Ty Johnston: life on the written page

Home to fantasy, horror and literary fiction author Ty Johnston

Friday, April 20, 2018

Books read in 2018: No. 25 -- Blade #16: The Crystal Seas

by Jeffrey Lord

Started: April 15
Finished: April 20

Notes: I've run across books in this series from time to time over the decades, usually in used book stores, garage sales, flea markets, etc., but I never picked one up. That changed last year when I used book store I've come to love had a few of these novels, so I snagged up two in order to give the series a chance. If I love it, I can always look for more. And the author for this series didn't actually exist, being a house name used by several writers throughout the series.

Mini review: Mix together James Bond with John Carter of Mars and you've got a pretty good idea of these books and the Richard Blade character. Blade literally is an English spy, and through technology he sent into fantasy worlds where he has various adventures. Why the British government is doing this, I don't know, as it's not revealed in this book, but it makes for a somewhat interesting take. However, this is mostly just cheap action and adventure with the occasional brief sexual scene. There's nothing wrong with any of that if that's what you're interested in, but don't expect much else.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Books read in 2018: No. 24 -- The Swords Trilogy

by Michael Moorcock

Started: April 10
Finished: April 15

Notes: Over the last couple of decades, I've managed to find the first two books of this trilogy and read them, always in used book stores, but that final book, The King of The Swords, always eluded me. Fortunately, last year I ran across this collection of the series, of course in a used book store, so I bought it to finish the series. And, of course, a week later I actually found a copy of The King of The Swords in another store, but I didn't buy it since I had this version. Anyway, I'm going to go ahead and read the entire trilogy since it has been a long while since I read the first two books, as a refresher if nothing else.

Mini review: Most modern readers will not enjoy the writing style here, thinking it archaic, even boring. But fans of Sword and Sorcery will likely enjoy this style. However, I did find myself frustrated in the last book of the trilogy when it seemed to be that none of what had gone before truly mattered, that it could all be undone in the blink of an eye, that the eternal battle between Chaos and Law was truly that, eternal, so the strife made little sense. That being said, the final pages did bring some light onto the subject, and that helped. Also towards the end, Elric of Melnibone shows up for a few chapters as a character, and he has his role to play here. I can't say I loved this book, but I didn't hate it. I can suggest it for hardcore S&S fans, but general fantasy fans will likely want to stay away.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Books read in 2018: No. 23 -- Full Dark, No Stars

by Stephen King

Started: April 6
Finished: April 10

Notes: In my opinion, King is usually stronger in his shorter works, so I thought I'd check out this collection of four novellas. Funny thing, I accidentally picked up a large-type edition, and I still need my reading glasses!

Mini review: These were pretty good stories. In "1922," it's the Dust Bowl era and a father entices his son to commit a vicious crime, then cover it up, but the outcome is one screwed-up son. In "Big Driver," a victim of violence manages to survive and seeks her own personal form of closure, all while hoping to avoid law enforcement. In the story "Fair Extension," a man with cancer makes a deal to have his cancer vanish, but then someone else has to suffer. And in "A Good Marriage," a wife discovers her husband is more than she had known, much more, and then she has to deal with it. Interestingly, at least to me, all these tales are about men committing violence, or at least doing something awful, and women suffering from it, often having to deal with the ramifications afterwards. Sometimes other males also suffer, but generally they are more of a byproduct of tragedy, with women suffering the most or being the initial target. I don't know if King consciously set out for this collection to contain such stories, or if his editor(s) realized it at the time, but that's how it came out. I'm making no judgment here, just an observation, and these are all good tales.

Friday, April 06, 2018

Books read in 2018: No. 22 -- The Heckler

by Ed McBain

Started: April 4
Finished: April 6

Notes: I'm recovering from surgery, so I'm in the mood for comfort fiction, and the 87th Precinct novels usually fit that bill.

Mini review: Holy jeez! The city of Isola explodes (in some places quite literally) when the master villain known as the Deaf Man makes his first appearance in the 87th Precinct novels. I won't say this is the best of the series, but it's not the worst, and fans will definitely want to note this first book with the Deaf Man.

Wednesday, April 04, 2018

Books read in 2018: No. 21 -- Longshot

by Dick Francis

Started: March 30
Finished: April 4

Notes: Having grown up in horse-racing country in Kentucky, I can long remember the books of Dick Francis being quite popular in that region, probably because his mystery thrillers usually were related to the horse racing industry. That said, I never picked up one of his books until recently, so I'll see how this one goes.

Mini review: A travel writer turned novelist is down on hard times and agrees to write a biography of a horse racing mogul. Doesn't sound interesting, but this one slowly won me over. Funny, this book is so British, or at least it's very un-American in its telling and its feel in that it is so non-confrontational. Even the bad guy in this one turns out to be non-confrontational. I can't say this book will make me want to go out and read a bunch more of Dick Francis, but I'm also not scared away, in fact thinking I might like to give the author another go or two to see how he handles other situations.

Friday, March 30, 2018

Books read in 2018: No. 20 -- Eighty Million Eyes

by Ed McBain

Started: March 28
Finished: March 30

Notes: I've read quite a few of these 87th Precinct novels this year, and while I'm not in a rush to finish the whole series, there are a lot of these books, so I am trying to make my way through them. Here's another.

Mini review: A comedian dies on live television before an audience of millions, and a woman is stalked by a man intent upon making sure she can't date anyone else. These are the cases the boys of the 87th have to deal with in this book. This one was a little more melodramatic than the usual 87th tales, but since such is a rarity, I suppose in an odd way it makes sense for it to happen at least once. As always, I enjoyed the reading. It's not so much the plotting that draws me to these novels, but the writing I love, and I've grown to feel like the characters are, in a way, family and friends. I'll be reading more.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Books read in 2018: No. 19 -- 90 Minutes in Heaven

by Don Piper with Cecil Murphey

Started: March 23
Finished: March 27

Notes: I am highly skeptical of near-death, life-after-death or returning-from-death claims, whatever you want to call them, but I'm also not convinced by the handful of scientific explanations I've read over the years. Anyway, it's a matter I have some mild interest in, so I thought I'd check out this popular book on the subject, the story of a pastor who was apparently killed in a car crash and then came back to life to report of visions of Heaven.

Mini review: Christian believers and those in grief might find some succor here, but the skeptics will not find anything to sway them, or not much. This isn't really a book trying to validate near-death experiences, but tells how one pastor felt about his and how he handled it and the physical and emotional trauma a major car accident caused him, his family and his loved ones. This is a book to turn to in order to help one with grieving, or to embolden one's Christian beliefs, but again, skeptics are not likely to be swayed nor to find much here of use. Still, books like this sometimes help people, or make people change their mind about a topic, so it might be worth reading if you are interested in such matters.