I live again!

And much like the game that always runs through my head when I think of that, it involves things that should’ve stayed buried.

I’m back and I’ll be writing reviews again soon. School, a new job and morale are all making things better so, I might not be as misanthropic too. With all of that said, the next book on the chopping block earned it’s place.

Hard Magic is the book and came on the tail end of a Deadlands binge. When I first started reading the book, it came across as Deadlands Noir in novel form. Then I hit the midway point where I’m stuck. This book spends more time kissing “GLORIOUS NIPPON“‘s ass so hard it’s shitting stereotypes. Literally. So! おひさしぶりです おかえりなさい (It’s probably grammatically incorrect Japanese, but eh, I doubt most of you will even bother to translate “It’s been a while, welcome back”)

Heretic’s Weird Weekends

Shamelessly lifting Louis Theroux’s show title for this idea, mostly because it is weird especially for the ass end of Utah. (I’ll leave it up to you lot to guess which ass end.)


In short, I see things popping up that not everyone might get to see often. Our Airshows are usually pretty damn good, we’ve got a local Obon Festival and so on. So, between not having read as many mind searingly bad books lately and this site eating my last two reviews, I was wondering if some of you would be interested in some occasional photo journalism. The two events coming up are the Obon Festival which I probably won’t be able to make due to work and a Furry convention and some time later in October would be our own local Anime con which is hit or miss at best. Saw a few awesome costumes including a full five man team from League though.

In the case of the Obon Festival, expect a mixed review with highlights including making fun of people showing up to a religious event dressed as Naruto and some background information on the people involved doing the neat stuff. The furry convention, I’m probably going to have to take Louis’ style and stay passive the whole time. The last two Utah furries I met were simultaneously hilariously sad and aggressive. If you lot are interested I’ll give it a shot. Let me know what you think?

asker

fantastic-gentlemen asked: Good review of The Black Company. I am curious why you think Raven is the worst character in the series. Him being one of my favorites and not knowing anyone else to have read the books, I'd love to get a different pov on him.

I’m inclined to dislike him mostly because he’s such a major character and compared to most of the others, he’s an emotionless Gary Stu. He comes across as the brooding loner that shows up in so many other books and the fact that he gets away with as much as he does and is as liked as he was, just rubs the wrong way. Now while it’s true he burns his bridges with the Company, they still bend over backwards to try and cover him with only Croaker really having a good reason to do so.

This is skipping ahead a bit, but compare him to someone like Mogabe and the Strangler Cult characters or even Uncle Doj. Or jump series and take a look at Morley Dotes from Garrett P.I. who fills the same character slot, but has a lot more personality. 

With that said, I sometimes wonder if he isn’t Glen Cook throwing a joke out about typical fantasy heroes with Raven since he’s about as close to one as you’ll get. Keep in mind though, that he’s my pick for worst character in the series given significant face time, not that he’s horrible or that he’s a blight on the books that would almost ruin it for me. Those are the Silver Elves from Angry Lead Skies.

Seriously though, I probably don’t have much room to talk since Murgen tends to be my favorite character.

Just in case.

Just in case, I wanted to make sure I made sure. On the previous post, I’m legitimately not making fun of the geeks in the story for liking traditional fantasy. It was a mix of their attitude, the hypocrisy and a few other things that I was making fun of.  Taste is purely subjective. I’ll argue up and down about it sometimes, but in terms of books, barring a couple of exceptions (Cough Down the Road, Twilight Cough), it’s all opinion and if you like something, whether it be legitimate or a guilty pleasure, cool.

Now with that said. If you like Down the Road, you’re an idiot. If you wrote it, you’re probably a horrible person. Fuck that book.

The Black Company part 2

Part two of the first book. As an intro this time, we’ll talk about something I found a bit funny. Hanging out at the geek store, I ran into a couple of nerds who swore up and down that the Black Company broke it’s own rules to keep certain characters alive. Considering that the last anthology is called, “The Many Deaths of the Black Company” I get the feeling they either didn’t pay attention or… well, didn’t pay attention. Trust me, when Cook botches his character notes, it’s a lot more noticeable. Angry Lead Skies from Garrett P.I. pisses all over previous cannon and may find it’s review on this site as being the worst of the series and likely the worst of his catalogue.

While chatting with these fellow geeks, I learned something. I wanted to beat half of them about the head with a stick and that they preferred traditional fantasy despite their words to the contrary. They wanted shining knights and noble heroes, they didn’t want the company blindsiding, poisoning and bushwhacking the enemies. They spoke of heroes that could effortlessly fight their way through a horde of enemies to secure victory. It came to my mind that these were the people that the Hungering Saga would appeal to. They wouldn’t have stopped and said, “Hey wait, how the fuck is Noble Professional Ass Clown Lowin King now?” They would just see a hero that would win fights, look ‘cool’ while doing so and get the girl in the end. Now, I’m not saying they’re idiots, that they’re wrong, that I’m better or anything. But, it was nice finally learning what appealed on the other side. So with this longer than expected detour finished, onto the rest of book one after the jump.

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The Silver Token - Like a bad joke on Skin Deep.

So, just getting it out of the way. Skin Deep by Kory Bing is a comic about mythological creatures living in modern times. Why this is being referenced at the beginning of the post is largely due to the fact that I’m almost confident that today’s book is at least partially derivative of the comic. So, let’s start with the book’s cover.

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(Ed. No shit, while looking up a link for part of the review, I noticed that the cover of the first comic and the book are actually kind of similar in a way. http://www.skindeepcomic.com/archive/issue-1-cover/ )

Amazon thought that after my pre-purchase of the new Garrett PI and Sandman Slim books that I’d enjoy this one. I can see why it thought that, but unfortunately I can’t agree with it entirely. The book had promise, but was handled with all the grace of a drunken prom night grope and all the subtlety of a car crash off a dam. After the jump, we’ll be reading The Silver Token by Alan R. Marble.

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The Black Company - In the Employ of Soulcatcher

So here we are, book one of the Black Company. The book’s cover is pretty infamous, it’s definitely not pretty. There’s rumors that it wasn’t supposed to be used, but considering that’s a pretty decent look at Soulcatcher, I’m going to guess that if it wasn’t originally, it got heavily modified.

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The new covers are definitely much better and it’s fairly consistent across his reprints. Dark War even got the flying boards right, though I’m almost confident Marika wasn’t, but that’s neither here nor there.

You’ll notice the second picture actually covers the three books. I’ve always assumed that the guy front is Croaker, the one behind him is probably The White Rose and the last is probably Raven, but I could be wrong. If that’s not The White Rose, I’d guess the Lady. (Ed- You know, looking again I wonder if the guy up front isn’t Raven with dual daggers.) So, with that bit of rambling done, let’s jump to the book proper. I haven’t mentioned it in a while, but just in case. Spoilers are after the jump.

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The Black Company

I decided to go into a bit more detail about the series before I actually delved back into the dismal world. I actually remember the first book of the series that I found. It was at the local library while I was still in Junior High. I had been looking for something new to read after becoming frustrated with The Wheel of Time, eh, book five-ish. Browsing the shelves, I remember seeing the book Bleak Seasons and wondering exactly what it was. It had stuck out a little bit to the others and when I pulled it down and saw the white Crow on the cover, I was curious. I checked it and a couple of other books out for the week. Sitting down, I actually put the book off until last, figuring it was bound to be another generic fantasy book.

Much like when reading Dune years and years later in High School, I tore through the book in one setting. The fact that Bleak Seasons is probably one of the weaker books of the series is something of a testament to the characters. Instead of reading about a bunch of knights in shining armor fighting the undead hordes of Lord Immabadguy, we had a bunch of soldiers desperately fighting off another group of soldiers. The company relied on dirty tricks, technology and whatever else they could for advantages. Fear, trickery, explosives, poisons, traps, nothing was below them.

In this world, I found myself sitting with characters bored of just sitting around, but when something finally happens, find themselves wanting to dive back to those quiet, slow and boring times. I saw characters in a bad place, working with what they had to win and most importantly, I saw actual characters.

As I started chasing down these books, I got to know the characters. Croaker, The Lady, Soulcatcher, Murgen, Goblin and One-Eye, Silent, Darling and others. I saw a bunch of people working for bad guys, switching sides to bad guys and realizing that the good guys really weren’t any better. Do you take a strict dictator who is otherwise more or less fair or do you side with the rebels trying to depose her, funded by greedy nobles? Neither side is presented as particularly evil, but neither side is good.

We find villains with motivations and actual personality outside of two, maybe. We have characters who aren’t saved by the plot. Everyone has a chance to die and it’s safe to assume that everyone dies by the end. Even the weaker characters are usually interesting with the worst offender being Raven who’s as close to a knight in shining armor as you’ll get. Everyone in the Company distrusts him and Croaker assumes he’s nuts. His progression is not really a happy one, becoming steadily worse as a person.

It’s with that in mind that one of the reviews on Amazon had me laughing. The guy complained that a book marketed as a gritty, realistic look at soldiers in a dark fantasy setting wasn’t accurate. They sat around all the time, bitched about being bored, bitched about being stuck in a fight and bitched about marching. They have long stretches of time without fights and the fights themselves are largely noted, but not shown in detail. We know who died and sometimes where, but not the brutal fights themselves. This isn’t a bad thing, this is partially why people consider it somewhat realistic. The old joke is hurry up and wait after all.

So to close it off. This series is huge, spanning multiple decades and funnily enough, generations both in and out. My uncle had started reading the series before I was born. There are tons and tons of characters and most of them feel like they might have been real people. No one is safe, you’re always wondering who survived. It’s largely an unhappy ordeal lacking shining heroes, with super villains that barring a few examples, can be viewed with some sense of sympathy, or at the least curiousity. It ends on a bittersweet note at best and the journey to that end is a fascinating one. So, over the next while, I hope you’ll join me as I go through my favorite series in fantasy.

The Black Company

So, I repeatedly reference them. More than a few people know they’re my favorite series of books. I haven’t really offered more than passing jokes about the series. So, I’ll be doing Black Company overviews soon after I re-read the series and can offer more than half a decade old references that have stubbornly stuck. I’ll still be doing other book reviews of course, but I figure I should at least offer a glimpse of it.

Gaming story reviews?

So in the original incarnation of this blog I reviewed the game Homefront and tore it to shreds for being a script filled with idiot moments and unlikeable flat characters. I didn’t port that over to this blog since I was mostly thinking of focusing on books that I picked up to kill time.

So with that said, would you guys be interested in some reviews on games based on their story? I’m talking games like Final Fantasy Tactics with numerous themes dealing with heroism or something like Breath of Fire 3 where there’s a number of themes dealing with power, the abuse of which and intentions. What this means is I won’t be tearing into a game without a plot, but if a major selling point of said game is the plot, it would be fair game. This means something like Quake is out of the question, but Haze would be fair.

Otherwise I’ll keep the references to a minimum, usually with obscure references to Dycedarg’s Eldest Brother or using well written plots as a frame of reference.