Lord of Light

1857988205-01-_sx450_sy635_sclzzzzzzz_Lord of Light by Roger Zelazny
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

The hope of a prosperous future of human colonists on an alien world who for generations have believed they were looked out for and ruled over by the gods, is one named—among other things—Sam. Lord of Light by Roger Zelazny follows the struggle of one individual to throw off the tyrannical rulers of a colonized world posing as Hindu deities that he’s known for years and the strange allies he makes along the way.

The deathgod and technological mastermind Yama finds the soul of Sam from the ionosphere of the colonized planet that remnants from Earth settled centuries before. Sam has through numerous names and plans slowly undermined the rule of ‘Heaven’, those crewmembers who over the centuries have fought the indigenous lifeforms of the world to make a place for man and then ruling them as gods as they used genetic manipulation and technology to gain powers. Though not originally opposed to his fellow crewmembers, their sudden radical shift from benevolence to tyranny makes him rebel. Through the years, Sam becomes the Buddha and as a way to undermine the hope of rebirth, then he unleashes the Rakasha that he had bound through his powers, then when given the opportunity he spreads his message in the Celestial City of the gods before being “killed”, then after stealing a body from another god about to be reincarnated he kills two high leaders then leads an allied army to battle the gods in which he loses and his soul is sent to the ionosphere. After his return Sam leads another army, this time in league with the gods to face an insane crewmember with a zombie army that ultimately leads to Sam’s goal of the colonists allowed to determine their own fates.

Zelazny’s story explored some really big ideas of technology, politics, and religion throughout the book that intertwined with one another as the narrative progressed to build the world. Yet at many times the world wasn’t built enough and leads confusion at important parts of the story that hurt the overall quality of the book. While Sam and a few characters are developed, many others really aren’t which hurts the overall quality of the book as well. But the biggest personal frustration was that the two big battles of the book aren’t impressive as the language wanted to give the impression of, it was a letdown after the long buildup of Sam’s plan. These three issues are both good and bad for the book, which makes me feel that if this book had been longer to develop more of the characters, the description of the technology, and more battle details.

Lord of Light is based on the imaginative idea of human colony being ruled by fellow humans who pose as Hindu deities and a man who decides to let the colonist develop on their own. Roger Zelazny’s writing style isn’t perfect and while I have problems with the book, if I had choice to reread the book.

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Final Conquest

0886778239-01-_sx450_sy635_sclzzzzzzz_Final Conquest by Dennis M. Kiernan
My rating: 2 out of 5 stars

Relating the final days of Genghis Khan through the eyes of a scribe, Final Conquest relates how the conqueror and his Mongol army find themselves traveling in a strange land under strange skies before scouts find a city. After sending contingents to begin battle that never return, the Khan and the scribe ride to find his men just sitting around when a mysterious princess invites the conqueror to destroy the city and then goes with her into it. The scribe doesn’t know how long he waited but the Khan returns in the company of three spirits and looks like he has been weeping. After returning to the army, they journey away from the city and find themselves back in familiar territory but the Khan’s spirit seems broken and dies soon after.

A short piece of only 6 pages, this story just felt off to me and frankly I was glad it was short because if it had been longer my rating would have continued in a downward direction.

The Theft of Destiny

0886778239-01-_sx450_sy635_sclzzzzzzz_The Theft of Destiny by Josepha Sherman
My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

A retelling of a Mesopotamian myth, the story begins with chief god Enlil standing upon his mountain watching has his children returning home with some strange beast (the description make it out to be a griffin). The beast represents itself to Enlil, calling itself Anzu and asking to serve Enlil. After consulting Tablets of Destiny and not seeing Anzu within them, Enlil asks Anzu to guard the room the Tablets are housed in. Anzu accepts but as the point-of-view switches, we learn that Anzu believes Enlil is a condescending jerk and when he goes to take a bath Anzu steals the Tablets. We switch to the POV of Ninurta who snuck into the council of the gods who are debating what to do then many counsel patience, he decides in his young cocky godhood to do something since the adults won’t. Taking his bow and quiver of arrows, he attempts to sneak up on Anzu but the beast wasn’t fooled. Anzu blocks Ninurta’s arrows and mocks him as he hides to revise his strategy which is to take the older god’s advice, patience, as he realizes that Anzu is mad. Ninurta then forces Anzu to keep on using the Tablets’ power before exhausting himself enough that he is too slow for Ninurta’s last arrow.

Though a short 8 pages, a lot is packed into the story but the quality of writing just keeps the momentum going until you’re stocked that the story is over.

Why There Are White Tigers

0886778239-01-_sx450_sy635_sclzzzzzzz_Why There Are White Tigers by Jane M. Lindskold
My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

P’an Ku hatches from the Cosmic Egg as he grows separating the two halves of the shell into Heaven and Earth, he decides that assistance is needed to organize the divide order from Chaos. P’an Ku creates Dragon, Phoenix, Chi’lin, Tortoise, and Tiger then orders them to explore everything, return, and tell him what is happening. After realizing that only three of the five have wings, he attempts to remedy that only to accidently give Tortoise Snake for a tail and Tiger wishes not to be changed. As time passes, Tiger is last to every meeting and soon P’an Ku starts dividing up honors to his five assistants only Tiger is increasingly left out. Getting ambitious Tiger tricks Chi’lin and traps her before heading off to meet with P’an Ku during which he gets many honors but Tortoise and Snake are suspicious and discover Tiger’s ruse. Tiger submits to P’an Ku who decides to place Chi’lin above the others and be his messenger, but changes Tiger’s coat from yellow & black to white & black as a reminder to curb his ambition.

Based on the fragmentary stories of the Chinese, or East Asian, creation mythology, fit the anthology’s Legends moniker while also being a good beginning piece to the collection.

On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (James Bond #6)

OHMSSOn Her Majesty’s Secret Service
My rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

The dual announcements that Sean Connery would retire from the role of James Bond and that the franchise would continue brought speculation as to who would play 007 in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.  The film based on the tenth novel written by Ian Fleming, the most faithful of any adaptation in the franchise, is George Lazerby’s sole outing as the famous British agent.

James Bond saves a woman, later identified as Contessa Teresa “Tracy” di Vicenzo, from committing suicide by drowning off the coast of Portugal then later meets in a casino. Through a series of fights and kidnappings with bodyguards sent by her father, Bond learns Tracy is the only daughter of Marc-Ange Draco head of a European crime syndicate. In exchange for romancing Tracy, Bond asks Draco to find out where Ernst Stavro Blofeld is. After returning to London and having an argument with M, Bond travels to Portugal and romances Tracy then later learns through Draco to investigate a law firm in Bern, Switzerland. Bond finds out that Blofeld is looking to claim a noble title and corresponding with a member of the College of Arms, Sir Hilary Bray. Posing as Bray, Bond infiltrates Blofeld allergy research clinic in Switzerland where he is brainwashing young woman to be bacteriological warfare carries throughout the world. Bond, as Bray, attempts to persuade Blofeld to leave the country only to be discovered as an imposter which results in a ski chase and leading to Bond finding Tracy. After a car chase results in a few hours respite, Bond proposes to Tracy who accepts. The next morning as the chase ensues once again on skis; Blofeld sets off an avalanche and captures Tracy while Bond is briefly buried. Hearing from London, Bond learns that Blofeld is prepared to hold the world ransom and that it would be paid and directly orders him not to interfere. Bond then enlists his future father-in-law to mount a rescue attempt of Tracy and destroy Blofeld’s facility. After successfully rescuing Tracy, Bond chases Blofeld via bobsleigh until the SPECTRE mastermind is snared in a tree branch injuring his next. The film ends with the new Mr. and Mrs. Bond leaving their wedding and while stopped on the side of the road to remove flowers from their car, Blofeld drive by and kill Tracy in a hail of bullets with the film ending with a distraught Bond cradling Tracy in his arms.

From the beginning of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service there were two arcs of the plot, Bond romancing Tracy and Bond continuing his pursuit of Blofeld from You Only Live Twice, which were both independent and interwoven creating well-crafted story. With a new actor playing the main, producers wanted a film with plot over gadgetry to highlight this was the same character even with a new face. However this created a plot hole with the Bond-as-Bray infiltration of Blofeld’s clinic as while Blofeld had had plastic surgery, the film had gone to great lengths with references early in the film that the James Bond on screen was also the same in the previous five films which meant Blofeld should have instantly recognized Bond. Along with a new face as Bond and a return to plot, the stale formulas were either scrapped or toned down even in an attempt to let the new main man show his chops. George Lazerby’s sole outing as James Bond is very good, his portrayal was not perfect by any means especially in some of the more action and confrontational scenes but when it came to the love story with Tracy and the emotional ending he was excellent and better than Connery would have been. Diana Rigg’s Tracy is one of—if not—the best women in the franchise given the era when the film was produced and the actress portraying her. Telly Savalas’ Blofeld was a major improvement from the portrayal by Donald Pleasence in the previous film and frankly the Savalas Blofeld is to me is one of the best Bond villains.

On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is the best film in the Bond franchise, while Goldfinger might be more iconic, Lazerby’s sole installment is slightly better. While it would have been interesting to see Lazerby’s continued portrayal of James Bond, his dissatisfaction over the film and later pay would result in the return for one last go around for the man who made the character famous.

James Bond

Game Plan

0140369708-01-_sx450_sy635_sclzzzzzzz_Game Plan by Thomas J. Dygard
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

The Barton High Tigers’ head coach is injured and everyone is worried who’ll be the coach for Friday’s upcoming game, enter the student manager. Game Plan by Thomas J. Dygard follows Beano Hatton as he is propelled from nobody student manager to acting coach with all the pressures of school work and getting players to follow his lead, all while figuring out how to actually coach and prepare for a game.

Except for the first chapter, the narrative follows Beano Hatton beginning for being called to the principal’s office for the first time in his life—though not the last he’d have that week—and being asked to coach the Tigers football team against rivals Carterville. Except for telling his best friend Danny to cover for him as student manager, Beano keeps quiet until the Principal gives the team the news and hands it over to Beano. What follows is an awkward, stressful week as Beano figures out how Coach Pritchard scouts and makes up game plans while at the same time attempting to get the team to follow his lead, easier said than done with the star quarterback having an issue with him. But once Friday night comes and the ball is kicked, Beano has to manage the game.

From kickoff to the final whistle, Dygard writes a convincing flow of a football game which after the narrative build-up before and through the game of Beano making coaching decisions makes for a thrilling last third of the book. The first two-thirds of the book reads like a made-for-television young adult movie, but actually good. Though some of Dygard’s dialogue and words choices are a little off, they would be far superior to what one would hear and see on the aforementioned movie. The only other fault would be Dygard basically not having Coach Pritchard not have any notes on upcoming opponents which sounds far-fetched even for a little town high school coach with a staff of one.

Game Plan is one of those young adult sports books that is simply a good read that can be done in a day because it draws you in and frankly is nearly perfect for a book of its genre. Thomas J. Dygard hits all the right narrative keys to make this book keep the reader interested in how a nobody student manages to gain enough confidence of the football team to lead them through the last game of the season.

Tournament Upstart

ccbf31666864d71596e2b687177444341587343Tournament Upstart by Thomas J. Dygard
My rating: 2.5 of 5 stars

A small-town basketball team is playing against teams from the big cities looking to shock the state of Arkansas. Tournament Upstart by Thomas J. Dygard follows a little Class B team that’s decided to play against the big boys of Class A for the state championship, unfortunately not only do they have those teams to contend with but also their own internal struggles.

Taken from the perspective of their 23-year old rookie coach Floyd Bentley, the Cedar Grove Falcons arrive at Talbott State University trying not to be overawed by the big arena or facing the defending state champions in the quarterfinals. But after their upset victory, season-long tensions among the players boil up to the surface after Floyd’s inexperience with such a big event occurs. Over the next two days, Floyd attempts to get everyone back on the same page on the team even as they achieve another upset and then battle for the state championship that comes down to the final shot.

While the game action is well written, the basic set up at the beginning of the book—primarily how a team could go up a Class and the tournament still have the correct amount of teams—quickly raised questions followed closely by Floyd’s “mistake” which didn’t make much sense if you looked hard at it. The internal divisions were not bad, but they did strain the narrative somewhat.

Overall Tournament Upstart had a good premise but the young adult narrative quickly falls apart if looked at too closely. It’s not bad, but I’ve read other of Dygard’s work that I find better.