Women of Wonder: This week’s reading

The Witch World sequel WEB OF THE WITCH WORLD is an apt title as the Kolder are now using mind-controlled Enemies of the Estcarp Way in an elaborate plot to ensnare the witches; when the scheme stretches to include kidnapping Loyse, Simon and Jaelithe start spinning webs of their own (though as other shave pointed out, their plots fall by the wayside). A major plot point is Jaelithe discovers losing her virginity didn’t cancel out her powers, leaving Simon worried she’ll return to her old life (it’s a nice touch that Jaelithe never sees any conflict between Career and Family) while the witches mutter about Jaelithe doing the impossible (which pays off in the next book). One of those sophomore installments that sells the series.

JUDGMENT NIGHT by CL Moore collects several short stories along with the eponymous space-adventure novel. Jaille is princess and heir to the reigning Galactic Empire, horrified her father is actually willing to talk peace with their rising rival, the H’Vali. Perhaps she should see to it that peace doesn’t happen … but then it turns out the H’Vali leader Egide is the man she had a one-night stand with on a hedonistic pleasure planet. Will either of them turn from their course? And what of the Ancients, the all-powerful entities getting ready to judge humanity and pronounce sentence on their continued rule of the galaxy.

This doesn’t work for me as well as Moore’s Northwest Smith stories does, partly because it’s more serious and less pulpish, partly because the protagonists are both antiheroes, and not the likable outlaw kind Smith embodies. Still, it’s a good story with a good female lead and I did not expect the way it turned out.

THE BEST OF LEIGH BRACKETT was part of the same anthology series as the Best of CL Moore collection I read a couple of months back. All these DelRey “best of” collections had an introduction and this one, by Brackett’s husband Edmond Hamilton, was one of the most fun. Hamilton talks about his wife’s writing, why they never collaborated except for one story (he plots everything out, she pantses) and a lot of fun personal stories.

The stories themselves are an excellent lot. The Jewel of Bas about two thieves caught up in a battle for the fuure of their world; Shannach — The Last! in which an ancient Mercurian enslaves human colonists; The Moon That Vanished, in which a broken man is forced on a quest for the ultimate McGuffin; and Enchantress of Venus, one of her Eric John Stark’s stories (if I still DMed, I’d totally work the Red Sea of Venus into my campaign). The other stories are good, except Vanishing Venusiasn with its ugly colonialism (“Wow, Venusians are soulless monsters, we needn’t have any qualms about wiping them out and taking their land!”). Hamilton suggests a running theme in Brackett is of a strong man who attains his dream and discovers it’s hollow; he has a point, but several stories also fit a theme of “reality is better than dreams” (made explicit in Jewel of Bas).

#SFWApro. All rights to images remain with current holders; top cover is uncredited, bottom is by Boris Vallejo.

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2 responses to “Women of Wonder: This week’s reading

  1. Pingback: A psi spy, Helen of Troy and a return to the Witch World: Books | Fraser Sherman's Blog

  2. Pingback: Mars, monsters, black hair and copyright: books read | Fraser Sherman's Blog

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