Tough Traveling- Holidays


Each Thursday, our copy of ‘The Tough Guide to Fantasyland’ in hand, we shall tour the mystical countryside looking for adventure and fun (and tropes) from all over fantasy.

This week’s topic is HOLIDAYS

Never too late to celebrate … holidays! Because fantasy festivals and feasts are always fun.  Thanks to Wendy for the suggestion!  And feel free to blame her if this proves to be as hard as it sounds.

Oh ya.  We are blaming Wendy for this one.  Cause let me tell you, SO HARD.

Hogfather (Discworld, #20)HogswatchHogfather by Terry Pratchett –The only obvious one I could think of. And it is from my least favorite Prachett book thus far (no, take that back, Soul Music was worse). Still, a fat man who gives children presents, riding in a transport pulled by hogs.

I will admit that despite not enjoying the book on the whole watching ‘The Hogfather’ actually making kids overly grandiose wishes come true for the holiday (much to their parents dismay as they suddenly realize they have a pony to take care off) cracked me up beyond belief.

Lilac DayNight Watch by Terry Pratchett – An Anhk-Morpork specific holiday that commemorates a small revolution. One patrician was replaced by another and a few people died. But a few people remember. And there will be respect.

All the little angels rise up, RISE UP

All the little angels rise up high.

Light Festival Tangled – Look, it was a tough week for me okay? I will pad this list Tangled (2010) Posterhowever I want.

Once a year the king and the queen raise a lantern for their missing princess. And others do the same. Until she comes home.

Tangled was a move that surprised me, I wasn’t really sure I would like it but it is endlessly entertaining. And saving my ass this week with this week list I have put together.

Forgive me Tough Travelers, I shall do better next week!

Know what, let’s make sure of it.


Join us next week as we look at SNARKY SIDEKICKS

Why is everyone so serious all the time?  Perhaps they need a friend that is there with a quick bit of wit to liven the day; even if the day is looking to quickly turn to blood. (Not actually found in the Tough Guide)

If you have a topic you want to see us cover, or if you have an entry for next week’s post but don’t have your own blog to put it on, please head over to the main Tough Traveling page and fill out the form at the bottom.

As always thanks for joining, feel free to join along at any time, and please check out my fellow travelers!



Guest Barney Award 2014- Child’s Play and Children in Combat

Today we welcome H. Anthe Davis, author and long time friend to the blog.
H. Anthe Davis enjoys stories about assassins, necromancers, volcanoes and other explosive things — and also writes them!  She is two books into her series, The War of Memory Cycle, and intends to have the third one out soon.  Soon.

The Barney for Child’s Play

Imagine AgentsWelcome back to another action-packed installment of our seasonal awards ceremony!  Today we bring you a dangerous double-header of comic book adventure, graphic novel villainy, manga-level spectacle, and babies!

Our first bout is in the Best Use of Imaginary Friends category!

In the BOOM! Studios corner, weighing in at 97 pages, is Imagine Agents!  Every child has an imaginary friend called a ‘figment’, but what happens to those figments when their child grows up?  Some turn bitter, seeking a reason for their abandonment; others become depressed or unruly, requiring the Imagine Agents to keep them in line.  But some still want to help…

Our nominee is the pink jelly-ball buddy Blounder!  Even after his human child forgets him, he willingly risks jelly-life and jelly-limb to aid her — and all of humanity — against a powerful rogue figment bent on merging the figments with their children to overwrite them and become real!

Meanwhile, in the … other BOOM! Studios corner, weighing in at 160 pages, is Six-Gun Six-Gun GorillaGorilla!  In space, no one can hear you scream…unless there’s a live camera pointed at you!  Humans have tried for decades to tame and colonize the lawless planet of Blister, but its current state of civil war has provided an unexpected dividend in the form of reality TV: real conflict, real death, all filmed by condemned criminals sent into this unruly otherworld!  Until one of the condemned happens to film military secrets…

Our nominee is the titular Six-Gun Gorilla!  Appearing from the desert to rescue our hapless protagonist, he must be the product of a dying man’s fevered imagination — but if so, why can all the viewers see him on camera?

The Verdict:

In a rock-’em-sock-’em fight, it could go either way: jelly against bullets, expansion against muscular strength.

But we’re just human here.  When does a six-gun toting gorilla win?  Any time it wants.

On to our second bout!  This time, it’s the….

Best Use of a Child In Combat!

Saga, Volume 1 (Saga #1-6)In the new series corner, weighing in at 448 pages and counting, is Saga!  Star-crossed — and species-crossed — lovers Marko and Alana are on the run from both their warring peoples for daring to have a mixed-blood child.  Assassins hound them across the universe at the behest of galactic robot overlords…but some of those assassins have agendas of their own.
While baby Hazel sometimes narrates and may well play a part in future conflicts, at the moment she’s just a bundle of joy.  Our nominee instead is six-year-old Sophie, formerly known as Slave Girl, who knows how to use a knife.
Meanwhile, in the new-to-me corner, weighing in at oh my god I’m not even going to add those up, is Lone Wolf and Cub!  A Tokugawa-era former executioner, Ogami Itto has turned assassin-for-hire, and takes with him on all his assignments his young son, Daigoro!  After all, a wolf cub is still a wolf…
Our nominee is Daigoro!  Offered a choice between a child’s ball and a sword, he reached out for the shining blade…  What bloody destiny lies ahead?
The Verdict:
While Sophie and Daigoro spend most of the time as pawns of their respective assassin father-figures, they can both step out violently when pressed.  However, the hat-tip goes to Daigoro for peeing off a cliff onto an enemy samurai as a fight-starting taunt.  Who doesn’t want to do that sometimes?

Guest Barney Award 2014 – The Earl Gray Cup

Today we welcome Brittain, one of the best around.

Brittain is the co-owner of and main writer for the blog Two Dudes in an Attic, where we read Gary Gygax novels so you don’t have to. Scribblings on Two Dudes emanate from the Pacific Northwest and sit at the nexus of science fiction, fantasy, political science, Japan, music, and soccer. (This makes for a killer Venn diagram).

The Earl Grey Cup, Given to SFF That Best Displays Elite Tea Consumption

The Nominees:

City of StairsCity of Stairs – Robert Jackson Bennett

Shara, the historian­ spy and hero of Bennett’s sprawling exploration of colonialism, dead gods, Calvinism, and unkillable Northern barbarians, is an inveterate tea addict. Her friends contemplate an intervention as she guzzles liter after liter, using the mild rush of caffeine paired with the soothing effects of hot drink to cope with the stresses of being nearly killed, bumping into an old boyfriend, and seeing dead gods possibly storm back to life in a bid to topple the hegemony of her motherland. I assume that she consumes liters rather than gallons because City of Stairs seems like the educated type of book that rejects the Imperial system of measurement.


Various Xuya stories – Aliette de BodardOn a Red Station, Drifting

Not all the Xuya series was published in 2014 of course, but a few were. I read one in Carbide Tipped Pens and I think others appeared in various magazines and/or were nominated for prestigious awards. De Bodard replaces the usual Anglos in Space with their Asian counterparts, naturally banishing coffee in favor of the much more civilized tea. (Not to mention the steamed buns, lemongrass, and other delights.)




Ancillary Sword (Imperial Radch, #2)

Ancillary Sword – Ann Leckie

In addition to copious tea consumption in Leckie’s Radch empire, Ancillary Sword is based primarily in a space station orbiting an planet dedicated to tea production. Two major characters in the book are from a prominent tea growing family that makes one of the top brands in the empire. Tea sets are also discussed at length.





And the winner is….

Ancillary Sword!!

Breq & Co. don’t drink nearly as much tea as Shara, but tea plays a much bigger part of the book. The entire planet’s economy is based on tea, which wouldn’t be weird except that this is the setting for one of the most anticipated releases of the year and people spend more time arguing about which tea company is better than they do blowing up spaceships. What has science fiction come to? Oh, and if that weren’t enough, there is now a real life line of Radch teas that enthusiasts can imbibe. Congratulations, Ms. Leckie, because holy crap I don’t think you have enough awards yet.



Tough Traveling – Kings


Each Thursday, our copy of ‘The Tough Guide to Fantasyland’ in hand, we shall tour the mystical countryside looking for adventure and fun (and tropes) from all over fantasy.

This week’s topic is KINGS

KINGS come in four kinds: Puppet Kings, Bad Kings, Good Kings (rare), and Long Lost Kings.

Well if Jones is going to give me bullet point material involving different types then why not take advantage?

We four kings of fantasy are

Bearing tropes as we tough travel far

Carrot, Joeffry, Tomjon, and Lord of Rohan

Each their own kind of star.


A Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire, #1)

Bad King


O kid of wonder, child of fright

Lover of daggers late at night

Westeros leading, Sansa beating

Cersei’s connections provide your might


Men at Arms (Discworld, #15)

Good King


Born a dwarf on Morpork’s plain

Sword and birthmarks could crown him again

Copper forever, king never

Refusing to ever reign


Wyrd Sisters (Discworld, #6)

Long Lost King


Oh star of theater, actor at night

Seeing witch faces in star light

Lancre leading, wagon’s proceeding

Doesn’t wish to be part of Granny’s fight


The Two Towers (The Lord of the Rings, #2)

Puppet King


Wormtongue’s words to offer has I

King I be put power is night

Strings are pulled arms are raising

But with Gandolf’s help I’ll back on high.




Join us next week as we look at HOLIDAYS

Never too late to celebrate … holidays! Because fantasy festivals and feasts are always fun.  Thanks to Wendy for the suggestion!  And feel free to blame her if this proves to be as hard as it sounds.

If you have a topic you want to see us cover, or if you have an entry for next week’s post but don’t have your own blog to put it on, please head over to the main Tough Traveling page and fill out the form at the bottom.

As always thanks for joining, feel free to join along at any time, and please check out my fellow travelers!

Hope everyone has Happy Holidays!  Thanks for helping make this a great year.

2014 Barneys- Colorado Book Club

The Barney Award for Best Book to be read in Colorado now that Pot is Legal

That is right, just by walking outside I find the atmosphere a little more mellow, the conversations a little more stimulating, the amount of pharmacies a bit mind boggling. My state legalized this stuff and it is only fair that our book clubs start taking advantage of our state’s new…mindset. And while I don’t partake myself who doesn’t want a tape recorder in on some of these book club meetings? Nobody doesn’t, that’s who (early double negative, that grammar warning suddenly seems apt doesn’t it?). And while discussions of beat poetry will always be the norm I am pretty sure I can sneak a few fantasy books into the pile. The best of the best for this? Let’s find out.

Unwrapped Sky (Caeli-Amur, #1)Unwrapped Sky by Rjurik Davidson- Oh hell yes, this is a great book for a bake in (or so I would assume, again, not my thing). To start with we get the political. Nothing stonies like more than a good old theoretical politics (well, maybe their Ben Harper CD). A strictly structured class based society with major labor strife. Not since Perdido Street Station has there been a fantasy novel to appeal the inner wannabe communist.

But there is also the good old weird shit that an altered state of mind could spend days looking for hidden metaphors within.   Do the Minotaur represent Marx himself, or perhaps the entire proletariat movement? And the siren!? Obviously it is a metaphor for the Iraqi war, or the military-industrial complex, or something. One would have to be a fool not to see it! Or perhaps, one would have to not have a cloud of smoke around them not to see it; the rest of us can just nod our heads and walk on by.

Of course being that our hypothetical group of users is most likely male we should expect a long discussion about the practicality of lusting after a mermaid. Followed by about a hour of frat boy boasting of how exactly one would ‘have relations’ with said mermaid. Things best left to Troy McClure’s imagination will come up.

On second thought, maybe this book club isn’t such a good idea, just give Davidson his award and let’s move on…

Congratulations Rjurik Davidson!  No doubt you have never seen your book mentioned with narcotics of questionable legality before.  I am sure this an award you shall cherish forever!

Introducing the 2014 Barney Awards

barneys2013The time has come again for the most irrelevant awards in the blogosphere, The Barneys!  Over the next couple of days you will get completely unasked for, completely unappreciated, coveted by absolutely no one awards in which Pauline and I go through the books we read and highlight a few that stand out.  Rather than the typical best of list we prefer to do it our own way.  Expect silliness.  (Feel free to take the time to look through last year’s awards as well).

You may laugh, you most certainly will cry (especially if you read my posts and care a lick about grammar), you will stay for the popcorn (bring your own popcorn).  If all goes right, you will have fun.  And if you watch real carefully you will see people unfollow this blog at a record pace.

This year we are doing things a little different, sharing the blame if you will.  It won’t just be Pauline and I handing out awards no one wants because I have invited a few friends to hand out their choices.  Hopefully this turns into an annual event bigger than Smugglivus, and not just because then I could have my entire December content taken care of by others while sipping on this fine Pale Ale I have discovered.

So sit back, have fun, and winners can expect their award in four to six nevers.

Sci-Fi Review: ‘Abaddon’s Gate’ by James S.A. Corey

Abaddon's Gate (Expanse, #3)This is the third book of the series. Minor spoilers of previous books are probable.

Third book. Book one was a buddy cop drama with space zombies; decent but for some reason didn’t hook me.   Holden, the main character, wasn’t the most captivating protagonist I have ever read and horror in space isn’t really my thing.. Book two hooked me with the addition of Bobby and Avarasala; two women who absolutely dominated the page whenever they were present (with Avarasala winning the round if both were in the room). It also put the ‘protomolecule,’ the requisite weird sciency object that took center stage in Leviathan Wakes, firmly into the background-letting the characters shine instead.

So if you had told me that once again the cast would be jettisoned almost completely, and more importantly Avarasala wasn’t going to be present, I am not sure I would have jumped in to Abaddon’s Gate so enthusiastically. And just as I was wrong to go into Caliban’s War with some reluctance, so I was also wrong to be reluctant here. I didn’t like it quite as much as book two, but we are dealing with a sliding scale that has ‘very good’ on its low end here.

Once again it is all about the people. Now don’t get me wrong, Holden can die off for all I care. Three books in and I just plain don’t like him. He is a bit too much in the center of everything important for my liking and not all that charismatic. So for me to like a book despite its protagonist everything else has to go right. It starts right there next to Holden though; his crew is perfect.  Naomi, Holden’s girlfriend, makes scenes with Holden more bearable with her capable hands and quick thinking. But I confess a love of Alex, nominally the requisite ‘brute’ but a man who shows tolerance and an anything go attitude that seems contagious.

The authoring duo took away Avarasala (though she gets a mention so we know she is still up to her political maneuvering) and instead gave us Ana who was still pretty awesome. She is pastor of a small congregation and she takes the chance to join the expedition to see just what the weird alien thing is up to now (having left Venus and worked its way around to Uranus). I knew I was going to love her from the first meeting; protecting one of her own from an abusive husband. I won’t spill the details but rather just focus on one line –

‘Anna shot him again.’

*Sniff* It really is the simple things in life. Moving on because that is what this series is starting to do. That molecule that has been cooking in Venus and worrying everyone suddenly moves to Uranus, forming a ring with a purpose that only it knows. The three powers in the solar system all send people to observe and of course Holden and his crew get dragged along with it. The story quickly diverges along a couple of paths: a sabotage and set up story against Holden, a redemption arc without a sappy ending for a new character, and a lot of political maneuvering over knowledge that comes from exploring the protomolecule.

I love the political maneuverings as everyone is forced to react to Holden’s moves. I have realized he is less of a characters and more of a moving force; a reaction is coming from somewhere no matter what he does due to his previous exploits. I was less found of the heavy action final third of the book. Though it fits the story just fine I don’t see it as the author’s strength; I was less excited when guns and explosions were going off than I was when Anna worked to save a single passenger.

Abbadon’s Gate is a success because it worked as a single story and as a continuation of the overarching plot. The theme here was faith and redemption. Not necessarily in a purely religious since though the inclusion of Pastor Anna often framed it that way but just faith in humanity, in each other, in something. It ended with a note of hope along with sadness; great things may be happening in the solar system but nothing comes free.

4 Stars