Another Great Serendipitous Crossover

In an earlier post, titled “Foiled Again,” I managed to get in a literary snag by reading two books at the same time about vampires.  Well, lo and behold, fate has struck me again.

I’m currently working my way through Cory Docotrow’s For the Win, a fun and entertaining book about massive multi-player online games such as World of Warcraft and the gold farmers and people who play them to make a profit.  And I also just finished up Daniel Suarez’s Freedom™, which is the sequel to Daemon, and all about a daemon being set loose through the internet and essentially bringing down the world.  A big part of Suarez’s novels involves MMOs and the people who play them.

Thankfully, while it was a little hard to keep the two vampire stories separate mentally, For the Win and Freedom™ are more two different sides to MMOs and the people who play them.

“Black Hills” by Dan Simmons (Reagan Arthur, 2010)

Black Hillsstarstar

In 2008, at a signing for Dan Simmons’ last incredible tome, Drood – as well as in an interview for BookBanter – the bestselling and award-winning author talked about his next novel in progress: the story about a young Native American boy, Paha Sapa, who is possessed by the spirit and soul of General Custer, who recently expired at the Battle of Little Big Horn in 1876.  It was a very unique sounding story, which is what Simmons does best, but I was certainly hesitant about the novel it would become, Black Hills.  Sadly after the pinnacle of his writing with The Terror, Black Hills is a mediocre at best novel that Simmons clearly put a lot of work into, but at the end leaves the reader thinking: “Is that it?”

The story begins with 10-year-old Paha Sapa visiting the battle ground of Little Big Horn, after the fighting.  He comes upon a man lying on the ground; as he investigates, a cloud form of the man’s spirit/soul enters his body.  Dan Simmons has done his research on Native American ways and culture, as Paha Sapa prepares himself to become a man.  His name means Black Hills, named for the specific hills of South Dakota.  The story then jumps to 1936 when Paha Sapa is an old man, in his seventies, working on the building and sculpting of Mount Rushmore.  Paha Sapa’s specific job is demolitions, strategically placing the dynamite to blast the rock.  But he considers the building of Rushmore a great insult to his people and his country, and with President Roosevelt scheduled to make a visit in the near future, Paha Sapa has his own celebratory explosion planned.

Black Hills jumps back and forth in time with Paha Sapa’s growth as a boy in becoming a man, and then his slow, meticulous planning of the catastrophic explosion of Rushmore as he continues to work on the historical site.  At the very end of the book, as the reader is left wondering why things happened the way they did, Simmons launches into a lengthy ethereal commentary about protecting and respecting this land and this world, which simply comes out of nowhere.

Simmons does what he does best with Black Hills: some interesting characters, strong description, good writing; but the story and plot are lacking in development, depth and interest that his other novels always possess.  Black Hills is simply not a book for everyone: new readers may enjoy it, some Simmons fans may also, but this reviewer found it to be a weak novel from one of the best writers writing today.

CLICK HERE to purchase your copy from Bookshop Santa Cruz and help support BookBanter.

Originally written on May 19 2010 ©Alex C. Telander.

“Northlanders Book Three: Blood in the Snow” by Brian Wood, Dean Ormston, et. al. (Vertigo, 2010)

Blood in the Snowstarstarstarstarstar

In the third volume of the fascinating Northlanders series, Brian Wood takes readers on new adventures into the world and history of the Vikings.  What makes Northlanders such an interesting and original series are Wood’s storylines, beginning in the first volume with Sven, but then taking readers on different tangents and facets of the Vikings.  The series is like a full history course on the Vikings, all told through the medium of the graphic novel.

In Blood in the Snow, Wood begins with the monastery at Lindisfarne, one of the richest and favorite areas to attack and pillage, exploring the way of life for some Vikings, consistently attacking and ransacking for more riches.  In the second story, “The Viking Art of Single Combat,” Wood tells the tale of a battle between two champions, between two families who have been at war with each other for generations.  After this battle, they will be at peace for a little while.  As these two war veterans face off, the reader sees their world and their lives through their eyes, understanding what they hold dear, and why their revenge is so strong.

In the third tale, “The Shield Maidens” – which deserves some awards – Wood tells the story of three Viking wives who are trapped and under attack from a hoard of Saxons, and how they work together, use their strengths, and miraculously escape, separated, with their lives, and their reunite years later.  In the final tale, “Sven the Immortal,” the reader sees a Sven now old but still strong, who must fight for his family and his life one more time.

The Northlanders series just gets better with each volume, keeping readers hooked with interest and wonder at what story Brian Wood is going to tell next, what journey he will take the Vikings on, and what battles will be waged.  Well researched, this series is one of the best there is being written today in the world of graphic novels.

CLICK HERE to purchase your copy from Bookshop Santa Cruz and help support BookBanter.

Originally written on May 18 2010 ©Alex C. Telander.

If you liked this review, you might also like:

Northlanders Volume 1 Northlanders Volume 2 Vikings, Saxons, and Celts The Vikings

5/27 On the Bookshelf . . . “One Bloody Thing After Another”

One Bloody Thing After Another

My wife is a big fan of A Softer World, a popular web comic by Joey Comeau which I certainly enjoy whenever she shows me a particular favorite and/or entertaining strip.  When she mentioned about some shorts that Comeau had written that has now been turned into a book — One Bloody Thing After Another — my interest was piqued and now I’m looking forward to reading this new release and who knows, it may turn into an interview for BookBanter.

“Stephen King and Peter Straub The Talisman The Road of Trials” by Robin Furth, Tony Shasteen, Nei Ruffino, and JD Mettler (Del Rey, 2010)

Talisman Volume 1starstarstarstar

After the success of the brilliant Marvel adaptations of Stephen King’s The Dark Tower, the skillful writing hand of Robin Furth now turns to the bestselling story of The Talisman, along with experienced artists Tony Shasteen, Nei Ruffino, and JD Mettler.  Stephen King and Peter Straub co-wrote and published The Talisman in 1984.  It is the epic tale of Jack Sawyer, a young boy with a sick mother, who must travel to the other side of the country to find her cure.  He also must travel to an alternate world known as the “Territories,” where he will meet up with a number of “twinners” from his world – doppelgangers of people he knows.  He also meets up with some very strange and unusual people in this fantasy world: some nice who he becomes friends with, and some enemies who want to hurt him.  Then there is Morgan Sloat, Jack’s father’s business partner who knows all too well about the Territories and is looking to bring over some advanced technology like electricity and nukes to change the world and profit from it.  Sloat also knows what Jack’s up to and is trying to catch him and put an end to him.  The question is whether Jack will be able to make it to his destination and get the talisman that will save his mother, as well as her twinner, the queen.

And now Robin Furth is adapting the powerful words of King and Straub to the world of graphic novels, with stunning artwork from Shasteen, Ruffino, and Mettler.  In this first volume, The Road of Trials, Furth does a great job of shrinking the lengthy beginning of The Talisman to a number of pages, while the artwork brings the great fantasy world of the Territories to beautiful fruition.  The Talisman Volume 1 is a great start to this new graphic novel series that looks to take the reader on as a great ride as King and Straub did with their readers in the original Talisman.

CLICK HERE to purchase your copy from Bookshop Santa Cruz and help support BookBanter.

Originally written on May 18 2010 ©Alex C. Telander.

If you liked this review, you might like:

Captain Trips Everything's Eventual

“What if the Earth Had Two Moons” by Neil F. Comings (St. Martin’s Press, 2010)

What if the Earth Had Two Moonsstarstarstar

Neil F. Comins is a professor of physics and astronomy at the University of Maine and has written a number of popular books including: The Hazards of Space Travel: A Tourist’s Guide and What if the Moon Didn’t Exist? Voyages to Earths That Might Have Been.  In his new book, What if the Earth Had Two Moons, he gives us nine alternative realities, including what our world would be like if we had two moons.  At the beginning of each hypothesis, Comins has a little fun with a short fictional reality existing in the condition he is about to describe, then he analyzes it from a scientific and then sociological perspective.  While he tends to keep everything dry and scientific, and there seems to be a lacking in exploring the alternate world (perhaps that is a different book), Comins nevertheless is thorough and detailed, taking on what ifs like: “What if the Earth’s Crust Were Thicker,” “What if the Sun Were Less Massive,” “What if the Earth had Two Suns,” as well as many others.

CLICK HERE to purchase your copy from Bookshop Santa Cruz and help support BookBanter.

Originally written on May 18 2010 ©Alex C. Telander.

Originally published in the Sacramento Book Review.