Sunday Status Update: July 13, 2014

From Sir Bors, another legend of the intrepid Sir Lancelot.

SirBorsBors: So Elaine of Carbonek came by this week. The last time she encountered my intellectual treasure of a cousin, she tricked him into her bed by hiding in a dark room and sending her maid to tell Lancelot that a certain other lady of his acquaintance was waiting for him in this dark room. So naturally Lancelot asks no questions (for example, how she got there, or why she sent someone else’s handmaiden) but rushes off to do the deed. When he wakes up the next morning, he flies off the handle and promptly ruins any chance he had at being taken for the victim by waving a sword around and threatening to chop various heads off. Scandal for the family, mothers in tears, the usual Lancelot display. So this week Elaine came by the castle. And she sent the same maidservant to talk to Lancelot. To tell him the same lady was waiting for him, once again in darkened rooms. The guest rooms, to be precise. The guest rooms occupied by Elaine of Carbonek. Somehow she thought this would work.

Sadly, she was right. God damn it, Lancelot.

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews BradI just finished listening to, and was incredibly moved by, the audio version of Robert Silverberg‘s Dying Inside. I also continued reading the first volume of Shigeru Mizuki‘s manga A History of Japan, which blends national history with Mizuki’s memoir. It’s a unique history because of this focus: Instead of showing the impact of Japan’s history on those who reside in cities, it shows us the impact on rural life since Mizuki grew up in the country. This book is essential reading for anyone interested in Japanese history, culture, and/or literature. It’s also a great introduction to quality, adult manga since what is published in the West is mainly manga aimed at teenage boys and girls. It’s not a dry history book, though one can read all the endnotes and make it so; rather, it’s a fast-paced, text-light, tender book focused on family life, childhood, first crushes, school, and so on. Since Mizuki went to war and was wounded, I imagine future volumes will deal with harsher subject matter. I’m also catching up on my monthly comics and reading a good number of trade collections for future reviews. And for some odd reason, I just started listening to Swann’s Way by Proust. We’ll see how long that lasts. I’ve started it at least a half dozen times over the past quarter of a century. Perhaps this time it’ll take and my mind won’t wander simultaneously with Proust’s! Finally, I’m dipping into the collection of essays in Ethics, Literature, and Theory, which I highly recommend. This book is quite a treasure to me since it combines many essays and selections from critical works that I read for my dissertation on Ethics and postmodern fiction in the late 90s. And I’m even finding a few new authors I didn’t read back then. It makes me want to return to my pedagogical/critical bible The Company We Keep by my idol — the literary critic Wayne C. Booth. I wouldn’t teach the way I do or write the type of reviews I write here at Fanlit if it weren’t for Booth and this life-changing book of his. I highly recommend this nuanced work of literary criticism which is refreshingly direct, conversational, and jargon-free compared to most literary criticism out there.

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews JohnIt’s been a busy week.  I have read a couple of “fun to read” books while I am waiting on some reviewable books.  I really enjoyedUnder a Graveyard Sky by John Ringo.  Just funny Zombie stuff.  I also breezed through  Blood Song by Anthony Ryan.  I like easy to read books like these.    I need to write the review for Modesitt’s Cyador’s Heirs too. 

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews KatI’ve been working my way through some of Ian McDonald’s works recently. This week I read Sacrifice of Fools which is about a former felon who now acts as a liaison between humans and aliens in Belfast. The aliens add another level of tension to the already tense city. I’m also working my way through Isaac Asimov’s ROBOT trilogy. I read The Caves of Steel and The Naked Sun this week. These are interesting, and they’re foundational reading for SF fans, but I have such a hard time believing in some of Asimov’s societies and I just can’t stand how he writes (or doesn’t write) female characters. Hey. It has just occurred to me that all three books I read this week were science fiction murder mysteries written by men whose first names start with “I”. Cool. 

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews MarionI had to set aside Rocket Girl, so I read a novella by Dashiel Hamett called The Woman in the Dark, and N.K. Jemisin’s third in her Inheritance series, The Kingdom of Gods. Beautiful writing, interesting characters, with an interesting philosophical underpinning. I haven’t read the second book, The Broken Kingdoms, and I wish I had because I probably would have understood some things sooner. I started Errantry, a short story collection by Elizabeth Hand. I think of her writing as being all blown-glass and swirly (probably from her very early work, which was) but she has an eye and ear for everyday detail that roots her stories firmly in the world while her characters launch elaborate flights of fancy. I don’t really know how she manages both at the same time, but she does.

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews SandyHello, all. I have just written a review for the truly excellent Cold War espionage thriller “The Secret Ways,” by Scottish author Alistair MacLean, but since such thrillers do not fall under our scope of attention here at FanLit, I have just placed in the hopper a review of still another novel by my main man, H. Rider Haggard. This one is for his lost-world fantasy “Heart of the World” and may certainly be of interest to our readers here. I am about to begin a Philip K. Dick book that has long been on my to-read list, “A Scanner Darkly,” which I do not believe has been reviewed on our site yet. I look forward to finally taking this one in greatly, as it supposed to be among Phil’s greatest works….

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews TerryI played hooky this week and read two Lee Child thrillers in his JACK REACHER series: Never Go Back and Personal. It was fun!

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews Tim: This week, I was tied up in a lot of other business, so I fell back on graphic novels (which tend, for me, to be a bit quicker reads). I went through a couple of Batman stories — Arkham Asylum by Grant Morrison and Gotham Central by Ed Brubaker and Greg Rucka — and a rather bizarre series called Fly, about a drug that imparts super powers. While I know the latter is a genuine reflection on drug culture and addiction (because the author told me so about eight times in his forewords, afterwords, and plain old words), I found the themes obvious and the characterization lacking. By contrast, the Batman books were some of the best things I’ve read in the graphic novel medium. I especially enjoyed Gotham Central, which was effectively a police procedural set in the Batman universe, as regular cops struggle to deal with the day-to-day in and around supervillains and various Bat-people dropping in to make their lives miserable. Arkham Asylum was no less technically impressive (in fact, probably it’s more so), but the content was too disturbing to be really fun.

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TIM SCHEIDLER, who's been with us since June 2011, holds a Master's Degree in Popular Literature from Trinity College Dublin. Tim enjoys many authors, but particularly loves J.R.R. Tolkien, Robin Hobb, George R.R. Martin, Neil Gaiman, and Susanna Clarke. When he’s not reading, Tim enjoys traveling, playing music, writing in any shape or form, and pretending he's an athlete.

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  1. Lancelot. What an idiot.

    • I know, right? Not the sharpest lance in the armory. I always wondered, did he think Gwen had a teleporter or something?

  2. Brad Hawley /

    Gotham Central is one of my all-time favorite comics. It’s the main reason why I read anything and everything by Brubaker and Rucka. Brubaker’s runs on Catwoman and Captain America are also brilliant. Soon, I’ll be reviewing his Criminal and Fatale series. Rucka’s Stumptown and Lazarus are also very good.

  3. Brad Hawley /

    So many of my favorite books and authors mentioned today! Asimov’s robot police procedurals, Gotham police procedurals, and my favorite noir author: Hammett. Usually I haven’t read, much less heard of, half the authors you all mention.

  4. Terry, I just started an older Jack Reacher book, One Shot, today. They are just enjoyable good fun.

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