The Sandman

I recently finished Neil Gaiman‘s epic comic book series The Sandman (from the Vertigo imprint of DC Comics). I read it in my favourite way to read the better comic book series: in ‘phonebooks’. By that I mean the serial stories are gathered into bound collections which don’t require Endless waiting. The 75 issues of The Sandman (published between 1989 and 1996) are contained in 4 volumes called “Absolute Sandman”. These are large publications with a old style faux leather cover and a ribbon attached for marking your place in each tome. Very nicely done. And I am actually lucky that my library still had all four since some of them have gone out of print.
Just about the only common thread through this series, beside Morpheus (The Sandman), is Neil Gaiman himself. There are a wide variety of artists, letterers, pencillers, inkers and editors that become attached and then detached to the series but Gaiman manages to keep something, not easily definable, cohesive alive through all 75. The visuals change so much that you’d hardly recognize one from the other but still there is that intangible dream of continuity that keeps you interested and makes me upset about book four being the end. And desire the series to be Endless. Add to that, too, that this isn’t a straightforward story. After reading them all I’m left with questions like who actually masterminded Lord Shaper’s death (there are several candidates). How could Morpheus have been imprisoned in the first place (was he that bad that his siblings wouldn’t come to the rescue:  Destiny had to know where he was)?  Why did Hob survive that final encounter with Death?  What happens to Nuala?  And more.  Of course, to my way of thinking, being full of questions after a work of art is an excellent state to be in.
Some of the things I find particularly interesting:

  • the family of the Dream Lord are Endlessly interesting… they approach their duties so differently
  • religion and the Endless: Gaiman includes various religions, gods, myth, comic book heroes, belief systems together with the story lines and with no apparent conflict
  • the inhabitants of Morpheus’ realm, The Dreaming, are fascinating with very rich backstories included (like Cain, Abel and Eve, Matthew, Lucien, Merv, the guardians at the door, the Corinthian and Nuala)
  • the complexity
  • the Land in A Game of You
  • the bridge becoming a hall for the Dream Lord’s funeral and wake and then becoming a bridge again
  • all the stories told by the refugees from the Reality Storm at the Worlds’ End Inn
  • although my first point included her in the collective Death deserves her own due in the end!

Brisingr

Fire in the ancient language invented by Christopher Paolini is the name of the third book in his Inheritance Cycle of fantasy books. It is a transitional work and sets up all the elements for the unnamed fourth and final book: so while you learn some new things about Eragon and the dragons, it didn’t have as much an impact on me as the second book and especially the first. The background on the Urgals and the continuing of Roran’s adventures were, however, interesting.  Eragon is rebounding here, learning how to fight his brother and Galvatorix from his teacher.  I found the death at the end of the book too quick, however.  It seemed too much of a waste for someone of that calibre to my liking.
I enjoyed it and certainly recommend it to anyone who has read the first two.
Still, I doubt that making a movie with this or the second book would be a good idea. Paolini’s world was certainly too big for the producers and screen writers of the first movie.

Writing my novel using Ubuntu

One of the nice features of using OpenOffice for writing on my Ubuntu machine is that it exports directly into PDF. So when I finished the major edits of my manuscript I was able to output it into the format that pleased me although not without a few twists. For example, I really liked the font ZapFino for the title. But this is a Mac font: so I just put my odt file on the Mac and used NeoOffice (the version of OpenOffice for it) to add it in. Of course, I probably could have downloaded a ZapFino-like font for Ubuntu but it’s fun not being system-dependent for my word processing. I can move from Ubuntu to Mac to Windows with no issues. It was fun to experiment to get what I wanted. 10 Point fonts were fine to read zoomed on my system but I found I had to change to 12 points in order to be easily read in PDF without zooming.
I’m using PDF because my reviewers are computer literate and it would be, I think, too wasteful to print out more copies than I already have.
The name of the book is “The Relater” and it’s a science fiction novel for young adults that reads a little like a fantasy. You could say it is fantasy but that with no magic if that works for you. It’s set on a planet in the distant future where metals are scarce and so little advanced technology still exists after the humans and several other races first landed five thousand years previously.
The hero is a 12 year old boy who wants to be a Relater or story teller. And the story begins with him getting ready for his rite into adulthood.
The story seems straightforward but there are three twists that affect him: a prophecy, a chance meeting with another race and something special about him and his relationship with the solar system. There was not enough time for everything to be explained in the book. It would take a trilogy to do that…

Stephen R. Donaldson’s Fatal Revenant and other stories

If you are bothered by spoilers don’t read on.
I finished reading Fatal Revenant, the 2nd of the planned 4 book series named the Last Chronicles of Thomas Covenant. This series is itself the last of a trilogy of fantasy series which started with the 1977 seminal novel Lord Foul’s Bane. These series are certainly in the fantasy genre but there is a very strong psychological component to the writing here. And the Land, the place where most of the series’ novels take place, is an amazing place with very interesting creatures and peoples. Some have called it an obvious lifting of The Lord of the Rings but I don’t believe that. There may be a ring and, well, fantasy involved but there is a great deal more to Donaldson’s inventiveness than that. If you don’t believe me then see what other fans think.
I enjoyed Fatal Revenant although I’m not a huge fan of Stephen R. Donaldson‘s Linden Avery character. I prefer the leper/messiah Thomas Covenant, myself, and I am very excited to see him back in the story line again at the end of this 2nd book. I agree with Avery that Thomas Covenant is needed again (even if the arch of time is now vulnerable). It certainly makes me eager to read the 3rd book called Against All Things Ending.
Truthfully the 2nd Chronicles and these Last Chronicles pale, in my mind, with the first Chronicles. Donaldson’s extreme contrasts were a revelation to me in the late seventies and I don’t know if the latter Chronicles were necessary. But I’ll read them anyway. Ever since Lord Foul’s Bane I’ll read anything that Donaldson decides to write.
I really liked his other series too: he really is able to show talent in a wide variety of areas. If I had to rate his series/books I’d put them (from favourite to least favourite) thusly:

The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant (3 books – Fantasy)
The Gap Cycle (5 books – SciFi/Space Opera)
Mordant’s Need (2 books – Fantasy)
Reave the Just and Other Tales (book of short stories)
Daughter of Regals and Other Tales (book of short stories)
Mick Axbrewder/Ginny Fistoulari – Man Who … (4 books – Detective novels)
The Last Chronicles of Thomas Covenant (4? books – Fantasy)
The 2nd Chronicles of Thomas Covenant (3 books – Fantasy)

I look forward to new series from Donaldson as he feels the urge!