Stacking the Shelves (16) Dragon*Con Edition

This would be Stacking the Shelves, the Dragon*Con edition.  I say it’s the Dragon*Con edition for a couple of reasons.

The first is simply because I was at Dragon*Con over Labor Day weekend, and didn’t do a Stacking the Shelves post.  Romance at Random started their Labor Day Blog Hop, and Reading Reality was a participant. There’s still plenty of time to enter, so hop on over to the post and take a look at the giveaway.

About Dragon*Con. Downtown Atlanta looked like it had been invaded by aliens. I’ve been to big cons (Chicago holds three a year) but nothing like this. 50,000+ fen is a lot of fen. (For those unfamiliar, fen is the collective noun for science fiction fans)

While I did go to a couple of media tie-in events (any Mythbusters fans in here?) there were a bunch of authors I wanted to see. Mercedes Lackey and Katherine Kurtz in particular. I’ve been reading both their signature series since Arrows of the Queen and Deryni Rising, respectively. It was awesome to see them in person.

And great to meet authors whose books I have reviewed, like James R. Tuck. He was terrific, and I think even remembered my review. I’m pretty I’m going to finally review Blood and Silver this week. Damn it was good.

Speaking of his reading, he had all his friends who were authors also read from their books, so I picked up Delilah S. Dawson’s Wicked as they Come from her at that panel. And started it immediately, finished it and reviewed it this week. Decadently delicious.

So what delicious books have you added to your stacks this week?

For Review:
When Snow Falls (Whiskey Creek #2) by Brenda Novak
Wife for Hire by Christine Bell
Thrones of Desire: Erotic Tales of Swords, Mist and Fire edited by Mitzi Szereto
The Scientific Sherlock Holmes by James O’Brien
Daring Greatly by Brené Brown
City of Dark Magic by Magnus Flyte
All He Ever Needed (Kowalski Family #4) by Shannon Stacey
Racing With the Wind (Agents of the Crown #1) by Regan Walker
The Cowboy and the Vampire by Clark Hays and Kathleen McFall
The Walnut Tree by Charles Todd
Forge (Thrall Web #1) by T.K. Anthony
Spice and Smoke (Bollywood Confidential #1) by Suleikha Snyder
Spice and Secrets (Bollywood Confidential #2) by Suleikha Snyder
Babylon Confidential by Claudia Christian
Clean (Mindspace Investigations #1) by Alex Hughes (print)
Operation: Endgame (When the Mission Ends #1) by Christi Snow
A Date with Death (1Night Stand) by Louisa Bacio
Forty Shades of Pearl by Arianne Richmonde
Seven Nights in a Rogue’s Bed (Sons of Sin #1) by Anna Campbell
Rapture (Bel Dame Apocrypha #3) by Kameron Hurley

Interview with a Jewish Vampire by Erica Manfred (free)
My Vampire Cover Model by Karyn Gerrard
The Lost Night (Rainshadow #2, Harmony #9) by Jayne Castle
Wicked As They Come (Blud #1) by Delilah S. Dawson (print, signed by the author at Dragon*Con)
Thieftaker (Thieftaker Chronicles #1) by D.B. Jackson (print, signed by the author at Dragon*Con)
Intentional Abduction (Alien Abduction #2) by Eve Langlais (free to Dragon*Con attendees!)

What makes the better man?

What does it mean to be “the better man”? And which matters more, being “better” in the moral and ethical sense, or being “superior” in the evolutionary sense?

After a recent viewing of the movie X-Men: First Class, those were the questions that kept circling my mind, like the never-ending debate between Charles Xavier and Erik Lehnsherr, the future Professor X and Magneto.

We first really see Charles Xavier in the midst of World War II at age 12 in the kitchen of his family’s estate. He interrupts his mother in the kitchen in the middle of the night. Except it’s not really his mother. It’s a little girl who is capable of mimicking the outward appearance of anyone, anyone at all. She has the mutation of being a human chameleon. Her true outward appearance consists of slightly scaly blue skin, red hair and yellow eyes. She is a mutant. But Xavier is not all that astonished. He is a mutant too, but his mutation is on the inside. He can read her mind. And everyone else’s.

Erik Lehnsherr spends his war in a Concentration Camp with a number tattooed on his arm. His introduction shows him, also at a young age, being separated from his mother during the sorting process at the Camp entrance by the Nazis. In his grief and rage at the separation, young Erik uses his burgeoning power to start pulling the metal gates that separate him from his mother off their hinges until a guard knocks him out with a rifle butt. A doctor decides to bring his power to full fruition, using the most obscene lever at his command, Erik’s love for his mother. The doctor kills her in front of the boy, and the power explodes, sending all the metal objects that Erik can see into a swirling Armaggedon.

When we see them each again, it is 1962. They have all grown up. Xavier is graduating from Oxford as a Professor of Genetic Mutation. Erik is traveling to Switzerland and South America, taking his own personal revenge on the Nazis. The little blue girl Xavier found in his kitchen, well, she is still with him in Oxford, pretending to be his sister, and using her chameleon ability to pretend to be normal. And that sums up the three protagonists, one the son of privilege, one the survivor of man’s absolute inhumanity to man, and one a mutant who is ashamed of herself.

They collide in the middle of the ocean. Erik is in pursuit of the doctor who killed his mother. Xavier is in pursuit of the man who wants to start World War III. They happen to be the same mutant, now going by the name of Sebastian Shaw, backed by a small army of mutants. Shaw believes that the spontaneous rise of mutations is the result of atomic testing, and that the release of nuclear war will create more mutants, whom he will rule.

This is the central conflict between Erik and Xavier. Xavier believes that the “better man”, the morally superior man, would capture Shaw and let some higher authority judge him for his crimes. Erik just wants to kill him for the crime of murdering his mother and torturing him, whatever else the villain has done. The problem is that Shaw is a psychopath as well as a powerful mutant who can absorb any energy that is thrown at him. But primarily, he is a psychopath, and probably would have been even if he hadn’t been a mutant. Killing him is the only way to stop him from starting World War III (in the movie, Shaw was the motivating force behind the Cuban Missile Crisis). To borrow from a different science fiction universe, the needs of the many, in this case the entire human race, outweigh the needs of the few. Erik did the right thing, even if his motives were selfish.

Mutants are superior to homo sapiens in an evolutionary sense. Xavier believes that if his people do the moral thing, the better thing, that the homo sapiens will treat his people fairly and not act irrationally. In other words, not turn on them out of fear. Erik knows what it is like to be irrationally hated, he has already been there. He is certain that once their powers are revealed, humans will fear them, and will act on that fear. The story proves him correct. What is interesting is that Xavier has known this all along, he has just refused to admit it, even to himself. That is why he has hidden his talent, and why he has made his mutant friend Mystique use her chameleon talent to hide hers, to keep himself from being exposed.

In Harry Potter’s world, the wizards and witches hide from the Muggles. In Deborah Harkness’ book, A Discovery of Witches, the witches conceal their talents from the world at large as well, and for the same reason. The magical folk remember the witch burnings all too well, and do not want them to happen again. Concealment is safer.

Katherine Kurtz’ series about the magical Deryni said it best, and the words still send a chill up my spine. “The humans kill what they do not understand.”