Monday, July 30, 2012

Book Review: The Highest Frontier by Joan Slonczewski

443 pp.
The Highest Frontier is a far future science fiction novel involving a young woman named Jenny Ramos-Kennedy. She is part of a rich and politically influential family in a world with astonishing technological and biological advances and an environment drastically affected by global warming. (The polar icecaps have melted to the point where Antarctica now has potentially arable land.) This is also a world undergoing an invasion by an extraterrestrial species referred to as “ultraphytes.” These creatures are an invasive species of epic proportions and what makes them especially dangerous is that they have an extremely lethal “stress” reaction.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Natsume Yujin-cho Episode Two “The Dew God’s Small Shrine” --Recap

The episode opens with some of Natsume's classmates asking him if he would like to sign on to a "test of courage" trip that is going to take place in an abandoned school building. He signs up to be helpful since a certain number of people are needed in order for this "test of courage" to take place.

As he is talking to them, he sees a yokai, and immediately finds a reason get head off. The yokai of course pursues Natsume, running right through one of Natsume's classmates, a girl named Sasada. (She is the class president.) Sasada senses that something went by, but did not see the creature.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Top Five Fantasy Series

Ask Me My Top 5 Anything  This is something I'm doing on Tumblr. (My ask box is open. Also, if you're on Tumblr, add me!)

Okay! These are not so much my top five as my “First five from my top ten that came to mind.”
Top Five Fantasy Series
Chronicles of the Kencyrath by P.C. Hodgell
What: Our Heroine is a young woman with a mysterious past and uncertain future. She is the member of one of those magical races that have Incomprehensible Missions to Defeat Evil. Problem: Evil is possibly winning and may not be evil, just Incomprehensible and unhealthy for the rest of the Universe. She spends a great deal of time accidentally leaving a path of destruction. The dean of her military academy has warned her not to drive any more of her teachers insane! Meanwhile, her favorite pastimes are reality hacking, pondering abstract philosophical concepts and untangling the mysteries of her family’s past!
Why: All of the above reasons, plus a lush narrative style and some absolutely surreal yet concrete world building. There is a very strong Fritz Leiber overtone to the series and Hodgell deconstructs standard high fantasy and sword and sorcery tropes left and right with a wry sense of humor.
Young Wizards, by Diane Duane
What: When Nita is hiding out from some bullies by ducking into a library, she finds a book she thinks is a joke. The name of the book is So You Want to be a Wizard, and when she takes the Wizard’s Oath she discovers it is not actually a joke at all. Nita, her friend Kit and eventually her sister Dairine end up on multiple adventures to defeat the Lone Power, or possibly redeem Him/Her/It.
Why: I loved this series since I was first introduced to it. It is an intelligent, well written series with amazing characters, excellent story arcs and a great sense of humor.
Vlad Taltos Series by Steven Brust
What: Our Hero is one Vlad Taltos. Jhereg, Easterner (read: human), witch, assassin. He and his wise-ass familiar Loiosh get into and out of the most interesting scraps, most of them caused by his strange friendships and alliances with extremely powerful individuals.
Why: Because it is a brilliant, funny series that involves gangsters and political shenanigans in a more or less high fantasy or sword and sorcery setting. Because Vlad’s journey from criminal to wanderer with a price on his head is entertaining as all get out.
Elemental Logic by Laurie J. Marks
What: This is one of those “peaceful land invaded by evil enemies from across the sea” books, except it is not. It is actually about an occupation ended by the intuitive magic of three “fire” talents as they seek to aid the rightful heir.
Why: It is awesome and the characters are fascinating. I liked this particular take on the “missing heir/occupied country” fantasy tropes because it deconstructs them. Another reason I liked the series is because the characters have both same sex and opposite sex relationships. (And there is no inherent homophobia in the culture. Sadly, this is probably one of the reasons why the series isn’t popular, and why the fourth book isn’t out yet.)
 The Belgariad by David and Leigh Eddings
  What: This is your bog standard missing heir plus Dark Lord fantasy series. Our Hero is whiny and confused and has no clue of what’s going on because no one explains anything to him. Despite his extreme stupid he eventually gets his act together and Defeats the Dark Lord.
Why: It is very entertaining bog standard Missing Heir versus Dark Lord! While the author(s) labored under the notion that they were doing something new and different, this series is very entertaining in its familiarity, though the conservative white bigot is extremely apparent.

Honorable mentions!
Andre Norton’s Witch World Novels
If you have not read any of these, you should rectify that immediately. Seriously. Go, now. I’ll wait until you’re done.
Glen Cook’s Garret PI
This is essentially hardboiled detective in a fantasy setting of the vaguely Leiberish persuasion. It is funny and entertaining.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Moribito Episode Seventeen “Water Mill in Flames”--Review

The episode opens with Toya heading up to the mill with his delivery. He is of course unaware that he is being tailed by the agents. He sees that Balsa is not home, but does not feel safe with leaving the supplies he brought behind, so he decides to wait. (Meanwhile, the agents head off to double check and make sure that this is the right house by questioning the neighbors.)

Back in town, Shuga is heading back to the palace when he spies Chagum, who is buying sweets for himself. Shuga is completely and totally shocked to see the prince wandering about on his own. Meanwhile, the prince's trajectory takes him to where Shuga has concealed himself. Shuga steps out hiding before Chagum can pass and calls out to him. Chagum is at first startled, then warily happy to see Shuga. Shuga however his horrified by the "state" Chagum is in. (That is to say, dressed like a peasant and looking very alert and otherwise healthy.)

Shuga attempts to get Chagum to go with him.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Book Review: Awakenings, by Edward Lazellari

348 pp.

Fair warning: I did not care for this book at all. I am also going to say up front that you should not read this book if you are triggered by body horror and gore. In fact, you should not read the review because of spoilers. If you are offended by obnoxious ethnic stereotypes, horrible hillbilly caricatures, and creepy Madonna/whore and sister complexes, you will likewise not want to read this. (If you do like all of the above, then this is definitely the book for you.)

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Reading Homestuck Part Nineteen: ==> Jade: Feed the Devilbeast You Call a Pet!

From here to here. (First opens on animation with music.)

We open with a pre-loader that turns out to be a “Psyche!” Jade and her grandfather have a confrontation! Clicking on the keyboard causes Jade to move and around and shoot. Grandfather Harley however doesn’t move at all. He doesn’t move at all because he is living impaired. He is existence disabled. He has shuffled off the mortal coil. He is deader than a parrot that is pining for the fjords. Also, he has been stuffed.

This does not noticeably stop Jade from having an argument with her grandfather. She is an independent young woman who can take care of herself, and she does what she wants! After telling her grandfather goodbye, she immediately absconds. While she does care about her grandfather, she feels that he was much easier to get along with when he was alive.

Natsume Yujin-cho Episode One “The Cat and the Book of Friends” --Recap

Natsume Yujin-cho is about a young man with the ability to see yokai. (Spirits, which may be either malicious or benign; the word is usually translated as "demon.") He inherits a mysterious book from his grandmother Reiko, who was also able to see yokai. Her ability made her an outcast in her community, so she ended up associating with yokai instead of humans. And by associating with, I actually mean "beating them up and then making them write their names in her book." This collection of names is an item of great power because anyone possessing the book can use one of the names to summon and control the yokai named in the book. Reiko ended up with a lot of enemies as a result of this book, and they fall into two groups: yokai who want the book so they can have control of the yokai whose names are in the book, and yokai who want their names back.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Reading: A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs Part Seven

Chapter Eighteen Chained in Warhoon
John wakes up to discover he is now the prisoner of a different tribe of Green Men. These folks are from Warhoon, and the leader of the party thinks John has a very brief future as a gladiator in the great games. The Jeddak of this tribe, a guy named Bar Comas is apparently not as much of a jerk as most Green Men appear to be. We know this because Bar Comas does not want to kill John if he doesn’t have to.

Friday, July 13, 2012

The Mystic Archives of Dantalian Episode Twelve “Song for the Unwritten Future”--Recap

We open with the mysterious girl in the equally mysterious archive. She is not happy because she has not seen Huey in a while and she misses him. She hears a sound and realizes that Huey has returned. She pretends that she does not want to see him, and questions why he has returned. The scene shifts a bit and we see ominous red drops falling into the water. The girl hears the sound and turns, seeing an adult version of Huey. Huey is wounded and bleeding profusely. There is an apologetic smile on his face and there are no opening credits.

The next scene features a darkened city, a terrified police officer and a zombie. Then the scene shifts again and we see that Huey is discussing an article about the zombie in question. Dalian scoffs at the article and declares that tabloids are ridiculous, but Huey notes that the newspaper he is reading is not in fact a tabloid, but a serious newspaper. Dalian speculates a bit about what kind of Phantom Book would create zombies, and she describes the attributes of a Phantom Book known as "The Book of Atonement." Then she becomes extremely excited and demands that Huey take her to London.

Of course, it turns out that she had seen an ad in the newspaper about a bakery and immediately wanted to go.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

I am very excited about the Homestuck Anime...:D

I am extremely impressed by this opening. And I am still loving all the fan art that's come out concerning the "Homestuck Anime."

Book Review: Home from the Sea by Mercedes Lackey

311 pp.
This Elemental Masters book does not seem to follow the usual fairytale format. Instead, this is one of those “faery bride/groom” stories. The story follows Mari, a young woman with a great deal of magical power who discovers the secret behind her family’s unusual luck. Meanwhile, two young women need something to do that they might actually be good at; they are dispatched to locate a new Water Master.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Moribito Episode Sixteen “Just Pursuing Doggedly”--Review

One thing that I really enjoy about this series is the way that information is handled. We get to see characters planning things out, doing research and trying to investigate and learn more in order to get to the solution of a problem. This is something I really enjoy watching. I also love the way we see how things go wrong when someone has incomplete or false information.

We open this episode with Shuga heading out to the area where Balsa and Chagum supposedly died. He plans on investigating the scene, and getting confirmation that Chagum is still alive. (If you will recall, the Emperors agents were not able to investigate very closely because the narrow valley that Balsa and Chagum supposedly fell into is filled with a poisonous mist. Shuga had to wait for it to rain, which apparently cleared away the mist.) Then the scene shifts to the Emperor, who is attempting to comfort the mother of Sagum. The Emperor mentions that they will have to keep Sagum's death quiet, (presumably, because the Emperor does not want a civil war on his hands because of the succession.) Next, we have the master star reader, who is very worried that the government might collapse without the presence of the emperor. 

Monday, July 9, 2012

Reading Homestuck Part Eighteen: ==> Dave: Warned you about stairs, bro! I told you dog!

From here to here. (First opens on animation with music.)

We open on an animation of the ongoing battle between Dave and his bro. Dave attempts to abscond but is unable to do so because Bro is just too fast for him. Dave almost seems to approach the speed of his Bro, but is never fast enough. Eventually Dave gets knocked down a flight of stairs. He was warned about the stairs though, but it keeps happening.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Book Review: Imager’s Challenge by L.E. Modesitt Jr.

460 pp.
In Imager’s Challenge, Rhenn has been assigned as a liaison to the Civic Patrol of L’Excelis. This is supposedly to keep him out of trouble after his previous flashy adventures in counter-intelligence. Instead, he finds himself having to deal with the Commander of the Civic Patrol not particularly wanting an imager liaison on the force. Rhenn is assigned a very poor district to patrol. On top of that, a High Holder noble has given him a formal declaration that he intends to destroy Rhenn and his entire family. (Rhenn blinded the High Holder’s son in an act of self-defense.)   

Saturday, July 7, 2012

The Mystic Archives of Dantalian Episode Eleven “Bibliotheca Razielis Archangeli”--Recap

This episode opens with a flash back to Norfolk, England in 1917. We see two airplanes that are doing a little barnstorming. On the ground, an officer named Eilas notes that a pilot named Welling is playing games with "another greenhorn." In this case, it turns out that the greenhorn can outfly this "Welling" character. The greenhorn turns out to be none other than our friend Huey Disward. Huey seems to have some variety of chip on his shoulder, but Eilas is not too bothered by Huey's attitude problem, and makes friends with him. Then we go to the opening credits.

The next scene after credits takes place in Aisne, France in 1918. There are two bi-planes flying. Suddenly a voice reciting a poem about "coming home" is heard. The voice appears to horrify the pilot. One of the planes explodes and crashes and the pilot screams the words "Faceless Phantom" before his own plane is attacked by the person reading the poem. (We have a brief view of another pilot sitting in his cockpit and holding a book that he is reading from.) The mysterious poetry reading pilot is Eilas, and for some reason he engaging in a dogfight with Huey. During the fight, Huey nearly loses his key, but he manages to catch it. Unfortunately, the plane he is piloting starts to stall, though he is able to correct himself.

In the next scene we see Eilas at a bar talking about current battle positions of the various forces.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Manga Review: Kamisama Kiss Volume Three, Julietta Suzuki

Volume three of Kamisama Kiss opens with Nanami being invited to a party by Himemiko. Due to feeling very uncomfortable with the idea of Tomoe helping her put on a kimono, she attends the party in her school uniform. When they arrive at the party a number of carp princesses descend upon Tomoe, which makes Nanami very unhappy, however, she lets him go anyway.