Saturday, September 01, 2007

Quick Takes: Lucius Shepard, Roy Morris Jr, Elaine Cunningham

The Golden, by Lucius Shepard: I find it very interesting to see what various authors do with well worn story ideas. Here Lucius Shepard takes on the "Vampire Novel", but Shepard does it in the form of a 19th Century novel with some of the form and restraint found in that era. Set in 186-, The Golden is something of a mystery. We are introduced to Michael Beheim, once a Chief of Detectives in Paris, now a vampire, a member of The Family. The Family has a breeding program which leads to a mortal having such perfect, exquisite blood that the individual is called The Golden. There is a Decanting Ceremony for the clans. Before the Decanting can take place, however, The Golden is murdered and drained of her blood. Beheim is chosen by the Patriarch to investigate the murder. He has three days, otherwise there will be serious repercussions and he must investigate other vampires who will not take kindly to this intrusion. The Golden is a mystery, a romance, a vampire novel, and a well told tale. Shepard seldom disappoints with his fiction and while there is a bit of rigidity in the prose (fitting the style and setting, but rigidity all the same), The Golden is an excellent work of fiction and another example of what else can be done within the vampire subgenre. The Golden is nothing like the contemporary vampire fiction being published today, or even like Stephen King or Richard Matheson's take. If anything, it harks closer to George R. R. Martin's Fevre Dream, but in an entirely different setting. The bottom line is that The Golden is worth the read, as is most of what is published by Golden Gryphon.

Fraud of the Century: Rutherford B. Hayes, Samuel Tilden, and the Stolen Election of 1876, by Roy Morris, Jr: Remember the George Bush / Al Gore Election of 2000 with all the voter fraud, the contested state of Florida, accusations, and overall mess the election was? It's happened before. Same states, different players, potentially worse fraud. Remember, this is not long after the Civil War and the Southern states are only just being admitted back into the Union and the Republicans (the forerunners of the modern Democratic party) have had control for some time now. The Democrats are itching to gain control of their own Southern states and of the Presidency. Both Hayes and Tilden are nobody’s first choice for the nominees, but that's the way it goes. Roy Morris, Jr, takes us through the nominations and how these two men took center stage in the 1876 election. This is probably the largest issue I have with Fraud of the Century. After the introduction where Morris compares the 2000 election to the 1876 election and shows how they were similar Morris takes a step back and spends time introducing the players and their political worlds. It's important, I know, to understand Hayes and Tilden, but it's dry. Very dry. By the time we hit the real Presidential Intrigue, vote theft, disenfranchising, electoral manipulation, and all the other illegality of the election it is difficult to really maintain interest. Morris tells the whole thing in a very dry tone that runs through even the darkest dishonesty on the whole thing. Great subject and puts a historical perspective on 2000, and Morris does speculate on what might have been different with Tilden at the helm (very little), but overall the 250 page book is a bit of a let down due to the dry prose of the narrative.

Dark Journey, by Elaine Cunningham: With Dark Journey we hit the midpoint in the 19 volume New Jedi Order series dealing with the invasion of the galaxy by the Vong. The Vong has hit Coruscant and the evacuation has begun. Anakin Solo is dead, Jacen is captured, and Jaina is on the run. This is a bleak time for the New Republic...and I think the only thing that Cunningham really accomplished here was pointing the characters in the right direction for the second half of the NJO. Underwhelming to say the least. The writing is blah, the story does not move at nearly as quick a pace as previous NJO efforts, and honestly, I can't say that enough happened here to warrant an entire book.

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