Another eBook and a Science Fiction Book Club rant
I was once again approached by an author who is looking for eyeballs and asked to read and review her new work of fiction (in eBook format, so it took me a lot longer to get through - I read several physical books in the same time-frame). It's a dystopian political thriller set almost thirty years in the future. And here we go...
Fire of Our Fathers
Fire of Our Fathers is a interesting take on a dystopian American future set in 2046 by an author who writes a lot of this kind of stuff, L.C. Champlin. But the United States isn't the only country suffering - though it is the focus of most of the events in this story - the whole world has succumbed to corruption and economic collapse.
Here's the author's own description of the story:
2046 -- Thirty years into the Great Decline, America and the world are mired deep in the swamp of corruption and despair...
Richmond Monroe has just finished the biggest antiques-hunting contract of his life - and taken out a few Somali pirates along the way. When he returns home to Panama, he learns he must risk his life and paycheck to rescue his town from destruction by the land-hungry rulers.
One man offers hope. His price? President George Washington's finest sword.
Richmond ventures into the highly restricted United States to track down the blade. Unrest and chaos are growing in the former Land of the Free, but the Glock-wielding historian is ready to tackle the challenge. He'll encounter powerful figures and uncover devastating secrets.
If he fails in his quest, America could sink permanently under the tyrants' oppression.
click here to show the full quoted excerpt
And here's a description of the current state of things in 2046 from the story's protagonist, Richmond Monroe.
The whole damn world looked this way now. The economic depression had lasted years, with banana republics and even hulking dictatorships squabbling for resources. Religious extremist groups murdered civilians, while drug cartels kept everyone too high to care.
After the US succumbed to its long-standing, long-festering corruption, the world rapidly followed. The Last Bastion of Hope had fallen. Now everyone bumbled on as best they could, as the human race always had. Two-hundred years, when you thought about it, amounted to nothing more than a flash in the pan.
"Constitutional republic," Richmond snorted. The American Dream - and America had woken up to cold reality.
Speaking of the United States being 200 (and a little more) years old, there's a hilarious quote in the Eric Idle sorta-biography I'm reading now about the bicentennial that's I'll be sharing later (along with way too many other quotes and scanned photos from that book).
The story's dark future bears a pretty strong resemblance to the stories of D.W. Ulsterman1 that I've mentioned briefly here a couple of times. As with Ulsterman's dystopian future, there's no William Forstchen-like EMP that took down the grid, no Zombie-inducing virus that wipes out humanity, no John Barnes-esque plastic eating bacteria to bring all tech to a halt, no S.M. Stirling-like change that reduces mankind to 17th century technology - there's just political upheaval leading to a collapsed economy and end of true representational government (which was ended a long time ago, to be honest).
We meet several people trapped in the declining United States (the protagonist has expatriated to Panama) throughout the story's events. One of these tells the protagonist her story that describes her experiences as an immigrant to the United States who arrived near the end of the era of possibility and watched as opportunities disappeared and a government too much like the one she'd escaped took over.
"We came to this land of opportunity and freedom. People here valued life. We worked very hard here. We learned the language, we made a business, and we gave back to the community. It was the happiest ten years of our life. Coming here was like getting a new life. I was thirty. But over time, after 2016, the Great Decline began. Then it was more and more like living in China. China also was allowed to buy more and more land and companies in America." She sighed. "I'm glad my children and grandchildren are not in China, but I wish they could know America as I knew it."
I was probably most attracted to the promise of actual historical references being interwoven throughout the story, a la Umberto Eco/Dan Brown/Michael Crichton/Brad Meltzer. And while there were a few historical references throughout the story (to George Washington and his swords, and a little from the Civil War era), they weren't really as tightly interwoven as the historical references in the aforementioned authors' books. So that was a little disappointing.
There were quite a few passages in the text that felt out of place. Here are a three (taken out of context, so they may not seem as odd to you). The last one wasn't weird because of the non-flowing prose, like the others, but it was a surprise that the protagonist would bring a Tolkien fantasy element into the story (the only time this happened).
"I'm trying to let you fellows get out with your dignity," Richmond admonished. "You ought to be thanking me."
He kept the front area decked out with smaller, cheaper, but expensive-appearing finds. Jackie's desk took center stage; he maintained an office behind her. In the warehouse proper, beyond the office area, Jackie oversaw a strict filing system. She must have a psychological compulsion for orderliness.
He accepted the manila envelope. Everything important came in manila envelopes. To do otherwise would break a universal law.
"They halted in what a hobbit might consider a clearing"
Also noteworthy is the unusual chapter naming. Each chapter was named with either an Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, or Marilyn Manson song title. Though a little weird, I can understand the Elvis and Johnny Cash references, but One of these things is not like the other.... Not that chapters names really impacted the story in any way (though it can be nice to have a chapter name that does a little foreshadowing). But there is an explanation for the chapter headers within the story itself - a conversation between our protagonist, Richmond, and the more interesting, but secondary, character, Myles Fremont. It's a weak argument in my opinion, but music is a subjective thing so I may be in the minority there.
quote title="from 'Blue Moon - Elvis Presley'"
Richmond cleared his throat. "What about you and Marilyn Manson?" Since Myles had asked his question honestly, no disdain went into Richmond's, either.
"Ah, Manson," Myles breathed, settling back in his seat like an old warrior preparing to tell a yarn of derring-do. "When Marilyn Manson - his real name was Brian Hugh Warner - exploded onto the Heavy Metal scene, no one had heard anything quite like it. People thought his music would make kids violent. Of course, it didn't. People are already violent. Society wrote him off as just another crazed, makeup-caked rocker. And he was a little crazy. But I doubt you can be a true freethinker without bucking the norms to the point where much of the population thinks you've gone mad." Myles smirked. "He kept playing and experimenting. He influenced an entire generation of musicians, not to mention listeners. He was serious about freedom."
Richmond met Myles's earnest gaze. "Freedom. They both fought for it and sacrificed for what they felt driven to do. They changed the world and inspired countless people."
Myles nodded. "In a way, Manson comes from Elvis."
click here to show the full quoted excerpt
As with most dystopian stories, the government that evolves is thuggish and corrupt. Here's a brief description of the TSA of the future (which doesn't sound much different from the TSA of today).
The TSA thugs wore blue uniforms, carried submachine guns, and had riot cuffs on their duty belts. They looked like the security of every other third world country.
And the local militarized police force sounds a lot like the police we have now - just a little further to the dark side.
Though the legalization of all substances had occurred over a decade ago, dealers still undercut the system, providing as much of a black market as ever. Rather than take on the dangerous and thriving gangs, the cops preferred to beat down law-abiding citizens who thought or said the wrong thing. Namely, the truth."
And the best part of the story is the totally unexpected hero. I won't tell you who he is, but here are some clues (there are five non-concurrent quotes excerpts - it's not meant to be a continuous quote).
The other man wore a knowing smile. "So you recognize me." Myles lifted his chin.
"You are the Baron."
The Baron? Now and then a news report mentioned the Baron, a man who operated in numerous markets across the world. His holdings ranged from tech companies to real estate, but his passion lay in restructuring failing corporations.
"My father also loved this country. He thought he could make the US great again."
Myles cleared his throat. "In 2016, the Baron's father ran for president of the United States as the Republican Party candidate."
Of course! Richmond hadn't bothered to keep close track of the Rights' Last, Best Hope's five offspring. "He was rock-star popular with his base, if I remember. But before the election, his 727 went down in flames, him included."
Eyes narrowed, the Baron shook his head. "He was murdered. His enemies knew he would win the election. If he did, he would be the first outsider in generations to take the presidency. He'd made it abundantly clear that he would make sweeping policy changes. His opponents couldn't tolerate that. When they saw they couldn't win against him, they took the easy route and eliminated the competition. With him out of the running and little time left for his vice president to campaign, the Democratic challenger had no trouble winning the election."
"The beginning of the Great Decline," Richmond supplied. The familiar sense of awful disappointment came over him. It felt as if he had reached for a friend as they slipped over a cliff, but he'd moved a second too late.
The Baron nodded. "My father wanted to make America great again. He believed in the American Dream, just like his father - my grandfather - did. They lived the American Dream. They rose from nothing to be among the rich and powerful"
click here to show the full quoted excerpt
This story must have been written before the father of the Baron moved into the White House, as he didn't go down in a fiery plane crash in our own timeline. So...the moral of the story is this: "If you enjoy dystopian political fiction with a right-leaning bent and don't mind an uneven writing style, you'll likely enjoy this book. I noticed that the eBook price is only around a buck on Amazon, so you've gotta like that.
The Science Fiction (and now other genres) Book Club
I've been a member of the Science Fiction Book Club off and on2 since I was in my late teens. Way back then, the draw was getting several hardcover sci-fi and fantasy books for basically the cost of shipping with a commitment to buy a few more books over the next couple of years at full price. So the average cost of the books was less than buying the same number of paperbacks, which sounds like a great deal. But there were a couple of drawbacks: #1, the books were dimensionally all about 3/4 scale of the publisher hardcovers. So I have a great many miniature hardcovers in library that insult my OCD when they're all on the same shelf with the full-sized hardcovers (now all in bin, so they're not as annoying). And #2, you had to send a card back every month through the mail or you get the book of the month auto-mailed to you. You could do a return-to-sender and return it easily enough, but that was a hassle I didn't enjoy.
At some point, I decided that the affordability of the tiny books wasn't enough to offset the discomfort of having books that looked out of place on the shelf, so I abandoned the SFBC for many years. But a few years ago I decided that cheap was more important than big and joined back up. I was pleasantly surprised when the books arrived and were full-sized hardcovers. And also happy to learn that the card in the mail had been replaced by an online response, so it was much easier to decline the unwanted books of the month. Also a nice improvement was the wishlist feature to save books you may want to order in the future. And maybe best of all, each month you can buy two credits for $14.99/each to later buy any two books at a reduced price (lower than Amazon or Costco, even). So that's pretty cool.
Over the past few years I've more than fulfilled my commitment and am still a member, though I've been a little disappointed that every hardcover hasn't been a full-sized edition (most are). A couple of other comments and/or complaints: the book club is now more of a Generic Book Club that sells just about every genre of book (I've wandered outside the Sci-Fi/Fantasy boundary a couple of times since I've been a member again) and books are often dropped quickly from the club so the availability of Sci-Fi/Fantasy titles is a little less than it once was (and WishList books can quickly become unavailable if you don't pull the trigger fast enough). But my biggest complaint about the good ol' SFBC is this:
THEY SENT ME A BOOK WITH A RIPPED DUST JACKET!!
I don't know if it happened in transit (it wasn't very well packaged - there wasn't any packing material to hold the book in place) or before being packed, but either way, I'm not happy. That hasn't stopped me from buying other books from the SFBC and none of the others have been ripped, but still...
1 L.C., D.W., S.M....each of these authors uses a pen name with two initials followed by a surname. Coincidence? I THINK NOT!!
2 Once your commitment is fulfilled, you quit and rejoin and get 5 more tiny free-ish books. Genius!
The only two Michael Crichton books I've read have both been unfinished drafts published after his death. I really enjoyed both of them immensely, so I don't know if I'm a huge Michael Crichton fan or a huge fan of whoever finished these books.
The only other Crichton book I've ever read, Pirate Latitudes, was a fictional, but very well-researched and real-feeling, tale of pirates in the Caribbean. Very similar to, in my opinion, On Stranger Tides, but without the Voodoo, extra-dimensional Fountain of Youth stuff, and magic. Surprisingly, I've only ever mentioned Pirate Latitudesone time on this sorry excuse for a site. And that was only a mention of books that I had on my to-read shelf. I know...I suck.
But I'm trying to do better. I'm not really doing much better, but I have at least kept the more recently-read books to be mentioned (I hesitate to call what I do a "review") in a separate stack on the to-read shelf where they can remind me what a waste of space I am. Baby steps, I suppose.
I don't remember enough about Pirate Latitudes to say anything more about that book, but the other Crichton book I've read is the much more recently published Dragon Teeth - a paleontological romp through the old west. This one I read a couple of months ago, so it's at least slightly more fresh in my memory.
The other Dinosaur book I'm going to mention is The Dinosaur Lords by the recently deceased Victor Milan, which I read just a month or two back. While it is, admittedly, completely unrelated to the Old West story in Dragon Teeth, I wanted to mention this novel with Dragon Teeth because they both involve dinosaurs (kind of a stretch for Dragon Teeth, but still). Another trait they share is authors who won't be contributing to further adventures of these characters (there are actually two more books in The Dinosaur Lords series on my reading shelf that were published before Victor Milan passed, but I haven't made it to either of those yet - I'm hoping the story was wrapped up by book three - there are some big questions in need of further exposition in the first novel).
Before I get into each book, here is another similarity they both share: maps of the locations in the stories (each one is a two-page map that I have attempted - poorly - to combine into a single image).
Dragon Teeth is your basic fish-out-of-water, rich kid goes dinosaur fossil-hunting in the uncharted west type of story. You know, that old chestnut. The main character is extremely unlikable when we meet him.
William Jason Tertullius Johnson, the elder son of Philadelphia shipbuilder Silas Johnson, entered Yale College in the fall of 1875. According to his headmaster at Exeter, Johnson was "gifted, attractive, athletic and able." But the headmaster added that Johnson was "headstrong, indolent and badly spoilt, with a notable indifference to any motive save his own pleasures. Unless he finds a purpose to his life, he risks unseemly decline into indolence and vice."
Those words could have served as the description of a thousand young men in late nineteenth-century America, young men with intimidating, dynamic fathers, large quantities of money, and no particular way to pass the time.
William Johnson fulfilled his headmaster's prediction during his first year at Yale. He was placed on probation in November for gambling, and again in February after an incident involving heavy drinking and the smashing of a New Haven merchant's window. Silas Johnson paid the bill. Despite such reckless behavior, Johnson remained courtly and even shy with women of his own age, for he had yet to have any luck with them. For their part, they found reason to seek his attention, their formal upbringings notwithstanding. In all other respects, however, he remained unrepentant. Early that spring, on a sunny afternoon,Johnson wrecked his roommate's yacht, running it aground on Long Island Sound. The boat sank within minutes; Johnson was rescued by a passing trawler; asked what happened, he admitted to the incredulous fisherman that he did not know how to sail because it would be "so utterly tedious to learn. And anyway, it looks simple enough." Confronted by his roommate, Johnson admitted he had not asked permission to use the yacht because "it was such bother to find you."
Faced with the bill for the lost yacht, Johnson's father complained to his friends that "the cost of educating a young gentleman at Yale these days is ruinously expensive." His father was the serious son of a Scottish immigrant, and took some pains to conceal the excesses of his offspring; in his letters, he repeatedly urged William to find a purpose in life. But William seemed content with his spoiled frivolity, and when he announced his intention to spend the coming summer in Europe, "the prospect," said his father, "fills me with dire fiscal dread."
Thus his family was surprised when William Johnson abruptly decided to go west during the summer of 1876.Johnson never publicly explained why he had changed his mind. But those close to him at Yale knew the reason. He had decided to go west because of a bet.
click here to show or hide the full quoted excerpt
As our entitled, unlikable protagonist gets the shaft from various parties throughout the book, he ends up in a familiar place from old west folklore - Deadwood, South Dakota. But along the way, he has a few run-ins with the natives and rogue U.S. cavalry soldiers.
"We"re done for," Morton moaned.
"Any minute now we'll hear those arrows whistling," Isaac said, "and then, when they get closer, out come the tomahawks - "
"Shut up!" Cope said. He had never taken his eyes off the cloud. "They're not Indians."
"Damn if you're not a bigger fool than I thought you were! Who else'd be - "
Isaac fell silent. The cloud was now close enough that they could resolve the riders into individual figures. Blue-coated figures.
"Might still be red men," Isaac said. "Wearing Custer's jackets. For a surprise attack."
"Not much surprise if they are."
Little Wind squinted at the horizon. "Not Indians," he pronounced finally. "Saddle ponies."
"Damn!" Cookie shouted. "The army! My boys in blue!" He leapt up shouting, waving his hands. A fusillade of lead sent him back beneath the wagon.
The army horsemen rode around the wagon, whooping Indian-style, firing their pistols into the air. Finally, they stopped, and a captain pulled up, his horse snorting. He aimed his revolver at the figures huddled beneath the wagon.
"Out, you slime. Out! By God, I've a mind to finish you right here, every last man of you."
Cope emerged, purple with fury. His fists were clenched at his sides. "I demand to know the meaning of this outrage."
"You'll know it in hell, you blackguard," the army captain said, and he shot twice at Cope, but his rearing horse threw off his aim.
"Wait, Cap'n," one of the soldiers said. By now Cope's party had all crawled from beneath the wagon and stood lined up along the wheels. "They don"t look like gunrunners."
click here to show or hide the full quoted excerpt
Once he makes it to the fabled Deadwood, he witnesses a little bit of Kung Fu-ish Chinaman-abuse, falls for Miss Emily, an old west lady of the night, meets the Earp brothers, and becomes a whole lot less entitled and more self-sufficient. Maybe not a "whole lot" more, but at least a little more.
Here's are a couple of excerpts showing the true nature of his new friend when she tries to sell him out to the local outlaws and our first introduction to the Earp brothers.
"So you said you would ask me?" he said, feeling hurt.
She looked down, as if ashamed. "I was curious myself, too."
"They really contain bones."
"I see that, now."
"I don't want them - I don't want anything to do with them - but they are my responsibility."
"I believe you." She frowned. "Now I must convince Dick. He is a hard man, you know."
"But I will talk to him," she said. "I will see you at dinner."
THAT NIGHT IN the Grand Central dining room there were two new visitors. At first glance, they seemed to be twins, so similar was their appearance: they were both tall, lean, wiry men in their twenties, with identical broad mustaches, and identical clean white shirts. They were quiet, self-contained men who emanated a forceful calmness.
"Know who those two are?" Perkins whispered to Johnson, over coffee.
"That's Wyatt Earp and his brother Morgan Earp. Wyatt's taller."
At the mention of their names, the two men looked over at Johnson's table and nodded politely.
"This here's Foggy Johnson, he's a photographer from Yale College," Perkins said.
"Howdy," the Earp brothers said, and went back to their dinner.
Johnson didn't recognize the names, but Perkins's manner suggested that they were important and famous men. Johnson whispered, "Who are they?"
"They're from Kansas," Perkins said. "Abilene and Dodge City?"
Johnson shook his head.
"They're famous gunfighters," Perkins whispered. "Both of 'em."
Johnson still had no notion of their importance, but any visitor to Deadwood was fair game for a photograph, and after dinner he suggested it. In his journal, Johnson recorded his first conversation with the famous Earp brothers. It was not exactly a dramatic high point.
"How would you gents like a photograph?" Johnson asked.
"A photograph? Could be," Wyatt Earp said. Seen close, he was boyish and slender. He had a steady manner, a steady gaze, an almost sleepy calmness. "What'll it cost?"
"Four bucks," Johnson said.
The Earp brothers exchanged a silent glance.
"No thanks," Wyatt Earp said.
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A little later in the story, Wyatt Earp - bodyguard - steps into action.
The boy gave Johnson a note, and scampered away. Johnson opened it, read it quickly, and crumpled it.
"What is it?" Miss Emily asked.
"Just a good-bye from Judge Harlan."
Around nine they saw the Earp brothers coming down the street toward them. They both appeared heavily burdened. "When they were closer," Johnson wrote, "I saw that the Earps had obtained a collection of firearms. I had never seen Wyatt Earp wearing a gun before - he seldom went armed in public - but now he carried a veritable arsenal."
Earp was late because he had to wait for Sutter's Dry Goods to open, to obtain guns. He carried two sawed-off shotguns, three Pierce repeating rifles, four Colt revolvers, and a dozen boxes of ammunition.
Johnson said, "It appears you are expecting some warm work."
Earp told Miss Emily to climb into the stage; then he said, "I don't want to alarm her any." And then he told Johnson that he thought they faced "a deal of trouble, and no point in pretending it won't come."
Johnson showed Earp the note, which read:
I PROMIS YOU ARE A DED MAN TO-DAY
OR MY NAME IS NOT DICK CURRY.
"That's fine," Earp said. "We're ready for him."
Wyatt's brother Morgan had made a lucrative deal to haul firewood and was planning to stay in Deadwood for the winter, but said that he would ride with Wyatt and the stage as far as Custer City fifty miles to the south.
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Dragon Teeth is filled with loads of historical fact (the basic premise of the story is the rivalry between real-life paleontologists Edward Drinker Cope and Othniel Charles Marsh - both are characters ni the book) and reads like one of David McCullough's non-fiction historical works (of which I've read many and enjoyed each one). It's not exactly an E-ticket thrill ride - there are some dry parts here and there (as there are in real life). I'm sure I'll read it again when I get tired of buying new books - it was that enjoyable and well-written.
Funny enough, another book I recently read, Huck Out West, also links to the old west and Deadwood, South Dakota. More about that later.
Before I move on to The Dinosaur Lords, one last excerpt from Dragon Teeth - the afterword penned by Michael Crichton's wife.
His work is as relevant and engaging as ever, as demonstrated by the gigantic success of the Jurassic Park franchise, and in HBO's reimagining of his classic film Westworld.
Honoring Michael's legacy has been my mission ever since he passed away. Through the creation of his archives, I quickly realized that it was possible to trace the birth of Dragon Teeth to a 1974 letter to the curator of vertebrate paleontology of the American Museum of Natural History. After reading the manuscript, I could only describe Dragon Teeth as "pure Crichton." It has Michael's voice, and his love of history, research, and science all dynamically woven into this epic tale. Nearly forty years after Michael first hatched the idea for a novel about the excitement and the dangers of early paleontology, the story feels as fresh and fun today as it was to him then. Dragon Teeth was a very important book for Michael - it was a forerunner of his "other dinosaur story." Its publication is a wonderful way to introduce Michael to new generations of readers around the world and is an absolute treat for longtime Crichton fans everywhere.
Publishing Dragon Teeth has been a labor of love, and I want to thank the following people for their assistance in this endeavor: my creative partner, Laurent Bouzereau; Jonathan Burnham, Jennifer Barth, and the team at Harper; Jennifer Joel and Sloan Harris of ICM Partners; the remarkable team at the Michael Crichton Archives; Michael S. Sherman and Page Jenkins; and, of course, our beloved son, John Michael Crichton (Jr.).
- SHERRI CRICHTON
click here to show or hide the full quoted excerpt
The Dinosaur Lords
Funny thing about The Dinosaur Lords - the blurb on the cover is from George R.R. Martin. And he makes a reference to his own series, saying "It's like a cross between Jurassic Park and Game of Thrones" (lookee there, another Crichton tie-in with The Dinosaur Lords).
There's no doubt that The Dinosaur Lords is very Game of Thronesish. Very. But with a few major differences. The following excerpt is very House Lannister (Jaume and Melodia are cousins).
The herald's tabard swelled to an extra-deep breath. "Comes now the Imperial Champion, the Knight-Champion of Our Lady Bella, el Conde dels Flors, JAUME!" he bellowed.
The crowd erupted in ecstasy as Jaume rode onto the field from between the gaudy silk banners that screened the waiting contestants. It thrilled Melodia to think that her lover might be the most popular man in all Nuevaropa. Certainly the Mercedes adored him.
And why not? He was young and beautiful, his orange hair streaming, his armor and his glorious orange-brindled morion, Camellia, gleaming white. Even better, his philosophy exalted as high virtues the very sorts of pleasures the Mercedes most loved to indulge in, as pleasing to his Lady and productive of moral good.
Melodia saw no reason not to adore her handsome knight. Her heart beat a quick march on her ribs, and she found it hard to breathe.
Scowling, Montañazul stroked his moustache with a thumb. He seemed to find plenty not to adore about Jaume.
Tournament Knight-Marshal Duval, his head bare, the gold-trimmed red feather cape signifying his command of the Scarlet Tyrants draped over broad shoulders, stepped out onto the thirty meters of bare ground separating the combatants. He held out his staff and in a trumpet voice ordered both to make ready.
From the historias Melodia had always loved to read, she knew the Iron Duchess hadn't indulged in fripperies like tourney grounds when she raised her great fortress on its white stone headland to watch over the city she was rebuilding after its destruction by the pirate fleet. Felipe had ordered his lists set up in the middle of a kilometer of ground kept clear between the Firefly Palace's white stone walls and the green wall of forest inland. Wooden stands rose on either side of a field fifty meters long and thirty wide. Panels of red and blue and yellow and green fabric shaded dignitaries on the north side - nearer the palace - and the less elegant but no less festive common crowd on the south. Bright pennons bearing contestants' insignia flapped to a moderate breeze from staffs around the yard.
It was a grand sight, surely. Melodia could see none of it now. She could only switch the narrow window her vision had become between the man who she had been in love with her whole life, and the man intent on doing him all the harm he could.
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Hee's another very Lannister scene in the The Dinosaur Lords (very reminiscent of an iconic moment in the TV series and the novel form of Game of Thrones).
"Your Highness," the Pope said to Melodia over a golden tureen of strider-tail and vegetable soup. "Certain rumors have reached my ears."
For Melodia the usual dinnertime hubbub in the banquet hall was abruptly overridden by ringing silence. Hearing nothing but the drumming of her own pulse, she showed Pio an expression that was more pulling her cheeks up under her eyes than an actual smile. The eyes of the courtiers at the great table seemed to sear her skin.
Nuevaropan culture distinguished nudity from . Being nude in public could signify ritual, exaltation, an important statement, or even social superiority. Being naked in public was humiliating.
Despite the fact that she was fully dressed, in emerald silk wound in an X across her breasts and a lose brown and cream silk skirt, Melodia felt naked.
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There's no shortage of sexual references, though there's not really anything too-graphic. Non-Spanish characters are few, but there's a German one in this excerpt (another, Karyl, would seem to be Russian, and there are a couple of minor British characters mentioned).
"Bitch!" Llurdis said.
Melodia's stare turned from shocked disbelief to fury. The pair showed every sign of being about to launch one of their full-blown wrestling/lovemaking bouts, out here in front of Melodia's father, the gods, and everybody.
"They're like a pair of cats, really," Fanny murmured.
"Ladies," Melodia hissed, "I'm this far from having some husky men-servants grab the both of you, spank you, and throw you out on your stinging pink asses."
"Really?" Lupe said.
"You wouldn't dare!" puffed Llurdis.
"Girls," Abi said cheerfully. That itself was a warning as loud as a temple bell rung after midnight. "You may have noticed our Imperial mistress is feeling a bit testy tonight, yes? Tread warily."
Melodia gave her a glare. Then she jumped as she felt a strong, warm pressure enfold her left biceps.
She spun to find the Duke of Hornberg looming over her like a cliff. "You look like you could use a rescue," he said.
She yanked her arm away. "I can rescue myself, thank you kindly, your Grace." She shot him a withering glare. He failed to wither.
"May I steal you for this dance, then?" he asked as lightly as his basement-baritone voice and guttural Northern accent would allow.
"Well," Melodia heard herself saying, "just this one."
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The strapping German knight isn't a good dude and his subsequent actions bear this out.
Each chapter begins with a sketch of a Dinosaur, with or without a knight perched on its back, and a blurb about dinosaurs or a quote from The Histories - the tome that the world's religions and even the governments are founded upon. It's unclear what's happening elsewhere in the world, but The Histories are definitely yhr final word in this corner of Paradise.
Now, the major differences from Game of Thrones -
One, instead of Medieval England/Northern Europe being the template for most of the major players in the story, the major players in The Dinosaur Lords are Spaniards. Spanish is the primary language of the day and Spain appears to rule supreme (which did actually happen for a little while, even in our own timeline) - though it's possible that these opinions might just be those of the protagonists in the book and the actual major powers of the era are somewhere outside the scope. Who knows?
And secondly, in this timeline, Dinosaurs managed to survive and flourish into the middle ages of this universe. They're food, they're beasts of burden, they're more common than most mammals. So that puts an interesting spin on the events of the story. But, and here's one of the big twisteroos, there are clues that this isn't Earth. It's a smaller planet that was colonized by Earth natives. But who? And why?
A possible clue comes from one of the chapter header blurbs from The Histories:
Hogar, Home, Old Home - When they were done making Paradise, and found it good, the Creators brought humans, their Five Friends, and certain useful crops and herbs here from the world we call Home. Ancient accounts teach us it is a strange place. It is cold, and we would feel heavier there, and find the air much thinner. The year is 1.6 times as long as ours. We must admire the fortitude of our ancestors in dwelling on such an inhospitable world, and always praise the Creators for bringing us to our true Paradise!
- A PRIMER TO PARADISE FOR THE IMPROVEMENT OF YOUNG MINDS
Two of the characters (the two I find the most endearing and noble) are very R.A. Salvatore-ish. Or maybe they're not, but they remind me of his characters from the Saga of the First King series (which I've probably also neglected to mention here in any detail. Most of the other characters are less endearing, but very medieval in their behavior.
Here's a really long excerpt or two or three) to show you why these guys rock.
"Stop!" the archer cried. "Hand over the hook-horn and your purses, and we'll let you leave with your lives."
Little Nell sighed resignedly as she came to a halt. Walking at her side, Rob Korrigan concurred.
The afternoon light dappled the leaf corpses that mostly hid the ruts in the indifferently maintained road, and filled Rob's nostrils with a rich, dry, small as they slowly turned into humus. A cuatralas, black as a baron's heart, glided from branch to branch, chasing a purple-and-yellow butterfly. Tiny birds twittered to one another among the leaves of tall gingkoes and false plane trees, which grew far enough apart to allow enough sunloght to filter down to sustain a thriving undergrowth of barberry, ferns and scrub oak.
Which was in turn enough to hide brigands. Like the one who'd just stepped into the road ahead, drawing a shortbow to his chest. And the pair who emerged from the bushes five or six meters to either side.
"You take care of these two," Karyl said, nodding toward the man with the spear and the one with the short sword who hovered menacingly on their flanks. "I'll deal with the archer."
"And isn't that you all over, then?" Rob murmured as his companion walked calmly forward. He neither saw how Karyl Bogomirskiy, armed solely with his sword-staff, could possibly deal with a bowman twenty-five meters off, nor doubted that he somehow would. Rob was a man who believed in fate and the Fae, and he doubted either intended such a man as Karyl to die like a stunted vexer chick in such a crappy, random way.
Nonetheless he moved to interpose the patient grey-and-blue bulk of Nell's butt between himself and the readied arrow as he pulled axe and round shield off her back.
He slid his arm through a broad swath of nosehorn leather fixed to the back of his shield to grip the narrower hand strap. He loosened the lacings of his axehead cover with his teeth and ditched it with a wrist flip.
The two brigands to either side of him seemed suddenly less eager for the encounter to proceed. His calm, crisp actions clearly took them aback. They seemed astonished that the threat of a drawn bow hadn't frozen him in place.
Rob knew the type too well. They weren't fighters, but bushwhackers, whose primary weapons were surprise and intimidation, not the implements they were suddenly holding in oddly tentative ways, as if trying to remember what they were there for. Most of their combat seasoning came from putting the boot in on a cowed or fallen foe.
Like house-shields, Rob thought - the noble class's hired, armored bullyboys, and occasionally girls. The comparison filled him with such righteous fury it pushed all trepidation right out of him.
"What's the matter?" he demanded, turning left and right to flourish Wanda at each in turn. A showman through, he made sure to let shafts of sunlight glance off her bearded grey head. "Aren't you eager to take what I've got, then?"
Nell snorted, twitched her big tail, and stamped a hind foot. It occurred to him that he might have just given the hook-horn a swat in the fanny and sent her charging straight at the archer. It would take more skill and
He'd have sworn the man spoke no louder than a whisper. Yet he heard him clearly as if the dark-bearded lips were almost brushing his own ear.
His opponents having opted to drop their weapons to hold on to their violated parts and moan about their sorry state, Rob risked a look down the road.
Karyl was no more than the span of his own outstretched arms from the head of the drawn arrow. Which was now describing increasingly wild figured of eight in the air.
Karyl advanced another inexorable step. The bowman shrieked like a frightened child and threw down his bow. The nocked arrow tumbled, to go notch-fist into the roadside weeds. The brigand turned and ran as fast as his spindly brown legs would carry him.
"The quiver too," Karyl called after him.
Without breaking stride the bandit shucked the strap off his shoulder and let the half-full pouch of arrows fall. He kept running until he vanished around a bend in the track.
Karyl had never drawn blade.
"Right," Rob said to the men he'd downed. He gave the one with the bloody mouth a boot in the ribs. "Help your friend and be off. Unless yon'd like some more?"
The man scrambled up. He circled wide of Rob to the aid of his partner. His hand left a broad smear of blood on the other's forearm as he dragged him to his feet. Supporting each other, the pair staggered off into the bushes and were gone.
The quiver retrieved and slung over one shoulder, Karyl bent over to lay the staff down and pick up the bow. He used his right hand; his left was swaddled to a sort of club. But Rob had glimpsed what lay beneath the stream-washed linen bandages Karyl rewrapped it with each night. He wondered if Karyl thought to hide the wrinkled pink worms of half-grown fingers from Rob, or from himself.
"Can you use this?" he asked, brandishing the bow at Rob. "It can bring some meat for the pot, and help resolve similar adventures in future."
Rob drew the corners of his mouth down toward his jaw. "Not well. I stick what I"m pointing at rather more often than I do my own foot, I suppose."
"It'll have to do."
Rob expected him to walk the bow back to him. Instead Karyl slung it over his left shoulder, recovered his staff, and simply stood by the road. After a moment Rob realized Karyl was waiting for him to get Little Nell under way and move forward to catch him up.
He finished hanging his shield back with the baggage piled on his dinosaur's back and collected the cover for Wanda's head.
"That was dead brave," Rob said as he fitted it back in place. "As brave as anything I've seen, perhaps."
Karyl grunted. "Physical valor is the most overvalued commodity on Paradise."
The shock hit Rob like a plunge in an icy mountain stream. Such a statement was practically heresy. More to the point, Rob was a bard - and celebrating physical courage was a primary stock-in-trade.
Karyl might just as well have pissed all over the ideal of Beauty. Or gold, or honor, or power - or the intrigue, fucking, and rampant bloodletting those things tended to engender. And did, in any self-respecting song or story.
Worst of all, Rob more than half-suspected the thing himself.
"How can you say that?" he blustered.
"Courage is as common as young men with more sperm in their sacks than sense in their skulls," Karyl said. "The willingness of men and women to die without question is a virtue primarily for the unworthy, who use it for their gain."
"But you were a mercenary leader! A mercenary lord. Wouldn't getting to die for your gain define the job?"
Karyl nodded. "Precisely."
"And yet without so much as lifting your hand you chased off a man with arrow nocked, drawn, and aimed," Rob said, hanging his axe behind the shield. How do you even explain such a thing?"
"In the East they say there's nothing more dangerous than one who lives as if already dead."
Rob rubbed his beard. The stresses and strains of the encounter, brief as it was, had made the sweat run briskly down his face for a spell despite the cool forest air.
"There's a thing that's easier said than done, I think."
Karyl laughed softly. "It's not hard when you've done it as often I have."
"Died." His mouth tightened inside his neat beard. "It would come as something of a relief, I think. If it took this time."
Shaking his head, Rob grasped the lead attached to the complicated bridle fitted over Nell's head and fringe and clucked her into amiable motion.
"All good and well," he said. "But if he had loosed at you, you'd have just knocked the arrow out of the air, right? Or snatched it with your hand like those ninja blokes in Zipangu, I shouldn't wonder."
"Or died," he said.
Thanks to their earlier brush with bandits, they now possessed a shortbow and quiver of arrows. Rob's skill with these proving greater than he let on to, if only just, they brought a steadier and readier supply of fresh meat to the pot than his snares alone could.
Today both men walked. Little Nell ambled amiably behind, her gizzard stones rumbling as she digested a purple-leaf thornbush she had uprooted in passing. As usual, Rob let his companion keep a slight lead. Not out of deference - or so he told himself - but to keep an eye on him. The nearer they came to their destination, the more focused Karyl became. But along with the dreams and headaches, he was given to brooding, to such an extent that he appeared to lose the outside world entirely. Rob was far from certain Karyl wouldn't simply wander off and be seen no more.
Without warning, Karyl stopped and stood looking to his left.
"What is it?" Rob asked, running a thumb for reassurance beneath the springer-hide strap that held his axe across his back. The empire's roads were dangerous places - if mostly to the bandits unlucky enough to brace Karyl and Rob. Their whole point in coming here was that Providence was beset by predatory neighbors. And Métairie Brulée was one was of them.
Karyl pointed with his sword-staff. Around a ridge half a kilometer to the north lumbered a herd of a dozen spine-backed titans. Long, narrow creatures, green with pink undersides, the largest adults reached thirty meters and perhaps twenty tonnes. Calves a mere ten meters long froliced between their columnar legs. The giants proceeded at their customary slow, oblivious pace, stripping leaves from the scrub with peg-shaped teeth.
They had no voices: they couldn't force cries down the tremendous length of their necks. From the books of ancient lore, allegedly passed down by the Creators themselves, Rob knew they needed a system of air tubes along their neck-bones even to move the dog-sized heads at the ends of them. But when they whuffed and chuffed and farted, it carried as far as a shout. You could hear them coming.
Karyl took off his woven-straw hat and wiped sweat from his forehead with the back of his hand. His left hand, its fingers mostly grown out but still weak, wrapped in a bandage to protect the soft, pink skin from sunburn. Rob let Nell's lead drop so she could munch the roadside foliage, and joined Karyl to watch the monsters.
Rob knew dinoasaurs. Better in some ways than he knew men - and far better sadly, than he knew women, to go by his record. He'd spent his life around them. Still, the size and majesty of these animals struck Rob Korrigan speechless. He felt as if his flesh and the blood in his veins had chilled beneath his sun-warmed skin.
He caught the cocking of Rob's brow. "Does it strike you as frivolous, Master Korrigan, that we sit here in the comfort of our Garden discussing philosophy while such horrors happen nearby? I quite understand. But what can we do? We're not warriors. It's why we have you. For us...Paradise turns. Life goes on."
He put big hands, pale yet strong, on both men's shoulders and steered them toward benches.
"Come, friends," he said, "refresh yourselves. I'm eager to hear how your first day's training went."
"Well enough," Karyl said as Bogardus poured them light yellow wine from a silver pitcher. It was cast to resemble a mythical sea beast called a "dolphin," which much resembled a fish-lizard but possessed unnatural-looking horizontal flukes for a tail.
"The lads brightened considerably when we gave them a bit of sword-play," Rob said, emptying his cup at a draft. Bogardus refilled it without even setting the pitcher down.
"I'll want to train most of them on weapons closer to whatever tools they're used to using," Karyl said after wetting his throat with a sip. "Time's short."
Bogardus nodded. "If the raiders have gotten bold enough to attack St. Cloud, it's shorter even than we feared. Refugees streamed into town all day. They're sheltering with families there now, poor souls."
"Why haven't the Brokenhearts raided Providence town, I wonder?" Rob said. "It's the fattest target by far, even in a country as rich as this."
"Everyone fears a city fight," said Karyl. "It's all at dagger range, no room to maneuver, with every window an archer's loophole, every intersection an ambush. And of course, the roof tiles."
Rob stopped his cup halfway to his lips. "'Roof tiles'?"
"I share our dinosaur master's perplexity," Bogardus said.
"Those tiles up there," Karyl said, gesturing toward the villa roof with his fully formed but still-pink left hand. "What would you say they weigh?"
"I've never thought about it," Bogardus said. "They certainly look hefty enough, don't they? They can't weigh less than five kilos apiece, or so I'd guess."
"At least," Karyl said. "Now think of them thrown down at you."
click here to show or hide the full quoted excerpt (there's a lot)
I highly recommend both books, but if you're less of a Sci-Fi/Fantasy nerd, Dragon Teeth is probably the surer bet.
Oh, and I'll get to the other mentionable stuff soon-ish. Maybe.
Disneyland, The San Diego Zoo, my cell-away-from-home, and Comic-related stuff
I apologize (mostly to myself, since I'm the main audience of this drivel) that I haven't blathered on about any of the uber-exciting stuff that's been going on - or the books I've read - for a few months, but enthusiasm is low and all the time I thought I'd have with both kids out of the house...just hasn't materialized. But enough with the excuses. Here are a few of the things I've neglected to mention since August (the last time I talked about anything other than books I've read).
Current Cubical comics
To start things off, here are some photos from my current cubicle at work. I don't think I've shared my nerd wall since July of 2017, so let's just say there have been many different comic book selections hanging on my wall since then. The current selection is the first six issues of a comic book I acquired way back in 2007-2008 (back when I was a regular ComicCon attendee - before it became all about non-comic book stuff). Five of the six issues have sketches, signatures, and/or funny little comments (all but issue #1) on the covers from ComicCon, so that's fun.
Here's the wall.
The next set of comics on the wall will be from the amazing Mike Kunkel - Billy Batson and the Magic of Shazam. And/Or maybe a few Gus Beezer Marvel comics. We'll see if I ever get around to sharing photos of those. I totally missed the Death Dealer, Conan, Batman, Kill ShakespeareNeverwhere, and many other comic series that have each decorated my wall for a couple of months each, so don't hold your breath.
The Decline of the San Diego ComicCon
And speaking of the multimedia extravaganza that was once a comic book convention called The San Diego ComicCon, I have planned to mention another indicator (beyond my own disinterest in what the ComicCon has become) that the San Diego ComicCon should just remove the word "Comic" from its name.
Mile High Comics, a big comic book store in the Denver area that has an inventory of millions of back issues and was one of the founding fathers of the ComicCon 40+ years ago, decided not to setup an exhibit in 2017 (or ever again, presumably). If you've been to ComicCon (for the comics, not just to rubberneck for Chris Evans and Scarlett Johansson), you've seen the gigantic booth along the back wall of the convention center floor.
I acquired a good part of the harder to find back issues in my collection from Mile High. The only comic book I currently collect is American Gods (and Neil Gaiman-related hardcover graphic novels), so my own interest in comic books has changed over the past few years. Not due to a lack of interest, but more due to a lack of storage space. Regardless, here are a series of excerpts from post-convention emails Chuck Rozanski sent out in 2017.
Here's the first email Chuck sent in 2017 to warn his customers/mailing list subscribers of the Mile High Comics booth's absence:
To answer the numerous questions that we have been receiving of late, for the first time in 44 years, we will not be exhibiting at this year's San Diego Comic-Con. I wish that this decision could have been otherwise, but circumstances beyond our control made our further participation impossible. To explain, San Diego has grown far beyond its original premise, morphing from what was originally a wonderful annual gathering of the comics world, into a world-renown pop culture and media festival. As such, it has seen rapidly escalating costs, and also a dramatic change in the demographics of its attendees. Neither of those changes worked to our advantage.
To explain a bit more, my first little one-table booth in 1973 cost $40 to rent for the weekend. When we received our booth renewal for last year, our costs for our 70' of space had been raised to over $18,000. While quite costly, that one factor alone would not have precluded us from returning, as we had paid $16,500 in rent the previous year.
What made the situation nearly impossible, however, was that foot traffic in the exhibit hall declined dramatically last year. Even at its peak on Saturday afternoon, our end of the building (which was primarily comics) was uncrowded. The San Diego Fire Marshals were partially to blame, as they put much stricter controls on the number of badge holders allowed in the building at any given time. That might not have been such a bad idea, except that it amplified the harm already being caused by the incredible proliferation of off-site events that are now being set up for upwards of eight blocks all around the convention center. When you can see GAME OF THRONES, POKEMON, and hundreds of other exhibits across from the convention hall for free, why bother going in to the hall? Many fans did not.
To summarize, we experienced rising costs, while at the same time foot traffic in our booth plummeted. That is never a good combination. That having been said, I truly loved the experience of exhibiting at San Diego Con, so I can assure you that I would have ignored those two major obstacles, and still renewed my booth. The final straw, however, was the utter indifference of the San Diego Comic-Con management to the fiasco that we endured at the beginning of last year's show, when the freight handlers that they hired failed to deliver our comics to our booth.
So how could this awful thing happen? It beats the heck out of me. Our trucker was in line at the convention marshaling yard at 6:30 AM on Tuesday morning. At 9 PM that evening, with almost all the other vendors around us unpacked and completely set up, we still did not have our 40,000 lbs of freight. I had twelve workers scheduled to help us set up that day (included Will, Lynne, and Norrie who flew in from Denver that morning...), but all we could do was to sit around all day in our totally empty booth.
Making matters much worse, at no time during this ordeal (or during the show) did anyone from the convention management stop by with an apology, an explanation, or even just to commiserate. After 44 years of my supporting them through good times and bad, that was just too much indifference to endure. When you are in a relationship out of love and passion, but the other party could care less whether you live or die, you have to realize that it is time to move on. I will very much miss San Diego, but I doubt if the convention management will even notice that I am gone. Such is life.
click here to show or hide the full quoted excerpt
And here's a followup email Chuck sent in 2017.
For the past 43 years, the first day of the each San Diego Comic-Con was filled with hope and excitement for me. For decades, I could not wait for this wonderful gathering of all my friends from the comics world to begin. Beginning about ten years ago, however, the convention underwent a major change. Long-time SDCC supporters were told at the end of that year's convention that they were no longer going to be given the opportunity to purchase passes on Sunday evening for the following year. Instead, San Diego's most loyal supporters were told that they were going to be forced to enter an online lottery system dominated by hundreds of thousands of media and pop culture fans. Most comics fans were then shut out. In my opinion, it was that one callous decision that doomed the Comic-Con that we all once loved.
I could wax poetic about many other aspects of the convention that also influenced my decision to not return this year, but I will tell you in all honesty that I do not miss the stress of dealing with the freight handlers and trying to build our exhibit in the slightest. I broke a crown the other day and had to have some rather invasive dental work done this morning. Sadly, I realized while laying in the dentist's chair and listening to the whine of her drill that I was far more relaxed today than I have been on the Wednesday of San Diego in many, many years. It had become so bad for me that I was already dreading the Sunday night load-out hassles before the convention even began on Wednesday evening. Clearly, it was long past time for me to quit forcing myself to accept this dreadful stress, and to instead move on.
All of the above having been said, San Diego is still a major part of the pop culture world, and some news still emanates from the panels. I will try to keep you apprised of what I hear.
click here to show or hide the full quoted excerpt
This may not be of interest to anyone but me, but I'm a little bit sad that I no longer have a comic book convention full of artists and writers I admire (the small independent creators have long since been priced out of exhibiting) to look forward to visiting in July. Granted, I'm not exactly supporting the Comic Book industry with my one issue a month habit (American Gods). Maybe if the ComicCon hadn't b3ecoe what it is, I'd still be pouring tons of dough into my sequential art habit.
The Art of Emeli
And speaking of art, here are some of the amazing creations of my amazing daughter, Emeli. Each of these is fully painted and much more amazing than they appear in the poorly scanned or photographed representations you see here.
I could post so many more, but Emeli has been curiously shy about me sharing her talents online. In a weird way.
The Occasionally-Magical Kingdom
We went to Disneyland in December of 2017 and it was as crowded and unenjoyable as it ever seems to be. But I did take a few photos (probably a lot ore than this, actually, but I don't know where the others are at the moment). So here are a few photos that I took and forgot to take off my phone for many moons.
They're not super exciting, but a couple of them are things that just might disappear once the new Star Wars land opens next year. Snow White's castle at Christmas is always worth seeing.
We went to Disneyland again in September (2018) and, shockingly, it wasn't crowded. The good ol' crowd forecaster predicted "Ghost Town" crowd conditions (as it has erroneously many time in the past) and was actually spot-on. There were people there, so it wasn't exactly a "ghost town," but it was more like the Disneyland of yesteryear. There was no crowd to get in, no crowds for the rides I went on (Pirates of the Caribbean was a 5-minute wait), and the restaurants/shops were equally uncrowded. It was glorious.
One thing that was crowded was the security check points into the ticketing area. There were more Disneyland security and real policemen hanging around here than I've ever seen. But I guess this is the new normal because the next visit in October was just as security heavy. Welcome to the new world order - it's a Disney Police State.
Our first ride of the day (pretty much standard fare) was Pirates of the Caribbean. The line outside was nonexistent. There was only a single line to the boats inside. I'd guess it took no more than five minutes to get on the ride. So awesome.
I was surprised to see that Pirates of the Caribbean ride had been modified since the last time we visited Disneyland (maybe that's why it was closed for our previous visit).
It seems like the ambient narration script changed. For one thing, the "they've seen the cursed treasure..." part is gone. At least I think it is. Sad.
There's a new pirate in a cage being taunted by an octopus in a nook of the cave just before you reach the Captain in his treasure-filled room.
The ever-awful Davy Jones Squid-Faced fog wall is gone. As is the Davy Jones monologue.
And most disappointingly, the pirate bride auction is ruined forever. The redhead is now a pirate, the fatty is now selling chickens, and the other homely wenches are now elderly townspeople selling their valuables. Lame. Rewriting history all over again. I'm all for adding female pirates here and there (there were a few famous female pirates in the Caribbean), but does Disney have to ruin everything else to get them in the ride? Disappointed.
Here are a few Pirates-related photos.
click here to show or hide the rest of the Pirate thumbnails
A much less disappointing modification was the addition of different planetary tours in Star Tours (planets from The Last Jedi). While it's definitely the same ride, it's always nice to have new scenery. There were also apparently some changes made to the Indiana Jones ride, but it was closed earlier in the day and was too crowded once it re-opened so I skipped it.
Here are way more Disneyland photos from this visit than anyone wants to see.
click here to show or hide the rest of the Disneyland thumbnails
All in all, a good day at Disneyland.
But then I had to go and ruin my warm, fuzzy memory with a follow-up visit in October. The forecast called for a 40% chance of rain, so we had high hopes for smaller crowds. Sadly, the only rain we saw was a light drizzle as we left the park in the afternoon.
The restaurants were as busy as they are in the spring or around Christmas (I don't do Disneyland in the summer, so I can't compare it to that) and we did the 5-hour parking thing again (with a sit-down meal in Downtown Disney) and I had my usual breakfast at the La Brea Bakery. I'm sure it was exactly the same as it's always been, but it didn't hit the spot, so I'll be trying something else if we return again in the future and want the free 5-hour parking.
I did revisit the WonderGround Gallery art shop in Downtown Disney briefly when we arrived and saw some matted prints of a couple of the big-eyed Disney/Star Wars characters for around $40 that I almost picked up, but we never made it back to the shop on the way out...so no new art to put in the garage this time. Another Downtown Disney observation - there was a ton of construction going on. And I was surprised to see the Rainforest Cafe was dead. That was a fun place to eat with the kids.
When we arrived at Disneyland, the line to get in was as short as it had been in September, so we were looking forward to another crowd-free day. The crowd-forecast calendar predicted an "It's all right" crowd - crowded, but not horrible. Initially, I thought the prediction was spot-on. And then I got inside the park. The crowds were out in force to admire the great Halloween decorations. Every ride's line was awful - the Haunted Mansion line was over an hour long. The Pirates of the Caribbean line snaked up over the bridge when we got there, but had somehow shrunk to just slightly annoyingly long (ending under the bridge) by the time we got off the Haunted Mansion ride.
click here to show or hide the rest of the Disneyland thumbnails
A couple more comments about the Haunted mansion line: there was a group of four women in their twenties wearing matching red bathing suits (one-piece, Disney-related, I think) with shorts covering the bottoms (though one had pants on, as I recall). There was an abundance of side-boob from a couple of the women and one of the side-boobers was very attractive (the others were just okay). But I was doing my best to be un-creepy and didn't take a photo of them. Also in the Haunted Mansion line, there were a couple of red-headed young women who were very striking in different ways - Dr. Frankenstein could have made a nice Jessica Rabbit out of the parts. One had a very striking pale face and gorgeous green eyes under her bushy red hair and the other had a body with impossible curves, topped off with a face that was all too possible. Again, I was being un-creepy and failed to capture either in a photo.
We had planned to go visit the land of Disney again in October, but it was going to be in the mid-eighties on the Wednesday we planned to go, so we decided to go to the San Diego Zoo Safari Park (formerly known as the San Diego Wild Animal Park). I hadn't been to the Safari park in probably over 10 years (when it was the Wild Animal Park).
We have annual passes and were looking forward to the free parking that we'd always received in the past, but were surprised to be told that only the pricier annual membership granted free parking. Boo!
The highlight of the Wild Animal park was the tram ride around the open areas of the park filled mostly with African herbivores. I was surprised by the lack of carnivores that were part of the tour in the old days (as I said, it's been several years since I've been to the park). The lions were still apparently in the same place (we saw them after the tram ride), but maybe the fact that they were both asleep and oblivious to the world made mentioning them not worth the effort. I dunno. We also saw the baby animal nursery, a bunch of bird exhibits, and I bought some delicious fudge (so rich that more than just a tiny slice makes my teeth hurt. Awesomely delicious).
A few photos from the San Diego Zoo Safari Park trip.
click here to show or hide the rest of the Safari Park thumbnails
Also unmentioned was a trip to the San Diego Zoo last month. It had also been quite a few years since we'd last visited the San Diego zoo(or had annual passes). Quite a bit had changed (mainly animal exhibit relocation - including the stinky flamingos up front). The Panda-viewing line was as long as it was a million years ago and probably not really worth the wait, but they are cute little critters, even if they just kind of lay there and eat the whole time you're watching them. The Koalas were just as cute and a little more lively.
The sky ride is still there and apparently free for everyone now, not just the annual pass holders. The new Tiger Trail was really scenic and awesome (not the actual tiger part - the tigers were hiding in the furthest corner in the exhibit almost out of sight). We only saw a fraction of the zoo exhibits and I didn't sample any delicious chocolate, so there's not much more to say, I guess.
Here are a few photos of the Tiger Trail.
click here to show or hide the rest of the Tiger Trail thumbnails
There's a concert, some Balboa Park museum outings, a million books, and a couple of CDs I still plan to mention, but I'm out of steam and have a couple of book reviews to get to first...