I'm consistently amazed at how good this comic continues to be. Vol. 5 is more of a page-turner than Vol. 4 due to the multiple storylines all focusinI'm consistently amazed at how good this comic continues to be. Vol. 5 is more of a page-turner than Vol. 4 due to the multiple storylines all focusing on the same thing: finding and/or freeing baby Hazel from the the crazed robot who kidnapped her.
I do need to serve notice, though: Since this is one of those series where, like in Game of Thrones, no characters are safe, Brian K. Vaughn better not do anything bad to Lying Cat or Ghus or I'm hunting him down....more
See? Prequels don't have to suck. The Sandman: Overture might end up being the perfect exception to prove the rule that prequels do. And make no mistaSee? Prequels don't have to suck. The Sandman: Overture might end up being the perfect exception to prove the rule that prequels do. And make no mistake, this is definitely a prequel. While taking place before, and leading into, the opening of Preludes & Nocturnes, Overture is a story that is very much informed by and resonant with everything that comes after. It also, thankfully, reminds us why we all fell in love with The Sandman in the first place, instead of (as prequels usually do) make us wish that the original creator had kept his distance instead of trying to recapture the magic. Instead, Overture will make you want to track Gaiman down, lock him in a closet, and make him write more Sandman at gunpoint.
I could go on about the story, but I won't - just read it. JH Williams' art is fantastic as ever, and perfectly suited to Morpheus's adventures, which I don't think he's ever illustrated before. On a personal note, the final issue of Overture also marks the end of my monthly comic-buying hobby I've been indulging in since 1988. I expect I'll still be indulging in the occasional trade (after all, I'm hardly done with Saga), but from here on my weekly comic-fix is done. This was a great one to go out on....more
We may have to reformulate Clarke's Law for this novel so it reads: "Any sufficiently advanced psionic abilities are indistinguishable from magic." OKWe may have to reformulate Clarke's Law for this novel so it reads: "Any sufficiently advanced psionic abilities are indistinguishable from magic." OK, psi powers are magical anyway since they don't really exist, but neither does FTL and we allow that in the SF clubhouse, so telepathy gets in too. Forgotten Suns, however, is a space opera that really plays with that gray area between science and fantasy. The book generally lands on the "really alien higher-dimensional science that we just don't understand" side of the line, but since many of the characters actively refer to themselves as mages and their powers as magical (with, I imagine, an occasional wink) that line stays thoroughly blurred.
This book hit a lot of sweet spots for me: alien worlds, vanished civilizations, xenoarchaeology, superpowered demigods with questionable motives, people flying around in spaceships having adventures, and likeable, relatable protagonists. The two point-of-view characters are a former intelligence officer still damaged and suffering from the trauma of her final mission, and her thirteen-year-old niece Aisha who doesn't think twice about stowing away on a spaceship and traveling the galaxy to help out her family. Even though it's an adult novel, having such a young protagonist (a modern-day Arkady Darrell) lets Tarr easily convey the wonder so vital to fun science fiction.
The third principal character, and the major actor of the whole shebang, is an ancient conqueror from the planet Nevermore who's been buried in stasis for 6,000 years until Aisha accidentally wakes him up by blasting into an archaeological site with a little too much dynamite. This is the "superpowered demigod" I mentioned earlier, and in his earlier life he was something of a Dark Lord that his own people had to lock away for their own protection. Now that his whole race has disappeared, he goes from supervillain to questing hero as he travels across the universe looking for his lost civilization and the mystery of why they vanished. The answer is suitably epic and satisfying.
The novel isn't perfect, but the flaws don't get in the way. Tarr's characters have a habit of implying too much in the dialogue, and sometimes it's a chore to keep up with what's left unsaid in their conversations. One of the antagonist groups in the novel is an evil Psi Corps whom Tarr lifted directly out of Babylon 5, but since B5 lifted the Psi Corps directly out of The Demolished Man, then I figure fair's fair. The universe of the novel is one that I didn't really want to leave at the end, and I get the impression that Tarr didn't either, since she takes about as much time as Tolkien to wrap up the story after the climax. Still, an excellent, yummy space opera....more
You know, a book with a title like The End of All Things shouldn't be nearly this anticlimactic. Also, the follow-up to a killer cliffhanger like theYou know, a book with a title like The End of All Things shouldn't be nearly this anticlimactic. Also, the follow-up to a killer cliffhanger like the one that ended The Human Division should have had as much, if not more, punch than the previous installment. As it is, this duology ended up feeling like a Star Trek: The Next Generation two-parter: awesome set-up, perfunctory resolution.
Scalzi's often been compared favorably with Heinlein. In my own review of Old Man's War I said that it came across as a rebuttal to Starship Troopers. However, End of All Things felt much more like Asimov's original Foundation novels. It's got the same structure: interrelated novellas with different protagonists and a little bit of overlap. Also like Asimov, the book boils down to a bunch of talking heads having reasonable conversations with very little interpersonal conflict between the characters who are on camera - and even when there is, it's very one-sided.
I think it's the novella structure that dooms this book in the end. I enjoyed the serialization in The Human Division, but this book wasn't truly serialized. Each novella stands on its own, and while at least one of them ("The Life of the Mind") is fantastic, the stakes always stay novella-sized and never truly blow up to apocalyptic, novel-sized proportions. In the last novella, when the butcher's bill should finally come due, the shadowy evil organization behind all the threats has already been defanged as a serious threat. The good guys sit down, make a plan, the plan works to perfection, and everyone is happy with a minimum of tension or fuss.
Oh well. A friend of mine said recently that every good author has at least one bad novel in them. I wouldn't call The End of All Things bad, exactly. It just didn't live up to its promise....more
I tell you this: the writing team that calls themselves James S.A. Corey sure knows how to keep you turning pages. Just like Leviathan Wakes, this isI tell you this: the writing team that calls themselves James S.A. Corey sure knows how to keep you turning pages. Just like Leviathan Wakes, this is a book you’ll want to read in a few big gulps. The only thing missing is the Holden/Miller dichotomy that turned the previous book into such an interesting moral quagmire. Since Miller spends the book MIA, Corey fills in with three new point of view characters in addition to the returning Holden: a Martian marine, a wonderfully foul-mouthed and grandmotherly Indian politician, and Praxidike Meng, a bioengineer from Ganymede whose daughter is kidnapped by evil forces in the opening of the book. Prax’s hunt for his daughter is the prime motivator for the plot, but unfortunately he’s so serious and single-minded that spending any length of time in his head becomes annoying and I found myself counting the pages to get back to the good bits.
This book also calls to mind certain elements of A Song of Ice and Fire in its approach to conflict: a giant, existential threat is looming (in this case on Venus instead of North Beyond the Wall) and the solar system’s political powers spend all their time and energy fighting each other instead of focusing on the one legitimate menace. The wonderful cliffhanger ending made it hard not to start the next volume right away....more
1. Unabashed Space Opera: Giant space empires, colonization and conquest, outposts on the edge of civilAltogether cool things about Ancillary Justice:
1. Unabashed Space Opera: Giant space empires, colonization and conquest, outposts on the edge of civilization, giant sentient warships, the power to wipe out solar systems, menacing mysterious aliens, and even the mention of a friggin' Dyson sphere. What's not to love? But wait, there's more!
2. A New Kind of Mind: SciFi is full of artificial intelligences, and we've seen the collective-consciousness thing done before (mostly during the 80s when it was used as a creepy stand-in for those dirty Commies) but this is the first time I've seen the one-mind, many-bodies thing done not as a "creepy menace" but just as another way of existing, and had all the ramifications of that type of sentience explored. Justice of Toren is a compelling, likable protagonist with a brain-twisting alien point of view to wrap your head around. And if that wasn't enough..
3. A New Way of Looking at Gender: Leckie's got some serious Samuel Delany / Ursula LeGuin stuff going on here. The central culture of the novel, the Radch, is gender-neutral. Gender role traditions have melted away to the point of meaninglessness and Justice of Toren has a hard time even recognizing gender and getting pronouns right in other languages. It's implied that Radch language has no gender-specific pronouns, and to communicate this the author uses "she/her" in place of "he/his" for all characters, regardless of actual gender, which for most is never specified. Makes for a really interesting read.
Minus one star for a pet peeve:
Radch culture is very stratified and formal; therefore a lot of the interaction and intrigue between characters revolves around people being very deliberatly polite/impolite to each other, where every sentence might contain some finely calculated sleight or rudeness. Personally, though, I find those kind of cultures (and stories about them) tedious, and it made this book a slower read for me than it otherwise would have been....more
I got the impression that Dan Simmons had a blast with this novella. It certainly doesn't have the depth of characterization you'd expect from his lonI got the impression that Dan Simmons had a blast with this novella. It certainly doesn't have the depth of characterization you'd expect from his longer works - the dramatis personae are clever sketches at best. They're basically just there as an audience eyepiece through which to view the barrage of big-idea, space opera, "sensawunda" high concepts Simmons throws at you, as if you were on a high-speed sightseeing tour of ancient, ultra-advanced, godlike civilizations.
That, and Shakespeare. As much as I love the Bard, I'm not sure I believe that his plays would carry as much weight as Simmons suggest once removed from any sense of cultural context (for example, performing them for non-humanoid aliens). But still, it's a fun conceit and a nice way to illustrate what value we tiny humans might offer when confronting the sheer scale of the universe and its denizens....more
If it wasn't for Harlan Ellison's name on the cover, I might have thought this was "Michael Moorcock's Magnificent Seven." It certainly captures the fIf it wasn't for Harlan Ellison's name on the cover, I might have thought this was "Michael Moorcock's Magnificent Seven." It certainly captures the flavor of that same era of New Wave SF trippiness of which Ellison and Moorcock were both a part. Stylistically, this graphic novel is also something of a throwback - the pacing and story structure is very much like that of 1950s and 60s scifi comics extended to novel length. Extended not by padding and "decompressing" by by adding that much more story. This could easily have been a doorstopper of a novel, but instead it's a direct shot of pulpy SF concentrate straight to your arteries....more
Saga continues to be my favorite ongoing series. There aren't many monthlies that I'm still following, but this is definitely the one that I look forwSaga continues to be my favorite ongoing series. There aren't many monthlies that I'm still following, but this is definitely the one that I look forward to the most. The characters continue to engage, the shocks and surprises keep coming, and now we get to meet the in-laws! The rocky romance that's the heart of all the SFF adventure has to be one of the most honest portrayals of a relationship, possibly ever in comics (Edit: Well, except for Strangers in Paradise.)
Because of the generally slow pace of the series, I'm beginning to get the impression that Vaughan and Staples are playing a really long game, and that it's going to take lots and lots of comic books to get to the end of this Saga. Normally that would make me worried - I've seen too many comic series I enjoy crash and burn after a dozen issues because no one else was reading them. This one, though, seems to be building up quite a community of fans, as evidenced by the Saga Costume Contest winners at the end of #12. In today's world, if you've got that much cosplay going on, then your core following is secure.
No matter what the verdict of the Goodreads Readers Choice awards, this is my pick for best graphic novel of the year, and the best new series since ANo matter what the verdict of the Goodreads Readers Choice awards, this is my pick for best graphic novel of the year, and the best new series since American Vampire. Mix the space travel/fantasy whimsy of Moonshadow with the snark and ultra-violence of Powers? Yes, please. Can I have some more? Also, this book includes my favorite new comics character in ages: Lying Cat. (Read the book, you'll agree.)
Not much to say yet about the plot, because this volume is almost all set-up for events to come. However, it's hardly slow-paced because there's so much to introduce. Basically it boils down to the way Romeo & Juliet should have gone, with the two of them on the run together, fighting back against the Montagues and Capulets instead of moping and killing themselves. Despite that, and despite the fact that it's not a depressing read at all, the book never gets away from the tone that this is a story that can't possibly end well....more