A Memory of Light, Part VIII

WOT 14Welcome everyone to Book 14 of The Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan and the final week of this read along.

This week, Liesel at Musings on Fantasia is our host and has cool non-spoilery fan art. Eivind, our WoT encyclopedia, can be found in the comments. Sue at Coffee, Cookies, & Chili Peppers  has in-depth answers.

I want to take a moment to thank everyone! First, Anya of On Starships & Dragonwings who kicked off this mad read along over 2 years ago. A big thanks to Liesel, Eivind, and Sue who kept is going! And a wee little thank you to all you silent stalkers out there. Here we are at the end of this 15 book (including the prequel) read along. It’s been a magnificent ride!

This week, we covered Chapter 38 to the END. Spoilers run rampant for this section and all previous books below!

1. Egwene speaks to Rand from beyond the grave and he has a hard time “letting go” of those who’ve died on the battlefield. What did you think of this part and it’s solution?

This was one of my favorite parts of the ending. Rand finally got it! He is not the only hero in this tale! I know others have been trying to tell him this for ages now. Sometimes it was frustrating to watch Rand feel like he had to carry all this on his shoulders and let no one help him. Then when he was suffering from all the deaths in the Last Battle, I kind of wanted to slap him. Of course, there will be deaths!

So it was great to see Egwene giving him this last message, watching him realize the truth, and then part of the self-imposed load being lifted from his shoulders.

2. There’s a new horn blower, and we see more of Brigitte, Noal, Artur Hawkwing, and others. Comment on what you liked of this section. What did you expect, not expect?

This was also awesome! I loved that Olver could call the Heroes of the Horn and the Noal was the one to step in and save him. It was also great, if a bit predictable, that Brigitte appeared and saved Elayne one more time. I am sure this helped Elayne get over her pain of losing her Warder and friend, not to mention preventing her belly from being cut open.

However, I do wish that the rules of the Horn had been explained a bit more by the end of the book. Everyone, including Mat, thought the Horn was tied to him. So was it his balefire death wierdness that severed that tie? Or his hanging by the Aelfinn? Or do you simply need to be somewhat pure of heart and in desperate need?

3. Lan lives, Alana dies, and Thom is successful at killing many members of the Black Ajah outside the pit. Questions? Comments? Happy dances?

I was totally emotionally prepared for Lan to be dead, just like he has been emotionally prepared to die for his entire life. That said, I was quite happy to see him live! Hooray!

I am glad that Alana let go of her Bond to Rand prior to dying. I have to wonder if Rand sent her off (how many books ago) in order to get caught and be used by the Dark One as a leash at this point. Rand must have put trust in her to release the Bond, if that is in fact why he sent her off.

Then again, since Alana forced the Bond onto him, he might have been a little distracted by her death, but not devastated.

Thom’s role, while perhaps not considered major, was still awesome. At the very first, as an Aes Sedai approached, and Thom put a knife in her, I had this horrible moment where I thought that just maybe Thom was a super secret Dark Friend, but was then immensely relieved that he was simply taking out Black Ajah and the like.

4. Androl impersonates Rand to trap the evil idiots, Grady opens a gateway to Hinderstap (dah!), and Logain breaks the seals. What was your favorite and why? (Feel free to comment on all.)

Androl is getting a lot of practice with his impersonations! And once again, we see that the uncoordinated efforts of the bad guys keep leading them to doom and despair! Mmaaahhhhwwaaaaa!

While it was interesting to glimpse Hinderstap again, I found Logain’s final actions to be the most interesting. Logain was definitely craving power and vengeance and it was nice for him to hold both within his sights, and then let it go. His actions to rescue and protect some noncombatants, and his subsequent realization that the Black Tower and Asha’men could become protectors, was excellent! I really like how his character arc ended.

5. Aviendha vs. Graendal. Aviendha loses her feet (ouch!), and kills Rhuarc. Ultimately Graendal’s compulsion backfires. What did you think of the final solution here?

Aviendha’s time as a fighter have most likely come to an end. At least she will be able to go on as a teacher of one kind or another. It was a little hard losing Rhuarc, mostly because I think he will kick himself for an eternity in the next life and the one after that for falling to Compulsion.

While we see Graendal’s Compulsion backfire and she becomes an adoring servant to Aviendha, I wonder what happens to her afterwards? Does Aviendha keep her around long enough to pick her brain? Does Nynaeve release Graendal from the Compulsion (while she is shielded) and then execute her?

6. Perrin takes out Lanfear and Slayer, and the worlds flicker. Meanwhile, the Wild Hunt comes to Thakandar and the spirits of dead wolves appear on the slopes. Um, discuss!

Wow! Just wow! Perrin took a real beating, and I didn’t expect him to play much more of a role in the final chapters of this book. So I was both delighted and a little worried to see Perrin back in play. Let me just say I was quite relieved that Perrin lived as I was worried he was Rand’s Red Shirt in this series.

Having so many wolves lost was a little heart rending, but we all knew that was coming books ago. They died well and accomplished much before the end.

7. Rand, Nynaeve, and Moiraine exploit the flaw in Callandor to trap Moridin. How well-thought-out was that? Are you surprised it worked?

OK, now please be kind, but I still don’t fully understand Callandor. For me, listening to the audiobook, things happen really fast sometimes and I don’t have the luxury of rereading a sentence or paragraph or page.

So, with that in mind, I am very glad that the trick worked. Obviously, for the ending, it was fairly important that it did work. On the other hand, I am pretty foggy on just what the big deal was, why Callnador was needed, and what role Moiraine played (other than looking intense and serious for the past several chapters).

8. What did you think of Rand’s final solution for the DO’s prison? Will it hold?

I liked how this was resolved. Last week, we saw Rand come to the conclusion that destroying the Dark One would not benefit the world, but instead create a world where folks were not truly themselves and couldn’t experience true free will.

So, of course he had to come up with a new solution and I liked what he came up with. As this is a world where the Wheel weaves as it wills, and there are no true endings or beginnings, I don’t expect it to hold forever. We will have another massive confrontation sooner or later.

9. Comment on some (or all) of the aftermath: our ta’veren heroes are ta’veren no longer, Ilturalde will rule, Tuon is pregnant, Moghedien survives…as a damane!!!, Faile lives, Cadsuane as Amyrlin, Rand vs. Moridin and the three women around the funeral pyre, and Loial’s writing makes an appearance. In the end, Rand doesn’t channel, but thinks his pipe is lit and it is. What does it all mean? What did you like/dislike? Was there anything unresolved you wanted to see? General thoughts, feelings, reactions. (This is your last chance to geek out! :D)

I think all 3 Ta’veren are very relieved to no longer be Ta’veren. Plus, Rand has to disappear now so it’s probably good that Mat and Perrin can’t track him with the rainbow sensory ties they use to have.

Ituralde has a good head on his shoulders, so I think things will go well with him leading.

Tuon is pregnant and threatening Mat’s life….again. I think he is amused and likes a woman who keeps him on his toes.

I had mixed feelings about Moghedien. Part of me really wants her dead, because alive she will eventually wreak havoc. Also, it’s obvious some of the Seanchan were scouring the done & dead battlefield for possible slaves to be collared while no one was really paying attention – against the agreements laid down by Tuon and Rand. Naughty Seanchan!

For Perrin’s sake, I was glad to see Faile still alive. I wouldn’t have mourned her passing, but I would have hated to see Perrin mourning for the rest of his life.

Cadsuane will make a decent Amyrlin. She has a wealth of knowledge, years, and hands-on experience. Hopefully she has learned some tact and won’t be such a bully.

It was awesome to see Loial lived and gets to go on to write his book – perhaps the very books we read!

And finally, Rand gets to do a body swap at the last minute. He gets to take over Moridin’s handsome and whole body and ride off into the sunset, with his Bonds in tact with his mini-harem. Um…..WTF? Did anyone else have a moment there? OK, we have seen for several books now that Moridin and Rand are somehow attached to each other. But this sudden leap to a whole body swap at the end…well, I didn’t feel it was necessary. I was OK with Rand dying because he was OK with making the ultimate sacrifice. Plus, he had already reproduced with Elayne and perhaps Min & Aviendha as well.

And, of course, I would have loved more info on how Demandred came to be in charge of an entire nations of Dark Friends. So I must (happily) run off to read the short story in the anthology Unfettered.

I would also like to know how Taim came to have the Seals. I know Eivind gave some very plausible ideas of how this came about. Still, I would have liked it explained in the narrative.

OK, now that I have picked apart the ending, over all I really enjoyed it. Yes, there was some death and tears, but we won! The world goes on and most of our heroes continue on with their lives. There will be more adventures!

Will the WoT world be opened up for other writers to write in? How about an HBO series based on the books? One can only hope.

A Memory of Light, Part VII

WOT 14Welcome everyone to Book 14 of The Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan and the next to final week of this read along.

This week, Eivind, our WoT encyclopedia, is the host and can be found in the comments. Liesel at Musings on Fantasia has cool non-spoilery fan art. Sue at Coffee, Cookies, & Chili Peppers  has in-depth answers.

This week, we covered Chapter 37, entitled ‘The Last Battle’. Spoilers run rampant for this section and all previous books below!

1.  What did you think of the structure?  That is, one huge chapter with no breathers.  Was it appropriate for the battle, or did you find the difference from before jarring?

I thought the structure worked. We got to see the battle from several view points and I never felt like I had battle fatigue. In fact, I am eager to see what the final week brings, because things are still happening!

2.  Tuon orchestrates a fight with Mat, and decides to return only after some careful deliberations.  Ice-cold gamble or foolhardy move by Mat?  Am I the only one who thinks the Seanchan have gotten away with very little fighting so far?

I was surprised that Tuon agreed to the fake (or semi-fake) argument as she can get stuck on what is appropriate for her station.

But then I was more surprised that she was actually contemplating not returning to the battle! Has she not been paying attention? Ugh! I wanted Min to give her a slap.

And yes, the Seanchan as a whole have not been as engaged in the Last Battle as everyone else. I hope Mat can change that. After all, they do have a sizable force made up of competent warriors and a solid command structure.

3.  Androl and Pevara spend much of the battle behind enemy lines to recover the seals, practicing telepathy and other fascinating effects.  Why not another lava trick?  Logain also challenge Demandred.  What do you think of his motivations?  Where will his glory come from?

I think it is great that Androl and Pevara are exploring this double bond and also building a solid friendship (and perhaps something more?). Maybe Androl isn’t capable of such a big trick unless he is the recipient of a circle of channelers? Still, it would be cool if he made tiny little gateways that shot out little lava streams. That would distract the bad guys, if nothing else.

I think Logain wants to do good, but his time in captivity has also made him want to lash out. It really does remind me of Rand shortly after he was released from the Aes Sedai and their box. I am not sure where his glory will come from. I had hoped that he would get to take out Taim, but we saw that he did not. Perhaps Mogedien or Padan Fain? They’re lurking around somewhere, right?

4.  In the meantime, Rand and the Dark One exchange visions for the future.  What do you think of all these?  Can Rand really kill the Dark One now?

This was unexpected, but I really liked it. A few weeks ago, I asked if the Dark One could be killed, because he/it was kind of like a force of nature or Elemental. Now that we have seen this exchange of visions, including one in which the Dark One and evil no longer exists, we see that life would not be balanced or complete. So, no, I think Rand will have to find a way to contain or minimize the Dark One.

5.  Some choose not to fight for various reasons.  What do you think of Ila’s thoughts on violence, now, at the Last Battle?  Did you expect the gai’shain to fight?  Any difference between them and the reluctant mercenaries from the prologue?

The forces of the Dark are not going to give quarter. They are not interested in taking captives, except maybe a select few. They are not interested in a swift and honorable defeat of the enemy and will then rule in relative peace and efficiency (like the Seanchan). No, the Trollocs want to kill you and then eat you. The Red Aiel are literally mad with blood lust. The Sharans will enslave at best, and torture and kill at worst. The elderly, the young, the weak, the inebriated will not be spared. Essentially, if the Dark wins and you are left alive, you will wish you were dead.

So, it’s silly to try healing Trollocs, or simply turning them free to run wild in a lightly populated place. I think the Aiel as a whole will understand if the gai’shain pick up arms and fight at this time. I am sure there can be a way found to ‘regain’ any honor lost in such an act. And, yes, I think there is a philosophical difference between the gai’shain and the reluctant mercenaries – honor versus coin. But in practicality, no. They all need to get armed and get busy.

6.  Faile and Co. make it to the battle, only to be betrayed by Aravine.  Do you think anyone other than Olver made it out (Faile, especially)?  What did you think of Bela’s heroic death?  Where does the Horn go from here?

Aravine! Argh! Dark friends pop up in such inconvenient places.

I am not sure if Faile made it out alive. She was horsed and uninjured when she lead off the Trollocs. But it is a messy battle field. Quite frankly, if Faile dies I will be sorry for Perrin’s loss but not particularly sad that Faile is gone.

Fuck! Bela! Man, that was hard. She was there from the beginning. She will be mourned.

I am not sure how Olver will get the Horn to Mat. Perhaps Mat will figure out somehow that Olver has the Horn and will borrow one of the Seanchan flying beasties, swoop down, pick up the boy, and then boy fly to glory blowing the Horn!

7.  Gawyn, Galad and Lan all decide to challenge Demandred.  Gawyn pays the ultimate price: foolish move, or a reasonable gamble to remove the most dangerous enemy on the field?  Galad tries to avenge him, and fails, only for Lan to do the deed and finally fulfill his series-long death wish.  What do you think of these events?

Demandred is definitely a bad ass, even if he is an arrogant ass. So I think we all saw it coming that Gawyn would attempt something foolish with his fighting skills and the Seachan assassin rings. However, I didn’t see him be quite this foolish and accomplishing nothing. He didn’t even wound Demandred nor take out some key commanders in Demandred’s army. I was surprised that there was such an empty death for Gawyn.

I thought it was interesting that Mat sent Galad a note and the necklace with the duplicate foxhead medallion. Mat actually does do a lot of thinking, but I guess he has to be under some pressure for it to manifest.

Lan has been looking for his death since before we met him. So I am not surprised that he found it on this battlefield (though we haven’t seen his head on a spike nor had Nynaeve feel his last breath yet – resurrection?).

8.  Egwene, having lost her warder and husband, slays M’Hael (WITH a sa’angreal) and then lays waste to the Sharans, and kills herself, Lews Therin style.  Did you expect Egwene to be the first out of the original crew?  Was her fate sealed already when Gawyn died?  What will her legacy be, as Amyrlin?  And what of this new weave—the Flame of Tar Valon?

I was not expecting Egwene to die at all, even with Gawyn’s death! This totally surprised me. Yet, I was OK with it. This is the Last Battle and I don’t think everyone is going to make it out alive. After all, we have several heroes in the series and sometimes heroes die spectacularly.

As to Egwene’s legacy, well I expect all these crystals she created in sealing cracks will become pretty valuable. Maybe even turned into angreals of some sort. Also, nearly all her words were recorded for some reason or another, so I think the aes sedai who are left will take greater heed of them.

I think this new weave, the Flame of Tar Valon, will be very, very hard to teach without turning oneself into a giant crystal pillar. It will be studied, as best it can be, and written about ad naseum. But I am not sure anyone will be able to duplicate it until the Wheel turns again and we have another Last Battle and the need is great.

9.  Elayne, having suffered huge losses for the whole battle, is taken by Mellar, threatening to cut her babies out.  What will come of this?  Is Birgitte now permanently dead, or is she just waiting on the other side for the Horn to blow?

OK, as incompetent as Elayne is, I don’t particularly want to see her dead through said incompetence. Sigh….who will save Elayne this time? Bryne is gone, Bashere too. Birgitte too. Maybe Mat will blow that Horn soon and Birgitte’s first act will be to save Elayne’s ass one more time.

And yes, I totally think Birgitte is waiting in the ethereal wings for the Horn to blow.

10. Anything else you feel I missed?  Ogier?  Dragons?  The beautiful Shendla?  Demandred’s approach to the battle?  All the minor deaths: Hurin, Mr. and Mrs. Bashere, Bryne and, dare I say Siuan?  Min’s spy-hunting?  Leilwin?

There was so much in this chapter! I am pretty sure Siuan and Bryne are gone. Min’s visions don’t lie and they did separate in order to get some things done. I was worried how Egwene would take the loss of one of her closest advisors (Siuan) but with Egwene’s death, that is no longer a concern.

If Faile lives, I am sure she will take the loss of her parents hard. Though they did pass in glory, so that will be celebrated. Faile is enough of a warrior to see that.

Egwene freed Leilwin from the Bond before doing her last act, right? So, I am sure Leilwin will mourn her in some way, but she won’t be crushed by it. Perhaps she and Bayle will go on to do some more good deeds.

Since the Seanchan aren’t doing too much at the moment, I guess Min has time to hunt for spies. I wouldn’t be surprised by how many she might uncover.

The Big Book of Genre Stories by Dale T. Phillips

PhillipsTheBigBookOfGenreStoriesWhere I Got It: Review copy via the author (thanks!)

Narrator: Fred Wolinsky

Publisher: Dale T. Phillips (2014)

Length: 10 hours 52 minutes

Author’s Page

This is a big book of stories, no question about that. Here, Dale T. Phillips has put together 30 tales ranging from horror to fantasy, from scifi to mystery. I quite enjoyed this collection (as you will see by the summaries below). Most of the tales had a little surprise or three for me, which was a delight. With a collection this big, all by 1 author, I always worry that the stories will become predictable. That was not the case with this collection.

My one criticism lies in the lack of female characters. The female characters come in a few flavors: simply referenced but no appearance (dead wives is a common theme) – 3; physical appearance but they have no speaking lines – 2; the ladies (or just one lady) do have a few lines, but they aren’t particularly important to the plot – 12; the ladies (or just 1 lady) make a difference and are integral to the plot – 7 speaking roles, 2 nonspeaking roles. 4 tales lacked women of any sort (unless you count a female moose, which would still leave 3 tales lacking women). It is obvious that the author knows how to write female character (basically, just write them like real people) and I wonder why he doesn’t do so more often.

Over all, an excellent collection of entertainment. Yes, I can totally love a book even if it lacks equality – kind of like real life and The Hobbit. Briefly, I want to gush a little about my favorite stories in this collection. Two of them are fantasy tales – Our New Queen and Froggy Went a Courting. I loved both of these because of the darker natures to the tales. And each is told from a single narrator explaining the situation, so it was very easy to follow. Oddly, each lacked proper names for the characters, which worked just perfectly for short stories. The Tree of Sorrows was also a favorite. It dealt with a heavy topic – suicide. In the end, the choice is still left up to the main character, but he is given knowledge that allows him to weigh his choice wisely. This tale, more than the others, shows the author’s insight into human nature.

I highly recommend this collection if you are into short story collections. The range of genres promises to keep you entertained and the collection as a whole is far from boring!

The Easiest Man to Kill – The narrator was in in WWI, Korean war, and then worked for the government. His daughter died and that starts the downhill decline for our narrator. He blames one man for the losses in his life and his experience in chemical labs lets him take his vengeance. I was surprised who he decided to blame! 4/5 stars

Bootleggers – Prohibition Era – Billy the Bootlegger is recruiting more muscle. He chooses Davie Donaldson, who knows how to work a boat. His first job is moving whiskey for a rich guy, Cane. But things get complicated when one of the rum runners starts an affair with cane’s wife. I found the ending a bit predictable and the dialogue was like something out of an old black and white gangster movie. 3/5 stars

Rooms For Tourists – Private Investigator Parker found body in parking lot by his car. Unfortunately, he had an altercation with the man earlier in the day (Sox fan versus Yankies fan). Parker looks like the main suspect, so he takes it upon himself to solve this mystery. I really enjoyed this character Parker and I have a secret hope that the author will write more stories starring him.  5/5 stars

Nighthawks – The story opens with a painting, Nighthawks, which features a diner with a  few people including the narrator. The narrator then takes us back in time and explains how those folks came to be in the diner. What follows is a tale of gangs and city government and a love affair.  4/5 stars.

The Mousetrap – Rory has been doing jobs for many years. He’s never been caught. In this tale, he picks the narrator (a safe cracker) for the latest job. Laurie gets them in to the place and then she tortures the house owner. This story had a lot of potential but the ending felt rushed and the dialogue was, once again, taken from a black and white gangster flick.  3/5 stars

Our New Queen – Told in a letter pleading for assistance, this tale is a Snow White fractured fairy tale. The twist to this tale was great and I liked the mix of fairy tale setting with a touch of the gruesome. This was one of my favorite stories in the collection! 6/5 stars

Blades and Butchery –  In the Land of Krankmor,  at the Pigsnout Inn, the portly giant Fat Bird and his skinny buddy Legay Louser are needing work. They are offered a job – recover the princess kidnapped by Count Lindberger. Princess had Jewish NY accent & fainted a lot. There was plenty of humor mixed in. 4/5 stars

Froggy Went a Courting – Told by the narrator (a mute sister). Her older sister is to be wed to the High Count ( nicknamed Froggie because of his appearance), but she is not happy and desires a third son from a family beneath their own. Little sis does her best to spoil the courting. This tale had a twisted ending that some might call happy and others tragic.  6/5 stars

The Little Guy – This is a retelling of the Rumpelstiltskin story. Our narrator is ‘the little guy’ who was born to a witch. He came out short and with a handful of magical abilities. The King locks a talented spinner in a tower full of straw and orders her to spin it into gold. She can’t do it, but the Little Guy can. If you are familiar with the story, then you can guess where the story goes from here. This is a more adult version (which I liked) but I kept wondering how the tale would be told from the woman’ point of view.   3/5 stars

Jakob and the Witch – Jacob went to market to sell a hen. On way the home, dark & cold, he finds a woman in the stocks. He shows her kindness. They chat about magic versus metal, and nature versus iron. I wanted to see more of Jakob’s adventures, which would hopefully involve the unnamed witch. 4/5 stars

Yesterday and Today – In a future where human life span has been extended, Corbin wanders a ruined city. Nearly everyone suffers from Prescen – a condition where Alzheimers afflicts a person no matter how young the body (as bodies can be replenished and rejuvenated). In his muddleness, he hopes to find his wife, Linda, once again. He helps others as he can. This story made me think a little of The Road by Cormac McCarthy because of its bleakness. 4/5 stars

God Save the Queen – Told in a series of news broadcasts, the reader learns that the world is slowly coming to an end via giant lobsters who are forced out of their normal waters by pollution. Fred Wolinsky, the narrator, did a ton of accents for this one. It was a fun and horrifying story. Made me think of the original radio broadcast concerning Martian invaders. 5/5 stars

Ruination Beach – Wanda, Kissy, Smiley, Burk, Randall, and the dog Fetch (plus the narrator) are all living on Ruination Beach in The After. They have caches of alcohol and pills that someone has to fetch daily. The world has ended and they spend each day trying to forget all the good things that are now gone. Narrator comes across a woman who doesn’t speak while fetching the daily party drugs & alcohol. This was another well made short story that got the idea of ‘bleakness’ across well. 4/5

Night of the Annoying Dead – Zombies happen, but they aren’t interested in eating brains. No, they just want to return to their normal lives Humorous piece about zombies being the slowest on the golf course and not much use at the office (with fingers falling off, etc.). 3/5 stars

Killer Angel – Avery Waxman is a detective and is called in to chat with a lady picked up in the rough part of town. She has no ID and claims to have come from the sky Her name is Pariah and and she tells Waxman that if she is harmed, then she carries something that will wipe out all of humanity. It is her job to test humanity. 5/5 stars

Roadside Attraction – Guy is driving through the desert, fleeing from some past tragedy, and comes across Mr. Kay’s diner and Jerome’s monster snake attraction He has a meal at the diner. Everything is ultra-perfect. Plus there are odd pictures in the hall. The 2 twin girls with white frilly dresses and black hair seem odd as well. Will Guy stop running? Will he decide to go on with his life? 4/5 stars

The Great Snipe Hunt – Great kid’s tale. Kids playing in summer – races, swimming, tea parties. Peach Pie, Angel Eye, Harold, Rabbit, Willard the Wisp (their make believe friend) decide a snipe hunt will be grand.There is some rhyming in the narration which was well suited to the tale. 5/5 stars

The Tree of Sorrows – Mallory, who is in a funk, is walking along the Golden Gate Bridge. He wants to jump as he is missing his dead wife fiercely. A little man comes along and talks him out of jumping right away.  He offers to let him trade his sorrow for another’s. Mallory goes along, only half believing. He believes that his pain can not be matched or out done by another’s. At the Tree of Sorrows he learns the truth, one way or another. This was such a beautiful and haunting story, one of my favorites in the collection. 6/5 stars

The Cats of Athens – Jim Bloom travels to Greece, which he has long admired, but finds it incomprehensible. He doesn’t like the wines or uzo, finds the military dress laughable, is constantly confused by the signs. Then one day, he saves a cat from being injured or killed by a group of kids. Later that day, he fall asleep in in a public forum (tourist attraction) and wakes well into the night to chanting. Then he sees cats turning into naked humans. The cat from before turns into a beautiful woman and tells him who they really are and what they have been up to. A charming story that could be a good opening to something bigger. 4/5 stars

The Watch of the Yellow Eyes – Talbout is in a funk, wrestling with his memories of Linnie, his dead wife. He’s contemplating suicide. Goes out to the woods with a camera and a shotgun. He sees a wolf and stairs deep into its eyes. Talbout has to face The Question and decide his answer. After The Tree of Sorrows, this tale seemed pale in comparison.  3/5 stars

Kamikaze Hipsters – The Artist (and our narrator) has a jaded view about the public. He has a show of his work at the Watkins Gallery in the run down section of town. There he meets her and she (who never gets a name) sees through all his crap. His masterpieces portray violence and blood. She offers to model. Very interesting, if twisted, tale. 5/5 stars

Rummy – 5 businessmen (perhaps one of them is a lady, but this is never made clear) go to lunch. Hayward is the boss and he is ticked he didn’t get his favorite table. He thinks the waitress is a bimbo and he doesn’t like the elderly busboy who has the shakes. He assumes the man is an alcoholic. Hayward calls over the manager and gets him to fire the busboy. Mike, and underling to Hayward, feels awful about the busboy getting fired. However, his comments land him unemployed as well. He starts drinking and his coworkers start dying.  The ending is left up to the reader’s interpretation – a fun piece! 4/5 stars

The Pit – Coal miners, night shift. They take on a new member, Kovik. Go to work, there’s a cave in. Many members lost. Narrator has legs crushed. Kovik, Bitters, others remaining. One by one the miners die mysteriously. Food and water running out. There’s a creepy paranormal twist to this tale. Wolinksy did a good job with the accents on this one. 4/5 stars

Carnival of Pain – Billy wants to the go to the Carnival of Pan (and the artistic flyer makes it look like Carnival of Pain). He doesn’t have a job (too young) and his mom works full time, doesn’t have the money or the time to take him. He digs under the fence and thinks he will have a great time. But right away he notices people aren’t smiling and laughing. They have these brown lumps attached to their necks. He sees a show or two, but they are cruel and not fun. He finds Electro Girl (Audra Lee) in a cage, who fills him in on what is going on. This was a creepy kid’s adventure tale! 5/5 stars

Locust Time – Jenny and narrator are in their last year of high school. He is in love with her. She is just having a good time, figuring things out. She tells him about locusts (cicadas) and how they wait underground for 17 years and this is the year of the cicada. He freaks and starts hearing buzzing everywhere all the time. He takes to catching insects and drowning them in gasoline and then having little controlled fires with their little bodies. Things escalate from there. Before you know it, he has a secret buried in the back yard, one that will awaken come the next locust year. I loved the ending on this one! 5/5 stars

The Last Battle – Duvall and French soldiers in Vietnam fighting to maintain the French colony. Duvall  is the only one among them to speak Vietnamese. As they march through the jungle, he starts experiencing visions and physical senses of other times – ringmail armor, swords, crossbows One other soldier confides he is seeing the same. As they continue heading towards a village, Duvall gets sinking feeling. Duvall just wants it all to end, for there to be one last battle. The ending was swift and muddled on this one. I liked the overall idea, but found it needed something more to get a clear idea across. 3/5 stars

Moose Tracks – 4 guys going out hunting. Lou the leader (and biggest lout), Chuck, and Harold are old friends. Bud is the new guy. Telling tales of hunting as they drive into the Allagash, drinking Pabst and littering. They are the dominant species and moose are terribly easy to hunt, or so they tell themselves. Haha! I really enjoyed this one. It made me think of the battle moose in The Hobbit movies.  5/5

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Body English – Terri & Henry are married (he’s old and she is young) and Terri flirts and drinks too much. She ends up sleeping with Tom after he has a fight with his wife (whose name I think is Sharon). He’s a ashamed of it and when she returns days later for more attention, he tosses her out. She had been drinking and she dies in a car accident. Henry’s grief takes a cunning and malicious turn. I think this tale give a woman (Terri) the most lines out of all these short stories and she is not a very interesting character. Ending was a bit predictable. 3/5 stars

The Silver Web by Dale T. Phillips and Tom Channel – This kid Barry is out bicycling when a rain storm comes along. He finds an odd silvery bracelet out by the reservoir. He goes shivery and unconscious. His mom, Theresa, calls the sheriff’s office worried about her missing son in this storm. Sheriff Tom goes out looking, finds him, and gets him to the hospital. Doctors aren’t sure what his problem is. Barry starts talking in some glottal tongue while unconscious. The bracelet, with its odd symbols, and a voice recording are sent to language expert who has to call in other experts. A Dr. Harold calls in a frenzy and they race to the reservoir where they attempt to save the world….with a soldiering kit. I really liked the nod to the H. P. Lovecraft in this story.  4/5

King and Country – Set shortly after WWI & the Great Influenza. Lord Barclay is hanging out at a hospital for his mental instability. He served in the war and suffers from shell shock. While he is convalescing, he meets another inmate – Lewis. He draws these messed up pictures of people with heads of beasts, giant beetles, and other horrors. The two start talking. Lewis was hunting for Egyptian artifacts to impress Lord Cordovan when he heard stories about women, children, & men going missing. With a group of armed men, he went down into the tunnels and found horrible monsters doing horrible things to their human captives. Lewis eventually escaped, but he had aged by 40 years and no one believed him. He was sent to hospital. Lord Barclay is the first to believe him. Together, they make a pact to go destroy these monsters. Nitty-gritty and gruesome. I really liked the reality in this one, making the fantastical horrors all more terrifying! 5/5 stars

Narration: Fred Wolinsky really outdid himself with this collection. I have listened to several books he has narrated now and I believe this is his best work yet. He had to put forth a huge range of characters to make this book work. His accents were great and his male vs. female voices were distinct. He also had to do a range of ages from little kids to the elderly. Also, several of the stories were full of emotion and Fred’s performance really imbued the written word with those emotions. An excellence performance!

What I Liked: Quite a range of subjects/genres covered; always entertaining; they varied in seriousness and humor; great narration.

What I Disliked: Could have used a few more lead female characters.

What Others Think:

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