X of Swords

My Marvel Unlimited reading is still going strong. I’ve noticed, however, that about half of the current titles I read are X-Men comics. The reason I noticed this is because, for at least the time being, I’ve stopped reading them.

The reason I’ve stopped reading them is because they’re doing a big crossover story that involves all of them called X of Swords. To put it mildly, I’m not a fan of this story. I’ve debated on whether or not to go into detail about what I don’t like about it, but I think I’ll just generalize on the off chance that I’ll spoil it for someone.

Basically, the whole story is the Marvel version of Mortal Kombat. The overall premise is that a certain number of mutants needs to defeat a certain number of bad guys in one-on-one sword fights otherwise the bad guys will destroy Earth. Sure, there’s other little side stories, but that is the main element.

Now, I might be able to deal with a plot that lame if it was a clear, concise story. It’s not. There’s too many characters spaced out between too many different titles. Even if you read them in order, it still seems jumbled and jumps around.

I hope this story ends soon. I’d like to go back to reading good X-Men material.

Firefly: Big Damn Hero

I was absentmindedly scrolling through Amazon a few months back, as everyone in the world does every now and then, when I came across something I wasn’t expecting to see. It was a novel set in the ‘Verse (or, for those who don’t know what I mean by that, the Firefly/Serenity universe). Until that point, I had no idea that there were novels set there. I knew that they had done a number of Firefly comics because I’ve read most of them. Well, maybe not most. I can’t really say that because I don’t know exactly how many they’ve actually made, but I’m betting it’s more than half.

So, when I saw that there were novels (3 that are completed as of this writing, with a 4th available for preorder), I was excited. I enjoyed everything that I’d seen or read in the ‘Verse up until that point, and I hoped that these books would continue that trend. The first book in the series is entitled Big Damn Hero.

Here is the synopsis as it appears on Amazon:

“The Battle of Serenity Valley was the turning point that led the Independents to their defeat at the hands of the Alliance. Yet the Browncoats had held the valley for weeks against all odds, before being ordered to lay down their arms. Command stated they refused to send in airpower because the ground war was “too hot.” But the soldiers who were there insist that was not true…

While picking up a new cargo on Persephone, Captain Malcolm Reynolds is kidnapped by a bunch of embittered veteran Browncoats who suspect him of sabotaging the Independents during the war. As the rest of the crew struggle to locate him, Mal is placed on trial for his life, fighting compelling evidence that someone did indeed betray them to the Alliance all those years ago. As old comrades and old rivals crawl out of the woodwork, Mal must prove his innocence, but his captors are desperate and destitute, and will settle for nothing less than the culprit’s blood.

I don’t want to give away any more of the story than that, so I’ll just stick to my feelings on it. Simply put, I really enjoyed it. Was it perfect? No, but it did a very good job of being a novelized version of a Firefly episode. It was very easy to imagine the actors performing the scenes as you read through the pages.

The only thing that bothered me about the book it that the author (James Lovegrove) was constantly referencing something that happened in the show. Normally that wouldn’t be a problem, but half the time these references seemed forced. It was like he was constantly telling you that this story takes place in the ‘Verse as if you didn’t already know it.

Other than that, it was a thoroughly enjoyable experience. If you’re a fan of the show/movie, you should definitely give it a try.

Relentless – Update

R.A. Salvatore is one of my favorite authors. There has yet to be anything that he’s written that I haven’t liked. Unfortunately, I’m afraid that streak is about to come to an end with his newest novel, Relentless.

Granted, I’m only a little more than 100 pages into it, but I’m having trouble working up the desire to finish it. Normally, I can’t put his work down. There have been many times when I’ve read an entire novel within a day or two because I don’t want to stop reading. When I did have to put them down, for whatever reason, I couldn’t wait to pick them back up so I could continue on. With this one, though, I don’t think it would bother me that much if I didn’t read any more of it.

The problem is not with the writing, I think. R.A. still puts sentences together very well. He paints very vivid and imaginative battle sequences that are among the best I’ve ever read, if not the best. His character building is among the best as well.

I think the problem is that this is book 36 in the series. That’s right. Book 36. There has been so many things that have happened in those 36 books, so much story, so many fights, that they’re all kind of blurring together at this point. There have been a few times in those 100 pages when I had to stop and try to remember things that happened in the last book because I couldn’t figure out what was going on. And only half of those remembering attempts were successful.

For now, I’m planning on continuing with the book, but I don’t know for how much longer. While I don’t want to quit on it, I also don’t want to keep reading something that I’m not enjoying. And, right now, I’m not really enjoying it very much.

Update

I stopped reading this book. The further into it I got, the more I realized that I just didn’t care anymore about what was going to happen. After 36 books, I just can’t invest anything else into these characters.

It Keeps Going

I have read every Drizzt Do’Urden novel written by R.A. Salvatore. Well, all of them except for Boundless (the newest one) anyway, and (as of this writing) I’m halfway through it. To those out there that don’t know the character of Drizzt, that may not seem like a big deal, but it kinda is. You see, Boundless is the 35th book in the series.

R.A. Salvatore is one of my favorite authors. Everything of his that I’ve read has been good. His worst book is still better than most people’s best. And Drizzt Do’Urden is one of the most dynamic characters in fiction. He is guided by a morality that is deeper than any other fictional character I’ve ever read.

With all of that being said, I have one piece of advice that I would give to Mr. Salvatore: Please stop.

As much as I enjoy reading his books, it’s a little too much. It’s been going on far too long. All of the stories feel recycled. He does a good job of changing the details just enough to keep it interesting, but the basic stories are the same.

Also, with the exception of Drizzt (and one or two others), he has killed off every major character in the series and brought them back to life. Some of them more than once.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’ll keep reading them as long as he keeps writing them. That’s how good he is at what he does. Despite these problems I have with his stories, I still really enjoy his writing. But, I stopped buying them a while back and now I wait until I can check them out from the library.

From what I have seen, there’s one more, the 36th in the series, that has been announced. I hope he ends it there. 36 books is more than enough stories about the same character.

Diversify

I’ve got a few writing projects going on at the moment, but that hasn’t stopped me from also reading two different books (one at work, the other at home). A guy I work with asked me how I was able to read two books at once. “Don’t you get the characters or the plots confused with each other?”

Honestly? No.

And it’s not because I feel like my brain is too sharp or powerful for such a thing. That’s certainly not it. I’m one of the most scatterbrained people I know. For example, if Mrs. Revis asks me to do something right before she goes to bed (like empty the dishwasher or switch the laundry from the washer to the dryer), unless I do it right away, I’ve forgotten it about five minutes later. Then, when the morning comes, I am the recipient of an angry glare and I don’t know why until she reminds me of what I was supposed to do.

No, the reason I don’t get them mixed up is because they are nothing alike. Other than the fact that at least some of each of the two books takes place in Texas, they have nothing in common.

The one I’m reading at work is The Deceivers by Alex Berenson. Here is the back cover blurb for it as it appears on Amazon.

The target was the American Airlines Center, the home of the Dallas Mavericks. The FBI had told Ahmed Shakir that his drug bust would go away if he helped them, and they’d supply all the weaponry, carefully removing the firing pins before the main event. It never occurred to Ahmed to doubt them, until it was too late.

When John Wells is called to Washington, he’s sure it’s to investigate the carnage in Dallas, but it isn’t. The former CIA director, now president, Vinnie Duto has plenty of people working in Texas. He wants Wells to go to Colombia. An old asset there has information to share–and it will lead Wells to the deadliest mission of his life, an extraordinary confluence of sleeper cells, sniper teams, false flag operations, double agents high in the U.S. government–and a Russian plot to take over the government itself. If it succeeds, what happened in Texas will only be a prelude.

The book I’m reading at home is Night Shift, the third book in the Midnight, Texas trilogy, by Charlaine Harris. Here’s the blurb for hers.

At Midnight’s local pawnshop, weapons are flying off the shelves—only to be used in sudden and dramatic suicides right at the main crossroads in town. Who better to figure out why blood is being spilled than the vampire Lemuel, who, while translating mysterious texts, discovers what makes Midnight the town it is. There’s a reason why witches and werewolves, killers and psychics, have been drawn to this place…

So, basically, one book is about a CIA agent trying to stop terror attacks and the other is about a small Texas town that has vampires, werewolves, psychics, and witches in it.

Not similar at all.

And that got me thinking about all of my books. It’s the same with them too. If you were to look on my bookshelf, you’d see Harlan Coben books next to Jurassic Park, Dungeons and Dragons novels next to The Lincoln Lawyer, and Star Wars novels next to books written by the fictional Richard Castle.

And that, my friends, is how you avoid getting burnt out on reading. You diversify your library.

Livia Lone

Anyone who has followed this here blog for a while may have seen me post before about how I’m a fan of Barry Eisler. In particular, his John Rain series of books, about a half Japanese/half American hitman operating primarily in Tokyo. His other books include a couple about a military contractor named Ben Treven and a standalone about the CIA’s surveillance program. While those weren’t as good as the John Rain books, I still really liked them. So, when I was in the library the other day and saw he had a new one out, I grabbed it without even looking to see what it was about. 

That was my mistake. 

Livia is a woman who somehow escapes from a human trafficking ring, becomes a cop, and then illegally uses that position to try to find her sister, who wasn’t able to escape with her.

Now, it wouldn’t be so bad except that there are flashback sequences that detail what happened when Livia was 14, her sister was 12, and their parents sold them into captivity. I don’t want to hear about that.

I know some people out there might think that I’m just trying to bury my head in the sand or not admit that there’s a problem. That’s not the case. I know that human trafficking exists. It’s becoming an even bigger epidemic and it makes me sick to my stomach that people out there are going through those kinds of things every day. 

However, when I read a book, no matter what the genre, I want to be entertained. I’m not going to finish this book because it is not entertaining.

To me, there’s nothing entertaining about what happens to 14 and 12 year old girls at the hands of human traffickers. 

Fictional Character Death

I don’t know about the rest of you, but there are certain fictional characters that I don’t think will ever die. Whenever a character is in trouble, whether in movies, TV, or books, my mind instantly judges the likelihood that something will happen to them. There are some that, no matter what odds they are facing, I know will always come out alive. Of course, this does not apply to comic books or soap operas, as they have made their livings off of killing characters off and bringing them back (usually with explosive amnesia).

A good bit of danger is a good thing for a story most of the time. It heightens the suspense and builds the drama. However, as you can tell from the previous paragraph, it doesn’t always work on me. There are a few reasons that I might look at a situation and think, “That character will make it out just fine.” 

One: That character  is the show/movies/books. 

For example: Castle. Any time Richard Castle was in trouble on his show, you knew Beckett, Ryan, or Esposito was going to bail him out. There’s no way they would kill him off. You can’t have a show called Castle without Castle. 

Two: It wouldn’t make sense to the story. 

Sometimes there’s just too much left to do before they can kill off a character. It might work later on, but it’s too early to do it yet.

And Three: Sentimental reasons 

Granted, this one is very hit or miss. After all, it’s not based on any logical reasoning. This is just the reader/viewer praying that they don’t kill off someone that, though fictional, they have grown fond of. Or it’s someone who has already gone through so much that you don’t feel like they should have to go through more. Or you don’t want that character to die because of what another character will have to go through because of it. Regardless of the reasoning, it’s still something that is subjective to the reader.

 Sometimes, though, the writers do the uncool thing of killing them off anyway. 

This line of thought from me comes from the book I just finished reading. It’s called The Bone Tree by Greg Iles. In it, there’s a situation where two of his characters are in trouble. Going in, I thought to myself that I knew one of them was about to die…. it just ended up being the one I thought was going to live.

The reason I thought that character would live was reason two, I thought that character had more story left in them than the other. I felt like it didn’t make sense to have them die there. After finishing the book, I realized I was wrong. 

Having that character die at that time changed things profoundly, and in ways that made the story much more interesting. 

Well played, Greg Iles. Well played.