Book Review: The Damar Books

Robin McKinley will likely make an appearance here again. Her novels have not only influenced me, but also have provided some ideas—debatably to the point of plagiarism—to Disney Animation Studios.

For now, I’m reviewing a pair of her books that have not yet been used by Disney: the Damar novels, The Hero and The Crown and The Blue Sword. The Hero and the Crown occurs a long, long time chronologically before The Blue Sword, but the books are one of those rare sets that does not need to be read in any order.

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Book Review: The Gentlemen Bastards Series

Ocean’s Eleven set in a fantasy world.

Well, that oversimplifies it, but that is definitely the feeling of this series. Every book hinges around what I guess you might call a white-color crime, a con that should result in a big take if it gets executed right. It goes wrong, of course, as it is going right, which you should know if you know the genre.

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Book Review: The Divine Cities Trilogy

To sum up: you should read the Divine Cities Trilogy if you’re looking for something different.

Very, very different. The burgeoning empire of the Saypuri Republic, once slaves of the gods-blessed Continental imperium, slew the gods, causing whole miraculous cities to collapse, and essentially took their place. We start several generations after this war, a time when the teachings, artifacts, and magic of the dead gods are banned. As you might expect from this setup, things are more complex than anyone thought.

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To Wheadon

Many people are familiar—well, people in certain circles are familiar with the verb ‘to Joss‘. It refers to Joss Wheadon’s tendency to totally screw up your predictions/expectations, particularly in regards to melodramatic unexpected deaths of beloved secondary characters. This is a tendency of his, to the extent of self-parody if I thought the man was capable of it.

I have only watched four of Wheadon’s works: Firefly, Dr. Horrible, Titan A.E., and the Avengers. I can’t get into Buffy or any of his other stuff. I love Firefly so much that I have a very nice long brown coat and many other things. The Avengers is my favorite Marvel movie so far. My mother and I are the only people I know who like Titan A.E. (“You know, this movie reminds me a lot of Firefly for some reason…oh, look, it was written by the same guy”). Dr. Horrible…well, that’s more or less what I’m going to talk about.

Spoilers ahead, I guess, for some old stuff.

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Book Review: The Zones of Thought Series

Vernor Vinge (pronounced ‘winge’, though the double v sound is much more fun) is one of the old school of science fiction writers that knows science. He was a computer science professor at San Diego State University and is known for his theories on the Technological Singularity.

Not surprisingly, all three of his works that I read and recommend deal quite heavily with said Technological Singularity in one form or another, though not on Earth and not necessarily as a positive or negative thing. That’s hardly the only thing his Zones of Thought books are about, however, and they have some very different elements from most space operas I’ve read.

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Lots of Incomprehensible Cosmic Evils Around These Days…

The Lovecraftian mythos has become something of a thing in a number of video games.

When I say Lovecraftian mythos, I mean not only the specific collection of beings centered around H.P. Lovecraft’s writings, but ideas that draw heavily from it. Cosmic evils are an old fictional standard, of course, but the callously consuming and reality-warping nature of these cosmic evils is associated with Lovercraft’s writings in particular.  Any kind of entity with those particular traits is best called Lovecraftian. Tentacles seal the deal.

As always, when dealing with trends in storytelling, TV Tropes is your guide…and also your doom!

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Good Movies: Disney’s Robin Hood

Disney used to be less  of a ‘house of franchises’. This probably ended in the 90s, after the Disney Renaissance that produced The Little Mermaid, Beauty and The Beast, and my personal favorite The Lion King. There have been many direct-to-DVD (video?) sequels and spinoffs of these movies since they were made, but they were originally made as one-shots.

That’s the big names. Disney also made some really interesting movies that aren’t those big names. Tron, while having its own itsy-bitsy media fiefdom nowadays, is one, but there are others that have a special place in my heart.

The one I always think of during tax season (which at this time is past, but is coming around again, as always) is Disney’s anthropomorphic animal Robin Hood.

Why tax season? Because I think of the government as Prince John in this scene:

This movie was something my family watched a lot when I was a kid, to the extent that the jokes still show up in our conversation. Mostly from my dad, who has a terrible habit of making jokes that do not work even on a dad joke level. At my present remove, I think of this tendency with affection… anyway, he still uses the phrase ‘Hiss, stop hissing in my ear’ from time to time, generally apropos of nothing.

Who knew that anthropomorphic animals in the Robin Hood story would work so well? But it does. This is a good movie. Why?

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Book Review: Magic in Ithkar

First of all, aren’t those just beautiful covers? Lovely artwork.

The Magic in Ithkar books hit a certain sort of sweet spot for me. The setting pulls off something you rarely see anymore: coexistence of magic and technology. Well, really the muddling of the two, as the old saw of “any sufficiently developed technology is indistinguishable from magic” seems to be heavily in play.

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I Don’t Get the Harry Potter Thing

I am a bit late to the party, it would seem.

I suppose that will keep my generational peers from burning me at the stake, rather than merely denouncing me as a heretic.

You would think that an avid reader like me would be one of the fans of Harry Potter, considering that I was in the series’ target age bracket when it came to the States. Many others of my generation have been singing the praises of the series lately, talking about how it has affected their worldview, using related metaphors for current events…

I actually don’t care for Harry Potter. If it had an influence on me, it was that it enabled the publication of more and longer fantasy and science fiction novels. I read the first three years after they came out Stateside, if I recall correctly.

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