Ty Johnston: life on the written page

Home to fantasy, horror and literary fiction author Ty Johnston

Monday, January 15, 2018

Books read in 2018: No. 2 -- Cinema and Sorcery: The Comprehensive Guide to Fantasy Film

by Arnold T. Blumberg and Scott Alan Woodard

Started: Jan. 5
Finished: Jan. 15

Notes: I picked this one up last year at the 2017 Origins convention in Columbus, Ohio, and was quite excited to discover it. I've been meaning to get to it before too long before it might become outdated. I'm fully expecting to enjoy this.

Mini review: This was a fun read, but as might be expected, I do feel a number of films were left out of this book. As a general fantasy compendium, it's not bad, a good place for your typical D&D fans to start. However, the authors do state early on that this is meant to be a collection of Sword & Sorcery movies, and for Sword & Sorcery purists, there is much here left out. For instance, there's no mention of The 13th Warrior, which technically might not include any magic, but magic is alluded to by the existence of an oracle and talk of dragons (even if this tale is meant to be more historical and the magic isn't real); while some might not love The 13th Warrior, I do believe it is a film steeped in the S&S sub-genre of fantasy, more so than most of the movies listed in this book. And while many movies which do make the cut here are great fantasy movies, such as The Princess Bride, by no means would I call them S&S movies. But really, these are just quibbles on my part. This is a good, fun read, and while not totally inclusive, it does go over nearly 500 movies from the silent era up to just a couple of years ago, so it is a worthy read.

Thursday, January 04, 2018

Books read in 2017: No. 51, Books read in 2018: No. 1 -- Conan the Rebel

by Poul Anderson

Started: Dec. 30, 2017
Finished: Jan. 4, 2018

Notes: I've never been a big reader of the non-Howard Conan books, but I'm trying to give more of them a chance, so here goes.

Mini review: This one was a mess for at least the first half of the book. Conan rarely appeared, an important side character then vanished for most of the rest of the book, various enemies worked together behind the scenes in some kind of vague plot against Conan that seemed to have no real force behind it other than some even vaguer prophecy ... just a mess. About halfway through, the story became more clear, but I found the writing rather drab, and there was little sense of urgency as there was never any real threats to Conan, at least none that lasted longer than a few paragraphs, though I suppose some of that could be expected for a serial character. All in all, not a good read, and I can only suggest it for hardcore Conan fans who feel they have to read everything about the barbarian.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Books read in 2017: No. 50 -- The Planet Wizard

by John Jakes

Started: Dec. 26
Finished: Dec. 30

Notes: What some might not know is that before he became known for his sweeping historic novels, Jakes was a science fiction and fantasy writer, even being known for his Sword & Sorcery creation, Brak the barbarian. I've read a handful of Jakes' fantasy short stories over the years, but until now I've never enjoyed a longer novel of his in the speculative genres.

Mini review: More science fiction than fantasy, or maybe space fantasy, with even a touch of Sword & Planet. A few generations after two planets went to war and nearly destroyed one another, one of the planets is mostly a desert wasteland populated by lizard folk while the other has fallen into something akin to the Dark Ages. On the Dark Ages planet, a con-artist passing himself off as a wizard falls into trouble with the local authorities and is tasked with traveling to the other planet to exorcise its "demons" and to search for powerful magics. I'm barely touching what this novel really goes into, but I will say this was a fun one to read, more fun than the dark, moody cover by Jeff Jones would imply (not that that's Jeff's fault).

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Books read in 2017: No. 49 -- Kothar and The Demon Queen

by Gardner F. Fox

Started: Dec. 24
Finished: Dec. 26

Notes: He's been deceased several decades now, but this author was instrumental in the comic book industry, especially in his creation of many, many characters for DC Comics, perhaps his most famous creation being the original Flash from the 1940s (the one who wore the silver helmet). I had not known Fox had also been a novelist, so when I ran across this 1970 paperback, I knew I had to give it a try.

Mini review: This was a fun little novel, about as cookie cutter a Sword & Sorcery tale as I've ever seen. Kothar the northern barbarian is summoned by a queen to quest for a magic item stolen from her, and in the process he faces the wrath of multiple wizards, more than one demon, a city's prince, untold numbers of soldiers, and even something that kind of resembled Godzilla! Of course there has to be some beautiful, scantily-clad women as well, and a betrayal or two. Though there's not much original here, the writing was pretty good. To repeat, this was just a fun read, so I can recommend.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Books read in 2017: No. 48 -- Mark Dawson's Learn Amazon Ads

by Mark Dawson and Joseph Alexander

Started: Dec. 21
Finished: Dec 22

Notes: I've been considering doing some book advertising through Amazon, so I thought I should do some research, thus this e-book.

Mini review: As expected, this freebie was really an introduction to a longer e-book and an advertisement itself for other programs offered by the offers. Still, instead of being disappointed, I did find the basics of learning the Amazon advertising system are here as well as a few tips for improving one's results with such ads. This wouldn't be a bad beginning guide for those looking into advertising with Amazon.

Books read in 2017: No. 47 -- Heroic Visions

edited by Jessica Amanda Salmonson

Started: Dec. 18
Finished: Dec. 24

Notes: I was reading a lot of fantasy when this anthology was published in 1983, but somehow I missed it. In fact, I don't even remember it, and stumbled upon it recently in a used book store. I guess none of the book stores where I lived in 1983 had this book. Anyway, I recognize a number of the authors here, from Fritz Leiber to Alan Dean Foster to Robert Silverberg, but there are also a number of unfamiliar names. I tended to love fantasy anthologies in the early '80s, and I hope this one proves to bring just as much love.

Mini review: Like with all such collections, for me some are hits and some are misses. My favorites here were "Vovko" by Gordon Derevanchuk, in which a Slavic warrior must face a demonic son he had not know of, "The Monkey's Bride" by Michael Bishop, in which a maid finds herself forced to marry a man seemingly more ape than man, and "Dancers in the Time-Flux" by Robert Silverberg, in which a 14th Century man finds himself transported to a far future time in which humans are much changed from the humans he knows. There were other good tales here. Honestly, I wouldn't say this collection excited me, but none of the tales were truly awful.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Books read in 2017: No. 46 -- Elminster: The Making of a Mage

by Ed Greenwood

Started: Dec. 11
Finished: Dec. 18

Notes: With the exception of some of the works of R.A. Salvatore, I've not been a big reader of fictional works based upon D&D worlds, here the Forgotten Realms, though I have to admit these books are pretty popular on the fantasy shelves at book stores. Anyway, I've shared a few anthologies with Ed Greenwood, and since I've never read any of his longer works, I thought I'd check out one of his novels.

Mini review: Not bad. This read more like a serialized novel with various sections dealing with different parts of Elminster's early life, how he sought vengeance for the deaths of his parents by facing a realm of evil wizards. The climax I felt was a bit muddled with too much happening at once in too many different place with too many different people, but I could still follow what was happening. Other than that, an interesting tale.