The Complete Dreamsongs ★★☆☆½

completedreamsongs (Custom)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 Complete Dreamsongs
Author: George Martin
Rating: 2.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: SFF
Pages: 1146
Words: 494K

 

Synopsis:

Combining Dreamsongs I and Dreamsongs II into one omnibus, this collects the majority of Martin’s short stories from the beginning of his career to its publication date in either 2003 or 2006.

 

My Thoughts:

I really liked how Martin talked about the stage of his life when he wrote each story. It gave some background and made him a person. Even in his own words he comes across as an arrogant jackass and anyone who thinks he’s going to finish Game of Thrones had better look at his own self-proclaimed track record. With that out of the way….

This was some of the best writing I have read in a while. Martin has talent and he’s spent the time honing his skill and it shows. Based on the writing alone, this deserves 5 stars. If you like good story TELLING, then you need to read this.

However, WHAT he writes about is what took this right down to its current rating. Almost every story is sad, melancholic, depressing, horrific or down right twisted. While Sandkings is a fantastic horrorific short story, 1100 pages of that kind of things wears you down. These stories also gave me vivid bad dreams, to the point where I stopped reading this in the evenings.

I read this in small doses (I started in mid-April) and I cannot imagine the affect of trying to read this straight through. I would not recommend that to anyone, no matter how much they might enjoy Martin’s writing. While I plan on re-reading Sandkings every decade or so, I think that will be the limit of my Martin reading. I will assiduously avoid all his others writings.

★★☆☆½

 

bookstooge (Custom)

Cymbeline ★★★☆☆

cymbeline (Custom)

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: Cymbeline
Author: William Shakespeare
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: Play
Pages: 272
Words: 79K

 

 

Synopsis:

From Wikipedia

Cymbeline, the Roman Empire’s vassal king of Britain, once had two sons, Guiderius and Arvirargus, but they were stolen twenty years earlier as infants by an exiled traitor named Belarius. Cymbeline discovers that his only child left, his daughter Imogen (or Innogen), has secretly married her lover Posthumus Leonatus, a member of Cymbeline’s court. The lovers have exchanged jewellery as tokens: Imogen with a bracelet, and Posthumus with a ring. Cymbeline dismisses the marriage and banishes Posthumus since Imogen — as Cymbeline’s only child — must produce a fully royal-blooded heir to succeed to the British throne. In the meantime, Cymbeline’s Queen is conspiring to have Cloten (her cloddish and arrogant son by an earlier marriage) married to Imogen to secure her bloodline. The Queen is also plotting to murder both Imogen and Cymbeline, procuring what she believes to be deadly poison from the court doctor. The doctor, Cornelius, is suspicious and switches the poison with a harmless sleeping potion. The Queen passes the “poison” along to Pisanio, Posthumus and Imogen’s loving servant — the latter is led to believe it is a medicinal drug. No longer able to be with her banished Posthumus, Imogen secludes herself in her chambers, away from Cloten’s aggressive advances.

Posthumus must now live in Italy, where he meets Iachimo (or Giacomo), who challenges the prideful Posthumus to a bet that he, Iachimo, can seduce Imogen, whom Posthumus has praised for her chastity, and then bring Posthumus proof of Imogen’s adultery. If Iachimo wins, he will get Posthumus’s token ring. If Posthumus wins, not only must Iachimo pay him but also fight Posthumus in a duel with swords. Iachimo heads to Britain where he aggressively attempts to seduce the faithful Imogen, who sends him packing. Iachimo then hides in a chest in Imogen’s bedchamber and, when the princess falls asleep, emerges to steal from her Posthumus’s bracelet. He also takes note of the room, as well as the mole on Imogen’s partly naked body, to be able to present false evidence to Posthumus that he has seduced his bride. Returning to Italy, Iachimo convinces Posthumus that he has successfully seduced Imogen. In his wrath, Posthumus sends two letters to Britain: one to Imogen, telling her to meet him at Milford Haven, on the Welsh coast; the other to the servant Pisanio, ordering him to murder Imogen at the Haven. However, Pisanio refuses to kill Imogen and reveals to her Posthumus’s plot. He has Imogen disguise herself as a boy and continue to Milford Haven to seek employment. He also gives her the Queen’s “poison”, believing it will alleviate her psychological distress. In the guise of a boy, Imogen adopts the name “Fidele”, meaning “faithful”.

Back at Cymbeline’s court, Cymbeline refuses to pay his British tribute to the Roman ambassador Caius Lucius, and Lucius warns Cymbeline of the Roman Emperor’s forthcoming wrath, which will amount to an invasion of Britain by Roman troops. Meanwhile, Cloten learns of the “meeting” between Imogen and Posthumus at Milford Haven. Dressing himself enviously in Posthumus’s clothes, he decides to go to Wales to kill Posthumus, and then rape, abduct, and marry Imogen. Imogen has now been travelling as “Fidele” through the Welsh mountains, her health in decline as she comes to a cave: the home of Belarius, along with his “sons” Polydore and Cadwal, whom he raised into great hunters. These two young men are in fact the British princes Guiderius and Arviragus, who themselves do not realise their own origin. The men discover “Fidele”, and, instantly captivated by a strange affinity for “him”, become fast friends. Outside the cave, Guiderius is met by Cloten, who throws insults, leading to a sword fight during which Guiderius beheads Cloten. Meanwhile, Imogen’s fragile state worsens and she takes the “poison” as a hopeful medicine; when the men re-enter, they find her “dead.” They mourn and, after placing Cloten’s body beside hers, briefly depart to prepare for the double burial. Imogen awakes to find the headless body, and believes it to be Posthumus due to the fact the body is wearing Posthumus’ clothes. Lucius’ Roman soldiers have just arrived in Britain and, as the army moves through Wales, Lucius discovers the devastated “Fidele”, who pretends to be a loyal servant grieving for his killed master; Lucius, moved by this faithfulness, enlists “Fidele” as a pageboy.

The treacherous Queen is now wasting away due to the disappearance of her son Cloten. Meanwhile, despairing of his life, a guilt-ridden Posthumus enlists in the Roman forces as they begin their invasion of Britain. Belarius, Guiderius, Arviragus, and Posthumus all help rescue Cymbeline from the Roman onslaught; the king does not yet recognise these four, yet takes notice of them as they go on to fight bravely and even capture the Roman commanders, Lucius and Iachimo, thus winning the day. Posthumus, allowing himself to be captured, as well as “Fidele”, are imprisoned alongside the true Romans, all of whom await execution. In jail, Posthumus sleeps, while the ghosts of his dead family appear to complain to Jupiter of his grim fate. Jupiter himself then appears in thunder and glory to assure the others that destiny will grant happiness to Posthumus and Britain.

Cornelius arrives in the court to announce that the Queen has died suddenly, and that on her deathbed she unrepentantly confessed to villainous schemes against her husband and his throne. Both troubled and relieved at this news, Cymbeline prepares to execute his new prisoners, but pauses when he sees “Fidele”, whom he finds both beautiful and somehow familiar. “Fidele” has noticed Posthumus’ ring on Iachimo’s finger and abruptly demands to know from where the jewel came. A remorseful Iachimo tells of his bet, and how he could not seduce Imogen, yet tricked Posthumus into thinking he had. Posthumus then comes forward to confirm Iachimo’s story, revealing his identity and acknowledging his wrongfulness in desiring Imogen killed. Ecstatic, Imogen throws herself at Posthumus, who still takes her for a boy and knocks her down. Pisanio then rushes forward to explain that “Fidele” is Imogen in disguise; Imogen still suspects that Pisanio conspired with the Queen to give her the poison. Pisanio sincerely claims innocence, and Cornelius reveals how the poison was a non-fatal potion all along. Insisting that his betrayal years ago was a set-up, Belarius makes his own happy confession, revealing Guiderius and Arviragus as Cymbeline’s own two long-lost sons. With her brothers restored to their place in the line of inheritance, Imogen is now free to marry Posthumus. An elated Cymbeline pardons Belarius and the Roman prisoners, including Lucius and Iachimo. Lucius calls forth his soothsayer to decipher a prophecy of recent events, which ensures happiness for all. Blaming his manipulative Queen for his refusal to pay earlier, Cymbeline now agrees to pay the tribute to the Roman Emperor as a gesture of peace between Britain and Rome, and he invites everyone to a great feast

 

My Thoughts:

This was much longer than the previous play or two and by the end I was getting antsy and ready for it to be over. And honestly, there are times I wonder about just reading the wiki page and calling that a day.

This Shakespeare Experiment isn’t going superbly. While not going off the rails on a crazy train, I don’t look forward to these at all. My zeal is definitely flagging and I feel like I’m doing a lot of slogging.

Next!

★★★☆☆

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

[Manga Monday] The Final Battle (Record of Lodoss War: The Grey Witch Saga #3) ★★★☆☆

finalbattle (Custom)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 Final Battle
Series: Record of Lodoss War: The Grey Witch Saga #3
Author: Ryo Mizuno
Artist: Yoshihiko Ochi
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: Manga
Pages: 200
Words: 7K

 

Synopsis:

Chapter 16: Starts out with naming our characters and a one sentence lead about why they are in the story. Everyone returns to Roid, the capital of the kingdom of Valis. King Fahn welcomes back his daughter but makes sure to drive home the lesson that her running away, even for a good cause, cost the lives of several knights. Emperor Beld and Karla discuss the new alliance by the kingdoms on the island of Lodoss and Beld gives Karla permission to do as she sees fit. The chapter ends with Parn and Co coming to meet the king.

Chapter 17: Soldiers from the desert kingdom of Flaim are present at the court and King Kashu is seated next to King Fahn when Parn and Co approach. Everyone ends up discussing Karla and an Ancient Kingdom that was destroyed 500 years ago. Said Kingdom was inhabited by many powerful sorcerers and one sorceress was named Karla. With no real answers available, it is determined to go ask the Sage Wort (one of the 6 Heroes of King Fahn’s generation) and see what he knows. Parn and Co volunteer and even when told that their path will go through an abandoned Dwarven Hold now controlled by a dragon and goblins, they aren’t persuaded to abandon the quest.

Chapter 18: Wort the Sage is spying on Parn and Co through a crystal ball and we see him talking to Karla. He tells her to what she pleases with the company and she says she still wants them to join her. Wort remembers his adventures with Fahn, Beld and the others and we see the reason Beld is trying to take over Lodoss, to unite it under one king and to bring peace to the whole land. Wort realizes that Beld is imply a pawn in whatever scheme Karla has going. Parn and Co meet Wort and Karla and Karla reveals that both Beld and Fahn have the same dream of bringing peace to Lodoss, one through the power of darkness and the other through the power of light. Karla reveals how the Ancient Kingdom fell and that its destruction was completed by savage barbarians. Her goal appears to be to stop such a thing from happening again.

Chapter 19: Karla claims that neither light nor darkness can bring true peace, but that only a balance between them is the the surest way to lessen warfare. Karla has been interfering in events for 500 years, stirring up small wars so neither light nor darkness can get enough power to overwhelm the other. Small continual warfare is her answer to preventing another huge conflagration that will destroy civilization. Parn summarily rejects her reasoning and Karla leaves, vowing she is still their enemy. King Fahn and King Kashu are discussing how Beld seems to be sowing discord amongst the Alliance and they realize one all out battle is what is necessary. Parn and Co return from Wort’s tower. Everyone get’s upgrade, Parn is a full knight of Valis, Etoh is now a high priest and Slayn is now full sorcerer. Ghim and Deedlit give their rewards to Woodchuck. Ghim is making a magical comb for Leylia, Karla’s host body and Deedlit realizes everyone is going to have to go war.

Chapter 20: We switch back in time to Parn and Co talking with Wort. Ghim reveals that Karla takes over bodies now to survive and that Leylia is her latest victim. His goal is get Leylia back. Wort reveals that Karla won’t help Beld anymore if he, Wort, won’t help Fahn. He then tells Parn how to destroy Karla and save Leylia. Karla takes over the person who kills her current host body, so they have to take her alive and remove the circlet that is her center of power. Wort gives them a magic wand that will temporarily dispel all magic in its vicinity. Parn relays this all to Fahn and Kashu back in the present and everyone prepares for a final confrontation with Beld. Ghim goes with Slayn, as only they can entrap Karla while Deedlit accompanies Parn and uses her magic to protect him.

Chapter 21: The fighting commences and Slayn tries to put all of Beld’s army to sleep to prevent bloodshed. Beld releases fire salamanders, regardless of the carnage it causes among his own soldiers. Wagnard uses a dark elf to kill the Sage of Valis and Fahn and Beld meet for a final showdown. Beld prevails and Parn is prevented from avenging Fahn by a knight of Marmo named Ashuram. Kashu then challenges Beld to another duel. Karla shoots Beld in the chest with an arrow, thus allowing Kashu to kill Beld. Ashurum takes up Beld’s sword of darkness and retreats with the remaining forces of Marmo. Parn and Co realize this is the exact outcome that Karla wanted. Parn vows to hunt Karla down and put an end to her meddling that costs so many lives.

Chapter 22: Parn and Co attack Karla at her tower. We flashback to see Woodchuck being commissioned to steal the circlet of Karla’s power off of Leylia’s body. Parn and Co are just a distraction to gain Karla’s attention. Ghim confronts Karla and appeals to the suppressed Leylia. Karla kills Ghim and that sets Leylia off, giving Woodchuck an opportunity to steal the circlet. Unfortunately, Woodchuck’s bitterness about his life leads him to put the circlet on, thinking he can control its powers. This allows Karla to keep on surviving, even if in a body without the capability of using magic. Etoh returns to Valis and Princess Fianna, while Slayn returns Leylia and Ghim’s body back to Neece. Parn and Deedlit begin a new quest of hunting down Karla and trying to rescue Woodchuck.

 

My Thoughts:

When I was done reading, I wasn’t really sure what to think. Except that I had just read a D&D campaign where the campaign was over, the villain gets away and this leads to yet another campaign to be played at a later date. It didn’t help that the OVA anime jams in another storyline and adds some real pathos and relational drama between Parn and Deedlit.

Speaking of relationships. I’m usually not a fan of that kind of thing playing a big part in the stories I read. However, everything between everyone was so understated that I found myself actually wanting something from them. Deedlit and Parn are a couple but you’d never know it besides the fact that she keeps hanging around Parn and protecting him. Etoh and Princess Fianna do nothing but blush at each other and Slay and Leylia haven’t even started their relationship yet. I wanted the romance from the anime.

And I guess that sums up the issues with this. This is a fine manga on its own. But for me, Lodoss started with the OVA and that is the metric that I measure everything related to Lodoss by. It’s not fair, but that is just how it is. I mentioned in the review for book 2 that I have some more Lodoss manga and that I was wavering about reading it. I have decided that I won’t be. The Chronicles of the Heroic Knight deal with a new cast of characters taking over from Parn, Deedlit, etc and Deedlit’s Tale is a shojo manga that involves a high dark elf trying to take Deedlit’s affections from Parn. I don’t want THAT much relational drama.

Glad I read these but I feel no need to hold onto them or the other Lodoss manga I own. Not sure if I’ll try to sell them online or do a book giveaway. The last 2 book giveaways fizzled and I’m not sure that old manga series is going to do better than some Michael Crichton techno-thrillers 😀

Once again, the individual covers were fantastic. This one really showcases the snub-nose art that predominates the mana. The anime was much more classical anime with small, curvy, pointy noises, but the manga-ka here wasn’t afraid to show those schnozzes!

The Grey Witch 16 - Cover

 

★★★☆☆

 

bookstooge (Custom)

Angry Lead Skies (Garrett, PI #10) ★★★☆½

angryleadskies (Custom)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: Angry Lead Skies
Series: Garrett, PI #10
Author: Glen Cook
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 364
Words: 105K

 

Synopsis:

From Wikipedia

Garrett is a detective living in the city of TunFaire. When people have problems, they come to Garrett for help, but trouble has a way of finding him.

Garrett is at home when Playmate visits, with a kid, Kip Prose. Kip has made friends with creatures that cannot quite be described, but because of his relationship with these creatures, other parties are trying to kidnap Kip. Despite his protests, Garrett gets drawn into the mess.

While searching Playmate’s stables for clues, Garrett and company are attacked by another group of indescribable assailants. Morley, Saucerhead, and Pular Singe wake Garrett and Playmate after the scuffle, but Kip Prose is gone.

Playmate and Garrett talk to Kip’s family, hoping to find clues to his whereabouts. Despite some leads, Playmate and Garrett are unable to locate Kip, although they do encounter an “elf” named Casey, who assures them Kip is in no immediate danger.

When Playmate goes missing, Garrett and Pular Singe track him down, with the Roze triplets tagging along. Pular tracks the scent to Casey’s apartment, where there are more mysterious elves. The trail eventually takes Garrett, Pular and the Rozes into the country outside TunFaire, where they find more of the elves, their spaceships, and an unconscious Playmate, Saucerhead Tharpe and Kip Prose. Garrett decides it is time to involve the Watch, who can hopefully clean up the mess.

Meanwhile, a ratman named John Stretch, Pular Singe’s brother, attempts to kidnap Pular for his own purposes. While Garrett and John Stretch come to an agreement, Colonel Block and Deal Relway try to manage the situation with the remaining elves. Garrett strikes a deal between Kip Prose, Max Weider, and Willard Tate, in which the involved parties agree to manufacture “Three Wheels”, a revolutionary new method of transportation for the citizens of TunFaire.

As a final twist, Casey escapes, thwarting the attempts of Garrett and the Watch to discover the true nature of the “silver elves”. Though Relway is angry and suspicious of Garrett, Garrett is on top of the world, with his new stake in the Three Wheel business booming and the Goddamn Parrot missing in action.

 

My Thoughts:

Much like the last book, I once again enjoyed a Garrett story. I’m thankful for that. That being said, Garrett is still a philandering jackass. There were some attempts in this book to steer Garrett towards maturity by making him a one woman man with Tinnie Tate, but honestly, if a man has been having sex with every woman he can at every chance he can for his entire life, the chances of him suddenly going into a monogamous relationship is almost zero. Or, really, staying in that relationship is almost at zero. Leopards and spots and all that.

The story itself was just so much fun, what with Cook bringing in aliens to a fantasy series. Once I realized what the “silver elves” were, I just laughed. The rest of the story with all the action and drinking and fighting and chases and palavers was good enough to keep me reading to the end of the book.

Not the greatest book I’ve ever read but nothing here made me want to quit the series, unlike Petty Pewter Gods.

★★★☆½

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

Princeps’ Fury (Codex Alera #5) ★★★★★

princepsfury (Custom)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: Princeps’ Fury
Series: Codex Alera #5
Author: Jim Butcher
Rating: 5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 350
Words: 153.5K

 

 

Synopsis:

From Wikipedia.com & Me

The book begins with Octavian negotiating with Captain Demos of the trading vessel called the Slive, to book passage for Octavian and his contingent to cross the sea and reach the Canean homeland with Varg. Meanwhile in Alera, Crown cursor Ehren reports to Gaius about the Vord having entered Alera and learnt how to furycraft.[2]

Octavian and the Canean survivors face several storms as they make their way for the Canim continent. Octavian learns more about the Canean civilization, which has several tribes with populations in the millions and also learns the Canim tongue as they prepare to disembark. Amara and Count Bernand are helping improve the defensive structures around Calderon Valley, in anticipation of a future Vord assault. However, they are summoned to an Imperial Council by Gaius Sextus, First Lord of Alera, for an urgent mission against the Vord.

Gaius Sextus informs the Council of the threat of the Vord, which was slowly expanding from the Kalare wasteland. The Vord had overwhelmed four Imperial legions, leaving no survivors and the croach[check spelling] was expanding through Alera at an increasing rate. More than one hundred thousand Aleran freeholders and citizens had been killed in less than a month. Gaius requests all the High Lords of Alera to unite their strength and muster all the legions that they could, so that they could force a big battle against the Vord. Gaius appoints High Lord Aquitaine as the captain of the military campaign. The First Lord also meets Countess Amara and Count Bernard and requests them to go behind the Vord enemy lines on a mission to find out how the Vord are using furycrafting when they had been unable to do so.

Amara and Bernard find out that one of the High Lady’s has been taken by the Vord Queen and that Brencis Kalarus is using his father’s slave collars on Citizens to make them fight for the Vord. They take out Brencis and without him and his knowledge, the Vord Queen loses the ability to collar any more Citizens.

Tavi formulates a plan to take down a Vord Queen in Cania, thus allowing the surviving Canim to escape to Alera to regroup and plan how to take back their homeland. His plan fails but Kitai and Varg’s backup plan works perfectly. Everyone escapes on giant ships sculpted from icebergs.

Isana is sent north to the Shield Wall to broker a piece with the Icemen so the Legions guarding the Wall can march South and bolster those fighting the Vord. She realizes the Icemen are empathetic crafters and that the whole war has been a gigantic misunderstanding. She challenges the Lord of the Legions to Juris Macti to force him to march South. She loses but her standing up to him makes him realize the truth of her position.

The Vord overwhelm the Capital City and Gaius destroys the city and all the surrounding Vord to give the rest of the people a chance to formulate a way to fight back against the Vord.

 

My Thoughts:

First off, this review is where I start using the Calibre Page AND Word count to get my numbers. So while the paperback actually has close to 700 pages, based on characters per page, it is “only” 350. Which is why I want to include word count, to give a better data estimate between. Ok, enough of the nerdy stats/data talk.

Man, what do I say? I loved this book and this series? Tavi is the best hero and everything a proper Hero should be? This is a book of Ideals triumphing over petty base human’ness even while humanity reels from blow after blow from the Vord? You can almost hear the Capital Letters when ideals are discussed or even just acted out? In short, this is exactly my kind of book.

Self-pitying fools and dunces these characters are not. They have no time or place for pseudo-philosophizing while calling good evil and evil good. They have too much to do to drag the reader down into the cesspit of a self-loathing mind. They don’t hate themselves or the world they live in. They love life and it shows in every action they take.

There is no despair.

★★★★★

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

Gulag Archipelago, Vol. 1 ★★★★☆

gulagarchipelago (Custom)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: Gulag Archipelago, Vol. 1
Series: Gulag Archipelago
Author: Alexander Solzhenitsyn
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Non-Fiction
Pages: 626
Words: 265.5K

 

Synopsis:

Containing Parts I & II of Solzhenitsyn’s book, The Gulag Archipelago.

From Wikipedia.com

Structurally, the text comprises seven sections divided (in most printed editions) into three volumes: parts 1–2, parts 3–4, and parts 5–7. At one level, the Gulag Archipelago traces the history of the system of forced labor camps that existed in the Soviet Union from 1918 to 1956. Solzhenitsyn begins with V. I. Lenin’s original decrees which were made shortly after the October Revolution; they established the legal and practical framework for a series of camps where political prisoners and ordinary criminals would be sentenced to forced labor. The book then describes and discusses the waves of purges and the assembling of show trials in the context of the development of the greater Gulag system; Solzhenitsyn gives particular attention to its purposive legal and bureaucratic development.

The narrative ends in 1956 at the time of Nikita Khrushchev’s Secret Speech (“On the Personality Cult and its Consequences”). Khrushchev gave the speech at the 20th Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, denouncing Stalin’s personality cult, his autocratic power, and the surveillance that pervaded the Stalin era. Although Khrushchev’s speech was not published in the Soviet Union for a long time, it was a break with the most atrocious practices of the Gulag system.

Despite the efforts by Solzhenitsyn and others to confront the legacy of the Gulag, the realities of the camps remained a taboo subject until the 1980s. Solzhenitsyn was also aware that although many practices had been stopped, the basic structure of the system had survived and it could be revived and expanded by future leaders. While Khrushchev, the Communist Party, and the Soviet Union’s supporters in the West viewed the Gulag as a deviation of Stalin, Solzhenitsyn and many among the opposition tended to view it as a systemic fault of Soviet political culture – an inevitable outcome of the Bolshevik political project.

Parallel to this historical and legal narrative, Solzhenitsyn follows the typical course of a zek (a slang term for an inmate), derived from the widely used abbreviation “z/k” for “zakliuchennyi” (prisoner) through the Gulag, starting with arrest, show trial, and initial internment; transport to the “archipelago”; the treatment of prisoners and their general living conditions; slave labor gangs and the technical prison camp system; camp rebellions and strikes (see Kengir uprising); the practice of internal exile following the completion of the original prison sentence; and the ultimate (but not guaranteed) release of the prisoner. Along the way, Solzhenitsyn’s examination details the trivial and commonplace events of an average prisoner’s life, as well as specific and noteworthy events during the history of the Gulag system, including revolts and uprisings.

Solzhenitsyn also states:

Macbeth’s self-justifications were feeble – and his conscience devoured him. Yes, even Iago was a little lamb, too. The imagination and spiritual strength of Shakespeare’s evildoers stopped short at a dozen corpses. Because they had no ideology. Ideology – that is what gives evildoing its long-sought justification and gives the evildoer the necessary steadfastness and determination. That is the social theory which helps to make his acts seem good instead of bad in his own and others’ eyes…. That was how the agents of the Inquisition fortified their wills: by invoking Christianity; the conquerors of foreign lands, by extolling the grandeur of their Motherland; the colonizers, by civilization; the Nazis, by race; and the Jacobins (early and late), by equality, brotherhood, and the happiness of future generations… Without evildoers there would have been no Archipelago.

— The Gulag Archipelago, Chapter 4, p. 173

There had been works about the Soviet prison/camp system before, and its existence had been known to the Western public since the 1930s. However, never before had the general reading public been brought face to face with the horrors of the Gulag in this way. The controversy surrounding this text, in particular, was largely due to the way Solzhenitsyn definitively and painstakingly laid the theoretical, legal, and practical origins of the Gulag system at Lenin’s feet, not Stalin’s. According to Solzhenitsyn’s testimony, Stalin merely amplified a concentration camp system that was already in place. This is significant, as many Western intellectuals viewed the Soviet concentration camp system as a “Stalinist aberration”

 

My Thoughts:

I started reading this book on March 13th. It took me until June 5th to finish. At under 700 pages I figured I could easily knock this out in a month, even if I only read it on the weekends. “Ha” and agains I say “ha!”

This was a dense book and mind you, it is the first of three. It is also dealing with very heavy material (not literally, it’s paper after all) but my spirit was weighed down after reading it, every single time. By the time I got to the end I could only read 5 or 6 percent each weekend. While nothing is graphic, if you’ve been reading any of my Quote posts from the last couple of months, you’ll know just how horrifying some of the stuff discussed in this book is.

Solzhenitsyn, thankfully, writes in a very dry, sardonic and sarcastic manner, which allowed me to distance myself from the words I was reading. That being said, he also writes in the most rambling form I have ever run across. I eventually just stopped trying to connect the dots and let him tell the tale in his own way.

He tells of his own arrest, his time in the sorting prisons and the time getting to the official Gulag camps. He also tells a lot of other peoples’ stories as well. It is horrible, sad and disheartening that people today want a form of government that leads to Communism that inevitably leads to places like the Gulag.

I am going to take a break of 2 months and read some other non-fiction, preferably of the theological bent, before I dive back into Vol. 2.

★★★★☆

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

Harrigan ★★★☆☆

harrigan (Custom)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: Harrigan
Series: ———-
Author: Max Brand
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: Action/Adventure
Pages: 225
Words: 65K

 

Synopsis:

Harrigan, a red irishman, is in Hawaii, looking for something to keep him moving. He joins in a fight and backs up a black irishman and finds out he’s a captain of a vessel. They go their separate ways until Harrigan’s wanderings bring him to the docks. He sees the captain’s ship taking off and jumps aboard. The Captain takes him aboard as a common sailor but promises that he’s going to break Harrigan.

A woman sees Harrigan being broken and tries to intervene, thus making things even worse. This brings her to the Captain’s attention however and suddenly there is even more bad blood between Harrigan and him. A hurrican destroys the ship and the woman, the Captain and Harrigan all end up on a deserted island. The woman uses deception to keep a fragile peace and both men abide by it until they are rescued.

They are rescued by a crony of the Captain who is even more powerful and even worse than the Captain. The breaking of Harrigan begins all over again. The new Captain is a cruel hard man and his crew eventually mutinies. Harrigan gets dragged in to protect the woman and the old Captain gets involved to try to take her away from Harrigan. Things go badly for everyone, the ship is destroyed and our trio make their way to some homestead in South America. There they find out that The Great War has started and they all, unbeknownst to each other, join up.

 

My Thoughts:

Love triangle. And yet I never once considered putting this book down. If you want two testosterone laden Irishmen trying to beat the living daylights out of each other and break the other’s spirit, all the time, this is the book for you!

And for anyone who doesn’t know (cause I didn’t for years and years) red irish and black irish refer to the hair color, not their skin.

This was a story about men being stupid and yet glorious all at the same time. I laughed, I groaned, I sympathized, I shook my head and rolled my eyes. Why I didn’t abandon this? Because the action between them was so intense it was like the words jumped off the page and grabbed hold of me and didn’t let me go. While their hands were around each other’s throat, they were just as much around mine. But even with that, it still only gets 3 stars because of love triangles and stupidity.

Also, this isn’t a western. It is a Men’s Adventure Story.

★★★☆☆

 

bookstooge (Custom)

Mr Murder ★★★★☆

mrmurder (Custom)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: Mr Murder
Series: ———-
Author: Dean Koontz
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Thriller
Pages: 500
Words: 141K

 

Synopsis:

From Wikipedia

Bestselling mystery writer Marty Stillwater was recording himself one day when he realized that he was saying “I need…” repeatedly. When he rewound the recording he found that he had been unconsciously repeating “I need” for over 7 minutes. Marty was tense that whole day, when he put the kids to bed though he calmed down considerably and was finally consoled.

Meanwhile, the Killer is roaming the streets before his job. He goes into a bar and leaves with a prostitute to go to a motel. He has sex with her and then murders her because she cannot assuage his frustration. He proceeds to kill his targets and returns to his hotel. That night, still restless, he is drawn for some reason towardsTopeka. Suddenly, he starts saying:

“I need… to be… I need to be… I need to be…” As the suburbs and finally the dark prairie flash past on both sides, excitement builds steadily in him. He trembles on the brink of an insight that, he senses, will change his life. “I need to be… to be… I need to be someone.” At once he understands the meaning of what he has said. By “to be someone,” he does not mean what another man might intend to say with those same three words; he does not mean that he needs to be someone famous or rich or important. Just someone. Someone with a real name. Just an ordinary Joe, as they used to say in the movies of the forties.

— Mr. Murder page 48-49

The Killer is attracted like a magnet by some force he doesn’t understand to the Stillwater residence. On his way he kills several people; an old couple for a set of clothes and a gas station clerk to steal food and money. When he breaks into the Stillwater house he sees a picture of Marty and believes it to be himself. He observes books authored by Marty and decides they are his. He sees the pictures of the daughters Emily and Charlotte and Marty’s wife Paige, he then decides he wants to be the father and husband. He attempts to write a book but cannot and in his frustration he destroys the computer.

Marty was quite upset about his fugues (a break in one’s memory) and so went to see a doctor. The doctor attributed it to stress.

When Marty comes home he finds things misplaced and his computer smashed. The Other then enters and accuses him of being an impostor. He menaces Marty who shoots him twice in the chest, but the Other is unfazed. The fight catapults them over the banisters leaving the Other seriously injured but he gets away. Marty’s family returns home, and Marty sends them to their neighbour’s house. Soon after, the police arrive. Cyrus Lowbock, the detective, interrogates Marty and doesn’t believe his story, insinuating it is a publicity stunt. Marty and his wife refuse to cooperate and the police leave.

The Other’s body has rapidly recovered from his injuries but the effort leaves him ravenous. After consuming massive amounts of food he returns to get Paige and the girls back from Marty who he believes has stolen them. He manages to get the daughters from the neighbour’s house, but Marty sees him and gives chase. The car crashes and the girls escape but the Killer flees again.

Drew Oslett and Karl Clocker, two operatives of a clandestine government agency are sent to retrieve the Killer (referred to as “Alfie”) They discover the bodies of the two seniors and Alfie’s tracking device. A message from their agency leads them toward the People magazine article on Marty Stillwater and they discover his connection with the Killer. They meet a contact who might help them find Alfie. To maintain their cover they decide the Stillwaters have to be terminated to look like a murder/suicide and Alfie has to be brought in.

Meanwhile, the Stillwaters flee to a cabin in Mammoth Lakes and prepare to defend themselves against attack by The Other. Paige hides under a rock to ambush The Other, but unpredictably he rams his car through the cabin. The Stillwaters then flee to an abandoned church. Here Marty is shot and Paige and the girls are trapped. As The Other prepares to kill them, Drew and Karl track him down. Drew kills The Other and is then killed by Karl who has turned against the agency. He rescues the Stillwaters, provides them with new identities, a new home and evidence to bring the agency down. He explains that cloning and genetic engineering were used to create a breed of elite assassins, with Marty’s tissue samples accidentally becoming involved in creating Alfie. After a few months Marty mails the evidence to the authorities from an anonymous name and the Stillwaters begin their new lives.

 

My Thoughts:

This is what I was hoping for from Koontz. Pure thriller through and through. I was thinking, when I reached the end, if I enjoyed this or Lightning more. It’s a real tossup and I would recommend either one if you wanted to dip your toes into the Koontz ocean (seriously, this guy has written a bajillion books).

In terms of tension, Koontz did an admirable job of keeping me in suspense even while staying true to his trademark “The Hero Doesn’t Die” platform. I figured the wife and kids were safe as well, but when the girls are kidnapped, I wondered if all bets were off. Thankfully, they were ok. Marty’s parents (Marty being the main character) however, were pure cannon fodder and I almost wished they’d been off’ed nearer the beginning rather in the last 10% so as to provide even more tension about the wife and kids.

I’ve got a quote or two I’m including in this review instead of doing them as separate posts (Gulag is taking up the Quote posts for the whole month, the greedy hog!)

“Standing in his kitchen, holding the loaded Beretta, Marty knew that he and Paige now constituted their own last line of defense.

No one else. No greater authority. No guardian of the public welfare.”

~ Page 248

“She wondered what it was about storytelling that made people want it almost as much as food and water, even more so in bad times than in good.”

~ Page 320

The first quote made me think about the Law and the police, as the embodiment of the Law. The Law does not PREVENT crime from happening. Nor should it. The Law states “X is the Law and if you break the Law you will be punished”. Cops are meant to be an “after the fact” part of the Law. They find and arrest the perpetrators. They don’t sit outside a private citizens house and prevent it from being burgled, that is the responsibility of the home owner. However, that is not the reality of life today. The majority of my fellow countrymen have given up their responsibility to take care of themselves and handed that off to the government. The inevitable outcome of THAT is always tyranny. Just look at how the Governor of the State of New York has acted during this covid19 outbreak to see tyranny in action.

The second quote, and its attendant idea, was much more pleasant to contemplate, thankfully. Koontz, being a writer, talks up storytelling as much as he can. He touches on the idea of stories being an escape but also states he thinks it goes deeper than that; that the need for a story is built into us, like God put it in from the beginning.

So to end this, I thoroughly enjoyed this tense thriller even while knowing the protagonist was going to be ok. That is the kind of story Koontz tells and it is the kind of story I like to read. The Good Guys Win, the Bad Guys Defeated, Evil Vanquished.

★★★★☆

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

[Manga Monday] Birth of a New Knight (Record of Lodoss War: The Grey Witch Saga #2) ★★★☆☆

birthofanewknight (Custom)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: Birth of a New Knight
Series: Record of Lodoss War: The Grey Witch Saga #2
Author: Ryo Mizuno
Artist: Yoshihiko Ochi
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: Manga
Pages: 214
Words: 7K

 

Synopsis:

Chapter 9: The Gang meets a group of Holy Knights who are chasing the carriage with Karla and the princess. Parn chases after them to “help” and of course everyone else is dragged along. Before they can catch up a fireball explodes and Deedlit has to summon a spirit of wind to see what has happened. Slayn intervenes and uses magic eyes to see what has happened. He sees Karla and her guards as the sole survivors and recognizes her as the woman in the painting in the manor from before.

Chapter 10: Parn is all set to go charging in to avenge the dead Holy Knights but everyone reins him in. Then Ghim reveals that Leylia is the spitting image of Karla and HE goes charging in. Only it is too late and Karla has left. Etoh revives the one surviving Holy Knight and tells them Karla had kidnapped the Princess. Everyone decides to go after Karla and rescue the princess. They catch up to Karla that night and surprise her. Ghim confirms Karla IS Leylia while she attacks him with magic.

Chapter 11: Karla releases a slumber spell and puts everyone to sleep. She has the remaining guards lock them up as she hopes to recruit Parn and Gang. Karla leaves to go get more guards and leaves a skeleton warrior to guard the gang. Our gang defeat the skeleton warrior and prepare to take on the remaining human guards. They then rescue the Princes and head back to the capital of Vallis.

Chapter 12: They then rescue the Princes and head back to the capital of Vallis.

Chapter 13: Karla catches up to them, offers to let them join her and tells them what she is doing is best for Lodoss overall. The Gang refuses and Karla prepares to incinerate them all.

Chapter 14: Everyone attacks Karla but she doesn’t destroy them all for some reason. She just holds them off with a shield spell. Then a bunch of Holy Knights show up with the Head Sorcerer of Valis. Karla makes her escape using a spell that only a High Priestess of Marfa could use, confirming that she is indeed Leylia. Parn reveals his father’s name to the Holy Knights and they all react negatively to the news.

Chapter 15: The Sorcerer reveals to Parn how his father died and that he did not die in disgrace as Parn has always been afraid he did. As a reward for saving the Princess the Sorcerer promises Parn that the truth of his father shall be known to all.

 

My Thoughts:

I did not enjoy this volume quite as much as the previous. Mainly because I could almost hear the dice rolling as the story moved along.

While I know that Karla IS Leylia, and I even know why because of the anime, the continued “mystery” and her evil villain monologue of all 2 sentences about doing everything for the good of Lodoss just had me rolling my eyes.

I have the sequel series in manga as well (in regular tankubon size. This Grey Witch Saga has been in the trade paperback size and I really appreciate that) and I was considering reading them next, but I am seriously reconsidering that now.

Thank goodness for the chapter covers. Those at least are still fantastic.

The Grey Witch 09 - Cover

 

★★★☆☆

 

bookstooge (Custom)

Attack of Shadows (Galaxy’s Edge #4) ★★★★☆

attackofshadows (Custom)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: Attack of Shadows
Series: Galaxy’s Edge #4
Author: Jason Anspach & Nick Cole
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF/Space Opera
Pages: 338
Words: 84.5K

 

Synopsis:

From Galaxysedge.fandom.com

On the Black Fleet flagship Imperator, beyond Tarrago Prime, Goth Sullus begins his attack on the Galactic Republic by jumping his three new battleships, the Imperator, the Terror, and the Revenge into the Tarrago System. The plan is to launch an all-out assault on Tarrago and Tarrago Moon, which houses the grand defense of the Republic, a massive space-based gun cannon powerful enough to destroy any attacker. In addition, Tarrago is the home of the Kesselverks Shipyards which supplies capital ships to Republic Naval stations all over the galaxy. Controlling the shipyards will allow Sullus to choke off the Republic Navy’s supply lines. Taking control of the super-space gun will let him defend his new gain from any counter-attack.

The attack is being carried out with the knowledge and aid of House of Reason Delegate Orrin Kaar and Republic Navy Admiral Silas Devers, who Kaar has been grooming for command of the Navy for years. Their plan is for Sullus’s Black Fleet to seize the defense cannon and destroy the Republic Seventh Fleet while the Third Fleet, commanded by Devers, takes control of the system, allowing Kaar to dictate the terms of the Republic’s star lanes.

Sullus has plans of his own and Devers is reduced to complaining to Kaar about his being left out of the loop as the attack begins. The main objective is to kill or capture the planetary governor and declare Black Fleet rule over the system, then utilize the Kesselverks Shipyards to construct more ships for the Black Fleet.

Aboard the Terror, the tri-fighter squadron Pit Vipers launches, their pilots eager for glory and a bit of revenge as they strafe the gun emplacements of Fortress Omicron, the core of the Tarrago system’s defenses. The base has long since been infiltrated by assassins who worked to execute base personnel in key positions in order to keep the base’s defenses inoperative and their communications down.

Unfortunately for Sullus and his co-conspirators, the Republic legionnaires stationed on Tarrago are not about to allow their defenses to be breached, and are reinforced by Republic Army soldiers and Marines. Over the course of a morning, the Black Fleet’s fighter squadrons are reduced by the Republic’s combined Starfighter cover and anti-aircraft turrets, while a ground assault bogs down and quickly becomes a war of attrition between the Black Fleet troops and the defending legions.

The Republic Navy’s Seventh Fleet jumps out of hyperspace to see the Tarrago system under attack. Admiral Landoo, the fleet commanding officer, is under orders to defend the system but is less than enthusiastic about losing her fleet in the face of utter destruction. The Black Fleet’s battleships are massive, new, and never before encountered as opposed to her own ships which are more numerous but smaller, and their weapons and defenses are well known to any well-informed ship’s crew. Landoo calls Utopion for assistance as she engages the Black Fleet and is told that Admiral Devers is on the way.

The fleet engagement ensues, damaging Sullus’s battleships and doing real damage to the Seventh Fleet. A starfighter’s suicide attack on the Terror’s bridge wipes out the command structure but gunnery officer Vampa seizes the opportunity to turn the tables on Landoo’s forces, and swerves the Terror to head into the clustered formation of the republic destroyers, breaking their formation and stalling their attack. Thus distracted, the Imperator and Revenge are able to flank the Seventh Fleet and wreck a number of Republic destroyers.

As a precaution against the total loss of the system, Landoo tasks the Hammerhead Corvette Audacity with rescuing the remaining principal politicians and their families from the surface, despite its lack of weapons and resources (the ship is in the middle of a refit). Captain Desaix runs the gauntlet created by the remaining tri-fighters and lands on Fortress Omicron’s main landing pad, defies the governor’s orders for immediate lift off, and stays long enough to fill the ship with refugees.

Back in orbit, the Audacity disembarks its refugee passengers into the super-destroyer Atlantica’s hangar bay, and is immediately tasked with shielding the Seventh Fleet as its ships try to escape. Desaix intends to use the ship’s new multi-warhead torpedoes to delay the Black Fleet despite the fact that the missiles have no warheads. Through clever tactics and almost perfect timing, the corvette releases the torpedos and distracts the attacking battleships long enough for the fleet’s jump computers to pick their paths into hyperspace. The fleet jumps away and the Audacity is captured with its crew.

Back on Tarrago Prime, captives are unloaded from surviving Republic ships as the Black Fleet’s shock troopers take command of the system. Goth Sullus executes Admiral Devers for incompetence as Orrin Kaar realizes that he has no control over Sullus. Admiral Rommal, commander in chief of the Black Fleet, hails Sullus as the new Galactic Emperor, and his troops join in the salute.

 

My Thoughts:

Beyond the fact that I really enjoyed this book (probably the most in the series so far due to it being a very linear timeline this time), I’ve only have a few brief thoughts.

Anspach and Cole (the authors) do a wonderful job of portraying side characters and their motivations for joining Goth Sullus in his bid to bring down the Republic. Exo, one of the Legionnaires from the first book plays a large role and so we know already why he’s doing it. But we get fighter pilots, other Legionnaires, soldiers, etc. We get their personal stories of why they are fighting against the Republic and it becomes extremely easy to sympathize with them and even root for them. At the same time, you have the regular Legionnaires who are doing their best to hold the Republic together as they know that as bad as things are, a regime change will bring chaos and death to a huge number of worlds. And I was rooting for them too!

Make no mistake though, Goth Sullus is shown to be the figure of terror that he is. His own people are afraid to even say his name and near the end one of his generals has to decide whether to help Goth Sullus or to kill him and take his place. And the general, while a rebel, is generally portrayed as one of the good guys. On the Republic side, you get some real scumbags too. General Devers, who is an active traitor to the Republic and the character portrayed in the first book, waffles back and forth in deciding who he is going to actually support, all based on who he thinks he can get more power out of. The main politician of the Republic is using Goth Sullus without realizing that Sullus is using him. Despicable people and I wanted them to face the justice they deserved.

The battle was great too. I enjoyed this book and am looking forward to the next installment with anticipation.

★★★★☆

 

bookstooge (Custom)