Conan and the Manhunters (Conan the Barbarian) ★★★✬☆

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 by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Conan and the Manhunters
Series: Conan the Barbarian
Authors: John Maddox Roberts
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 197
Words: 88.5K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia.org & Me

Conan, imprisoned by a satrap named Torgat Khan, escapes and is reunited with a band of thieves he’s leading in the deserts southwest of Turan. Subsequently, the thieves plan on looting the Khan’s treasury, held in a vault beneath the newly built temple of the sinister cult of Ahriman, the priests of which hope to revive their ancient god. Persuaded that mystical aid will be needed to ensure success, Conan agrees on accepting the aid of a kind wizard named Volvolicus and his daughter, Layla. After stealing the Khan’s treasure, Conan is pursued by the Manhunters, a band of bounty hunters with specialized skills led by a captain even more powerful than Conan himself. Through his own skills, and those of his new allies, Conan thwarts his pursuers while preventing the resurrection of Ahriman.

My Thoughts:

In some ways this was better than I was expecting and in others it wasn’t as good. First the bad.

From the cover I was expecting Conan to fight some super duper evil monster thing. While there is a monster or two, they end up being on Conan’s side and are as much illusion as anything. Conan doesn’t fight any monsters like that. That was VERY disappointing.

The good is the cosmic horror side of things. Arhiman the evil is an entity of darkest evil, an old god and a tentacled horror. He was banished way back when from our plain of existence. A couple of his priests are trying to bring him back, but Conan’s first raid on the temple upsets things so that Ahriman won’t be brought back as a fully intelligent creature with all his memories. Instead, he’ll be a maddened maw of hunger, ready to devour the whole world. Fighting against that, how cool, eh?

I have to say, when Conan is fighting wizards is when he’s at his best. Mundane earthly problems are nice, but he really needs the “sorcery” for his sword to shine its brightest.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Capriccio (One Piece #30) ★★★✬☆

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 by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Capriccio
Series: One Piece #30
Arc: Skypiea #7
Author: Eiichiro Oda
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Manga
Pages: 207
Words: 9K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_One_Piece_chapters_(187_388)

“Shandian Rhythm”

“Maxim”

“Conis”

“Pirate Luffy vs. Kami Eneru”

“Floating”

“Deathpiea”

“Desire”

“On the Front Line of Rescuing Love”

“Sorry”

“Capriccio”

To save her own skin, Nami convinces Eneru to take her with him. They leave for the golden ship, leaving the defeated combatants to their fate. After Luffy escapes from the giant snake, and learns what Eneru has done to his crew, he goes to meet Skypiea’s god in battle. Although initially confident that he can beat Luffy, Eneru soon finds that he is no match for the Straw Hat captain: Luffy’s rubber body makes him immune to all of Eneru’s lighting attacks. Rather than fight, Eneru traps Luffy in a prison of gold and throws him overboard, expecting the gold’s weight to keep him away. Eneru sets sail and prepares to destroy the island in the sky. He is briefly impeded in his efforts by the remaining Straw Hats, Usopp and Sanji, giving the inhabitants of Angel Island, who have learned of Eneru’s plans, time to evacuate.

My Thoughts:

Muuuuuch better. All of the cannon fodder have been expended so now we get Kami Eneru fighting against whoever opposes him. Which comes down to the Straw Hat Pirates. Eneru and Luffy have a tussle and beat the snot out of each other with the balance of the fight being like a teeter totter, first one then the other is winning. Eneru wipes the deck with the rest of the Straw Hats.

Eneru’s plan to destroy the sky island like he did his own sky island doesn’t make any rational sense. I get that he wants to leave and go be powerful down on the world beneath, but why destroy everything? Because he’s a psycho bitch, that’s why. He’s the very definition of power run amuck. Whoever his mother was did a terrible job. And his father? Should have spanked him. But that’s neither here nor there. The point is that Eneru is very powerful and has had no check upon his power to this point.

The volume ends with the plan to destroy the island entering its final phase. While I know that Luffy and Crew are going to defeat Eneru, part of me hopes that he gets away mostly unscathed just so he can run into some other more powerful Pirate Lord and REALLY get his ass handed to him. Eneru needs to die and he needs to die painfully and gruesomely.

I actually want to read the next volume now. Which was not the case after the last couple and that is a really nice change.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Oratorio (One Piece #29) ★★★☆☆

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 by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Oratorio
Series: One Piece #29
Arc: Skypiea #6
Author: Eiichiro Oda
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: Manga
Pages: 231
Words: 10K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_One_Piece_chapters_(187_388)

“Pirate Robin vs. Heavenly Forces Commander Yama”

“Pirate Chopper vs. Vassal Ohm”

“March”

“Suite”

“Concerto”

“Serenade”

“Pirate Zoro vs. Vassal Ohm”

“Play”

“Quintet”

“Oratorio”

“Divina Commedia”

Having had a specific goal for becoming god, and with that goal now in sight, Eneru starts picking off the remaining combatants to complete his plans and ensure his prediction will be accurate. Those who remain (plus Luffy’s snake-captor) are drawn into one big, final brawl. Meanwhile, Nico Robin locates the city of gold, only to find that all the gold is gone. The pieces begin to fall into place, and it is discovered that Eneru plans to destroy everyone who resides in the sky, while escaping to the seas below on his ship made of gold. With the five surviving “contestants” unaware of this, they engage Eneru (the sixth) in battle to see who will be excluded from his prediction. With his mastery over thunder, Eneru reduces the playing field to the promised five, but then decides that none of them is worthy of escaping with him to the blue seas.

My Thoughts:

I made a mistake in my last review. I had stated that volume 28 was the last volume I had originally read in back in ’10, but the truth of the matter is that it was actually volume 29, THIS volume. Just wanted to set the record straight so no one can accuse me of deceiving my adoring public.

This was a bit better in terms of plot because we learn a little bit about the island and “secret history” of the world that Nico Robin is trying to track down. Of course, that is offset by Kami Eneru monologuing in the most confusing way about some sort of god delusion. He’s eaten a gumgum fruit, gotten some really powerful powers and thus thinks he can do whatever he wants. What his ultimate goal is was lost in the babble, if it was even there. He does want to return to the blue sea people, which makes me wonder what he’d do if he ran across one of the more powerful of the 7 Pirate Lords.

Unfortunately, there is still a LOT of pointless and interminable fighting and the artwork for them just makes me skim over it all. After this, everything is completely new to me. Hopefully the manga-ka goes back to his cleaner, simpler artwork. This Skypiea arc has featured so many backgrounds that blend into the characters that blend into all the “action” lines that it’s really hard to see what is actually happening.

Thankfully, he’s still doing little one off pictures between chapters and here’s the one I liked the best for this volume:

Seeing the lion with his pinky up in approved tea drinking fashion just made me grin.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Feast and Famine ★★✬☆☆

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 by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Feast and Famine
Series: ———-
Authors: Adrian Tchaikovsky
Rating: 2.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: SFF
Pages: 157
Words: 60.5K



Synopsis:

From the Inside Cover and TOC

In Feast and Famine Adrian Tchaikovsky delivers an ambitious and varied collections of stories. Ranging from the deep space hard SF of the title story (originally in Solaris Rising 2) to the high fantasy of “The Sun in the Morning” (a Shadows of the Apt tale originally featured in Deathray magazine), from the Peter S Beagle influenced “The Roar of the Crowd” to the supernatural Holmes-esque intrigue of “The Dissipation Club” the author delivers a dazzling array of quality short stories that traverse genre. Ten stories in all, five of which appear here for the very first time.

Contents:

1. Introduction

2. Feast & Famine

3. The Artificial Man

4. The Roar of the Crowd

5. Good Taste

6. The Dissipation Club

7. Rapture

8. Care

9. 2144 and All That

10. The God Shark

11. The Sun of the Morning

12. About the Author

My Thoughts:

That’s right, there’s a reason I’ve been avoiding Tchaikovsky for the last year or two. While he can tell some good stories, he also really digs the knife into Christianity. Not organized religion, or Buddhism, or Islam, or any other religion, just Christianity. I “think” I could handle it if he were an equal opportunity mocker, but he’s not. He really lets fly with the story “Rapture” and I realized that while the other stories might be interesting that my time with him is done for good now.

If I need any more fixes of Tchaikovsky, I’ll just go and re-read the Shadows of the Apt decology.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

Conan the Bold (Conan the Barbarian) ★★★✬☆

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 by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Conan the Bold
Series: Conan the Barbarian
Authors: John Maddox Roberts
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 175
Words: 80K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia.org & Me

A young Conan’s prospects for a domestic existence are destroyed, along with his intended fiancé, by the renegade Taharka of Keshan. To achieve vengeance, the Cimmerian joins forces with a one-eyed warrior woman, Mad Kalya, also wronged by Taharka’s outlaws. The couple pursue their enemies across several nations, from Croton’s fighting pits to the Ophirian plains, overtaking them in time and again only to see Taharka slip through their fingers. The chase ultimately culminates in a battle to the death.

Kalya dies in Conan’s arms but Taharka gets his just desserts. Conan decides to keep exploring the other lands and to find out what other adventures await him.

My Thoughts:

I enjoyed this story quite a bit. This was an origin story for Conan and shows how he came to be exploring lands other than Cimmeria. I suspect if I read enough Conan stories though that I’ll find multiple “origin” stories. So I’m not holding this as canon or anything.

There is some cosmic horror involved, as both Conan and Taharka are accosted by priests of elder gods and told they both have “great destinies”. Taharka allows this to go to his head and acts accordingly while Conan simply scoffs and tells the priests no one, or no thing, will ever control his actions. Of course, Taharka dies and Conan doesn’t. So much for those elder gods prescience, right? Hahahahahaa.

In terms of action, this is all over the place geographically and it keeps things fresh. We get to see a glimpse of Conan as a river pirate, hinting at his future as a real pirate later on. That is one story I’ve never read about Conan, his time as a pirate. It’s always just referred to. I hope JMR writes at least one story about that.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Wyper the Berserker (One Piece #28) ★★☆☆☆

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 by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Wyper the Berserker
Series: One Piece #28
Arc: Skypiea #5
Author: Eiichiro Oda
Rating: 2 of 5 Stars
Genre: Manga
Pages: 185
Words: 8K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_One_Piece_chapters_(187_388)

“Wyper the Berserker”

“Dial Battle”

“The Many Souths”

“Pirate Zoro vs. Warrior Braham”

“Pirate Luffy vs. Berserker Wyper”

“Warrior Genbo vs. Heavenly Warriors Commander Yama”

“Pirate Chopper vs. Vassal Gedatsu”

“Pirate Nami and the Weird Knight vs. Heavenly Warriors Subcommanders Hotori and Kotori”

“Warrior Kamakiri vs. Kami Eneru”

With the war’s start, Eneru decides to make a bet: of the eighty-one combatants currently on Skypiea (the Straw Hats, the Shandians, and his own forces), only five will remain in three hours’ time. The Shandians engage Eneru’s forces, the remaining priests fight the Shandians, and the Straw Hats fight whoever is left. After two hours, the number of active combatants dwindles to twenty-five. Luffy mistakes a giant snake’s mouth for a cave.

My Thoughts:

This is just about 180 pages of people fighting each other while screaming how impossible everything the other person is doing. Over and Over and Over again. I am at the point in my life where displays like this don’t do a thing for me. And splitting everyone up so I get to see 3-5 different fights REALLY doesn’t do it for me.

This was the last volume I read back when I was reading One Piece as it was released in english. I can totally understand why I stopped here. Big, flashy and confusing fights simply do not hold my attention. Not anymore. It’s not like I’m going to stop this time but I must admit, Oda-sensei better get off his keister and start telling a story again.

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Overture (One Piece #27) ★★★★☆

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 by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Overture
Series: One Piece #27
Arc: Skypiea #4
Author: Eiichiro Oda
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Manga
Pages: 187
Words: 8K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_One_Piece_chapters_(187_388)

“Ball Challenge”

“Former Kami vs. Vassal”

“The Village Hidden in the Cloud”

“Ball Dragon”

“Overture”

“Junction”

“Varse”

“Aubade”

“The Anaconda and the Search Team”

Upon entering Skypiea they incite the wrath of Eneru’s four priests. As Luffy and company deal with one of the four, the “captured” crew is forced to fight a second of Eneru’s priests. They are saved by his predecessor, Ganfor, who is only able to make the priest leave after being defeated. Elsewhere, Luffy is able to defeat the first priest, and soon afterward reunites with his crew. After Ganfor is healed, he tells them of a city of gold hidden somewhere in Skypiea. To make themselves rich, the Straw Hats go looking for the gold, only to find themselves in the middle of a war between Eneru and the Shandians, the natives of Skypiea.

My Thoughts:

This was an action packed volume. At the same time I am feeling rather blah about the overall story that is introduced for the first time here. I was ok with Luffy and the Straw Hats going to Magical Island Land and trying to find treasure, but now we’re dealing with a 400 year old war between 3 factions and that gets split into a 3way war 6years before the Crew arrives. I fully understand why I stopped reading this series as it came out back in 2010. For whatever reason, I cannot immerse myself into the overall story arc as of yet.

As I was reading this, even I realized I was being really picky for no good reason that I could discern. I think my problem is that this arc is repeating the whole shonen’esque cliché that we’ve already seen in the previous “Princess Vivi (who I hate and wish was dead) Arc”. Luffy and Crew are going to fight the underlings, win or lose in very creative ways and then Luffy and Kami Eneru are going to fight and somehow the old Kami is going to be involved and the Straw Hat pirates will go back down to the Grand Line. I hope I am wrong because I want an interesting story, not just a shonen power up duel-fest.

I’ve read enough manga, finished and unfinished, to see a pattern that all to many manga-ka fall into. It is easier to draw fights and power up sequences than it is to tell a good story. That’s what happened with Hunter X Hunter. It started with a really fun story and eventually devolved into a multi-volume fight and then went on indefinite hiatus. While I know that One Piece isn’t going to go on hiatus, I want the storytelling to stay in the forefront. Luffy is a great and hilarious character and he has gathered an extraordinary crew and I would like to see the manga-ka really use his imagination with them instead of falling back on tropes.

With all that complaining, as is my wont, I realize you might be wondering WHY this still got 4 stars? That is because even the battle between 2 of the Kami’s underlings and the Straw Hat Pirates was very inventive. I have to give Oda-sensei credit, when it comes to making up fight scenarios, that man has got a really weird imagination that works perfectly for me.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The Napoleon of Notting Hill ★★★☆☆

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 Napoleon of Notting Hill
Series: ———-
Author: G.K. Chesterton
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: Absurdist Fantasy
Pages: 203
Words: 55K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia & Me

The dreary succession of randomly selected Kings of England is broken up when Auberon Quin, who cares for nothing but a good joke, is chosen. To amuse himself, he institutes elaborate costumes for the provosts of the districts of London. All are bored by the King’s antics except for one earnest young man who takes the cry for regional pride seriously – Adam Wayne, the eponymous Napoleon of Notting Hill.

The books ends many years later after Wayne initiates a city wide war and has changed how people view their countries again. The king finally realizes Wayne was taking his little joke as serious as sin and is both appalled and astounded.

My Thoughts:

When I read this back in ’01 I read it as simply a funny story devoid of all external meaning or even internal meaning. I enjoyed it tremendously back then.

This time around, having read more of Chesterton and having more life experience, it was obvious that Chesterton was writing his ideas into the story. Unfortunately for me, they all went sailing right over my head. Nothing written here held any deeper meaning for me and whenever it was obvious that Chesterton was talking through his characters, what was actually said was so convoluted, so “artistic” (I say that with a sneer, not in a good way), so papered over with his own cleverness that any meaning was lost to me.

If you’re going to tell a story, tell a story. If you’re going to preach, write a non-fiction book. I am one of those people who can look at a great painting and all I see is a collection of paint blobs, no artistic merit or something transcendent that moves the soul. If I was a Dickens story, I’d be the villain who cuts down the beautiful forest to put up housing for 100 people while the hero, a drug addled, wife abusing, useless scum of an artist waxes poetical about the loss of his muse.

It comes down to me simply not understanding one bit what Chesterton was trying to say with this story. I would consider this a better book if he’d just told a story about a crazy king and someone who took him seriously, and the hijinks that ensued. Instead there is war, death and a return to tribalism.

I am not hating my time with Chesterton but I have to admit, I was really hoping for a bit more enjoyment out of my time with him. Well, I’ll keep on chugging on.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Conan the Marauder (Conan the Barbarian) ★★★★☆

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: Conan the Marauder
Series: Conan the Barbarian
Authors: John Maddox Roberts
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 176
Words: 80K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia.org & Me

The warlord, Bartatua, is uniting all the Hyrkanian tribes east of the Vilayet Sea into an army for world conquest, beginning with the resistant city of Sogaria. Meanwhile, an exiled Turanian wizard, Khondemir, plans on taking control over Bartatua’s soldiers in pursuit of his own agenda. Caught in the middle are Princess Ishkala of Sogaria, a seductive spy named Lakhme, and the enslaved Conan, who must prove his loyalty towards Bartatua to escape his fate. Everything comes to a thrilling climax near an ancient Hyrkanian necropolis known as the City of Mounds.

Khondemir raises an elder god and gets eaten by it. The warlord is killed by his mistress who had her own plans with the wizard. She in turn is killed as well. The princess is rescued by her lover and Conan escapes to go have another adventure somewhere.

My Thoughts:

Now this was a rousing Conan adventure. I think the biggest part is the villainess in this case. Yes, there’s a bad wizard, but she’s the driving force behind everything happening in this story. It was a joy to read about her machinations because it provided good fodder for Conan to struggle against.

I don’t know why this worked so well for me but man, it was the best Conan story by Maddox yet. Conan was shown in a variety of roles and there was everything from a siege to a sorcerous showdown with an Old One.

I am feeling much better about this series now. Knowing that there is the chance of stories this interesting makes it worth hanging around the average ones 🙂

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Adventure on Kami’s Island (One Piece #26) ★★★★☆

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: Adventure on Kami’s Island
Series: One Piece #26
Arc: Skypiea #3
Author: Eiichiro Oda
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Manga
Pages: 208
Words: 9K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_One_Piece_chapters_(187_388)

“High in the Sky”

“Heaven’s Gate”

“Angel Beach”

“Dial Power”

“Heaven’s Judgment”

“Class-2 Criminals”

“Trial”

“SOS”

“Adventure on Kami’s Island”

“Satori, Vassal of the Forest of no Return”

The Straw Hats successfully reach the cloud harboring Skypiea, and soon after their arrival meet some of its inhabitants: a hostile group of apparently primitive natives, and a friendlier people of the more civilized town of Angel Island. While the rest of Straw Hats mingle with them, learning of the town’s history, and enjoying its unique technology, the ship’s navigator Nami explores the endless sea of clouds. She finds Skypiea, but learns that the Straw Hats have been labeled as trespassers and will be dealt with accordingly. Although able to fend off an initial arrest attempt, their ship, and some of the crew, is taken away by Eneru, the current god of all that lies atop the cloud. Free, but wishing to reunite with their friends, Luffy, Sanji, and Usopp enter Skypiea, Eneru’s domain.

My Thoughts:

Now that the crew are in Skypiea, of course things aren’t easy. First they’re tricked into trespassing, then they’re supposed to be punished and so of course a whole lot of fighting is going to happen. They run into some guy who takes out Luffy, Zoro and Sanji with one punch, and he appears to be some sort of psycho as well, so of course we know he’s going to be prominently featured.

We also get some old guy dressed up in armor and flying around on a polka-dotted pegasus and it’s hinted that he’s the former ruler of Skypiea, so my guess is this story arc will be about the Straw Hats defeating the false ruler and putting the nice ruler back on the throne. Hmmmm, doesn’t that sound familiar?

In a previous review Misaki mentioned that Luffy seemed to like to choose the impossible option whenever it was available and we get a prime example of that in this volume. He’s told there’s a forbidden forest and anyone who goes there will be punished so of course he wants to go there. And what’s funnier, ALL of his friends know what he’s thinking. Check it out:

Remember, this reads right to left.

Rating: 4 out of 5.