Ocean travel without a boat

Journal of Peter Greenwell

Tag: fiction (page 1 of 5)

Hergé – Tintin in America

Tintin in America (Tintin, #3 )Tintin in America by Hergé
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

First read this a long time ago – adding it now for posterity.

The author is still finding his way with Tintin in this third installment. It’s not as farcical or controversial as the two works before it, but if you can name a cliche about 30s era United States, this book covers it. Greedy capitalists and lurid gangsters abound. No plot to speak of – Tintin arrives in the US and proceeds to take on organised crime, and wins though nobody appreciates his efforts at first. The book also takes aim at Native American land rights, the hypocrisy and uselessness of Prohibition and there’s a latent comment in here somewhere that an honest American is a poor American.

A transitional work – not as enjoyable as his later stuff, but there are signs it was coming together.

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Bud E Weyser – Tintin in Thailand

Tintin in ThailandTintin in Thailand by Bud E. Weyser
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Story-wise, it’s atrociously amateur and a jumbled mess. The artwork doesn’t hold a candle to Hergé’s excellent ligne-claire style either and in places it’s almost indecipherable. Some of the satire is heavy-handed but it does poke fun at not only the Tintin franchise but the sacrosanct attitude of Hergé’s literary executors and successors, and it just goes to show that nothing is sacred.

A definite curiosity, but be warned that many will find it offensive (and many have).

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Tracy Hickman and Margaret Weis – Dragons of Autumn Twilight

Dragons of Autumn Twilight  (Dragonlance: Chronicles, #1)Dragons of Autumn Twilight by Margaret Weis
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Alrighty then, this was a fun and painless read. Of course, it was completely non-challenging as far as literature goes, but that’s not the point, and rarely is the point for this kind of work. This is entertainment, and entertain it did, which is why I’ve awarded it four stars rather than three. Naturally, it was extremely derivative of another fantasy story a few people may have heard of, and the characterisations were sourced from central casting.

Despite this, it was written with verve and an obvious love for the land, times and culture of the world the book is set in. In saying so, there was a certain amount of grey room syndrome here, as playing the Dragonlance modules beforehand may have been a given. From the narrative, it’s clear the reader was meant to have some familiarity with Raistlin, Sturm, et al, before delving into this book, despite being the first in the series.

All in all, I liked this story, for all its “me-tooism” and stock characters and situations. It flowed well, and it rarely sagged or got bogged down. Sure, I’ll read the rest of them.

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David Haden – The Time Machine: a sequel

The Time Machine: a sequelThe Time Machine: a sequel by David Haden
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Short and fairly sweet. This author approximates Wells’ voice adequately, though he also pays homage to the 2002 Guy Pearce film with an all-knowing virtual librarian. He also integrates the so-called “lost chapter”, The Grey Man, into the story.

With this all said, I was acutely aware reading this novella that this was not Wells’ work. It’s not where he would’ve taken the story had he been of a mind to craft a sequel, at least I don’t think so anyway. He was less interested in the fate of Weena than he was in the fate of humanity, but quite naturally, these sequels by other hands have all made the attempt to rescue her from the fire with varying success.

Does this sequel by another hand succeed? Well, read it for yourself. For a dollar on Amazon you can’t go wrong, just don’t expect anything stunning or extraordinary in any area.

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P N Elrod – I, Strahd

I, Strahd: The Memoirs of a Vampire (Ravenloft, #7)I, Strahd: The Memoirs of a Vampire by P.N. Elrod
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A five star Dungeons and Dragons book? Yes, this is it. Everything clicked with this instalment – the narrative, the characterisations, the pacing, everything. Elrod’s erudite and understated style is a welcome change from the usual quasi-fanfic renditions some of these D&D novels are – hi Ed Greenwood!

Elrod makes Strahd incredibly three dimensional. He was a cipher in the previous books in this series where he featured – a bad Hollywood Dracula – but here? It’s incredible to watch his descent from determined and honourable soldier to self-serving and self-absorbed vampire. You almost sympathise with his plight – almost.

I, Strahd is a cautionary tale like no other, and if the rest of the Ravenloft franchise is half as good as this, then I’ll be happy to read them.

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The 85000 word challenge

Over at the writing thread of the Whirlpool forums, a challenge was issued recently. Before the 31 March, 2016, the takers of the challenge are to write an 85000 word novel. I accepted the challenge, despite the fact I’m working on a couple of other stories.

When I write, I usually revise what I’ve written the next time I look at it. Not on this occasion. There’s minimal editing and I’m simply putting down whatever comes to mind, and going with the creative flow.

The story? Science fiction, and it’s based around an idea that I’ve had developing for some time. Several hundred years in the future, most people have left Earth for other worlds. Left behind were about 100 million people and they banded together to redesign the world in a self-sustaining ecological manner, and based their society on an anarchic meritocracy.

Through huge engineering projects, the old continents were broken up or shifted around, allowing for better oceanic flow, thus allowing the world’s land to receive more reliable (and higher amounts of) rainfall. Then the world was divided up into preserves for nature, called Greenbelts, which humans living in smaller regions surrounded by the Greenbelts.

The tale starts with a character called Jacqueline 5146 Advanced, who finds herself on trial for manslaughter and possession of alcohol and cocaine. She dodges the manslaughter charge, but isn’t so lucky in regards to the others as drinking booze and doing drugs are serious crimes in the future age that is dominated by logic and reason.

The trouble is, she was employed at the time by one of her world’s more influential people…and questions were asked: why did he have booze and cocaine? Some people are not happy about these polite enquiries and seek to eliminate anyone that knows anything. Including Jacqui.

Life has now become very interesting for Miss 5146 Advanced…(and yes, there is a perfectly logical explanation for her silly name.)

Once this tale is done, and I’ve edited it, I’ll put it up here.

Ed Greenwood – Hand of Fire

Hand Of Fire (Forgotten Realms: Shandril's Saga, #3)Hand Of Fire by Ed Greenwood
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Wow…I struggled to finish this. It’s just that bad. Which is a shame as you don’t want your Forgotten Realms books to be bad – you want them to kick ass (even if it’s all popcorn). But when the milieu’s creator writes an execrably bad book, then what can you say?

Basically the protagonist and her whiny husband nuke, obliterate, annihilate, incinerate, deep fry, fricassee, broil, roast, scorch, blast and excoriate every one of the legion of over-confident bad guys that contend with her. Just endless waves of them. It’s like the literary version of Serious Sam 3.

That’s it. That’s what happens in this concluding tome. There’s zero character development at all, no suspense, and the marvellous world the author created barely gets a mention. Every dangerous encounter is swept aside by Shandril’s super-powers or the timely arrival of her equally faceless Harper allies.

Oh, Shandril dies at the end but she’ll come back as a ghost to keep a watch on Narm, who gets sent off to find himself another wife. Narm…urgh, through the course of these three poorly written adventures, he’s the common denominator that weighs them down. What a nobody! His single purpose is to provide a pillow and a shoulder for Shandril to cry on after she’s finished vaporising the opposition for the day. He’s an ineffectual and annoying cipher.

Summary: a godawful book. On to fresh woods and pastures, etc.

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J Robert King – Carnival of Fear

Carnival of Fear (Ravenloft, #6)Carnival of Fear by J. Robert King
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

More of a 4.25 out of 5 but marked down a tad for routine characterisations.

What a pleasant little surprise this was. Of the six Ravenloft books I’ve read, this one was the icing on the cake so far, just edging out the first in the series . Of all of them, this is the one that actually delivered dark Gothic horror the best.

This is an effectively and chillingly nasty book, peopled with ugly characters (if a touch wooden) and a very ugly and unpleasant setting.

Some genuinely horrific things go on in this book, and that my friends, is what Ravenloft is meant to be about, no? The previous five books in this series flirted with the concept, sometimes dipped their toes into it, but this book is completely doused and drowned in it.

It’s not classic literature by any means, but it’s darkly entertaining and fast paced. Well done.

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Ed Greenwood – Crown of Fire

Crown of Fire (Forgotten Realms: The Harpers, #9; Shandril's Saga, #2)Crown of Fire by Ed Greenwood
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

More of a 2.75 out of 5. It’s better than its predecessor, but not by much. Arguably stronger writing, more focus in the storytelling and the narrative doesn’t drift as much. None of the characters within escape their cardboard boxes though, and there are too many deus ex machina elements for my liking as Gandalf Elminster saves the day once too often. Still, Ed Greenwood is having fun in the world that Ed Greenwood made and I can relate to his enthusiasm.

All taken, this book is slightly above average popcorn fiction.

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Thomas Burnett Swann – How Are The Mighty Fallen

How Are the Mighty FallenHow Are the Mighty Fallen by Thomas Burnett Swann
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Semi-fantastic re-telling of the David and Jonathan story from the Old Testament with the usual Swann fae/faerie treatment. Can be heavy going at times and Swann’s wordplay is certainly baroque and sometime misses the mark with its ornate twists and turns. Withal, well-crafted and laid out, but it’s probably not for anyone other than fans of this kind of material, and I agree with another reviewer than George Barr’s artwork doesn’t quite mesh with the story within the covers.

This work is not as playful or whimsical as some of his other stuff, but Swann is a unique voice amongst the fantasy field.

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