The Hobbit (An illustrated Edition), J. R. R. Tolkien (Illustrated by David Wenzel, Adapted by Charles Dixon), Del Rey Books, ISBN 978-0345-44560-5, 135 pgs., $20.00

Cover of "The Hobbit: An Illustrated Edit...

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So, this is an illustrated adaptation similar to the movie adaptation of the original Tolkien Novel. I suppose, in some ways, this is for those of you who did not have the patience to watch a 3 hour version of an 8 hour novel. Wait another year and I am sure there will be a comic adaptation followed a year later by a tarot card. It should be noted that this is a new, expanded edition (six new pages of artwork). Okay, a little truth in reviewing here. This graphic novel actually was published prior to the movie coming out, so, both it and the movie are adapted from the novel. And, to make up for that bit of misdirection, I present you with this fact. The second R in J. R. R. Tolkien’s name stands for Reuel.  The book basically tells the story of Bilbo Baggins and the band of dwarves he ends up getting attached to thanks to Gandalf the wizard. Which just goes to show–never trust a wizard. They are never, ever up to any good.

The art is well done, although it is going to matter to you what style of art you like and whether or not this particular style is a good fit with that. I think it will matter, as well, whether you have read the original or not. If so you may find some of the images jarring with those you created all on your own. Of course if you are coming to this based on the movie then you are going to find, pretty much, that it’s just about the same thing.

In yet another fit of reviewing honesty I need to admit that I have never been a big fan of graphic adaptations. I prefer the original. Understand, I love comics and I really enjoy this kind of artistic story telling. But, using words alone is one kind of story telling. Using words and pictures is quite another. And, using pictures alone is yet a third. All work as particular vehicles and it matters how you ended up arriving at each one. While I can certainly enjoy the art for art’s sake and also weigh in on how well the adaptation occurred, I’d be more inclined to pass this one by if I came across it on the shelf. Whether you should do similarly is really up to you. The nice thing about graphic novels is that you can tell fairly quickly how you feel about them where a novel takes a bit more effort.

Do I recommend? I’m going to say that you can make your own judgement too easily for me to say one way or the other. Just let it be said that I pointed out to you that it existed and from then on you were on your own.

If you want to take a look or, get a copy for yourself or the Mrs, you can just click right here: The Hobbit: An Illustrated Edition of the Fantasy Classic by J.R.R. Tolkien unknown Edition [Paperback(2001)]

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Admiralty (The Collected Short Works of Poul Anderson), Poul Anderson, NESFA Press, ISBN 9781886778948, $29.00, 508 pgs.

Poul Anderson

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This is the fourth volume in a series that is collecting the best short works of Poul Anderson. There will be at least two more books.

The time period of the 1950s to 1970s was the time period of the short story. There were dozens of professional magazines being published and it was possible to actually make a living as a short story writer. Anderson, while also writing novels,prolifically  produced short fiction over a 50 year time period and wrote for all of the major magazines of his time. This volume includes “Goat Song” a Hugo and Nebula award winner, “Operation Changeling”, “Kyrie”, “Eutopia“, “Marius”, and 19 more stories. The volume also includes an introduction by David Hartwell, Anderson’s own afterward to “Eutopia”, and an introduction by the editor, Rick Katze.

Those of you who lived through the time period when the short story held precedence in the SF/fantasy/horror realm will really enjoy having these stories all available in one place to read again. Those of you who were born after this period will now have the chance to see what all the fuss was about. Short fiction is simply the bravest of all fictions. It takes a master craftsman to tell an entire story in such a short amount of space. And one of the best was Poul Anderson. His fiction, time and again, provided thought provoking insight into our own condition through the vehicle of science fiction and fantasy. Of course it was also incredibly entertaining as well which helped.

NESFA (the New England Science Fiction Association) has done their usual incredible job with this book. The cover by John Picacio is not only eye catching but captures the feel of Anderson and his work. The contents, selected by editor Katze is first rate, and the fiction itself would be worth the price at half the amount. This is a well put together book both figuratively and literally. NESFA deserves your support and you deserve a copy of this book. In fact you should get the entire series.

Highly recommended.

To get your very own copy go to NESFA or just click here to get it from Amazon: Admiralty (The Collected Short Works of Poul Anderson)

Sacrifice, Dakota Banks, EOS, ISBN 978-0-06-168732-7, $7.99, 285 pgs.,

List of Lambda Literary Awards winners and nom...

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Maliha, also known as Marsha and the Black Ghost, is a former immortal assassin who is looking for redemption. She made a deal with a demon and now wants out. But it’s not that simple to quit working for a demon and Maliha must find a way to change the balance if she is to win her release from eternal damnation. To get all the way out, she has to save more people than she killed. Doing so will probably kill her for each life she saves costs her time–she ages, at a rate determined by a Summarian God.

Lucky for her she has the chance to save thousands if not tens of thousands when she stumbles onto the plot of a madman to release nanites into the water supply. The nanites turn any living thing that drinks the water into grey goo. To complicate matters other demon linked assassins seem to be dropping out of the sky and into her life. There’s the DEA guy who’s also a lover, the roman centurion who may also be a lover, and the crazy madman with the nanites as well (probably not going to be a lover).  This is a tough spot to be in and it may very well be curtains for Maliha and the friends who help her.

Okay, so you can probably tell from the above that this is a complicated plot. Perhaps too complicated as the action seems to push out character development. And there are quite a few characters in this book. Overall the book is kind of flat and this is due to a number of different issues. The first is the protagonist herself. She’s still got powers but not all of them. She’s also a millionaire who gives orders many times rather than does things. She drives really expensive cars, has a large staff, has access to pretty much anything she wants, and has been around for a few hundred years. In other words she is a very powerful woman with a lot of resources. The problem, then, is why does she not use her resources better? She’s also got this group of friends, or maybe groupies is a better word, who seem to serve no purpose than to occasionally get into danger and get offed. They are not all that interesting a bunch even though each has a personal history and they don’t really do much in the book except eat birthday cake and hang around. The third problem is the other immortals who suddenly just kind of appear. First of all, if there are that many of these beings floating around killing people then we’re up to our behinds in corpses. Second, some want her dead and still have their powers so why they don’t accomplish this early on is a real mystery. I don’t know, maybe you have to be really stupid to be a demon’s assassin.

The book also had a choppy flow to it. The pacing is off. The major events are somewhat flat and lacking in emotion. I just never really came to care about anything that was going on.

I think that if you are looking for an urban fantasy supernatural thriller that you can find much better. If you are a huge fan of the first book (this is the second book in the series) then there is probably enough here to keep you going. If you want to find out for yourself feel free to click here and get your own copy. Sacrifice (Mortal Path, Book 2)

Monster Hunter Vendetta, Larry Correia, Baen, ISBN 978-1-4391-3991-0, $7.99, 612 pgs.

Monster Hunter Shop

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This is the second book in Correia’s Monster Hunters International series. It picks up where the first book left off with Owen Zastava Pitt settling in to his new role as a squad leader in the monster hunting organization and as husband to Julie, daughter to the werewolf leader of MHI and granddaughter to the founder of the organization. MHI hunts supernatural threats, collecting the bounties that have been placed on them and generally keeping the planet safe from things that go bump in the night. They compete with the governmental Monster Control Bureau who is also tasked with getting rid of monsters as well as keeping the general populace ignorant that monsters even exist in the first place. This sets up a highly competitive environment between the two organizations with no love lost between the two and friction aplenty. This time a former member of MHI has begun the process of world destruction by invoking the awakening of an otherworldly presence who will enter our world by destroying it. Needless to say the folks at MHI are eager to put a stop to this, especially since it’s the work of a former member. Owen and his crew get the front row seats and all of the characters from the first book return as well as one or two new ones. There are a few twists and turns but the story is a pretty straightforward one of killing beasties with large weapons, explosives, and bravado.

Correia writes in a very straightforward manner, telling the story without much obfuscation or misdirection. This is basically a what you see is what you get kind of tale. While there are some plot twists they are more of the anticipated variety than the kind that take you fully by surprise. For example, there is a spy in the organization that we know about from early on and the only surprise comes when we learn who it is.

This book is perfect for the reader that likes a story full of tough characters with big weapons taking on nasty beasts with just a touch of humor thrown in the soften the blood and gore. There is not a lot of internal dilemma or character development, more a sense of prophecy fulfillment or action taking on the role of fate.

This is not to say that the book is not an entertaining book to read. It is. Very. Just that you should be expecting a shot gun blast rather than the subtle stroke of a hidden stiletto. Definitely recommended if you like your action fast paced and direct.

To get the book go here:

Monster Hunter Vendetta

Swords and Dark Magic, Jonathan Strahan & Lou Anders, Eds., EOS, ISBN 978-0-06-172381-0, 544 pgs., $15.99

English fantasy and science fiction writer Mic...

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Anthologies are great places to learn about new authors without having to lay out a lot of cash first. For example, if you are a lover of sword and sorcery fiction this book provides you with 17 short stories from 17 different writers. So, if you’ve been wondering who might be writing stories similar to Fritz Leiber‘s or Robert Howard’s or Lin Carter’s, then this is the place to start looking. Editors Strahan and Anders have gathered a good mix of veteran authors and sorted in a number of up and comers to balance things out. Steven Erikson is there alongside Robert Silverberg. Tim Lebbon and Michael Moorcock are there. Joe Abercrombie and Glen Cook have stories in the book. And not just stories but Cook provides a new Black Company tale, Silverberg a new Majipoor story and Moorcock a new Elric tale.

Fantasy has included the sub-genre of sword and sorcery for almost as long as fantasy has been around. Statements like this, though, can become long, boring academic arguments and I have always been more interested in how entertaining the fiction is and not whether it fits in any particular niche or not. Suffice it to say that sword and sorcery stories have been around for a while and this book is an excellent representation of that type of work in its many forms. I should also note that this is not a reprint anthology so don’t expect to find these tales anywhere else. All of the stories contained within were written specifically for this book.

Besides those authors listed above, the anthology also contains work by Tanith Lee, Garth Nix, Michael Shea, Gene Wolfe, C. J. Cherryh, and Caitlin R. Kiernan as well as another half a dozen or so.

One of the big issues with anthologies is that sometimes they are like record albums or CDs (this may be a bad reference because it assumes that there are still some of you out there who remember vinyl or still buy CDs) where you buy the thing only to find that there are only one, maybe two, tracks really worth listening two. That’s not the case here. As you finish one great tale you immediately find that the next one is equally as entertaining.

Sword and sorcery is one of my guilty pleasures and I was very happy to have the chance to read through this book. Now I am suggesting that it would be a wise choice on your part to go out and get a copy. Highly recommended. This is a well constructed anthology that provides hit after hit.

Nights of Villjamur, Mark Charan Newton, Ballantine Books, ISBN 978-0-345-52084-5, 437 pgs., $26.00

Ice age Earth at glacial maximum. Based on: &q...

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The city of Villjamur is home to thousands and capital of a mighty empire. But, things are changing; the darkness is coming and with it the cold and ice. As snow flies more frequently and as the ice begins to cover everything, people begin to flock to the city. Refugees gather outside the gates of a city that can not hold them and, from the perspective of many, should not even try. As a debate begins about what to do, the Emperor suddenly dies. A detail is sent out to gather the Emperor’s long estranged daughter as she is the heir. Along with her sister, the new queen struggles to come to grips with the politics and machinations of those born to power. She feels a certain kinship with those outside the gates and wants to do something. At the same time, her younger sister, long raised to entitlement, has come under the thrall of a new dance teacher who is not quite what he appears to be, although he does seem to know both the swordplay and the dance he is to teach her. While all this is beginning to play out, Inspector Rumex Jeryd, who is a rumel, a species of non-human that can live for hundreds of years, is tasked with investigating the murder of a councilor. As he begins his investigation he discovers layer and layer of deceit and misdirection, including some of it targeting him. Besides the humans and rumel in Villjamur, there are the birdlike garuda and the banshees whose cry always heralds death. All will be affected by the actions building within the city’s walls. Eventually all of the key players will also be threatened by this broad conspiracy and all must act in one form or another if they hope to survive.

Nights of Villjamur is Newton’s first novel and it is very well done. Newton’s universe (yeah, yeah, I know) is very complex and he presents it in a very understated way. His introduction of the rumel, for example, is through the interplay of the difference in longevity they have over humans and the conflicts such a difference can bring to such simple things as who gets promoted to a new position in the workplace. It is this understatement that pulls the reader deeper and deeper into the complexity of the city and the maneuverings of those who rule within the sheltering walls.

Newton’s writing style is both direct and straight forward, not leaving the reader to suppose what was meant but also not bringing everything to one’s attention all at once. Newton moves from character to character, pushing the story forward a part here and a part there and all the time developing an atmosphere that is consistent, moody and oppressive, as one would expect with an encroaching ice age at the door.

I enjoyed the book and Newton is working on a sequel which is good news as this first book leaves quite a few loose ends. Definitely recommended.

Click the link below to buy the book.

Nights of Villjamur (Legends of the Red Sun)

The Lies of Locke Lamora, Scott Lynch, Bantam, ISBN 978-0-553-58894-1, $7.99, 722 pgs.

I picked up this book because I had received word back through the ether that it might match what I had been searching for, which was a book with characters who were sarcastic, smart, challenged by their environment, and operating in a system where some would die before the final pages. The ether was mostly right although there were some bugs in the execution.

In the fantasy world of Camorr, Locke Lamora is an orphan who ends up being sold to a con artist who is running a religion. Lamora’s path to the con artist is a somewhat arduous one and we learn about a lot of it after the fact, through flash backs. I’ve never been a fan of flashbacks as they jerk me out of the story more than anything. Still, I thought they were well done and they did provide information that was good to have in order to understand character development.  I’m just a linear kind of reader.

Soon enough Lamora finds himself in charge of a group of thieves and con men calling themselves the Gentlemen Bastards. He’s so good that he’s fooling everyone, including the ruler of the underworld, the secret police, and pretty much everyone else. But then, one day, everything changes. A new presence enters the city, one connected with sorcery and evil intent. A presence that no one sees coming and, apparently, no one can do anything about. Within a very short time the Gentlemen Bastards are destroyed, Locke nearly loses his life, the ruler of the underworld is killed along with many of his followers, and a new order is established.  Even the rulers of the city of Camorr will find themselves threatened with destruction.

It all comes down to Locke Lamora and his willpower to seek revenge on both a personal and professional level.

This is a long book at 722 pages. It would have benefited from some editorial tightening. Having said that it is still a very engaging story that moves along fairly quickly and involves a number of different storylines. The book could probably have been broken into a trilogy without much effort. I found that Lynch did a good job with the creation of the universe (the city) within which the characters moved. He kept his focus on the characters, using the surroundings as an fascinating backdrop to their actions without getting into a descriptive travelogue. The City of Camorr is certainly an interesting place and well suited to the setting of any number of adventures.

If you enjoy your fiction cut with a dash of humor and horror, and if you find cunning plots to be of interest then you will enjoy this book. I do recommend it.

You can get the book here:

http://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?lt1=_blank&bc1=000000&IS2=1&bg1=FFFFFF&fc1=000000&lc1=0000FF&t=booksfantasti-20&o=1&p=8&l=as1&m=amazon&f=ifr&md=10FE9736YVPPT7A0FBG2&asins=055358894X