Saturday, May 31, 2014

Doctor Who Time Trips: The Bog Warrior

Author:  Cecelia Ahern

First Publication:  2014

Source:  Netgalley

From Amazon:  Arriving on the planet Cashel, the Tenth Doctor witnesses a strange masked ball. To guarantee peace, Prince Zircon has to choose a bride from the Bog People - dead men and women who have been resurrected as slaves. Or as warriors. But Zircon is in love with the enslaved Princess Ash, whose parents were deposed and executed by the current Queen. As usual, the Doctor has walked right into trouble, and it's up to him to sort it out.

Adapting fairy tales, especially in the Steven Moffat era, as Doctor Who stories is not an unknown concept.  In many ways, Moffat has played around with fairy tales during the Matt Smith era.  What determines the quality of it is the way the author handles the characters.

I enjoyed the previous "Time Trip" I read.  In "Into the Nowhere" author Jenny Colgan nailed the characterization and dialog of the Doctor and Clara.  Here we see the Doctor teamed up with various beings from the planet Cashel.  Unfortunately for me, the story seemed to be going through the paces with a lack of real suspense.  And the characterization seemed to miss the mark.  The mystery of the Queen's power was the most interesting part of the story but it was not enough to excite me about reading the story.  I finished it because it was short.  If it had been a full length novel, I probably would have stopped reading it.  

I would recommend skipping this one. 

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Jack of Shadows by Roger Zelazny

First Publication:  The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, (July and August issues) 1971

Cover Artists:  (1) Bob Pepper (2) Ron Walotsky (3) Segrelles

This Zelazny novel was named after his fellow science-fiction author Jack Vance.  He tried to capture some of the exotic locals that Vance filled his novels with.  He also wrote this novel in one draft.  It was bought and serialized in "The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction" in 1971.  Later that year it appeared in book form.  Fans liked it and nominated it for both the Hugo and Locus Awards for best novel of the year in 1972.  "Jack of Shadows" finished #4 in the Hugo voting.

It features many of the characteristics that I find enjoyable in Roger Zelazny's other works. Many of the themes from the Amber series appear in this novel.  The protagonist draws strength from shadows, he prefers the same personal colors as Corwin from the Amber series, he is an outcast, and his world is a combination of our world and a magical realm.  The difference is that it all occurs on one world.  In Jack's world, the Earth does not spin.  Our world is locked on the day side, the magical one is on the night side.

Zelazny walks a thin line by balancing the two worlds.  Jack is a tragic character in many ways.  Some reviewers, Lester Del Rey in particular, disliked the ambiguous ending.  Fans enjoyed the book, based on the award nominations and comments I have heard, but tried to talk Zelazny into continuing the adventures of Shadowjack.  He declined saying that the ambiguous ending was what he was aiming for with this novel.  

The nightside adventures were classic Zelazny fantasy stories.  Even though the reader gets a sense that Shadowjack will not get everything he wants, you are captured by the magic of Zelazny's writing.  Nobody is able to write as poetic sentences as this author.  And that is one of many reasons that he has been one of my two favorite authors since I became a fan of the field.

If you enjoyed Zelazny's Amber or Changling series, I would recommend reading this book.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

The Return of Comic Book Focus

After much consideration I have decided to revive Comic Book Focus.

In the near future you will start seeing reviews of graphic novels and comic book series on a regular basis.

This site will return to focusing on science fiction and fantasy.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Short Story Sunday: She Sees Ghosts

Title:  Cassandra

Author:  C. J. Cherryh

First Publication:  The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, October 1978

Awards:  1979 Best Short Story Hugo Award,
1979 Best Short Story Locus Award, Nominee for 1979 Best Short Story Nebula Award

Cover Artists:  (1) Michael Whelan for "The Collected Short Stories of C. J. Cherryh", (2) David Hardy for "The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction"

From Visions of Paradise:  It was a deserving (Hugo) winner, the story of a woman who sees future dead people superimposed on the present, and what happens when she meets a man who is part of both images. A chilling story.

Back in my early days of reading the science fiction magazines, I was always excited to pick up the anniversary issues of "The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction".  The 29th anniversary special was one of the best.  In addition to Cherryh's "Cassandra", it also contained stories by Thomas M Disch, Stephen King (the first appearance of "The Gunslinger"), Terry Carr, and a classic by Michael Bishop ("Effigies").  Going up against tough competition, Cherryh managed to win the Best Short Story Hugo.

I hate to say much more than what was revealed in the quote from Bob Sabella's "Visions of Paradise" blog.  He did a perfect summary of this moving story.  From the tone of the story, the reader knows that this tale will not end well.  Cherryh does a great job of tapping in to the emotions and thoughts of someone with a talent that can be a gift and a curse at the same time.  It has appeared in many collections.  If you have not read it, I suggest hunting it down.  It was only the third non-novel written by Cherryh and it shows how good she is at any length.

I mentioned Bob Sabella's "Visions of Paradise" a few times.  You will also see that I added a label for it.  Bob passed away in late 2011.  I still find myself going back and revisiting his excellent blog.  Any time I review an author that I know he liked or a story that he discussed, I will add this label in memory of Bob.

I read this story as part of "Once Upon a Time VIII".

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Short Story Sunday: Revisiting the Pattern

Title:  Prolog to Trumps of Doom
Author:  Roger Zelazny

First Publication:  1985

Collections:  (1)Manna from Heaven, (2) The Road to Amber

Cover Artists:  (1) Bob Eggleton for "Manna from Heaven"  (2) Michael Whelan for "The Road to Amber"

Regular readers of this blog know of my love for the work of Roger Zelazny in general and the Amber series in particular.  In my opinion, no other author is able to break the rules of sentence structure and create a thing of poetic beauty like Zelazny.  He is the master of what would best be called science fantasy.  His Amber series reads like a fantasy epic but incorporates parallel worlds and other science fiction elements.  Even in his lesser works his sentences are magical.

The first storyline (beginning with "Nine Princes in Amber" and ending with "The Courts of Chaos") featured Corwin's return to Amber and the mystery of the Black Road.  At the time I thought he was done writing about this universe.  He would return to write five more books telling the story of Corwin's son Merlin.  Many fans and critics were not happy with the result.  Despite the let down from the original series, I still enjoyed the Merlin books.  I plan on reviewing them this year.  This was the lead in to the first Merlin book "Trumps of Doom".  When that book appeared, I almost devoured it in one sitting.  Any time Zelazny writes about Amber, I know I am in for a good read.  

If you read this story before starting "Trumps of Doom" the reader might be confused.  Zelazny tells the tale of someone walking the Pattern.  We are not sure who the person is.  Instead of taking a sword with them to get enchanted, the person takes what is described as a cord.  Walking the Pattern is still exciting and brought back memories of the first time when we read about Corwin following it.

I enjoyed this story and plan to follow up reading the other Amber short stories over the next few weeks.

I read this story as part of "Once Upon a Time VIII".