Reading: Karen Chance

I tried some general listing last week but felt maybe that wasn’t enough. This week I’ve supplied short summaries of the books too. I’m still trying to figure out what I want these posts to be.

Last Week
(07 March – 13 March 2009)

Kim Harrison – Hollows 07 – White Witch, Black Curse

Rachel Morgan continues to deal with the death of Kristian while trying to remember the details of the attack that killed him — twice. In the kind of plot threading Kim Harrison is known for, Rachel must deal with being shunned by the magic community, being the apprentice of a demon and, as always, trying to find a way to save her vampire friend from losing her mind – and soul.

Carrie Vaughn – Kitty Norville 06 – Kitty Raises Hell

Kitty has been through hell this last year. Having been outed on national television as a werewolf, getting married, becoming the leader of her local pack and continuing her daily radio show, her life is anything but easy. But when a jinn, a fire demon, shows up and starts torching the places and people she cares about, she is forced to choose. Should she side with the new mysterious demon hunter and vampire Roman, or continue to support Rick, the new master vampire of the city of Denver.

Karen Chance – Cassandra Palmer 01 – Touch The Dark

Cassandra Palmer just wants a normal life. Having fled from the vampires who killed her parents, kidnapped her and raised her, she lives in fear of being attacked and dragged back into a life of service. A good clairvoyant is worth a lot of money and Cassandra is one of the best. Having been attacked by a group of vampires one night, she learns that her roommate is actually a master vampire whose sole job is to protect her in case she starts to show the powers of the next Pythia, the chief protector of time for each generation. As her powers start to develop, she involuntarily time travels and accidentally changes the past. She is not the only one changing the past however, the heir to the Pythia is trying to stop Cassandra from becoming the Pythia at all costs, including starting a war within the magic community and changing history itself.

Karen Chance – Cassandra Palmer 02 – Claimed by Shadow

Cassandra Palmer has all but the final rite to finish before becoming the Pythia. Having corrected the timeline, Myra, the heir to the last Pythia, changed has left her tired. All is not well in the magical community either as war has started between the various factions. Cassandra must now cross back upon her own timeline while trying to avoid being the slave of any one faction as she tries to avoid being erased from history entirely. Traveling back in time and into the land of Faerie itself all becomes part of her quest to once and for all destroy Myra and the vampires that killed her parents.

Karen Chance – Cassandra Palmer 03 – Embrace the Night

Being the Pythia is no easy task for Cassandra Palmer. Having the power to change the past, present and future puts her in the spotlight and the target of all the major powers in the magical community. Demons, Mages and even vampires all seek her favor through any means necessary including seduction spells and death threats. Cassandra must stay one step away from all of her troubles while trying to locate a missing book of magic – written by Merlin himself. As she continues to cross her own timeline again and recruit friends in the past, she learns some troubling secrets about her friends and what being the Pythia really means to both the world and reality itself.

Playing: Prince of Persia, Rock Band, Fallout 3

Prince of Persia

I’ve been trying to get back into this game but it’s hard. I’ve had it crash a couple more times on me. Each time I lost over 30 minutes of play. I should not have to fear that the game will crash every time I play it.  Despite my problems though I hope to finish it at some point this upcoming week.

Rock Band

As always, I’m going slowly through the World Tour mode. I finished up another city today but there are quite a few left.

I plugged in my drumset and have been working the solo tour. I finished Easy mode and started in on Medium.

Fallout 3

Having played as a Good character, I wanted to re-play parts of the game as an Evil character. So, I started the game over last night.

As soon as I was given the chance, I blew up the city of Megaton. Then I proceeded to murder everyone in Tenpenny Tower.  I’m playing as an all out Evil person.  No one will stand in my way.

Reading: Patricia Briggs

Since I am going to be busy for the rest of the night as well as most of tomorrow, I thought I’d post what I read this past week and my reading plans for my upcoming Spring Break. Also, since I’m rather tired, I’m just going to post some lists.

Last Week (28 February – 06 March):

  • Patricia Briggs – Mercy Thompson 01 – Moon Called
  • Patricia Briggs – Mercy Thompson 02 – Blood Bound
  • Patricia Briggs – Mercy Thompson 03 – Iron Kissed
  • Patricia Briggs – Mercy Thompson 04 – Bone Crossed
  • Patricia Briggs – Anna & Charles 01 – Cry Wolf

Next Week (preliminary list):

  • Kim Harrison – Hollows 07 – White Witch, Black Curse
  • Carrie Vaughn – Kitty Norville 06 – Kitty Raises Hell
  • Charles De Lint – Trader
  • Karen Chance – Cassandra Palmer 01 – Touch The Dark

Essay: Our Superman, who art in…

I’m not sure if it came from me reading The Watchmen for a second time or some amalgamation of thoughts from my World Religions class, but I got thinking about superheros… and religion.

In The Watchmen, the phrase “god-like” is thrown around frequently with one of the text sections of the book going so far as to call the character of Dr. Manhattan God himself. This gave me pause. It is interesting that when greeted with the prospect of a being with unimaginable powers we cower in fear instead of bowing in awe. We are helpless if our saviors stop reaching out their hands and start reacting with their fists.

What is to stop superheros from setting themselves up as gods?

Beings with powers so great that we call them super who, again and again, come to save the normal humans around them, why shouldn’t we call them gods? How different is “Superman, save me!” from “Our Father, who art in heaven…”? Both reach out to beings greater than ourselves to come and save us.

While I was musing on that today, I tried to think about a case in which a being with great powers did not have some tragic or emotionally damaged past. Superman is the last of his people. Spider-man cannot seem to live a normal life as Peter Parker. Bruce Wayne became Batman because of his parent’s tragic death. It is as if we strive to build these great statues of virtue and honor but then sneak back after dark to paint a bit of graffiti on them. We cannot seem to have perfect people among us. Give someone a great power or control over some great things, but give them a weakness. Give them some emotional baggage. Make them human. We seek to destroy, whether with rationalization or weapon, those things that are supernatural.

I think the reason that no superhero has been crowned a god is simple. We wouldn’t stand for it. We would bring out pitchforks. We would march with kryptonite. We would strip the godhood of the hero and give them the title of villain. A villain can be killed. A villain is not a god or hero. And villains are always punished. After all, the superheros are looking out for us.

Essay: Urban Fantasy

I have been trying to come up with a suitable reason to be writing more often but cannot think of one other than to throw thoughts together for a blog entry here or there. So, I thought I would talk about why I feel drawn to the urban fantasy genre and why it continues to hook me despite having some real love of science fiction.

I would like to say I grew into it. Which is to say that it was just a natural evolution. You start with reading The Lord of the Rings and then work your way into more fantasy and magical based books. For many that is what happened. For me, though, it started in the reverse. I do not remember what fantasy book I started with but a good guess would be a book on the same shelf as the cartoon and superhero novels shelf at my local library.

When I was quite younger, I was practically against reading. Not in some sort of antagonistic way but I was, in general, against reading. It took time away from the things I liked to do: watch cartoons about people with superpowers and playing video games about people who had superpowers. You’ll notice a theme there. I was really big into X-Men and the overall Marvel universe. Most anything that had any connection to a superpower held my interest. Superman, Spider-man and Batman all called to me with their siren songs to come to the television and be enthralled. And I was. But television shows only last so long and most only come on for a couple of hours a day. What was a kid to do?

That was the turning point for me. My mother had been dragging my sister and me to the library for quite awhile. Reading is important to her. Just pick a book, she’d say said. At least one. Then we can go. At the time, this was a chore. Books designed for children held little interest for me even then. What happened when a spider went to school or where exactly the Wild Things go was rather boring for me. That changed when I was able to go and look in the Adult Section.

I had been asking, and probably begging at times, to go look over in this elusive realm. Perhaps I thought it held some secret or mysteries untold. Who knows? What it did hold were novels about superheros. I checked out a book on Spider-man that week. Then renewed that checkout two weeks later. I had to return it and check it out a second time to finish it. A month had gone by while I struggled through an almost 400 page book about Spider-man fighting against some villains. I honesty cannot remember what it was about now, only that I really liked the experience. I began to read through all of the books in that section. When I ran out of books there I looked at the next section, a fantasy section.

Thinking back now, R. A. Salvatore’s books played a large part in cementing my love of fantasy. His details of major battles between his forces of good – including one Drizzt Do’Urden – and evil captivated my young mind. I had never really been into Star Wars but I think that had I seen those movies before reading his books, those battles would have hooked me as well.

Epic battles and noble heroes fill his stories, with the story of Drizzt Do’Urden being one of the most tragic and enduring. Drizzt was a dark elf that went into exile. The dark elves are not know to be particularly noble people and usually on the side of Bad but he was not. He left his people and went into the greater world. Through his journey he met other people, other races, some who helped him, most who hated him on sight. He gathered a collection of friends and went on to defeat great evils time and again. I think that was what called to me. The sense of honor yet sadness at being different than those around you definitely resonated with me. I devoured all the books the library had of R. A. Salvatore. When I ran out, I had to move on again, this time to Terry Brooks’ books.

Terry Brooks wrote of a different world than I was used to but one nonetheless that I found entertaining. His had Orders and Knights as well as Kings and Druids. There was a feudal system of powers that support intrigue and mysterious murders. I liked these books as much as I did the others but Terry Brooks stopped writing his medieval fantasy at one point and started writing stories with magic in the modern age.

I can point at those books as my welcoming to the the urban fantasy world. Terry Brooks’ Word and Void series saw people who were, in a sense, knights but were modern men and women who were given magical weapons to use against the Void. It was this Void, this darkness, that sought to corrupt and eliminate mankind. Terry Brooks would later shift this story into a post-apocalyptic setting but the early books were about the modern world and hiding magic while fighting Evil at the same time.

If I were to write out a formula for urban fantasy, I would include this idea. Most books in the genre have the main characters hiding their magic or abilities from humankind, often to the pain of the hero or heroine.

Another part of the formula would be a prophecy or above-average powers. Most of the stories I read and like have the main character trying to find their way in the world while either awaiting some prophecy or constantly fighting because they have great power and are the only thing stopping other Things from hurting humanity. The hero must fight, not because they are strong or for some glory, but because no one else will. A Knight-errant.

This is the same reason superheros fight. They fight villains not because they like it (maybe they do) but because there is no one else there to do it. Superman saves the world, not because he is bored, but because only he can. I would like to think that people would see a problem and fix it but that is seldom the case. In Urban Fantasy, the hero must act. Even if it means hiding their powers from those around them, they seek to do The Right Thing even it kills them, which it almost never does.

I think that is what I like the most. Sure, I enjoy reading about those with magical powers and their entertaining battles. I even like to read with an eye toward the romantic notions of Good conquering Evil. The thing I like more than anything else though is the reluctant hero.

We all like think we are the heroes of out own stories but how often do we do what we should? How often do we see a problem, even if it is not own and step in to fix it, to help someone? My answer: not often.

In Urban Fantasy though, it happens more often. The hero or heroine is not the glorious knight or the superpower but the simple wizard who decides to stick to their morals. The weak werewolves that takes on the ruling vampires. Or even the man who fights against the Void. They all take a stand against Evil both great and small.

There is something there. Maybe we should not stand up to take on some army but seek to do the small things. In our own way we become the reluctant hero.