Reviews by eknapp
A fictional heist/adventure tale set amidst the brutal true-history dismantling of the Knights Templar in 1307 France. I

Apparently the King of France was heavily in debt to the Templars and jealous of their wealth and popularity. In a historically brazen act of treachery he had all the Templars in France arrested one night, charged them with heresy, fraud, idolatry, apostasy, gay orgies, and spitting on crucifixes, tortured confessions out of them, then burned them at stakes.

Mechner manages to construct a tense, rollicking caper story around this gruesome history lesson. A few of the more rascally knights escape the inquisition and plot to steal the legendary Templar treasure hoard out from under the king's nose in retaliation for the gross injustices.

Templar and I got off to a bad start. The landscapes are gorgeous but the people look cartoony. And while I don't need my Templar stories to actually be in 14th century Parisian French, I found that the Shut-up!-No-you-shut-up! 21st-century-teenager nature of the dialogue took me out of the story a lot at first.

But the plot was actually pretty clever. I loved how one character managed to extract the location of a prisoner from her powerful brother while making him think she was doing him a favor; it worked. The location of the hidden treasure and the problems they encountered and surmounted were interesting and plausible. There's a great panel where a character--tasked with saving the Templars, and failing badly--is walking head down to the left while wind is blowing all the trees to the right; great visual. And I accidentally absorbed some fascinating history along the way. Can't go wrong with that.
A yearlong series of tectonic and climate-related natural disasters, known as The Crash, has decimated the world's food and water supplies, wrecked government stability, radically altered coastlines and sea levels, and ruined the world economy. Millions, maybe billions, have perished. In contrast to most cataclysm stories, The Massive doesn't knock mankind back into the stone age; technology persists. It's more about exploring global destabilization than clawing for survival.

The Ninth Wave is a "direct action" conservationist mission consisting of one ship with a crew of maybe twelve, led by an avowed pacifist ex-mercenary. Ninth Wave's chartered purpose has something fuzzy to do with protecting the world's oceans, apparently by sailing around pontificating and scrambling for supplies.

As a conservationist cautionary tale it's not bad. The author touches on locales all over the globe, showing how industrialization and corporate greed hurt different places in different ways. To me it seems intelligently written and well researched.

As an ad for the wisdom and benefits of pacifism it's pretty lame. The heroes refuse to arm themselves against an endless onslaught of piracy, theft and general murderiness, citing weak, vague, impractical justifications like "We need to RESPECT the violent places, not bring more violence to them!" They survive through implausibly good luck and by finding hypocritically unconventional ways to kill the bad guys. It's a mixed message.

Oh, and the title? "The Massive" is the name of the long lost second ship in the Ninth Wave fleet. The unifying plot thread is that they're supposedly trying to find it. By sailing randomly around the globe. It's only mentioned occasionally, to justify the name of the series.

Captain: "Any sign of the Massive?"
Navigator: "No sir, for some reason we still haven't managed to blunder into it by sheer utter mad coincidence."
Captain: "Okay, let's go hide from some more pirates. Gosh it feels good to be unarmed in the face of imminent rapey death. What a wonderful statement I'm making."
Ultra-derivative urban fantasy.
In a slightly alternate history version of New Orleans, a rogue vampire is slaughtering cops and hookers and hermits and yuppies and vampire royalty--pretty much everybody, really. It's bad for PR and tourism and vampire-human relations, and goshdarnit something has GOT to be done. So the vampire council of New Orleans brings in professional vampire-slayer Jane Yellowrock to hunt down the rogue. It's an awkward relationship.

Skinwalker is a total hack of Patricia Briggs's Mercy Thompson series. Let's see, vampire killer...check. Droll and deadly...check. Last of the Indian skinwalkers--who have special skinwalker vampire-killing qualities!--big fat check. Badass combat-trained female shapechanging hero, chackorama. Recent vamp community-revealing alternate history, check check checkitycheck.

And doesn't Anne Rice own the rights to the New Orleans-vampire setting? The way Stephen King owns the rights to the small-town-in-Maine setting?

Anyway. Not much meat here but it's easy enough to read I guess. There's loads of chaste flirting with dangerous-bad-boys-with-good-hearts and a weak who-is-the-rogue mystery plotline.

Yeah, I KNOW that everything is derivative to some extent. There are only four stories, no new ideas under the sun, yadda yadda. But in this case it was ridonkulous. And not even as GOOD as Briggs. Maybe that's the worse of the sins.
Probably great if you get all the references.
Comic strips about history and literature. As a reasonably well educated guy with an interest in history, I thought this well-reviewed collection would be an easy home run. But for every strip about the third Austen sister or Susan B Anthony or Burke & Hare--which I got and enjoyed--there are five that went right over my head: Canadian history, Anne of Green Gables, a flying pig-pony, Macbeth. I don't do Shakespeare. Disappointing.
Excellent time travel plotting.
A portly, balding, and very skeptical poetry scholar is hired by a billionaire to guide a tour to attend a reading by Samuel Taylor Coleridge himself in a 19th century English pub. He's shocked when the time travel works as promised. He's more shocked when he's kidnapped in 1811 London and misses his one chance to return to contemporary America.

He's dogged by a 3000 year-old sorcerer whose goal is Egypt's return to world supremacy, a murderous billionaire who thinks our hero stayed in ye olde London on purpose, a demonic beggar king who dresses like a jester and maims his underlings so that they will inspire more pity, and an insane body-switching ex-wizard who wants the protagonist's body. It's quite the menagerie. At various points our paunchy academic finds himself tortured, shot, working as a professional beggar, tortured some more, living as a cobbler, inhabiting a new and far superior body, traveling to Egypt, traveling to 1632, and composing verse.

Coherent time travel books are hard to do right. The Anubis Gates succeeds.