Books

NIGHTWING: Night of the Owls by Kyle Higgins and Eddy Barrows has Nightwing in action against the Talons, the enforcers for the Court of Owls that rules Gotham City covertly. After defeating the original Talon (his own grandfather) Nightwing then has to cope with a suspicious cop and a super-powered anti-hero vigilante. Unremarkable, and I dislike intensely Nightwing operating out of Gotham rather than independently as he was pre-Crisis. I’m also not thrilled the more Marvel tone of the current DC Universe (super-heroes are apparently suspicious rather than respected).
HELLBOY: The Midnight Circus by Mike Mignola and Duncan Fegredo is the tale of a very young Hellboy in 1948 who runs away to see the circus. But it turns out this circus is very, very evil … Good, though I’m not sure if the ringmaster is meant to be Rasputin or some other player. I’ve added this to the Hellboy Chronology of course.
BLACKING UP: The Minstrel Show in Nineteenth-Century America by Robert C. Toll chronicles how the blackface “Ethiopian delineators” of the early 1800s evolved into the full-blown minstrel show which Toll argues appealed to Northerners by offering a supposed look at Life on the Plantation Based on Real Negro Stories and Tradition. Toll shows the shows’ initially conflicted approach to slavery (It’s Cruel But the Darkies Are Happy) faded in favor of a uniformly sanitized portrayal as the Union itself began to crack. POst-war the minstrel shows became a much more generic entertainment (only the blackface distinguished them from any other extravaganza) but America did see the rise of genuine black Minstrels who worked their own spin on the genre (“They looked nostalgically back at the plantation days too, but it was a longing for friends and family—never for their masters.”). Good.
ZOTHIQUE is another from the Ballantine Adult Fantasy line, collecting Clark Ashton Smith’s stories of a distant, decadent future continent where necromancy, decadence and tyranny are rife. Carter ranks Smith along with Robert Howard and HP Lovecraft as the biggest names to come out of Weird Tales and it’s easy to see why: Smith’s style is elegant and poetic (“Mountains as sere as unceremented mummies” was one striking simile) and he wrote dark fantasy before the term was coined. Basically it’s a happy ending if the bad guys die too. Well worth reading.
For really dark material we have John Mantooth’s SHOEBOX TRAINWRECK a mix of crime and supernatural stories that focus on casual violence, petty criminality and child abuse among working-class rural folk. Well written and powerful in some of the violent scenes but the supernatural elements are quite humdrum and more importantly, this just isn’t my cup of tea (if I want to be reminded life is nasty, brutish and short, I read nonfiction or news).
BOOK OF IRON is a science fantasy (I’m not sure if the mix of 1920s tech and magic is meant to be steampunk or some kind of interplanetary setting ) novella by Elizabeth Bear where a team of adventurers (somewhat self-conscious about being classed as such) sets off to stop a sorcerer from murdering an immortal in order to free the eponymous occult McGuffin she carries inside her. Not as good as Bear’s Range of Ghosts but entertaining.

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One response to “Books

  1. Pingback: Books | Fraser Sherman's Blog

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