The People of the Black Circle (The Essential Conan #2) ★★★☆½

peopleoftheblackcircle (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 People of the Black Circle
Series: The Essential Conan #2
Author: Robert Howard
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 220
Format: Hardcover

 

Synopsis:

4 stories involving Conan. While not exact, they do seem to move backwards in time, so while he’s king of the Hetman in the first story, by the time we get to the final story he’s a Sword for Hire.

Conan fights something, whether wizards, peoples or monsters, rescues nearly naked women and usually makes off with a boatload of treasure.

 

My Thoughts:

I wasn’t sure how this Conan read would go so soon after the first instalment. Thankfully, moving away from a full novel to shorter, more serialized stories worked rather well.

The first thing I noticed is just how well Howard can write. While the Conan stories are not in any way deep character sketches, Howards writes him in such a way that while sparse doesn’t feel flat. Conan was a real barbarian and Howard brings that to light with a deft touch. He also describes things in such a way as to evoke whatever emotion he is going for in the scene. He knows how to describe things precisely so as to guide you yet it never fell into purple prose territory either. It was a delicate tightrope and I thought he did a fantastic job.

However, the short story format fails us the readers. While all varying enough that they aren’t identical, in either scene or foe, the overall plotlines run almost along identical tracks. That wouldn’t be a problem if you read one story every other month or so. But reading 4 in a matter of weeks, well, it becames a little difficult to ignore.

Overall, I am pretty pleased with Conan and how this Essential Series is working out. I’ve got one more to go and then I think I’ll be satisfied with having tried this particular Hero out.

★★★☆½

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

 

 

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Toll the Hounds (Malazan Book of the Fallen #8) ★☆☆☆☆

tollthehounds (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: Toll the Hounds
Series: Malazan Book of the Fallen #8
Author: Steven Erikson
Rating: 1 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 1299
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

I’m really struggling with this.

The Tiste Andii have a big part. Nimander and the young Andii, led by Clip, are on a journey to Black Pearl to pledge allegiance to Anomander Rake. During this journey Clip is possessed by the Fallen god and it is up to Nimander to stop him. Rake himself leaves Black Coral and faces down Hood himself and kills Hood with Dragnipur, thus bringing Hood into the realm of Dragnipur. This allows Hood to bring his armies of the dead against the forces of Chaos within that realm. Rake then faces Traveller, who is revealed as Dassem Ultor, First Sword of the Empire and not only dies in a battle with him, but is killed by Dragnipur as well. This places him in Dragnipur’s realm as well and somehow makes it possible for him to confront Mother Dark and convince her to take her children back.

Karsa Orlong and Samar Dev had been travelling with Traveller and are witnesses.

There is a lot going on in Darujhistan itself. Cutter and others have returned. The remaining Bridge Burners who run a bar, have a contract taken out on them by the Assassins guild. Rallick Nom and Vorcan both recover in the Azath House and get back into the thick of things. Gruntle ends up working for the Trygalle Guild and Mappo takes their services to try to get back to Icarium. Only Mappo and Gruntle get called into the Realm of Dragnipur to help lead the forces of the Dead against Chaos.

The Broken god is also making a play outside of Black Coral to subsume the newly ascended Itkovian, now known as the Redeemer. Using his own corrupted blood, a black addictive druglike sludge, he enslaves the high priestess of the Redeemer and it is up to a former Pannion Domin of all people to defend the Redeemer, who has chosen not to defend himself.

After the battle between Rake and Traveller, and the battle that ensued for control of Dragnipur, Caladan Brood emerged in control of the sword. With the help of the remaining Torrud Cabal, he destroys the sword with Burn’s Hammer, thus releasing all the souls still in existence within the sword.

 

My Thoughts:

Last time I read this, I called this a bloated piece of crap (to summarize). This time around, I have much more to say.

It IS a bloated piece of crap. At 1300 pages, this easily could have been pared down to 800 or 900 pages simply by removing the monologuing by every character about despair, hopelessness, the pointlessness of existence, etc, etc. I found myself skimming pages at a time and not missing any actual plot points. Erikson becomes as bad as Ayn Rand in Atlas Shrugged with the monologue by John Gault. Erikson gives full vent to his existential beliefs and in all honesty, it is horrible.

Lots of Christian theology and personal philosophy coming up, so be warned.

Sometimes, books can affect us in deep and profound ways. We always hope that it is for the better but sometimes it isn’t. This time around, it wasn’t for the better. Over the last 10 years I have learned that I am particularly susceptible to the weakness of hopelessness and despair. Whether in a sermon or in a book, if the negative is at the forefront, it will bring my spirit down and affect me physically. I can not live without Hope. That is part of why I am a Christian.

Erikson puts forth that Oblivion is the end of everything. Good, bad, right, wrong, all will end in nothingness. You can only witness existence and hope someone else will witness you as well. This directly cuts across the fact that God Himself is our witness. He has always been and He will always be. Oblivion is not the end of God, even though it is the end of humanity who are not saved by Jesus Christ. Our lives are being watched and recorded by God and we are not alone.

Erikson also writes how everything good is essentially pointless since it is tainted in one way or another. God is not tainted. God is Good. Everything good flows from a Perfect God and it IS good because it aligns with His character. Erikson takes everything that is written on our very hearts as good and drags it through a shit hole and stabs it with a rusty butter knife all in an effort to show how it really isn’t good.

Sadly, it wasn’t until I was at the 80% mark that I realized how this was affecting me. My attitude was horrible about pretty much everything and the world seemed grey and blah even while I was objectively having a good time. I could have taken steps to counteract this much earlier if I had realized what was going on. I do plan on reading either Mark of a Man by Elizabeth Elliot or one of C.S. Lewis’s books immediately after this.

In the future, I will never read this book again. I also plan on waiting an extra cycle before attempting the next Malazan Book of the Fallen. I’m giving this book the “Worst Book of the Year” tag as well to help remind my future self to never even look at this thing again.

★☆☆☆☆

bookstooge (Custom)

 

 

The Little Grumpy Cat that Wouldn’t (Grumpy Cat) ★★★★☆

littlegrumpycatthatwouldnt (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 Little Grumpy Cat that Wouldn’t
Series: Grumpy Cat
Author: Little Golden Book
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Children
Pages: 24
Format: Board Book

 

Synopsis:

Grumpy Cat meets lots of other friendly little animals and has a horrible time until they leave her alone.

 

My Thoughts:

Another cute little Grumpy Book by Little Golden Books. Unfortunately, Little took the easy route and simply used the better known Grumpy Cat meme answers whenever one of the friendly little animals would ask Grumpy Cat a question. Whether that answer made the most sense or not. Dinged ½ a star just for that.

My second, and definitely biggest issue, is how this book tries to brainwash the children with it’s politically correct gender politics. Grumpy Cat is referred to as a female. Now, just because the real life grumpy cat is a female and it is a female in A Very Grumpy Christmas doesn’t actually mean that Grumpy Cat IS a female. Grumpy Cat is kind of like zen, more of a state of mind than a state of actually being. You wouldn’t go up to a zen monk who was meditating, push him over and feel him up, would you? At least, I hope you wouldn’t. If you would, please don’t follow my blog any more! Dinged ½ a star for that.

Other than that, this was another great instance of Grumpy Cat standing up for all of us who hate other people and company and pretty much life itself. We have our Champion now!

★★★★☆

bookstooge (Custom)

 

 

 

Sandworms of Dune (Dune 7 #2) ★☆☆☆☆

sandwormsofdune (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: Sandworms of Dune
Series: Dune 7 #2
Author: Brian Herbert & Kevin Anderson
Rating: 1 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 628
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

Duncan and the crew of the Ithaca, along with several gholas, have adventures and get caught by Omnius. Duncan, as the best Kwisatz Haderach EVAH!!!!!, is the apex of humanity and does some kinky stuff with Erasmus, the thinking Robot. Then Erasmus dies. But not before Norma Cenva, the Oracle of Time, has saved the day with her Guild and using her magic powers makes all the versions of Omnius go poof.

Murbella singlehandedly forces the known forces of humanity to band together, only to have it all fall apart due to the machinations of the face dancers. But Norma Cenva, Oracle of Time, saves the day with her guild!

Before Erasmus dies, he kills all the face dancers across the whole universe using “technology”, ie, magic. And Norma Cenva, the Oracle of Time….oh wait, not this time.

Now Grand Poobah Duncan, more powerful than any human who has ever existed, must guide humanity and the rest of the thinking machines, into a future where they all get along while singing kum by ya and roasting smores around a campfire.

 

My Thoughts:

Back in 2007, I read and reviewed Sandworms of Dune. Overall, I was wicked happy with it, giving it 4stars. That was, unbeknownst to me then, simply due to the finishing up of the storyline of Dune.

This time around I read as a more mature Dune fan and I have to say, I felt like throwing up at this juvenile, facile and stinking putrescence of a book. I didn’t even take notes of all the things I found abhorrent as it would have given this way more attention than I wanted to give it.

Trained Bene Gesserit Sisters being ambushed in plain sight by what amounts to no more than farmers. Duncan ignoring everything that came before about the dangers of prescience and claiming that he was better than both Paul and Leto II and so the dangers didn’t apply to him. Everything that Frank Herbert wrote about, using Paul, as Paul Muad’dib, as the Preacher of Arrakeen, Leto II as the Tyrant, simply flushed down the toilet like it was a huge stinking turd so that that mediocre jackass authors could do what they wanted with this story. I want to blaspheme it makes me so angry.

The writing was just atrocious with its utter banality. Frank usually didn’t write about the Great Big Events either, but he always used the small stuff afterwards to show how the GBE affected everything around it. His writing was masterful in that regards. Anderson put his stamp of complete mediocre writing on this book very heavily. Ham handed and dull, what a combo.

Normally, a bad book like this gets me raving and writing up a storm. This time, I’m just disappointed. Really disappointed. The kind of disappointment that makes a father disown his only son. I’m giving this my “worst book of the year” tag I’m so disappointed.

I now declare:

Henceforth, let it be known amongst the nations, to all peoples, kindreds, tribes and tongues, that Bookstooge, whose works the mighty look upon and despair, shall only read Dune as a standalone. Paul Muad’dib shall live happily ever after and his reign shall be long, prosperous and fair. The known universe shall benefit, from the lowliest servant to the mightiest lord and all shall love Paul and call his named blessed.

Bookstooge thus declares it and thus reality shall alter to his will.

All Hail Bookstooge, Emperor of the Known Bookiverse!

★☆☆☆☆

bookstooge (Custom)

 

 

 

The Hour of the Dragon (The Essential Conan #1) ★★★☆☆

hourofthedragon (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 Hour of the Dragon
Series: The Essential Conan #1
Author: Robert Howard
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 296
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

4 Conspirators, using a mystic gem of unimaginable power, resurrect a long dead wizard, Xaltotun. They plan to use his power to further their own aims. What they so carelessly forget is that Xaltotun might have plans of his own, like the resurrection of his whole nation of 1000’s of years ago from the Age of Dark Wizards.

One man stands in their way. Conan, king of Aquilonia. A fierce Cimmerian who took the throne by force, Conan is no innocent when it comes to the ways of wizards. After being overthrown by magic, secretly being taken captive by Xaltotun and then escaping, Conan tries to take back his country. Problem is, Aquilonia is rift with factions and Xaltotun, through his puppet, is playing those factions against each other. And should Conan unite the country, Xaltotun will just use his magic to destroy them all again.

With the help of the priests of a cultic god and a wild witch woman from the hills, Conan learns he must find the Heart of Ahriman and use its powers to overthrow Xaltotun. Only then will sword and spear be enough to route the human element. After several adventures, including pirates, a voluptuous vampire and priests of the dark god Set, Conan recovers the jewel.

Xaltotun is unaware and blithely goes to his doom. Every Aquilonian suddenly turns patriot and Conan takes his country back and paddles the backsides of the other nations that did him wrong.

 

My Thoughts:

This is actually an omnibus edition put out by the Science Fiction Book Club back in the late 90’s or or early ’00’s. It contains 2 other Conan books, which all consist of a series of short stories. This one, Hour of the Dragon, is the only novel in the book. There are forwards and afterwards by some editor who appears to be a big Conan fan and while slightly interesting to a big Conan fan, didn’t mean a thing to me. I don’t care about Howard’s personal life or that he was such a coward that he took his own life at 36. That doesn’t get sympathy from me but makes me despise him as a human. And that is just the type of thing I don’t want when going into a book.

Sword and Sorcery at its height, perhaps? This was Adventure pure and simple and there was nothing complicated about that. This is not about characterization or rich world building. Conan is a force of nature that hews and kills and fights against all odds and prevails.

While I enjoyed this, I also tend to enjoy crunchy Cheetos. I only eat Cheetos in the small snack packs now, as any larger amount makes me sick. This Essential omnibus is probably going to fulfill my Conan quota for quite some time. It is just the type of writing that you can enjoy but if you overdose, you’ll stay away from for the rest of your life. I want to be able to enjoy these stories even while realizing their inherent weaknesses. I mean, really, how many times can you read “mighty thews” and keep your eyes from rolling?

★★★☆☆

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

 

Reaper’s Gale (Malazan Book of the Fallen #7) ★★★★☆

reapersgale (Custom).jpgThis 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:
Reaper’s Gale
Series: Malazan Book of the Fallen #7
Author: Steven Erikson
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 940
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

The Edur/Letheri Empire continues to totter on. Rhulad Sengar, instrument of the Broken God, continues to fight against various champions and continues to die and be resurrected. He is cut off from his Edur family and allies by the Letheri beauracracy and it is really the Prime Minister who is running things.

The champions. Karsa Orlong has a plan and he can’t let Icarium get in his way. But after a confrontation in the streets, he realizes that Icarium has his own plans which do not involve fighting with the Emperor. Icarium unleashes an instrument of magic but something goes wrong and we don’t know if he survives the magical conflagration or not. Karsa faces Rhulad, treats like the boy he is, takes the magical sword and with the help of all the spirits chained to him, forces a path to where the Broken God resides. Instead of killing the Broken God, he simply rejects him and has the blacksmith who made the cursed sword destroy it, along with all the power invested in it by the Broken God.

Gnoll, the Prime Minister, has setup a secret police, the Patriotists. Their end goal is to destroy the Edur, take wealth for themselves and become the rulers in the shadow. Much like any secret police, they end up going to far and with all the other events going, the populace rises up and kills most of them.

Tehol Beddict, with the aide of his manservant Bugg who is the elder god Mael in disguise, continues his economic war against his own people. His goal is to bring down the whole economic system so as to bring about something different that can last. Successful in the end, Tehol becomes the new Emperor.

The Awl, tribal plainsmen, are the latest people under seige by the Letheri. With the arrival of a prophesied leader, Red Mask, who is guarded by two K’Chain Ch’malle, the Awl have a chance of not only surviving but of destroying the Letheri army sent after them. It turns out that the Greyshields were allies of the Awl against the Letheri but the Awl betrayed them and left them to die on the battlefield earlier. Redmask fails and his “guardians” turn on him and kill him for said failure. In his death it is revealed that he was an outcast Letheri and was simply using the Awl to get revenge on Lether. A handful of Awl children survive and are taken underwing by the newly arrived Barghast army which destroys the Letheri army. The two Ch’malle return to their matron, their reasons still a secret.

The Malazans, the outcast Bonehunter army, land on the shores of Lether and begin an invasion. Adjunct Tavore is as silent as ever and nobody in the army knows what is going on. Fiddler speculates that she is simply going after the Broken God and not just Lether. The Malazans split up and fight their way to the capital, only to find it already in chaos due to the Patriotists, Karsa Orlong’s killing of the Emperor, Icarium’s machine gone wrong and Tehol Beddict’s plans. They put Tehol on the throne and are set to go elsewhere, whereever Tavore decides.

There is yet another storyline dealing with a disparate group of Tiste Andii, Letheri slaves, Tiste Edur, Imass, Eleint dragons and the birth of a new Azath House. Dealing with betrayals from long ago, it has no direct impact on the overall storyline in this book and as such, I’m not typing up the details. This “summary” is already longer than most of my whole reviews.

 

My Thoughts:

My “review” from 2010 is a good 1 paragraph sum up of the book. Obviously, as shown by my summary above, there is a bloody lot more to this book.

While I enjoyed the storyline immensely, I have to admit that Erikson’s philosophy once again ruined what could have been a 5star book. Pages upon pages of selfish mutterings and hopeless thoughts and the dwelling upon of pain and hurt real and imagined, past and future. My main problem is that Erikson is great at pointing out flaws, in people, in situations, in institutions, in laws but then he doesn’t have his characters propose any solutions beyond “I will Endure”. He spends a section using his characters to talk about how the whole of existance itself was nothing but a betrayal by forces of chaos conspiring against each other. If Erikson thinks even half of what he writes, how does the man get out of bed each morning? He writes the true Existential Existance. It is pointless. That is depressing and it really brought home to me how much Hope I have being a Christian. Thank God.

With so much going on, I had to simply sit back, enjoy each section as it was presented to me and not try to put it all together. Even though this is book 7 in the series, Erikson is still just giving us pieces of an overall puzzle that has a lot of missing pieces. Erikson knows the whole picture but is only giving the readers some of the pieces of the puzzle and forcing us to figure out what the whole might look like from the little we do know. Forcing each reader to become a literary archeologist or to give up the series in disgust.

Now, with all of that out of the way…

I still liked this a lot. When the various plots were rolling along, I couldn’t put this book down. The Malazan storyline didn’t start until past the halfway mark and I kept waiting for them to be included which I think took my attention away from earlier parts of the book. There was a Segulah woman as a champion but she never fought Rhulad. She escaped, which kind of disappointed me, as I wanted to see how she would have fared against the Emperor. Karsa was just an obnoxious twit the entire time and it was obvious that Rhulad couldn’t defeat him.

The whole Awl storyline almost more about the mystery of the K’Chain Ch’malle than anything else. For a species supposedly extinct for a million years, they’re surprisingly active. So where have they been hiding out? I also wondered who Redmask actually was. I’m sure there are two sentences in one of the earlier books that explains it but I suspect I’ll just go on the Malazan Wiki and find out. Why do all the hardwork when someone else has already done it?

Aaaaaand I just looked. No other references to Redmask. Just one of those loose puzzle pieces that Erikson likes to scatter about.

While the storylines are interesting and engaging, there is almost no point in saying “this was a good part” because somebody dies in every “good part”. Hence the name of the series. And yet I still read this series for a second time. Not sure if that means that Erikson is actually a really good writer or that I’m just a sick reader who needs help.

This was the last book in the series that I rated highly when I read them initially. I have a feeling that the next 3 will be just as bad the second time around. I am girding up my loins for that.

★★★★☆

bookstooge

 

 

Hunters of Dune (Dune 7 #1) ★★★☆½

huntersofdune (Custom).jpgThis 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:
Hunters of Dune
Series: Dune 7 #1
Author: Brian Herbert & Kevin Anderson
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 644
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

Duncan Idaho, Sheena and others escape in the noship Ithaca. They journey in another universe altogether for years before coming back to ours. Once back they have multiple run ins with the Old Couple, who are revealed to be Erasmus and Omnius, who are in control of the new Face Dancers and for some reason need a kwisatz haderach of their own to “win” Krazilec. Sheena ends up recovering lots of genetic secrets from their resident Tleixu master, Scytale. She ends up resurrecting many of the Atreides and their retainers “because”. Duncan wants to keep on the move to avoid the Old Couple while other Bene Gesserits on board want to find a planet to settle down on to restart the Bene Gesserit Order without the “impurity” of the Honored Matres that Murbella introduced.

Meanwhile, Murbella has forced her New Sisterhood down the throats of the Bene Gesserit and Honored Matres. Not all Honored Matres submit though and Murbella must subjugate them so as to show a united front for when the Unknown Enemy makes it appearance. She also must contend with the Spacing Guild and Ix and the tech world of Richese. She begins pouring the New Sisterhood’s spice reserves into Richese to build a fleet unlike anything the Old Empire has ever seen.

Khrone, the leader of the New Face Dancers, while under the control of the Old Couple, has plans of his own for the Face Dancer Myriad. Using the last Lost Master of the Tliexu, Krone raises a ghola of the old Baron Harkonnen and one of Paul Atreides.

This book ends with the forces of Omnius beginning the invasion of the Old Empire.

 

My Thoughts:

Ok, this is my 3rd time reading this. What struck me the most was how busy this was while taking 20 years. A lot of hurry up and wait. The second thing that struck me was this book did not fit in with the previous 2 by Frank Herbert. If you hadn’t read the Legends and Houses of Dune trilogies by Herbert&Anderson, much of this is inexplicable and makes no sense. Frank Herbert wouldn’t have written a book like this. I can see the bare bone ideas that Frank might have used but some of the specifics, not at all. The third issue I had was that in the previous 2 books the Honored Matres were presented as this completely overwhelming force but here they fall before Murbella and the New Sisterhood like a row of dominoes. It didn’t scan.

I found that as long as I didn’t stop to think too hard about things, I had a better time with this. It’s nice to get the final story of Dune but really, it feels as much a sellout as a dedication to a great series. I wasn’t sure if how this would turn out after my 2 other times, but it was still decent. Now though, no more re-reads of this. I’ve still got Sandworms of Dune to finish this duology, but once I’m done with that, I’ll stick to just re-reading Dune every decade or so.

I would recommend this for a hardcore Dune completionist and that’s about it. If you made it through Heretics and Chapterhouse, then I don’t see that kind of person having a hard time with this. They might not like it a lot, but it will scratch the itch of wondering where Frank might have taken us. Consider this authorized Dune fan fiction and you’ll have a good grasp of the style and skill.

★★★☆½

bookstooge