First things first. If you’ve read Andre Norton’s The Beast Master—or, better yet, read my review of the same—you should know that the movie adaptation—and it is, technically, an adaptation—has little to do with the book. Of course, in the more likely event you have seen the movie and haven’t read the book, you should know that the book bears little resemblance to the movie. But they are both tremendously entertaining works of pulp adventure and both well worth your time.
Both are products of their time. The Beast Master book was published the same year Rio Bravo was released (penned by Leigh Brackett). The Beastmaster movie was released the same year as Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Conan the Barbarian. Should we be surprised one is half Western and half planetary romance and the other is pure sword and sorcery? (I will take advantage of the slight variation in the name to distinguish the two from here on out.)
New Year’s Resolutions—who needs them! They mostly deal with boring stuff like diet and exercise. I only want to talk about books. So bookish resolutions. Those are still cool. So cool I gave you a bonus resolution. [Now two! Because I rather egregiously forgot one.]
Top Ten Tuesday now lives with Jana at The Artsy Reader Girl.
I had a heckuva time finding this book. Like any kid from the tail end of Generation X, I had seen the Beastmaster movie countless times on cable as a kid. And I picked up at some point that the movie was (loosely) based on a book by Andre Norton. Andre Norton being one of the writers I wanted to highlight with Throwback SF Thursday, I knew I had to cover The Beast Master. There was just one problem. Every used bookstore I set foot into had roughly a shelfful of Norton (Adam Whitehead has her #10 on his SFF All-Time Sales List). The sequel, Lord of Thunder, was the first Norton I picked up, and one of the first vintage SF I picked up. But it took trips to close to a dozen used bookstores before I finally found a copy of The Beast Master. (Assuming you don’t already own the sequel, just go ahead and pick up the omnibus.)
It was well worth the hunt.
To call the movie loosely based on the book is generous, so set aside any preconceived notions you may have based on the movie. The protagonist has an animal team and the similarities end there. Where the movie was pure sword and sorcery, The Beast Master is half-Western and half-planetary romance. If you have any doubts about that combination, Norton fulfills its potential to the fullest. I don’t talk much about gameability, but I think it is very likely that Gary Gygax was thinking of this book specifically when he listed Andre Norton in Appendix N.
I liked The Last Jedi. But I didn’t love it. Or, rather, I loved parts of it and had real issues with other parts (you can find those thoughts in depth here). Opening up Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn trilogy, I was surprised to learn that, with The Last Jedi, Rian Johnson appears to be doing something very similar to what Sanderson has already done. Taking a closer look can tell us more about just how good (or bad (or mediocre)) The Last Jedi is, and what Disney needs to deliver with Episode IX.
Spoilers for The Well of Ascension by Brandon Sanderson and The Last Jedi after the jump. Spoilers for The Final Empire as well and to a lesser extent for The Hero of the Ages.
2017 was a good year for me and a good year for the blog. 2017 also capped what was, for me, an extraordinarily eventful decade. A decade that started with the death of my sister. At the time, I had lived my entire life in one state, and I was working at the only “real” job I had ever held. A decade later, I’ve lived in five more states, picked up another advanced degree, changed careers twice, held five more jobs, bought two houses, and gotten married. I’ve settled into a state and job and career and house that hopefully I will keep for a very long time. I also lost my two remaining grandparents, and my wife lost her last grandparent. But we have our first child on the way this spring.
I started this blog in the middle of all of that in May 2015. 2016 more than tripled 2015 page views. 2017 more than doubled 2016 page views. Not only that, I had more visitors in 2017 than I did views in 2016. And I did it on three fewer posts. Jeffro tapped me for an every-other-week column at Castalia House. I participated in Vintage SF Month and started two new series of my own—my Dark Tower Big Read and the Summer of Conan. I continued my Throwback SF Thursday posts and reviewed far more indie books than in the past.
2017 introduced me to a lot of great writers. Looking back over last year, I am pleased to see the diversity among those writers. My list splits very evenly among fantasy debuts, indie books, and vintage SF. This is also the first time in the last four years I haven’t needed to use nonfiction writers to round out my list (though if I had read as much nonfiction as I should have, that might not have been the case). A few highlights: Robyn Bennis’ The Guns Above and Luke Bauserman’s Some Dark Holler were two of the best books I read this past year and are criminally overlooked. I really, really need to read more Leigh Brackett. And, finally, reading some Robert E. Howard really blew my mind.
Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish (for now).