January 30, 2017

The Gunslinger by Stephen King

Title:  The Gunslinger
Author:  Stephen King
Pages:  231
Genre:  Fantasy
Publisher:  Viking Penguin, 2003
Series:  The Dark Tower, Book 1

The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.

Synopsis:  Eerie, dreamlike, set in a world that is weirdly related to our own, The Gunslinger introduces Roland Deschain of Gilead, of In-World that was, as he pursues his enigmatic antagonist to the mountains that separate the desert from the Western Sea. Roland is a solitary figure, perhaps accursed, who with a strange single-mindedness traverses an exhausted, almost timeless landscape. The people he encounters are left behind, or worse - left dead. At a way station, however, he meets Jake, a boy from a particular time (1977) and a particular place (New York City), and soon the two are joined—khef, ka, and ka-tet. The mountains lie before them. So does the man in black and, somewhere far beyond...the Dark Tower.

"Go then.  There are other worlds than these."

Review:  I read this story for what I estimate is the 11th time - 8 times in the original format and three times in the 'remastered' edition.  I found the original in 1989 and fell in love.  I purchased the sequel, The Drawing of the Three, almost immediately.  Then I waited.  Three years for book 3.  Six more years for book 4.  Another six years for book 5.  Then, the last two books came out one right after another several months later.  A companion novel, The Wind Through the Keyhole, came out eight years after the final book in the series.  Nearly every time a new novel came out, I started back at the beginning and read them all over again.  And sometimes when the wait was too long, I'd dust this one off and read it again - just because.

I've tallied it up and I waited a whopping 16 years to find out what happens at the end....and another 8 years after that for the additional book, for a grand total of 24 years.  Twenty-four years.  To be fair, the author did spend over 40 years (with some long breaks) writing the eight novels that make up The Dark Tower series.

That being said, even now I learn new things.  I didn't remember that in the introduction, Mr. King makes reference to the fact that he got his idea for a western backdrop from The Good, the Bad and the Ugly starring Clint Eastwood.  That explains why I've always pictured The Gunslinger as a man very much like some of Mr. Eastwood's characters.  And why, even though this is obviously a fantasy novel, it always also felt like a western to me.

I last read this novel in 2015, when I finally got my copy of the newest book.  I couldn't re-read the entire series.  It just seemed like too much work at the time.  I think I was a little miffed that the author had written another story, after I finally thought I'd read them all.  Today, I want nothing else than to delve right into book two and keep right on going, all the way through.  But, I am going to space them out this year.  Or, that's my plan at least.

This remains, even after all the times I've read it, one of my favorite books.  It is also the beginning to one of only four series that have a permanent place in my collection.  I quite simply love these books and never, ever get tired of them.

Rating:  10 / 10

January 26, 2017

Trouble Magnet by Alan Dean Foster

Title:  Trouble Magnet
Author:  Alan Dean Foster
Pages:  280
Genre:  Science Fiction
Publisher:  Ballantine, 2007
Series:  Humanx Commonwealth, Book 23

Synopsis: In this dazzling new novel, Flinx confirms his status as the galaxy’s greatest magnet for big trouble.

Wandering out there in some remote region of the galaxy is a gargantuan sentient Tar-Aiym weapons’ system. All Flinx has to do–while his pals look after his injured love Clarity Held–is find the hefty object and persuade it to knock out the monstrous evil that is hurtling through space to waste the entire Commonwealth.

A no-brainer, really, especially for Flinx, who is never without his loyal entourage of official snoops, crazed zealots, assorted goons, and the occasional assassin. Indeed, the boy wonder and his mini-drag, Pip, are eager to commence their heroic task . . . just as soon as Flinx visits Visaria–a dangerously depraved planet–to convince himself that humans are indeed worth saving.

The chances of stumbling across high moral values and utopian ideals don’t look promising–what with Flinx playing a lawless Pied Piper to a gang of lying, thieving juvenile delinquents. But prospects really go south when Flinx runs afoul of the corrupt planet’s ruthless crime king.

Still, life is full of surprises, and Flinx is about to get smacked by a passel of them–by turns devastating, heartening, and positively jaw-dropping. For although Flinx came to Visaria to plumb the enigma of humankind, there’s another mystery waiting here, a shocking clue about his own shadowy past.

Review:  This series is one of a very few that I can read one book, take a break, and pick the next book up later without worrying about forgetting what's going on.  It's an original story line with very unforgettable characters.  The main characters have remained the same throughout the series and each book introduces new characters that, most of the time, you never see again.

So, each story is complete unto itself, but also adds a little bit to the larger, more important story of Flinx and his efforts to save the universe......or at least his part of it.  There are only 5 books left in the series and I'll be sorry to be done.  It's been a great ride, starting back in 2013 when I read the first book, Nor Crystal Tears, which remains one of my favorite stories from the series.

Rating:  8.5 / 10

January 17, 2017

The House of Bairn by Thomas K. Martin

Title:  The House of Bairn
Author:  Thomas K. Martin
Pages:  292
Genre:  Fantasy
Publisher:  ACE, 1999
Series:  MageLord, Book 3

Synopsis: The enthralling conclusion to the Magelord Trilogy!

An ancient legend of fear still holds the land in its grip. While those with the Power flee King Gavin's wrath, Bjorn, a simple hunter, discovers that he has this same outlawed ability. Persued by the king's legions, Bjorn conjures an escape--and is transported into the past. Now he must marshal his ancestors in order to bring those held down by fear to a new future. For the pain and anguish of his memories must never be repeated...

Review:  Well, this was a really great ending to a wonderful series.  It was well-written and completely engaging.  It was also fun and exciting.  This entire series touched on questions of freedom and morality and the abuse of power, but this one really took those subjects to heart.  It made for a very good tale that forces the reader to think about these topics.

Time travel (and space travel...sort of) are involved and it sets up an interesting twist in the entire story.  I am sorry to be done because I had really come to enjoy all of the characters, both bad and good.

Rating:  8.5 / 10

January 11, 2017

The Time of Madness by Thomas K. Martin

Title:  The Time of Madness
Author:  Thomas K. Martin
Pages:  244
Genre:  Fantasy
Publisher:  ACE, 1998
Series:  MageLord, Book 2

Synopsis:  The Magelord is defeated; the dragon is dead. But a new evil is alive in the land. The king is crippled by his fear of the Power, and his First Knight, Mathen, delights in hunting down and destroying all those who possess that which is forbidden. All fall victim to Mathen's unreasoning wrath. But a young noble named Ian risks all to forge a route of escape for those in danger--and on his perilous journey, discovers the Power within himself.

Review:  This book was even better than the last one!  I had more reading time this week and finished it in just two days.  I'm going to start the third (and last) book in this series tomorrow.  I hope it's going to be as exciting as this one was.

Most of the same characters from the last book make a reappearance in this one.  Two of the new ones are worth mentioning.  Ian is a young man with courage and honor and a kind heart.  Mathen, the priest, is exactly his opposite - full of hatred and violence.  They are both great characters.

The ending and epilogue promised more fun and excitement.  I just hope good wins in the end!

Rating:  8.5 / 10

January 9, 2017

The Awakening by Thomas K. Martin

Title:  The Awakening
Author:  Thomas K. Martin
Pages:  282
Genre:  Fantasy
Publisher:  ACE, 1997
Series:  MageLord, Book 1

Synopsis:  Around the fires, in the cold of winter, the old tales of the Time of Madness are still told...

Tales of the MageLords, sorcerers near godlike in their power, who looked upon ordinary men with contempt.  Who fought great battles among themselves, violent conflicts that nearly destroyed the world.  Who have not been seen in the land of Reykvid for thousands of years, but who are still feared and hated.

But now, it is time for a new tale...

A tale of a prince named Gavin, who fears he has set a horror loose upon the kingdom he loves.  A tale of a hunter named Bjorn, who carries within himself a part of the forbidden power.  A tale of one who calls himself Valerian, who may be a nightmare come to life.

Listen:  it begins...

Review:  I didn't have a great deal of time for reading last week.  This book is really quite good and a fast read.  I've already started book two and am hopeful the series continues to be entertaining.

The very end of this story picked me up and drug me along.  I couldn't put this book down for the last 20 or 30 pages.  It was an original tale, told in the sword and sorcery style I love so much.  Hopefully, this week, I'll have more time to devote to reading.

Rating:  7.5 / 10

January 2, 2017

The Tenth Justice by Brad Meltzer

Title:  The Tenth Justice
Author:  Brad Meltzer
Pages:  543
Genre:  Thriller / Mystery
Publisher:  Harper, 2009
Series:  Stand Alone

Synopsis:  Landing a prestigious position as a Supreme Court clerk fresh out of Yale Law, Ben Addison is on the ultra-fast track to success—until he inadvertently shares a classified secret with the wrong listener. And now the anonymous blackmailer who made a killing with Ben's information is demanding more. Guilty of a criminal act, his golden future suddenly in jeopardy, Ben turns for help to his roommates—three close friends from childhood, each strategically placed near the seats of Washington power—and to his beautiful, whip-smart fellow clerk, Lisa Schulman. But trust is a dangerous commodity in the nation's capital. And when lives, careers, and power are at stake, loyalties can shatter like glass . . . and betrayals can be lethal.

Review:  This book was exciting.  It was also laugh-out-loud funny in places.  The characters are really wonderful.  I've been wanting to read this book, but I didn't have a copy.  Thankfully, I was lent this copy right after Christmas and I knew it'd be my first read of 2017.  It's been on my 'I Really Want To Read This Book' list for far too long!

It was a great first choice!  It was fast paced, impossible to put down, and just plain good.  Best of all?  I had no idea whodunit until the bitter end.  I completely loved it.

Rating:  10 / 10
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