UltraQuikReview – The Mountain’s Call – Caitlin Brennan

n183034The good: The writing style is engaging and workmanlike, and the plot is too, initially. The author is an actual horse person–she breeds and trains Lipizzaners. It definitely shows. She’s also a history buff. That also shows, although not to the extent of belaboring the work. There is a pleasant tinge of depth to her worldbuilding and a nicely-tuned amount of forethought in her Imperial-barbarian relationships; but that’s as far as it goes. Likewise, the characters themselves have a certain amount of verisimilitude.

And let it be noted that I read at least two thirds of the entire book before I started skimming.

The bad: there’s too much book for too little plot, especially since a good 80% of that plot is: “but girls can ride horses too!” More, Valeria only just misses being a Mary Sue because she does have some depth and she does struggle for what she gets. Still, being constantly told that she is THAT SPECIAL, look the horses like her! gets annoying after the first half-dozen times. Valeria not being the POV character would have helped; having one of the other trainees, or even one of the other Riders give a jaundiced but educated view of what is going on, would have made things more interesting. Kerrec is also not a great POV, because he’s rather too cliche: heroic, love interest, prince who has forsaken his birthright, strictly disciplined but highly passionate, etc.

I’d recount the plot at this point but really…it’s gets more boring and less worthwhile the more I think about it. Girl. Magic Mountain. Untamed god-horse stallion. Girl saves world by riding horse. The end.

Rated: I may have spent half an hour soaping down an old saddle after reading this…

ALERT ALERT RED ALERT

JIM BUTCHER IS ONE CHAPTER AWAY FROM FINISHING PEACE TALKS

It’s up to chapter 66 now–priscellie has confirmed that it is over 200,000 words and the longest of JB’s books to date. And that the finale is pretty mind-blowing. Considering that

[POTENTIAL SPOILERS]

Peace Talks is confirmed to have the highest body count yet…and possibly involve mortal authorities…not to mention Mab…not to mention Johnny Marcone…

ALL HANDS TO STATIONS: WE WILL NOW COMMENCE PHASE 2 — speculating on whether we’ll get it for Halloween or Christmas. 

Booty. The Very Best Booty.

Sherlock Holmes: the Complete Novels and Stories – Arthur Conan Doyle
Orion Shall Rise – Poul Anderson
The Fountainhead – Ayn Rand (Aka, You People Need Therapy: The Novel)
The Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas (unabridged, this time)
The Witches of Karres – James H. Schmitz
Star Born – Andre Norton
Shadow Hawk – Andre Norton
The Mote in God’s Eye – Niven & Pournelle
Tactics of Mistake – Gordon R. Dickson
Escape Velocity – Christopher Stasheff
Dune Messiah – Frank Herbert
Beyond Another Sun – Tom Godwin
Tarzan of the Apes – Edgar Rice Burroughs (I am a simple fan. I see Tarzan, I buy. I do not, however, buy more than one at a time: Tarzan and the Jewels of Opar remained in the Vintage Pulp section, along with the mouthwatering shelf of vintage ANALOG issues.)
Soldier, Ask Not – Gordon R. Dickson
Sense and Sensibility – Jane Austen
Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen

And, for the Princess of Barsoom:
Basil and the Lost Colony – by Eve Titus
The Wind and the Willows – Kenneth Grahame
The Story of George Washington Carver
At Her Majesty’s Request –  An African Princess in Victorian Britain
It’s going to be a while before she’s ready to read them. But they’ll be waiting for her until she is.

GOOD. YOU GO GIRL.

Amelie Wen Zhao, who was bullied into pulling her debut novel, has decided to damn the torpedoes and storm ahead. 

A little more context and rambling commentary via Ya Boy Zack.

I almost never buy new novels, let alone YA–and I’m planning to burn through my spare cash on the .50c paperback section at the giant library sale tomorrow. But this woman deserves support and I will buy her book.

PUBLISH AND BE DAMNED TO THEM.

Disappointing Watchlist

Tarzan’s Hidden Jungle
Scene: comely young nurse goes swimming, in the buff. Cheeta has stolen her clothes and towel. Tarzan walks up, all Tarzany and also incredibly buff.

Girl: “…. …. ….HELP.”
Tarzan: “GIRL IN TROUBLE?”
Girl: “Big trouble!”
Tarzan: “I help!”
Girl: “NO!”

Heh.

Unfortunately, the rest of the movie fails to achieve its full potential moronic charm.

So there’s an evil group of poachers who have a contract for one million billion tons of antelope skins, rhino horns, chimpanzee brains, tiger testicles, and baby elephant oil. (Oil made from baby elephants, that is. Not the All-Natural 100% Organic African Black Sap  Jungle Trunk and Tail Oil mama elephants apply to their babies [THIS ITEM AVAILABLE FOR PURCHASE AT YOUR LOCAL WEALTHFOODSTORE. FULFILMENT VIA AMAZON. TWO-DAY SHIPPING MAY NOT BE AVAILABLE IN YOUR REGION. SIDE EFFECTS MAY INCLUDE REDNESS, ITCHING, VOODOO DEATH, OR HAIR LOSS. DISCONTINUE PRODUCT USE AND INFORM YOUR LOCAL WITCHDOCTOR IF SIDE EFFECTS OCCUR]). And they’re way behind schedule in getting them! Oh noes! And then a UN doctor who naturally also isn’t very smart, agrees to take the poacher gang with him (masquerading as photographers) into the untouched/sacred territory across the river. Oh noes! He must be warned!
(Tarzan, meanwhile, is busy with the very important business of fetching some important jungle medicine mud for a sick man). So off goes Nurse Jill, and promptly wrecks her UN-issue car. DUH LADY. It’s probably not even 4WD. (Nurse Missie Jill is also incredibly inept, although I will concede that being chased into quicksand by a giant python could happen to anyone). Anyhow, once rescued, she needs to be taken along because there isn’t enough time to take her back and warn Doc. So off they go.
(The tribal chief’s girlfriend/wife has quite the fetching off-the-shoulder ensemble with a bold and ultramodern zebra pattern bodice. v. chic, I must say.) And at about that point I got bored, so I’m not entirely sure how Doc and Missie Miss get thrown into the lion pit (oh noes!), but suffice it to say that Tarzan saves the day…..by grabbing a spear and jumping into the pit, too. And then…yelling at the lions to go away. Sooooo….Numa speaks Swahili?

So, yes, I would have a problem with this movie even if it wasn’t called “Tarzan.” It does not have an actual Tarzan–Lord Greystoke, John Clayton, the Mighty, Killer of Apes and Men, Lord of the Jungle–in it. It’s got a monosyllabic guy in a loincloth who is way overattached to baby elephants and chimpanzees and can occasionally manage to manhandle a couple of overweight shikaris or African “boys”. That’s to be expected. Even the very best Tarzan movies (Tarzan’s Greatest Adventure, Tarzan the Magnificent, don’t really have Edgar Rice Burroughs’ characters in them. Don’t get me started on the modern ones. Just…don’t.)

But why on Earth would I have a problem with something meant to be simple, mindless entertainment? Well, because the best mindless entertainment is simple, but not dumb. There should be actual characters; there should be motives. There should be plot; there should be complications, there should be setbacks, and there should be victories. Also, there should be action. You don’t have to have romance (Cheeta gets more action than Tarzan does, post-quicksand synchronized swimming routines aside)–but you ought to have chemistry. There are a surprising number of zero-budget B-movie flicks which manage beyond all odds to have charm. (Duel of the Titans/Romulus et Remus, Sword of the Conqueror, Princess of the Nile, A Queen for Caesar…)
This movie is a) just dumb, b) really cheap.
And that’s okay.
….but it’s not great.

Rated: I was more amused by my own baby elephant oil joke than any other part of the movie.

Heart: a History – Sandeep Jauhar
(copied from my class notes)
– SO MANY DOGS! They’d never get away with that today! Is that a bad thing or a good thing? They made so many discoveries, but zero oversight. I’m not sure what the answer is. I’m for live animals not being experimented on if we can help it. But I’m also for people not dying. I dunno!
– Progress is made by the interested and motivated and slightly insane person who is in the right place, at the right time.
– Best course of action is to give people medicine and make their parts work properly. Even with pacemakers, defibrilator implants, continuous-flow hearts, the best thing sometimes is to just try to make people work properly.
– Continuously upgrading my cyborg body therefore isn’t an option, alas… (Alita: Battle Angel is unrealistic.)
– STUPID PEN WON’T WRITE
– So, I kinda default to literary criticism when I’m reading something that has an anecdotal component. Author wanted to work through his feelings about his family; he was trying to put everything into some sort of perspective after his mother died, and how some of his patients with defibrillators or pacemakers were praying that they would go quickly; while his mother died not of heart disease….very slowly and horribly. That’s legit. C. S. Lewis wrote an entire book as he was working through his feelings about his wife dying. This guy isn’t C.S. Lewis, but he does have things to say and think about.
– Problem: Author wanted to also write an entertaining and accessible book about the history of cardiac medicine.
– Author potentially wanted both parts of the book to pull together and form some kind of emotional and educational masterpiece, whereby people would be touched, edified, uplifted. Problem: he is nowhere near good enough to pull it off.

Rated: what do you mean, I only get ten points extra credit for this?

Mighty One, We Have Lost Us Another

Engineer and SF author Gene Wolf has passed away at the age of 88. He designed the machine that makes Pringles. He also wrote extremely high-brow SF of a sort which apparently rewarded the intelligent, knowledgeable, widely-read reader adept at teasing double and triple meanings, sifting through scenes and unreliable narrators and chasing down reality through mere hints.

In other words, I didn’t read much of his stuff, and what I did read (The Fifth Head of Cerberus), probably went over my head at a very high velocity. But that’s on me.

Spare none of the rites. One of the highest has passed this day.