The Future is Yours ★✬☆☆☆

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Title: The Future is Yours
Series: ———
Authors: Dan Frey
Rating: 1.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF Thriller
Pages: 226
Words: 69K



Synopsis:

From the Publisher

If you had the chance to look one year into the future, would you?

For Ben Boyce and Adhi Chaudry, the answer is unequivocally yes. And they’re betting everything that you’ll say yes, too. Welcome to The Future: a computer that connects to the internet one year from now, so you can see who you’ll be dating, where you’ll be working, even whether or not you’ll be alive in the year to come. By forming a startup to deliver this revolutionary technology to the world, Ben and Adhi have made their wildest, most impossible dream a reality. Once Silicon Valley outsiders, they’re now its hottest commodity.

The device can predict everything perfectly—from stock market spikes and sports scores to political scandals and corporate takeovers—allowing them to chase down success and fame while staying one step ahead of the competition. But the future their device foretells is not the bright one they imagined.

Ambition. Greed. Jealousy. And, perhaps, an apocalypse. The question is . . . can they stop it?

Told through emails, texts, transcripts, and blog posts, this bleeding-edge tech thriller chronicles the costs of innovation and asks how far you’d go to protect the ones you love—even from themselves.

My Thoughts:

I have seen the future. And it is narcissistic jackasses and emotionally stunted losers. This book was pushing the DNF line almost the entire time and I ended up reading it in one sitting so that I wouldn’t DNF it. Why didn’t I DNF it? Because I wanted to see the ending. And then I regretted that decision when I got there.

Both Ben and Adhi disgusted me to the core of my being. They adequately represented everything that I think is wrong in the world today and it was not one bit entertaining or fun to read about them. Personally, a good old fashioned apocalypse that killed them both, and millions and possibly billions like them, would be an acceptable solution to me. As characters they disgusted me that much. Not one shred of moral fibre was shown, not one tiny bit of backbone was revealed and Principles were jettisoned from the get-go. I actively disliked them the entire book. Even the ending where Adhi shows Ben a solution is so like him, he shoves all the responsibility onto Ben and it’s pretty obvious from Ben’s behavior in “the past” (which is the future) that we all know that the loop will continue. It was enough to make me want to use some profanity and tell them both to grow up and simply make ONE responsible decision in their entire lives.

The fact that Frey writes characters like these is reason enough for me to add him to my Authors to Avoid list. I don’t want to spend time reading the words of somebody who can think this qualifies as entertainment. I’ll give up fiction reading altogether before accepting something like that.

Read at your own risk.

Rating: 1.5 out of 5.

Breakout ★★✬☆☆

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: Breakout
Series: ———-
Author: Paul Herron
Rating: 2.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Action/Adventure
Pages: 237
Words: 88.5K



Synopsis:

Publisher’s Blurb

Hurricane Anna: a superstorm made up of two Category 5 hurricanes coming together to wreak unprecedented havoc along the eastern seaboard.

When the superstorm hits, the correctional officers at Ravenhill flee, opening all the cell doors and leaving the inmates to fend for themselves as the floodwaters rise. But Jack Constantine, an ex-cop serving ten years for killing one of his wife’s murderers, isn’t going to just lay down and die. Not when his wife’s two remaining killers are among the prisoners relocated to the Glasshouse to ride out the storm.

Meanwhile,

Kiera Sawyer, a Correctional Officer on her first day at work is the only officer left behind when the others flee. Sawyer rescues Jack and offers to team up. If they can make it to the Glasshouse they might just survive the hurricane. But that involves making their way through the prison, fighting off eight hundred blood-crazed inmates as the building fills with water and the wall crumble all around them

My Thoughts:

I have to admit, when I was done reading this I was left disappointed. For a slightly more positive review, check out Mogsy’s Review from earlier this year.

This was a big action’y story with tons of tension and drama. I didn’t find the two main characters quite up to snuff though. Jack is a tortured ex-cop ex-military, who didn’t hear a bloody thing when his wife was killed. Wouldn’t want him on guard duty! And for an ex-military guy, forgetting that the prison had an armory was just unforgivable. I don’t expect all military characters in books to be Special Forces level, but come on, weapons?!? Then we come to Lady Guard Sawyer. She’s an attractive female guard in an all male prison, most of whom are in for a VERY long time. And they pretty much leave her alone when all hell breaks loose and everyone is free. Now, if she had been raped, I probably would have dnf’d the book, so I appreciate that. But at the same time, outside of one token badguy doing some vaguely nebulous “a wimminz” thought, there was nothing. It rang as false as a wooden nickle.

A decent read but nothing more. I won’t be reading anything else by Herron on purpose.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

Eaters of the Dead ★★✬☆☆

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Title: Eaters of the Dead
Series: ———-
Author: Michael Crichton
Rating: 2.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Historical Fiction
Pages: 167
Words: 54K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia

The novel is set in the 10th century. The Caliph of Baghdad, Al-Muqtadir, sends his ambassador, Ahmad ibn Fadlan, on a mission to assist the king of the Volga Bulgars. Ahmad ibn Fadlan never arrives, as he is conscripted by a group of Vikings to take part in a hero’s quest to the north; he is taken along as the thirteenth member of their group to comply with a soothsayer’s requirement for success. In the north, the group battles with the ‘mist-monsters’, or ‘wendol’, a tribe of vicious savages (suggested by the narrator to have been possibly relict Neanderthals) who go to battle wearing bear skins.

Eaters of the Dead is narrated as a scientific commentary on an old manuscript. The narrator describes the story as a composite of extant commentaries and translations of the original story teller’s manuscript. The narration makes several references to a possible change or mistranslation of the original story by later copiers. The story is told by several different voices: the editor/narrator, the translators of the script, and the original author, Ahmad ibn Fadlan, who also relates stories told by others. A sense of authenticity is supported by occasional explanatory footnotes with references to a mixture of factual and fictitious sources.

My Thoughts:

Earlier this year Dave reviewed this book and it caught my interest. I’d watched, and enjoyed the movie that was produced based on this book: The 13th Warrior. I’d seen this book on my libraries shelf ever since I was a tween but the title really turned me off. In all honesty, it still does. Without Dave’s review I never would have mustered up enough interest to dive into this.

Sadly, the book isn’t nearly as interesting as the movie and is filled with pointless and fake footnotes. This purports to be a historical document and as such is one of those “Historical Fiction” books where the author makes up wholesale yards of crap to further his story but will insert real historical bits and bobs as well. This has all the historicity of Shakespeare’s Henry V.

I was bored for most of this. It wasn’t exciting, fast paced or very interesting. While not nearly so boring as the Andromeda Strain (I read that back in 2001 but have not yet gotten the review into it’s own post) there were several times that I looked down at the percentage bar on my kindle to see how much I had left. That really isn’t a good sign.

On the bright side, I will end up watching the 13th Warrior sometime this year because of this and can expound on how the movie is a much better product than the book. Thinking about it, that seems to be the case for MANY of Crichton’s books. Feth, even Congo was a better movie than the book!

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

Quarantine ★★☆☆☆

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: Quarantine
Series: ———-
Author: Greg Egan
Rating: 2 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 224
Words: 80K



Synopsis:

Mr Detective-san gets hired to find out why someone kidnapped a woman from an insane asylum. She’s practically a vegetable with no rich relatives, so the police have let it slide.

This all takes place X number of years after a barrier went up in space cutting humanity off from ever reaching the stars. No one knows how or why the barrier exists but it is enough that it does.

In the process of finding Vegetable Girl, Detective-san falls in with a bunch of scyenzetists who believe that aliens put up the barrier to keep the Human Gaze from making the universe into one universe instead of a multiverse where anything is possible.

Detective-san has to do something or other, as to the infinite multitude of Detective-san’s and he gets it done. Only he’s not sure if he got it done or not. But it doesn’t matter because if there really are infinite hims, then at least one of them did it and so the Universe is saved the from the evil Human Gaze (no kidding).

My Thoughts:

First off, despite my snarky “Synopis”, this was not badly written or even thought out. The problem I had with it was just how juvenile it was. By that I mean this is the kind of story that I and my friends would have batted around as teenagers. Nothing wrong with that at all, except that I’m not a teenager now and Egan wasn’t a teenager when he wrote this.

The story ends up ultimately being pointless and whole basic premise rests on there being no God. The whole IDEA that humanity locks reality into one path as they view it but that other beings might not view things the same way, at its core denies that there is a God who views everything and that reality springs from God Himself.

The other issue was how “serious” Egan treats the idea of the multi-verse. I think the multi-verse is a great idea and should be played around with. What I don’t think is that it should be given serious consideration.

Overall, I just didn’t want to like this book and Egan didn’t do one thing to change my mind about it. This is the first Egan book I’ve read and it will definitely be the last. If you’ve read him before and like him, have at him. If you’re into trying out some older but not classic SF, this might fit the bill. Written in the 90’s, it would fit right in with such tv shows as the X-Files and Sliders. At least I enjoyed those.

I chose this cover from Librarything because all of the other ones were piss-poor pathetic stinkos. Even free Gutenberg books have better covers than most of the ones I saw in English.

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Till We Have Faces ★★★☆☆

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: Till We Have Faces
Series: ———-
Author: C.S. Lewis
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: Allegory
Pages: 309
Words: 84K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia

The story tells the ancient Greek myth of Cupid and Psyche, from the perspective of Orual, Psyche’s older sister.

It begins as the complaint of Orual as an old woman, who is bitter at the injustice of the gods. She has always been ugly, but after her mother dies and her father the King of Glome remarries, she gains a beautiful half-sister Istra, whom she loves as her own daughter, and who is known throughout the novel by the Greek version of her name, Psyche. Psyche is so beautiful that the people of Glome begin to offer sacrifices to her as to a goddess. The Priest of the goddess Ungit, a powerful figure in the kingdom, then informs the king that various plagues befalling the kingdom are a result of Ungit’s jealousy, so Psyche is sent as a human sacrifice to the unseen “God of the Mountain” at the command of Ungit, the mountain-god’s mother. Orual plans to rescue Psyche but falls ill and is unable to prevent anything.

When she is well again, Orual arranges to go to where Psyche was stranded on the mountain, either to rescue her or to bury what remains of her. She is stunned to find Psyche is alive, free from the shackles in which she had been bound, and furthermore says she does not need to be rescued in any way. Rather, Psyche relates that she lives in a beautiful castle that Orual cannot see, as the God of the Mountain has made her a bride rather than a victim. At one point in the narrative, Orual believes she has a brief vision of this castle, but then it vanishes like a mist. Hearing that Psyche has been commanded by her new god-husband not to look on his face (all their meetings are in the nighttime), Orual is immediately suspicious. She argues that the god must be a monster, or that Psyche has actually started to hallucinate after her abandonment and near-death on the mountain, that there is no such castle at all, and that her husband is actually an outlaw who was hiding on the mountain and takes advantage of her delusions in order to have his way with her. Orual says that because either possibility is one that she cannot abide by, she must disabuse her sister of this illusion.

She returns a second time, bringing Psyche a lamp for her to use while her “husband” sleeps, and when Psyche insists that she will not betray her husband by disobeying his command, Orual threatens both Psyche and herself, stabbing herself in the arm to show she is capable of following through on her threat. Ultimately, reluctantly, Psyche agrees because of the coercion and her love for her sister.

When Psyche disobeys her husband, she is immediately banished from her beautiful castle and forced to wander as an exile. The God of the Mountain appears to Orual, stating that Psyche must now endure hardship at the hand of a force he himself could not fight (likely his mother the goddess Ungit), and that “You too shall be Psyche,” which Orual attempts to interpret for the rest of her life, usually taking it to mean that as Psyche suffers, she must suffer also. She decries the injustice of the gods, saying that if they had shown her a picture of Psyche’s happiness that was easier to believe, she would not have ruined it. From this day forward she vows that she will keep her face veiled at all times.

Eventually, Orual becomes a Queen, and a warrior, diplomat, architect, reformer, politician, legislator, and judge, though all the while remaining alone. She drives herself, through work, to forget her grief and the love she has lost. Psyche is gone, her other family she never cared for, and her beloved tutor, “the Fox,” has died. Her main love interest throughout the novel, Bardia the captain of the royal guard, is married and forever faithful to his wife until his death. To her, the gods remain, as ever, silent, unseen, and merciless.

While Bardia is on his deathbed, Orual decides she can no longer stand the sight of her own kingdom and decides to leave it for the first time to visit neighboring kingdoms. While resting on her journey, she leaves her group at their camp and follows sounds from within a wood, which turn out to be coming from a temple to the goddess Istra (Psyche). There Orual hears a version of Psyche’s myth, which shows her as deliberately ruining her sister’s life out of envy. In response, she writes out her own story, as set forth in the book, to set the record straight. Her hope is that it will be brought to Greece, where she has heard that men are willing to question even the gods.

Part Two

Orual begins the second part of the book stating that her previous accusation that the gods are unjust is wrong. She does not have time to rewrite the whole book because she is very old and of ill health and will likely die before it can be redone, so instead she is adding on to the end.

She relates that since finishing part one of the book, she has experienced a number of dreams and visions, which at first she doubts the truth of except that they also start happening during daytime when she is fully awake. She sees herself being required to perform a number of impossible tasks, like sorting a giant mound of different seeds into separate piles, with no allowance for error, or collecting the golden wool from a flock of murderous rams, or fetching a bowl of water from a spring on a mountain which cannot be climbed and furthermore is covered with poisonous beasts. It is in the midst of this last vision that she is led to a huge chamber in the land of the dead and given the opportunity to read out her complaint in the gods’ hearing. She discovers, however, that instead of reading the book she has written, she reads off a paper that appears in her hand and contains her true feelings, which are indeed less noble than Part One of the book would suggest. Still, rather than being jealous of Psyche, as the story she heard in the temple suggested, she reveals that she was jealous of the gods because they were allowed to enjoy Psyche’s love while she herself was not.

The gods make no reply, but Orual is content, as she sees that the gods’ “answer” was really to make her understand the truth of her own feelings. Then she is led by the ghost of the Fox into a sunlit arena in which she learns the story of what Psyche has been up to: she has herself been assigned the impossible tasks from Orual’s dreams, but was able to complete them with supernatural help. Orual then leaves the arena to enter another verdant field with a clear pool of water and a brilliant sky. There she meets Psyche, who has just returned from her last errand: retrieving a box of beauty from the underworld, which she then gives to Orual, though Orual is hardly conscious of this because at that moment she begins to sense that something else is happening. The God of the Mountain is coming to be with Psyche and judge Orual, but the only thing he says is “You also are Psyche” before the vision ends. The reader is led to understand that this phrase has actually been one of mercy the entire time.

Orual, awoken from the vision, dies shortly thereafter but has just enough time to record her visions and to write that she no longer hates the gods but sees that their very presence is the answer she always needed.

My Thoughts:

When I read this for the first time 20 years ago I have to admit, I didn’t understand what Lewis was driving at or even trying to accomplish beyond retelling one of his favorite myths. And that is another reason Why I Re-Read Books. Therefore I stand before you today to announce that I completely understand this book now and every detailed nuance is as a flashing neon sign to my vast and experienced intellect.

Hahahahahahahaahahahahahaha!!!!!!!!!!

Oh man, yeah, right. * wipes tears of laughter away *

While I enjoyed this and thought Lewis did a masterful job of writing, I don’t understand what he was trying to get across any better than I did all those years ago.

Let me be clear though. That is completely on me. I have about one teaspoon’s worth of artistry in my 165lb frame (which is about a fingernail clipping’s worth) and I have used it up choosing black suspenders and a black bow tie to wear to church. When an author chooses to do something literary, it either passes right over my head (like this) or it comes across as pretentious and I rip the guy a new one. I need the obvious, the hammer over the head, the straight up statement. Allegory is not my thing and I feel like I’m color blind.

I still did enjoy this but I don’t think I’ll ever re-read it again. I will stick to Lewis’ other works where he simply spells out what he’s trying to say.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Drood ★★★★☆

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: Drood
Author: Dan Simmons
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Horror
Pages: 725
Words: 281K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia & Me

The book is a fictionalized account of the last five years of Charles Dickens’ life told from the viewpoint of Dickens’ friend and fellow author, Wilkie Collins. The title comes from Dickens’ unfinished novel, The Mystery of Edwin Drood. The novel’s complex plot mixes fiction with biographical facts from the lives of Dickens, Collins, and other literary and historical figures of the Victorian era, complicated even further by the narrator’s constant use of opium and opium derivatives such as laudanum, rendering him an unreliable narrator.

Collins narrates the story of how Dickens met a strange fellow named Drood at a railroad accident. Dickens is convinced that Drood is some sort of evil incarnate while Collins is pretty sure Dickens is just being Dickens.

As time passes however, Collins is no longer so sure that Dickens was wrong. Dragged along by Dickens in his quest to find Drood and uncover the mystery of who he is and what his goals are, Collins becomes a pawn of the mysterious Drood. Drood is King of the Underworld and a practitioner of dark arts lost since the times of the Pharoahs. At the same time Collins is also wooed by one Inspector Fields, a former head of Scotland Yard who is convinced that Drood has killed over 300 people and plans on some sort of supernatural takeover of London.

Caught up in his own literary world, Collins must contend with Drood, Fields, the success of Dickens and his own increasing use of drugs such as laudanum, opium and morphine to combat the pain and hallucinations brought about by syphilis and the scarab beetle put into his brain by Drood to control him. With the death of Dickens, Collins is sure that Drood will leave him alone, even though Dickens revealed to him that everything that had gone on before was a combination of mesmerism, hypnotic suggestion and drugs, all as an experiment on Dickens part and making use of Collins.

Collins knows better though and even though he outlives Dickens by many years, the shade of Drood haunts him to the end.

My Thoughts:

I went into this completely blind. I was hoping for a completion of Dickens’ unfinished The Mystery of Edwin Drood. This was not that book. This was the syphilitic hallucinatory ramblings of an opium and morphine addict.

There were times that the narrator would talk for a whole chapter and then at the beginning of the next chapter you realized that the entire thing had happened in his head, or in his opium dreams or was just a wish fulfillment on his part. It was disturbing to say the least and by the end of the book I was having bad dreams. I didn’t realize it, but this WAS horror and it affected me as such. Not your gruesome 80’s slasher kind of horror, but the invisible dread that hovers over your soul kind of horror. While I’ve read some of Simmons SF, I’d never sampled his horror offerings. After this, I won’t be trying out anything else by him.

With all of that, this was fantastically written, kept me glued to the pages and even though an unreliable narrator tends to send me into the screaming heeby jeeby rants I never once thought of stopping. Simmons kept me reading page after page like he had inserted a magic beetle of his own into MY brain. And that was disturbing to me too.

I think that some familiarity with Wilkie Collins’ works, at least his Moonstone, would help a lot. Since this is a fictionalized account, I’m not sure that too much knowledge would actually help as the confusion between fiction and reality would make this even more of a psychedelic read. Unless you LIKE having your mind messed with, then by all means, dive into this head first and see what happens.

As a completion to The Mystery of Edwin Drood this was a complete failure. As a standalone horror story, it was a complete success. I shall try my hand again at finding another “ending” to the Mystery. I have my eye on one by David Madden but considering it was never released as an ebook, I’m not sure if I’ll be able to get a hold of it. If you’ve heard of any other books or authors who tried to complete the Mystery, let me know please.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Noir Fatale ★★★★☆


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: Noir Fatale
Editors: Larry Correia & Kacey Ezell
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 296
Words: 120.5K



Synopsis:

A collection of short stories that are all femme fatale themed in some or other. Here is the table of contents, ie, the list of stories with their authors:

AIN’T NO SUNSHINE: Christopher L. Smith and Michael J. Ferguson

RECRUITING EXERCISE: David Weber

SPOILS OF WAR: Kacey Ezell

THE PRIVILEGES OF VIOLENCE: Steve Diamond

A GODDESS IN RED: Griffin Barber

KURO: Hinkley Correia

SWEET SEDUCTION: Laurell K. Hamilton

A STRING OF PEARLS: Alistair Kimble

HONEY FALL: Sarah A. Hoyt

THREE KATES: Mike Massa

WORTH THE SCARS OF DYING: Patrick M. Tracy

THE FROST QUEEN: Robert Buettner

BOMBSHELL: Larry Correia

My Thoughts:

At 4stars, I obviously enjoyed this. Unfortunately, much like in Correia’s Monster Hunter Files, there was ONE story that just annoyed the viss and pinegar out of me. So let me get that out of the way then I’ll go into all the good stuff.

Exactly like MHF, there was one urban fantasy story from a long running series. Unlike Jane Yellowrock, Anita Blake managed to annoy me in a new way. Where Jane was an asshole with an attitude, Blake was a completely competent, beautiful and “everything else” woman, with such huge inadequacy issues that THEY were as big as Yellowrock’s attitude. You want to write that in your novels, to your target audience of women, go for it. But packing in a whole novels worth of feelings of inadequacy into a short story? While I was never going to read anything by Hamilton anyway, that story cemented that determination. It was well written, I actually liked the premise, but my goodness, the “feelinz” just about made me gag.

The other stories on the other hand, I pretty much enjoyed across the board. My favorite though, was the one by Correia. It is a Grimnoir story set in the 1950’s and my guess is it is being used like Detroit Christmas was, ie, to introduce the main character of the new Grimnoir trilogy that Correia has promised is on its way. Grimnoir Chronicles is my favorite by Correia and once the new trilogy is completed, I’ll re-read the original and dive into the new. I am very excited about that prospect, even if it is years down the road. I’ve waited this long, I can wait some more.

Each story has a femme in some sort of pivotal role. Not always front and center, but without them, the story would simply fall apart. I’d never heard of Ezell before, but after this I’ll probably go check out what else she has written to see if it aligns with my tastes. She was the driving force behind this anthology and since I enjoyed it so much I’m hoping I like her full length novels.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The Mystery of Edwin Drood ★★★★☆

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 Mystery of Edwin Drood
Author: Charles Dickens
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Classic
Pages: 249
Words: 94.5K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia

The novel begins as John Jasper leaves a London opium den.[4] The next evening, Edwin Drood visits Jasper, who is the choirmaster at Cloisterham Cathedral and also his uncle. Edwin confides that he has misgivings about his betrothal to Rosa Bud, which had been previously arranged by their respective fathers. The next day, Edwin visits Rosa at the Nuns’ House, the boarding school where she lives. They quarrel good-naturedly, which they apparently do frequently during his visits. Meanwhile, Jasper, having an interest in the cathedral crypt, seeks the company of Durdles, a man who knows more about the crypt than anyone else.

Neville Landless and his twin sister Helena are sent to Cloisterham for their education. Neville will study with the minor canon Rev. Crisparkle; Helena will live at the Nuns’ House with Rosa. Neville confides to Rev. Crisparkle that he had hated his cruel stepfather, while Rosa confides to Helena that she loathes and fears her music-master, Jasper. Neville is immediately smitten with Rosa and is indignant that Edwin prizes his betrothal lightly. Edwin provokes him and he reacts violently, giving Jasper the opportunity to spread rumours about Neville’s having a violent temper. Rev. Crisparkle tries to reconcile Edwin and Neville, who agrees to apologise to Edwin if the former will forgive him. It is arranged that they will dine together for this purpose on Christmas Eve at Jasper’s home.

Rosa’s guardian, Mr. Grewgious, tells her that she has a substantial inheritance from her father. When she asks whether there would be any forfeiture if she did not marry Edwin, he replies that there would be none on either side. Back at his office in London, Mr. Grewgious gives Edwin a ring which Rosa’s father had given to her mother, with the proviso that Edwin must either give the ring to Rosa as a sign of his irrevocable commitment to her or return it to Mr. Grewgious. Mr. Bazzard, Mr. Grewgious’s clerk, witnesses this transaction.

Next day, Rosa and Edwin amicably agree to end their betrothal. They decide to ask Mr. Grewgious to break the news to Jasper, and Edwin intends to return the ring to Mr. Grewgious. Meanwhile, Durdles takes Jasper into the cathedral crypt. On the way there Durdles points out a mound of quicklime. Jasper provides a bottle of wine to Durdles. The wine is mysteriously potent and Durdles soon loses consciousness; while unconscious he dreams that Jasper goes off by himself in the crypt. As they return from the crypt, they encounter a boy called Deputy, and Jasper, thinking he was spying on them, takes him by the throat – but, seeing that this will strangle him, lets him go.

On Christmas Eve, Neville buys himself a heavy walking stick; he plans to spend his Christmas break hiking around the countryside. Meanwhile, Edwin visits a jeweler to repair his pocket watch; it is mentioned that the only pieces of jewelery that he wears are the watch and chain and a shirt pin. By chance he meets a woman who is an opium user from London. She asks Drood’s Christian name and he replies that it is ‘Edwin’; she says he is fortunate it is not ‘Ned,’ for ‘Ned’ is in great danger. He thinks nothing of this, for the only person who calls him ‘Ned’ is Jasper. Meanwhile, Jasper buys himself a black scarf of strong silk, which is not seen again during the course of the novel. The reconciliation dinner is successful and at midnight, Drood and Neville Landless leave together to go down to the river and look at a wind storm that rages that night.

The next morning Edwin is missing and Jasper spreads suspicion that Neville has killed him. Neville leaves early in the morning for his hike; the townspeople overtake him and forcibly bring him back to the city. Rev. Crisparkle keeps Neville out of jail by taking responsibility for him, stating that he will produce Neville anytime his presence is required. That night, Jasper is grief-stricken when Mr. Grewgious informs him that Edwin and Rosa had ended their betrothal; he reacts more strongly to this news than to the prospect that Edwin may be dead. The next morning, Rev. Crisparkle goes to the river weir and finds Edwin’s watch and chain and shirt pin.

A half-year later, Neville is living in London near Mr. Grewgious’s office. Lieutenant Tartar introduces himself and offers to share his garden with Landless; Lt. Tartar’s chambers are adjacent to Neville’s above a common courtyard. A white-haired and -whiskered stranger calling himself Dick Datchery arrives in Cloisterham. He rents a room below Jasper and observes the comings and goings in the area. On his way to the lodging the first time, Mr. Datchery asks directions from Deputy. Deputy will not go near there for fear that Jasper will choke him again.

Jasper visits Rosa at the Nuns’ House and professes his love for her. She rejects him but he persists, telling her that if she gives him no hope he will destroy Neville, the brother of her dear friend Helena. In fear of Jasper, Rosa goes to Mr. Grewgious in London.

The next day Rev. Crisparkle follows Rosa to London. When he is with Mr. Grewgious and Rosa, Lt. Tartar calls and asks if he remembers him. Rev. Crisparkle does remember him as the one who years before saved him from drowning. They do not dare let Rosa contact Neville and Helena directly, for fear that Jasper may be watching Neville, but Mr. Tartar allows Rosa to visit his chambers to contact Helena above the courtyard. Mr. Grewgious arranges for Rosa to rent a place from Mrs. Billickin and for Miss Twinkleton to live with her there so that she can live there respectably.

Jasper visits the London opium den again for the first time since Edwin’s disappearance. When he leaves at dawn, the woman who runs the opium den follows him. She vows to herself that she will not lose his trail again as she did after his last visit. This time, she follows him all the way to his home in Cloisterham; outside she meets Datchery, who tells her Jasper’s name and that he will sing the next morning in the cathedral service. On inquiry, Datchery learns she is called “Princess Puffer.” The next morning she attends the service and shakes her fists at Jasper from behind a pillar.

Dickens’s death leaves the rest of the story unknown.

My Thoughts:

I have to admit, the whole time I was reading this all I could think of was how it was unfinished and no matter how much I thought, it would never BE finished. Not a very good mindset to get as much enjoyment from the story, that’s for sure.

This was so on track for being awesome. The characters were everything I wanted in a Dickens novel. The good guys were good, the bad guy was REALLY bad and the girls were brave and fearless. The latecomers were manly and proud and I was really looking forward to seeing them developed.

This had all of the ingredients I could have asked for. Dickens just left them on the counter in the mixing bowl without cooking them. And unfortunately, it wasn’t cookie dough so I couldn’t take a chance and eat it raw.

I will say that this has gotten me interested in other authors who have tried to finish the story. If any of you have a good suggestion, please let me know.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Wonders of the Invisible World ★★★★☆


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: Wonders of the Invisible World
Author: Patricia McKillip
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 276
Words: 98.5K



Synopsis:
  • “Introduction” by Charles de Lint
  • “Wonders of the Invisible World” (from Full Spectrum 5, Aug. 1995) – a researcher goes back in time to record Cotton Mather’s religious visions, finding his ravings not what they expected.
  • “Out of the Woods” (from Flights: Extreme Visions of Fantasy, Jun. 2004) – a reflection on how magic is often missed by those searching for it.
  • “The Kelpie” (from The Fair Folk, Jan. 2005) – a story of courtship and obsession illustrating the overlap between life and art.
  • “Hunter’s Moon” (from The Green Man: Tales from the Mythic Forest, May 2002) – a seductive, chilling encounter with the dangers of Faerie.
  • “Oak Hill” (from The Essential Bordertown, Aug. 1998) – an ugly young woman on the way to Bordertown is trapped in a terrifying cityscape known as Oak Hill, and explores it in search of magic.
  • “The Fortune-Teller” (from The Coyote Road: Trickster Tales, Jun. 2007) – a young woman thieves a pack of strange cards from an unconscious roadside fortune-teller.
  • “Jack O’Lantern” (from Firebirds Rising: An Anthology of Original Science Fiction and Fantasy, Apr. 2006) – a young girl struggling with the impending marriage of her sister seeks out magic during a picnic, fearing it will her last chance before she grows up.
  • “Knight of the Well” (from A Book of Wizards, May 2008) – a society built around the veneration of water finds that element inexplicably rejecting them.
  • “Naming Day” (from Wizards: Magical Tales from the Masters of Modern Fantasy, May 2007) – a teenage witch who cannot decide on her magical name is compelled to chase after an imp during the titular Naming Day Ceremony.
  • “Byndley” (from Firebirds: An Anthology of Original Fantasy and Science Fiction, Sep. 2003) – a man who once escaped the world of faerie seeks to return that which he stole.
  • “The Twelve Dancing Princesses” (from A Wolf at the Door and Other Retold Fairy Tales, Jul. 2000) – a macabre retelling of a traditional fairy tale.
  • “Undine” (from The Faery Reel: Tales from the Twilight Realm, Jun. 2004) – a water spirit falls victim to her own prey.
  • “Xmas Cruise” (from Christmas Forever, Nov. 1993) – a surreal tale that follows two couples aboard an environmentalism cruise.
  • “A Gift to Be Simple” (from Not of Woman Born, Mar. 1999) – a fictional pseudo-Christian religious faction realize that their numbers are dwindling and decide to take drastic action.
  • “The Old Woman and the Storm” (from Imaginary Lands, Dec. 1985) – an allegory.
  • “The Doorkeeper of Khaat” (from Full Spectrum 2, Apr. 1989) – a science fiction tale regarding two alien species with very different cultures, and the poet who attempts to cross that divide in search of meaning and art.
  • “What Inspires Me: Guest of Honor Speech at WisCon 28, 2004”
My Thoughts:

I was sure that when I read Harrowing the Dragon last year that that was my last McKillip read until I started the cycle again. I’m not even sure how I stumbled across this book of her short stories but stumble I did and so I have one final McKillip to read and review.

McKillip is an odd duck when it comes to short stories. Some of them are so fantastic that you wonder why she doesn’t stick with the format. Then you read some others and are like “Oh, that is why”. Some of these just ended, like she’d taken a butcher’s knife to the story. It was very disconcerting. Others, you could see the same genius flitting about the story that she exhibits when writing her novels.

I did enjoy the final chapter where she talks about her life and writing. Now, as many of you know, I am firmly of the camp of “Authors are not People” so I was surprised by how much I enjoyed reading her recollections. I do need to track this down in hardcover and get a copy for my collection.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Trailin’! ★★★☆☆


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: Trailin’!
Series: ———-
Author: Max Brand
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: Western
Pages: 247
Words: 71K



Synopsis:

A young man, Anthony Woodbury, longs for adventure but his father is determined to see him lead the idle life of a rich gentleman. When Woodbury Senior is shot in some sort of midnight duel, he reveals that his last name is actually Pard and that Anthony’s mother died giving birth to him. Anthony Pard sets out west to track down the man who killed his father, a man named Drew who Pard was once partners with.

Along the path of vengeance, Anthony tames an untameable horse, romances several women, faces down outlaws and in general shows manly western qualities. Drew is desperate to talk to Anthony but knows the young man won’t give him time to talk, so he sets out his best man to capture Anthony alive. This fails and leaves the hunter with the bitter taste of defeat in his mouth. Nash, the hunter, then gangs up with the outlaws Anthony faced down and attempts to kill Anthony and the woman Nash was interested in, who appears to have fallen in love with Anthony.

At a final standoff in an abandoned cabin, Anthony is preparing for a final charge against the desperadoes when Drew rides up and under a flag of truce, tells Anthony the true story of why Drew killed Woodbury/Pard. Anthony is Drew’s son, who Pard kidnapped because he couldn’t have the woman who Drew married.

Nash and the outlaws leave and Anthony is reconciled to Drew and ready to marry the girl.

My Thoughts:

This was enjoyable while being a bit on the flowery side for me. Anthony Pard is definitely a Gary Stu but the author makes no bones about presenting him that way. The whole point is that his natural abilities come from his biological father, ie, the blood will tell.

Once Anthony went from Woodbury to Pard, it didn’t take long to realize he’d also be going from Pard to Drew by the end of the book. It was more of a will Drew get the chance to tell his son the truth before Pard guns him down in cold vengeance than anything.

Most of the flowery stuff came when Pard was interacting with the girl. A girl who was a restauranteur and not pretty but beautiful to every man who saw her. I rolled my eyes so much I’m surprised they didn’t fall out. Thankfully, those sections weren’t real big so it was possible to wade through them without getting bogged down. Part of the Western Genre is the Mystique of the Feminine and while I have no problems with that per se, sometimes Brand lays it on a little thick. Sometimes he uses a delicate paint brush, but sometimes he uses a trowel. This book was more trowel than paintbrush.

Even with that and the average rating, nothing here made me want to stop reading Brand’s books. So I’ll keep on trucking.

Ps,

that stupid title! Do you know how difficult it is going to be in the future to track this book down based on title? I’m never going to remember to drop the “g”, add an apostrophe and the exclamation mark. Sometimes authors think they are clever and all they are doing is complicating their readers lives. I feel very put upon at the moment and life is barely worth living because of this. * sulks *

Rating: 3 out of 5.