The problem with sending messages was that people responded to them, which meant one had to write more messages in reply. — Arkady Martine’s A Memory Called Empire
It is pleasantly quiet here in the Green Man Pub on this summer morning so I’ve been reading Arkady Martine’s A Desolation Called Peace, the sequel to her Hugo Award winning A Memory Called Empire. I’m drinking our house cider and I’ve listening to the Penguin Cafe Orchestra playing ‘Music For A Found Harmonium’ on our sound system.
There’s a pig cooking over an applewood fire outside in the fire pit on the patio near the Pub which should be ready in a few hours. Plenty of other fare as well — earlier today I saw corn ready for roasting, German style potato salad, lots of cheeses, fat sausages, a coleslaw with poppy seed dressing and lots of other tasty foods. Not to mention lots of libations including of course ale and cider.
Indeed, I finished this edition earlier this week, so I too could take the day off. After you read this edition, join us on the Greensward for music, libations, food and other summery things.
Cat, our Editor in Chief, was pretty excited to review the ARC of Peter S. Beagle’s story collection The Line Between. ‘Reincarnated lovers, dead critics, an ambitious mouse, implacable assassins, kings that Lear himself could sympathize with, and sailors who discover that good luck might be quite a bit worse than no luck at all — there’s many a story here to entertain you!’ One of the stories, “Two Hearts,” a sequel to The Last Unicorn, won a Hugo Award and a Nebula Award, so it apparently pleased other readers as well.’
He says for some time he’s been looking forward to a full length novel in P. Djèlí Clark’s Dead Djinn series set in an early 1900s alternative Cairo where magic has returned to the world. It’s now here in A Master of Djinn, which Cat enjoyed on audio. ‘Now let me be clear that this is a pulp story with a heroine who has her own sidekick and truly deliciously evil antagonists. The story starts fast, gets faster and never slows down.’
Deborah wasn’t sure at all she was going to like editor Mike Allen’s fantasy anthology Clockwork Phoenix, but it all worked out in the end. ‘It seems that Mike Allen started with the worst stories and built this edifice into a dizzying and satisfying end. It was definitely an anthology that necessarily folded out over time, best consumed slowly and intermittently rather than quickly.’
Donna got all wrapped up in Tasha Alexander’s A Poisoned Season, one of a series of late-Victorian murder mysteries featuring a young high-society widow, Lady Emily Ashton. ‘It’s a decent mystery, sufficiently challenging, with just enough red herrings tossed about to keep the reader wondering until the last few pages who did what and why. At just over three hundred pages, it’s also a bit longer than is typical of this genre. Of course it ends happily, but there was never any serious doubt about that.’
Then she got caught up on the doings of Lady Emily in two more offerings by Tasha Alexander, A Fatal Waltz and Tears of Pearl. The former, she says, ‘… opens at one of those dreadful hunting parties members of the British upper class used to hold at their country estates.’ In the latter, Lady Emily and her new husband board the Orient Express for a honeymoon in Constantinople. ‘Alexander does a reasonably good job of portraying the distinctive topography, buildings, marketplaces, food, and general ambiance of Constantinople at this point in time, although I would say not as good a job as she did with Vienna in A Fatal Waltz.’
Gary says Martha Wells’ Fugitive Telemetry novella is another top-notch entry in her Murderbot Diaries series. ‘Martha Wells is making a lot of points in this splendid series. But [the] need for doing the legal, ethical, philosophical, etc., heavy lifting in advance is a big one. Of course The Murderbot Diaries is also about workers’ rights, late stage capitalism, PTSD and other psychological maladies, humans’ capacity for doing the wrong thing, and feelings. Especially feelings.’
Jack says ‘Jane Yolen tackles much here: the older material takes on subjects ranging from the double helix of teller and tale, tough magic, the gift of language, and the nature of once upon a time. The new section, according to Jane in her new preface, is six essays in which she converses ’bout the most important classics of children’s fantasy, i.e., the books of Beatrix Potter, her attempt to define what a story is, the morality of fairy tales, and other juicy subjects. There’s enough good — and meaningful — reading here to keep one reading for many a cold winters night. Having been admonished by one writer this week for giving too much away in my reviews, I’ll think let you discover just how wonderful Touch Magic is!’
In looking at The Time Quartet, Naomi has a confession to make: ‘As far as I am concerned, Madeleine L’Engle’s books should be required reading in all schools, as they open doors — not only in the imagination, but also in the academics, math and science especially. These wonderful tales could inspire the next Einstein to take the proper courses and feed his mind. I enjoyed the journeys that Mrs. L’Engle’s works took me on, and yet, I am saddened by the fact that I never read them as a child. I will rectify this mistake by introducing my own children to them posthaste!’
Steven Brust, a musician himself, brings us, in collaboration with Megan Lindholm, The Gypsy, which — well, as Robert puts it: ‘There are three brothers who have become separated. They are the Raven, the Owl, and the Dove. Or perhaps they are Raymond, Daniel, and Charlie. They are probably Baroly, Hollo, and Csucskari. One plays the fiddle, one plays tambourine, and one has a knife with a purpose.’ There’s a lot more to it, of course, so check it out.
He next came up with a series that is quintessential space opera, with a twist: C. J. Cherryh’s The Chanur Saga, including Chanur’s Homecoming, and the sequel, Chanur’s Legacy: ‘C. J. Cherryh’s The Chanur Saga is an almost-omnibus edition of her tetralogy about Pyanfar Chanur and her ship, the interstellar trader The Pride of Chanur. Because of length, the “omnibus” volume contains the first three in the series . . . , and one would be well-advised to be sure that Chanur’s Homecoming, issued separately, is within easy reach, lest one be left hanging off a cliff.’
Warner leads off with this novel: ‘A Psalm for the Wild-Built is a wonderfup read, and Becky Chambers a treasure for giving it to us. It will keep a reader comfortable, give them a nice warm feeling and something to think upon. This little volume is heartily recommended, and the fact it is likely to continue as a series represents a rare bright spot in a genre so often dim.’
Next he says ‘Overall Marjorie Liu’s The Tanglewood Palace is a nice collection, and features excellent stories by an author who knows her craft well. It is of course easy to recommend to fans of her work; however it can be heartily recommended to those with only a vague curiosity about her. Stories in this volume evoke everyone from William Goldman to Tanya Huff, from Hayao Miyazaki to Kevin Smith, and do so with almost poetic ease.’
Up next for him is a short story collection: ‘O Henry’s 101 Stories is the Library of America’s volume collecting works by that American master of the short story. Included are many of the man’s most famous tales, such as “Gift of the Magi” and “The Ransom of Red Chief”. It also includes many lesser known works.’
Finally he looks at a book that’s a little bit mystery, a little bit thriller, and a bit of police procedural, too. ‘Deep Into the Dark is P.J. Tracy’s first volume in a new series following LAPD detective Margaret Nolan. It is more on the thriller side of the equation than the traditional mystery, with a quick moving plot and a cast of colorful characters.’
Denise dips into a funky offering from Terrapin Beer Company: Dancing Gummy Beer Hemp Cherry Berliner Weisse. If that’s got you thinking of music and…edibles…you’re not alone. ‘This beer is A Lot, y’all. Hemp + cherries + Weißbier? Deeeeeam. Get ready, as that hemp comes straight at you as soon as you pop the top. I immediately wanted to turn on some Grateful Dead and change into my tie-dye.’
Many years ago Jennifer decided to throw a pig roast. The most helpful online sources for a pig roast in the upper Midwest climate suggested that, “if you see what looks like a bunch of drunks standing around a trash fire by the side of the road, it’s a pig roast, you’re invited, pull over. As long as you bring your own liquor.” Another fine source, who does it not the way Jennifer does, is David Whitfield at Mississippi State University .
To do it the way Jennifer and her hubby do it, look here. It’s surprisingly easy, once you have all the gear, the pig, and seventy-five close friends who bring their own beer.
Kage says ‘With The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, alas, the malign gods were paying attention and behaving not unlike Terry Pratchett’s Auditors, practically warping time and space to mess with Terry Gilliam. They failed to ruin the film — Munchausen is magnificent, and a fitting conclusion to the Trilogy of the Imagination — but they ruined everything they could, to such an extent that Munchausen is unfairly and incorrectly called one of the most expensive disasters in cinema history.’
She was, as many of you know author of The Company series featuring time traveling cyborg immortals who loved chocolate, so it’s no wonder she liked this film: ‘Blessed with a cast that included Sir Ralph Richardson as the Supreme Being, David Warner as Evil, and Sean Connery as King Agamemnon (and a fireman), Time Bandits is a classic magical adventure story in the mold of E. Nesbit’s books, but with an updated edge and a sharper sense of humor. Unlike most candy-coated parables handed out to kids, it tells no lies and ends in a brutal and surprisingly exhilarating way.’
April has a look at the opening salvo in a not-run-of-the-mill graphic novel series, The Umbrella Academy: Apocalypse Suite: ‘Part steam punk, part superhero comic and all attitude, Umbrella Academy is the brainchild of rock front man Gerard Way (My Chemical Romance). The titular “academy” is actually a group of oddly powered kids, raised by an eccentric space alien masquerading as an entrepreneur known for his work with chimpanzees.’
Robert follows up with his take on the second volume, The Umbrella Academy: Dallas: ‘The story is rather fragmented, but does draw together into a coherent narrative focusing on the assassination of JFK — eventually. But first there’s a dog race (Number 5 loses heavily), a trip back to 1963, a short interlude in Heaven, and a stint in Vietnam before everyone winds up where they’re supposed to be.’
‘I remember David Bromberg from years ago,’ David says. ‘He wrote a song with George Harrison, he played guitar for Bob Dylan, the Eagles, Ringo Starr, Willie Nelson and the Grateful Dead. In memory he was one of those flash acoustic guitar players, but a pretty lousy singer.’ So what did he think of the archival release by the David Bromberg Quartet of Live, New York City 1982?
Gary has a look at Treasure of Love from The Flatlanders, three fellas who get together about once a decade to record a new album. ‘This is Texas country music done right. Actually the album is pretty much a showcase of the subgenre, from Tex Ritter and Ernest Tubb to Townes Van Zandt and Mickey Newbury, and some Texas style takes on some musicians from elsewhere, like Leon Russell (who grew up next door in Oklahoma), Johnny Cash, George Jones, one Robert Dylan (honest, that’s how he’s credited), and New York native country-folk singer Paul Siebel.’
Gary was smitten by a new release from Smithsonian Folkways, Joseph Spence’s Encore: Unheard Recordings of Bahamian Guitar and Singing. ‘Island music, folk music, gospel, a bit of the blues and more, Joseph Spence rolled them all into his utterly unique music. It’s otherworldly yet accessible. I promise you, you won’t hear anything else like Joseph Spence’s Encore this year.’
Gary reviews The Indian Bansuri, a recording by Pandit Ronu Majumdar, a globally renowned, Grammy nominated, multiple award winning player of the bansuri flute of Hindustani classical music. ‘I truly can’t write knowledgeably about Hindustani music, but I’m a fan and know what I like. And I like Ronu Majumdar’s The Indian Bansuri very much indeed.’
Gary’s been feeling a bit nostalgic, so he penned this review of Gordon Lightfoot’s Don Quixote, which he says has been one of his favorites since it came out in 1972. ‘I probably listened to it nearly exclusively for several weeks, and to this day as we near its 50th anniversary I can still sing along with every song and even sing most of them without the record going. It’s one of the classic albums of the era that I play most often even today.’
Michael found a couple of 2008 releases from Fairport Convention – Live At Cropredy ’08 and Fame and Glory – were revelatory of the band’s prowess at that point in time. ‘Taken together, both albums show a couple of important aspects to the current Fairport Convention. They salute their past music and members on the Cropredy CD, and rediscover some long lost highlights from their previous repertoire, adjusted easily to fit the band as it is now. On Fame and Glory, they show how they can adapt to the work of other composers as well.’
Mike had mixed feelings about Solas’s For Love And Laughter. After greatly enjoying the opening reel set, he says: ‘This invigorating four minutes will leave you on the edge of your seat with anticipation of the roller-coaster ride that is to follow. And that was the problem for me — the roller coaster has a tendency to come off the tracks on a number of occasions after this opening number.’
Peter has good words to say about Irish guitarist Daithi Sproule’s The Crow In The Sun. ‘If the sound of an acoustic guitar beautifully played turns you on, then this is the album for you. Daithi Sproule is a superb artist and has a style of playing that would leave other lesser guitarists (including me) in awe.’
Robert takes us on another adventure at Chicago’s Field Museum — and quite an adventure it is, as we find ourselves Traveling the pacific: ‘The Pacific Ocean is the largest body of water on the planet, at its widest stretching about 11,000 miles across — almost half the diameter of the earth. This is just one of the fun facts that lead into the Field Museum’s exhibit “Traveling the Pacific”.’
I’ll show you out you with yet more Penguin Cafe Music, to wit ‘Numbers 1 – 4’ recorded at the Glastonbury Festival near Summer Solstice twenty-seven years ago.