This page is to support my blog. I plan on writing reviews and adding many more books that I like. If you buy a book from through the links on this site, a small percentage will go back to me in the form of credit, so I can buy myself stuff from Amazon.

Aisle One: Aquaman!

cover Aquaman: The Water Bearer

A collection of Rick Veitch's first few issues, re-imagining Aquaman after the events of the Obsidian Age.

If you want the full story of Aquaman's return, also check out:

And if you're curious about his disappearance, just read:

cover Justice League Aquaman Action Figure

The latest in a long line of Aquaman action figures, this one features his newest look: the retro shirt and the mystic water-hand.

cover Aquaman Archives Volume 1

This Archive contains classic tales of the Silver Age Aquaman by two of the best artists of their era, Ramona Fradon and Nick Cardy.

cover Aquaman: Time and Tide

This Trade Paperback collects Peter David's linking sequel to The Atlantis Chronicles. The story is of Aquaman's younger days, including his introduction into the world of superheroes, and his discovery of his true heritage. A must-read for background material on Aquaman's past, it is also a really good book.

cover Filmation Aquaman Video

This video collects several delightful gems of Aquaman animation, all from his campy 1960's series. Re-visit Tusky the Walrus as Aquaman and Aqualad battle their fiendish foes.

cover Aquaman's Guide to the Oceans

by Jackie Gaff, DK Readers Level 4, Hardcover
(a softcover version is also available)

I expect quality out of DK (Dorling Kindersley), and I was not disappointed. I haven't read every section of this book yet, but I'll be reading it more carefully later. This book has a wonderful dual nature. The sidebars introduce Aquaman and his fictional world, while the main text carefully describes reality. The text is rich and detailed, despite being written for children who have just learned to read, and there is a lot of extra information in both the main text and in captions for the many non-comic book images. The Aquaman characters and story generally tie-in somehow with the main text, and there are several "guest" appearances of non-Aquaman characters like Batman, Plastic Man, and the Penguin. Aquaman's history goes back into the Peter David days, includes bits of Larsen's awful run, and continues up into the current series. All the artwork appears to be from various DC Comics, mostly from the Aquaman title, and the artists are listed (in tiny print) on the title page. There's a glossary and index in the back. The book itself is a bit smaller than a comic book in size, and thicker than your average prestige comic. After reading this, I definitely want to get the other books in the series: "Batman's Guide to Crime and Detection", "Superman's Guide to the Universe", and "Wonder Woman's Book of Myths". Yeah, they are for kids. But they're still fun.

cover The Science of Superheroes

This book examines the main comic book myths and explores the real science that either makes them possible or, more likely, makes them impossible. In addition to the expected chapters on Superman, Hulk, Batman, and the Fantastic Four, there is a chapter devoted to underwater heroes like Aquaman (and that other guy, Namor). A fun read.

cover The Art of Nick Cardy

Nick Cardy is widely considered one of the most influential artists of the Silver Age, and his work on Aquaman is the definitive Aquaman for many Aquaman fans. This book is a work of love by John Coates to bring Nick's story and Nick's artwork to light.

Aisle Two: The Justice League of America

cover Justice League - Justice on Trial DVD

This DVD features the Aquaman episode of Justice League, along with the Green Lantern episode, which makes it a perfect DVD for Eric and I.

cover JLA: The Ultimate Guide to the Justice League of America

A surprisingly good look at the recent history of the Justice League as seen in the pages of JLA. While it's a little light on the history, it covers more than you might expect. There's not much Tempest info, and that's not so good because it does cover some of the Titans much better (ok, a paragraph better), but since Aquaman and his Atlantis gets a two-page spread I'll forgive them this time. This covers the current JLA title from the beginning up until the Obsidian Age arc, and has a bit about previous Justice Leagues just to keep things complete. A 14 page JLA Timeline starts with Brave and the Bold and goes up to JLA #72 (late Sep 2002). This is a must-have for JLA fans, especially fans of the current JLA.

cover JLA: Secret Origins

Alex Ross' gorgeous artwork tells the mythic origins of DC's most powerful group of superheroes. The Silver Age Origin of Aquaman is retold in this oversized prestige book.

cover JLA: Liberty and Justice

Alex Ross' gorgeous artwork illustrates a fairly straightforward superhero story set in the classic Silver Age. Worth a look for the artwork.

cover Mythology: The DC Comics Art of Alex Ross

"The challenge of drawing (Aquaman) is how to prove that a character everyone believes is corny can actually be cool. I wanted to show that his orange shirt with the scales on it could look majestic, like armor or chainmail." And with those words, Alex Ross made me a happy camper. And there is a great full page of Aquaman taking on whalers (from the upcoming JLA: Liberty and Justice), not to mention the neat re-do of the cover of Brave and the Bold #28 from Starro's point of view (he even got the color of Aquaman's gloves right). And I would really like the "Aquaman" wild card from the Kingdom Come supplement. *ahem* As for the rest of the book, unless you like Ross' art, don't get it. But if you enjoy his art, it's worth having as a coffee table book, and it's fun to look through, too.

cover JLA: Year One

A nice collection of a recent re-interpretation of the Justice League.

cover Challenge of the Superfriends DVD

Just because it's got Aquaman in it.

Aisle Three: Other Super Books

cover The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay

This book has gotten a lot of well-deserved attention for its re-creation of the Golden Age era of comic books. It's a great story of how two cousins break into the business of creating comic books. One to escape his boring life, and the other to escape his own past and continuing sense of helplessness. The occasional aside to the reader tells you what the piece the boys are working on today is worth in the current market, just to lend a strange sense of reality to the book. And the ending, while not completely satisfying, is certainly appropriate to this kind of book.

If you like the Golden Age comics, do yourself a favor and pick this novel up.

cover The Interman

by Jeff Parker (Action/Adventure)

A strong tale about a man who is more than he seems.

I didn't mean to read the whole thing in one sitting! Really, I was gonna space it out over a few days. But once I started reading, I just got into it and suddenly I'm turning the last page thinking, "when's the sequel?" Ah, I'd better go read it again.
cover Colonia: Islands and Anomolies

by Jeff Nicholson

Colonia is one of the very few series that I bought cold, just from the Previews decription, during a time when I was buying almost exclusively superhero books. It was actually a single image that convinced me to try the book. That image later became the cover to the first collection. I couldn't resist. I actually pre-ordered it, with no real idea what is was about. And I loved it. The art is simple but evocative. The storyline has enough mystery to make you wonder, and enough hints to give you a sense of what's really happening (if you read carefully enough). This trade collects the first story-arc, establishing the main characters and the situation, although you have to read carefully to figure out what that situation is. Quite a fun book, and kid-safe, too.

cover Age of Bronze: A Thousand Ships

Hardcover Edition

Age of Bronze is a complete retelling of the story of the Trojan War, from Paris' emergence as a prince of Troy until... well, I don't know where it will end. We're only sixteen issues into it (as of March 2003) and it is consistently good all the way through. This collection, "A Thousand Ships" covers the kidnapping of Helen up to the first launch of the Greek fleet toward Troy.

To do justice to the story, Shanower has kept up with the latest archeological studies of the era. He uses the many examples of imagery from Greek artifacts to portray the Greeks, and went so far as to ask the leading expert on Troy, Manfred Korfmann, what the Trojans may have looked like. An extensive bibliography in the back of this volume will lead the curious to many other sources of Trojan myth.

Of course, this is just the first volume. The second volume, "Sacrifice", is currently being serialized in comic book format from Image Comics. You can find it at any good comic book store, or at The Age of Bronze website.

cover Age of Bronze: Sacrifice

Due out in May 2004.

cover Whiteout

by Greg Rucka and Steve Lieber.

This is a really good murder mystery/adventure. We've got Carrie Stetko, a U.S. Marshal on the ice, where treaties protect research, but don't make human nature any better. Stetko has to investigate a murder in her jurisdiction, but the ice doesn't forgive mistakes. The story moves along quickly, and the artwork is just incredible, giving you the feeling of the cold. I had to grab a blanket while reading, I kept getting the chills. Stetko is also drawn like a real woman. She doesn't look like a superhero. She doesn't need to. This book is really very good. Check it out.

cover Whiteout: Melt

by Greg Rucka and Steve Lieber.

We get to visit Carrie Stetko down in the Ice again, and it isn't pretty. Well, actually, the art is really good and there is one scene that some guys will find very pretty, but for the most part this is a story about death. How difficult it is to survive in an environment that humans aren't made for, and what happens to the underprepared. There's a lot of facts about Antarctica... I particularly like the explanation of crevasses.

cover More Fund Comics: An All Star Benefit Comic for the CBLDF

by Lots and lots of people

I was told this was "just a pin-up book" and not a standard anthology. Luckily, whoever told me that was wrong. It's an anthology and a pin-up book. It starts with a neat little framing sequence in which a couple of alien creatures playing catch notice a shooting star, and follow its path to find a rocket filled with More Fund Comics, which they of course start to read... The first regular story is a one-page Usagi Yojimbo tale by Stan Sakai ("Ninja Hunt"). I could list all the rest of the contributors and the stories, but then this wouldn't be much of a review. Let me just point out the ones I really liked. Usagi was great, as usual, even if it was only one page. The Scott Sava story shows off Sava's computer graphics talents, and I adored the Mice Templar tale and hope to see more of those. The Chevalier d'Eon reminded me of Dignifying Science: educational and interesting. Erie Erin was cute. A Word From Our Sponsors was very neat, if only to see Spider-Man reading Understanding Comics and glancing over at Scott McCloud every once in awhile as he reads. Forty Winks was cute, as was A Day in the Life. I liked Liberty, and it occurs to me that maybe I would like to read some of the old Western Comics. Who knows? Anyway, there's an interesting little Amelia Rules story. I liked looking at the background, particularly when I noticed an Oz book back there behind Amelia. I liked the Books of Lore tale, and also the Cryptozoo story. I kept thinking I'd read The Yarnog Tree before, I guess it just connected with me. And Workin' the Beach was a nice, if utterly predictable, slant on the old comic book ads. Patrick the Wolf Boy is cute, does he ever talk? And the last story, Summer Days, was intriguing. Did I get $10 worth out of the book? Even if you ignore everything else that I didn't mention specifically as liking, yeah, this one was worth twice the cover price, easy.

cover Hellboy: Seed of Destruction

by Mike Mignola

I was never much of a Mike Mignola fan. His artwork always seemed unfinished and blocky to me. So I never bothered with anything he did, even as people began to sing his praises louder and louder. But I've noticed in the past that my tastes change, and Mignola seems to be in one spot where my tastes have, at least, expanded. I no longer am bothered by whatever it was that pushed me away from Mignola back in the day. So I confessed to a friend that I thought I was ready to try Hellboy, but I wasn't sure I wanted to buy it. She offered to loan me the first trade. In return, I loaned her the first Usagi Yojimbo trade.

This was... fun. It was really fun. Of course, Abe Sapien appeals to me. What, you didn't think an Icthyo Sapien would draw me in? The story was tantalizing, showing hints and pieces without giving away everything. And, while it had an origin story, it also had a lot more. And, very suddenly, I want to read more of this character and his friends. A lot more.

cover Concrete: Think Like A Mountain

by Paul Chadwick

Meeting Paul Chadwick at the convention was fun, but listening to him and watching what he did was even more fascinating. While I plan on going into some of that when I post his Aquaman sketch, I will tell you that while my sister and I stood at his table awaiting our turn, someone asked him which Concrete book was the best to start with, waving at all the books Chadwick had available. Chadwick paused a moment, then said that he wrote Concrete with the hope that any story could be picked up and read and enjoyed by anyone without having had to have read any other Concrete story. The fan pressed, and it was clear he wanted to buy one. So Chadwick looked down at his books, and after a short moment pointed to "Think Like A Mountain" and said that this one was best to start with of the ones he had available. So when my sister decided that she wanted to try Concrete, this was the issue she got.

This book doesn't have an origin, although it is referred to. There are lots of characters and events that are referred to but not seen in this one. Previous adventures are referenced in the notes, but none are crucial to understanding the story. As for the story... wow. The words "No Compromise" apply to the story as well as the Earth First! members Concrete has this adventure with. The arguments are laid out, and the reader is invited to judge them from the point of view of the title character, a moderate environmentalist. In the end, you are left wondering if Concrete had the wool pulled over his eyes, or if the Earth First! people are right. There is enough ambiguity there to require you to sit and digest this one for awhile. The Background information provided by Paul Chadwick is a good read on its own. This is pretty amazing for a mere comic book. But then, there really isn't anything "mere" about good comics.

cover Superheroes

Edited by John Varley

This is an anthology of 25 short stories by some of the big names in science fiction writing. The underlying theme is as simple as the title, but the stories ring in very differently. The biggest problem with this one, I think, is that it's hard to tell which stories are going to be pure humor and which are going to be dead serious. Some twist quite unexpectedly. All-in-all, however, this is really a good ride.

Aisle Four: All-Age Fun

cover Clan Apis

This mini-series was great when it came out originally, and has lost none of its luster since. This is well worth the price of admission, and I highly recommend it to anyone who has the slightest interest in bees... or anyone who doesn't care at all about bees. Go get it!

As extra fun, make sure you visit Jay Hosler's Website and check out his Killer Bee Story.

cover Amy Unbounded: Belondweg Blossoming

This is a collection of the second six Amy Unbounded mini-comics. Despite that, it's the perfect jumping on point for Amy, and well worth the measly $17 cover price. This is one of the best comics out there right now. In fact, my only complaint is that it doesn't come out quite often enough for me. I wish it was monthly, or even bi-monthly. Heck, I'd settle for quarterly!

Anyway, this is the first on-going tale of Amy of Eddybrook Farm. Go visit the website to get the first six issues.

cover Leave It To Chance Volume One: Shaman's Rain

Way back when on Free Comic Book Day, I read the free Leave It To Chance and was completely and utterly hooked. Hubby-Eric wasn't inclined to spend money we didn't have buying new comic books, so I desisted and waited. When Eric got his new contract for next year, though, one of the first things I did was ask Paige to order the first two volumes of Leave It To Chance for me. When they arrived, I couldn't wait and read the first one very quickly. I meant to save the second for later but it was SO GOOD I couldn't wait. This is all-ages fun, good for the guys or the girls. The art is wonderful. The story movement is strong. I strongly recommend this book to anyone. At $15 for an oversized hardcover reprinting the first four issues, this is a bargain worth checking out. Go on, what are you waiting for?

cover Leave It To Chance Volume Two: Trick or Threat & Other Stories

The first collection was a single story, showing how Chance got into her father's business. This second collection has three stories, including the story that was in the Free Comic Book Day Leave It To Chance. It also introduces some new characters who work well with Chance and Georgie. This book is a winner. Go get it.

cover Leave It To Chance Volume Three: Monster Madness

Shorter than the first two, and that's the only fault with this collection. This has two stories in it, one featuring movie monsters who come out of the screen to terrorize the city, and another featuring an unusual hockey player. Another good book, highly recommended. And somebody please tell me that there will be more of Chance...

cover Schoolhouse Rock! Complete DVD

A great bit of my childhood, collected for my joy on DVD. If you didn't grow up humming "The Preamble" song, or thinking that "Three is a Magic Number", you really missed out.

cover Queen Ann in Oz

by Karyl Carlson and my hubby-Eric Gjovaag

This book is a, sort of, sequel to Tik-Tok of Oz, the eighth book in L Frank Baum's Oz series.

cover Holes

by Louis Sachar

This may well be the first ever case I've found of a movie being better than the book it was based on. The clues and hints in the movie were better placed than in the book. The movie fleshed out the supporting characters better. While both the movie and the book were aimed at a young audience, the movie did a slightly better job of entertaining. Not to say that the book is bad... it's very, very good. But the movie is even better.

cover Scary Godmother DVD

by Jill Thompson

While the basic plot is the same as the original Scary Godmother book, there are more characters and a lot more characterizations. The animation is fairly typical computer art. It's not perfect, but I got used to it quickly, and enjoyed the quirks it allowed. At points it is simply breath-taking, as it really seems like a page of Jill's painting come to life. While I'd say the target age of this is fairly young, there are so many good in-jokes that a normal adult will have no problem sitting through this. There were several "laugh out loud" moments, if myself and my hubby are any judge of such things. It drags in a couple of spots, but whenever I thought, "This is dragging a little" it would move on to another scene promptly. So basically, as soon as I noticed it, it would fix itself. You can tell where the commercial breaks are supposed to be, but that doesn't detract from the story. This would be an hour-long special on TV, as it runs just over 45 minutes. One thing I did notice, and I liked, was a quirky sense of "camera movement". There were a few great bits where the movement of the "lens" underscored a point, or made you look twice at something. Very cool!

As for the DVD itself, it's not loaded with extras, but what I've seen is good. The trailers are nice, as the web trailer is what sold me on this in the first place and the other trailer is an original little adventure by itself. I haven't watched the "Making of" featurette or listened to the director's commentary yet, but I did watch Jill's "interview" and enjoyed it a lot (yes, I understand the urge to buy 4-foot wooden skeletons... only in my case it would have been a penguin). The mini comic book isn't very readable on my TV, but I'm sure when I get it to a computer with a DVD player I'll enjoy it more. The artwork is just ... wow. I'm running out of adjectives. Anyway, to make a short story long, I highly recommend this DVD.

cover Harry Potter and the Order of the Pheonix

by J. K. Rowling

Rowling is a very good storyteller, and that makes up for most of her faults as a writer. The writing is simple and straightforward, but the story is a rippin' yarn that draws you in and carries you along. I thought the length would bother me, but I just kept turning pages, dying to find out what happened next. This book is much darker than the first four, with less humor moments, and the end is a bit of a downer in some ways. There are also some gaping plotholes that might have solutions in future books... Overall, not as good as the others, but better in some ways. Fun non-spoiler quote: "Europa's covered in ice, not mice" - Hermione

The other books in the Harry Potter series:

coverCanadian Editions (with the original, non-edited words and IMHO better covers):

Aisle Five: Non Comic Book Fiction

cover The Years of Rice and Salt

by Kim Stanley Robinson.

Ten books set in different eras make up this history of an alternate world in which the Black Death killed off virtually everyone in Europe in the fourteenth century, instead of the third that died in our reality.

While it's an amazing journey, it's best taken book by book, then digested a bit before moving on. I had never read anything by Robinson before, so I wasn't sure what I was getting into. I never expected this. While it's got elements of science fiction/fantasy, it's really a long exploration of religion and sociology set in the framework of a what-if story. It's a good read, and worth taking a look at.

cover Lion's Blood

by Steven Barnes

Like the Robinson book, this book focuses on a world in which Europe is not a power, and in fact is decimated by disease (though that isn't the only reason for the reversal in this story). The book follows the life of Aidan O'Dere, taken as a slave from his Ireland home and sold into slavery in the New World, Bilalistan.

I first heard about this book from Heather Alexander, who wrote some music to go along with the tale (which you can hear samples of on her page, or buy in CD form). I wanted to read the book from that day, but it wasn't until recently that a copy fell into my hands. Now that I've finished it, I've got to get my hands on the sequel, Zulu Heart. This is a good book that will make you think twice about the history of slavery, something we all should do anyway. Keeping in mind the real history of the world while reading this brought home a lot of aspects of history I'd never thought about before. Another one worth reading.

cover Zulu Heart

by Steven Barnes

The is the second book in what I hope will become a series. The first book (Lion's Blood) was good, my review was positive. But I think this book managed to outdo the first. While Lion's Blood made me think, Zulu Heart made me feel. The attitudes that allow people to own slaves were foreign to me, I thought. But this book opened my eyes in ways I did not expect. I very much hope to see another book set in this world, as there were plenty of plot threads left open. I may even have to write a fan letter for this one.

cover Dragonflight

by Anne McCaffrey

It's almost unimaginably difficult for me to review a book that I first read when I was 12 or 13 years old. I've heard that Pern is a series that you either hate or love. I've only met a few who would admit to being somewhere in between. I'm not sure where the hate comes from, but the love is from an amazingly planned out world with a long history. It's not fantasy, but it's not hard science fiction, either. I suppose science fantasy works, if you must give it a genre. The first book is about Lessa, a woman who's family was murdered when she was a girl, whose only goal in life was revenge on the murderer. To her surprise, once she's attained that revenge she finds that there is much more for her to do. Including solving a 400 year-old mystery. The story moves along impressively, hardly stopping for breath. Events tumble into events as problem after problem is met and dealt with. The characters grow in front of you. In short, it's just about everything you could want a book to be.

cover Dragonquest

by Anne McCaffrey:

The second book of Pern is a little more scattered than the first, introducing new problems and a whole bunch of new characters. While it's good enough for a sequel, it suffers a little from sequelitis as well as from the writer trying to cram as much information about the world in as possible. This book introduces fire lizards, the smaller cousins of dragons, and the grub, a second line of defense against the threats from the skies. The themes in the book are interesting, and it moves alone well enough, but it does cover a lot of territory.

cover The White Dragon

by Anne McCaffrey:

While technically the third book in the series, the reading order on Anne McCaffrey's website suggests that readers read the first two books of the Dragonsinger trilogy before starting this book, and the third book of that trilogy after reading the first two chapters. It's fairly important that you have an idea of the events in the trilogy before reading this book, although it's possible to read it without that knowledge. Like Dragonflight, this book focuses on one character, this time Jaxom of Ruatha who was born in the opening chapters of the first book. Jaxom is a lord, but he's also a dragonrider, and this book is about how he reconciles his dual standing, unique on Pern. This one is a good read because it also indicates where the series is going, as the events at the very end of the book show. Not as good as the first book, but certainly a strong story.

cover Dragon's Kin

by Anne and Todd McCaffrey.

I pre-ordered this with my tiny amount of credit from this bookshop. I just couldn't resist a new Pern novel, and the credit almost covered the price of the book with shipping. My fascination with Pern goes a long way back, all the way to when I was but a wee lassie discovering that I really liked to read, and I read so fast that finding enough material suitable to my age level was difficult. My mother, bless her, also reads fast and was very good at directing my attention away from stuff that really was too advanced for me. I don't know who introduced me to Pern. It was probably my big brother. In any case, I quickly devoured every available tale, then waited impatiently for more. To my immense surprise, we learned that Anne McCaffrey herself was doing a signing in our hometown. We went down and got in line, and I met Anne and had her sign all my ragtag collection that I owned at that point. I still have those books, and read them every once in awhile.

Getting back to this book, like the last few Pern stories it's written at a lower reading level. It's not an adult book so much as a young adult novel. That doesn't bother me at all, but might bother other readers. In addition, the Pern books have developed a level of formula to them. While I would say that this one has a bit of that, it diverges enough, and has exploration of an unexplored theme, that I didn't mind it at all. Again, some people will no doubt find it annoying. This book is also set fairly early in Pern history, so you don't see any familiar faces from previous books. I can't say I was disappointed. I started the book soon after it arrived, then realized I needed to read it in one sitting. I stayed up last night until I finished it.

cover Legends

Edited by Robert Silverberg
October 1998

  • Stephen King: The Little Sisters of Eluria from The Dark Tower

    I didn't have to read much of this to realize that I didn't like it. I was trying to read the whole anthology cover to cover, and this story quickly derailed that effort. It was like wading through a swamp. I didn't hate it, but it wasn't for me at all. I read the whole thing, I'm not entirely sure why now, and after finishing it decided I'd probably never read another thing by King again. I was also much less certain about reading the rest of the stories by authors unfamiliar to me.

  • Terry Pratchett: The Sea and Little Fishes from Discworld

    I'd always heard that Discworld was my kind of fantasy, but never bothered to get into it. I'm lazy that way. This story proved to me that I would enjoy the humor and probably the characters, but aspects of the writing would drive me bonkers. I can't quite put my finger on what irks me, but something in the writing style doesn't appeal to me. It's minor, however. The story was fun, and funny, enough to make minor irritations mean little. I may just have to read Discworld after all.

  • Terry Goodkind: Debt of Bones from The Sword of Truth

    I'm a bit of a naive reader, in that I often don't see the obvious coming. At least, that's what I'm told by my more intellectually advanced friends who always say after reading a story like this, "Oh, I saw that one coming!" Whatever. I did not see the ending to this one forming, and I was quite pleased by the surprises. This is another series I'll have to hunt down.

  • Orson Scott Card: Grinning Man from Tales of Alvin Maker (returned in Legends II)

    This is not the first story by Card I'd read, but it was one of my least favorites. Yeah, I like folk-talesy stories, but the characters never reached out to me. I didn't like any of them much. It's a tight piece of work, nicely crafted, but too distant for me to enjoy.

  • Robert Silverberg: The Seventh Shrine from Majipoor (returned in Legends II)

    Majipoor is clearly a series I'm going to have to read. As a murder mystery this was far from perfect, but as a layered story telling us about a lot of different aspects of a fantasy world, this was great. I'm definitely going to have to read more of this world.

  • Ursula K Le Guin: Dragonfly from Earthsea

    I read the Earthsea trilogy in middle school, and Tehanu much later. I was very disappointed with Tehanu for some reason, though I suspect I would get a bit more out of it if I read it now, as an adult. This story was pretty good, right up until the befuddled ending. I'm not sure what Le Guin is trying to say with her story, though I certainly don't deny her the right to say it the way she wants to. She's earned that much, at least. Still, I almost wish I had some footnotes for this one.

  • Tad Williams: The Burning Man from Memory, Sorrow and Thorn

    Yow, this is a freaky story. Sad, even melodramatic, from the start. There are some unanswered questions about the world, though, that might drive me to check out the books in the series. When you think about it, that's the ultimate goal of an anthology like this. How does an immortal die? And what's at the top of that tower? Yeah, this one might just go on the reading list.

  • George R R Martin: The Hedge Knight from A Song of Ice And Fire (returned in Legends II)

    A sad but strong tale of a young man who takes up his master's sword and becomes a hedge knight, a knight who travels and hires out his services. The characters came to life on the page, at least the main ones, and the ending hit hard. I found that after reading the story I wanted to read more about Dunk and Egg, and maybe more about the world they live in.

  • Anne McCaffrey: Runner of Pern from Pern (returned in Legends II)

    This is the only reason I bought this anthology. Yup, I got it for the Pern story. I knew there would be some other good tales, but I was mostly just eager to read another story set on one of my favorite childhood haunts. This story did not disappoint me. I liked the main character, enjoyed the insight to a side of Pern we hadn't seen yet, and was happy with the nice romance tale. But then, McCaffrey's Pern has never let me down yet.

  • Raymond E Feist: The Wood Boy from The Riftwar Saga (returned in Legends II)

    A painful little tale of occupation and murder. The narrator is the title character, and his story isn't pleasant but it is compelling. It's a stong little story, but doesn't leave me with any further desire to read more about the world it is set on.

  • Robert Jordan: New Spring from The Wheel of Time

    Reading this reminded me why I enjoyed the Wheel of Time books when I first started to read them over a decade ago. Oddly enough, it also reminded me why I stopped reading them. I want to read the end of this story, and part of me doesn't believe it will ever be written... maybe because there isn't an end. In any case, it was an enjoyable story of the first meeting between two of the most important characters in the series. Maybe I'll go back and re-read the books someday. Maybe.

So, that's the lot. Eleven stories from eleven masters of the craft. Not all of them wonderful, but definitely a good collection. I enjoyed it, overall, and felt that I definitely got value for money.

cover Legends II

Edited by Robert Silverberg
January 2004

  • Robin Hobb: Homecoming from Realm of the Elderlings

    This story grew on me, as I think it was supposed to. The "journal" style can be extremely cool when used effectively, and I think in this case its use was excellent as it showed the progress of the attitudes of the main character better than any other point of view was likely to. I hated the main character at the start, which I think I was supposed to, and grew to like her as the story, and the character, developed in circumstances that can only be described as horrific. I'm not sure I will seek out more from this series, but it was a very interesting story.

  • George R R Martin: The Sworn Sword from A Song of Ice And Fire (also in Legends)

    Back to Dunk and Egg, a few years later than the first tale, after they've been traveling a bit. I really like the characters, and definitely wanted to see more of them, so this story was a delight. Dunk's continual development is nice to see, even if we've only got two samples of it in the two Legends stories. And he's an excellent straight man to Egg's trickster-like figure. I still want to see more of these two.

  • Orson Scott Card: The Yazoo Queen from The Tales of Alvin Maker (also in Legends)

    I didn't like the first Alvin Maker tale I read, from the first anthology. This one was much more to my liking, perhaps because it touched on more serious topics and showed a little more of both Alvin and his apprentice. This one alone is enough to make me curious to seek out the Alvin Maker books at some point.

  • Diana Gabaldon: Lord John and the Succubus from Outlander

    I wasn't entirely sure what to expect, as this story sprang out of a time-travel series. Thus the resolution was a bit unexpected and quite a ride for me. I liked the whole tale and might just have to seek out the original stories that this guy came from.

  • Robert Silverberg: The Book of Changes from Majipoor (also in Legends)

    Majipoor is a place of thinking. Yeah, there's quite a bit of action there, but there's a lot of thought poured into what Majipoor is and what it ought to be. This is a heavy thinking tale, and a story about how the creative process works in some people. Being a bit of a writer myself once, I recognized what the main character went through to some degree. To some tiny degree. Ah well, it was interesting, at least.

  • Tad Williams: The Happiest Dead Boy in the World from Otherland

    Wow, this is a fascinating world introduced in this story. However, as I read the story, I wondered if there was any point in going back and reading the original series. It seemed like too much about the whole storyline was given away, both in the introduction and in the story itself. I had the same problem with the Majipoor trilogy, in that "The Seventh Shrine" gave away the very ending of the story. So I'm not entirely sure if this story makes me inclined to read the originals. That's the problem with setting a short story after the originals.

  • Anne McCaffrey: Beyond Between from Pern (also in Legends)

    Is this the first ever Pern ghost story? On a world that seems rather devoid of horror stories, this one story adds a whole new dimension. And fixes a continuity problem that I've wondered about for a long time. And one that I didn't wonder about for as long. It was like a piece of a tapestry is now showing that I didn't quite realize had been missing. Very nice.

  • Raymond E Feist: The Messenger from The Riftwar (also in Legends)

    Ah yes, a nice, short coming-of-age story set in the midst of a strange war. I think I'm beginning to warm up to Riftwar, and this story (ironically enough) started the thaw. I may have to check these books out after all!

  • Elizabeth Haydon: Threshold from The Symphony of Ages

    Terribly depressing story about a group of doomed people. Even the moments I hoped would lead to something positive ended up being slightly more depressing. The world seems like a world of magic, but almost everything in this story was very down-to-earth. Almost. I doubt I'll seek out the series on the strength of this story alone.

  • Neil Gaiman: The Monarch of the Glen from American Gods

    I have an idea what this is about after reading it, but not enough to form a full opinion... just enough to want to read a lot more. What amazed me about this story was how much I understood from my own knowledge of mythology, and how much I learned from the story itself. If the whole book American Gods is like this, it might just be one incredible read.

  • Terry Brooks: Indomitable from Shannara

    I've read the Shannara books. The original three, at least. A long time ago. But I remember nothing about them. None of this is familiar in the least. It's like I never read them at all. The result was initial confusion, as I kept thinking I should remember the characters, then resignation, then I actually got down to enjoying the story. It moved a little slowly for me, like the pace just needed to be pumped up one notch for me to really like it, but overall it was a strong tale.

    So that's it. Another eleven tales from eleven masters of fiction, five of them returning to the same universe as in the first Legends Anthology, and one writer visiting another creation. While the quality of the stories was mixed, overall it was very strong, making this yet another book well worth getting. Each story did its job in introducing readers to it's parent universe, or at the very least the writing style of its author. As I've been heard to say, a bargain at twice the price.

    cover Lord Valentine's Castle

    by Robert Silverberg

    Set on the unimaginably huge world of Majipoor, this is the story of a king who is overthrown and has to journey back to his rightful place. While the book tells a complete story in its own right, it also is the start of an even bigger saga, as the ending makes clear. My introduction to Majipoor came in the pages of Legends, in the short story "The Seventh Shrine". I enjoyed that little murder mystery, and got myself a copy of this book to read based on the strength of that story alone. And now, based on the strengths of this tale, I hope to read the entire series.

    cover Majipoor Chronicles

    by Robert Silverberg

    While the copy I got from the library billed itself as "Book Two In The Majipoor Trilogy", this is really an aside in which a young character from Lord Valentine's Castle visits the past of his planet in the forms of several lives. As Hissune experiences each life, he learns a bit more about his world and the way it works, and we get to learn some of that along with him. This is really an anthology of short Majipoor stories, and the result is excellent taken either that way or as a single narrative. Taken as an anthology, I think my favorite story is "A Thief in Ni-moya", chapter Nine, right near the end. A pretty good book.

    cover Valentine Pontifex

    by Robert Silverberg

    The final book in the first trilogy, this is the story of how Valentine finally accepts his fate to be Pontifex of Majipoor. While the plot seems to be about how Valentine stops the metamorph menace, it's really less about that than about Valentine's desire to finish things while he's still the junior king, and free to wander the world he loves. It's also a coming-of-age story about Hissune, who Valentine is grooming for leadership. While it's a strong story, and a good read, the conclusion was very quick and I want more. My introduction to Majipoor in Legends was just such a story, but I want even more. Particularly with Valentine. There was much left to be said.

    cover The Mountains of Majipoor

    by Robert Silverberg

    A shorter novel set in the future of Majipoor, this book explains Majipoor by taking the reader out of it almost entirely and contrasting the reality of "modern" Majipoor to an isolated people's way of life. And, overall, it's a good tale. We have the bored princeling who has managed to make a big enough mistake that his career is essentially over unless he undertakes a dangerous quest. We have the not-entirely-trustworthy guide and interpreter. We have the egotistical king-of-all-he-surveys trying to broker a deal with forces he doesn't understand. It's a fun little tale, indeed, but relies a little too heavily on conventional characters in an unconventional setting. This really could have been set in any number of different fantasy worlds. There wasn't a lot distinctly Majipoor about it, which is a mild disappointment. But for that, it was still a good read. Just not a spectacular one.

    Aisle Six: Everything Else

    cover The Egg and I

    by Betty MacDonald.

    Betty MacDonald is better known for a series of children's books starring "Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle". But four of her books are completely autobiographical. The Egg and I tells us of her childhood following her mining engineer father around North America, and ending up in Seattle where she married a 31-year-old man when she was eighteen. While her new husband was in the insurance business, he really wanted to be in the business of raising chickens, so right after the marriage he took her to live on the shoulders of the Olympic mountains in the most far out piece of nowhere land in Washington, maybe in the United States, and raise chickens on a dilapidated ranch.

    This book is hilarious. While the author has some out-dated and non-PC comments on the local Indians, she writes so down-to-earth and matter-of-factly that you feel yourself in her place, groaning about the lack of windows, giggling about the antics of the neighbors, or feeling the weight of the mountains looking down on you. As a native the the area she is writing about, I also feel her distress at the weather, and wonder how she survived.

    Even though it was first published in 1945 and covers events that happened in the 1920s, this is still a book worth reading and I can recommend it highly to anyone who wants a peek at life in the middle of nowhere.

    cover The Plague and I

    by Betty MacDonald

    This book left me sad, despite it's billing as "The sprightliest book about tuberculosis you are ever going to read!" I agree that it is quite funny, and amazingly down-to-earth considering what these people had to endure. And that's what made me depressed. Reading about the "cure" for TB back in those days is enough to depress anyone. Complete bedrest... and I do mean complete... for months at a time. The idea was to keep the lungs from moving too much so they could heal. But they also made sure the patients had fresh air... by never closing the windows. In the Seattle area. In winter. And since TB is contagious, contact with loved ones was strictly limited, especially children. Betty only saw her children for ten minutes a month during her time at "The Pines". It's a powerful story... tragic and sweet by turns. I only wonder whatever happened to Kimi.

    cover Anybody Can Do Anything

    by Betty MacDonald

    You could argue, and many people would, that this is Betty's least important book. I would argue just the opposite. Not only is this book about early Seattle, this book also is about living through the Depression and becoming a writer. And, unlike The Plague and I and The Egg and I, this one ends on a very high note. I've mentioned before that I first read this book in the eighth grade, which might be why I love it so dearly. There were two passages that stuck out vividly in my head. The first is when she gets a job tinting photographs, and the second is her first skiing trip. But there is so much more in this book. Betty goes on and on about how untalented she is, reinforcing the idea that she has no raw talent, and yet her writing is smooth and delightful, and captures the spirit of the Northwest perfectly. She describes how her sister Mary pushes her along, getting her different jobs through sheer enthusiasm and gall. And yet Betty somehow tends to not just survive those jobs, but thrive on them. Taken as a self-help book, this is one of the most inspiring tomes I've ever read. And then there's the descriptions of Depression era Seattle. She is sparse with details, and yet can capture the street scenes perfectly. She also has a lot to say about the feeling of the era, and novel experiences like this thing called "credit". Taken as a historical document, anyone interested in the Depression should read this book. If all you've ever read by Betty MacDonald is Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle, then go out and find a copy of this one. It's definitely worth the read.

    cover Big Ideas for Northwest Small Gardens

    by Marty Wingate with photographs by Jacqueline Koch.

    This book features some images from my mother-in-law Nancy's Seattle garden.

    In Association with