Fiction Wednesday: Disappointment, Triumph, and Death

Welcome to yet another edition of Fiction Wednesday! I have to admit, I’m really enjoying this feature, as it gives even more purpose to the books that I read and helps me to think more critically about things like character, structure, pacing, and more. It also gives me a chance to recommend – or not recommend – stories that I truly enjoy. Who doesn’t like that sort of thing?

Anyway, this week I’m offering reviews of The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger – The Man in Black graphic novel and Joe Lansdale’s The Big Blow, giving my current thoughts on Brandon Sanderson’s The Hero of Ages, and giving a little intro to The Sleeping Beauty by C.S. Evans.

Standard disclaimer: this is just one writer’s opinion. This is meant to examine the books not just for how much they sucked me in but also the nuts and bolts, the ‘engine’ of the stories, if you will. It’s just my way of getting as much out of these stories as I possibly can, and sharing those findings with the world. Now on with the show…

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Dark Tower: The Gunslinger: The Man in Black by Robin Furth/Peter David. Man, what a letdown. This is my first two-star review of the year and I give it with a heavy heart. This should have been one of the better graphic novels of this uneven series, as the source material is some of my favorite moments in the entire Dark Tower series. It nails some of those moments, especially in the last issue/chapter, but that’s the reason it gets two stars rather than one, and I don’t give one-star reviews lightly. The changes to the original story are baffling, as they drain some of the more interesting moments of any tension for no appreciable gain, introduce new elements that don’t make a whole lot of sense in Mid-World (the corpse lights, long-time readers will know what I mean), and have characters acting in baffling ways. I don’t understand who the Roland of this comic is supposed to be, but he bears little resemblance to either the Roland of the books or of the graphic novels that came before this, almost as if the writers lost hold of what made the character tick. Yes, Roland always acted in a callous manner toward Jake, but his behavior toward the boy in this version comes across as more than a little confused and crazy. I almost feel that I need to re-read the original, non-revised version of The Gunslinger now to wash this out of my mouth. Sheer disappointment, and not even recommended for hardcore fans.

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The Hero of Ages: Book Three of Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson. In the home stretch of the series now, and I’m quite amazed to find that the series bears a resemblance to Clive Barker’s Great and Secret Show. No wonder I’ve loved it so much, as that’s one of my all-time favorite novels. I’m not going to ruin the story for you, but I’m starting to see the shape that the climax will take, and I like what’s coming down the pike. For those who aren’t familiar with the series, Vin (the lady on the right) starts as a teenaged street thief who is discovered by a crew leader with a much bigger plan than just conning and robbing. She finds that she possesses ability beyond her wildest dreams – and that she just might be the hero prophesied to bring down the Lord Ruler, an oppressive god-like being who rules the Final Empire. The series is about that confrontation and the ramifications of the confrontation, including a much larger confrontation that goes way beyond the scope even of the Lord Ruler. It’s hard to talk about this third book without spoiling the previous two, so I’m not sure what shape my review will take yet, but I feel that it lives up to the spirit of its predecessors.

Journey

Journey to Hope (A Little Moon from Crescent Moon Press) by Cindy Young-Turner. Oops, almost forgot this one, which would be a crime. I didn’t realize just how many books I had read/finished in the last week, so yeah this one’s coming as an edit. Journey to Hope is the novelette prequel to Thief of Hope, which I reviewed last week, and I think Journey to Hope shows Young-Turner taking massive strides both writing-wise and story-wise. The story revolves around Edgar, Sydney (from Thief of Hope)’s adoptive father and shows him during an important formative phase in his life – the phase during which he discovered the power of the Guild and Schrammig’s hate, which so dominated Thief of Hope. Where Thief of Hope had a little more meat on its bones, this story is stunning in both its simplicity and emotional depth, not to mention the quality of writing. It’s a short one, but definitely worthy of your notice.

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The Big Blow by Joe Lansdale. Here’s an odd one: a brute of a boxer is hired to fight the legendary Jack Johnson (during the formative years of his career) with the express purpose of killing Johnson in the ring. Racism underlies some of the causes for this plot, but there’s also a heavily homoerotic tone to the thing. The backdrop of this strange story is the epic Galveston Hurricane of 1900, one of the deadliest storms to ever hit the United States. The hurricane functions as a character itself, one that lurks just off-page at all times, ready to tear apart the silly plans and machinations of these characters. Oh, and the characters themselves are either ciphers (Jack Johnson) or highly unlikable. It’s an odd book, and not particularly well-written, but I couldn’t put it down, especially once the hurricane really began to do its work. Four stars, but with some reservation, as it has plenty of issues.

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The Sleeping Beauty by C.S. Evans. This was a free Kindle special, a public domain book that caught my eye. It’s a 1920 re-telling of the classic fairy tale that expands on the original story. I’ve been interested in the Sleeping Beauty story since watching the Disney version at a young age, and have since tried to read many different versions of the tale, so re-discovering this as I try to clean out some of my Kindle backlog was a rare treat. I’m still trying to figure out how, exactly, I’ll review this one, as the standards of writing from that age are obviously quite different from today’s standards. I’ll work it out, though. Expect to see the review next week.

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And that’s all for this week. As always, I’m interested in hearing what you’re reading these days; I’ve found a few additions to my TBR pile from these posts. Let me know in the comments!

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