Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Land of Laughs

The 2nd of the C's in the challenge.

To tell the truth I was not expecting to like this book. I actually winced when I saw Carroll's name on the list. I had picked up and put down a number of his books over the years. I looked at them and for some reason something about them always told me that I wasn't going to like them.

Initially I felt that The Land of Laughs was going to bear out my misgivings. I didn't take to the central character of Thomas Abbey straight away, and considering that he's the narrator of the story that could have caused a problem. However after a few chapters I began to warm to him and started to enjoy his somewhat unusual way of looking at the world and his use of words.

Thomas is a bored English teacher at an East Coast preparatory school (think of Dead Poets Society's Wellton), he's the son of a dead Oscar winning actor, and sees this as more of a curse than a blessing, he decides to take a sabbbatical to write a biography of his favourite author; dead children's writer Marshall France (the name of the book is actually France's best known work), it is at about this time that Thomas meets with fellow Marshall France fan, the quirky puppeteer Saxony Gardner. Thomas starts a relationship with Saxony and she sort of invites herself on his project, becoming his researcher.

Marshall France proves to be a mysterious character. What Saxony and Thomas find out about him is contradicted by others in his life, most notably his editor and his daughter. When Thomas and Saxony go to France's hometown; the sleepy, mid western hamlet of Galen, Missouri things start to get weird.

The town itself appears to be normal enough, although it and it's inhabitants seem to be stuck in a time warp. Judging by the references made to songs and TV shows in the book it's set in the late 1970's, but Galen seems to be permanently stuck in the 1950's. Thomas makes a number of references to things in Galen being like something out of a Norman Rockwell painting. There's something unreal about the people themselves, they all seem to defer to Marshall France's daughter, the formidable Anna France, as if she controls the town. The creepiest thing for me was the preponderance of pit bull terriers. I like dogs, but pit bulls are just creepy. It's then that the reader realises they're in the middle of a very odd mystery.

It was a wonderfully written tale and kept me turning the pages to find out what it was about Marshall France, his daughter, the town and the stories he wrote. That was another great thing about The Land of Laughs, Marshall's stories. There are tantalising references to them and some of the characters in them and I found myself hoping that they were real books, so I could read them. I had to keep reminding myself that they weren't real, worse luck.

A fun and surprising read. It's always nice to get something out of a book you don't initially have a lot of hope for. I haven't read a lot else like it, but Jeremy Leven's wonderful and criminally underrated Creator (the book, the movie was a good try, but didn't hit the mark) deals with the same theme of fiction becoming reality, it came out at about the same time as well.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Mass With Substance

Mass With Substance picks up where Final Ascension left off.

Cerebus clings on as the tower rises upwards away from the city. Eventually he gets his bearings and looks down. He begins to climb up the tower, straining as he makes sure that he hangs onto the golden sphere, which is quite heavy.

There aren't actually any spoken or even thought words in this chapter. It's mostly sight gags and wonderfully drawn Cerebi mugging for all they're worth. Cerebus keeps seeing Weisshaupt and picking up those cards which read simply Good Luck W. It's not made clear whether the statues, kind of like Easter Island heads, although of Weisshaupt are real or just part of Cerebus' fevered imagination. In fact given Cerebus' previous journeys within his own mind it is entirely possible that none of what the readers are seeing is really happening.

The chapter closes with one of the giant Weisshaupt heads falling onto Cerebus greatly abused and already very sore foot.

Tomorrow, When The War Began

Tomorrow, When The War Began is an Australian young adult novel by John Marsden.

The book first came out in 1993 and according to my copy has been reprinted over 50 times since then. It's a genuine Australian literary phenomenon. John Marsden can be considered the Bryce Courtenay of the teen set. The book has been critically acclaimed and it's required reading at a number of Australian high schools. Prior to writing Tomorrow, When The War Began, Marsden was a high school teacher, he already had a number of books published, but nothing would approach the stunning success of the Tomorrow series. John Marsden is still writing and is also still in the education game, he runs his own school called Candlebark. Tomorrow, When The War Began is the subject of an upcoming film to be released in Australia in early September.

I picked the book up and put it down a number of times. There were a couple of reasons for this. It came out in 1993 and I was largely over YA material by this age, the other was that the book on an initial glance bore striking resemblance to a 1980's American film called Red Dawn, about an invasion of the US by hostile foreign forces and how the high school football team, comprising most members of the 80's Brat Pack, began a guerilla action against the invaders. To a certain extent that's the storyline of Tomorrow, When The War Began, although I doubt Marsden was inspired by the film.

Over the summer holidays a group of friends: Ellie, Robyn, Fi, Corrie, Homer, Lee and Kevin go on a camping holiday in a remote wilderness commonly referred to by the locals of the small country town of Wirrawee as 'Hell'. While the kids are camping, their town, in fact the entire Australian mainland, is invaded by a foreign power from the north. The invaders nationality is never actually made clear, but it's widely believed that they are Asian, possibly from Indonesia. The kids decide that the best option is to go back to their remote camp site and see if they can work out the best way to make life difficult for the invaders and do their bit to help free their country.

Despite the situation there isn't a huge amount of action in the book, it's more about how the kids handle the circumstances they find themselves in and their interactions. The book is written from the point of view of farm girl Ellie, who was elected as the group's chronicler. It's written in a very personal style and although Marsden was a middle aged man when he wrote it, he portrays a teenage girl very effectively. The slang and language used to convey the story is contemporary and authentic. I'm sure Marsden observed his students when he was teaching and adopted their mode of speaking comfortably. I don't know if he initially planned sequels, but he certainly left the book open for one and has since written 6 more books in the Tomorrow series, plus a further 3 starring Ellie.

It was a quick and enjoyable read and I'm looking forward to seeing how they handle the big screen treatment, even if the two stars of it are from Neighbours and Home & Away.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Final Ascension

The first chapter of the 6th book of Church & State II is a short one. There are no words spoken in the actual panels. The story is told by the drawings and text placed somewhere on the page to explain what is going on in the panels.

Cerebus is rising, while still clutching his golden orb. Everyone else is watching. When I say everyone, I mean everyone.

From the far away Cirinist Abbess by means of a mechanical device, to Astoria in the cathedral, still awaiting sentence. From the dead Bran Mak Mufin in the hotel and the people frozen in the courtyard at Cerebus command, to Blakely wandering the streets of Iest. From Bear in a forest somewhere outside the city, to Jaka in a tavern located in the lower city.

Cerebus is clinging to the bottom of the Black Tower as it rises upwards at tremendous speed.

It was an interesting way of presenting an issue, something I'd never seen before. It's bloody hard to read, though. Dave couldn't just put the text at the one angle in the one place every page he couldn't just make the panels all the one size. Noooo! He had to stick it everywhere, all angles, slant it, make the panels irregular. To read it you're forced to turn the book over and over again, you forget what page you're up to and at times it makes you dizzy. Dave had to be an independent, back then no major publisher would have even considered doing what he did in The Final Ascension.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Favourite Authors

Some time ago I participated in a forum topic that asked people to name their top 5 favourite SFF authors. This is what I came up with at the time.

I tried to limit myself by not including an author who doesn’t have a body of work behind them or whose work has not yet stood the test of time. I also tried not to include authors who are still writing unfinished series, because I may not like the ending of
the series or they may never finish that series. Now having said all that I just know my choices are going to contradict some of it. These are in no particular order, all I had to was name my 5 favourites not choose who was better than someone else:

1) Tad Williams: I haven’t seen this bloke write a bad book. From Tailchaser’s Song to the first volume of the Shadow series. He also writes different things. Tailchaser’s Song was a whimsical little piece about the mythology of cats.
Memory, Sorrow & Thorn was a big LotR style epic, in fact I feel it was William’s homage to Tolkein.
Otherland mixed fantasy and science fiction and had nods to everything from Alice In Wonderland to modern role playing computer games.
Then he blew me away with the dark, but ultimately uplifting The War Of The Flowers.
I’m reserving judgement on the Shadow series. The first book was less gripping than his other work and I’m waiting until he puts out the final book of that before getting the others.

2) Terry Pratchett: you can’t not include him. When A Colour Of Magic came out there were a number of ‘funny’ fantasies along the same lines of hapless, inept wizard (Rincewind) blunders from disaster to disaster, but eventually comes out on top, ACoM was a cut above most, but then when he decided to use totally different characters and examine another part of the world in Equal Rites that elevated him to a new level. He’s demonstrated that he can write across ages (the Bromeliad trilogy and the Johnny Maxwell books) and genres (Good Omens with Neil Gaiman and the new Nation, which is very different, but
still immensely enjoyable).

3) J.K Rowling: the first contradiction. The Harry Potter books, whilst fantastic, are all one genre and about the same characters. She may have other books in her, but following HP is a hard ask. I’ve included her because I loved the HP books, the way the world was presented and how the characters, even the peripheral ones (Neville Longbottom from shy, awkward kid to butt kicking revolutionary hero) grew throughout the 7 books. She also provided many people with their entry into the wonderful world of fantasy and reading in general.

4) Jasper Fforde: he’d get in there just for Thursday Next, a concept which turned amusing fantasy on it’s head. I think the books have been described as silly books for smart people. He’s also done some ‘nursery rhyme’ mysteries, which while not as groundbreaking orbrilliant as the Thursday Next series, are still thoroughly enjoyable and made me laugh out loud on public transport, something which always earns me disapproving glares from the people in dark suits and I love it when that happens. He did a good job with the first book of a completely new series: Shades of Grey, which I reviewed here back in January.

5) JRR Tolkien: had to be there. The Hobbit is one of my all time favourite books, very different from LotR. I’m not a big LotR fan, I liked the book and the films and I can appreciate the achievement and the writing, but mainly the good professor makes this list for what his masterpiece did. It legitimized fantasy writing, it revolutionized the genre. If not for LotR and it’s stunning success many of the authors we have all loved and enjoyed may never have written and certainly would not have been inspired to turn their talents to thetype of work that they have produced.

There were a whole bunch of people who missed out: George RR Martin,I’m a huge Ice and Fire fan, but I haven’t really enjoyed anything else that Martin has done and the last half a book (don’t kid yourself AFfC is half a book, no matter what spin the author or his more enthusiastic fans try to put on it) and the time and obvious struggle that the creator is having with the second half and the delay in producing it leads me to believe that he has lost control of the concept and that it may remain unfinished.
Alan Dean Foster missed out, he’s predominantly a science fiction author, but his Spellsinger series was something I really had a lot of fun with, however the last couple of books in that were written purely for the money and cheapened the whole concept. Clive Barker couldn’t quite get in there, yes I know he’s mostly horror, but Weaveworld and Imajica were pure fantasy.
Parke Godwin, although I see Firelord as fantasy, his other work was largely historical fiction.
Roberta MacAvoy, probably my fault because I’ve only read the Damiano series, but I did try to read The Book of Kells and was unable to get through it.
I would have loved to have included Scott Lynch, but the Gentleman Bastards series is unfinished and has yet to stand the test of time.
Joe Abercrombie was unlucky, because The First Law trilogy almost tops Martin for edgy, hard, epic fantasy, but again we’ve yet to see how well his work will be regarded in 5 or 10 years time.
Dave Duncan was another person I couldn't include. I still think his first Pandemia series: A Man Of HIs Word is one of the best fantasy series I've ever read, but aside from it's sequel series and the two Omar books (Reaver's Road and Hunter's Haunt) Duncan hasn't ever reached those same heights for me.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Invisible Cities

The first of the 'C' authors as the challenge continues.

Italo Calvino was a highly respected Italian author (he passed away in 1985), and Invisible Cities is considered to be one of his notable works.

It's rather hard to know how to even classify the book, let alone review it. It is most definitely fantasy, but it's not really a novel, more a collection of prose poems. It also doesn't follow the classical novel structure, only two characters and these are only sketchily drawn, no narrative and no real focus.

The premise is a series of imaginary conversations between the Italian explorer Marco Polo and the Mongol emperor Kublai Khan (grandson of the mighty Genghis Khan). The explorer entertains his host with stories of fantastical cities, largely imaginary (an alternative title could be Imaginary Cities), that he has seen on his travels. Some of the described cities are very obviously facets of Polo's birthplace and home of Venice, others have never been heard of before and are not recognisable as any known city on this world. Most, if not all, of the cities have female names and I wondered if perhaps the author was using his depiction of the city as a metaphor to describe some of the women in his life or or women who had influence on his life in some form or another.

Each of the book's 9 chapters begins and ends with a conversation between Marco Polo and Kublai. The cities are divided into 11 categories: Memory, Desire, Signs, Thin, Trading, Eyes, Names, Dead, Sky, Continuous and Hidden. The Continuous cities seemed to be modern cities mentioning things such as airports, refrigerators and radios.

The book isn't written as a novel and I doubt it was meant to be read that way, it seems to be more something you dip into from time to time, or read a bit of it and think on it before continuing.

It is beautifully and lovingly written, Calvino chooses his words carefully and uses them well, often with maximum impact on the reader.

It's not something I would have ever chosen to read had it not been on the list and I doubt it will prompt me to read any of Calvino's other work, but it was an interesting and brief experience. Scott Lynch's The Lies of Locke Lamora with it's loving descriptions of the Venetian inspired Camorr and Brian Aldiss' Malacia Tapestry also put me in mind of Venice, so they share something with Invisible Cities. If the book's two main 'characters' interest, both have been written about extensively and a good deal of non fictional work can be found about them if anyone wishes to explore further.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

From Fabletown With Love

From Fabletown With Love is a collection of a 6 issue standalone Fables related series starting Cinderella. It's the first Fables related project I've seen where the writing duties have not been handled by Bill Willingham. Novelist Chris Roberson handles the words in this one. I think it may have been his pet project. The pencils are provided by Fables regular guest artist Shawn McManus.

As indicated by the title Cinderella of glass slipper, Fairy Godmother, pumpkin coach fame, is Fabletown's version of James Bond. Cindy has been a secret agent for over 200 years, she was initiated by Fabletown's long term sheriff Bigby Wolf. As you can imagine with a couple of centuries to hone your skils you can get pretty good at something.

Cindy's espionage activities are not known to the Fables at large, only a select few are aware of what she does when she's not in Fabletown, the rest think she's a gadabout, shoe shop proprietress. The shop is amusingly enough called The Glass Slipper. During it's owner's frequent absences the shop is managed by the much put upon Crispin Cordwainer.

The current sheriff Beast (yes the same one that married Beauty) gives the missions out to Cindy and the community's most proficient and dangerous magic user Frau Totenkinder (remember all those wicked witches in the stories? Hansel & Gretel, etc.... that's Frau Totenkinder) provides Cindy with some sort of magical gadgetry, kind of like an old female version of Q, with knitting.

The mission detailed in this series takes Cinderella to the Arabian Nights homeland, where she's paired up with Ala Al-Din, or as we know him, Aladdin. The two are trying to find a cartel that is selling magical artefacts to Mundy's in exchange for high powered automatic weapons.

The story in the here and now is intercut with shorter episodes from Cindy's past, ranging from France in the early 19th century to East Germany in the 1960's.

There's also a side story in Fabletown involving Crispin's attempts to make a name for himself in the magical shoe industry by making a deal with elves. This has hilarious consequences when, as expected, the elves maliciously cheat the naive clerk.

It's a well written addition and a worthy one. If for whatever reason Willingham cannot write the book he's got a ready made replacement in Chris Roberson. It was a great story, very funny at times with plenty of pop culture references and while it also references other Fables books, events and characters it stands well enough on it's own for the reader not to have to have read the main book. There's also a well handled relationship between Aladdin and Cinderella.

This is one I'd advise anyone who has read Fables to get and enjoy.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Wolf of the Plains

If Bernard Cornwell is considered the King of the burgeoning historical fiction genre aimed at a male audience, then rising star Conn Iggulden could be thought of as the Prince of it.

After cutting his teeth with the Roman themed Emperor series (still in progress) about Julius Caesar, Iggulden decided to move away from the well mined Roman, English and European histories and instead focussed on the greatest conqueror the world has ever seen: Genghis Khan.

Wolf of the Plains is the first in a planned 6 book series about the Mongol Empire (the first 4 books are out in print). The first book covers the early life of Temujin; the Mongol tribesman who would be known to the world as Genghis Khan.

Temujin was the 3rd son of the Yesugei, the khan of a tribe that called themselves the Wolves. The early parts of Temujin's life are relatively well known, how the tribe cast him and his family out after the death of his father, and that they barely managed to survive, how he was later captured and tortured by a tribe (in the book it is the Wolves) escaped and eventually united the tribes, before going on to conquer China.

Wolf of the Plains fills in the gaps, making the largely unknown Yesugei and his strong willed wife (Genghis' mother) Hoelun into real people, and explaining how Temujin became the warrior he was, and what motivated him. Iggulden does play a little with historical fact, but most, if not all, historical fiction authors do that to varying degrees, the main omission here is Temujin's eldest brother, and Iggulden explains in the author's notes why he neglected to even mention the man. When reading a fiction book about a well known historical figure it's hard to build up any real sense of tension, because the reader is often aware of how events unfolded. In Wolf of the Plains Iggulden sometimes focusses on characters less well known to the general public. Temujin's wife; Borte, his younger brothers; Khasar, Kachiun and Temuge or the Naiman swordsmith, and one of Temujin's mentors, later leading general; Arslan. These characters became real and gave the novel the tension it needed, because I was unaware of them or their personal histories. The book ends with Temujin having become the khan of 3 tribes, explaining his plans to unite all the nomadic, warlike tribes of the Asian steppes and intending to attack the Chin empire, taking the title and name of Genghis Khan.

It was an enjoyable, informative and gripping read, for me the pages and the time flew by as I immersed myself in the story. Iggulden writes exciting, realistic and enhtralling fight scenes, he is an atmospheric writer, I could feel the icy wind sweeping off the steppes and see the Mongol riders racing across the plains.

One small quibble was the character of Temuge, and this may be a personal thing. He's the youngest of the brothers, also the smallest and the weakest, while he can never hope to match his older siblings with a bow or on horseback, the writer indicated that he may have or would develop talents in other areas, but never quite followed through, and this for me was frustrating. It may be resolved more satisfactorily in the sequels: Lords of the Bow. I'm sure I'll find out because I do intend to read Lords of the Bow.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Ave Avid

Simply stunning. That's my considered opinion of this chapter of Church & State II. It covers so much ground, it's the end of this section of the book and it leaves you breathless. The artwork is also top notch.

It opens with one of Cirin's servants begging for time. It's hard to tell exactly what she's doing by lamplight, but you get the impression it will impact on events in this chapter or further on.

The action then crosses back to Astoria's trial. Cerebus is still confused, Astoria keeps turning into an aardvark and he's hearing voices in his head. The demanding voice of Powers is coming from outside it. Cerebus wants to know where his hat is. Posey eventually points it out and as usual the rabbit like cleric is frightened of his own shadow.

Something falls out of the hat when Cerebus picks it up and in his head he keeps flashing back to when he was Prime Minister and heard something fall. The object is a box. Astoria definitely doesn't want Cerebus to open it, but she's bound and gagged, so can't do an awful lot about it.

Inside the box is a perfect golden sphere with a note that reads Good Luck W. Somehow from beyond the grave Weisshaupt is influencing events. Cerebus strips off his robes and picks up the sphere. He tucks it under his arm and naked runs at the window/ The sphere becomes heavier and heavier and sweat streams from Cerebus body, but he hangs on and leaps, crashing through the window. Thus ends book 5 of Church and State II.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Tarzan of the Apes

The last of the B authors in the Must-Read Fantasy Novel challenge!

In 1912 a former pencil sharpener salesman wrote a book about a nobly born Englishman who was raised by a tribe of apes on the west coast of Africa.

The former salesman was Edgar Rice Burroughs and the book was Tarzan of the Apes. Burroughs would personally pen 23 Tarzan novels and the character would go on to become one of most iconic figures in western culture. Tarzan was the subject of 89 films, making film stars of out of 2 former Olympic swimmers (Johnny Weissmuller and Buster Crabbe) in the process and also had a radio and a TV serial made about his adventures.

The story and character in the films is not easily recognizable from the original book. Strangely enough one of the films to follow the book's storyline most closely was Disney's 1999 animated version, although suitably altered for the sensibilities of the younger audience.

While on a mission for the Brirish government John Clayton Lord of Greystoke and his young wife are marooned on the west Africa coast. Lady Alice Clayton gives birth to a baby boy and lives for a year before passing away of an unspecified illness. John Clayton is killed soon after by a band of marauding apes. A she-ape by the name of Kala has recently lost her infant and takes the young Lord Greystoke as a replacement.

The young Englishman is raised by the apes as one of their own and given the name Tarzan. Although no match for his ape playmates in terms of size and strength Tarzan does have intelligence and agility on his side. He uses these attributes to survive and gain status amongst the tribe.

One day Tarzan discovers the cabin his father built and where he had lived with his parents. Unaware that the skeletons in the cabin are those of his parents, Tarzan explores and becomes interested in the books within the cabin. Rather incredibly he teaches himself to both read and write English fluently with the help of the books in the cabin.

Tarzan becomes a hero to the apes by killing some of their enemies such as lions and gorillas, he also has the members of a local village of cannibal natives thinking he is a forest god. Eventually Tarzan becomes the leader of the tribe, after defeating the previous leader in single combat, he leaves the tribe following the death of Kala at the hands of the cannibal tribe.

Not long after this Tarzan sees some newcomers to the west African coast; treasure hunters. Amongst this group are the eccentric American scientist; Professor Archimedes Q. Porter, his associate and friend Samuel Philander, the British Lord (and coincidentally Tarzan's cousin) William Cecil Clayton, the negro maid Esmeralda and Professor Porter's beautiiful and spirited daughter Jane.

Tarzan becomes entranced by the beautiful white woman and largely because of this he assists the party and eventually rescues Jane when she is abducted by one of the apes. Jane is with Tarzan, falling in love with him, when a French ship comes to the aid of the small group and one of their party is captured by the cannibals. After depositing Jane back on the beach Tarzan goes back into the jungle and rescues the French officer; Paul D'Arnot.

D'Arnot contracts a fever, which Tarzan nurses him through and upon discovering that the wild man can read and write English, but not speak it, teaches him French. By the time D'Arnot and Tarzan arrive back at the beach, their ship has sailed.

Determining that Tarzan wishes to learn to live as a man, mainly for the purpose of pursuing Jane and winning her love, D'Arnot takes the jungle raised man to a colonial outpost. Tarzan becomes civilized and goes to the United States to be with Jane.

Unfortunately, believing that they could never be together, Jane has accepted a proposal of marriage from another.

The bittersweet ending is tempered by the news that there will be a sequel. In fact as I stated earlier there were actually 22 sequels.

Despite being an entertaining adventure novel with an interesting premise if Burroughs submitted Tarzan of the Apes to a publisher now I doubt it would be accepted for publication. At best the writing is clunky, many of the characters, with the exceptions of Tarzan and Jane, are cartoonish two dimensional characters, with the tribe of Africans being an offensive racist stereotype even given the less politically correct climate of the early 20th century and the research is almost non existent.

If you can get past the author's obvious failings as a writer you will be rewarded with an interesting and at times gripping adventure story that will give you an insight into the creation of one of the 20th centuries most popular and instantly recognizable fictional characters.

If you liked Tarzan enough to want to keep reading then Burroughs himself wrote numerous sequels, if the concept interested you it would be worth reading the book that may have inspired Burroughs; Rudyard Kipling's classic The Jungle Book, a collection of animal stories about the Indian jungle and it's inhabitants, the best known being the story of Mowgli, the abandoned 'man-cub' raised by a pack of wolves.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Jack of Hearts

The second collection of Jack of Fables adventures opens with Jack hiding out from the literals in the Wyoming mountains along with Pecos Bil, John Henry and Alice from Alice in Wonderland. To pass the time Jack tells his companions the reason why he doesn't feel the cold.

Back in the Homelands Jack was once the consort of Lumi, the Snow Queen (Fables readers would know Lumi as one of the Adversary's key commanders, she's currently trapped in the capital under Sleeping Beauty's spell) and she gave him control of the winter. As usual Jack made a mess out of it and had to flee the kingdom for his life. It was nice to go back to the Homelands and see the Fables team's unique take on some old fairy tales. Miffed that the other three didn't believe his story Jack takes off for Las Vegas alone.

Outside of Vegas Jack meets up with Gary the Pathetic Fallacy and uses that individuals unique abilities to make a fortune on the tables. After a big night Jack wakes up in bed with a beautiful blonde called Holly, who just happens to be the heiress to a gambling fortune. Unfortunately Jack's incredibly wealthy new father-in- law owes his fortune to a group of Belgian mafiosi who are determined to collect one way or another.

Meanwhile a vicious Fable who goes by the name of Lady Luck is torturing and killing anyone with unnatural luck, Jack and his new family are on her radar, as are two nerds who have come into possession of a magical horseshoe. Gary has fallen in love with a mannequin he calls Noelle.

The Belgian mafia manage to blow up Jack, his wife Holly and father- in- law as revenge, the only reason Jack survives, is because he's a popular Fable and the Mundane's belief in him keeps him alive, he also made a number of deals with various devils back in the day in the Homelands.

Jack inherits his dead wife's fortune and gets a visit from Lady Luck. She gives him an ultimatum and that's something you should never do to Jack. He manages to arrange it so that the Literals on the hunt for him wind up bagging Lady Luck. Jack's dead wife's lawyer fixes the will so that Jack winds up with nothing, and he and Gary end up on the run from Vegas.

Remember the nerds? A strange twist of fate involving the horseshoe brings Noelle to life and one of the nerds ends up with her.

It was pretty wild and crazy stuff. It's different to Fables, but in a good way. I have a strange liking for Gary. He is pathetic, it's true, but he's amazingly powerful. I have to confess I don't and never have understood why he puts up with Jack.

Sunday, August 1, 2010


Astoria's trial continues, all that remains is for Cerebus to pass sentence on Astoria.

The chapter opens with Posey dashing back and forth bringing water to Cerebus. Gerhard's beautiful intricate backgrounds dominate and really bring the interior of the cathedral to life.

Astoria appears to have lost her mind and is speaking nonsense. Cerebus orders her gagged. When it comes time to pass sentence, and the only sentence can be execution Cerebus cannot bring himself to order it. In echoes of Pontius Pilate, Cerebus washes his hands of the matter and tells Powers if he wants Astoria killed then he can order it. However by the rules of the chuch whoever orders the execution of a Pope killer would then become Pontiff. Cerebus retires to consider the matter.

The action resumes with the messenger bird reaching it's intended destination. It is received by a black veiled servant of Cirin. She takes the message to her mistress. Readers cannot see Cirin, only her thick bandaged fingers. The message is the signal for the Cirinists to begin their invasion of Iest. Those pages are bordered with a design of leaves twining up slender columns.

The final page is Cirin. Because of her veil we can't see all of her face, but we don't need to, to know that Cirin is an aardvark!

I can remember when I first read this chapter I nearly fell of the chair when I got to that last page. I don't know what I was expecting the reveal to be, but that wasn't it. The game just got real interesting.