Books Read in June, 2019
The Magicians by Lev Grossman (r)
A Guide to Barsoom by John Flint Roy (r)
Exo by Fonda Lee
Annex by Rich Larson
Starship Troopers by Robert A. Heinlein (r)
Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed
Doomsday Clock #1-10 (Comics)
Have Sword, Will Travel by Garth Nix & Sean Williams
Serpent’s Reach by C.J. Cherryh (r)
June, 2019 Reader’s Digest
Phantoms of Mars Campaign Guide by Chris Lites, Jack Norris, Darren Bulmer and Jason Brick (RPG)
May, 2019 Locus
In the Lion’s Mouth by Michael Flynn
If This Goes Wrong... edited by Hank Davis
And that was my reading for June, 2019. This was a pretty decent month of reading to be honest, though I did re-read four books as noted above. It was actually an average month of reading for me, and most of the books this month were pretty enjoyable. So, a good bunch of reads for June. Anyway, the books that I enjoyed the most were...
Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed - This novel is the debut book from author Saladin Ahmed, and is the first book in the Crescent Moons Kingdoms trilogy (??)/series. An adventure of monsters, magic and swordplay, what makes the book unique is the location - a Middle Eastern type of world involving a mysterious figure summoning forth deadly ghuls to plague the marvellous and beautiful city of Dhamsawaat. There are some six or so main characters in the book, and this offers a pretty good balance to the story as the author never really stays on one character for too long. The main protagonist, and the centre of the hexagon is one Doctor Adoulla. A veteran, world weary monster hunter being of older age, he’s not sure he can continue battling deadly monsters and protecting his beloved city anymore. He’s old, tired and has just had enough of sacrificing his life to his duty, but he continuously struggles with his inner feelings as to what he should really do. He is accompanied by his assistant, Raseed. Hailing from the Dervish Order, his life is fully devoted to being a weapon for his God. Things are very black and white for Raseed, with no gray. However, teaming up with Adoulla truly tests his devotion as the doctor has a completely different attitude than Raseed. Things also become more compliaed when the two meet Zamia. This feisty young tribeswoman who is Guardian to her tribe (but has lost them through the attack of the ghuls) has a special gift given by the Gods that I won’t spoil here. Suffice it to say, these three characters make up the central trio, and will each be changed by the events of the tale here. They will also team up with Adoulla's good friends, Dawoud and Lamia, both of whom posssess healing powers and magic respectively. The cast is rounded out by the Falcon Prince. A sort of Robin Hood of the Middle East, he steals from the rich and gives to the poor, but his purpose and his temperament are very much unpredictable and he makes a rather neat foil for the other five. It’s up to Doctor Adoulla, our world weary yet experienced monster slayer, to solve the mystery and put an end to the threat once and for all. Of course, things don’t always appear as they are and soon enough, he recognizes a greater threat than what he had initially imagined. This book is a very good book, with the cultural elements taking centre stage at times, and while the writing isn't stellar, the author knows his craft. There are some moments of graphic violence in the book, that I found most nauseating, but they aren't there for the purpose of being graphic but to make the author's point in each case. The atmosphere is there, and the Middle Eastern world gets its due, as the author pulls the reader into the world. The central characters are all well-developed, though the villain of the story doesn't get that much time; we learn more about the villain through his deeds than anything else. But those deeds are truly heinous. If the book had a weakness, the final battle is somewhat lacklustre. That said, this is very common in the Arabian Nights style of literature, since the story is more about the characters and the development of personality that they go through. That said, I enjoyed this book very much and look forward to the next book in the Crescent Moons Kingdoms series. Recommended.
Have Sword, Will Travel by Garth Nix & Sean Williams - The first book in what promises to be an entertaining series. Odo and Eleanor are two best friends with opposing appetites for adventure who are thrust into a crucial quest by a gregarious sword. The once-hearty Silverrun River through Lenburh is steadily running ever lower. As brawny, bumbling Odo and his best friend, diminutive, feisty Eleanor, fish for eels in the muddy trickle, they unearth a sword. Surprisingly, Odo is able to pull the sword from the earth and mud and after he pricks his finger and subsequently bleeds on the blade, the heretofore-slumbering sword wakes up proclaims its name (in Gothic type!) to be Hildebrand Shining Foebiter (Biter for short) and knights Sir Odo! Eleanor, whose deceased mother was a knight, is thrilled by the enchanted sword and infuriated that she’s been designated a squire. Assessing the river’s pathetic state, Biter pronounces their quest to unblock the river’s source. And that's the beginning of this story. The novel is a charming read in so many ways. The three protagonists (and yes, the sword is definitely one of the main characters!) are pretty easily summed up: Eleanor is gung-ho, Odo is reluctant, Biter is persistent. Yet all three are transformed by what they encounter diuring their quest to open the Silverrun River once more. The story is choc a bloc with humour, but at the same time there are some (deadly) serious moments in the novel as well, and the two writers have done an excellent job to balance this out. While presented from both Odo's and Eleanor's points of view, this isn't a "he said, she said" style of novel, as it's got a terrific fluid back and forth. I've always been a fan of Garth Nix (particularly the Abhorsen and Keys to the Kingdom and Sean Williams only made the writing better! This is a fantastic first adventure full of magic, danger, and wit. One thing I enjoyed very much was the lack of sexism, and the lovable cast of characters. It feels like a story that I grew up with, in the spirit of Le Guin's Earthsea books or those of Patricia Wrede, though both of the latter two are better writers. Highly recommended.
If This Goes Wrong... edited by Hank Davis - Hank Davis's anthology is an accessible, fascinating book that is a tribute to Robert Heinlein's work and the book's title is a reference to a serial that he wrote. Science fiction tales, some humorous and some not-so-funny, about the downside of the future - and how to deal with a universe ruled by Murphy's Law! The book contains seventeen (17) stories by authors including Robert A. Heinlein (x2), Ambrose Bierce, Alan Arkin (yes, that Alan Arkin!), Gordon R. Dickson, Katherine MacLean, Jody Lynn Nye, Sarah A. Hoyt, Clifford D. Simak, J.A. Deutsch, Frederic Brown (x2), H.B. Fyfe, Wilard E. Hawkins, Fritz Leiber, Randall Garrett, and Lester Del Rey. With the exception of the Hoyt (2017) and the Nye (199), none of the stories are from after 1962. The anthology of science fiction stories ranges the gamut from near-fantasy to very nostalgic to hard and fast science fiction. My favourite stories here were "A Subway Named Moebius" by J.A. Deutsch about how such a subway might cause trains (and people) to disappear, but still be there; "Time Fuze" by Randall Garrett, about a revolutionary interstellar drive that has deadly consequences; "Computers Don't Argue" by Gordon R. Dickson, in which a late payment to a Book Club has deadly consequences; and "Well Worth the Money" by Jody Lynn Nye, in which a cat earns his salary aboard an interstellar ship caught up in a skirmish with a hostile alien race. My other two favourite tales are "Experiment" and "Answer", both by Frederic Brown, which 1- or 2-page stories that show how a punchline can make a truly short story terrific. Overall, this anthology of tales is a terrific read with something for everyone, and show how the older writers had a good thing going and had tremendous creativity. Highly recommended.
Overall, I managed to read 10 novels, 1 RPG and RPG product, 2 magazines, 10 comics, and 0 graphic novels in June. This brings the year total in 2019 to a set of numbers that look like this: 44 books, 8 RPGs and RPG products, 11 magazines, 93 comics, and 0 graphic novels.
Anyway, thoughts and comments are always welcome. :)