review(ish): Honor Harrington, The Squire's Tale, The Big Over Easy, The Spirit

When I was younger--high school, I think--I was absolutely mad for David Weber's stuff, particularly his Honor Harrington series. I bought most of them, read them often enough to all-but-memorize chunks of them. Not surprising, given the science fiction/military setting and a strong, smart, physically and strategically-adept, slightly-damaged female protagonist. But somewhere over the course of college, I lost all taste for them: I'm not sure whether it's because my interests changed, or because my growth as a writer influenced the way I read. In either case, a couple weeks ago I picked up the latest in the series, just to see if my interest could be rekindled, and discovered I couldn't bring myself to read more than a paragraph in sequence. I'm currently debating getting rid of my collection altogether, as it's a good two feet of shelf space and I'm running out of room. Doing so would feel a bit like throwing away my high school self, though, so it's unlikely to happen any time soon.

Happily, there are still a whole slew of books from that period in my life that I still enjoy. The Squire's Tale, for instance. It's a fun take on Arthurian legend, aimed for kids, but enjoyable for anyone who thinks the whole Guinevere/Lancelot thing was stupid and that most of the knights of the Round Table could have done with a dose or two of common sense. Gawain is one of the main characters---the awesome Gawain from Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, not Mallory's idiot.

The Big Over Easy is another favorite, although I picked it up in college, not high school. It's pretty much indescribable, although the basics are easy enough. There's a world where all the characters from nursery rhymes are real and coexist with everyone else (And aliens, although they're really boring and not worth mention), and whenever something involving one of them goes wrong, Jack Spratt and the underfunded, understaffed, unsupported Nursery Crimes Unit have to sort out the mess. In this case it's Humpty Dumpty, and possibly murder. If you like your mysteries wacky, or your wacky novels mysterious, this is definitely for you. And then check out the author's website, which is the awesomest author website I've come across. If I'm ever an author, I want to have one like it.

Also, last Saturday I attempted to watch The Spirit, but couldn't make it past the first 45 minutes. Beautiful film, but horrible storytelling. The characters were jarringly one-dimensional, the plot was paper-disintegrating-in-water thin, and the voice-overs made me want to slap the main character. It might make a good silent film, though.
I just read The Big Over Easy. I think Jasper Fforde and Bill Willingham (who writes Fables) really get nursery rhymes. In fact, I think they're more canon than the various re-tellings of nursery and fairy tales.

And wow, is the ending weird. Good book, but weirdest ending EVER. (And I'm including Lullaby by Chuck Palahniuk in this)
Giant Jellyman-killing monster hatches from Humpty-Dumpty? Yeah. Very weird. Works, but still weird. I'm about halfway through The Fourth Bear, and I think the best bit so far is having Dorian Gray as a used car salesman. Genius.

I've read only a couple volumes of Fables, but thoroughly enjoyed every one. As you say, Willingham seems to get them, and manages to weave the characters into the stories without turning them into placeholders or "normal people" with weird names.
Giant chicken hatching from Humpty, yeah, and Jack climbing the beanstalk. Jack the Giant Chicken Killer. XD

Hahah, I love Jack Spratt's reaction to how he keeps beating up that car, and it seems to get better. I like the idea behind The Fourth Bear, but I'm only maybe a third of the way through. It's sort of... I don't know. I'm not clicking with it yet, but I love The Big Over Easy.

And then putting Red Riding Hood and her grandma in psychiatric evaluation, lol lol lol lol lol.

It just seems to work out with the characters doing what they do. Oh man, what will be the 12th volume? That arc is SO GOOD. I think it's one of the best, and I hadn't been that compelled since the first or second volume.

Did you know that Peter Pan was originally supposed to be The Adversary with Captain Hook as one of the good guys? I don't think they could get the rights to use Peter Pan, but that would've been so awesome.
Peter Pan? *considers* Yeah, that would work. He's utterly selfish and weirdly charismatic, and that's always a good combination for a villain. Plus he'd have the added bonus of being unexpected, since in the source material he's considered the hero. Or something. Hook could definitely be a good guy--a little creepy, but good.

Yeah, would've been awesome. Too bad it couldn't happen.
I love the Vorkosigan series and female main characters, so everyone recommended the Honor Harrington books. I could barely get through the first two chapters. Honor was so, so perfect, and everyone *constantly* talked about how she had a face as beautiful but as hard as marble statue, and how she could outwit everyone, and how she understood crew morale like no other captain, and blah blah blah. That said, I know I'd have loved the series if I'd read it during my Mercedes Lackey/Anne McCaffrey phase. It fits a very specific niche.
It was definitely a high school series for me--as were Lackey & McCaffrey. I later discovered Vorkosigan, which I still enjoy greatly. Memory ranks high on my book list and gets reread at least once a summer.

On the Universal Mary-Sue Litmus Test, Honor gets a 37: "... at this point your characters are likely to provoke eye-rolling and exclaimations of "yeah, right!" from your readers. (Well, at least from me.) Immediate workover is probably in order." Although I'm probably judging the character a bit harshly.
I like the sound of The Big Overeasy. I love stories where the author actually exercises their imagination rather than figuring out ways in which they can send an elf, a dwarf and a man on an adventure.

It also sounds a like like a Neil Gaiman short story I just read, only with Little Jack Horner and he was a private detective, but it was Humpty Dumpty who was murdered as well.
Definitely not elf, dwarf, and man on an adventure. Like Pterry, Fforde plays a lot with genre expectations, and lets the characters drive the plot, rather than vice versa. And manages to be outrageously funny while doing it.

Jack Horner is actually the founder of the Nursery Crime Division, although
he's retired by the time of the story. What's the title of the short story? I've been meaning to read some more of Gaiman's stuff.
The Case of Four and Twenty Blackbirds. It's part of his short story book M is for Magic, which I'm currently working my through.