Books Read in February, 2020
Hollow Kingdom by Kira Jane Buxton
The Magicians: Alice's Story (Graphic Novel)
Coriolis: Atlas Compendium by Martin Dunelind, Nils Karlen, Kosta Kostulas and Adam Palmquist (RPG) (r)
Young Justice Vol 2 #1-12 (Comics)
The Dying Ship by Nils Karlen and Kosta Kostsulas (RPG) (r)
Hamurabi by Mattias Lilja and Christian Granath (PDF) (RPG) (r)
The Mahanji Oasis by Kosta Kostsulas (PDF) (RPG) (r)
Aram's Ravine by Mattias Lilja and Kosta Kostsulas (PDF) (RPG) (r)
Artifacts & Faction Tech by Kosta Kostulas and Martin Dunelind (PDF) (RPG) (r)
The Mark of the Dragonfly by Jaleigh Johnson
Hidden Sun by Jaine Fenn
The Magicians by Lev Grossman (r)
Old Venus edited by George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois
The Ciphers of Muirwood by Jeff Wheeler
Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 8 #3 (Comic)
The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood (r)
Dark State by Charles Stross
January/February, 2020 Reader's Digest
Zorro: The Complete Pulp Adventures, Vol. 1 by Johnston McCulley
And that was reading that I did in February of this year. I have to say that this was an excellent month of reading in terms of the quantity of material read, and that there was a good, varied number of books and other written media, though in all fairness there were a few re-reads in there as well. Even so, my bookcases are still stacked with a pretty large To Read Queue (TRQ). The books I enjoyed the most were:
Zorro: The Complete Pulp Adventures, Vol. 1 by Johnston McCulley - What can I say about this one? I've been a fan of Zorro since...well, to be honest, I can't remember when, but with the forthcoming release of the new Zorro: The Roleplaying Game from Gallant Knight Games, I figured it was time to re-read the stories. This lovely volume from Bold Venture Press contains three tales about the masked hero., The first is "The Curse of Capistrano," the first tale and full-length novel about the Fox. The second story, a 30-page tale called "Zorro Saves A Friend," is a nice little tale of how Zorro saves a friend from a card cheat. The third story is the shortest, "Zorro Hunts a Jackal," and is one in which Zorro escapes a trap set out to capture him. The book is led off by an essay on Zorro and how Johnston McCulley came to write the tales and ends with an essay on the making of the Douglas Fairbanks movie in 1920. These stories are very good, featuring swordplay with some humour thrown in. What is notable in these three stories is the sheer amount of violent, some would say cruel, acts that Zorro undertakes that is completely downplayed or non-existent in the more modern takes on the hero. Each story has three illustrations that are really marvelous, and bring across who and what Zorro is. Highly recommended for folks who have an interest in such swashbuckling genres.
The Mark of the Dragonfly by Jaleigh Johnson - This is the first book by the author and the first in a loose series called the Solace series, based on where it's set. Piper has never seen the Mark of the Dragonfly until she finds the girl, Anna, amid the wreckage of a caravan in the Meteor Fields. The girl doesn't remember a thing about her life, but the intricate tattoo on her arm is proof that she's from the Dragonfly Territories and that she's protected by the king. Which means a reward for Piper if she can get the girl home. The one sure way to the Territories is the 401, a great old beauty of a train - but a ticket costs more coin than Piper could make in a year. And stowing away is a difficult prospect, as everyone knows that getting past the peculiar green-eyed boy who stands guard is nearly impossible. Life for Piper just turned dangerous, a little bit magical, and very exciting - if she can manage to survive the journey. This book is a terrific novel, a steampunk young adult fantasy full of adventure, the obvious fantasy, and friendship. The world of Solace created by the author is fascinating; there is so much going on that I really wanted to see more of the world and hope that future books explore some of the other places seen on the map and mentioned in the story. However, this novel is self-contained, the story of Piper and Anna as they flee a menacing man on the 401 train, where they befriend the crew and discover some secrets about themselves. The relationship between Piper and Anna is quirky to say the least, and the manner in which they grow to care for on another is handling very well. The fight sequences on top of the train are terrific, and show that the author has a gift for writing action scenes. Sometimes, however, the author can be a bit too obvious about her foreshadowing of events, the slavers being a good example of that, but this didn't mar my enjoyment of the book. I've already got the second and third books in the "series" (they are stand-alone novels) and can't wait to read them. Highly recommended.
Hollow Kingdom by Kira Jane Buxton - S.T., a domesticated crow, is a bird of simple pleasures: hanging out with his owner Big Jim, trading insults with Seattle's wild crows (i.e., "those idiots"), and enjoying the finest food humankind has to offer: Cheetos. But when Big Jim's eyeball falls out of his head, S.T. starts to think something's not quite right. His tried-and-true remedies - from beak-delivered beer to the slobbering affection of Big Jim's loyal but dim-witted dog, Dennis - fail to cure Big Jim's debilitating malady. S.T. is left with no choice but to abandon his old life and venture out into a wild and frightening new world with his trusty steed Dennis, where he suddenly discovers that the neighbours are devouring one other. Local wildlife is abuzz with rumors of Seattle's dangerous new predators. Humanity's extinction has seemingly arrived, and the only one determined to save it is a cowardly crow whose only knowledge of the world comes from TV. What could possibly go wrong? I have to say that I liked this book, especially the humour in it, but my biggest problem with the book was suspension of disbelief. I can deal with a mystical zombie apocalypse, but having it coincide with sentient and communicative animal and plant life was something that I found stretched my sensa wonda a bit too much. What made the book interesting is is S.T.'s (read the book to find out what the initials stand for) voice and overflowing love for his master and Dennis. S.T.'s love for humanity is constant, but hilariously distorted through a pet crow's limited understanding and Big Jim's cynical opinions. If I had any real problem with the book, it was that it rambles a lot. While S.T. has some great character growth over the course of the story, there's also very little of a consistent plot. Still, this was an entertaining read, to be sure. Recommended.
Overall, I managed to read 9 novels, 6 RPGs and RPG products, 1 magazine, 13 comics, and 1 graphic novel in February. This brings the year total for 2020 to a set of numbers that look like this: 17 books, 9 RPGs and RPG products, 2 magazines, 15 comics, and 1 graphic novel.
Anyway, thoughts and comments are always welcome. :)