Book Review of “Jack of Shadows”

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After my last two books and especially Nnedi Okorafor’s missive and it’s aftermath, I decided to “play it safe” and revisit some old ground.

I remember reading Roger Zelazny’s Jack of Shadows soon after it was originally published in the early 1970s and recalled enjoying it.

After so many years, that’s all I recalled, but apparently this Hugo and Locus Award nominee had gone out of print for some years. Nor could I find a copy in my local library system. Finally, it was republished as part of the “Recovered Classics Book Series number 23”. I downloaded it from Amazon to my Kindle Fire and there it waited for me.

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Review of “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings”

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I was actually surprised to find that I liked Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (2021). In its own way, it is reminiscent of Black Panther (2018) starring the incomparable Chadwick Boseman. There was a similar worldbuilding based on various Marvel comic book concepts and many wonderfully endearing characters. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

In the original 1970s Master of Kung Fu comic books started by Steve Englehart and Jim Starlin, Shang-Chi was the estranged son of Dr. Fu Manchu, a pulp fiction character created by Sax Rohmer in 1913.

The series began by introducing Shang-Chi as a man raised by his father Dr. Fu Manchu to be the ultimate assassin for the would-be world conqueror. In Shang-Chi’s first mission, he kills one of his father’s old enemies, Dr. Petrie and then learns of Dr. Fu Manchu’s true, evil nature. Disillusioned, Shang-Chi swears eternal opposition to his father’s ambitions and fights him as an agent of British intelligence, under the orders of Sir Denis Nayland Smith.

In the early 1970s, Chinese Kung Fu movies were huge in the west as was Bruce Lee. There was even a disco song called Kung Fu Fighting. In addition, there was a television series called Kung Fu starring David Carradine.

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Book Review of “Binti: The Complete Trilogy”

binti

Cover art for Binti: The Complete Trilogy

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I previously mentioned that as part of Women in SciFi Month and in response to the twitter hashtag #FiveSFFWritersWhoArentBlokes, I collected the names of some female authors I’ve never read to essentially broaden my horizons.

Today, I just finished Nnedi Okorafor’s Binti: The Complete Trilogy. As it’s a collected trilogy (plus one additional short story), it’s publication history is from 2015 through 2019.

To understand my review and the work in general, I’ll present a few bits of info. First, the author’s bio as presented on Amazon:

Nnedi Okorafor was born in the United States to two Igbo (Nigerian) immigrant parents. She holds a PhD in English and was a professor of creative writing at Chicago State University. She has been the winner of many awards for her short stories and young adult books, and won a World Fantasy Award. Nnedi’s books are inspired by her Nigerian heritage and her many trips to Africa.

That’s the short version. Now the professional reviews of this trilogy posted on Amazon:

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10 Reasons Why Clark Kent is the Only Superman

taylor

Screenshot from twitter.

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I haven’t posted anything in the political or social realm on this blog in a while. I became aware that sort of content was costing me readers, both here and probably with my stories. It’s even possible (and likely) that publishers considering my short story submissions have given me a hard pass because they looked me up on twitter and Facebook. I guess the dictionary definition of “inclusive” isn’t being considered.

But then on twitter, I read an article tweeted by Bounding into Comics called Superman’s New Enemy Is Fake News, YouTube’s Yellow Flash Shares His Thoughts.

For those of you who don’t know, Clark Kent and Lois Lane married in the comic books and (amazingly considering Clark is from another planet) had a son. He was named Jonathan after Clark’s (adopted) Dad, which is totally cool. The readers were given a good look at the Kents as parents and wow, what a great set of parents. However, the writers at DC Comics decided they had plans for little Jon and couldn’t wait years for him to grow up the old fashioned way. So they trapped him in another universe and he grew into a teenager just like that.

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Book Review of Lois McMaster Bujold’s “Cyroburn”

cryoburn

© James Pyles

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I feel like this book review requires a bit of an explanation. I thought “Women in SciFi Month” was in March, but according to this, it’s in April, so I’m not late.

Actually, thanks to Cora Buhlert (she and I are very different people but she’s one of the few folks who doesn’t take it personally) and the twitter hashtag #FiveSFFWritersWhoArentBlokes, I compiled a list of female SFF writers I want to read (a lot more than five). I’m usually against “you have to read these authors or you’re racist, sexist, misanthropic, whatever…” but I am also aware there are tons of science fiction writers I simply don’t know about. After all, if not for twitter, I’d have no idea Adrian Tchaikovsky even existed, let alone have read and reviewed his novel Children of Time (it has issues but overall, a great book).

Because my list is alphabetical, I started with Lois McMaster Bujold. I found out that a bunch of her books were at my local public library just a few miles from where I live. I shot on over but hadn’t looked any of them up first. I set aside anything that looked like fantasy and drilled into her science fiction works. I settled on Cryoburn because the blurb was interesting:

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Book Review of E.E. “Doc” Smith’s “Gray Lensman”

gray lensman

Mass market paperback cover for “Gray Lensman”

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Gray Lensman by E.E. “Doc” Smith (I bought the cheap kindle version) is the fourth book in the Lensman series following Triplanetary, First Lensman, and Galactic Patrol.

After my binge read of James S.A. Corey’s nine-book The Expanse saga, I realized I hadn’t read a Lensman book in over a year. Part of the reason was that they’re hard for me to read. They’re really old fashioned, to the point of being almost farcical.

But they are also an important part of science fiction history and the development of the classic space opera.

This particular book was originally published in serial form in Astounding (later Analog) magazine in 1939. It made it to book form in 1951 and to the paperbacks I became familiar with in the 1960s.

As I’ve mentioned before, in the mid to late 1960s, while all the other guys were reading the Tarzan and Lensman books, I was absorbed in the Barsoom and Skylark books, by Edgar Rice Burroughs and E.E. “Doc” Smith respectively.

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Book Review: “Swirling Darkness” by Sam M. Phillips

swirling

Promotional art for Sam M. Phillips’ “Swirling Darkness”

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Sam Phillips is an author, poet, and a co-founder of Zombie Pirate Publishing with Adam Bennett. They published some of my very first short stories and have been a lot of fun to work with.

Sam is branching out as an individual author and I recently read two of his books, Infinity and I, published by the aforementioned Zombie Pirate, and Swirling Darkness published as part of the Underground series by Black Hare Press

The description for his anthology is:

INFINITY AND I is a collection of seventy brand new science fiction stories from Sam M. Phillips, the co-founder of Zombie Pirate Publishing. Inside you’ll find surreal space journeys, bizarre aliens, futuristic technology, rogue AIs, and a girl who just wants to be loved. Follow a huge array of exotic characters across the galaxy as they use inter-dimensional drugs and fight battles on faraway worlds. Action, drama, and science combine with the complexity of the human soul in the year’s most exciting new sci fi release. Open up a portal and step into the depths of a unique mind with INFINITY AND I: Seventy Science Fiction Stories!

As an aside, I should note that my novella Time’s Abyss is also part of the Underground series.

Sam publishes his poetry on his blog Big Confusing Words. That’s important to know for my review as you’ll soon see.

The blurb for “Darkness” states:

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Book Review of “Leviathan Falls”

falls

Cover of the novel “Leviathan Falls”

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This is it. I just finished the ninth and final book in the Expanse novel series Leviathan Falls by James S.A. Corey (really Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck). I checked it out of my local public library like all the others. It’s a new book, so I put a hold on it December 1st and finally got my hands on it February 9th. I have to give it back after two weeks, so I’m pushing things a little.

The quality of the series held up, which is important. I’ve read a lot of book series that started out great and then fizzled at the end. That’s usually because the author (or publisher) decides that they’ll make more money on more books people like, but don’t have a clear vision of the end from the beginning.

I’m not sure Abraham and Franck did either when they wrote the first in the series. Some things got a little repetitive in some of the stories. It seemed for a while that going from an earlier book to a later book meant the disasters got bigger and worse. That didn’t happen this time around, but there’s definitely a resolution. There’s not a lot of room for the characters to reappear in the long haul except Amos and maybe Jim. No, no spoilers but I’m not above dolling out a few hints.

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Third 5-Star Review of “Ice” on Amazon

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Hooray! Frankly, I’ll take just about any sort of review on “Ice” just so it’s noticed, but I love how all three (so far) are five-stars on Amazon.

Click on the link to find the review and read it. If you’ve read “Ice” and haven’t reviewed it on Amazon and Goodreads, please, please, please do so. Even if the review is less than complementary, I’ll learn more about how to improve my writing.

Here’s my “blurb:”

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Review of Zack Snyder’s “Justice League” (2021)

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It took two days for me to work my way through the two-disc set of Zack Snyder’s Justice League (2021). I saw the 2017 version and wasn’t incredibly impressed. I was hoping for more in the “Snyder Cut.”

Given the breadth of this film, I’m commenting on things in no particular order and this review will not be comprehensive.

At slightly over four hours of run time, there’s plenty of room for character development, origin stories, and “mood,” but I think it could have been a shorter, tighter movie.

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