State of the ARC: November

State of the ARC is a meme hosted by Avalinah’s Books.  The idea being to publicly shame ourselves as book bloggers for our paltry progress reading and reviewing all of the ARCs that accumulate.  Ok, let’s start by going to NetGalley and seeing how many ARCs total I have listed as approved and not reviewed . . . ah, let’s just skip that.  In a rare common fit of madness, I requested (and received) a truly obscene number of ARCs scheduled for release between September and November.  By my count, eleven books (twelve, if you count Some Dark Holler, released on August 28).  I got a bunch of those months in advance, which means I could have started reading them in time to actually be ready to keep up with the releases came.  Or at least a more responsible blogger could have.  I was other occupied this summer.

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Throwback SF Thursday: The Horror Stories of Robert E. Howard, Part 3

My blood ran fire when the deed was done;

Now it runs colder than the moon that shone

On shattered fields where dead men lay in heaps

Who could not hear a ravished daughter’s moan.

With All Hallows’ Eve right around the corner, my coverage of The Horror Stories of Robert E. Howard draws to a close.  You can find my previous posts here and here.  This post covers the final third of the book.

So now that I’m done, how does Robert E. Howard’s horror measure up?  The first question to ask: measure up to what?  I am woefully underread in horror.  I would take Robert E. Howard’s horror over the Stephen King I’ve read.  But I haven’t read Edgar Alan Poe since high school, and I haven’t read H.P. Lovecraft at all.  I read The Turning of the Screw a few years ago, and it bored me to tears.

I’m hardly the best judge of horror.  It has never grabbed me as a genre.  But I did love these stories.  I particularly loved Howard’s weird westerns, and the introductions to Solomon Kane and Bran Mak Morn have me excited to grab those collections.  None of these alone will supplant Conan for me (yet), but this collection shows Howard undeniably had serious range as a writer.

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The Fall of Dragons Ends a Great Fantasy Series with a Bloody, Alien Bang

Is there anything left I can say about The Traitor Son Cycle that I haven’t already said?  After all, I have already posted reviews of the first, second, third, and fourth books, and I posted a pitch for Game of Thrones fan looking for a new series.  The answer is: of course.  If you have been reading my blog for any significant amount of time, you know I always have more nonsense to spew.

And this review is important!  I am second to no one in my love of epic fantasy.  Sure, I love those slim paperback sword and sorcery novels from the 70s.  But I still view a great epic fantasy series as the pinnacle of all of speculative fantasy.  But epic fantasy is a big commitment.  I was in elementary school when I started reading The Wheel of Time.  By the time I finished it, I was a practicing lawyer.  So far be it from me to complain if you ask (1) is the series finished and (2) does it stick the landing (I’m looking at you, Death Gate Cycle)?  Back to the topic at hand, the answers to those two questions in regard to The Traitor Son Cycle are (1) yes and (2) hell yes.

The Fall of Dragons is fabulous, and it cements The Traitor Son Cycle as one of my all-time favorite fantasy series.

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Review of Future War: Preparing for the New Global Battlefield by Robert Latiff

One thing I really miss from my pre-blog days was writing reviews of non-fiction books.  I try to avoid off-topic posts on here, but I do want to write more reviews of relevant non-fiction, like the post I did on Frank McLynn’s Genghis Khan and the post I will eventually get around to doing on Dan Jones’ The Wars of the Roses.

Those posts are most likely to be on history books, but I read something a little different for me this time—Future War: Preparing for the New Global Battlefield by Robert Latiff.  Any science fiction writer should keep an eye on the cutting edge of tech, especially in the military.  And Future War does mention a lot of cool tech.  And the focus on ethical issues is welcome.  But Future War is ultimately unsatisfying because, while it raises questions, it doesn’t deal with them in a serious way.

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Throwback SF Thursday: The Horror Stories of Robert E. Howard, part 2

The mighty poets write in blood and tears

And agony that, flame-like, bites and sears.

They reach their mad blind hands into the night,

To plumb abysses dead to human sight.

Tuesday was World Mental Health Day.  When Damon Knight and L. Sprague de Camp were denigrating Robert E. Howard, they were doing it used terrible pseudo-psychology.  Their criticism of Howard belongs in the dustbin of history with that pseudo-psychology.  What happened to Howard was a tragedy.  A transcendentally talented young man, who may have been mentally ill, made a terrible mistake during a crushing time.  And people go through every day what Howard went through.  He wasn’t a weirdo, except in that it was weird how damned good a writer he was.

I didn’t quite get through a full third of The Horror Stories of Robert E. Howard, but the middle has some of the meatiest stories, including my favorite so far.  I already posted on the first part of his collected horror stories, and I will post on the rest of the stories in two weeks.  The stories and poems covered in this post are listed at the bottom.

In case you’re wondering who Howard’s horror influences are, he gives us a pretty good clue when a character identifies Lovecraft’s Call of Cthulhu, Poe’s The Fall of the House of Usher, and Machen’s Black Seal as master horror tales.  (And in Howard’s world, erudite men don’t blush at serious discussion of horror in the salon.)  But you don’t need that to see Lovecraft’s influence, at least.  It is plain, especially in these stories.  Even though, per Jim Fear, they should probably only be labeled quasi-Lovecraftian.

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Rat Queens is always at its best when it’s having fun

The strengths of Rat Queens is the interpersonal dynamics among the group, the dungeon crawls/monster-killing quests, and poking fun at both modern life and D&D murder hobo propensities.  Volume 4 has a lot of that, and it is all enormously fun.

Rat Queens has never been very good at family drama.  Unfortunately, I find Violet’s brother as annoying as she does.  But, thankfully, he plays only a small role, leaving plenty of time for the more entertaining adventuring.

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Star Wars in Concert is Worth Every Penny for Two Scenes Alone

So this happened…

A few quick thoughts on watching Star Wars on a big screen with a full symphony orchestra providing the score:

It was worth every penny for two shots alone. First, to see the Star Destroyer at the very beginning of the movie on the big screen. It just keeps coming and coming and coming, the triangular shape driving home its immensity as it is slowly revealed. I do believe this is the finest single shot in science fiction movie history.

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