23. Henry, O. The Four Million: Twelve Stories (162 p.)
(Contents: Tobin's Palm; The Gift of the Magi; A Cosmopolite in a Café; Man About Town; The Cop and the Anthem; The Lofe-Philtre of Ikey Schoenstein; The Green Door; The Romance of a Busy Broker; After Twenty Years; Lost on Dress Parade; The Furnished Room; The Brief Début of Tildy)
24. Verne, Jules. The Mysterious Island (415 p.)
25. Verne, Jules. The Master of the World (127 p.)
26. Verne, Jules. The Purchase of the North Pole (159 p.)
27. Anthony, Piers. On a Pale Horse (Incarnations of Immortality, bk. 1) (325 p.)
28. Sakai, Stan. The Adventures of Nilson Groundthumper and Hermy (108 p.)
April total: 1,296 pages
2014 total: 8,246 pages
A bit of a Verne kick this month. All three listed as "complete & unabridged", but with Verne, who knows how accurate that is? All three are also sequels to earlier Verne novels (20,000 Leagues, Robur the Conqueror, and From the Earth to the Moon, respectively) but two of them save that fact for a twist reveal towards the end. Mysterious Island is the best of the three, by far, though it contains quite a bit of deus ex machina combined with an ultra-competent protagonist who's a borderline Gary Stu, and thus will turn off some people. It's still a good story, though, even if the geology & biology behind the island itself is now a badly dated theory. Master of the World & North Pole are both significantly shorter, and lose a bit of oomph as a result, but on the other hand, both lack the pages & pages of lists of biology specimens that make 20,000 Leagues drag. Master of the World has a good start, good middle, and an ending that feels rushed & out of place; North Pole isn't an action/adventure novel in any way and so is paced quite differently from the others (so, reading them back to back like this, I kept expecting it to turn into an adventure novel), but the ending suits the story.
O. Henry's stories are pretty much the benchmark for the "ironic twist", against which all subsequet stories are measured. As a result, if you're even remotely well-read, you can probably see the ironic twists coming a mile away, sometimes even from the first page--I think there was only one that I didn't predict well in advance, and on that one I could tell the general nature of the twist, just not the specifics. That said, I thought every single one of these stories was well-crafted and highly recommend them. Most of them are quite short, as short stories go--10 to 15 pages is the norm, and O. Henry finds ways to pack quite a bit of humanity into those few pages
I don't quite know why, but I got an itch this month to re-read On a Pale Horse. I still really like it, in part because it lacks many of Anthony's more infamous writing quirks, as well as not being quite so directly driven by the genealogy that dominates the rest of the series. (The threads are there to be explained later, but they aren't the point of the story.) I also think it makes for a good juxtaposition with some of Pratchett's Death books (e.g. Mort). When I finished it, I thought what potential for a good BBC-style television series this book could have, but I also didn't find myself itching to jump in and re-read the rest of the series. (I remember really liking #1, #3 (Fate) and #6 (Evil) the first time around, really disliking #4 (War) and #7 (Good), and I didn't know #8 (Night) existed until looking up the series on Wikipedia (and the plot summary there didn't make me want to run out and find a copy).
I'm a sucker for Stan Sakai's work, wasn't aware this existed, and got hooked by the introduction, so I picked it up. However, most of the story described in the introduction never saw print, as Sakai got busy with Usagi Yojimbo and basically shelved Nilson--and, having now read this, I think he made the right choice. I liked the Nilson stories and would recommend this as good, light sword-n-sorcery fare, but are also fairly similar in art style & story feel to lots of late-1970s to mid-1980s fantasy comics, while his Usagi stories are on a much higher plane of quality.
Feudalism: Serf & Turf