22 Following


Merciless Fun

The Rules of Supervillainy (The Supervillainy Saga Book 1) - David Wood, David C. Phipps, Terry Stewart, Jim Bernheimer, Raffaele Marinetti, Janet Bessey

If I was to compare this book to anything else I’m experienced with, I’d have to go with The Tick. Set in a world where superheroes are common, Gary Karkofsky acquires a magical cloak that once belonged to a legendary superhero. Now armed with fantastic powers and zero experience with them, Gary transforms himself into a supervillain named Merciless: The Supervillain Without Mercy.


The story is a fun romp through many of the superhero tropes, as we follow Gary along on his journey. Gary is a self-confessed villain, but he’s not exactly a bad guy. He’s terribly in love with his wife, he has a lot of moral hang-ups that prove he isn’t as evil or near as merciless as he romanticizes himself being. In many ways he’s just a regular guy that is fed up with his job, his government, police, and much of his society. So now he just wants to call the shots and be rich. I think most readers can sympathize with such sentiments, however Gary is someone who actually gets a chance at it.


We have a wide array of colorful characters, ranging from silly rival supervillains, mad scientists, henchmen, psychotic antiheroes, godlike super heroes, and everything in between. I chuckled regularly while listening and even laughed out loud a few times.


I have only one complaint with the book and that’s the end, meaning it doesn’t wrap up. Instead, it opens the doors to the next installment without fully resolving the first set of problems. While many people don’t mind a cliffhanger ending, I just don’t like it when they take me by surprise.


The version that I read was the Audible audio edition read by Jeffrey Kafer. Kafer does a fantastic job with timing and injecting the perfect amount of emotions into the work. His characters all have distinct voices, which makes listening to it all the more enjoyable.

Who Goes There? - John W. Campbell Jr., William F. Nolan

Beautifully imaginative story about Antarctic scientists discovering a strange creature trapped in the ice and the terror and paranoia that unfold as the monster kills and replaces them with perfect mimics. While I've seen the John Carpenter movie version many times, I know better than to believe a movie is anything like the source material. I was very happy to see that Carpenter did a wonderful job staying true to the novella.

Who Goes There? is a brilliant story, but it's not perfect in the execution. Much of that has to do with the writing style of the time. Most of it is people talking...and talking...then something happens, but you don't get to see it, so they talk about that.

One thing I really enjoyed was the time-capsule quality. This is a piece that was written in the 1930's about the 1930's, so all of the details about steam-powered tractors to cross the ice and the fishy smell of whale-fat lamps are fun historical nuggets of a bygone time.

The version that I read was the audiobook narrated by by Steve Cooper. Cooper did a very good job reading it, giving distinct voices to each of the cast (which was useful since there was A LOT of talking)

Veil of the Deserters - Jeff Salyards

Veil of the Deserters picks up exactly where Scourge of the Betrayer left off. And by that, I mean it starts right up following the end of Book One. It took me a bit to recall what all events had happened at the end of the first book, but pretty soon I was back into the story.

Once again we follow our bookish narrator Arki as he follows the Syldoon. While still a wimp, Arki is more active in this book as he's getting a little more used to his companions. The characters are wonderful and the dialogue (especially Mulldoos') is spectacular. We also get to meet a character even more intimidating, scheming, and bad-ass than Captain Killcoin. His sister. Salyards introduces us to her as well as a very awesome magic system.

Like with Book 1, expect some great action scenes. The world is very well done and what I really enjoy about it is that there is a grand sense of history and scale, but Salyards doesn't stop and puke out a bunch of history at you like many other authors do. Instead, he slowly reveals the world, building on it and allowing it to feel more natural.

Veil of the Deserters has more of an ending that Book 1 had, at least it felt more like an end. Scourge of the Betrayer just sort of stops, while this book closes with a promise that things are about to get a whole lot worse for our heroes. I'm looking forward to Book 3.

Scourge of the Betrayer - Jeff Salyards

I walked into this book not knowing anything about it aside from the cover art, the cover of its sequel, Veil of the Deserter, and the internet whisperings of 'Grimdark.' What I found was a very enjoyable and unique story.

The book opens with our narrator, Arkamondos, a professional scribe, meeting his newest employers, the Syldoon. The Syldoon are no mercenaries like The Black Company, they're more like the Dirty Dozen of a fantasy empire. As Arki is not a warrior and a bit sheltered, he is often horrified and awestruck by the warriors' ways. The Syldoon, who are required to have a chronicler by Empirical decree, make no secret their opinions of the bookish coward in their company.

The setting has a very ancient feel, and we are treated to only glimpses of greater things from the past. I enjoyed that Salyards never infodumps his world history on us, but lets it serve as a backdrop, slowly revealing itself.

Because the novel is part of a larger series, please be warned that it does not wrap up nice and neat by the end. Instead it closes on a hook, much like a chapter close. Fortunately the second book is already out, but the third book is still some time away. Many fantasy readers are used to waiting years between installments, but I always try to warn people of it before they begin that road.

The Republic of Thieves - Scott Lynch

I loved The Lies of Locke Lamora. I was underwhelmed with Red Seas Under Red Skies. Lynch's 3rd Gentleman Bastards novel is a great improvement over the second book, but not as stellar as the first.

The Republic of Thieves is two stories. The first picks up right after the end of Red Seas Under Red Skies as Jean and Locke are still dealing with Locke's poisoning. Once that's solved, they're drafted into service of the Bonds Mages into assisting with an election. The other side of the election has hired their own outside adviser as well: Sabetha, the Gentleman (Lady) Bastard that we've always heard of and never met and the love of Locke's life.

The second story is a flashback to the Gentlemen Bastards when they were young and learning under Chains (yay, we get to see Chains again. I love that guy). They are assigned with their first real job without him (damnit, it was nice seeing you for only 2 minutes, Chains). They are posing as a group of actors that join a troupe of players that are performing the play The Republic of Thieves. During this job Locke is professing his love of Sabetha while trying to keep the troupe operating. There is a minor noble that becomes involved with the troupe's affairs and also falls for Sabetha and chaos happens (Imagine if Shakespeare wrote Moulin Rouge and that's what you get). I loved the flashback story that is about one half of the book. It was fun. I enjoyed the characters. I loved the way Lynch has problem after problem pile on and how the heroes are scrambling to keep everything going as they fix one just in time for 2 more to occur.

The same cannot be said for the present-day story. The recruitment of Jean, Locke, and Sabetha into this election feels so forced and so weak that I just couldn't buy it. Now, I'm also a little biased against politics in my fantasy. It bores me. Locke is still pining over Sabetha and while I did enjoy the interaction between them, Jean got dumped into a backseat role. As a huge fan of Jean I was not pleased.

Ultimately the book ends with the setup for the next installment. I has a good hook and doesn't have the fulfilling ending that Book 2 had. I was rather excited about the end, honestly.

Red Seas Under Red Skies - Scott Lynch, Michael Page

I loved The Lies of Locke Lamora. LOVED IT! I loved it so much that I reread it immediately after reading it the first time. I highly doubt I will read any book in the near future that can compare to how much I enjoyed the first Gentleman Bastard books.

Needless to say, my expectations were extremely high for the second book, Red Seas Under Red Skies. I was disappointed, not because it was a bad book, but because I was riding in straight from a book that I loved. My bad.

Red Seas Under Red Skies picks up shortly after the end of Book One. Jean and Locke are working another con. Locke has had to deal with the extreme mental and physical stress left after the end of the first book, and everything seems to be going well for the surviving Gentleman Bastards. And then it all goes terribly wrong. More specifically, the people they crossed in Book 1 are coming for payback.

This in itself is a great setup. The heroes get yanked off course and are fighting to gain the advantage while trying to keep a dozen plates in the air. However, this is where the book begins to suffer.

In the first book, things would go badly and they would sometimes get resolved by getting worse (Locke's arranged engagement being a great example). The frying pan into the fire escalation was exciting. However in Book 2, nothing gets resolved with the escalation. More and more troubles continue to stack, but none of the old troubles go away. This becomes a little too much as Jean and Locke are juggling a massive number of false faces and personas to the point that it becomes very confusing.

Also...Lynch seems to veer off onto strange tangents that go nowhere. The two largest examples are when Locke goes to a town to commission a set of chairs required for the con. The story starts going into detail about the horrible way the nobility and rich treat the poor. Then nothing comes of it. While it was neat world-building, it was a lot of attention spent on complete background stuff that drags the story down. The other big one occurred when Jean and Locke get jumped by a really stupid highwayman. The scene goes on for entirely too long, but concludes with the highwayman "owing them one". Nothing ever comes of it. We never see this guy again. Maybe we'll see him in a later book (he isn't in Book 3) and if he does show again, a flashback at that time might be more suitable than it was in Book 2.

There is one more thing that irritated me about the book, and it's a pet-peeve of mine that I've brought up before (I'm looking at you Stephen King). We have a "terribly mysterious" character that is working behind the scenes against our heroes because their "employer" wants them to. The employer is never named, even when we are in that character's head, they are only referred to as their employer. This is a cheap gimmick that storytellers will use to add mystery and to hook a reader. Most of the time it simply irritates me. I especially hate it when the reader has a dozen hooks and suspenseful things already keeping their interest and having a blatantly "I'm going to taunt you with this mystery. Aren't you curious?" move has the opposite effect on me. Had we not already had so much going on, I might have been intrigued. But here I wasn't.

Now please don't think that I didn't enjoy the book. I honestly did. I enjoyed it quite a lot. I loved the characters. Lynch's clever dialogue is awesome. His world-building is amazing, and there was a point where Locke's luck and clever antics involving a sudden reputation get gets dropping a barrel caused me to laugh so hard that I thought I was going to crash my car listening to it.

Unfortunately, the book was less than the first book. I think he might have had too many ideas going on and threw too much into it. I don't know. But my initial disappointment caused me to hold off on reviewing it for a couple weeks so that I could gather my thoughts and judge the book off of what it was and not off of what I wanted it to be.

The Lies of Locke Lamora - Scott Lynch, Michael Page

I first became aware of Scott Lynch's Gentleman Bastard Series when I saw Republic of Thieves in a local bookstore. Being a huge fan of Venetian Carnival, the cover instantly grabbed my attention, but once I had realized it was the third book in a series, I held off on it. Finally I picked up the first novel, The Lies of Locke Lamora, having little knowledge about it other than it was about thieves and had glowing reviews.

This book blew me away. I absolutely loved it.

The characters are fantastic. The dialogue is witty and hilarious. The world is well-conceived and hints at mysteries that I hope Lynch explores in the later books. The plot and cons and twists are all well done with wonderful pacing. In fact the only minor criticism I can give is that the interludes, while great, come at moments when I really really wanted to get back to the main story. And that's only a minor criticism based on the fact that I was so sucked into the story that I didn't want to leave it.

The story begins almost like some fantasy version of Oliver Twist with out hero being brought into the care of a Fagin-like character who trains street urchins to hustle and steal. Locke, being a truly clever troublemaker gets himself so much in trouble that he's sold off to a different gang and trained in the finer points of conning. The story moves back and forth between young Locke receiving his training and adult Locke leading his crew of Gentlemen Bastards on a huge con job. It's fun and clever and a bit light-hearted, and then everything goes terribly terribly wrong for the Gentlemen Bastards and that's when shit get real. The change from comedic adventure to high-stakes excitement was so sudden and so well done that couldn't put the book down until it was done. It's simply fantastic.


Ready Player One - Ernest Cline, Wil Wheaton

Ready Player One is fun. It's pure nerd/pop culture, primarily of the 1980's. Very nostalgic and funny for those of my generation. In many ways the meat and potatoes of the book is fairly simple. No huge surprises. Characters are pretty standard. Lots of exposition and the writing is good but nothing incredible. However the book did a spectacular job on its #1 responsibility. It's extremely entertaining.

I had so much fun going over all the cult movies, games, music, TV shows, and everything else that I've obsessed about since I was a kid. The number of subtle nods and references is astounding. Many times, Cline will tell you what the reference is for. But most of the time he doesn't. You either get it or you don't and if you don't no biggie, if you do, you get to grin. But don't worry, another hidden reference is coming in about two sentences. I laughed with the jokes, I got to try my hand at some of the riddles, I rooted for the heroes. I had a blast reading this.

The version I read was the audio version read by Wil Wheaton. Not only was Wheaton an appropriate narrator because he's a rockstar in the community the book is written for (The book even referenced him at one point), but Wheaton is a spectacular narrator. His timing, inflections, and voices were wonderful.