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)
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.
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 A...moreNo 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.(less)
"When I was your age, television was called books." Now we've come full circle to a book structured and released episodically like a television progra...more"When I was your age, television was called books." Now we've come full circle to a book structured and released episodically like a television program. The Human Division isn't a serial in the traditional sense of a novel broken up into chunks with cliffhangers. Instead, most of the chapters stand on their own as complete short stories while contributing to the whole. So did it work?
As for the story itself, I'm not going to say much. It's the fifth in the Old Man's War series (yes, I skipped ahead) and focuses on a team of diplomats who get handed the Colonial Union's messes to clean up on a regular basis. For story, character, and plot I'd only have given the book 4 stars, but it earns the extra mark for innovative concept and delivery.
As a librarian I've sat through many lectures from experts prognosticating the future of ebooks and how they will change the reading experience, but all those scenarios usually involve hashtags, hyperlinks, and the ability to electronically highlight your favorite passages (which for some reason all these ebook speculators think will be really important). With the chapter-a-week, 99c delivery method, Scalzi seems to have hit on something that keys in to how people actually enjoy entertainment.
I understand that most people still prefer to drink their fiction in one big gulp, but what Scalzi managed with this experiment was to create a sense of shared experience and community among all of us who were eagerly awaiting our weekly fix of Human Division while killing time for the new seasons of Doctor Who and Game of Thrones to start. I thought it was particularly hilarious how parts of the Internet briefly exploded when we all learned that *gasp* the book finishes on an end-of-season cliffhanger. How dare someone do in a novel what we've come to expect from every show on the boob tube!
Thank God and Tor, The Human Division was renewed for a second season.(less)
The first of the Vorkosigan books surprised me by being more of a romance novel than I was expecting, but I don't begrudge it. It was...moreShards of Honor
The first of the Vorkosigan books surprised me by being more of a romance novel than I was expecting, but I don't begrudge it. It was actually refreshing to read a romance plot that didn't fall into the overused "Pride and Prejudice" formula. Bujold doesn't waste any time trying to make us think her heroine despises the hero, and he doesn't waste the whole novel bending heaven and earth to impress her. They both have their own lives and their own problems - namely that they're military officers from enemy planets. And yet the novel doesn't fall into the Romeo & Juliet formula either. Instead, you get two characters who are attracted to each other, know it, and want to be together, but duty to their respective cultures keep them apart until both of the homeworlds they cherish turn against them in one way or another.
It probably sounds like I'm spoiling the book, but I'm really not. The problem was that almost nothing in the novel came as a surprise aside from a few shocking coincidences and points of political intrigue. But the characters were so engaging (and Bujold so successful in making me care about them) that a predictable storyline can be forgiven.
Now this one I'm on the fence about, which is odd since it won the Hugo. (I just checked the slate for that year and WTF - it beat Stations of the Tide? Uh, no - I don't think so.)
As a novel it works better than Shards: the plot is more coherent, the characters are better drawn, their motivations are more consistent. I think my problem was that it wasn't science-fictional enough. Shards had space battles, a futuristic society, and settings on two non-earthlike planets. The world of Barrayar, on the other hand, is just 18th century Prussia with ray guns and flying cars. Furthermore, the political intrigue this time around just wasn't intriguing. In Shards, the Barrayaran emperor's final plot was wonderfully Byzantine and Machiavellian. Barrayar, on the other hand, has nothing but a run-of-the-mill attempted coup with antagonists who are neither complex nor particularly competent.
Two things save it: 1) Cordelia's main concern isn't for winning the war, but for protecting her unborn son. To her, the war is only secondary. 2) Piotr Vorkosigan, Cordelia's father-in-law, the only character with shades of gray. Everyone in the book is clearly on one side of the conflict or the other, but Piotr - while loyal to the "good guys" - is also a danger to Cordelia.
Anyhow, the books are both well-written and I'm told that if I enjoyed these even a little I should love the Miles Vorkosigan books that come after.(less)
John Love's impressive debut cobbles together a bunch of older ideas into something that feels like the freshest space-battle book I've read in a long...moreJohn Love's impressive debut cobbles together a bunch of older ideas into something that feels like the freshest space-battle book I've read in a long time. The premise is from Saberhagen's Berserker stories: a mysterious, unstoppable spaceship appears from nowhere, makes no attempt to communicate, and lays waste to civilizations. Those sent to stop it are a Dirty Dozen mix of criminals and malcontents who, because of their evil natures, are able to conceive of and do things that the traditional military can't. The confrontation, which takes up two thirds of the book, plays like the classic Star Trek episode "Balance of Terror" with an obsessive neurotic in place of Kirk and a nigh-omnipotent trickster god in place of the Romulans.
Love's sense of pacing is marvelous, especially in the tensest action scenes where he manages to slow time down to a crawl without dragging the momentum of the narrative. He also manages the difficult task of populating a book entirely with unlikable characters and getting you to invest in them anyway. The main nitpick I have with his writing is that he uses the phrase "the ship turned in its own length" on almost every page, but aside from that one distraction Faith packs a hell of a punch.(less)
Scalzi may just be the best popcorn writer SF has ever produced. That probably makes it sound like I’m saying his books don’t have any depth, and that...moreScalzi may just be the best popcorn writer SF has ever produced. That probably makes it sound like I’m saying his books don’t have any depth, and that would be wrong. Inside this fast-paced, enjoyable adventure story is an elegant little examination of the nature of identity. It’s often observed that the hero/villain dynamic works best when the two share everything in common except their basic moral core. That’s never been better exemplified than here, in which a clone trooper is grown to house a copy of the personality of a traitor but develops his own sense of self instead.
Now that all the world-building of Old Man’s War is out of the way, Scalzi has room to create a “second movie is better than the first” scenario and actually follow through with a plot instead of the series of incidents and unlikely coincidences that made up the earlier novel. My only gripe is one of structure: Instead of opening with our hero, Jared Dirac, Scalzi saves his introduction for Chapter 4, after spending more time than was necessary explaining beforehand exactly who Jared is and why he was created. It may have been more fun to leave it a mystery that the reader could discover along with Jared himself, but that’s just a matter of personal preference.
Since I’m reading this series out of order (having skipped ahead to The Human Division while it was being released in serial form), I noticed one other thing that I appreciate: the evil bastard villain (who is definitely an evil bastard villain) is nevertheless right in his reasons for taking the actions that he takes – it’s only the actions he takes in response to an unjust situation that are themselves wrong. (less)