Books Read in November, 2020
H.G. Welles: A Literary Life by Adam Roberts
Action Comics Vol 1 #1025-1026 (Comics)
The Orville #2: Launch Day #1-2 (Comics)
Hawkman Vol 5 #27 (Comic)
Zorro: Galleon of the Dead #1-2 (Comics)
Dejah Thoris Vol 3 #8 (Comic)
Railhead by Philip Reeve
Star Surgeon by James White (r)
Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 8 #9-10 (Comics)
i>The Orville</i> #3: Heroes #1 (Comic)
October, 2020 Locus
Shadows Over Lyra by Patricia C. Wrede (r)
November, 2020 Reader's Digest
Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 8 #1-6 (Comics) (r)
From Beyond the Unknown Giant Vol 1 #1 (Comic) (r)
Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 1 #239-242 (Comics) (r)
Karate Kid Vol 1 #14-15 (Comics) (r)
Kamandi, The Last Boy on Earth! Vol 1 #58 (Comic) (r)
The Merciful Crow by Margaret Owen
To Shape the Dark edited by Athena Andreadis
And that was reading that I did in November of this year. This was a pretty decent month of reading, especially considering October's reads, but it wasn't one of the better months during winter of reading that I've done. While there was a good deal of re-reads (notably among the comics) there was an interesting variety of books here to some extent. So, not a bad month's reads to be honest. The books I enjoyed the most were:
Railhead by Philip Reeve - The first book in what I guess I'll call the Railhead series. "Come with me, Zen Starling," she had said. The girl in the red coat. But how did she know his name? The Great Network is a place of drones and androids, maintenance spiders and Station Angels. The place of the thousand gates, where sentient trains crisscross the galaxy in a heartbeat. Zen Starling is a petty thief, a street urchin from Thunder City. So when mysterious stranger Raven sends Zen and his new friend Nova on a mission to infiltrate the Emperor's train, he jumps at the chance to traverse the Great Network, to cross the galaxy in a heartbeat, to meet interesting people - and to steal their stuff. But the Great Network is a dangerous place, and Zen has no idea where his journey will take him. What can I say about this book? A heist, stargates (called "K-Gates" here), a space railway, sentient trains, robot friends and super AIs. What's not to like? The idea that a sentient train is capable of jumping through a series of routes and K-Gates and travel from world to world is a clever one although not entirely new (as witness at least the old Stargate SG-1 series). However, it's the sentient train and all of the various creatures and machines that make up the unique ecosystem surrounding it that gives Railhead its true uniqueness. Zen Starling, the novel's protagonist, is yet another reluctant, slightly dysfunctional hero, but once again the author ups the ante by requiring that he infiltrate the royal family of this world/universe and steal a mysterious, small box from the Emperor's own train. The task is impossible, of course, and there's a great deal of suspense that builds as the reader witnesses how Zen deals with its challenges. All of the mysteries surrounding this ancient gate system are another of the book's many fascinating details. The reader senses a complex history behind this ancient network of gates and quickly realizes that the unfolding events threatening to engulf Zen have nearly universal significance. Zen must not fail even though he cannot succeed. It's a fascinating paradox that drives the novel. There is so much to learn about this fully realized, complex world that the author has created. That's one of the novel's true joys and most entertaining aspects. Whether the novel is Young Adult science fiction or fantasy or a combination of both, I'll leave up to the reader - but this book's imaginative creativity and emotional richness make it a novel for everyone. It's got a lot of depth for a YA book and deserves to be read more widely than it has been. Highly recommended.
The Merciful Crow by Margaret Owen - A future chieftain... Fie abides by one rule: look after your own. Her Crow caste of undertakers and mercy-killers takes more abuse than coin, but when they're called to collect royal dead, she's hoping they'll find the payout of a lifetime. A fugitive prince... When Crown Prince Jasimir turns out to have faked his death, Fie's ready to cut her losses - and perhaps his throat. But he offers a wager that she can't refuse: protect him from a ruthless queen, and he'll protect the Crows when he reigns. A too-cunning bodyguard... Hawk warrior Tavin has always put Jas's life before his, magically assuming the prince's appearance and shadowing his every step. But what happens when Tavin begins to want something to call his own? This is a remarkable book, the first book in a series, and I have to say that I loved the world that author Margaret Owen crafted here, the unique magic system, and the characters themselves. The world of Sabor is a rich fantasy world with complex politics, and an unlikely group of characters bound together by fate and perhaps something more. The novel begins with the band of the Crow caste answering a Plague beacon at a palace, and I was hooked into the story right away. The exposition about the world is gradual in the book, and never feels like an infodump, something that can plague (no pun intended!) first book writers (of which Margaret Owen is one). The world of Sabor is a complex system of castes, dead gods, Birthrights and witches. The reader learns the most about the Crow caste because the novel is told from Fie's point of view, but there is a caste legend at the beginning of the book which will definitely help you keep all of the abilities straight while the reader peruses the book. Margaret Owen has plotted The Merciful Crow incredibly well, and the book is tight with excellent pacing. Fie is a very interesting, very entertaining and thought provoking character, but even with the story told from her pov, her two companions in the tale, the Hawk Tavin and the Phoenix prince Jasimir come across quite well, and have distinctive personalities.
At its root, The Merciful Crow is a book about inequality, but also shows how insidious and intertwined into society it truly can be. In an ironic twist, two upper-caste men with privilege are being taught some of the truths of their world by a woman of the lowest caste. They slowly see the world through the eyes of the less fortunate, and perhaps the Oath that was sworn out of mutual need with come to make a huge difference in the world of Sabor. This is a very fine first novel, and deserves to be read by all fantasy literature fans. Highly recommended.
Overall, I managed to read 6 novels, 0 RPG and RPG products, 2 magazines, 25 comics, and 0 graphic novels in November. This brings the year total for 2020 to a set of numbers that look like this: 83 books, 16 RPGs and RPG products, 20 magazines, 120 comics, and 2 graphic novels.
Anyway, thoughts and comments are always welcome. :)