So, "Zenn Scarlett". I'm still not entirely how to shelve this book in terms of genre - is it YA, or MG? Or is it riding the fine line between them? W...moreSo, "Zenn Scarlett". I'm still not entirely how to shelve this book in terms of genre - is it YA, or MG? Or is it riding the fine line between them? While this was a really solid debut for Schoon, I think it needed at least one or two more edits before getting to the ARC stage of things because a lot of things needed clarification. While I'm happy this book is yet another we can add to the space western canon within MG/YA, at the same time, I just wish it'd been clearer. Nevertheless, I did have fun with "Zenn Scarlett", and I think other readers will too.
What was good: the worldbuilding, for the most part. We get this really interesting version of Mars - it's not completely safe for human living. In fact, we live in bubbles on this version of Mars, and without them, well, we'll die. I liked that sense of desperation there, and the fact that Earth isn't really talking to Mars in a very American Civil War-esque kind of way makes for a very interesting dynamic between the haves and the havenots, the settlers and the prospectors. And in the middle, we have the Ciscans (presumably descended from the Franciscan order, though this is not really delved into too much) - an order that used to be religious, but now focuses on exoanimal medicine. We get a lot of backstory as to how the "Rift" between Earth and Mars started, and how everything got to this point in Zenn's world, but we're not given solid dates as to orient ourselves in terms of how far in the future we are from right now. Which was a bit frustrating because I like to know where we are in time. All we're told is that it's at least a few hundred years from now, and there's a Star Trek-like Union of planets that Earth and Mars are apart of. When Schoon chose to use sensory imagery and language, he really knows how to do it. But unfortunately, there is a lot of telling over showing (especially in terms of the backstory), and that made things a little difficult to keep up with. I can see how it would work for MG (especially young MG), but not YA.
What really needed work: the character building. While the simple parts of Zenn and her main cast (Hamish was my favorite) were pretty sturdy, I wanted a little more complication in terms of how their characters function. We're given a lot of details (like how age is calculated and used due to Mars' orbit time, etc), but some of the more important and finer aspects as to what drives these characters is more or less glossed over. Example: we know why Hamish is there - because his Queen Mother-Spawn sent him, and that's what's expected of him. I wanted more complication - though Hamish is an insectoid creature, it felt kind of speciesist to keep him so simple and almost robotic in some of his actions. As for Zenn, we know why she wants to be an exovet (the incident with her mother at the beginning was a great way to create tension there), but at the same time, for most of the book, all it's about is not the tension with bandits going around as if in a western novel, or about how resources are starting to run out (kind of important) for the humans on the planet - but just focused on passing her exam. And for me, frankly, that just wasn't enough. I wanted more.
Zenn is 16 - we're told this through the narration, which couldn't seem to settle between 3rd close and 3rd omniscient. However, her actions, her voice seemed to speak more toward 13 or 14, regardless of how age is calculated between Earth and Mars' orbital standards. In so many ways, it felt like Schoon was writing down to the audience, and that was really frustrating, too. Very obvious things that apparently had to be explained to Hamish (give the dude a break, he's an insect and obviously got into the Ciscan order - he's got enough smarts) like "intolerance is bad and diversity is good" and so forth. While I can see the cultural divide into how a lot of the things Zenn and Hamish talked about had to be explained to the poor bugdude, a lot of it could have been cut.
Thus, my confusion - is this YA? Or MG? By the narrative tone, I'd say it's late MG or early YA. But Zenn is 16 - and she should sound (and act) much older.
What I really liked in terms of character building: Zenn's strange superpower with the exoanimals around her. I thought that was great, and I wanted a lot more of that than I actually got. But since we're set up for book two, I may just read it if for more explanation into what's going on with her abilities and how it may change the world around her for good. Also, some more diversity on her animals would be awesome (though I want her cat-like creature, Katie. Can I has? Please?) - not just mammals next time around.
Otherwise? I just think this one needed a bit more cleaning up (and hopefully will get it) by the time it gets pubbed. It was a lot of fun, and I love that space westerns are combining with space opera to make a really fun bastard genre that's finally really making its way into the YA/MG canons in a solid way. "Zenn Scarlett" is out May 7, 2013 from Strange Chemistry in North America, so definitely be sure to check it out. We'll have a guest post from the author on the blog for the tour on May 10, 2013, so be sure to check out what Schoon has to say about his process then!
(posted to goodreads, shelfari, and birthofanewwitch.wordpress.com)(less)
Damn, middle books of 2012! There’s almost no middle book syndrome for any of the #2s in series I’ve read so far this year, and that’s awesome. “Invis...moreDamn, middle books of 2012! There’s almost no middle book syndrome for any of the #2s in series I’ve read so far this year, and that’s awesome. “Invisible Sun” is no exception to that, either – it was absolutely fantastic and I feel like Gill grew leaps and bounds with this book compared to the first book (and his debut) “Black Hole Sun”. This brings back the Space Western and generally gave me warm fuzzies because it was so great. If you’re going to read a Space Opera/Space Western this year, you’re going to have to make it “Invisible Sun”!
I was really surprised at how far Gill’s come from the first book. Where it dragged in parts of the first book, this second book didn’t drag in any places whatsoever and was so finely tuned and airtight it really surprised me. I literally could NOT put it down and finished it within a few hours. Durango and Vienne felt so much more rounded out as MCs this time – they really did feel like real people. The villains this time around were far more tangible and uglier than ever, too. While we don’t really get to see the major Big Bad (Mr. Lyme) too much throughout this book, by the end some of the other characters we did see (Rebecca, for one) really starts to make us wonder as an audience if Durango’s an unreliable narrator, or if the Big Bads really are that cunning. Maybe it’s a bit of both, because all of those reveals knocked me on my ass and left me begging for more.
One thing I will definitely say – I feel like I was hearing the voices of a younger Mal, Zoe, and Kaylee from “Firefly” when reading this – Mal being Durango, Zoe as Vienne (though in “Firefly” there is no romantic aspect to that, and in “Invisible Sun”, there is), and Mimi as Kaylee. I love it when this sort of thing happens, and it’s really rare that it does. There’s a very Whedonesque feeling to the whole thing – the fact that both Asia and the Western World colonized other planets in the future, the way language is used (especially when it comes to swearing – and the Japanese was accurate! Holla!), and the general space western theme. However, it feels like Gill really made his characters his own this time around, and I ended up loving this volume way more than the first because all of these characters really do have their own voices so much more developed. The sensory language improved by leaps and bounds, the settings were breathtaking, and the brawls even more fun than ever. By making his characters go on extremely uncomfortable journeys, he makes them grow, and the character development arc (which is essential in any book), which seems like it’s starting to falter a bit in YA, is really really strong here. Gill also isn’t afraid to torture the hell out of his characters (both physically and mentally) and in my book, that makes him awesome as an author.
I don’t think I can gush about this book enough. Really. It was that good.
But the big reveal leaves room for book 3, and you know what? I’m excited. Really excited. I know that I say I’m sick of series, but there are a few exceptions to the rule, and the “Black Hole Sun” series is definitely one of those exceptions. Especially when the biggest of big reveals concerning how Durango and Vienne met as well as who Mr. Lyme REALLY is (and the final fight scene between Vienne, Stain, and Durango is pretty insane, too!) are laid out – Gill has laid out his cards and quite well. I don’t know if book 3 will be the final book, or when it’ll even be out, but since the first book was out in 2010, it may be another 2 years before we get another one. And the wait is going to be agonizing.
But for now, we have these first two books. “Invisible Sun” is out March 27, 2012 in North America from HarperTeen. If you like space westerns, regular westerns, or stuff on Mars – this is the book for you. But I highly recommend this and it’s made my best of 2012 so far list, so PLEASE go out and read it when you can!
So, uh, can I have that last book now?
(posted to goodreads, shelfari, and birthofanewwitch.wordpress.com)(less)
I’m SO glad they finally reprinted one of the three volumes and with all of the one-off comics that hadn’t been published anywhere but in random omnib...moreI’m SO glad they finally reprinted one of the three volumes and with all of the one-off comics that hadn’t been published anywhere but in random omnibus collections from Dark Horse so far. ;_; I really am. Especially “The Other Half”, as I have a huge soft spot for Wash in my silly little heart. The art has been gorgeously updated, now in hardback for the first time, and if you’re a Firefly/Serenity/Joss Whedon fan, this updated version of “Better Days” definitely belongs in your collection.
“Better Days” takes place before “Serenity” (the film) but after the “Firefly” series, and is basically a fun romp with the old gang on a job gone wrong. Well, more like, when is a job of theirs NOT going wrong?
I have to say, one of my favorite part of “Better Days” was always anything with Jayne. Especially when he’s cursing in Mandarin, which Dark Horse purposely doesn’t bother to translate because some facial expressions are pretty much universal. And the references to “The Hero of Canton” made me shriek with joy. If you want to go back to the good old days with the entire team on board of Serenity, “Better Days” is definitely the good fun you want to read. Such shenanigans. (Bonus! If you love River and/or Simon, don’t miss the scene after The Job Gone Wrong with them. It’ll make you wish for a happy ending for them even harder.)
“Float Out” is one of the newly available stories previously only in other Dark Horse multi-author/series omnibuses, and is heartbreaking it not only opens the old wound of the ending of “Serenity”, but it also very briefly shows us how Zoe is holding up after those events. In short, “Float Out” is an epitaph to Wash and all he was, both the good and the bad, and the very silly. I kind of wish that they’d continued it longer than they did when it comes to what’s going on with Zoe (I won’t spoil it for you, read it yourself!), but at the same time, I’ve gotten used to Whedon’s open-ended answers, so I’m okay with it. I guess it just makes miss Wash and his addition to the family of Serenity all the more. Oh, and did I mention? Jo Chen (master of the “Buffy Season 8″ early covers) did the alternate cover for this one, and it’s included early in this volume.
And then there’s “The Other Half”, which is River “proving” herself on a job with not being permanently crazy and saving the rest of the crew from our good friends the Reavers. I’m glad River got her own little side story and props for saving them so many times with her Alliance-induced psychic abilities/psychosis. It ended on such a good note, and I just kind of wanted to hug River forever by the last page. This is another story that takes place before “Serenity”, but not by much, I’m guessing. As no one’s really officially released a canon timeline of the Firefly/Serenity ‘verse, it’s kind of hard to tell.
Lastly, there’s “Downtime”, another tale before “Serenity”, with hilarity of the snowbound and venereal disease sort, and once again, Jayne takes the cake with being the most hilarious, closely followed by Zoe and Wash as the must adorable couple, and River, as…well, the most kick-ass. There’s an afterword by Adam Baldwin, the Man They Call Jayne himself, talking about his manly feelings about the series, the film, and its cancellation, and more supplemental cover art by Jo Chen to boot!
So really, this is a treasure trove of (somewhat) new stuff with the Serenity crew. I’m glad I didn’t buy the previous softcover version (I’d bought all of the issues of “Better Days” when they were on the newsstand, and since the previous edition didn’t have any extras, I hadn’t and still don’t see a point in buying that edition) because now I have the chance to own a second hardcover edition of the “Serenity” comics. “Downtime” sets things up for the final volume (so far), “The Shepherd’s Tale”, which is all about Book (and the big secret he’s been holding throughout the series, film, and comics thus far). I really hope they release a hardcover copy of that volume as it’s just as lovely as this one.
Dark Horse, great work as usual with catering to the fans. It just makes us love you (and your products, therefore giving you our money) all the more. Let’s hope that the signal never stops, and that like “Buffy”, this series continues to get love (and occasional goodies, like this volume) for years to come.
(posted to goodreads, librarything, shelfari, and witchoftheatregoing.wordpress.com)(less)