The long weekend allowed me to make some headway in my reading and a harmonious convergence of a thrift-store half-off sale and a bored teenager not wanting to break my twenty meant I grabbed Otis Adelbert Kline’s Maza of the Moon and Earth’s Last Citadel by C.L. Moore & Henry Kuttner for free this weekend.
I finished Sceptre of Morgulan. The worst thing that can be said about it is that it’s book 2 of 4 (or 3 of 5, depending on how you want to count Drasmyr). Even though the scope of the book in terms of characters and plot threads is a bit more new-school, the flavor is very retro. While Children of Lubrochius shows the rise of the titular criminal/necromantic organization (Gimme Shelter playing in the background), Sceptre shows the turning point where the villain’s enterprises begin crumbling. So, the organized crime venture is falling through with the thieves guild on the rebound, internal squabbles getting out of hand, a botched demon summoning, and the head of the Children coming in to shut Korina’s operation down because of the turf wars she’s started. Still, the lady has demons, goblins, a couple mages, an ancient vampire and maybe even the Sceptre, if she can track Gaelen to Morgulan’s pocket dimension.
Because I had to drop everything and read Sceptre of Morgulan, I still had about 100 pages left in Hardtack and Coffee. Overall, it was a great book and full of fun invaluable minutiae for Civil War buff regarding the day to day life of Union soldiers, but I wish that Billings had thought to put in an afterword to bring it all back around. The book is a bit front-loaded, with most of the best stuff in the early to middle of the book (everything from what daily rations consist of to the various means soldiers would use to try to get out of doing work), and ends rather abruptly with the chapter on signal flagging.
Earth’s Last Citadel was a bit of a disappointment. An American, a Scot and two American Nazis in Africa happen upon a spaceship that is the vanguard of an alien invasion. They get stuck in time stasis for a million years or something, so that when they come out, the aliens had come, conquered, built and declined so that all that was left on the planet was one lone alien citadel, Carcasilla, inhabited by a race of immortal humans and a crazy giant telepathic wizard face. The 4 WW2 era humans are caught between the crazy wizard, the immortal quasi-humans in the fortress, the barbarian humans in the caves and the energy alien that will starve if it can’t feed on the remaining humans’ life force. In something of a script-flip, the morlock-like cave dwellers are the descendants of the humans who fought against the alien overlords and team up with the humans to fight the eloi-like Carcasillians who had been engineered by the aliens as toys and vessels and can therefore be controlled by the alien. Eventually, the past-humans defeat the wizard (a human controlling a robot face), the alien, get the source of Carcasilla’s power and the Carcasillian’s immortality, use it to power up the ship and restart humanity on Venus. Sounds awesome, right? Unfortunately, the weak descriptive language made it difficult to picture any scenes or action at play, leaving one with only a vague sense of what had happened or was going on. It was like trying to watch something through murky water or a fog. Or like that time when Elmer Fudd was unicycling down a highwire into a lion’s mouth while wearing dark glasses:
The Time Machine meets Wizard of Oz with hyper-intelligent parasitic alien energy beings should’ve been so much better!
Anyway, I’m reading Leigh Brackett’s Sword of Rhiannon to cleanse the palate a bit. It is more than sufficiently awesome.