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.

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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.

Edgar Allan Poe (Part XV)

PoeEureka: A Prose Poem
My rating: 0.5 out of 5 stars

An essay on, well I’m not really sure to be honest and that was the first issue. Poe reused his “Mellonta Tauta” piece at the beginning of the essay and then went from there using or making up scientific information on a piece entitled “A Prose Poem” that had no poetry and might have been an attempt at humor that unfortunately was too serious for that.

 

The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket
My rating: 2 out of 5 stars

Poe’s only novel was a bit of this and a bit of that, namely an adventure on the sea and exploring unknown regions. Think of this book as a “dime novel” sorta feel with the American hero smuggled on his friend’s ship only for said ship to have a mutiny then a counter mutiny complicated by the ship being hit by storms then slowly drifting and sinking before Arthur and one fellow sailor are picked up by a passing ship then begin exploring the Southern Seas and finding habitable lands close to the South Pole. Obviously then story trends towards quasi-fantasy today, but as an very old school adventure tale is as passable, but ended abruptly when Pym (whom Poe was writing for) dies with the manuscript incomplete.

Edgar Allan Poe (Part XIV)

PoeThe Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar
My rating: 2 out of 5 stars

Mesmerism is once again the focus as well as the transition from life to death, the narrator is a practitioner of the mesmerism and the titular character is the dying man who is mesmerized on the edge of death and stays like that for seven months before being taken out and his body decays rapidly.

The Sphinx
My rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Every once and a while Poe springs a surprise by thinking he’s going to do down the same path with the only difference being the scenery when he twists things just at the end to make you enjoy the story though wishing he hadn’t waited until the end. The narrator’s eyes play tricks on him and makes him believe he’s going insane until his friend sets him straight.

The Cask of Amontillado
My rating: 5 out of 5 stars

This revenge classic is one of the highlights of the book, hardly any meandering for the narrator, just a plain straightforward story of a man getting revenge and never regretting it.

The Domain of Arnheim
My rating: 2 out of 5 stars

This is a piece on a garden and the wonder of nature, even if it is created by man, but the beginning is bogged down by a biography of the narrator’s friend who shaped it. If it had been a straight piece and a fantastical garden I would have enjoyed it more.

Mellonta Tauta
My rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars

A journal written a 1000 years in the future describes the person’s view of their present and what they think of the past, overall a nice little piece.

Landor’s Cottage
My rating: 1 out of 5 stars

A “sequel” to The Domain of Arnheim, frankly it was over the top and made me glad to see the end.

Hop-Frog
My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

A fat dwarf jester, the titular character, gets his revenge on a King and his council after he embarrasses the jester’s only friend, his countrywoman who is also a dwarf.

Von Kempelen and His Discovery
My rating: 3 out of 5 stars

The narrator spends over half the piece talking about other people instead of Von Kempelen, but once he does we learn that the discovery was the philosopher’s stone and that value of lead and silver have increased as gold’s has decreased.

“X-ing a Paragrab”
My rating: 1 out of 5 stars

A newspaper starts up in a town with the editor attack the editor the rival established paper, who then retorts back. The new editor then works to make an excellent comeback but somehow the letter O is missing from the press and X is inserted instead making the comeback unintelligible. The public reaction is anger and the new editor is gone. All I can say is this was supposed to be funny, it wasn’t.

Edgar Allan Poe (Part XIII)

PoeThe Literary Life of Thingum Bob, Esq.
My rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars

An “autobiographical” account by Mr. Bob about how he began his literary career, which is basically Poe satirizing the American literary landscape of his time.

The Thousand-and-Second Tale of Scheherazade
My rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars

After her husband does away with his law about killing his wives, Scheherazade begins telling the further adventures of Sinbad by describing things around the (then) modern world but the sultan can’t believe what he’s hearing and decides to kill her.  Honestly when you start reading, you know how Poe is going to end the story but the Sinbad tale is pretty well crafted.

Some Words with a Mummy
My rating: 2 out of 5 stars

A narrator gets a message from his friend that he is going to unwrap a mummy; the narrator accounts their progress when they decide to use a battery on him only it wakes him up. The mummy then proceeds to have a Q&A about the past and the present with the four men who unwrapped him.

The Power of Words
My rating: 0.5 out of 5 stars

Another afterlife dialogue, this time about God and creation, the few words about this the better.

The Imp of the Perverse
My rating: 1 out of 5 stars

A long introduction about phrenology before the narrator details killing someone and how it didn’t bother him until it does and he screams out his confession on a crowded street.

Edgar Allan Poe (Part XII)

PoeThe System of Doctor Tarr and Professor Fether
My rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars

A man visits a famed private insane asylum to learn about its “soothing system” from the asylum’s founder and director, but it turns out a new system is in place because the inmates (including the founder who went insane) have taken over the asylum. Although it was pretty obvious as the story went along that the inmates had taken over, it was somewhat humorous.

 

Mesmeric Revelation
My rating: 1 out of 5 stars

A conversation between a doctor and his mesmerized patient in which “the big questions about life, the universe, and everything else” are asked and given philosophical answers; couldn’t tell if it was a satire of the claims of mesmerism or a support, either way wasn’t impressed.

“Thou Art the Man”
My rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

A wealthy citizen of Rattlesborough disappears and his neighbor leads the investigation into his death which leads to the conviction of the man’s nephew who was thought about to be disinherited by his missing uncle. But the narrator of the story figured out something was wrong and investigate on his own, find the deceased man’s body down the neighbor’s well and springs a trap on the murderous fraud.

The Balloon-Hoax
My rating: 2.5 out 5 stars

An account of a crossing of the Atlantic by balloon, although obviously a fake it was a nice little story with made up scientific facts and such.

The Angel of the Odd
My rating: 2 out of 5 stars

A well-read businessman comes across an article about a man dying a odd way making him upset about the ridiculousness of newspapermen, which upsets the titular being that causes odd things to happen to people. The man insults the entity and then has a series of odd and humiliating incidents before apologizing to the entity to find relief. If the Angel of the Odd hadn’t been written with a heavy German accent making for slow reading, this would have been rated higher.