February 13th, 2012


Pot Ledom at the End of the World.

You know when you're camping in the woods, & for just one night only, those woods are haunted? The sort of forest where you're far away from everything & everyone, totally alone, but not so totally uninhabited that a serial killer couldn't be living in them? A Grimm sort of ocean of trees, perfectly friendly during the day, that just turns wicked come nightfall? That is where the cottage I was living at in my dream was, & it was under assault. I wasn't alone; other people were there, about a dozen of them, including Allison Harvard from America's Next Top Model. I remember hiding, crouched next to the door with a sword, ready to surprise whoever came in...& when I peeked out the window, an actual legit ninja was making eye contact with me. The standoff soon resulted in a huge brawl between the house-guests & the invaders...where it turned out that I had the power to mutate people by touching them? Mostly by bio-sculpting their arms into guns. One, both, or in one case I fused two arms together to make a huge cannon. Afterward, we split up into two groups with two flashlights, walking back to our homes through the spooky woods. Both groups were trying to get me to come with them, when I woke up.

Oh, & my dream the other night had John Stamos in it! It was post-apocalyptic, but the end of the world hadn't been zombies or anything like that-- rather, a disaster that killed ninety percent of the people. The world wasn't out to get you, just empty, & when there were people, it was a sort of scavenged Wild West feeling, a mix of frontier camaraderie & concerns about banditry. I was in a caravan with a handful of others-- we had a school bus & an RV along with a few motorcycles-- & for whatever reason we were splitting up. It wasn't clear to me whether we were splitting up for good or just for the day, & that was a source of anxiety. I ended up following John Stamos as he motorcycled away, & trying to follow the thread of his story. It was like the "the group is breaking up!" episode, the "Spider-Man no more!" issue. John Stamos went to go see a doctor, but I didn't know why. Later he was explaining it to me; he was someone that he'd known before the end of the world, & before he was an actor. There was more, but I couldn't fall back asleep.
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Marut. (12)

Death's Heretic by James L. Sutter.

The Cinder Furnace,
Weeping Tower, Throne of Flies
& the Drowning Court.

This is the first of the Pathfinder novels that I've read that wasn't written by Dave Gross, & it suffers in comparison. Don't get me wrong, it isn't bad, but it lacks the humor of Gross' characterization. Something suffers in the human element-- though part of that is doubtless the level of magical intervention in the story. See, Death's Heretic is about an immortal undead hunter searching for a lost soul by scouring the planes. By planes, not plains-- the story takes a sizable interlude in the afterlives of the Pathfinder universe. One thing I want to note about that: in Pathfinder, the Neutral Evil plane is Abaddon, & it is ruled over by...The Four Horsemen? That is great stuff; I am a big fan of scraping real world mythology for re-use, so that you get some of the emotional oomph. Hell & the Abyss have always been the most well defined & vital planes, but throwing the Four Horsemen into the mix is a great idea. Now, I'm a big fan of Planescape, so I'm more than happy to go along on this journey, but it does undercut the emotional development of the characters somewhat. I found the gender roles predictable, which was I think the greatest weakness of the story over all. The characters are a little bit stock, for my tastes-- the brooding, lantern-jawed hero with a dark past, the tempestuous young woman who is drawn to him but has a stubborn streak-- but that is made palatable by the simple fact that thank heavens they aren't white people. The story takes place in the reaches of the Pathfinder universe that draw their inspiration from Egypt & Arabian Nights, & Sutter nails it. It isn't exotica or Orientalism-- just a tale in a setting whose primary influence isn't pseudo-European, & that is a huge relief. I was also impressed with how Sutter managed to handle the angel, which could have gone poorly but was handled with panache. Not to mention the lovely cover, but then, I'm a sucker for Kekai Kotaki.
whiskey cheese


Nicki Minaj in Versace.

Pros: Did you just go Full Richelieu? Versace Popess is a good look on you.
Cons: Okay, yeah, the Catholic thing is super trite & childish, whatever.

Sasha Gradiva in Leonid Gurevich.

Cons: Who is this? She's like, t.a.t.u. crossed with Robyn?

Katy Perry in Elie Saab.

Pros: What the heck? Katy Perry you look hot as heck, did you stop faking it?
Cons: I liked you & Brand as a couple; better than the sum of your parts, since I kind of hate both of you separately.
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Northlanders Volume Three: Blood in the Snow by Brian Wood, Dean Ormston, Vaslis Lolos, Danijel Zezelj & Davide Gianfelice.

Draugir, the BLOOD-SHIRT,
the iron & hunger of Hel,
unlucked by the Norns.

Oh yeah, that is the stuff. This is what I want out of Northlanders. The short story format really works; Wood has an style that allows an economy of storytelling, & the shorter form means that the dance of visuals has to be concise. If The Cross + the Hammer had been a two issue arc, it would have been much more successful. Wood relies very much on a "oh, let me toss a few backstory hooks out & let the reader fill in the character outline with their own imagination," & here it soars. You've got "Lindisfarne," which pulls up short of having a predictable moral, totally redeeming the trope. "The Viking Art of Single Combat" could only have ended the way it did, but I sure enjoyed it-- & the integration of Norse poetry was classy, too. "Shield Maidens" is a little "older Vertigo," to me-- it reads like a single issue of The Sandman, sans the requisite single panel of Dream of the Endless when they drop 'shrooms. Actually, "Lindisfarne" sort of had that with the Thor splash page, didn't it? "Sven the Immortal" is just a cute call back to Sven the Returned-- while a whole arc would certainly be a terrible idea, a single indulgent issue is sort of charming. So yes, I'm won back over.
smoke eater

Rime-Sark (14)

Northlanders Volume Four: The Plague Widow by Brian Wood & Leandro Fernandez.

I learned the seiðr.
I hung upon the rune-tree,
& tore out my eye.

Hey, you guys like grim stuff? You know, stuff like The Walking Dead, where stuff is really bad, & then it gets worse? Because if so, you'll probably really "enjoy" The Plague Widow, on account of how it is definitely about some rough times. You know, like, living in 1020 CE, that is pretty much a bad start right there. & then everyone in your village gets the plague? & then your husband dies, leaving your martial protections absent & your social position tenuous. & then, winter comes on. You know, one of those winters that left pagan Vikings convinced a wolf ate the sun, that destroyed Napoleon's armies, just freeze that kills. The kind of cold where you know you are going to be seeing someone's hands or feet black with frostbite & rot. Survival horror, the grindstone of every last thing that could go wrong toppling like dominos, & then Old Man Murphy's number one rule kicking in when you thought the last piddling detail had kicked. But here is the thing-- there is a difference between brutal, grueling, backbreaking feel bad, & the alternative. See, because over these last few Northlanders issues, I've figured out that Wood's not opposed to a satisfying conclusion. Maybe the protagonists will will win, or if they are defeated, maybe their death will have meaning at least. & So while the writer goes at it hammer & tongs, you don't know if you're on a one way train to Sadsville, population you, or if you are on the Despite All Odds express.