Mixed Magics

Being a completist, I had to include the four Chrestomanci short stories in my reread of the series by Diana Wynne Jones.  Fortunately, they’re conveniently gathered together in one book, Mixed Magics.  All four stories are excellent fun and well-worth the read!

“Warlock at the Wheel” – This story follows directly on Charmed Life, focusing on a very minor character from that novel.  The Willing Warlock comes off very badly in a confrontation with Chrestomanci, and decides that the answer is to travel to another world.  All seems to go according to plan–until the car he steals in this new world turns out to have an enormous dog and a very demanding child in the backseat.  Soon, the hapless Warlock is being bullied by the dog, the child, and even the car.

This is a funny little story that is definitely best read immediately after Charmed Life.  Personally, I would have had trouble making the connections otherwise!  The Warlock is a great character who intends to be villainous, but is rather too woebegone and put-upon to be very successful…

“The Sage of Theare” – In the very well-ordered world of Theare, the gods are horrified by a prophecy regarding the Sage of Dissolution.  They try to get rid of the recently-born Sage by sending him to another world, but Chrestomanci and company return him to his proper place.  When the Sage grows up, unaware of his destiny, Dissolution (and serious timeline muddling) are in store.

I can’t think too hard about this one, because it makes my head hurt.  There’s a lot of “wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey” business going on, with events happening in reverse and the Sage on the hunt for himself…yeah, don’t ask, just read it!  Chrestomanci only has a small role, but all the same, his arrival at the Court of the Gods in his dressing gown is one of his best moments ever!

In terms of the larger timeline, I haven’t the slightest idea where this fits in among the others, as there isn’t much to place it in time!

“Stealer of Souls” – This story, on the other hand, belongs directly after Magicians of Caprona.  It’s the most Chrestomanci and Co. focused.  Cat (of Charmed Life) is deeply displeased by the arrival at Chrestomanci Castle of Tonino (of Magicians of Caprona), but they have to work together when they run afoul of a nasty magician intent on stealing souls.

I enjoyed seeing Cat again, and seeing Tonino from an outside perspective, after mostly being in his point of view in his book.  There are also some nice ties to The Lives of Christopher Chant, with a few of those characters returning.  And besides that, there’s a wonderfully sinister plot afoot, and some excellent mayhem and humor.

“Carol Oneir’s Hundredth Dream” – Carol possesses the wonderful ability to not only control her dreams, but to bottle, syndicate and sell them.  When she finds herself unable to dream her one-hundredth dream, her parents take her off to meet with Chrestomanci, who packed up his family after the previous short story for a vacation.  We follow Carol into her dream world, where we learn she has several principle characters, and they’ve gone on strike.

I love the whole concept of this one.  The idea of bottling dreams just fascinates me.  As a writer, I’m also intrigued by Carol’s struggles.  Essentially, she has writer’s block!  Even if most writers don’t have characters who literally mutiny, I think we all know what that feels like…

This is a quick little read with only the four short stories, but it has all the charm of Jones’ novels, and offers some nice extra pieces about the characters.  It feels sort of like a bonus to the rest of the series!

Don’t forget, you can win a signed copy of my fairy tale retelling, The Wanderers! Just put #WanderersGiveAway in your comment to enter.

Author’s Site: http://www.dianawynnejones.com/

Other reviews:
Calmgrove
Aelia Reads
I am sad I couldn’t find many reviews…anyone else?

Buy it here: Mixed Magics

Laughing Over Book Titles

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday topic was an invitation to choose from any of their previous weeks’ topics.  Well, it’s not Tuesday…but I thought that was such a fun idea to come up with a bookish topic for a post anyway!  So today I thought I’d write about a few of my favorite “Hilarious Book Titles,” with a thank-you to Top Ten Tuesday for the idea.

1) How I Stole Johnny Depp’s Alien Girlfriend by Gary Ghislain – This is a surprisingly accurate title, as the book is about an alien who comes to Earth looking for her perfect match; she has a picture, and it looks a lot like Johnny Depp.  Unfortunately, the title was the best part of the book, as the “I” of the title keeps romantically pursuing the alien girl even though she’s horrible to him–but beautiful.

2) Beatnik Rutabagas from Beyond the Stars by Quentin Dodd – Titles don’t get much better than that.  The book was actually a little too random for my taste–though I guess I should have expected it!

3, 4 & 5) The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making and The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There and The Girl Who Soared Over Fairyland and Cut the Moon in Two by Catherynne M. Valente – There’s nothing all that funny about any one of these titles, but when you put them all together it takes on a tinge of absurdity.  Or when you try to say them all on one breath.

6) The Celery Stalks at Midnight by James Howe – Part of the Bunnicula series, this book is about a possible attack by evil vegetables.  So…the celery stalk is stalking.  !!!

7, 8 & 9) Harpy Thyme, Roc and a Hard Place and Swell Foop by Piers Anthony – These are funnier if I explain that they’re about magical thyme that slows time, a giant bird, and a really terrific foop.  I perhaps should also mention that the Xanth series, of which these are a part, is powered mostly by puns…

10) A Semester in the Life of a Garbage Bag by Gordon Korman – This is both funny and deeply philosophical.  Really.  It’s a metaphor, based on a commercial showing the strength of a garbage bag, valiantly trying to hold together while more and more pressure is pumped in.  Anyone who’s felt stressed and can’t take one more thing can relate.

I find #1 and #2 to be the funniest titles–but #10 is the funniest book!

Can you think of any particularly funny titles?  Share a title (and a laugh) in a comment!

Fiction Friday: The Wrath of Khan, Spoofed (Part Three)

My recent experience with The Great Khan Adventure reminded me of a long-ago spoof I wrote of The Wrath of KhanRead Part One here and Part Two here.  Today the adventure concludes.  I do not claim to own Star Trek, any of the characters, etc.

We pick up the story shortly after Kirk’s epic shrieking to the skies.  You know when I mean.

[Some time later; still down in the cave.  Kirk has recovered from his momentary burst of rage.  Everyone looks pretty depressed though.]

David: Well this is just great.  We’re going to be stuck here forever.

Kirk: We’ll see.  Meanwhile, are there any McDonalds down here?  I don’t know about anybody else, but I’m starving.

McCoy: How can you think of food right now?!

Kirk: [shrugs] I’m hungry.  And what good would fasting possibly do?

[McCoy rolls his eyes.]

Carol: There’s no hamburgers, but there’s enough food for a lifetime in the Genesis Cave.

Kirk: The Genesis Cave?

Carol: The cave we created with Genesis.

Kirk: I see where you got the name.

David: Come on, I’ll show you.

[David, Saavik, and McCoy exit, leaving Carol and Kirk.]

Kirk: Carol, can I talk to you?

Carol: If you must.

Kirk: Why didn’t you ever tell David I’m his father?

Audience: Wooow!  Kirk’s got a son!

Carol: You ran off and left me for your career.  I didn’t want him doing the same.

Kirk: Oh fine!  Turn the guilt around on me!

Carol: You deserve it.

Kirk: Ouch.

Carol: So how are you feeling?

Kirk: Old.  Remind me to book an appointment with my hairstylist when we get out of this.

[Soon enough, Kirk and Carol join the others in the Genesis cave.  The group spreads out a bit.  Saavik wishes to speak with Kirk.]

Saavik: Admiral, I would like to discuss the Kobayashi Maru with you.

Kirk: Are you still thinking about that, Cadet?

Saavik: That is not logical.  If I were not thinking about it, I would not be speaking of it.

McCoy: [laughs] After all these years of Spock, and she still got you on that one.

[Kirk just looks at him.]

McCoy: Well, you did walk into that, Jim.

Saavik: Admiral, how did you handle the Kobayashi Maru?

Kirk: Well, I…

McCoy: You are looking at the only person to ever beat the Kobayashi Maru.

Saavik: HOW? [coughs]  I mean…how?

Kirk: Well, I…hacked into the computer and changed the settings.

Saavik: [stunned] You cheated!

Kirk: I changed the rules.

Saavik: You cheated!

Kirk: I received a commendation for original thinking.

Saavik: You cheated!

Kirk: No need to belabor the point.  I think I’ve got it.

McCoy: No, Jim.  She has the points.  Two of them.

[They both give him a Look.]

McCoy: [shrugs] You couldn’t expect me to just pass that one up.

Kirk: Riiight.  So.  Anyone know what time it is?

Saavik: We have been here 2.000013 hours.  If you like, I can carry it out another 23 decimal place—

Kirk: That’s not necessary.

McCoy: [moans] Tell me I’m not stranded with her forever.

Kirk: You’re in luck, Bones.  None of us are stranded here!  I’m going to call Spock.

McCoy: And Spock is going to get us out of solid rock how?

Kirk: A transporter of course.

McCoy: Which won’t have power for two days.

Kirk: [superior] On the contrary.  Some regulation or other, I forget which, insists that we must communicate in code.  Therefore, hours like days means that two days actually meant two hours.

McCoy: And you don’t mention these things to me?

Kirk: Nope.  [flips out communicator] Kirk to Enterprise.  Multiple people to beam up.

[Everyone beams out.]

[Up on the ship, things are grim.  It seems that the Enterprise is partially repaired, but the Reliant is in even better shape.  Don’t ask how, considering the Enterprise has Scotty, but somehow this is true.  Kirk has the brilliant plan of entering the Mutara Nebula where, reasons unknown, the odds will be more even.  Battle ensues.  Kirk, of course, wins.  Unfortunately, there’s a slight hitch.  Khan, in his dying moments, successfully launches the Genesis torpedo at the Enterprise.  If it hits, it will create new life.  And destroy all the old life.  Unfortunately, there’s an even bigger hitch.  The Enterprise lost warp power, and can’t escape.]

Kirk: [into comm] Scotty, I need warp speed in three minutes, or we’re all dead!

Scotty: [over comm] Um, ye don’ mean that lit’rally, do ye?

Kirk: Scotty, I need warp power!

Scotty: I was afeared of that.  The radiation flooded the chamber, and I can’t repair it!

[Spock abruptly stands up from his station and leaves the bridge.  No one seems to notice.]

Kirk: Sulu, take us out on impulse!

Sulu: Aye, sir.

[David shakes his head.]

David: We’ll never make it.

Kirk: Don’t be a pessimist.  No son of mine has any business being a pessimist.

David: Actually, that depends on whether the characteristic is genetic or learned.  If pessimism is hereditary, you’re correct.  However, if pessimism is learned behavior then there is no connection whatsoever, considering I never saw you before today.

Kirk: [blinks] If he’s my son, why does he sound like Spock?

[Down in engineering, Spock enters.  Scotty, naturally, is there.  Also McCoy, even though he’s a doctor not an engineer and has no business being in Engineering.  Scotty seems out of it already.]

Spock: Where is the problem?

[McCoy points towards the chamber.]

McCoy: In there.  The radiation levels—

[Spock, taking gloves from Scotty, starts towards the radiation chamber.  McCoy, realizing what he’s doing, tries to hold him back.]

McCoy: Spock, no!

Spock: It is necessary.  Besides, I have gloves.

McCoy: The radiation!  You’ll be killed!

Spock: I expect so.  Even despite my gloves.

McCoy: I won’t let you!

[Spock pauses and regards McCoy.]

Spock: Perhaps you are right.

[McCoy relaxes, and Spock nerve-pinches him.  McCoy slumps towards the floor.]

Spock: If I survive this, I no doubt will never hear the end of this brief moment of illogic.  But right now I lack time to be logical.

[Then, cryptically, he puts his hand on McCoy’s forehead.]

Spock: Remember…

[Spock enters the chamber.]
[Meanwhile on the bridge, things are tense.]

Kirk: [solemn] I think this may be the end…

Sulu: Sir!  We have warp power!

Kirk: Get us out of here!  Fast!

[Sulu does, and they manage to escape the Genesis torpedo, which detonates behind them, into the Nebula.  This will, in a very short bit of time, create a new planet.  Everyone sighs with relief.]

Kirk: Looks like we survived certain death after all.  Again.  [taps a button]  Engineering.  [a moment passes] Engineering?

McCoy: [over comm] McCoy here…

[Somehow, McCoy has recovered from nerve-pinching much faster than one would expect.]

Kirk: Bones, tell Scotty he’s a miracle.

McCoy: [hollow sounding] It…wasn’t Scotty.

Kirk: Spock, then.

McCoy: Spock…he…  [urgent] Jim, you better get down here.

Kirk: In a minute, Bones, I have to—

McCoy: [near frantic] No, Jim!  Get down hereRun!

Kirk: [uncertain] Well…all right, I’ll—

McCoy: Stop talking!  Move!

[Kirk does.]

[In engineering; Kirk comes running in]

Kirk: All right, what’s the proble— [he sees Spock, still in the chamber] Spock!

[Kirk tries to rush into the chamber after him.  Scotty and McCoy restrain him.]

McCoy: Jim, no!

Scotty: It’s too late…the radiation…

Kirk: Damn the radiation!

McCoy: It’s too late to help him, Jim!

[Kirk goes to the glass side of the chamber.]

Kirk: Spock!  What will we do without you?  We’ll lose fans by the droves!

Spock: Don’t…worry.  My death…is logical.

Kirk: That doesn’t make me feel better!

Spock: Sometimes…the needs of the many…outweigh the needs…of the few.  Or the one…

Kirk: Spock!

Spock: Live long…and prosper…Jim…

[Spock dies.]

Audience: Nooooo!  Spock!  [sobs and wails]

[Kirk sits against the chamber wall, and looks blankly at Scotty and McCoy.]

Kirk: [stunned] He’s dead, Bones.

McCoy: I know…

[Spock’s funeral; the crew has gathered to pay their respects.  Kirk is giving the eulogy.]

Kirk: [choked up] And of all the souls I have encountered in my travels, his was the most…human.

[McCoy nudges him.]

McCoy: Uh, Jim?

Kirk: Not now, Bones.  This is very dramatic.

McCoy: But, Jim, about the speech—

Kirk: Please, Bones, you’re spoiling the drama in my speech.

McCoy: But, Jim, Spock wouldn’t like your panegyric!

Kirk: [blinks] My what?

McCoy: Eulogy!

Kirk: I beg your pardon, I think I know Spock, and I—

McCoy: After debating with the man for years, I can state for a fact that he wasn’t exactly proud of being human!  Every time he acted human he’d get embarrassed, and then wind up even more embarrassed because he’d been embarrassed, since embarrassment is a human emotion, and emotions made him embarrassed.

Kirk: Wait, wait, you lost me somewhere…

McCoy: He wouldn’t exactly want it said at his funeral that he had a very human soul.  Trust me.  When it comes to Spock’s soul, I should know.

Kirk: Well now, come to think of it…  Let’s rewind a bit here…

Kirk: [choked up] And of all the souls I have encountered in my travels, his was the most…Vulcan.

McCoy: [shakes head] No, Jim.  You’re still not hitting it.

Kirk: No?  Okay, here we go again…

Kirk: [choked up] And of all the souls I have encountered in my travels, I can say for sure he was…a great guy!

McCoy: [shrugs] It’ll work.

Kirk: Great!  Hit it, Scotty.

[Scotty plays “Amazing Grace” on his bagpipes.  In the background can be heard sobbing, some from the crew, mostly from the audience.]

Kirk: [saddened] Send his coffin into space.

McCoy: [muttering to himself] I have the strangest feeling this is a bad idea…  [shrugs] Well, no logical reason not to send the coffin off.  [He does not seem aware he has said anything odd.]

[The coffin is sent off.]

[Later, in Kirk’s quarters.  The door chimes.]

Kirk: Come in.

[David enters.]

Kirk: Oh.  Hello.

David: Hello.  I just wanted to tell you…after watching you fight Khan…I’m proud to be your son.

Kirk: [beams] Oh how wonderful!  A bonding moment!

[They hug.  An unidentified voice shrieks from above.]

Voice: [shrieks] Kodak moment!

[A hundred camera bulbs go off, blinding Kirk and David.]

[Later; the Enterprise is on its way back to Earth.  Kirk and McCoy are standing on the observation deck, looking out at the stars.]

Kirk: I still can’t believe he’s gone.  Life just won’t be the same without him.

McCoy: I know, Jim.  But all we can do is go on.

Kirk: [solemn] Yes.  It’s what Spock would have wanted.  And while this is the end of the movie, somehow I don’t think it’s the end of humanity’s journey.

Audience: [grumbling] It just better not be…

[The Genesis planet: The view pans over tropical plants and flowers.  Everywhere there is life.  The camera comes to rest on Spock’s coffin, in an obvious bit of foreshadowing.]

Audience: Okay, so when’s the next movie?

Fiction Friday: The Wrath of Khan, Spoofed (Part Two)

My recent experience with The Great Khan Adventure reminded me of a long-ago spoof I wrote of The Wrath of KhanRead Part One here.  Today the adventure continues.  I do not claim to own Star Trek, any of the characters, etc.

By the way, I’m much fonder of Kirk than this spoof occasionally implies…consider it lovingly poking fun!

[Upon the Enterprise‘s arrival at Regula I, all attempts to hail the scientists fail.  Kirk decides he should beam down, and wants to bring McCoy, for vague reasons.  Saavik insists on coming along.  They board the research center, only to find the scientists are dead.  They continue exploring.]

McCoy: Jim, I’m getting life signs!  In this large container over here.

Kirk: Let’s open it up!  Sure, it might be a trap laid by Khan, but we’ll just take that risk.

[They open the container, and find Chekov and Terrell.  They seem dazed.]

Chekov: Admiral…it was Khan

Kirk: Duh.  Are you all right?

Chekov: Do I look alright?!  We’ve been controlled by Khan, who took over our ship and stuck slugs in our ears!  We are not alright!

Kirk: Uh…I’m sorry.

Chekov: Thank you, I appreciate the thought.

Terrell: Khan…he was on Ceti Alpha V.

Kirk: Sure, I put him there, remember?

Terrell: But we beamed to Ceti Alpha VI, which was actually Ceti Alpha V, and no one knows why we couldn’t tell the difference between Ceti Alpha V and Ceti Alpha VI, but there he was.

Kirk: Wait, wait, Ceti Alpha V was really Ceti Alpha VI, and Khan migrated from Ceti Alpha IV to Ceti Alpha VII, and—

Terrell: No, no, Ceti Alpha III…no, Ceti Alpha VI, or was it Ceti Alpha V?  Maybe Ceti Alpha VII was really Ceti Alpha…oh, who cares, he was there!

Kirk: Got it.  Continue. Continue reading “Fiction Friday: The Wrath of Khan, Spoofed (Part Two)”

Heroic Journeys on (and Under) Discworld

Last Hero (1)I was feeling like some Terry Pratchett recently, and elected to read The Last Hero.  This one is described as “A Discworld Fable,” and is shorter than most of the other books–and it’s beautifully illustrated!

The story centers around Cohen the Barbarian and his friends, the greatest heroes Discworld ever knew…some sixty years ago.  They’ve grown old, and are decidedly unhappy about it.  They set out on the ultimate final quest, to the mountain-top home of the Discworld gods, with enough explosives to blow the mountain up–creating a chain reaction that will destroy all of Discworld.  Meanwhile in Ankh-Morpork, the wizards of Unseen University and Lord Vetinari assemble a team to stop Cohen, relying on the technical genius of Leonard of Quirm, who devises the first ever ship designed for flying outside the Disc.

The plot is a bit convoluted, with a lot of players, but suffice to say we get lots of satire of traditional hero stories, with some space travel satire thrown in.  And the real brilliance is that we get it all with Pratchett’s wonderfully hilarious characters and wit.

My favorite part may be all the excellent plays on hero story tropes, especially as we see them through Evil Harry.  He’s a Dark Lord Cohen and company know from way back, who joins forces with them here–warning them that of course he’ll have to double-cross them eventually, because that’s how things are done.  He’s also very proud that he found the stupidest henchmen possible (because Dark Lords always have stupid henchmen…) and takes comfort from the rule that the Dark Lord always escapes mysteriously at the end.

The best part, perhaps, is that Cohen and his friends all agree that Evil Harry knows the rules, and none of them can fathom the young people these days who don’t understand how things should be handled.

This is a fun one for Discworld fans, because we get a lot of regular characters putting in appearances.  Rincewind and Carrot go with Leonard on the journey, lots of wizards feature, and even Death gets a cameo.  He’s in the middle of trying to understand Schrodinger’s Cat, and never quite grasps the metaphor–but doesn’t approve of the whole business, as he doesn’t hold with cruelty to cats.

Last Hero (2)

This is also excellent just for the gorgeous illustrations.  They’re beautifully-drawn and frequent, throughout the whole book.  I do love a beautifully-illustrated book for grown-ups every now and then!

If you’re new to Discworld, the rule is always, “jump into the series wherever you feel inclined.”  Considering this one is short, covers a lot of major characters, and has gorgeous illustrations, it wouldn’t be a bad choice…

Author’s Site: http://www.terrypratchettbooks.com/

Other reviews:
Science Fiction and Fantasy Book Reviews
Losing It
Things Mean a Lot
Anyone else?

Buy it here: The Last Hero: A Discworld Fable