Nice to have Mr. Moore & O'Neill taking on a story a little lighter, more accessible, and less apocalyptic after the mind-melting, Harry-Potter-de...moreNice to have Mr. Moore & O'Neill taking on a story a little lighter, more accessible, and less apocalyptic after the mind-melting, Harry-Potter-defiling finale to LXG: Century. And it's weird to use the words "lighter and more accessible" to describe a story with so much death and a visit to Lovecraft's Mountains of Madness. And while Moore continues to dance around the edge of copyright violation, I was more than a little pleased to find an old childhood hero, Tom Swift, finally appearing in the series, albeit as a villain. I wasn't sure Moore had anywhere left to take the League after Century, but I'll happily follow more little side-trips like this one should they choose to continue.(less)
This year's big DC crossover was a massive let-down, partly because it was yet another "alternate timeline" story of the kind that was handled much be...moreThis year's big DC crossover was a massive let-down, partly because it was yet another "alternate timeline" story of the kind that was handled much better ten years ago in "Age of Apocalypse," but also because it was trumped by the real event of 2011, the Total DC Reboot. Flashpoint was simply a time-travel way to justify starting everything over in-story, but as soon as the news broke, Flashpoint not only lame-ducked every single in-continuity title DC published over the summer, but it did the same to itself. It's hard to care about any of the events of the story when you know that in a larger sense nothing that happens is really going to matter (unlike, for instance, last year's Blackest Night or Marvel's counter-programmed Fear Itself).
That wouldn't matter if the story were, in itself, gripping. It's not. It's just another excuse to trot out a bunch of "what if" concepts, but aside from the Thomas Wayne as Batman arc, none of the alt-history ideas in this crossover are very interesting. I get the feeling that DC's creators were saving their A-games for the relaunch (and rightly so), and as a result Flashpoint was given creative short shrift.
Personally, I think the Total Reboot would have felt more natural and made more story sense if it had followed on the heels of Final Crisis.(less)
Here I am again with another completely unbiased 5-star review of an anthology that just happens to contain one of my own stories (in this case, a lit...moreHere I am again with another completely unbiased 5-star review of an anthology that just happens to contain one of my own stories (in this case, a little piece called "Jumping the Rails").
A few of my favorites, though:
"Grass Elephant" - another extremely engaging story from M. Keaton set in the wilds of Africa.
"Cicada Summer" - Jon Klement's heartwarming tale of childhood and alien invasion.
"The Big Golden Apple" - by Cindy MacLeod, set in a steampunk Manhattan with a surprising connection to our own.
On the whole, an even stronger collection than Dreams volume one. Looking forward to volume three!
I know that a lot of people like this book. I wanted to like it too. I started out liking it, then about fifty pages in I realized I'd been tricked in...moreI know that a lot of people like this book. I wanted to like it too. I started out liking it, then about fifty pages in I realized I'd been tricked into reading a paranormal romance novel. Normally I'd have quit right there, but my book group is discussing Greyfriar this month, so I made myself finish it. Around the halfway point, I got over my ire and started enjoying the book for what it was, and not what I'd hoped it would be when I started. I'm glad I did, too - the climax of the book is really well done and sets a good hook for volume 2.
So what do I have against paranormal romance? Well, in this case... It starts off well with a human Princess under attack and on the run from an army of vampires. And let me say, I like these vampires. They're inhuman, alien monsters, with a psychology quite different from that of mere mortals. The world-building, what there is of it, is intriguing and drags you into the novel. And then...
The Princess is rescued by a Dashing Rogue who turns out to be... wait for it... a Prince in disguise. If you suddenly ask yourself, "What is this, a Disney movie?" you might understand how I feel. You might also suspect that you can predict every single story beat from that point on by applying the "beautiful, conflicted princess meets handsome superman with a dark secret" formula, and you'd be right.
I could go on about a few other pet peeves that Greyfriar rubs the wrong way, such as making every single character who isn't royalty a cardboard cutout, etc. but I won't. I know there's an audience out there for this sort of thing, but I'm not in it. I would, however, recommend this novel to any paranormal romance fan who wanted to sample something a little edgier than the normal bodice-ripper.(less)
By Jove, I love Mark Hodder. Once again he's set the bar that all other steampunk ought to be measured by. One - he knows his history. Two - he knows...moreBy Jove, I love Mark Hodder. Once again he's set the bar that all other steampunk ought to be measured by. One - he knows his history. Two - he knows how to spin a fantastic adventure. Three - he's completely nuts. Gone are the exploding werewolves of the first book in this series, only to be replaced by a behemoth, flesh-eating rabblerouser, ghosts made of steam, and unfailingly polite zombies.
This book starts off at a slower burn than the first installment, but rises through several how-do-they-get-out-of-this scenarios to a battle scene that forever puts to shame the zombie wars of Boneshaker. The Clockwork Man of the title is something of a fake-out, since the action instead centers around the Tichbourne Claimant, a madman posing as the long lost heir to a family fortune. Along the way, Hodder acknowledges that the laws of nature in a steampunk story aren't quite the same as in the real world, then goes the extra mile to provide a perfectly good explanation.
So why not five stars? The characters still lack any real depth beyond what's needed to propel the action, and Hodder still seems to be unaware that the female sex exists aside from the occasional housemaid. To be fair, one of the main antagonists this time around is a woman, but she's little more than a cackling lunatic who's only there to give Sir Richard Francis Burton someone to face off against.
Still, that sounds like I'm complaining when I'm really not. If you're at all interested in steampunk, read the Burton & Swinburne series before dipping your toes anywhere else. Commercial over. 'Nuff said.(less)
Not so long ago, Cherie Priest's Boneshaker made a bid for "definitive Steampunk novel." While it was a valiant attempt, I think the crown should trul...moreNot so long ago, Cherie Priest's Boneshaker made a bid for "definitive Steampunk novel." While it was a valiant attempt, I think the crown should truly go to Mark Hodder's Spring Heeled Jack. Based in an alternate Victorian England, but using a cavalcade of real historical figures for its dramatis personae, Hodder mixes historical fact, steampunk technology, Victorian mores, a 19th Century urban legend, and one of the maddest takes on time travel ever.
The protagonist is Sir Richard Burton, who accomplished so much in his real life that were a fiction writer to make him up, he would come across as unbelievable. After a series of attacks in London's East End by spontaneously combustible werewolves, and a personal encounter with the demonic character of the title, Burton is appointed "King's Agent" - kind of a 19th Century James Bond. He teams up with several others, most notably the rakish poet Algernon Swinburne, to investigate the case, which leads to the startling possibility that his entire world only exists because of a single instance of history being changed.
The book's one flaw is that aside from Burton the characters are a little thin. That suits the novel's pulpy nature, however, and the fact that the book never takes itself too seriously. (Go back and re-read the phrase "spontaneously combusting werewolves" if you don't believe me.) For all its muck and horror, there's an underlying silliness to the Victorian era that most writers never seem to face up to. Hodder uses it all to good effect.(less)
First, let me recuse myself from giving anything like an unbiased review of this collection. Full disclosure: it includes my story "Dead Man's Hand,"...moreFirst, let me recuse myself from giving anything like an unbiased review of this collection. Full disclosure: it includes my story "Dead Man's Hand," which the editor (Kimberly Richardson) assures me has creeped people out.
However, I'd like to give a shout-out to a few of my other favorite stories from the collection: "Black Rhino" by M. Keaton, "Five Copper Bowls" by Dale Carothers, "Harry Was One of Us" by Sara M. Harvey, and "Phoenix" by H. David Blaylock. All the stories were unique and creative variations on the steampunk theme, and the collection as a whole is a warm, welcome bundle of sheer pulpy goodness.
You have to stand in awe of the way Cherie Priest managed to tap into the pop culture zeitgeist with her steampunk zombie pulp-fest. Anyone who thinks...moreYou have to stand in awe of the way Cherie Priest managed to tap into the pop culture zeitgeist with her steampunk zombie pulp-fest. Anyone who thinks she was simply following these trends doesn't appreciate exactly how long it takes to get a book from idea to the shelf. It feels as if Priest was trying to write the definitive steampunk novel, with solid, logical reasons for all of the standard trappings: goggles, airships, advanced weaponry, and mad science. It will be interesting to see where she goes with the series. Boneshaker loses a little bit of steam (heh) in the middle, but picks up again toward the end to a satisfying conclusion.
There are only two quibbles that I have with the story: One, Priest postulates an entire society of people living "on the edge" in a zombie-infested Seattle, but she never (to my mind) gives a pressing reason why any of these people would choose to remain. They're not trapped, since there is commerce with the outside world. Supposedly this society exists because the zombie-gas that caused the problem in the first place can be refined into a narcotic, but if they're staying in Seattle for the money, what do they plan to spend it on?
Two- I don't really feel that Priest did right by her villain, Minnericht. He stays in the shadows for most of the novel, and when he finally does appear on the scene, he breathes a burst of new life into the story. Unfortunately, the mystery of Minnericht's identity is revealed a little too easily, and the way that it happens effectively emasculates him as an antagonist.
Nevertheless, the final chapters in particular are beautifully written, and I'm looking forward to seeing where the story goes in volume 2.(less)
It's been a long, long time since I first read Watchmen. Going through it again twenty years later, with a more sophisticated eye, was just as rewardi...moreIt's been a long, long time since I first read Watchmen. Going through it again twenty years later, with a more sophisticated eye, was just as rewarding as I hoped it would be. Of course, the sense of mystery is gone on the second read-through, as well as the shock at the horrific last chapter.
What's fun in the re-read, of course, is peeling away all of Alan Moore's layers of symbolism, recurring themes, and bits of subliminal foreshadowing. Knowing what's coming leads to a greater appreciation of the overall structure, all those little whirring gears of plot and character that keep the whole thing ticking.
The movie's coming out in a couple of weeks, and like all these things its success or failure will depend on how well they pull off the characters. The standout character in Watchmen, of course, is Rorschach. When it was originally published in the 80's, he popped into the fanboy group-consciousness as the "psycho bad-ass" closest to Wolverine or the Punisher. On the re-read, it struck me that he's in some ways the weakest and most frightened of the characters. When I read the book 20 years ago, he was scary. Now I just find him pitiable. It'll be interesting to see how he plays on film.(less)
I can't believe I'm only giving four stars to something by Alan Moore, but I'd actually have gone as low as 3.5. This book was one tough nut to crack....moreI can't believe I'm only giving four stars to something by Alan Moore, but I'd actually have gone as low as 3.5. This book was one tough nut to crack. It explores the entire history of the LXG and goes well beyond the scope of the first two volumes. Whereas the first two volumes were fundamentally adventure stories starring famous characters from turn-of-the-century literature, the Black Dossier goes so far as to imitate a variety of literary styles. At times this becomes almost self-indulgent, and many of the literary characters who appear are so obscure that you almost have to read this with Wikipedia open in front of you just so you can keep up.
That's not to say this book isn't fun, or at some times even funny. I especially love the way Moore dances along the edge of copyright infringement, especially with the inclusion of a character who is quite obviously James Bond, but is never actually named in the text.(less)