Monthly Archives: March 2013

Review: “Cold Days” by Jim Butcher

Title: Cold Days
Author: Jim Butcher
Series: The Dresden Files #14
Rating: *****
Publisher/Copyright: Penguin, 2012

SPOILER ALERT! This review contains spoilers, not for Cold Days  but for the two previous books, Changes and Ghost Story.

Harry Dresden was the only professional wizard in the Chicago phonebook. But a lot can happen over the course of three books….First, the Red Court vampires kidnapped his daughter (whom he didn’t know existed) and tried to sacrifice her in a spell that would wipe out her entire lineage–including Harry and a number of the senior wizards of the White Council. Which was about when Harry fell and broke his back, paralyzing himself at least for the short term. In order to gain the power to save his daughter, Harry sold his soul and accepted the position of Winter Knight for the Winter Court of the Fae. Power corrupts, and the power of the Winter Knight is about as corrupting an influence as you can find–and Harry is well aware of the monster he would make if he allowed it to happen. No sooner is his daughter safe and sound than Harry finds himself on the receiving end of a high-powered sniper rifle….awakening months later to find himself a disembodied spirit. He doesn’t really have time to get used to it though, because something is stalking Chicago’s spooks. To make matters worse, Chicago has become a very scary place without its resident wizard to deter the baddies and Harry’s friends are all in very real danger. Even as a ghost, Harry can’t resist putting himself between his friends and danger….but at the end of the day, crisis averted for now, Harry awakens once more in his own body. He’s been comatose for months on his island, being tended by the island’s conciousness Demonreach and the Winter Queen, Mab. Turns out, she won’t let her new knight go that easily….

Harry lives! He’s been nursed back to health in the depths of Arctis Tor, stronghold of the Winter Court and his new boss, Mab, the Winter Queen. He is hers to command, at least so far as she can convince him is necessary. And her first job for him? Killing Maeve, her daughter the Winter Lady. This doesn’t make sense on multiple levels, as a mortal simply does not have the power to kill an immortal except in very rare and specific situations, none of which are scheduled any time soon. To make matters worse, there’s something wrong with Demonreach, the island Harry has a complicated connection with. If he doesn’t find a way to prevent it, half the Midwest is going to become a crater. To make matters worse, Harry is only now becoming aware of the true face and purpose of what he has been referring to as the Black Council. It is not at all what he has thought it is, and anyone could be compromised. All of the allies he trusts think he is dead. He can call on the power of the Winter Knight, but even if he is able to avoid becoming a monster that may not be enough to tip the scales in his favor this time….

The crazy thing about the Dresden files is how the author, Jim Butcher, manages to make each book more epic than the last. I finished this book less than two days ago and I’m already jonesing for the next installment. May it come quickly….I am very anxious to see how events play out following that ending.

Content: This is rated R. The language is occasionally harsh, but not gratuitous. The violence can be brutal, but fits the tone of the book. Harry Dresden inhabits a very dark world, and it gets darker with every book. He tries to be a force for the light, but sometimes he has to settle for lessening the darkness. There is a fair amount of sexual content, again, not gratuitous, but present nonetheless. Obviously, this book contains magic. I am very impressed by how respectfull of Christianity Butcher is, however, and I encourage you not to dismiss this out of hand.

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Review: “Colored Floodlights” by Frank Drury

Title: Colored Floodlights
Author: Frank Drury
Rating: ***
Publisher/Copyright: CreateSpace, 2012

I received my copy of the book through the Goodreads FirstReads program, which I highly recommend! (I think I have to say that for legal reasons) This book, however…I didn’t find it all that fascinating. I’ll admit that this isn’t really the kind of book I usually read (It isn’t quite what I expected when I signed up for the giveaway–see below for that explanation), and I’m sure there are those out there who will enjoy it, but it wasn’t for me. I go more for adventure in my books–mystery, fantasy, sci-fi, anything with an adventure in it–so this milder fare just didn’t really push my buttons. Or at least not the right ones….

I expected that the blurb (go read it if you want, I won’t reproduce it here) described the first fifty to a hundred pages, then Roy would have a PTSD attack, First Blood-style, and the rest would be the various characters dealing with that. THAT I would have found interesting. Instead, the incident mentioned (misleadingly, I might add) in the blurb is about twenty pages from the end, if that. I also expected Roy to be the main character, but he was more the secondary protagonist. The result seems a little bit aimless, in that there’s no central conflict driving the plot forward. I realize its a character-driven work, and I have to admit that all the characters are well-developed and distinct, but I still just wasn’t engaged.

Parker Boyce is a psychologist who specializes in PTSD after dealing with himself after Gulf War I. Roy Calhoun is back in the states after three tours in Afghanistan and having trouble dealing with his PTSD. As he treats Roy, Parker begins to take him on as a special project–getting him into classes at a local community college, hiring him as a gardner/caretaker, etc. This relationship formes most of the plot. In addition, there is Parker’s wife Katrina, who is cheating on him with a local detective (that’s not a spoiler–that gets off the ground right away); her sister Roberta, who takes instantly both to Roy and to the Occupy movement, leading to the climactic incident; and Parker’s mother Virginia or “Ginny,” who spends her evenings searching for dates online.

I really liked Ginny most of the way through the book. She’s funny and at least moderately conservative in her politics, which makes her stand out from the other characters who all tend left of center. I actually pictured the actress who plays Nathan Fillion’s mother on the TV show Castle. She gets abrasive at the end though, and while I don’t disagree with much of what she says, she’s not very nice about it. Roy is a sympathetic character, and you do get involved with him and his struggles. Parker is also a good guy, and you can tell he’s trying to do the right thing most of the time. He’s a liberal, but not obnoxious about it. Roberta is nice enough, and you are supposed to sympathize with her, but she dives headlong into the Occupy movement without really knowing anything about it, taking Roy to his doom. Katrina…..well, let’s just say that if you are going to have a character cheat on her husband while he is lying in the hospital, you are going to have to work extra hard to make me like this character. The author doesn’t, so I rather dislike her character quite a bit.

This is a novel very rooted in current events, especially the Occupy movement. I have no problem with that, per se, but as someone who identifies somewhere between the mainline GOP and the Tea Party I was annoyed by the pro-Occupy slant. I’m not saying that this in any way diminishes the quality of the book, but it did diminish my enjoyment of it. Its well-written, but its not a book for me. I’ll see if I can pass my copy on to someone who will enjoy it more…..

Content-wise, I’m calling this PG-13 to R. Language was not over the top, but there were a few F-bombs. There was some sexual material, not too explicit. Some violence, especially in flashbacks. Not too gory, aside from one flashback to an IED explosion.

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Review: “Star Wars–X-Wing: Mercy Kill” by Aaron Allston

Title: X-Wing: Mercy Kill
Author: Aaron Allston
Series: Star Wars: X-Wing #10 (Legends Canon)
Rating: *****
Publisher/Copyright: Del Rey, 2012

Do you remember fondly the Star Wars novels of the 90s? Are you into Star Wars but a newcomer to the Expanded Universe? Do you enjoy your Star Wars with an undertone of comedy, so long as a certain floppy-eared terror is nowhere in sight? If so, X-Wing: Mercy Kill may be a good book for you to check out.

Unlike most of the books being released set in the “modern” era of the Star Wars universe (44 ABY–i.e., 44 Years post-Episode IV), Mercy Kill lets you jump right in, more or less without knowing the situation to that point. A lot of the others you could read cold, but they wouldn’t make much sense. Mercy Kill, however, has little to do with the ongoing plot of the Expanded Universe. It’s rooted in recent events, but the setup is very simple and easily grasped. It would pay to know the characters from the X-Wing novels of the 90s, but even that is not really necessary. You could check out three or four articles on Wookiepedia and be fine–I did, just to refresh my memory.

So….here’s what you need to know. In the 90s, they published a series of comics and then novels based around Rogue Squadron, led by Wedge Antilles and a number of the X-Wing pilots from the films along with some new faces. These comics and the first four novels were written by Michael Stackpole, but after the fourth he dropped out for a while citing other commitments he had to work on. So they hired in Aaron Allston to continue the series. Allston decided to let the Rogues go off on their own adventures while he created a new team for his novels–Wraith Squadron, a team of X-Wing pilots who would work equally well as a ground-based commando team. The result was a cross between The A-Team and The Dirty Dozen, with some aerial action thrown in. For the purposes of this new novel, notable characters included Garik “Face” Loran, a child star turned soldier and the eventual commander of the Wraiths; and Voort “Piggy” SaBinring, a genetically-modified Gamorrean. There are a few other returning faces, but these were the better developed and you can probably get by just knowing them.

The Star Wars publishing event of the early 2000s was the New Jedi Order series, in which a race of extra-galactic aliens called the Yuuzhan Vong invaded the Galaxy Far, Far Away and sought to subjugate its people. They almost did it, and they changed the way Star Wars novels worked in the process. Characters–MAIN CHARACTERS–died. Chewbacca, Han and Leia’s youngest son Anakin Solo, and countless others fell to the military might of the invaders. There have been other upheavals since, most notably a second Galactic Civil War when Han and Leia’s oldest son Jacen Solo fell to the Dark Side. In the aftermath of that war, a conspiracy was formed to take over both the Galactic Alliance and the Empire and merge them together once again, recapturing the glory of the height of the Old Empire. This conspiracy failed, but it may not have been completely rooted out…..

In this book, Garik Loran is called out of retirement by the head of the Alliance military. He wants Loran to quietly look into rumors that an up-and-coming officer may have been connected to the Lecerson Conspiracy. Wraith Squadron is back in business! The resulting adventure is a fun trip, dealing both in nostalgia for those of us who read the adventures of the original Wraiths long ago and in action that newer fans can get into, all the while serving up Allston’s signature undertone of humor mixed with heart. I heartily recommend it. The one caveat I will mention for fans of the original books is that there is comparatively little aerial combat in this book. The plot doesn’t call for it, and I certainly didn’t really miss it too much, but some may be disappointed by that.

If you want more reading suggestions, the X-Wing: Rogue Squadron comics and X-Wing novels are quite good. If you wanted to enhance your experience with this book, I would have you read at least the novels, but you may not have the patience for all nine of the previous books. If not, I won’t hold it against you.

Content-wise, they keep the Star Wars novels pretty PG. Mild language, mild violence, mild innuendos…..nothing to worry about.

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Mini-Reviews: Marvel 1602 Sequels

I reviewed the original miniseries on here several months ago (see that here). These are the sequel miniseries, which I reviewed separately on Goodreads but thought I would post here as well. The obvious lack of Neil Gaiman proves to be their undoing, unfortunately…..perhaps it is unfair—though perfectly natural—to compare these to his stellar foundation to the 1602 universe, but I can’t help it. Nevertheless, I found them worth the read.

Writer: Greg Pak
Illustrator: Greg Tocchini
Rating: ***
Publisher/Copyright: Marvel Comics, 2006

The saga began by Neil Gaiman in his stellar book 1602 continues! Except that he’s no longer writing it….He did serve as “creative consultant” for this book though, so I can only assume that’s why it was just “meh” as opposed to being a total suckfest.

Okay, so when 1602 left off Steve Rogers was returned to the future along with Sir Nicholas Fury, the Witchbreed left on a quest of their own as did the Fantastick Four, David Banner was hit with all the gamma energy of the closing space/time rift, as was a spider that bit young Peter Parquah. The colony of Roanoke declared its independence from Britain, and that was that. Now King James wants to know why Banner isn’t back with Fury’s head, so he sends Captain Ross and Antonio Stark, Lord Iron to the New World to reclaim him. In other news, Norman Osborne is stirring up trouble with the natives for the colony in a bid to find the source of all the strangeness that has plagued the New World recently, hoping to exploit it to his own ends….

The resulting battle feels like it should be epic, but doesn’t quite make it. If you were left unsatisfied at the end of 1602, you probably would do well to read this and get a little more closure at least. But be forewarned, it has nowhere near the awesomeness of Gaiman’s original.

Writer: Peter David
Illustrator: Pascal Alixe
Rating: ***
Publisher/Copyright: Marvel Comics, 2007

The phenomenal 1602 saga Neil Gaiman created continues! It just doesn’t have Neil Gaiman attached to it anymore. In any capacity. The result isn’t terrible, its just not terribly good…..

At the end of 1602 the Fantastick Four quietly exited stage right. Apparently King James was uncharacteristically (at least for this fictional version) merciful, allowing them to go their separate ways and go adventuring no more on pain of execution for being Witchbreed. When last seen, Otto “The Handsome” Von Doom had been horrifically scarred in the FF’s escape from his Latverian fortress. But now travellers’ tales begin to spread of a city beyond the edge of the world whose science is far advanced beyond the abilities of those in the outside world….Atlantis! When Doom kidnaps William Shakespeare to chronicle his quest and sets out for Atlantis with the intent of seizing this power himself, the King forces Reed Richards and his fantastick crew to follow on pain of death. But Atlantis will prove more than a match for any who would seize it by force, as even Doom has not counted on Prince Numenor….

Again, I wanted to like this a lot. Instead, I liked it a little. But then, perhaps it is unfair to compare it to Gaiman’s foundational work in this universe….although I would argue it’s perfectly natural. At any rate, this miniseries offers little closure and while there is one more focused on Peter Parquah, I don’t see their paths crossing. So for that, I would like to see at least one more to wrap up some of the plot threads left hanging here. If you enjoyed the original, this is worth your time. If you haven’t read the original, go do it NOW and then come back. But if you disliked the original miniseries, I doubt you’ll find much here to engage you.

Title: SPIDER-MAN: 1602
Writer: Jeff Parker,
Illustrator: Ramon Rosanas
Rating: *****
Publisher/Copyright: Marvel Comics, 2010

And so we come to the end (at least for now) of the Marvel 1602 saga. And this time, I feel the product we are given at least comes close to matching Neil Gaiman’s excellent foundation for this world.

Despite the title of the book, it is actually several years after the events in 1602–I have the impression the year was 1608, but I can’t put my finger on why. This miniseries picks up the story threads laid down at the end of 1602: New World, with Peter Parquah still in the colony at Roanoke, now a young man and very much in love with the daughter of the governor, Virginia Dare. Norman Osborn has been on his best behavior since the events of 1602:NW and has managed to insinuate himself into the position of Harbor Master, but Peter and Virginia don’t believe he has reformed. When their suspicions are proved correct with tragic consequences, Peter is sent to escort Norman as a prisoner to England where he will answer for his crimes. Meanwhile, back in the Old World, Baron Octavius has imprisoned both Henri Le Pym and Henry McCoy, forcing them to work in his laboratory. They were able to save him from the plague, but the side effects of the treatment were…unexpected. Now he wants them to find a way to restore his humanity. Throw in the pirate King’s Pin and his sidekick Bull’s Eye, the result of Curtis Connors’ own experiments, the travelling Watsonnes’ entertainment troupe and you have this delightful close to the Marvel 1602 saga.

There are still a few loose ends hanging in the wind–mostly ones left by the previous Fantastick Four miniseries, which doesn’t get touched by this entry in the series–but on the whole this offered a good close. Nothing says they CAN’T follow this up, but I get the impression the series is not making them money or garnering critical acclaim anymore, so I kinda doubt it will happen.

Content-wise this is pretty PG across the board. A little language, nothing you won’t hear on primetime TV. An occasional innuendo or unclothed character obscured by shadows or foreground objects. Some violence, a little blood, but nothing too horrific. Pretty standard comic book fare, on the whole.

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Review: “City Of Dark Magic” by Magnus Flyte

Title: City Of Dark Magic
Author: Magnus Flyte (Pseudonym for Meg Howrey & Christina Lynch)
Series: City Of Dark Magic #1
Rating: ***
Publisher/Copyright: Penguin, 2012

I received a free copy of City Of Dark Magic via Goodreads’ FirstReads program, which I highly recommend checking out. The idea is that the publisher or author creates buzz for the books by releasing copies of them to readers who are encouraged to review them on the internet. This is one of those books I signed up for in the first frenzy of finding the program–I probably would not have picked it up from the library or a bookstore, and I don’t know if I would sign up for the giveaway in a less frenzied state. Frankly, the descriptions don’t really sound like a book that’s up my alley. That said, it was entertaining despite its flaws.

Sarah Weston is a music student who is offered a job out of the blue cataloging the handwritten Beethoven manuscripts for a Prague museum. But all is not as it seems….her mentor (who had been in Prague doing the same job Sarah is to do) supposedly commited suicide, which Sarah finds highly suspicious. She’s not sure what to think of the various other academics and staff working at Prague Castle in preparation for the museum opening–every one of them is odd in their own way. Even stranger is Nicolas Pertusato, a dwarf with a bad attitude and more secrets than a man should be able to aquire in one lifetime, and Max Anderson Lobkowicz, the newly-returned prince of the Czech royal family who Sarah feels an irrational connection with despite–or because of–his air of mystery. But when people begin showing up murdered, Sarah will have to decide who she can trust as she tries to stay alive and figure out what is going on….Throw in time travel, a flatulant Beethoven, mysterious “Hell Portals, a cold-hearted US Senator who will do anything to keep her past under wraps, and you have the chaotic acid trip that is City of Dark Magic.

This is kind of an odd book, and doesn’t quite fit into any particular genre. (You get the impression this is by choice, but from looking at reviews I have to conclude that more people are annoyed by it than are fans of the effect. I didn’t mind it, aside from it making this part of the review difficult.) Spy thriller? Sure, sometimes. Romantic comedy? Yeah, I can see that. Paranormal thriller? Yes, but not as much as the cover and synopsis imply. Mostly that comes at the very end. Historical Fiction? Not really, though for all I know all the historical info you get is completely accurate. I’m not a Beethoven scholar. Young Adult offering? The tone says yes, but the content says no. Erotica? No, but not for lack of trying.

Like I said, the book was entertaining despite its flaws–it held my interest, and for me that covers a multitude of sins when reviewing a book. That said, it did have a number of fairly problematic flaws that some people won’t be able to get past.
–The book is set up as a suspense thriller, but lacks suspense. Sarah is trying to figure out just what is going on, but you the reader already know what the villain is up to and who she is because you’ve been in her head from almost the beginning of the book!
–Through most of the book the villain is remembering a character by his first name and trying to recover evidence of their relationship that would be fairly damning for her career. At the same time Sarah is tracking the same character through the archives by his last name, trying to figure out what he did with certain items. This would be the perfect setup for a big reveal/WTF moment, and in fact you get that moment when Sarah figures out at least part of the picture, but the surprise is spoiled for the reader about a page and a half early when the narrator casually refers to him by his full name. The whole thing initially left me feeling stupid–“Wait, was I supposed to know that already?”–until I went back and checked…no, there was no way the reader could make that connection prior to that point. The deletion of the character’s first name in that conversation would immeasurably improve the suspense value of the book. Or, if suspense was never the intention, clear it up from the beginning and have one or both people refer to him by his full name.
–As a staunch conservative, I was offended by the polically correct characterization of the villain, Charlotte Yates, as a cold-blooded Republican senator. I’m tired of the villains in these things being members of the GOP. To make matters worse, the current (Republican) President at the time of the novel is a reincarnation of the worst parodies of Bush II. Even leaving my own offense at this aside, the authors are about five years too late for that to work well.
–Yates is characterized as “the most powerful” senator, but she holds no real position such as Speaker of the House or Senate Majority Leader. However good the authors’ research was in the area of Prague, they fell short on this one.
–A lot of the characters feel more like cariactures. There’s very little depth to most of them. Sarah had a bit more depth, but I didn’t find her overly likable–in fact, she’s a bit of a slut (her own words even, not mine!) Nico was probably the most interesting character, and fairly well developed, but doesn’t get enough page-time to counteract the one-dimensionalness (is that a word?) of the other characters.
–This has more to do with the marketing. The synopsis and ads I’ve seen on Goodreads are full of spoilers, including a bit about a “400-year-old dwarf,” a development that isn’t revealed until the last hundred pages or so and is supposed to be a surprise.
–Again, this kind of has to do with the marketing. The book is written under a pseudonym and there’s apparently a snide bit in some versions (not mine, I only saw it on the internet) about how the manuscript showed up unsolicited at the publishers with a weird postmark and just the author’s name on it. One reviewer completely attacked the book over this, saying that kind of thing drives him nuts. I personally don’t mind and am sometimes amused by this kind of thing–remember Lemony Snickett? I really hope this one blowhard didn’t cause the publisher to remove that note–the rest of the references to the author’s ficticious persona don’t make as much sense without it.

Content: This is squarely R-rated. There are multiple sex scenes that range from fairly explicit to largely implied. The language is definitely R-rated, but nowhere near the level of, say, a Tom Clancy novel. Violence is hard to rate in a book, given that it all depends on your imagination. There are multiple instances of fairly horrific violence, but the prose isn’t descriptively very gory.

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Review: “Elric: The Stealer Of Souls” by Michael Moorcock

Elric of Melnibone, written by Michael Moorcock, is arguably one of the most recognizable characters in 20th century fantasty literature. He’s also a fascinating antihero. The Stealer Of Souls, (****) the first volume of his adventures (in their modern Del Rey publication, anyway) collects the first two Elric cycles ever published. Ironically, these are the last adventures of Elric if you were to group them by internal chronology, but I think that they work as a good introduction to the character regardless.* For a while, these were all the Elric stories that existed before Moorcock went back and filled in a lot of the backstory with other adventures.

In Moorcock’s canon of work, the cosmology goes something like this: There are two forces at work in the multiverse–Order (or Law) and Chaos. These two forces are always at war, and neither must ever win out completely. If the world is tipped toof far towards Law, the result is stagnation. If the world is tipped too far towards Chaos, the result is madness. Thus, Fate empowers the Eternal Champion (different incarnations of the same character in various realms of the multiverse–I’m told Moorcock recently penned a Doctor Who novel in which he implied the Doctor may be yet another face of the Eternal Champion) to protect the Cosmic Balance. Elric is one incarnation of this Champion.

In Elric’s world, the empire of Melnibone ruled the world for over ten millenia, its rulers cruelly subjugating the human inhabitants of the “younger kingdoms” as slaves and subjects through military might, dark sorcery and their mastery of the dragons. The Melniboneans are an older race than humanity, resembling the elves of other fantasy in many respects. They are cruel and arrogant by nature, traditionally alligned with the forces of Chaos and its lords. Over the course of recent generations Melnibone’s influence in the world has waned and their civilization faded, until of their vast empire and many cities only the Dragon Isle and the dreaming city of Imrryr remains. Elric is by rights the 428th Emperor of Melnibone, but as the story opens his throne has been usurped by his cousin Yrkoon, prompting Elric to seek vengeance on his cousin and the entire Dreaming City.

Elric is himself an albino, physically weak and dependent on outside sources for his strength. Sometimes he is able to make do with drugs distilled from certain herbs he knows how to work with. Sometimes he is able to strengthen himself through sorcery, draw power or assistance from gods or demons he can summon. But for most of the stories in this volume Elric draws the core of the strength he needs to survive and function from his sentient sorcerous sword, Stormbringer. Stormbringer is a powerful weapon, forged of Chaos. It has a mind of its own in battle, and absorbs the souls of anyone slain on its blade and feeds that power to its wielder. It is an evil weapon, and despite Elric’s reliance on it he hates it for its continuous thirst for the blood of those closest to him.

The stories that make up this volume begin with Elric seeking his revenge on his traitorous cousin and their nation, trace him through his next several adventures in the younger kingdoms, and then chronicles the climactic battle between Chaos and Law for the fate of the world–a battle Elric is fated to play the major role in. I don’t want to say too much here for fear of spoilers.

The Elric stories have their origin in the pulps of the fifties and sixties. As a result, the prose is very……I’m not sure “lurid” is quite the right word, but I can’t find a better one. The tone is very moody, even gloomy, as Elric deals with the consequences of his actions and ponders philosophical questions about his fate and place in the world. Especially towards the end as Chaos overtakes the world the stories grow exceedingly grim as kingdom after kingdom, friend after friend, all fall before the growing threat of Chaos.

Content: This is fantasy in the vein, content-wise, of Conan the Barbarian. Thematically and as a character Elric is really the opposite of Conan, but nevertheless the comparison stands in this narrow category.
Violence: PG-13/R. Lots of violence, some instances more horrifying than others. Many die in battle, others in single combat, and a number of Elric’s friends die accidentally on the blade of his own sword, their souls sucked out by his black blade to feed his own abilities. There is some Necromancy, some torture, and discussion of the forces of Chaos warping men into monsters of grotesque description. As its a book, the impact of this depends greatly on your own imagination.
Language: PG at worst, I think. I don’t recall much at all…..certainly nothing you wouldn’t hear on primetime television today.
Sex: PG-13. There’s a fair amount of sexual content, but its not too explicit.

*Over the years I’ve gone back and forth on the issue of the proper chronological order to read series in–either publication order or internal chronology. I’ve settled, at least for now, on reading things in the order they were published the first time through, then in future read-throughs going by internal chronology. In the case of C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia, the first book chronologically, The Magician’s Nephew, is not nearly as strong a book if you haven’t read the first published entry, The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. In the Star Wars films, Darth Vader’s initial scene in A New Hope doesn’t have quite the menace it had in 1977 if you have already seen the much-maligned prequel films released in the last decade and a half.

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