Thursday, March 31, 2011

Manga Review: Pig Bride Volume Two, KookHwa Huh/Sujin Kim

Pig Bride, Vol. 2 (v. 2)
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Volume two of Pig Bride continues from the cliffhanger in volume one. Doe-Doe Eun is snooping around Si-Joon’s house in the company of Ji-Oh, who has been assigned to escort her by Si-Joon. (Ji-Oh really can’t stand Doe-Doe and is not shy about letting her know this. Doe-Doe can’t figure out why he dislikes her so much. Hint: Maybe he’s a good judge of character.) Ji-Oh eventually abandons her, and Doe-Doe has a brief encounter with Mu-Hwa.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Kings of the North, by Elizabeth Moon

Del Rey
478 pp.

Kings of the North
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In this sequel to Oath of Fealty, the characters are still adjusting to the new situations instigated by Kieri Phelan having become the king of Lyonya and Dorrin having become Duke Verrakai. We also have indications that all is still not well in various quarters, and the activities of a pirate who would be king (or at least Duke) are beginning to cause trouble elsewhere. On top of that we learn a great deal about Pargun, the machinations of various evil gods and a little about dragons. (I think the dragon is probably one of the best parts of the book.)

Monday, March 28, 2011

Random iNudge!

Shiki, "Thirteenth Tragedy" --Review

This episode begins with a montage of previous scenes. Of particular note is that Toshio's wife Kyoko appears to be good friends with Tatsumi, and that the local construction business is now down to one member. The montage resolves to a dream that Natsuno is having, of running away from the village. It seems as if he is very close to death, and is no longer able to move. Then we go to credits.

After credits, we have Seishin at the temple, explaining about the temple and the various volunteers who help him and his father keeping the temple organized. He also talks about how the population of the village is shrinking, but everyone is pretending that nothing is wrong. He doesn't mention within the narrative that he knows why the village is shrinking--it's just a given, though he does seem vaguely disturbed by everyone pretending that nothing is going on. We briefly shift to Shinmei Muroi, who is an invalid.

The next scene in the clinic where Toshio is working on something--then Tokujiro comes in. Toshio realizes that Nao is targeting her father-in-law and tries to get him to stay at the clinic. Tokujiro refuses, stating that he has to take care of the family's Buddhist altar and the business. It's clear to Toshio that Tokijiro has been coached in what to say, and he recalls that other patients have made similar requests that they not be hospitalized.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Sample: Rosemary and Rue by Seanan McGuire

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Tinker, by Wen Spencer

448 pp.

Tinker (Elfhome, Book 1)
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I first read Tinker when it came out in 2003. It quickly became one of my favorites because of the heroine Tinker (who is an engineer who runs a junkyard), and a great deal of the world building. The setting is Pittsburgh, which has had a variable location between Earth and Elfhome since the Chinese built an interdimensional gate in orbit. Tinker has lived her entire life in Pittsburgh and many of her inventions take advantage of the magical energy available on Elfhome.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Yes it Damn Well IS SF/F

If a book has science fiction or fantasy themes or situations, then the book is science fiction or fantasy even if the novel is tagged as “mainstream.” If a book has science fiction or fantasy themes then the book is science fiction or fantasy even if the writer wails, “I never thought of it as science fiction, I don’t like that Twilight Zone stuff at all!” It is still science fiction if the reader who likes the work defensively declaims that the novel may have science fiction elements but it was published as mainstream.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Kuroshitsuji/Black Butler Episode Seventeen "His Butler, Offering"--Review

The next episodes are part of an anime-only arc featuring a religious cult that turns out to have a link to Ciel's past and the month Ciel spent in captivity. It also features a return of Angela, who turns out to be some kind of angel (a very, very crazy angel).

This episode begins with the Undertaker going through his daily routine. He opens up a coffin in which Grell has been placed for some unknown reason. The Undertaker, thinking that Grell is just another corpse makes some very insulting remarks. Grell's eyes snap open, and she tries to strangle the Undertaker, clearly outraged by the insults. Then we shift to the opening credits.

The scene immediately after the opening credits features Sebastian going over Ciel's morning schedule. Ciel is trying to get out of taking dance lessons, but Sebastian is clearly insisting on them. Hearing the sound of laughter, they discover Tanaka having tea with Ash, the Queen's butler. Ash has arrived with a new case from the queen--it turns out that Ash has been the one delivering the cases.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Manga Review: Mugen Spiral Volume Two, Mizuho Kusanagi

Mugen Spiral Volume 2 (v. 2)The second volume opens just a few moments after the cliffhanger that ended volume one. The stalemate between Ouga and Ura is broken when Ouga loses control of his power, and the darkness begins to eat him. When she sees Ouga going under, Yayoi immediately rushes to his rescue, trying to pull him out. This is something of a surprise to Ura and Hakuyoh, especially since Ouga had just kidnapped her. Yayoi yells at Ura, asking him if he wants to regret not trying to save his brother for the rest of his life. Ura pitches in and helps pull Ouga up out of the darkness.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Mahou Shojo Madoka Magica Episode Four "Both Miracles and Magic Exist"--Review

We open with another scene of Sayaka going to visit Kyosuke Kamijo, who it turns out, is in physical therapy for his legs. The nurses talk to Sayaka and seem happy that she's visiting him. As Sayaka walks away, we learn that Kamijo is a "difficult patient" and that before his accident he was a violin prodigy. Sayaka is thinking about using her wish to heal Kamijo's hand, but seems reluctant to make the wish.

After the opening credits, Madoka is having breakfast with her family, but the Mami's death is replaying in her mind. She looks sad and very disturbed, and she bursts into tears, much to her parents' concern. Then the scene shifts to Madoka, Sayaka and their friend Hitomi heading to school. Madoka is sad and wants to talk to Sayaka about the night before but Sayaka brushes her off and continues chattering cheerfully to Hitomi.

Later still, both girls look very much down in the dumps. Madoka feels suddenly disconnected from her classmates by what she's seen, and Sayaka agrees. They talk for a while and Sayaka asks if Madoka still wants to be a magical girl. Madoka breaks down in tears, saying how upset and frightened she is and Sayaka comforts her. Sayaka also questions Kyuube about whether or not there will be another magical girl to protect the city, to which Kyuube responds that the other magical girls won't ignore an opening. Sayaka seems upset at the idea of someone more mercenary and only interested in Grief Seeds showing up, but Kyuube says that only another magical girl has the right to judge how another magical girl behaves. Kyuube tells them that he can't force them to become magical girls, and then tells them goodbye.

Inception/Madoka Magica Mash Up

Okay, this awesome.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Mother of Demons, by Eric Flint

367 pp.

Mother of Demons
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Mother of Demons is one of my favorite books. The novel is a “braided timeline” style novel that tells the stories of a disparate group of people--human and alien--who become allies in a conflict with an enemy tribe. One timeline follows Nukurren, a mercenary currently serving as the body guard to a slave merchant. (This being the only job she can get since she is a “*pervert.”) One timeline follows the leader and followers of a religion that is currently being persecuted by the main religious institution of a city-state. Another timeline follows a young infanta of a barbarian tribe about to go into battle for the first time and who is desperate to save her tribe from an invading tribe of cannibals. Yet another timeline follows a struggling human colony that has been adopted by a dwindling and nearly extinct species related to the dominant intelligent species.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

A Voyage to the Moon

There is too much overcast to see the Supermoon, so have a voyage to the moon instead.

Manga Review: Kuroshitsuji Volume Two, Yana Toboso

Black Butler, Vol. 2The first chapter mainly involves Sebastian’s various adventures fixing the problems created by the servants. As much as he is exasperated by them, they seem to be there to make the results of his endeavors seem even more exceptional. (Incidentally, we learn that Bardroy has a fixation on guns, and that Finnie is as strong as he is inept at gardening.) In this case, Sebastian attempts to make a giant chocolate statue while the servants create disasters all around him. At the end of the day, the statue has lost its head, and the person at fault is none other than Ciel, who apparently wanted a snack.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Kuroshitsuji/Black Butler Episode Sixteen "His Butler, in an Isolated Castle"--Review

This episode opens with a completely different room, and a Sebastian who is wearing an outfit from a much earlier age. He enters the room and appears to be engaging in his usual morning routine, but instead of Ciel, he is serving two young princes. (One of whom is cuddling a skull instead of a toy.) This is not a "Sebastian's Previous Masters" episode however cool that might have been. Instead, Sebastian is playing butler to a pair of assassinated princes who are haunting property Ciel would like to turn into a resort.

The scene after the opening involves Ciel learning that there has been some mysterious hauntings taking place at Ludlow Castle. (There is also a significant "show you the shot gun" scene where we see the brand that Ciel had been marked with.) He decides to investigate to find out what is going on. Oddly enough, he does not believe in ghosts (despite knowing about demons and having learned about grim reapers) though he gives his butler a suspicious look that Sebastian appears to be very amused by.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Shiki, "Twelfth Decay" --Review

In this episode, the okiagari continue their efforts to take control of the village--and to terrorize the few people in town who are aware of their presence. We open with another montage of what has happened so far, and then we focus on Akira and Kaori's father Yoshizaku, who works in the village office. Through him, we learn that he is currently the only person who works there during the day--mysteriously everyone has been quitting and moving away, often without even reporting where they were going. The only other workers in the office are two temps who only turn up at night.

The next scene after credits is Natsuno, sitting on a swing set in a playground. He meets with Akira and Kaori, and warns them that they need to get out of the village before they end up getting attacked. He reveals the bite he received from Toru, to make his point. This does not have the intended effect, and the kids insist that they are going to stay and somehow fight the okiagari. Natsuno warns them not to try to see him again, because he might not be himself anymore, then walks off.

War for the Oaks, by Emma Bull

309 pp.
(Orb, 336 pp.)

War for the Oaks: A Novel
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War for the Oaks is urban fantasy of the subset known as urban faerie. (While some more recent urban fantasy might tack on faeries in a mostly vampire and werewolf universe, this is primarily a novel dealing with Faerie and its intersection with the mortal world.) This novel originally came out in the 80’s. It has been reprinted by Orb books.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Manga Review: Tena on S-String Volume One, Sesuna Mikabe

Tena on S-String, Vol. 1 (v. 1)Kyosuke Hibiki is a music teacher who has recently awakened from a coma after having been in a car accident. Upon awakening, he discovers that he is experiencing auditory and visual hallucinations in the form of music and musical notation that appears to surround people. No one is able to find out the source of the hallucinations, and Kyosuke is eventually discharged from the hospital.

Gosick Episode Three, "The Hares Break a Promise Under the Morning Sun"--Review

The gun that was fired at the end of the previous episode turns out to be a gun that Julie shoots Maurice with, killing him. She says that she had found the gun in one of the wall lamps. Ned steps over to Maurice's body, and throws away the gun, telling Julie to throw hers away as well. Julie complies, and everyone continues down the corridor.

As they walk down the hallway, Victorique give Kujo a very, very hard time about his earlier declaration about being the third son of an imperial soldier. Kujo states that it's a matter of pride, and that he's just as good as his older brothers. (Our boy sounds a little defensive.) Victorique decides not to let him hear the end of it.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Manga Review: Mugen Spiral Volume One, Mizuho Kusanagi

Mugen Spiral Volume 1 (v. 1)Mugen Spiral is a two-volume manga featuring a powerful exorcist named Yayoi and a demon named Ura, who is the son of the demon king. It is a romantic comedy/fantasy of the “boy decides girl is kind of cool after initially trying to kill/eat/otherwise harm her.” (This is something that tends to happen in romantic manga, and in some Western romances as well.)

Saturday, March 12, 2011

And Also, I Hate Holden Caulfield

Adapted from a rant posted elsewhere.

Actually, Holden Caulfield, who is somewhere between Thomas Covenant and Elric of Melnibone on my Least Favorite Male Character Ever List doesn’t have a lot to do with this post. Instead, I’m going to talk about Earth Abides, and why I hated the protagonist Isherwood Williams on sight. (The book itself I’m largely ambivalent about, but I know that I despise the protagonist.)

Earth Abides is a post-apocalyptic novel involving a plague that Destroys Civilization. Our protagonist it one of the few survivors, and he is supposed to be a very intelligent loner type. He wanders around meeting people and inevitably feeling superior to them because they do not have his highly evolved brain and motivation to better themselves that he does. The problem is that he is not actually that smart, and he is a dick.   

Mahou Shojo Madoka Magica Episode Two "That Sounds Wonderful"--Review

We open with what could nearly be a commercial for becoming a magical girl. Our spokesmodel is Mami, who introduces herself while the traditional magical girl transformation sequence is shown with some dramatic music playing in the background. This turns out to be a dream Madoka is having, and she thinks for a moment that maybe the events of the day before had been part of the dream until she turns and sees Kyuube, who cheerfully wishes her a good morning. After the credits, she has a brief conversation with her mom while brushing her teeth, and sees that while Kyuube is also in the bathroom, her mother can't see him.

Later, Mami shows off her apartment (where she lives alone) and talks about being a magical girl. Both Mami and Kyuube push hard on getting Madoka and Sayaka to make a wish that will enable them to make a contract with Kyuube. The way that this particular system works is that the girl makes a wish for something that she wants. The girl is given the task of fighting "witches," and receives a Soul Gem in exchange. The witches according to Mami and Kyuube cause suicides and murders to happen. Each witch possesses a "Grief Seed" which a magical girl must use to purify her Soul Gem. Sayaka and Madoka are both excited by the idea of becoming magical girls, but are undecided on what they could wish for.

Read the rest of this article at Associated Content.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Iron Crowned by Richelle Mead

375 pp.

Iron Crowned (Dark Swan, Book 3)
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Iron Crowned is the third book in Richelle Mead’s Dark Swan series. In this book, Eugenie continues to attempt juggling her role of queen of the Thorn Land with being a Shaman/exorcist in the ordinary world. She is not very successful due to having to fight a war against Katrice of the Rowan Land, whose son had kidnapped and raped Eugenie repeatedly in the previous book in order to fulfill a prophecy that states the Eugenie’s first born son would conquer the ordinary world. (I am still kind of reminded of Laurell K. Hamilton’s Merry Gentry series because of this plot point.)

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The Course of Empire, by Eric Flint and K.D. Wentworth

664 pp
The Course of Empire
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I did a review for Crucible of Empire last year, and never got around to doing a review for the prequel until now. The Course of Empire borrows from two staples of science fiction of the military SF persuasion. One is the story of Occupied Earth, where a successful invasion by aliens results in drastic social changes and desperate rebellion. The other story is the one where humans get used by the aliens as soldiers in a war with yet another group of aliens. (With a possible third from the storyline that goes “once upon a time there was an alien race used by another alien race as slave-soldiers, but then the soldiers rebelled and Stuff Happened.”)

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Raining Indoors

I worked at the clearance center of a department store chain for eight years or so. When I started there, they were I think, just beginning to make the transition to a clearance center. The building we were in was fairly old, and for whatever reason, the company did not seem willing to repair the roof. This meant that when it rained, the roof would leak.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Kuroshitsuji/Black Butler Episode Fifteen "His Butler, Competing"--Review

Everyone at the curry contest is very surprised to see Queen Victoria, who has been in seclusion since the death of her husband. Viscount Druitt, who is apparently one of the judges at the curry contest, leads everyone in singing "God Save the Queen." (Well, almost everyone sings. Bardroy, Sebastian, Lau and Ran Mao don't sing, though Ciel does.) The Queen gives a speech, and then the contest begins.

The contest begins in earnest, with Sebastian and Agni as the main contenders. There is not a lot going on here, except people marveling at their showmanship. West is beginning to get upset, and then is surprised and amazed that Sebastian appears to be dropping pieces of chocolate into his curry.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Manga Review: Pig Bride Volume One, KookHwa Huh/Sujin Kim

Pig Bride, Vol. 1 (v. 1)I was recently sent volumes one through five of Pig Bride, a Korean manwha featuring a story with a vaguely Beauty and the Beast type riff. I had been following the fan-translation, so it was nice to get the book in a dead-tree format. It’s a romantic comedy/fantasy with a few surprising twists and turns that otherwise follows the standard “...and then this happened over and over again because no one remembers that this is the same thing that happened the last time” that is common to some romance manga/manwha.

Gosick Episode Two, "The Souls of the Dead Raise a Shipwreck"--Review

Before the opening credits, we open with our intrepid amateur sleuths attending the dinner party. Since there is only one extra place setting, Victorique is having dinner while Kujo is complaining about his dinner-less state of existence. In return, Victorique points out to him that he very cleverly repacked all of her bags, and removed the emergency provisions.

After the opening credits, it appears that the food was drugged, because everyone, even Kujo, is sound asleep. Kujo has a dream about being shouted at, and awakens to find himself, along with the other dinner guests in the ship's lounge.

Read the rest of this review at Associated Content.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Shiki, "Eleventh Slaughter" --Review

This episode begins with a montage of everything that has happened so far, and resolves on the image of the village shaman, an old woman with a lot of bitter anger and resentment toward life. She is currently enacting a ritual of some kind. She claims to have had fore-knowledge of danger approaching the village. One of her visitors protests that what happened couldn't possibly be supernatural, but the shaman insists. She says that she believes that the source of the danger is in the mansion at Kanemasa. This turns out to be a sales pitch for selling charms.

Read the rest of this review at Associated Content.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Manga Review: Kamisama Kiss Volume One, Julietta Suzuki

Kamisama Kiss, Vol. 1Kamisama Kiss is a manga that I’ve mostly been following via fan translations. Recently, I was able to find volume one and am looking forward to getting the other volumes. This is a shojo-style fantasy romance with a slightly improbable even for a fantasy set up. (Japanese manga occasionally stresses my suspension of disbelief harness to the point of breaking. The set up here actually required extensive mending for my poor harness, and I may have to save up to buy a new one.)