Thursday, September 20, 2007

JD's Take: Homeland (R. A. Salvadore)

I've been wrestling for months with the desire to read cheap, pulpy, horrid, serialized fantasy or science fiction. Based on someone else's intellectual property if at all possible. I finally caved when I discovered a copy of Homeland by the oft-reviled R.A. Salvatore sitting on our shelves looking forlorn.

For those of you unfamiliar with this little piece of geek history, this book was the introduction of the character Drizzt. Still nothing? Okay, fine. Drizzt is a Drow Elf (or dark elf. The evil kind) who has a Good Heart, Two Scimitars, and a Pet Leopard. He rebels against the evil society he is brought up in (aided by the fact that he is So Much Cooler than anybody else) and becomes a great hero of the world. Sound like a hackneyed backstory from roleplaying session? An overused D&D cliche? It is, and this book is the reason for that.

So. I read it. Let me just give you a couple of impressions.

1) The spine of the book does *not* list the author of the book. There isn't room. See they needed the title, the name of the story cycle (The Dark Elf Trilogy. Very catchy) the book number (1!) and of course... the Forgotten Realms logo. Oh, and the TSR logo. And the publisher's logo.

2) So near the end of the first or second chapter I was forced to stop and step back from the book. On the two page spread I was looking at, 11 out of 14 paragraphs started with the word 'Zak'. Seriously. That's some quality writing.

3) The word Drow is *never* used without being followed by the word Elf or Elves. That's at least once a page, and never is it used by itself. It's absurd. Surely by page 50 I've figured out that the Drow are a kind of elf!

4) The Drow are Chaotic as a race. Which explains their rigidly lawful theocracy. Actually, I can't blame this one on Salvatore... stupid TSR.

Having said that, I almost wrote "but it's still a fun read" out of habit. But it really isn't. The basic plot arc is Drizzt is born --> Drizzt grows up to be a Hardcore Badass who excels at everything he touches and has a heart of pure gold --> Drizzt leaves the city with his pet Leopard. At no point do you doubt his safety. His mentor dies (oh shits! Spoiler) which any reader could have predicted at page 30. He is dutifully sad/enraged. His rivals fall before him (but he feels bad about it) and he leaves because he refused to conform to the evil ways of the evil society of his evil race. His sense of Good and Honor blossom despite the fact that he was at NO POINT exposed to these ideas.

Spare me. The good news is, it's a quick read. And you can't pick up this novel with high expectations, so you aren't likely to be terribly disappointed. That's about all the good I can wring from it. I'd read more but I'm pretty certain I get the gist of the REST OF HIS LIFE. For fun, I'll predict some key events:

  • Drizzt meets other elves. Turns out, They Aren't Evil.
  • Drizzt is outcast (oh! the title of the second book!) from Good society because of racism! Racism is bad!
  • Drizzt is framed for the vicious murder of a school filled with orphans, which he was only trying to protect! Poor Drizzt!
  • Drizzt gains the respect of the Elven Community!
  • Drizzt kills Lloth, the spider-queen-god of the Drow Elves
  • Drizzt, his Pet Leopard, and his New Girlfriend(I'm guessing a wood cleric)/Brother In Arms (a nobleman on a quest of self discovery. Probably a wizard/fighter) die bravely in battle. But they get better. Repeatedly (This happened (twice) to the damn cat in the first book alone!).
  • Drizzt mournfully sees the downfall of his race. He is very conflicted about it.
  • Actually, Drizzt spends an unhealthy amount of time feeling sorry for himself. Then he kills shit and it makes him feel better. Or sets off the next bout of self-loathing.

I wonder if Alien fiction is any better? Or maybe Warhammer?

Lisa's Take: Gil's All Fright Diner (A. Lee Martinez)

I’d like to start this review by noting that I typoed Mr. Martinez’s name twice as A. Leet Martinez. This mistake can certainly be attributed to the fact that’s he’s one hell of an awesome dude, as much as it can be blamed on my slow and under-caffeinated fingers. But that’s neither here nor there, I suppose…

Gil’s All Fright Diner is Martinez’s first book, released in 2005, and while it’s marginally less polished than his more recent 2 releases, it’s still a fantastically fun read. The story follows Duke, the werewolf, and Earl, the vampire, a couple of rednecks who happen to be in the right town at the wrong time. The word “hellmouth” springs to mind, for you Buffy fans out there – but I’ll refrain from saying more, as the book is pretty short and I wouldn’t want to spoil. Throw in a devious and nubile teenage Japanese seductress, an overly compassionate ghost and Loretta the Diner Cook, and you have a massively entertaining idiosyncratic rollick. That’s right, rollick as a verb. I said it.

What else is there to say? Obviously the premise is as outrageous as all of Martinez’s other books, and just as laugh worthy. I will mention that, much like his other works, he has a tendency to grow more serious (and more gory) towards the end of the book. That said, it’s still an excellent read, cover to cover – and damn if the pages in between don’t fly by quickly. I knocked this one out in maaaybe 5 hours total. DEEEElicious!

Finally, I’d like to make a quick note of my Great Approval for authors that release a book every year. A good book, at that. Authors whose names are subsets of Mr. Martinez’s could learn a thing or two about this. And now go! Make for the Leet reading!