Books Read in February, 2019
The Chalk Man by C.J. Tudor
Downward to the Earth by Robert Silverberg
The King’s Traitor by Jeff Wheeler
January, 2019 Locus
S.P.Q.R. X: A Point of Law by John Maddox Roberts
The Time Traveler’s Almanac edited by Ann & Jeff VanderMeer
Legion of Super-Heroes Comics (r)
Cadillacs and Dinosaurs The Roleplaying Game by Frank Chadwick (RPG) (r)
Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer
And that was my reading for February, 2019. This was actually a pretty good month of reading, though not the fastest. This was largely due to the fact that I'm still suffering the vertigo and dizziness that I've had since January, and I did read a few more old Legion of Super-Heroes comics during the latter part of the month. The books I enjoyed the most were:
The King’s Traitor by Jeff Wheeler - This is the third book in the Kingfountain series, and wraps up the first trilogy of novels. Once again, time has passed - to be specific, seven (long) years - and Owen Kiskadon has moved up in the ranks, but it has not been an easy road for him. Sent to start the invasion of Brythonica in a rather sneaky, round-about way, Owen instead falls in love gradually with the ruler of that nation, Sinia, and the feeling is reciprocated (but for reasons that I'll not reveal here). With King Severn falling deeper and deeper into darkness, Owen and Sinia are the keys to removing him from power, but there are more trials and tribulations for Owen to face before it is over. While the writing in this book is far superior to that of the earlier novels, this volume has much darker themes and does not end with the villain getting his just desserts. There is a feeling that the book allows the author to continue the story of the children of the various protagonists, but things do come to a head and there is a conclusion. Things do not end well for at least two of the protagonists and I have to admit that I felt somewhat let-down with the novel's wrap-up. That said, The King's Traitor is an excellent novel, and well worth reading if one has read the first two books in the series. Recommended.
The Chalk Man by C.J. Tudor - A first novel by an author who bears watching in the future, The Chalk Man is set in the summer of 1986. Eddie and his four best friends - Hoppo, Fat Gav, Metal Mickey and Nicky (a girl) - are on the cusp of adolescence... So they bike around, commit mischief, tease each other and try to avoid Mickey's older brother and his bullying friends. It seems like a magical summer and they even leave coded messages in chalk for each other to spell out their plans or their whereabouts. However, the idyllic time seems to be ending, as the adults around them wind up in the midst of some trouble and tragedies strike close to home. Then one day, a strange chalk man leads them to a dismembered body in the woods. Nothing is ever the same again. When Ed gets an anonymous letter with a chalk man in it some thirty years later, and learns his friends also got the same letter, the past is dredged up again. Among other things. I have to say this novel hooked me from the first page, with a great mystery, more violence than I really like in my reading, but with a lot of heart. The central theme of the book is whether we can ever recapture our childhood innocence after it has been shattered. This novel has a lot going on in it, with lots of twists and turns, and interesting characters that can fascinate and distraxxt you. It's hard to believe that the author is a first-time novel writer, as her writing is so assured and very readable. That said, I didn't love every choice the author made, but this is one fine book. I recommend it a lot.
Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer - The first book in the Southern Reach series. Area X has been cut off from the rest of the world for decades. Nature has reclaimed the last vestiges of human civilization. The first expedition returned with reports of a pristine, Edenic landscape; the second expedition ended in mass suicide, the third in a hail of gunfire as its members turned on one another. The members of the eleventh expedition returned as shadows of their former selves, and within weeks, all had died of cancer. In this novel, we join the twelfth expedition. The group is made up of four women: an anthropologist; a surveyor; a psychologist, the de facto leader; and a biologist. Their mission is to map the terrain, record all observations of their surroundings and of one another and, above all, avoid being contaminated by Area X itself. They arrive expecting the unexpected, and Area X delivers - but it’s the surprises that came across the border with them and the secrets the expedition members are keeping from one another that change everything. This novel is the first book of the series, as mentioned, and it is very difficult to give away the secrets revealed within so I'm not even going to try. Narrated by the Biologist, the tale reveals secrets about her and the other expedition members, and none of the characters are given names (for reasons that actually make sense in the book), lending them an almost surreal feel at times. Area X turns out to be even weirder than one could expect, with unexpected reveals happening as well, and the tale of the Biologist is pretty sad. There is a tower, or is there a tunnel? The expedition members disagree about what to call it, due to their perceptions of it. There is a lighthouse and signs of the previous expeditions are etched in the red splatter on the walls and the bullet holes in various barricades. The Biologist finds evidence that the information they had been told was not just lies, but epic untruths. What else can I say? It's a really good read. Highly recommended!
I also rather enjoyed S.P.Q.R. X: A Point of Law by John Maddox Roberts, but then again I've been loving his Roman series since I started reading them back when. Just don't have anything really creative to say about the book, compared to the three that I've commented on here. Oh, and of course I'm still enjoying the return to innocence and the nostalgic feelings that re-reading the Legion of Super-Heroes has given me as well.
Overall, I managed to read 6 novels, 1 RPGs and RPG product, 1 magazine, 10 comics, and 0 graphic novels in February. This brings the year total in 2019 to a set of numbers that look like this: 10 books, 3 RPGs and RPG products, 3 magazines, 55 comics, and 0 graphic novels.
Anyway, thoughts and comments are always welcome. :)