Bookcation, part 5: We buy all the books

[whistles innocently]

The next morning, we dined upon the dead children of our enemies. Or eggs. Same thing.

The B&B is marvelous. If you’re ever in the Madison area, look up the Speckled Hen Inn. We’ve been staying there every summer for five years now, and we’ve never been disappointed. Great rooms, amazing inkeepers, and breakfasts that… oh, they make me so happy.

We took our leave and headed out to a thrift shop we’d spotted nearby that advertised books on their big sign on the road. And… well, we found two shelves of books that were vastly overpriced and had nothing in anything we might want. Big bust. 

But then we headed toward Mecca… or close enough, anyway. The Frugal Muse is a favorite of ours. The bookstore usually has good deals, and like A Room of One’s Own that we visited the day before, it always has lots of small press stuff that you just can’t find anywhere else. We spent a good chunk of change there, but almost all of it went to books we bought to give away. A few, however, were for us.

I found one last Saberhagen novel, Empire of the East. It’s a prequel of sorts to the Book of Swords which I’ve already read and enjoyed, and this one reveals some of the mystery behind the gods that appear in that book. It also has both an elephant and a tank on the cover, because why not?

Tankiphant! Eletank? Something like that.

We found a Jane Lindskold book I’d not known of entitled The Buried Pyramid. It looks to be more in the vein of Indiana Jones than the straight fantasy I know her for (Through Wolf’s Eyes is a great fantasy romp with, you guessed it, wolves). This one involves a spunky young female protagonist, a search for a lost pyramid, a rival archaeologist, and possibly some angry Egyptian gods. Apparently Lindskold got the idea for the novel when she was asked to contribute to an Egyptian-themed anthology. I looks like the prologue for the novel is that short story. I like that kind of storytelling evolution!

This cover invites me in. As far as covers go in the bevy of books we bought, this one might be my favorite.

Frugal Muse has a large bargain section, including an entire shelf dedicated to graphic novels. Unfortunately, most of what they had there I had zero interest in. Except… for Dreadstar. They happened to have two volumes, labeled Volume Three: Plan M and Volume Four: The Secret of Z. First off, I would not have chosen those titles myself. They make the stories sound far hokier than they should.

Dreadstar was written and illustrated by Jim Starlin. This is the guy who wrote Marvel’s Infinity Gauntlet. If that name doesn’t ring a bell, just wait a couple years. The next two-part Avengers film will be based on it, and we’ve already seen some of the groundwork being laid in Thor: The Dark World and Guardians of the GalaxyDreadstar is Starlin letting loose with a huge sci-fi epic without any constraints of other peoples’ continuity. Imagine if Star Wars had been written by someone more steeped in Lovecraft lore, and you start getting the feel for what Dreadstar is like. Huge sweeping space opera, gallant heroes, dastardly villains, impossible odds, mystic resolutions that make total sense within the setting…

I read the entire story back when I was in junior high, and it blew my mind. The original title of the saga was The Metamorphosis Odyssey Starlin called it that because he kept on changing the status quo. At the end of act one (which I imagine would be volume one of the set I purchased), Starlin literally destroys the galaxy. There’s one survivor. He becomes the main character in following volumes.

In the volumes I bought, Vanth Dreadstar (yon main character) finds himself in a new galaxy that’s torn almost in half by the oppressive religious papal empire and the “enlightened” scientific hegemony. And… well, seriously, there are modern reprints of this that are well, well worth your time if your a science-fiction enthusiast. I’m thrilled to have found bargain copies!

Not the cover I would have picked for such dynamic storytelling. Also not the logo I would have picked, and not the logo it had back int he day. This looks like someone’s trying to turn it into Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Seriously. Get a different cover guy.

I found The Creative Fire: Book One of Ruby’s Song by Brenda Cooper. It’s supposed to be Evita set on a generational starship. To my eyes it looks a bit like Hunger Games, too, as far as the heroine goes. She has to decide whether or not to be just a rebellious teen or the leader of a revolution. Anyway, I like the concept, and the cover is slick. Yeah, I judge books by their covers, at least a little bit.

See, THAT’S a good cover. Don’t ask me why this one works for me and Dreadstar doesn’t. Maybe it has something to do with the paint style? Is it just the logo? Maybe it’s the confident pose of the character? I don’t know. But this one I like. So sue me.

And then we found another Neal Shusterman book we didn’t own: Shattered Sky. I had little interest in his Star Shards trilogy — rare for a Shusterman book for me — but this was a hardcover in beautiful condition. We own book one, and now we own book three. I guess I need to find book two now…

This one sounds a lot like Rising Stars to me, and J. Michael Stracynski knocked that series out of the park. In Shusterman’s novel, there’s an event — a star goes supernova — and six children are conceived at the exact moment of the event. Those six children are born with disfigurements that hide amazing abilities. Like Rising Stars, these abilities reshape the world and cause huge conflicts among the characters. I don’t know about this Shusterman novel, though he’s earned my trust as an author I will recommend Rising Stars, though!

Notes on the cover below…

What confuses me about this cover: It looks like older grade-school fantasy cover to me. It reminds me a lot of Jack Blank and the ImagiNation, which I enjoyed. It’s got that mystical dream-like quality with what appears to be a tween main character in the foreground. That to me screams, “Aimed at eighth graders!” However, in the Acknowledgements in front of the book, Shusterman writes, “The Star Shard Trilogy — and Shattered Sky in particular — is intended for an adult readership. Its themes and subject matter may be too intense for younger readers. That said, I think it’s the best thing I’ve ever written.”

First off, if the guy who wrote Unwind says that this one may be too intense for younger readers, but there was no such note on Unwind? I don’t know if I’m old enough to read it yet!

And second: if this is aimed at adults… why does it have that cover?!

Look, authors rarely have much if any control over the covers their publishers put around their works, but this is ridiculous. It is a Tor book, and I know Tor can put out some great covers that are appropriate to the material inside. Why this one, Tor? Why?

On the other hand, this is a fantastic cover. Also, it’s not a book I found, but now I’ll have to look for it.

We bought a lot more books at Frugal Muse, but those will wait until tomorrow, because they weren’t books we bought for us! After this we wrapped up, ate lunch at Potbelly, and headed out to make a special delivery… but all that’s for tomorrow as we wrap up Bookcation! Huzzah!

So true, Boromir. So true.

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