Read Recently — June 2014 — Adventure Too Good To be True

The Phoenix Guards by Steven Brust

A re-read, but one which probably pre-dates my doing the read recentlies, I suspect; at least, the only one I seem to have written up was the last one of the series, and that was 9 years ago.

Pause for thought. I have been doing these for over a decade, on and off.

The Phoenix Guards is Brust’s take on the Three Musketeers, set in his Dragaeran empire (in which elves who share characteristics with certain animals, such as dragons and orcas, take turns running things in a giant cycle of the various houses (each named after the animals they share the characteristics with)). Paarfi of Roundwood set out to write a work of nonfiction but couldn’t find a publisher, so he turned it into a novel. One Khaavren, of the house of the Tiassa (what is a Tiassa? Fucked if I know. It doesn’t really matter. A dzur is some kind of cat, btw. I don’t know what a yendi is.) heads to Draegara City to join the Phoenix Guard, basically the Musketeers. He accumulates friends as he goes, a Lyorn, Aerich, a Dzur, Tazendra, and another player to be named later (because I am both too tired and too lazy to look everyone up at this point).

This is about the only Brust series I’ve ever read all the way through. It’s fun, but Paarfi’s writing style can kinda grate on you in the long run, given that every character talks exactly the same.

Still, it’s lightweight fun and moderately recommended.

El Borak and other desert adventures by Robert E. Howard

One of the. . . let’s be generous and call them “quirks” of the way I . . . let’s be generous and call it “work” on these is that I’m working on stuff from different times of the year at the same time. As I write this, in September, I’ve already written up many of September’s books, including a sample of modern, “fake” pulp. Here, on the other hand, we have the real thing, with all the risks that entails. After all, we’re talking about stuff written from the early twenties through the forties . . . a highly racist time. And this is Robert E. Howard, a member of the Lovecraft Circle . . . and if you thought Lovecraft was racist (and he was!) . . . what’s amazing about these stories is how racist they aren’t.

Which is not, of course, to say that they aren’t racist. They are orientalist and paternalistic, and the heroes of all of them are white men–where they hero appears to not be a white man, it’s usually a white man in disguise. But within that limitation, the Afghans and Arabs of the stories come off much better than, say, African-Americans do in the horror stories of Howard’s “Black Canaan”.

Anyway, mildly recommended for those looking for adventure and willing to overlook the context (even temporarily), and not recommended else.

Too Good To Be True: the colossal book of urban legends by Jan Harold Brunvand

A collection of stories famous in Prof. Brunvand’s other, less colossal, books. Includes examples of tales encountered “in the wild”. Recommended, but you might wanna skip chapter 8. Just a friendly warning.


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