The last time I read The Wheel of Time was in anticipation of A Memory of Light. The culmination of the series was a big deal for me. I discovered The Wheel of Time shortly after The Shadow Rising (book 4) was released, which means I waited over twenty years for the series to finish. I was a kid when I started reading it and a man when the series concluded. In the interim I lost two immediate family members, graduated from high school, college, grad school, and law school, got my first job, got my first real job, got my first promotion, changed careers twice, lived in four states. The Wheel of Time was a constant through all of that. It may be the only reason I read fantasy today—for the better part of a decade I would not have read any fantasy but for a new Wheel of Time book every two or three years. It was the excitement that the book would be finished that turned me back toward fantasy permanently.
As a kid, I reread the books obsessively, rereading each at least once in anticipation of the next book. Later I would read the newly published book once and leave it at that. Once I even *gas* went months after publication before buying the newest book. A hectic life since A Memory of Light kept me from a full reread. I got married, became a father, changed careers again, and lived in two more states. Oh, and started two blogs. My desire to write reread posts here was part of the delay. Rereading four million words and writing about them is a much bigger commitment.
It is finally here: something I didn’t know I needed until I watched it. I had written off Justice League and the DCEU. I probably never would have watched the Snyder Cut of Justice League but for Godzilla vs. Kong, my primary impetus for signing up for HBO Max.
I can thank David French for casting the Snyder Cut as the final chapter in a Superman trilogy. That led me to first watch Man of Steel and the Batman v Superman Ultimate Edition. It was my first time watching Batman v Superman in full and in its Ultimate Edition form. It was my first time watching Man of Steel period. I did watch the awful theatrical cut of Justice League.
The bottom line is that the Snyder Cut is really damn good, if not perfect. It is a vast improvement over the theatrical cut. And it does in fact form a coherent trilogy.
Is that a light we finally see at the end of the tunnel? March got off to a good start. The state has me classified as a frontline essential worker, but I wasn’t expecting to get my first dose of the vaccine very early in March and leave the month fully vaccinated. My mom is fully vaccinated too, which has me feeling a lot better about things. I ate inside a restaurant TWICE in March, which is twice as many times I did in the entire previous year.
Ruin and Rising brings Leigh Bardugo’s Grisha Trilogy to a close. I was in at the ground floor, reading the first and second books right around the time they came out. I inexplicably waited until now to finish the trilogy. Many, many other people did not. Bardugo’s works, all set in the same world, have proven wildly successful and will soon appear as a Netflix show.
The unwashed masses, for once, have got it right. The worst thing that I can say about Ruin and Rising is that it doesn’t quite clear the very high bar set by the first two books.
Siege and Storm is the second book in The Grisha Trilogy and the follow-up to Bardugo’s very promising debut, Shadow and Bone. Rest assured there is no sophomore slump. The second act of a trilogy can be the high point (see: The Two Towers, The Empire Strikes Back) or, most commonly, can lull as the story segues from its opening to its climax. Siege and Storm is an example of the former. In fact, I commented in my review of Shadow and Bone that it was very much a traditional Campbell’s Hero Journey (albeit with a female protagonist), and Siege and Storm bears great resemblance to that most Campbellian of stories—The Empire Strikes Back of Star Wars.
Finally, that interminable, endless, incessant month of February has sputtered to a close. I have to say—not being able to go anywhere grinds a little bit finer when it is so cold and dark (although at least we are getting more light now). There is, indeed, light at the end of the tunnel, though. The weather is already starting to turn, the trees are budding, and, most importantly, my mom was finally able to get her first dose of the vaccine. I should have my first dose by the next time I write one of these. I haven’t gone this long without sitting in a bar since I was 18.
The highlight for February was Finish February, my herculean effort to actually finish the books I was reading before starting new books. Starting only two books maybe contributed a wee bit to the depressiveness of February, but it was nice to put away so many books I had allowed to languish so long. It was a close issue too—I can take pride in managing to finish four books on the 28th alone.
Finish February final facts:
Book in progress on Feb. 1 – 7
Books in progress on March 1 – 2
Books finished in February – 7
Books in progress finished in February – 6
Average days to finish books – 177 days
Longest time to finish book – 479 days
Average page length of books finished in February – 547 pages
Longest book finished in February – 912 pages
I don’t know how many pages I read in February, but I didn’t just finish a stack of books, I finished a stack of books that took real effort. It included long books (Alexander Hamilton and Winter’s Heart run roughly the same number of pages, but Alexander Hamilton contains far more words per page; truly, font size is the girth of the book world). And I polished off a few academic books, which always come with a heavier cognitive load (even if it is mostly my brain rebelling from the terrible writing).
Alina, an orphan turned military cartographer, has her life changed forever when her military unit attempts a crossing of the Fold, a mysterious, flesh-eating monster-filled swath of darkness that cuts her home country off from vital sea trade. The army’s shock force are the Grisha, magic users (all of whom serve in the army and are heaped with perqs for their troubles). They are divided into orders based on how they manipulate reality through the “small science,” the Corporalki (heartrenders and healers manipulating the body), Etherealki (manipulating elements, e.g. Inferni), and Materialki (Fabrikators). The ability is in-born, and other talents are rarer. They remind me both in abilities and organization of the Latents from Myke Cole’s military urban fantasy Shadow Ops: Control Point. Events in the Fold quickly land Alina at the center of court, and Grisha, politics.
It has been another hectic month in casa del martes, but things are finally settling into a routine of the new, new (new?) normal. The holidays are over and grandparents have been exorcised from the house. My new semester has started. no-angel is finally—after over 10 months!—back in daycare (although she is laying on the couch beside me, home sick, as I write this). Regular snowfalls keep us from missing the Rust Belt too much.
All that didn’t keep me from blogging. In fact, I had my busiest month in a long, long time, posting nine(!) book reviews. Two Vintage Science Fiction Month reviews helped. I have also been working my way through a backlog of unreviewed books across both blogs, and I posted a couple pre-blog Amazon reviews to Hillbilly Highways.
Rome is a young apprentice hunter. Being a village hunter is all he wants to do, but he isn’t very good at it. He is very close to relegation to the fields. His fellow apprentice hunter Warsaw, on the other hand, is already one of the best hunters in the village, despite his age. Rome and Warsaw separately return from their most recent hunting trip bigger issues. Badger-faced men have sacked the village and marched the survivors off in bondage. Indomitable, Rome and Warsaw set out to rescue their friends and family against all odds.
Don’t expect Brian McClellan’s first foray into urban fantasy to blaze any new trails. This is all ground well-trod by Jim Butcher, Larry Correia, and Richard Kadrey. Which isn’t to say that Uncanny Collateral isn’t more than welcome. But we are talking about works that are a certain type of comfort reads—successors in some ways to the old pulps—because they guarantee an entertaining, rollicking read. McClellan has tweaks of his own—and they are good ones—but mainly he absolutely sticks the execution. At just 165 pages (again, with the pulp similarities), it fits nicely into a busy schedule too.
It is accepted that we live in an Early Dystopian State. Claiming that we are merely decadent is what passes for optimism these days. The real debate is not whether things are bad but over which dystopian novel best reflects our current and coming dystopia. The Handmaid’s Tale is a popular choice despite making no sense whatsoever in the current political climate. 1984 is an evergreen option since Orwell was prescient enough to include all the favorite tools of oppression of both the contemporary Left and the contemporary Right. Taking a page from 1984, as our leaders appear fond of, has its advantages—in these days of fragmented popular culture 1984 offers the rare common language of oppression, a shorthand that oppressors can take advantage of to save a bit of work. No bureaucrat is so committed to oppression that he won’t cut a corner or three. Much better, then, if the people are polite enough to facilitate their own oppression. And American’s today are certainly committed to facilitating their own oppression—out of sheer mental laziness if nothing else. Which makes Brave New World, with its happiness substitute drug Soma, a popular choice these days. I am here today, though, to give Fahrenheit 451 its due.