I've loved the Doom Patrol ever since reading a reprint of "The Man Who Lived Twice" in an issue of Super-Team Family back in the late 70s. Then there...moreI've loved the Doom Patrol ever since reading a reprint of "The Man Who Lived Twice" in an issue of Super-Team Family back in the late 70s. Then there was a DC Digest collection of classic stories a few years later, and the shocking New Teen Titans #13. When I got back into comics in college, Grant Morrison's take on the series was always at the top of my "to read" list. These classic stories, however, still hold up really well in comparison to the safer stories appearing in the more mainstream DC titles.
Morrison called the Doom Patrol "the post-modern Fantastic Four." Like the X-Men, the Patrol are alienated and shunned because of their powers, but as Morrison points out, what sets the Doom Patrol apart isn't race or mutation but the fact that these are superheroes with disabilities. I didn't catch on to that when I first came across them as a kid, but it probably explains why I reacted to them so strongly.
It's almost as if Arnold Drake took a look at the disaffected attitude of The Thing and said "Oh, yeah? I can come up with a whole team of those guys." He then went the extra step of making this book utterly crazy. How else could you explain a villain like Animal-Vegetable-Mineral Man? If I remember right, it only gets kookier from there.(less)
There's a fine line between accurately depicting military life and fetishizing it, and while the first half of Orphanage felt to me like the latter, B...moreThere's a fine line between accurately depicting military life and fetishizing it, and while the first half of Orphanage felt to me like the latter, Buettner dives straight into "War Is Hell" territory in the second half. If you're a fan of military SF who can't get enough of Robert Heinlein and has watched the boot camp segment of Full Metal Jacket more times than you can count, you will love this book and should run out and buy it right now.
As for me, while I always stop channel surfing for R. Lee Ermey, I don't dig the Heinlein and I don't get much out of military SF, so it was harder for me to gloss over some of the book's contrivances. The main character's a total washout who just happens to be friends with the world's top space pilot, and whose judge in juvie court just happens to be a Medal of Honor recipient who can pull strings for him whenever the plot requires; he just happens to stumble across the most intact alien artifact found in the war, becomes pals with the army's best gunner, falls in love with the best pilot, etc. etc.
I could gripe, but the book was honestly too engaging for all that to really get in the way of enjoying it. One could make the complaint that the author doesn't bring anything new to the military SF genre, or that his overarching conflict is a little too black and white, but you know what? If this book is kind of thing, you're going to eat it up.(less)
They say "write what you know," but if you're trying to write an engaging start to a light fantasy series and what you know is the minutia of currency...moreThey say "write what you know," but if you're trying to write an engaging start to a light fantasy series and what you know is the minutia of currency exchange... maybe you should go to an SCA meeting or two. Spice & Wolf was trucking along in solid "okay" territory until it hit chapter 3 and what felt like a 50-page lecture on currency valuation, I almost quit out of sheer boredom. The book redeems itself a little once it starts focusing on characters again and introduces some actual conflict (though it does so far too late in the story). However, the prose is clunky, the dialog is stilted in the extreme, and the plot never rises above "mildly interesting."(less)
Got halfway through, just can't take it any more. The art is pretty but the storytelling is awful and the plot itself is shockingly dull. Most of the...moreGot halfway through, just can't take it any more. The art is pretty but the storytelling is awful and the plot itself is shockingly dull. Most of the pages are just pictures of someone posing while narrating. Boring beyond belief.(less)
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 f...moreIf 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.(less)
I've lived car-free before, back in my college days, but not by choice. I've also been a Slave To The Machine, especially back...moreOne can certainly dream.
I've lived car-free before, back in my college days, but not by choice. I've also been a Slave To The Machine, especially back when I was commuting 3 hours each day from Mobile to Pensacola. Even before reading this, I've been dreaming of being able to live somewhere I could ride the train to work and walk from home to all the basic amenities. When my wife and I move next, we plan to pare down to a single car for the both of us. The techniques, advice, and strategies listed in this volume do make it clear that living car-lite or car-free is very, very possible.
Depending on where you live. And where you work.
Living car-free is much, much easier if you live in some sort of West Coast utopian fairyland like Portland or San Francisco. It's telling that of all the testimonials from car-free people included in the book, not one - not one - is from the Deep South. It would be tricky but doable if you moved to the right areas of Atlanta or New Orleans, but practically nowhere else in my neck of the woods. Cities in the South either have no public transport to speak of, or (like Birmingham) no groceries, pharmacies, or any other basic human necessities in their downtown areas.
Oh well. One more reason to move somewhere else.(less)
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 forw...moreSaga 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.
Fun, never boring, and an excellent audio production, but ultimately unsatisfying since the conclusion fails to deliver on the promise of the opening...moreFun, never boring, and an excellent audio production, but ultimately unsatisfying since the conclusion fails to deliver on the promise of the opening chapters and never rises above the level of melodrama. Neither of the main characters, the super-villain Dr. Impossible and the newbie superhero Fatale, really grows or changes as a part of the story. Neither of them achieves anything. There are no lasting consequences or any true surprises. In the end, the book is little more than a guided tour of the super-hero world Grossman created with a cookie-cutter, run-of-the-mill supervillain plot as a framework for an ungodly number of flashbacks.
Holy Crom, the flashbacks. I started this book a couple of times several years ago, but never finished it until my book club picked it as the next monthly title. The problem was the constant overuse of flashbacks and narrative histories of the various characters. Even at the end, at what should have been the emotional beat-down of the novel, all the characters can do is sit around and tell origin stories. Large parts of this book felt like entries from the Handbook of the Marvel Universe.
Also, Grossman’s attempt to deconstruct the superhero genre feels strangely dated, as if he read lots of 70s and 80s comics, read Watchmen, and then quit. Much of what he seems to be going for here was done a lot better by Kurt Busiek in Astro City.
Still, I’ve got to give props to Grossman for coining the phrase “Malign Hypercognition Disorder” as the reason why mad scientists do what they do. That’s worth an extra star all by itself.(less)
So I haven’t read nearly enough romance novels to be an expert on the genre, but it’s clear even from the back-cover copy that this book is here to bu...moreSo I haven’t read nearly enough romance novels to be an expert on the genre, but it’s clear even from the back-cover copy that this book is here to buck some trends. First, the point-of-view character is male – something I’ve seen in romantic film, but not so far in genre lit. Second, this guy would only look like Fabio if he was sitting next to Stephen Hawking. The male leads in the other romance novels I’ve read were all nigh-demigods and only the heroines in those books were allowed to have issues. In Courting Greta, both the leads are allowed to have problems – real problems, not minor inconveniences easily solved by the end of the book.
For computer teacher and ex-programmer Samuel Cooke, those problems are obvious – suffering from spinal bifida, he’s hard-pressed to keep up with the hectic demands of daily high school life. Greta Cassamajor, the abrasive gym coach, has problems of her own, and the slow revelation of those is one of the driving forces of the novel. Hootman’s emotional honesty in the depiction of both of her leads is extremely refreshing, miles away from the safe romantic fantasies of the (admittedly few) other examples of the genre I’ve read (and I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that this book hit very close to home for me, much more than any Miss Nearly Perfect meets Dashing McRight).
So is Courting Greta really a romance novel? Of course it is. Any story in which the central question is “Will the two leads form a loving relationship that survives beyond the last page” is a romance novel. Hootman is simply exploring the outer fringes of what is possible given that premise, and I sincerely hope she keeps it up. (less)
2014 Reading Project: Finally Getting Around To... (Book 1)
So, my goal for 2014 is to clear off some of the books that have been sitting on my to-read...more2014 Reading Project: Finally Getting Around To... (Book 1)
So, my goal for 2014 is to clear off some of the books that have been sitting on my to-read shelf for what feels like forever. (My real world to-read shelf, that is, not my Goodreads list.) With that in mind, I chose to kick things off with the one that's been on the list since about 1979.
When I was a kid at Denham Springs Elementary, the tiny public library across the street had exactly three science fiction paperbacks: Lucky Starr and the Pirates of the Asteroids, E.E. Smith's Spacehounds of IPC, and this one, Iceworld by Hal Clement. I eventually read the other two but never did crack this one, even though 4th-grade me found the idea of approaching Earth from an alien's point of view intriguing. For my "Finally Getting Around to" project, I even managed to track down a copy with the same cover that my old library had.
As a hook, it's fantastic: beings from a super-hot planet who find even Mercury chilly discover life on Earth and try to solve the mystery of what kind of beings could exist on a planet so cold that sulfur is a solid. Clement throws another twist in: the aliens who contact Earth aren't scientists or military, but drug dealers from a species for whom tobacco is even more addictive than it is for humans. One of their smugglers has been trading platinum for cigarettes with a family of Earthers for years, but he employs a science teacher named Sallman Ken (who's actually a narcotics agent) to discover a way to grow this "tobacco" substance offworld.
So basically, Ken spends the whole book trying to solve a mystery that isn't a mystery at all for anyone from Earth. Oddly, that makes the story work better than it would have otherwise - all of Ken's convoluted science experiments would have been awfully boring if the reader wasn't constantly itching to jump in over his shoulder and say "that blue stuff is water!" or something like that. The weird gyrations that Clement has his protagonist go through just to determine the elemental structure of Earth's atmosphere are particularly strange, since you'd think the aliens would have understood basic spectroscopy. (We've had it on Earth since the 1860s.)
That probably makes Iceworld sound like a boring technobabble book, but it's not. It's actually a fun, forgotten Golden Age gem about first contacts, misunderstandings, and plucky problem solving.
From the "Better read the book before the movie comes out" Dept.:
Absolutely loved it. And the great thing about reading the classics as an adult is th...moreFrom the "Better read the book before the movie comes out" Dept.:
Absolutely loved it. And the great thing about reading the classics as an adult is that you don't have to write a book report to spoil the fun. I'm sure there are many other reviews with much more profound thoughts than I, but suffice it to say that I was shocked what a fun read this "important piece of literature" and "great American novel" actually turned out to be. 1) I love a good mystery, and it's got that. 2) I love Shakespearean plot mechanics, and it's got that too. Not to mention that it's all a perfect time capsule of the 20's - the last decade in which America could take itself seriously and have a blast at the same time.(less)