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Legends

featuring Stephen King, Terry Pratchett,  Terry Goodkind , Orson Scott Card, Robert Silverberg, Ursula K. Le Guin, Tad Williams, George R. R. Martin, Anne McCaffrey, Raymond E. Feist and Robert Jordan

A brilliant concept in which the best authors of contemporary fantasy create new stories set in the fictional worlds that have made them famous. 

King's Dark Tower story is very well written but, as with his entire series, is a bit of a mind-bender.  Pratchett's Discworld story was the disappointment for me, lacking the author's usual comic conceptions.  Goodkind's Sword of Truth story, which was later republished as a separate novella and is reviewed elsewhere in this site, was very enjoyable, if brutal. 

Card's story is well written, but I'm not really a fan of the Alvin Maker series, so it sort of faded into the background among the other stories.  Silverberg, who also edits the anthology, gives us a good, though not exceptional, Majipoor story.  Le Guin's Earthsea and McCaffrey's Pern stories both add a new facet to their respective series'.  Williams' Memory, Sorrow and Thorn story is also worth a read and so is Jordan's Wheel of Time story; although he later expanded it into the far better full-length novel 'New Spring'. 

Ultimately the best contributions are those of Martin and Feist.  Feist's Riftwar story introduces us to a boy caught up in the destructive war against the Tsurani and Martin's Song of Ice and Fire story, my favourite of the eleven, tells of Dunk the Lunk's rise from lowly squire to a knight fighting alongside and against princes.

The stories in this book pretty much launched my exploration of modern fantasy and without it my bookshelves would probably not be groaning with the weight of the dozens of brick-like novels set in these fantastical settings.

5 out of 5

 

Legends II

featuring Robin Hobb, George R. R. Martin, Orson Scott Card, Diana Gabaldon, Robert Silverberg, Tad Williams, Anne McCaffrey, Raymond E. Feist, Elizabeth Haydon, Neil Gaiman and Terry Brooks

The first 'Legends' anthology, featuring stories set in the various authors' pre-existing universes was excellent but the second has trouble living up to its predecessor.  Don't get me wrong, it's still good, but it's not great. 

Hobb's Realm of the Elderlings story is a gem that starts slowly, but develops wonderfully.  Once again, Martin's Song of Ice and Fire story outshines the others as we get a further tale of Dunk and Egg.  Card's Alvin Maker story is, once again, well-written and has the interesting additions of a tall man named Lincoln and a man with a knack for knife work, Jim Bowie. 

Gabaldon's Lord John Grey story is a good read, but really not a fantasy story at all.  Silverberg, once again editing, brings an excellent Majipoor story to the mix and Williams' plays with pop-culture and virtual reality, choosing to write an Otherland story rather than a Memory, Sorrow and Thorn one. 

Unfortunately McCaffrey's Pern story is pants and Feist's Riftwar tale, although written with his usual skill, is nothing he's not written before. 

Haydon's Symphony of Ages story is a great story of hope and futility and Gaiman's 'American Gods' sequel twists reality and myth together with great tension. 

Finally, Brooks' Shannara tale has Jair Ohmsford setting out to destroy a fragment of the Illdatch after the events of 'The Wishsong of Shannara', in a story which is probably better than that novel.

4 out of 5

 

Lex Luthor: Man Of Steel

featuring Brian Azzarello and Jerry Siegel

(Art by Lee Bermejo, Mick Gray, Karl Story, Jason Martin, Joe Shuster and Paul Cassidy)

Part of the DC Comics Graphic Novel Collection.  The main story here focuses on the title character's attempts to make the world see Superman as he does and his plot to discredit the Man of Steel by replacing the alien with a new hero, Hope.  The second story reveals Luthor's first ever appearance in 1940, wherein he attempts to manipulate two countries into all-out war.

What I particularly enjoyed about the title story here is that it is told specifically from Luthor's perspective and both the writing and artwork reflect his own personal world view.  Whilst it's not an attempt to make him a sympathetic antagonist, in fact he shows several times just how ruthless and evil he is, it does serve to help us understand his mindset.  He clearly sees himself as the pinnacle of what is great about humanity and he feels that Superman's alien powers not only make the alien a personal threat, but also makes him a threat to the very ideals of humanity.

It's a hard pill to swallow, seeing Superman portrayed as the villain, but it absolutely conveys the fact that we're seeing events through Luthor's eyes.  I particularly liked the fact that Superman pretty much always has his eyes glowing red and the rest of his face draped in shadow, giving the usually bright and shining hero a somewhat demonic bent.

The throwback story showing Luthor's first appearance (he didn't even have the 'Lex' at that point - although he does have a full head of hair) is an interesting thing to read from a real-world perspective but story-wise is as shallow and uncomplex as you would imagine from a comic written in 1940.  

If anything the differences in the two stories here highlight just how far comic storytelling managed to develop in the intervening sixty-five years.  Unfortunately it doesn't stop the second story from dragging the overall enjoyment of the book down a fair bit.

3 out of 5