Frank Belknap Long’s SURVIVAL WORLD has such a great image in the first couple of pages (a guy thinking nostalgically about surfing reflects that water’s become so corrosive the first time you fell off the board you’d need a skin graft) I thought it would be awesome. Unfortunately the initial concept (scientist trying to save environmentally collapsed dystopian future) gives way to a time trip and like Black Wolves never recovers after the jump. A bigger problem is that it’s another example of drawing-room SF — constant talk not only about the science but politics, human nature, the fate of mankind, and never anything that’s compelling enough to hold my attention.
Much as I love Lin Carter’s work for the Ballantine Adult Fantasy line, he seems to slip his gears whenever he turns to novellas: GREAT SHORT NOVELS OF ADULT FANTASY II bites just as much as I and Double Phoenix did (though the Gervasio Gallardo cover [all rights remain with current holder] sure is pretty). The Tranmutation of Ling by Ernest Bramah is genuinely charming (though very orientalist, so YMMV), but the George McDonald and Robert Chambers entries are forgettable and Eden Philpotts’ The Lavender Dragon is just bad. It starts well as a stuffy knight encounters a well-spoken dragon but then bogs hopelessly down when it turns out the dragon is running a utopian commune so we get lots and lots and lots of talk about building a proper society (it’s easily even more tedious than his The Miniature).
RED HOOD AND THE OUTLAWS: The League of Assassins by James Tynion IV and Julius Gopez starts well (an amnesiac Jason recoils from resuming his old life when he realizes how much blood is on his hand) then tanks completely. Part of this is Tynion’s clunky nomenclature (the “All Caste” and the “Untitled” being two of the players here), part that his version of the League of Assassins and R’As doesn’t work for me at all. A really big part is giving the assassin Cheshire an I-learned-witty-dialog-from-watching-TV style of conversation, because I’m heartily sick of that kind of banter. Tynion did better with the follow-up volume.
The winner of the week was the fourth volume of ELFQUEST in which Cutter and his tribe battle the trolls to finally seize the lost elfin citadel of Blue Mountain, then learn the truth behind their origins. Only it turns out that doesn’t actually show them what they way forward is … successfully charming and thoughtful both.