The Lord of Castle Black – Steven Brust – Repost Review

TLDR: Even if this one is pretty good, I have lost all patience with the Dragaera Cycle.

It’s difficult to read Steven Brust’s books at all now–even ones I previously loved liked found okay, like Issola and the very first Jhereg–because now I know the dirty secret. He’s not interested in his own story, his own universe, or making it all fit together. Dragaera isn’t a tightly-woven narrative tapestry, it’s a collection of very bright and colorful threads in a loose knot. Now and then Brust may tug a couple of threads taut, just to show off how shiny and pretty those strands are. But there’s no overall, well-thought out picture that can be salvaged from the tangle at this point (well, not without extreme and conscientious effort which I highly doubt will be made).

Brust’s interest in Dragaera lies in…I can’t say the characters, because he seems painfully uninterested in them, but he does like gourmet food, philosophical digressions (AKA, why socialism is good and mafia aren’t), and….I guess, Devera. And this is a problem, because klava and gourmand fried chocolate-dipped garlic and roast asafoedita-stuffed dormouse have left enough of a bad taste in my mouth that even after reading half of this book and enjoying it, I was extremely reluctant to pick it up again–and I still can’t bring myself to actually read The Baron of Magister Valley (AKA, The Count of Monte Cristo IN DRAGAERA.) Why should I read a book in a series that the author doesn’t even want to finish and doesn’t like any more? Why should I expect to be pleasantly entertained when that’s not the purpose of the story, anymore? Why read a well-written and enjoyable prequel to a series that the author doesn’t want to finish?

Brust does not want to tell stories about swashbuckling but hard-edged heroes, noble but ruthless warriors, sorcerers who are as powerful as gods, and gods who are as petty as men. He doesn’t want to tell a story of criminals or of empires, rebels or righteous war. He doesn’t really care about excitement any more, and adventures are downright distasteful. Much better to drink egg coffee in a corner cafe. His stories are the stories of an old man who shares little in common with his younger self (who at least tried), or with younger audiences (who came on board for the swashbuckling, capeswishing, rapier-flashing, epic fantasy stories written on a narrative backdrop that is a richly-woven tapestry, etc…AKA, people like me who stuck it out for fifteen books but have at this point noticed which way the wind blows.)

That said, and with it in mind, Brust is at his best when he’s riffing off a better author and doesn’t have to come up with those tedious narrative beats himself. As in Paths of the Dead, which I own but haven’t read in several years, this is one of those instances.

This subseries is a prequel to the main Vlad Taltos books, covering the fall and rise again of the Dragaeran Empire. It’s also a riff off of Dumas’ The Three Musketeers–D’Artagnan, Portos, Aramis, and, uh, whats-his-face, Oliver Reed played him in the movie…whatever–becoming Khaavren (the main hero), Tazendra (the dumb but loveable ruffian), Aramis (the sneaky Yendi), and…I dunno, the other guy. (WHAT IS HIS NAAAAME?!) So, I had it wrong, this is actually book 2 of a sub-trilogy within the Khaavren Romances subseries of the Dragaera Cycle. Eh, whatever.

The plot is: Khaavren, formerly the swashbuckling hero of a previous generation, has decided that he needs to get back in shape and take to the road again. His timing is good, because meanwhile, Zerika has re-emerged with the Orb from the Paths of the Dead–making her indisputably the new Empress. Problem is, there really is a dispute going on, because there are at least two pretenders to the throne, and they have quite a few more men than she does. (She’s got about twenty-five, including Khaavren’s son Piro). Meanwhile, young Dragonlord Morrolan has set up shop in a ruined castle and begun doing what he is assured Dragonlords do, which tax the local civilians and use the money to assemble an army. He’s got about three thousand soldiers. Meanwhile, immortal sorceress Sethra Lavode is…well, she’s in her mountain doing whatever she does that is of deep mystic import and is never actually explained to the audience. And, since this is book 2 of 3-ish, that’s about it. There’s a couple of battles but they don’t resolve the Pretendership conflict, and on the personal level, the book ends with a near-tragedy as Khaavren’s old-school values and personal prejudices end up pushing his son away into a life of banditry (whee!)

So the main attraction the Khaavren Romances have is that the writing style, as well as the plot, homages Dumas–that is, it’s wordy, literate, and full of narrative filligree and little stylistic flourishes which ironically help flesh out the world and the characters far, far better than plainer prose. It’s a bit stilted, but it’s charming, often amusing, (“Oh bother,” said Tazendra, “I’ve lost the reins.”) and sometimes actually quite witty. Actual action is treated in classic style: with many flourishes and little detail and as much posturing as is necessary to show our heroes in a heroic light.

The characters are less of an attraction, mostly because they’ve already been established and the narrative convention is to keep them on a bit flatter of an arc than we’d normally see. Mostly the only development is between Piro and his love interest Ibronka, culminating in a highly amusing scene wherein their friends basically lock them in a closet to resolve the UST. Morrolan, the second lead, amusingly gets slighted by the biased narrator, who regards him as an unsophisticated country (human-raised) bumpkin who wavers between dangerously airheaded and just plain dangerous. Needless to say, Morrolan’s actual actions put a lie to everything but the dangerous bit.

So, overall: this is a good book, and it’s part of a series that once showed great promise. Unfortunately, given that the rest of the series fails signally to live up to that….I honestly can’t enjoy it anymore.

Rated: One half-exploded sorceress out of…well…one.

SF Baby Names – Boys (repost)

Or, it’s a lot easier to name kids after your favorite SF/F heroes if they’re your kids….

Adam (Reith): Jack Vance’s Planet of Adventure cycle. (Portrayed here by Keir Dullea in 2001: A Space Odyssey, because that’s pretty much what I imagine Adam Reith to look like).

keirdulleaaspaceodyssey“He looks creepy.”
“He’s this ice cold, stone cold badass space scout guy who gets crash landed on an alien planet. And then he has adventures.”
“Brrr! Look at those eyes!”
“Yeah, ain’t they nice? And then he has to basically build his own space ship to go back home again.”
“…”
“…”
“It’s a good name!”

Aragorn (Lord of the Rings)
aragorn_2_-_fotr“He don’t look like that no more.”
“Doesn’t matter, he’s Aragorn!”

Ben, Benedict (of Amber): The Chronicles of Amber. (Here portrayed by Gary Cooper as portraying Howard Roarke in The Fountainhead. I suppose Howard or even Roarke wouldn’t have gone amiss as entries on this list, but never mind.)
annex20-20cooper20gary20fountainhead20the_05“I dunno who this guy is.”
“He’s a Prince of Amber! He’s the greatest swordsman in the worl–no, he’s the greatest swordsman in the universe. Any universe.”

Brandoch (Daha): The Worm Ouroborous.

“Ohhhh, I remember him.”
“Yes, that’s Errol Flynn. But the character is named Brandoch Daha. He’s this guy in The Worm Ouroborous, he’s a real dandy and he’s also the greatest swordsman in the world.”
“I thought you said that the other guy was the greatest swordsman in the world!”
“No, Benedict is the greatest swordsman in the universe. He’s better than Brandoch Daha.”
“Whatever.”

Carthoris: ERB’s Barsoom cycle. (Here portrayed by Eric Schweig from Last of the Mohicans)
eric-schweig-actor-native-american-actors-singers-etc-38228443-500-326“Car…thoris…? That’s a horrible name!”
“It’s a combination of his parent’s names! John Carter and Dejah Thoris! Car-Thoris!”
“Next!”

Corwin/Carl/Corey: The Chronicles of Amber (AKA, Tyrone Power)

“I remember Corwin.”
“You do?”
“You used to tell me alllllll about him.”
“Yeah, isn’t he cool?”
“Next.”

Duncan (AKA: Douglas Fairbanks, Jr, as seen in The Prisoner of Zenda): Dune, Dune Messiah. The greatest swordsman in the universe. (It’s a different universe from the other one.) How great? His enemies were so impressed they brought him back to life after swarming him to death with sheer numbers.
400px-poz1937_dfjr“Y’know, I’m sensing a trend here.”
“Shut up.”

Eric (John Stark): Leigh Brackett’s Mars, Venus, and Skaith.
938641“Oh, Leigh Brackett!”
“Yes! I mean, I barely blog about her books but they were really good. This guy is like Tarzan.”
“Oh.”
“…on Venus.”
“I can see why you like him.”
“WHATEVER.”

Gilgamesh (Wulfenbach): Girl Genius. The one and only schmott guy. Und hiz hat!
gilgamesh_nice_hat“GILGAMESH? Are you serious?”
“…well, you could call him Gil.”
“…”
“It could be a middle name!”
“…”
“Look, he’s got a hat.”
“NEXT.”

Harry (Copperfield Blackstone Dresden): The Dresden Files.

4796e39950a869c6ef1307a8d2e81f37“Next.”
“Awwww, but I like Harry.”

Julian (of Amber)
the-war-lord-1965-universal-film-with-charlton-heston-a8dkfx“Oh! I know him! That’s Charlton Heston!”

Juss (The Worm Ouroborous) (AKA: Robert Taylor in Ivanhoe), Lord of Demonland (don’t worry, they’re really only from Mercury and he’s actually the hero), Prince among princes, and a really good guy overall.
knightsoftheroundtable19532“Juss?”
“Or Justin. Or Justinian…and you could just call him Juss.”
“Juss.”
“Yeah!”
Juss.”
“It’s nice, innit?”
“…No.”

John (Clayton, Carter, Dillulo…): Tarzan, Barsoom, and Edmund Hamilton’s Merc Captain in the Starwolf series. It’s a good name, OK? This one happens to be Gordon Scott of the John Clayton fame.
5347565_orig“John. John’s a good name.”
“It’s a classic.”
“So–”
“Keep going.”

Kirth (Gersen): The man who defeated The Demon Princes.
f11be3d9fb349da339bb9fa063ff0cc2“Kirth. OK, I like Kirth.”
“His family was killed and sold into slavery by these five master criminals, and then his grandfather trained him as an assassin detective and he spent the rest of his life tracking them down one by one and killing them. They were such–they were these criminal overlords, like–they were so powerful and feared that people called them the Demon Princes.”
“Oh.”
“And, he got them all.”
“And then what did he do?”
“Heh, the last page of the last book is him wondering what he’s going to do next.”

Leto (Duke of Arrakis and Caladan): Dune. Leto’s limited screentime doesn’t really get to show how cool a character this guy really is.

leto_web_14“Leto. Leto. It sounds like a middle school name.”
“….uh?”
“It does!”
“…you could be ahead of the curve?–no, you’d be behind the curve.”
“–behind the curve, yeah.”
“Yeah.”
“He’s a cool character though!”
“Next.”

Luke: (The Legend of Luke)Father of Martin the Warrior, foe of Vilu Daskar, blood brother to Ranguvar Foeseeker, liberator of the slaves!
uk_luke

“Whaaaat! Oh, ahahahahahaaa, that’s hilarious. ”
“Those books were really awesome.”

Martin The Warrior: Redwall. Because REDWAAAAAAALLLLLLL! EULALIA! LOGALOGALOGALOG!
martin_the_warrior_by_redwall_club
“Because Redwaaaaaalll! Yue–Eue–Eulalia! Logalogalogalog! Heh heh heh.”

Miles (Vorkosigan): Lois Bujold’s The Vorkosigan Saga

b76f676b0e9e6042ea80414e16686107“Who is this guy?”
“He’s–”
“I don’t know who this guy is. Why is his face on fire?”
“It’s symbolic.”
“Why did you pick a symbolic picture?”
“…because it was symbolic and it represented the character well!”
“His face is ON FIRE.”
“IT IS NOT.”

Solomon (Kane): Robert E Howard’s Solomon Kane mythos.
solomon_kane“Oh! I like this guy. Who is this guy?”
“He’s a Puritan in old England who goes around smiting evil. With a sword.”
“Hm!”
“Down from the hills came Solomon Kane…there’s a poem somewhere. Dang, I should have linked to it or something.”
“He’s very cool looking.”
“He’s very cool.”
“Put a link to the poem up!”
“Oh, ok. Since you asked for it.”

Roger: The man who gave us many worlds, glimpses of grandeur, nobility and fun that might otherwise have been lost to ours. Thanks, man. I loved your books.
roger-zelaznys-quotes-1I didn’t read any of his books.”
“Shut up.”

war-song

Ineluki, we are calling
as our women one day called.
Prince, our cries are harsh with hatred
and our hearts are turned to stone.
We would face now any horror,
we would stand who fled before.

Ineluki, we are calling
as our children one day called.
Prince, our hearts are cold within us,
and our souls grow sharp as steel.
We would take for ours the fire:
we would burn who burned before.

Ineluki! Lord, we hail you!
Wake, o Prince, from thy dark dreaming,
Rise, retake thy iron sword.
We are weak no more with anguish,
we are stilled no more by sorrow.
Prince, our hearts burn high with fury,
and our hands are hard with hate.

Ineluki! Do you sleep yet?
Here we bring your arms before you,
Here we lay them, at your feet!
From your long sleep wake and lead us,
Rise, o Prince, loose hell and tempest!
Ineluki! Wake, and lead us on again!

So I really disliked Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn, and periodically remember the fact. Why does no one write the kind of elves–or elves at the civilizational stage–where they’re full of fire and vinegar and giving all kinds of merry hell to Others. If you’re that worried about writing them outside the Tolkien template, all you have to do is make them Fair Folk instead…

Shadow of the Conqueror – Shad Brooks – QuikReview

shadow-of-the-conquerorEnthusiastic, imaginative, and inept. 

It’s a first novel, and it has the clawmarks of one: big ideas; enthusiastic, imaginative but vague worldbuilding; exposition delivered mostly through dialogue; characterization delivered mostly through dialogue; action described mostly through dialogue; and unnecessary dialogue pointing out themes and moral implications that have already been made obvious by basic narration or other dialogue strings

There are also several structural failures: the main hero-buddy duo just doesn’t work (although the secondary one does, mostly). What’s worse for the book as a whole, none of the humor is quite as funny as it wants to be; the book itself could have excused a multitude of faults with a strong infusion of black, self-aware humor.

Continue reading “Shadow of the Conqueror – Shad Brooks – QuikReview”

Mentally Tired Read/Watchlist

Readlist: 
– Eight Days of Luke – Diana Wynne Jones – a nice, relaxing old stand-by. I really like this book.
– Spinning Silver – Naomi Novik – also a relaxing, low-stakes fantasy novel that’s joining the I’m-tired-and-need-to-relax rotation.
– You’re Stepping On My Cloak and Dagger – Roger Hall –  This guy joined the OSS during WW2 and, unwillingly, ended up flying a desk for most of it. Highlight: He gets the assignment to be dropped behind enemy lines and take over leadership of a guerilla group…except by the time he got there the lines had moved and he was back in American territory again. Heh. Also, he ends up accepting German surrenders in Hell. 
– Byzantium – Judith Herrin – is one of the things I lack the fortitude to actually power through right now.

Watchlist:

– Taking Lives – an early-2000s movie starring Angelina Jolie and Ethan Hawke. It’s mostly interesting because Ethan Hawke is very handsome and Angelina Jolie is…Angelina. Other than that the plot falls apart when you think about it for more than ten seconds and the characters are more a collection of quirks, twitches, and mannerisms than actual characterization.

– Want to watch: The Wolf of Snow Hollow appears to be available…

“Add title”

Some have broken the bounds of the narrow land

Laid open the book of dreams

Drawn doorways in the sand 

walked through Shadow to the many worlds

With fellowship and dread companions

From the last castle to the Gaean Reach

strangers and pilgrims in a strange land, 

progressing, our destination universe.

The farthest star but a mote in God's eye.


When the world turned upside down,

through a splinter in the mind's eye, recall

who goes there, out of the dark?

A star rider on a steel horse, 

a rite of passage through abyss of wonder,

shelters of stone to the starpilot's grave. // clan of cave bear to the lioness rampant

I saw the doors of his mouth open

and the lamps of his eyes shine.

A final rose bloom for Ecclesiastes,

and no night, ever, without stars.


What's it like out there -- Skagganauk, or the space beyond,

the birthplace of creation, or the crossroads of time?

There is time enough for love. 

Soul music in a minor key, sung by no woman born

In a many-colored land: red, blue, and green.

East of Eden, children of the mind await their childhood's end.

The player of games is gonna roll the bones.

Computers don't argue, the right to arm bears is in the bone

Equal rites are observed,

And no man sayeth call him lord.


There are Skylarks three in an alien sky;

from homely house to lonely mountain 

the long patrol guards moss and flower;

a stainless steel rat runs for president (to hell and back).

Sheep are electric. The horse and his boy

dream of dancing mountains.

All cats are gray, walking between the walls

To say nothing of the dog

that bays with five mouths

the fool moon.


Creatures there are of light and darkness:

When true night falls on the borders of infinity

two suns setting cast slithering shadows

across the long tomorrow. 

Ancient, my enemy, the old gods waken. 

Alas, Babylon! The city and the stars!

Wolves across the border

A feral darkness, the darkness that comes before,

Beyond the black river. 


I will fear no evil, 

not the hills of the dead nor the black god's kiss,

the wings in the night, or the red nails' gleam;

Daemon, sidhe-devil, or devil in iron

or the nine billion names of God,

for the stars are also fire

and the stars

burn.


Soldier, ask not 

of unfinished tales or a dry, quiet war.

Take iron counsel of the cold equations.

Till we have faces, lest the long night fall,

Raise the sword of Rhiannon

Set a fire upon the deep.

More than honor, we few,

Wee free men, the high crusade,

Seek Armageddon inheritance

In the service of the sword. 


Sleeper, awaken! from this alien shore

To your scattered bodies go

A citizen of the galaxy

and not this pale blue dot

Bid farewell again to the cool, green hills of earth

I have space suit and I will travel

The stars are my destination 

These stars are already ours.

The Thief of Baghdad (1942) – With My Mother (repost)

“Wait, this is the little movie with Sahib or Saboo or what’s-his-name, isn’t it?”
“You never watched it! You can’t say it’s bad! You’ll like it!”
“You’re still hung up on that silly movie from when you were a kid?”
“It’s a good movie!”
“…”
“You promised you were going to watch it.”
“And I don’t know why.”

The movie begins in medias res, with a blind man and his dog begging for alms on the street. Conrad Veidt drops by:

vlcsnap-2018-06-17-09h38m21s059
“Who’s he?”
“Jaffar.”
“Is he the Sultan?”
“No, he’s the evil usurping vizier.”
“Usurping what?”
“The kingdom.”

Like the blind man, the dog is special and more than he appears to be–as demonstrated when he picks out false coins from an offering.

vlcsnap-2018-06-17-09h37m51s827
“What?”
“He said, the dog must have been a tax collector in a previous life.”

The blind man is collected by the enigmatic Halima:

vlcsnap-2018-06-17-09h39m05s291
“I didn’t get all that.”
“The blind guy is the real king. The dog is the thief, Sabu. Jaffar did that to them when he did the usurping. But now he needs the king back to do something for him.”
“Who is she?”
“She works for Jaffar.”

“Oh! So that’s why the dog can tell! He’s really a person!”

“Is Tony Curtis in this?”

The blind man begins to tell his story, and we flash back to the beginning:
vlcsnap-2018-06-17-09h39m58s936

He is the king whom Jaffar usurped, was tricked into leaving the palace, thrown in jail, rescued by the little Thief of Baghdad, and fled the city for safer climates.

“What’s his name? The king.”
“John Justin. He never hit it big.”
“I can see why.”
“…”
“That is one scrawny looking man.”

They end up in the nearby city of Basra, where armed guards ensure that no man sees the face of the Princess before she is married.

vlcsnap-2018-06-17-09h44m03s932

“He said, is she that ugly?”
“Heh.”

 

“June Duprez….”
“Apparently she never hit it big, either. I think she said it was because Joan Fontaine or one of those people had it out for her.”
“I can see that happening.”

Ahmad, however, sees the Princess, is smitten, and with Abu’s reluctant help manages to sneak into the palace to see her up-close.

vlcsnap-2018-06-17-09h44m57s444
“He said, Sinbad the Sailor offered them berths on his ship.”
“Mm-hm.”
“Isn’t that nice?”
“….mmm.”

Fortunately, the Princess is receptive…
vlcsnap-2018-06-17-09h45m51s346

“Oh please. NO.”

Unfortunately, Jaffar arrives, intent on founding a dynasty (no, seriously, those are his exact words), and he has planned ahead.

vlcsnap-2018-06-17-09h47m16s632

“What is it? What is it!”
“It’s a clockwork horse.”
vlcsnap-2018-06-17-09h47m23s258
“What!”
“It’s a flying clockwork horse.”
vlcsnap-2018-06-17-09h47m57s780

“How could that work!?”
“It’s a magic flying clockwork horse.”
“Is it real?”
“What?”
vlcsnap-2018-06-17-09h48m38s668

“I know what he wants for that!”

vlcsnap-2018-06-17-09h48m43s564
The Princess makes a run for it. Meanwhile, a captured Ahmad confronts Jaffar–unsuccessfully–resulting in the state of affairs that we began with and catching us up to the story in the present.

“Why is he so happy?”

“What’d he say?”

“He turned into a dog!”

“What’d he say?”
“He said, the king would be blind and the thief would be a dog until he gets to hold the Princess.”
“Hold the Princess?”
“…hug…the Princess…?”
“Oh.”

It is then revealed to Ahmad that he is in the same place as the Princess, she having been captured and bought by slavers, but is in a strange magical coma (you know, the kind Princesses are prone to…it must be genetic), which only he can break.

vlcsnap-2018-06-17-09h52m24s367

vlcsnap-2018-06-17-09h52m02s770

“They lying?”
“No.”

Jaffar watches the proceedings:

“He put a spell on her he can’t break?”
“He didn’t enspell the Princess, she just fell into it herself. He enspelled THEM.”

Ahmad wakes the Princess successfully, but is then hustled out by Halima. He leaves Abu:

“Guard her? One dog against a sorcerer?”

–While Halima then lures the Princess onboard a ship, promising that Ahmad’s sight can be restored there.

vlcsnap-2018-06-17-09h52m37s203

She’s not lying….

vlcsnap-2018-06-17-09h54m31s304

“But he had her before, I don’t understand.”
“Yeah, but she wasn’t awake.”

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vlcsnap-2018-06-17-09h56m21s696

Conrad Veidt was actually the big star of the movie (I think this was John Justin’s first role, while Veidt had a long list of international credits to his name), and was ordered to play the tortured, suffering lover to the hilt. Veidt obliged. In fact, watching this movie with a couple of girl friends a year or so ago, the general consensus was that, aww, he can’t be all that bad, why can’t he end up with the girl?

Because he’s a creepy, usurping Grand Vizier, that’s why.

“What’s he doing?”
“Hypnotizing her.”
“Why? So she will like him?”

“He hypnotized her?”
“No, because he can’t get her to like him, only to obey him.”
“…what’s the difference?”
“…”
“Well from his point of view! She’s not going to like him anyway, so why is he even bothering?”

It’s all for nothing, though, as Ahmad and Abu are once again on their trail:

“What’s he doing now?”
“He’s calling up a storm to stop the other boat.”
“Oh that’s really gonna get her to like him now. Fool!”

–and all that gets him is a mopey Princess.

vlcsnap-2018-06-17-10h00m18s049

“Go where?”
“She doesn’t want to go with him. She wants to go home.”

“Oh, he took her home?”
“He’s trying to be nice.”

The Princess does get a promise from her father that he will never send her away, as long as he lives.

vlcsnap-2018-06-17-10h04m28s317

“This is a funny premise. For toys he’d give up anything. You heard about men and their toys.”
“Well, they’re right.”
“…she’s going back to Baghdad….”

“Aaah! She gon’ kill him!…oh…”

“Hm! Wouldn’t like to live in them times. Always be watching your back because people gon’ stab you in it!”

Meanwhile, Abu finds a genie in a bottle. There’s only one problem: Genie has been in the bottle for two thousand years, and is unhappy about it.

“Solomon put him in there? Must be a bad genie.”

“Uh…”
“Why else would Solomon put him in there, then?”

vlcsnap-2018-06-17-10h05m42s986

Abu keeps his wits about him, and fortunately, has read the correct stories.

“What’s he doing?”
“He tricked him back into the bottle.”
“He CAN’T BE THAT FOOLISH. NO.”
“…it’s one of the traditional stories about the three wishes and the genie. They didn’t just make this up!”
“…”

“Why should we trust him?”
“He swore.”
“So?”
“He swore by King Solomon!”

Abu needs to know where Ahmad is, and to know where Ahmad is, needs the All-Seeing Eye of the Goddess of Night. But first things first.
vlcsnap-2018-06-17-10h06m00s484

“He gon’ use one wish for a meal! Please!”

The heroic part of this adventure then begins, as Abu enters the goddess’s temple to steal the All-Seeing Eye:

“What is it, a spider’s web?”
“Yeah.”
“Oh. Oh Lor’, he goin’ up a spider’s web and the spider coming for him?”
“Yep.”
“Does he know?”

“Wait, where is the Prince?”
“He’s trying to find the thing that will allow him to find the Prince.”
“…What thing?”
“The All-Seeing Eye.”
“…”
“…And then he’ll see where the Prince is and the genie can take him there.”

Ahmad and Abu are reunited, but the genie is cackling ominously:

“The genie is a fool?”
“The joke is, he’s about to get away and he knows it.”

…Which promptly happens.

vlcsnap-2018-06-17-10h11m24s564vlcsnap-2018-06-17-10h13m01s951vlcsnap-2018-06-17-10h13m12s156vlcsnap-2018-06-17-10h13m46s505vlcsnap-2018-06-17-10h14m46s536vlcsnap-2018-06-17-10h15m56s252

“He looks like a scrawny person! Look. One scrawny man.”
“Mom!”

“What? Who’s going to be chained!”
“They’re both gonna die.”
“What? He gon’ kill the girl? Why? He just said he had her!”
“She broke free. And he got mad.”

Abu smashes the All-Seeing Eye, and then things go wonky:

“What, the genie came back?”
“No, something else happened.”
“What?”
“I dunno! Something else happened.”

“He died?”
“No.”
“Then who’s this old man? And how come he’s a prince?”

…I’m not sure what the logic is behind this scene, taken out of context. Let me just say, that like all great stories, it makes perfect sense when you’re going with the flow of it. Anyhow, the Sages give Abu the title of Prince and a bow that will not easily miss evil, but explicitly forbid him to take their flying carpet. That carpet. Over there. It flies if you tell it, “Fly carpet.” Now, excuse me, I’m leaving the room now. Remember, now! That carpet.

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“The boy, he gon’ stay there?”
” ‘No thanks.’ “

So Abu arrives in the nick of time and the people, emboldened, rise against their oppressive overlord:

“What’s going on?”
“They’re revolting against Jaffar.”
“Because they saw the cloud?”
“Because of the prophecy!”

Jaffar attempts to escape on the flying horse, but:

“Oh my.”

And they all live happily ever after, including Abu, who takes to the hills on hearing that Ahmad intends for him to–gulp–attend school.

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“Ahahahaha.”

I love this movie so much. I always have. I think I always will.

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“See! I told you it was good!”
“This should be the last time you look at this, ever.”

Sigh.

Son of the Black Sword – Larry Correia – Book Review

sons-of-the-dark-sword-send-to-larry-c.-2Son of the Black Sword is Book 1 of the Saga of the Forgotten Warrior trilo…oh wait no people actually like this so let’s make it a five…wait are they still buying it? What, after book 3 didn’t wrap everything up? Multi-part series instead.

I complain, but it’s in good humor. This series showcases Correia’s strongest writing, because it plays to his strengths: exciting combat scenes; honorable men; fight scenes; violent men; battle scenes; emotionless but charismatic men; chase scenes; beautiful women, and you may have gotten the gist at this point: he writes fight scenes really, really well. There’s a one-vs-many fight at the end of this book that is just a work of art. What’s more, this book avoids his weaknesses: self-insert characters, silly humor, and bashing of political opponents in juvenilely amusing ways.

It’s a damn good book. Fight scenes with a purpose are exciting, charismatic protagonists with inner depths and meaningful journeys are memorable and enjoyable, and beautiful women who have personalities, motivations, and effect on the plot, are good characters regardless of what they’re wearing. Son of the Black Sword has all of those. (Note: with the exception of a ditzy librarian who tries using a romance novel as a how-to spy manual, all female characters are dressed quite appropriately for their circumstances.)

As mentioned, SoTBS was originally #1 of 3 books, before Trilogy Creep Syndrome set in. I hope the story doesn’t get stretched out too far, because I want to find out how it ends, damn it! There is the distinct impression that the story Correia is telling is going to be epic enough to withstand the expansion, but…I really like this story. What is the story?

So.

20-year veteran, Senior Protector Ashok Vadal is one of if not the most dangerous men on Lok. Not only is he a scion of the powerful and respected Vadal House, a Protector gifted with superhuman abilities, not only trained to the peak of physical ability and combat skill, not only above the law and tasked with enforcing it as the most famous member of an order of right hard bastards–Ashok is also the wielder of the mighty ancestor blade Angruvadal. Ancestor blades, made of the mysterious black steel, can cut through steel and demon hide, cleave all four legs off a galloping horse, and, moreover contain the memories and instincts of every warrior who has borne them previously and can guide the muscles and mind of its present wielder to victory….or can savagely punish the unworthy who dare set hand on it.

Ashok was judged worthy as a small child and has lived his life in the Protector Order ever since. How could a man who never lies, who never feels fear, who is wholly devoted to the Law, be unworthy? And why could his mentor, the man whom he trusted and loved as more than his own father, tell him that his life is a shameful falsehood, a disgraceful lie.

Ashok is given a choice: become Lord Protector, head of the Order and continue to live a life of fame, valor, and value…or open a letter that will reveal his past to him and reveal the truth.

Ashok chooses honesty. (Ashok, it transpires, didn’t have a choice).

The disgraceful secret the Protectors have kept for twenty years? Ashok isn’t a man. Ashok isn’t even a human being. Far from being son of the First Caste, the rulers, movers, and shakers…he is actually a casteless. Legally, less than the tools used to till the fields; practically, of less value than the animals used to pull the plow. Although Angruvadal chose him, the utter shame of the choice meant that House Vadal had his mind magically wiped to remove all memory of his casteless origins, deep compulsions implanted in him–rendering him literally fearless and utterly devoted to the law–and he was sent to the Protectors as a mere child in hopes that he would soon die. Oh, and his mother was murdered as part of the cover-up.

Ashok, after delivering a fairly gory reckoning to the people who have committed this injustice and this sin, checks himself into the nearest prison to await trial and sentencing. (Remember what we said about devoted to the Law? Ashok walks the walk…not only because he’s been brainwashed for his entire life.)

Unfortunately, what Ashok gets instead of justice is Omand, the Chief Inquisitor. Omand is seriously bad news. For one, he’s planning a genocide against the casteless…as a stepping stone to whatever his evil plan actually is. Step 1 involves creating a reason for his genocide to continue. Step 2 is ordering Ashok to join with the casteless rebellion and make it into enough of a threat to justify continent-wide genocide.

The implication is that Omand is going to get a horrible surprise about just how clever he isn’t a book or two down the road.

Ashok obediently escapes from prison to find and join the rebellion. He finds–or is found–by Keta, Keeper of Names, and his hostile bodyguard Thera. They have been sent to judge his worthiness before he can be allowed into their ranks, or to meet the mysterious Prophet whom the rebels have rallied about–the Prophet who speaks with the voice of a Forgotten god and testifies that blood, seas and messes of it, are incoming…

But that’s not really a prophecy so much as an accurate observation, really.

And anyhow, yeah. I’m out of time and I need to put some content up that isn’t cat pictures.

Rated: It’s really good. Get it and read it and then tell all your friends.