire on the traitor forces. Though it goes against the grain, the Guard forms up behind the Tau to fight their common enemy together.

Inside the palace, Grice drops Jurgen with a bolt pistol round to the head, though it ricochets off his helmet and the wound is not fatal. Amberley is narrowly saved from taking his next shot by her displacer field. While Cain tries to aim Jurgen’s dropped hellgun at the Governor, Amberley drops him with a poisoned dart from a digital needler concealed in her ring. The Governor dies after a few seconds of agony which go a long way towards relieving Cain’s feelings.

Cain, Vail, and the wounded Jurgen are escorted out of the Palace by the recently-arrived Valhallans, and it seems war has been averted. Further good news comes when two of the troopers from their party appear at the tunnel entrance, miraculously alive. Suspicious, Cain questions them about what happened, and they say they don’t remember clearly. Without further explanation, Cain draws his laspistol and shoots them both in the head. Kasteen and Broklaw are outraged, until Cain points to an identical wound in each of their sides, revealing that they were both infected by the genestealers. Understanding swiftly, Kasteen orders the bodies incinerated.

At the same time, two Pathfinders from the Tau party likewise miraculously appear, and are reunited with their own people. Cain is alarmed, but Amberley quells him with a look, and a secret smirk – if the Pathfinders are similarly infected, she has no intention of warning the Tau.

With Grice’s death, the war comes to an end, though the genestealer infestation remains a carefully guarded secret.

Epilogue

Cain and Vail dine at an exclusive restaurant, where she asks after Jurgen and is pleased to hear that he is recovering steadily.

As for the Tau, to general surprise, they are abandoning Gravalax. As Donali explains, they concluded that, if the Imperium was so determined to fight a protracted, bloody war to hold on to the planet, it would not “advance the Greater Good” for the Tau to give them the opportunity.

Vail has some surprising news for Cain: she has been observing Jurgen closely, including her psyker, Rakel’s violent reaction to him when Cain first rescued their party from the undercity. Jurgen, she explains, is a Blank — a staggeringly rare attribute that nullifies psychic or daemonic forces in his proximity. Cain is afraid that Vail will recruit him, but she confesses that the Inquisition is much more divided and factionalized than it appears on the outside, and most inquisitors learn to guard their resources jealously. She decides it is safest to leave Jurgen where he is, adding that she’ll know where to find them if she needs them. Cain is inwardly terrified at the idea of being recruited to any more Inquisitorial errands, but joins her in toasting “the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”

My Thoughts:

Having found that I got along tolerably well with Ibram Gaunt and the Commisariat, I asked around it turns out that Ciaphas Cain was another Commisar and as such was worth a look-see. From this first book, that would appear to be the case.

Gaunt and the Ghosts were of the Sabbat Crusade, on the bleeding edge fighting the forces of Chaos directly. Cain on the other hand seems to attach himself where ever he thinks the least danger is and in this book only deals with xenos and genestealers, neither of which are direct forces of Chaos (as far as I can tell). It shined a different light on the Imperium of Man, deliberately so and it made me wonder just how humanity had survived in space so long.

While Gaunt is serious and driven by duty, Cain is just trying to survive, cherry picking what he thinks are the easy jobs and doing what he thinks is the always the safest and easiest route. This is a semi-comical series in that no matter what he does Cain comes across looking like a Hero of the Imperium. It is fun to read about to be honest.

The main issue I had with this book was in its organization. It is from Cain’s journals, but they are being processed through the Inquisitor Vail and there are footnotes and addendums. It is a deliberately layered narrative that is relying on the unreliableness of both narrators to give the readers the clues they need to pick out the truth. That’s a lot of work for a franchise fiction book :-/ On the other hand, it adds to the overall amusement of reading these so I’m only mildly complaining instead of ranting.

There are 8 or 9 novels in this series and 4 or 5 short stories. I’ll be going through them all in the order they’re listed under, so the next couple of entries in the Ciaphus Cain series will be short stories. I don’t expect the reviews for those to be very long at all.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Black Orchids (Nero Wolfe #9) ★★★★☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot, & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Black Orchids
Series: Nero Wolfe #9
Author: Rex Stout
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Mystery
Pages: 158
Words: 57.5K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia

Black Orchids:

Millionaire orchid fancier Lewis Hewitt has hybridized three black orchid plants in his Long Island greenhouse. Nero Wolfe is wild to have one, so he and Archie Goodwin visit New York’s annual flower show, where Hewitt’s orchids are on exhibit. One of the other exhibits features a daily performance by a young couple miming a summer picnic. The woman, Anne Tracy, attracts the attentions of Archie, Hewitt, and a young exhibitor named Fred Updegraff.

During Wolfe’s visit to the show, Anne’s picnic partner Harry Gould is killed, shot in the head by a gun concealed in the foliage. The gun’s trigger is attached to a long string that reaches to a hallway well behind the exhibit.

After a little inquiry, Wolfe shows Hewitt how his walking stick was used to pull the string and fire the shot that killed Gould. Hewitt is horrified by the prospect of the publicity that would ensue should his part in the shooting, however indirect and unwitting, become known. Wolfe offers Hewitt this arrangement: in exchange for all three black orchid plants, the only ones in existence, Wolfe will solve the murder and deliver the criminal to the police, without publicly disclosing Hewitt’s connection to the crime. Hewitt terms it blackmail, but submits.

Earlier, Archie had noticed a woman waiting in the hallway behind the exhibit, at around the time that the murderer would have been deploying the string. He now finds her in the crowd that’s gawking at the murder scene. Archie steals her handbag, removes it to the men’s room, searches it for identification, and learns her name (Rose Lasher) and address. He returns the handbag to her – all without Rose or anyone else noticing.

The police want to know more about her and, finishing their questions, they let her go — but surreptitiously follow her. The police lose her trail but Archie knows her home address, where she has been living with Harry Gould. He arrives at Rose’s apartment just as she is about to flee the city, and takes her to Wolfe’s house. There Archie searches her suitcase and finds some printed matter that Rose cannot or will not explain: a clipping of an article by Hewitt on Kurume yellows,[a] a plant disease that is fatal to broadleaf evergreens; a postcard to Rose from Harry, postmarked Salamanca, New York (in the western part of the state); and a work order from a garage, also in Salamanca.

Wolfe gets Rose to discuss some of Gould’s unsavory qualities. Wolfe learns that although Gould was employed as a gardener, he suddenly acquired a bank account containing several thousand dollars[b] and what Miss Lasher terms “a big roll of bills.” From his general awareness of horticultural events, Wolfe knows that an attack of Kurume yellows devastated a plantation of a new hybrid of broadleaf evergreens, about eighty miles west of Salamanca and owned by Updegraff Nurseries. The same disease has affected the exhibit in which Anne and Gould were featured; W. G. Dill, one owner of the company sponsoring it, had asked Wolfe to investigate the source.

Weighing all this information, Wolfe assembles the principals in the fumigation chamber of his plant rooms. He accuses Hewitt of conspiring with Gould to infect the plantations of rival growers, and of killing Gould after the latter began to blackmail him. When a telephone call comes in for Hewitt, Wolfe sends Dill to answer it instead, closes the chamber door, and informs the rest of the group that Dill, not Hewitt, is the murderer. Dill is later found dead in the plant rooms, having turned on the flow of fumigation gas with the intent to kill everyone inside the chamber; however, Wolfe had anticipated this action and diverted the gas to fill the plant rooms instead.

Wolfe tells Cramer that Anne had previously confirmed his suspicions of Gould’s and Dill’s activities. He keeps the black orchids, but Cramer is unimpressed by their appearance, saying that he prefers geraniums. The orchids have a cameo role in the second novella in this collection, “Cordially Invited to Meet Death.”

Cordially Invited to Meet Death:

Bess Huddleston arranges parties for New York society. She has been in contact with Wolfe once before, when she wanted him to play the detective at a party that would feature a mock murder; Wolfe declined to participate. Now, she comes with one anonymous letter in hand and a report of another. They were not sent to her, nor do they threaten her directly: rather, one was sent to a client and the other to a member of the circle in which her clients move. The letters imply strongly that Miss Huddleston has been gossiping about her clients’ private lives.

She wants Wolfe to put an end to the smear campaign – if it continues, her monied clients will no longer trust her and will not hire her to arrange their parties. Miss Huddleston has two employees, an assistant party arranger named Janet Nichols and a secretary named Maryella Timms. Both have access to a box of stationery of the same kind used for the letters. The letters are typewritten, and appear to Miss Huddleston’s eye to have been typed on one of her typewriters. Wolfe tells Miss Huddleston to have Miss Nichols and Miss Timms come to his office.

They do so, and arrive at a moment when Wolfe and Fritz are discussing another attempt at cooking corned beef. This has long been a problem in the brownstone’s kitchen, one never satisfactorily resolved. Miss Timms hears about the dilemma and barges into the kitchen to help. Wolfe is so impressed by Miss Timms’ expertise that he later allows her to link arms with him, and writes to a professor at Harvard concerning chitlins and corned beef.

Apart from the culinary, though, Wolfe obtains no useful information from Nichols and Timms, and sends Archie to Miss Huddleston’s house and place of business to investigate further. There, Archie is bedeviled by a playful chimpanzee, two pet bears and an alligator. He also meets Miss Huddleston’s brother Daniel, her nephew Larry, and Alan Brady, an MD who has been spending time with Janet Nichols. Archie does not get much further at the house than Wolfe did in his office, but he has cocktails on the terrace with the various players. As the butler is bringing more drinks, the chimpanzee startles him and a tray of glasses crashes to the ground. Most of the broken glass is cleaned up, but Miss Huddleston’s foot is cut by a shard and, because of the presence of the animals, Dr. Brady treats the cut with iodine.

Less than one week later, Miss Huddleston is dead, having undergone an excruciatingly painful and drawn out death from tetanus. That, as far as Wolfe is concerned, ends his involvement, but Daniel Huddleston makes a nuisance of himself with the police: he believes his sister was murdered. Daniel is insistent enough that Inspector Cramer comes to Wolfe looking for information. Wolfe has none for him, but after Cramer leaves he drops Archie an exiguous hint: he thinks there is one thing that Cramer should have done during his investigation, and wonders if it has rained during the past week.

My Thoughts:

This collection of two novellas was perfect. Twice as much Wolfe and Archie is twice the fun. It is the essence of Stout’s writing that we get here. Even though this is number 9 in the series, I would recommend this to someone who wants to get a taste for Nero Wolfe (no, not that way. I don’t promote canniblism on this blog after all!) as you’ll get two stories to see if the setting and writing works for you.

While I wouldn’t want to live in the time period of Wolfe and Archie (I just realized, I use Nero Wolfe’s last name for him but Archie Goodwin’s first name for him. I wonder why?), I would be dead of my diabetes after all, I REALLY like how the author has Wolfe and Archie knowing their rights as citizens and forcing the police to abide by said rights and the police do it. They exist to solve the crime, not prevent it, and they take that job very seriously. What’s more, both Wolfe and Archie expect that, and nothing more, from the police. They’re not cowering in the brownstone waiting for somebody else to do everything for them. They take a whole heaping load of responsibility on themselves and don’t whine and complain (well, Archie does, but that goes with the job I think) and write letters to the editor, etc. Reading about mature people is refreshing, and it’s sickening that it’s refreshing too.

The writing is as good as ever and once again, I would highly recommend this book if you want to experience Rex Stout’s writing and to see if Wolfe and Archie will be your cup of tea. With two stories, you’ll know for sure one way or another by the end. And you don’t need to have read any of the previous books to understand anything here (I think). Stout does a good job of making each book stand on its own two legs. And there is only ONE perspective, Archie’s. I’d poke this book into John Gwynne’s eye if I could and make him eat dirt on the strength of that alone! (for those not in the know, Gwynne tends to have about 100 perspectives in his bloated novels and none of them are actually important or necessary)

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Instinct (One Piece #14) ★★★✬☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Instinct
Series: One Piece #14
Arc: Baroque Works #3
Author: Eiichiro Oda
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Manga
Pages: 188
Words: 8K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_One_Piece_chapters_(1_186)

“Someone’s Out There”

“Deadly Improvisation”

“The Red Ogre Weeps”

“I Knew”

“A Dead Body is Useless”

“Luffy vs. Mr. 3”

“The Tea is Good”

“Candle Champion”

“Instinct”

Baroque Works agents Mr. 3 and Miss Golden Week are on the island in search of the Straw Hats and the bounties on the giants’ heads. With the help of Mr. 5 and Miss Valentine, they rig the giants’ fight. After thousands of draws, Broggy strikes Dorry down and, while weeping over his friend’s body, is captivated by Mr. 3’s wax-creation powers. Zoro, Nami and Vivi are captured and placed on a large candle with a rotating top, designed by Mr. 3 to slowly turn them into wax figures by covering them in vaporized wax. Luffy, Usopp and Vivi’s ostrich-sized duck, Karoo, come to save them. Mr. 5 and Miss Valentine chase Usopp and Karoo, while Luffy fights Mr. 3 and sends him flying into the jungle. However, Luffy is no match for Miss Golden Week and her hypnotic paintings. Joining forces, though, Luffy, Usopp and Karoo destroy the wax structure and free their friends.

My Thoughts:

I was looking at the dates on the inside cover. Oda copyrighted this in 1997. The english copyright wasn’t until 2007. TEN YEARS!!!! What a world the 90’s and early 00’s were. Nowadays the translated books come out a month after the japanese release. 10 years, phhhtttt.

While I was reading this one of the side characters uttered this phrase about a fight they’d been in: “….how could I dishonor him by showing mercy!!?”

A part of me understood the reasoning behind that phrase. But the greater part was disgusted at such pride and selfishness. No, not disgusted, but horrified. Because if you are not willing to show mercy to others, you in turn will not expect mercy nor will you take it when offered. To take mercy means you can accept that you are not good enough, that you have not measured up, that there is a standard to which you have failed to live up to. The attitude on display says “I am good enough!” The problem arises when somebody greater says that you are not good enough and offers you a way to be good enough, you won’t accept it. That gesture of mercy will be tossed away.

The battle at the end is utterly ridiculous. It’s meant to be that way but the badguy, Mr 3 fights with wax and there is nothing serious about a guy who fights with wax. However, it does allow the whole crew (except Sanji) to work as a team and help each other out. This volume ends with Sanji accidentally answering a call meant for Mr 3 and talking to Mr Zero.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Henry V ★★★★☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Henry V
Author: William Shakespeare
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Play
Pages: 160
Words: 40K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia

The Elizabethan stage lacked scenery. It begins with a Prologue, in which the Chorus (a lone speaker addressing the audience) apologizes for the limitations of the theatre, wishing for “a Muse of fire”, with real princes and a kingdom for a stage, to do justice to King Henry’s story. Then, says the Chorus, King Henry would “[a]ssume the port [bearing] of Mars”. The Chorus encourages the audience to use their “imaginary forces” to overcome the limitations of the stage: “Piece out our imperfections with your thoughts … turning the accomplishment of many years / Into an hour-glass”.

Shakespeare’s plays are in five acts. In Henry V, the first act deals largely with the king and his decision to invade France, persuaded that through ancestry, he is the rightful heir to the French throne. The French Dauphin, son of King Charles VI, answers Henry’s claims with a condescending and insulting gift of tennis balls, “as matching to his youth and vanity.”

The Chorus reappears at the beginning of each act to advance the story. At the beginning of Act II, he describes the country’s dedication to the war effort: “Now all the youth of England are on fire… They sell the pasture now to buy the horse, / Following the mirror of all Christian kings ….” Act II includes a plot by the Earl of Cambridge and two comrades to assassinate Henry at Southampton. Henry’s clever uncovering of the plot and his ruthless treatment of the conspirators show that he has changed from the earlier plays in which he appeared.

In Act III Henry and his troops siege the French port of Harfleur after crossing the English Channel. The Chorus appears again: “Grapple your minds to sternage of this navy/And leave your England, as dead midnight still”. The French king, says the Chorus, “doth offer him / Catharine his daughter, and with her, to dowry, / Some petty and unprofitable dukedoms.” Henry is not satisfied.

At the siege of Harfleur, the English are beaten back at first, but Henry urges them on with one of Shakespeare’s best-known speeches. “Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more; / Or close the wall up with our English dead….” After a bloody siege, the English take Harfleur, but Henry’s forces are so depleted that he decides not to go on to Paris. Instead, he decides to move up the coast to Calais. The French assemble a powerful army and pursue him.

They surround him near the small town of Agincourt, and in Act IV, the night before the battle, knowing he is outnumbered, Henry wanders around the English camp in disguise, trying to comfort his soldiers and determine what they really think of him. He agonizes about the moral burden of being king, asking God to “steel my soldiers’ hearts”. Daylight comes, and Henry rallies his nobles with the famous St Crispin’s Day Speech (Act IV Scene iii 18–67): “We few, we happy few, we band of brothers”. The French herald Montjoy returns to ask if Henry will surrender and avoid certain defeat, and ransom his men’s survival; Henry bids him “bear my former answer back,” saying the French will get no ransom from him “but these my joints.”

Shakespeare does not describe the battle in the play. Though the French in one scene complain that ‘Tout est perdu’, the outcome is not clear to Henry, until the French Herald Montjoy tells him the ‘day is yours’. The battle turns out to be a lop-sided victory: the French suffered 10,000 casualties; the English, fewer than 30. “O God, thy arm was here,” says Henry.

Act V comes several years later, as the English and French negotiate the Treaty of Troyes, and Henry tries to woo the French princess, Catherine of Valois. Neither speaks the other’s language well, but the humour of their mistakes actually helps achieve his aim. The scene ends with the French king adopting Henry as heir to the French throne, and the prayer of the French queen “that English may as French, French Englishmen, receive each other, God speak this Amen.”

The play concludes with a final appearance of the Chorus who foreshadows the tumultuous reign of Henry’s son Henry VI of England, “whose state so many had the managing, that they lost France, and made his England bleed, which oft our stage hath shown”. Shakespeare had previously brought this tale to the stage in a trilogy of plays: Henry VI Part 1, Henry VI Part 2, and Henry VI Part 3.

As in many of Shakespeare’s history and tragedy plays, a number of minor comic characters appear, contrasting with and sometimes commenting on the main plot. In this case, they are mostly common soldiers in Henry’s army, and they include Pistol, Nym, and Bardolph from the Henry IV plays. The army also includes a Scot, an Irishman, and an Englishman, and Fluellen, a comically stereotyped Welsh soldier. The play also deals briefly with the death of Sir John Falstaff, Henry’s estranged friend from the Henry IV plays, whom Henry had rejected at the end of Henry IV, Part 2.

My Thoughts:

Back in May of ’21, I decided to Take A Break from Shakespeare. I was just burned out and even Henry V, the play I am most familiar with and enjoy, was not working for me. I had thought about taking an entire year off (you know you are getting older when planning your reading schedule now encompasses years instead of weeks or even months) but was a bit afraid that if I stopped that long that I might not get back on the horse. So here we are.

In highschool I had watched the Kenneth Branaugh production of Henry V. It really hit home to my teenage self and ended up occupying a place in my mind where I judged all other Shakespeare films to it. I still do in fact. So while I was reading this I had scenes from the movie interjecting themselves into my brain. I also had the Musical Score running through my head. Man, that is some good music!

All of that is to highlight just how biased I am in this play’s favor. I enjoyed reading this. It was interesting and having the “histories” lining up chronologically allowed me to have a fuller grasp of Henry as a character, as well as a few of his “old crew” who got themselves into various sorts of trouble.

It was encouraging and refreshing to enjoy Shakespeare again. While I have had, and will continue to have, issues with the Bard, they aren’t big enough to stop me from reading him. At least as long as I’m not approaching burn out. I’m going to try reading him until the end of ’23 and see if two years is a good period or not. Three years was definitely much too much.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Sharpe’s Fortress (Sharpe #3) ★★★✬☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot, & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Sharpe’s Fortress
Series: Sharpe #3
Authors: Bernard Cornwell
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Historical Fiction
Pages: 274
Words: 114.5K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia.org

In 1803, Arthur Wellesley’s British and sepoy army is in pursuit of the Mahrattas in western India, having beaten them in the Battle of Assaye. Ensign Richard Sharpe, newly made an officer, is beginning to wish he had remained a sergeant, as most of his fellow officers look down upon him, including Captain Urquhart, his commanding officer. Urquhart suggests he sell his commission if he is not happy.

Manu Bappoo, the younger brother of the Rajah of Berar, decides to turn around and fight the British again, with his best unit, composed of Arab mercenaries, leading the charge, but he is again routed. During the fighting, Sharpe is impressed by the bravery of a teenage Arab boy, Ahmed, and saves his life when the boy is surrounded. Ahmed becomes his servant.

After the battle, Urquhart reassigns Sharpe to the 95th Rifles, an experimental unit, though the transfer cannot be completed while the war rages on. For the moment, Sharpe is sent to manage the baggage train, under the command of Captain Torrance. The army is short of many desperately needed supplies, and Sharpe soon discovers why. Lazy and deeply in debt, Torrance has been selling them to the merchant Naig, with the assistance of Sharpe’s old nemesis, Sergeant Hakeswill. When Sharpe finds many of the stolen supplies in Naig’s tent, Torrance has his associate hanged immediately to avoid being implicated. Jama, Naig’s brother, is not pleased, so Torrance agrees to betray Sharpe into his hands. Hakeswill is only too glad to waylay Sharpe; besides their mutual hatred, he rightly suspects that Sharpe has a fortune in jewels looted from a dead enemy ruler.

Hakeswill ambushes Sharpe and takes him prisoner. He steals all of the jewels Sharpe has hidden on his person, then hands him over to Jama. Fortunately, Ahmed witnesses Sharpe’s kidnapping and gets away. He finds Sharpe’s friend, Syud Sevagee, who rescues him. Sharpe decides to let his enemies believe he is dead. Using this ruse, he catches captain Torrance alone and kills him in an act of summary justice.

The Mahrattas take refuge in Gawilghur, a seemingly impregnable fortress, perched high on cliffs above the Deccan Plain. Wellesley, despite his deep misgivings, has no choice but to attack anyway. Gawilghur is composed of an Outer Fort and an Inner Fort. While the Outer Fort is formidable, the Mahrattas expect the British to take it, though at heavy cost. However, the Inner Fort is so strong, they are confident it cannot fall. Once Wellesley’s army has been bled dry trying to capture it, the Mahrattas plan to emerge and destroy the survivors.

When two of Hakeswill’s henchmen are killed, Hakeswill realises Sharpe is responsible, so he deserts and finds service with the renegade Englishman William Dodd in Gawilghur. Who rules in Gawilghur, it is said, rules India, and Dodd intends for it to be him. When the Outer Fort falls, Dodd orders the gates of the Inner Fort be kept closed, trapping Manu Bappoo outside to be killed by the British. Dodd also murders Beny Singh, the weak commander of Gawilghur. However, Sharpe finds a way into the Inner Fort, a section of the wall which is weakly defended because it sits atop a steep cliff. The cliff, however, can be scaled. When Captain Morris, Sharpe’s commanding officer, refuses to give him men, Sharpe beats him, then takes charge and leads a group of soldiers inside and opens the gates. He then finds and duels with Dodd, only to find that Dodd is by far the better swordsman. It is Dodd who gives Sharpe the scar on his right cheek. Ahmed appears unexpectedly and attacks Dodd. Dodd kills him easily, but a cavalryman shoots him in the shoulder, and then Sharpe is able to kill him.

Hakeswill tries to flee, disguised as a British soldier, but Sharpe finds him. Sharpe retrieves most of his jewels from him, then backs Hakeswill up until he falls into a pit filled with poisonous snakes.

My Thoughts:

This was a good adventure story. Without a side character who is religious and devout, Cornwell didn’t seem to have a target for his religious vitriol and thus didn’t use Sharpe as a mouthpiece. Hakeswill is still around, but he talks a LOT less, so his abuse of the phrase “Scripture says” was cut down to a palatable amount.

Speaking of Hakeswill. The book ends with Sharpe pushing him into a pit of poisonous snakes and then Sharpe just walks away without confirming that Hakeswill dies. How stupid is Sharpe? He’s tried to feed Hakeswill to tigers AND have an elephant crush him but he never verifies. So I am fully expecting Hakeswill to survive and come back in the next book to cause problems yet again. Honestly, I’m surprised Sharpe just doesn’t bring him up on charges for not saluting him and have him flogged to death. What’s the point of being an Officer if he’s still going to think and act like a soldier of the line?

I am not at all familiar with the history of Britain’s conquering of India, as I’m more concerned with the American and British bit of history, so this has all been brand new stuff to me. I rather like it and am enjoying the story. There was talk about Sharpe being transferred to another company somewhere in this book and I think they were located back in England, so this might be the last of the Indian scenery. I guess I’ll find out in the next book.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

The Song of Groo (Groo the Wanderer #1) ★★★☆☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot, & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: The Song of Groo
Series: Groo the Wanderer #1
Author: Sergio Aragones
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: Comics
Pages: 23
Words: 2K



Synopsis:

A minstrel is singing about the (mis)adventures of Groo the Wanderer. First he is supposed to catch some food for the kingdom, but ends up stampeding the whole herd off the cliff, thus destroying all the livestock. Then he is supposed to guard a bridge against enemies. He guards the bridge, but lets the enemies pass and sack the city, as his duty was to guard the bridge. Finally, he is sent out as a decoy to capture one city while the king captures another. Only Groo captures the first city and when the king hears about it, he marches off to claim it for himself. One of Groo’s soldiers tells him the king had sent him off as a decoy and he wasn’t actually supposed to capture the city. So Groo gives the city back and the king and his army get the stuffing beaten out of them.

The book ends with Groo coming into the tavern, laughing at the stupid idiot in the song, only to realize it is himself and he starts chasing the minstrel with his swords drawn.

My Thoughts:

I had to do a bit of research before I could catalog this, as “Groo” had a tumultuous beginning. The creator, Argones, started with one independent press that went out of business, then did some standalones or small runs of Groo until Epic Comics picked him up. So technically, this series I’m reading is Groo the Wanderer Vol 2, Issue 1. Don’t worry about it, there are 120 issues for this run 😀 But what it does mean is that there are 12-20 comics about Groo before this that I can’t get a hold of. I don’t think it affects anything, but without reading them, who knows?

The first thing that struck me as I opened this issue was how busy it was. Mrs B was looking over my shoulder and commented that it reminded her of a Where’s Waldo page. Here’s the first page of the issue:

Clickable for a high-res version.

This was very light hearted and humorous and had no overarching narrative plot. To be honest, I think that is perfect for a once a month comic of only 23 pages. I hope the comic stays that way because sometimes you need a break from Big Stories. Even when you like them, Big Stories can be tiring.

On another note, the editor for this series is Archie Goodwin. I had to go look that up to see if it was a joke or what. Turns out it is his real name and as far as Wikipedia was concerned, had no relation or bearing from the Archie Goodwin in the Nero Wolfe mystery books by Rex Stout. Not a big thing, but it was another humorous aspect to this comic 🙂

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Iron Wolves (Galaxy’s Edge: Order of the Centurion #2) ★★★☆☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Iron Wolves
Series: Galaxy’s Edge: Order of the Centurion #2
Author: Jonathan Yanez
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: Mil-SF
Pages: 212
Words: 62K



Synopsis:

From Galaxysedge.fandom.com/Publisher’s Summary

The Iron Wolves are a company of legionnaires whose legendary exploits date back to the Savage Wars. When they are invited to be guests of honor at a ceremony on a small, backwater planet, they look forward to some precious time away from the constant conflicts of galaxy’s edge.

But when a neighboring country invades, disrupting the ceremony and killing innocents, the Wolves are forced to make an impossible decision. Aid a people pleading for their protection… or obey the cynical orders of their Senate to stand down and see how the dust settles.

Taking their careers and lives into their hands, the Iron Wolves and local militia form a brotherhood determined to fight for what they believe in. War is on the wind, the battle is at hand, and the Legion is on the move once more.

My Thoughts:

This is the first GE book truly written by another author. While Anspach and Cole’s names are on the cover, this is all Yanez. As such, it is a very different book from what I’ve read before. In many ways, it was almost straight up Mil-SF, just like the first book that kicked this whole series off, Legionnaire (by the by, can you believe it has been over 2 years since I started in on the Galaxy’s Edge series? And man, it is still going wicked strong!). There was no space opera about this novel, only the grim side of a war for a Republic that was downright dirty.

The main character, Sam, is a real basketcase. He suffers from flashbacks & nightmares and has bad enough anger issues that he’s constantly being busted back in rank. His life is the Legion though and there is nothing he won’t do for his brothers, including disobey direct orders from their Point Major, who is safely ensconced in a spaceship high above the world.

I understood what Yanez was writing here and why he wrote Sam as he did but I did not enjoy it nearly as much as some of the other GE books. Without that space opera element, that “fantastical other”, Mil-SF has to be really interesting to keep me engaged.

I’ll definitely be adjusting my expectations for the rest of this sub-series. Hopefully that will be enough to keep me motivated.

Rating: 3 out of 5.