Beneath Ceaseless Skies makes reading a pleasure. You can download every story as an EPUB, MOBI or PDF. If you're reading online you can adjust the fo...moreBeneath Ceaseless Skies makes reading a pleasure. You can download every story as an EPUB, MOBI or PDF. If you're reading online you can adjust the font size up or down. (A big deal for this reader! I usually have to output everything to Readability to be able to see it. Luckily Readability even has bookmarklets that work on mobile devices too, but it's really not ideal.) You can even hide their rather large menu so the full page is available to view the story. All for free! And you can go back and read stories written years ago by authors as you discover them when you read a story in an anthology that you really liked. I love the Internet, I really do. I'm so spoiled now, I get mad when I have to order an anthology from the library to get an author's stories from their bibliography. "Why isn't it available online?!?" I'm such a brat.
I read one of Cory Skerry's stories earlier this week in Glitter and Mayhem and really enjoyed it. It was a fun book, but his was one of the few that got me to go right to the author's website to find out more about their work. I was surprised to see that he'd had a story in Once Upon a Time: New Fairy Tales. I looked at my notes and was surprised to see that it was one of the few I didn't like. It was well written, but I didn't like the way that the characters thought it was OK to take people's choices away from them, I didn't feel like they were really heroes. Read it yourself and see, that book was a big surprise to me in how much I enjoyed it, maybe you will too.
Anyway, so I've been trying to catch up on other stories by Skerry, that's the point of this long essay, plus expressing my admiration to Beneath Ceaseless Skies, of course. Did I mention the podcasts? You can get the stories as podcasts too, how amazing is that? Listen in the car on the way to work or while cleaning the house. I hear that they're really super well done too.
I really liked Skerry's story in another online magazine, Strange Horizons, in March of 2012. It was called My Dignity in Scars. It was about a man who keeps getting infected by demons and needs to have them dug out of him at a risk to his life, just like his father had before him. It was very well imagined and depicted.
And finally, this story! Was terrific, a real fantasy adventure with a lot of heart. I hope that he's working on a novel based on this world, there's so much here that could be developed into a longer story. It's a bit of a swashbuckling bounty hunter kind of character with a heart kind of a thing, except he's an ex-priest of a sort and it's a world with selkies and other non-human creatures. It definitely has a dark side, which is what makes it work. A good story, a good start for something if he wanted.
And with that the mosquitoes are attacking and I have to go inside. More Skerry tomorrow, but not in this review where it doesn't belong anyway.(less)
I couldn't tell the people apart, they all look exactly alike. Same chin, jaw, nose, lips. I flipped through it because I was excited to get it, then...moreI couldn't tell the people apart, they all look exactly alike. Same chin, jaw, nose, lips. I flipped through it because I was excited to get it, then flipped through it again, and again. I tried to read it, but I just couldn't. They look like all of the same creepy mannequins wearing different wigs. I've read the books and seen the shows, I can do without the graphic novels. (less)
It was actually a lot better that I thought it was going to be. I keep reading the Fables series only because I can get them from the library, I would...moreIt was actually a lot better that I thought it was going to be. I keep reading the Fables series only because I can get them from the library, I wouldn't keep paying for it. I just never lives up to it's potential for me, it'll have a good issue and get my hopes up and then get really lost again. But I did think there was potential to do something cool with a crossover, considering how well the concept fits this series. And they mostly did. It was just really confusing. I felt totally lost at the beginning when Snow White was married to Mr. Dark and all of these other things were different. I thought the new Fables volume had come out and I'd missed it, because the last thing I remembered was really different. I had to read other people's reviews to realize that this was supposed to be an alternate history and not an actual crossover. This isn't actually part of the Fables series and Fables readers don't need to read these comics for any reason other than fun, they aren't missing anything from their series if they miss this.
That wasn't the only thing that was confusing. I had to read the whole book twice to try and absorb what was going on. It jumped around a lot, a couple of times I had to go back and re-read trying to figure out how I missed something, but I didn't, it just wasn't there. (Like a major figure's signification other dying, it's just not in the book, only the aftermath is shown.) Trying to pick out what was the more relevant Unwritten mythos from the more prevalent Fables imagery was tough. It sank in a bit more on the second reading through. And I definitely dug it more the second time through too, once I saw what they were doing with it more clearly. The more I flip through it, the more I like it. But I don't have any idea at all, way more than with any other book I've read, how people who are unfamiliar with the new characters will take to it versus how I was able to read it as someone who (kinda) knew what was going on. Like in an anthology when an author writes a short story from an established series and I can't tell how new readers will respond verses how I felt as a fan. But this one really has me curious. To me the reason this works is because I knew these characters. I knew why Boy Blue was so important, why Fly/Prince Ambrose mattered, why Frau Tottenkinder/Lady Bellflower was so damn cool/frightening. Especially the last one, would it have worked without knowing who she was? And there were so many little interactions, I think I'd have been very frustrated and felt so lost without having the background. But then again, maybe if I didn't know there was a background to have it wouldn't have been a problem at all. Maybe there's plenty of support for the story that's here and it's totally fine.
The art was really good. I've seen a lot of artists try to draw the Fables and none of them have done as good a job as Peter Gross has, all of them really looked pretty darn close to just right. Most of the time I forgot I wasn't reading a Mark Buckingham drawn book. And a lot of the images were terrific. His Mister Dark was super creepy. There's a decomposing Lizzie who's, well, haunting. But it's really Tottenkinder's book, in all of her forms.
Anyway, the important Unwritten stuff was between Tom and Bellflower/Tottenkinder and it was good Unwitten-y stuff, the kind of stuff that made the crossover worth it. Because who else could really get him to finally face reality, such as it is? I thought the end was pretty good, considering the course of the series. I'm not sure the end entirely justified five issues devoted to the crossover. For people who aren't familiar with the Fables it could be pretty awful. There were a lot of things that felt a bit more like the authors having fun playing with each other and their characters more than the kind of focused storytelling I remember from the early volumes of the series. But I guess they got there in the end.(less)
I complain about this series a lot. Inevitably despite my intention to start each book fresh, they each pile up the irritations and annoyances. But th...moreI complain about this series a lot. Inevitably despite my intention to start each book fresh, they each pile up the irritations and annoyances. But there are a lot of good things that make me stick with the series too, it isn't so awful that I just have to abandon it like the Stephanie Plum series. Those books just repeat the same story over and over again. The characters don't grow or change at all, their relationships don't progress in the slightest. These people change and grow. The story has a long arc that is moving along and not at so slow a pace that it's horribly frustrating either, it's not as bad as some series. The supporting characters are well developed and very enjoyable. I may not like Ethan very much, but I like Mallory, Jeff, Jonah, love Grandpa Chuck, like Luc and Lindsay. (Though their short story sucked! So did Jeff's. I don't understand how Neill messed them up so badly, the women could not have been written any weaker, her idea of relationships is really messed up.) I do tend to find Catcher a little forced, I feel like Neill is trying too hard with him. He watches movies on the Lifetime channel, he bakes madeleines wearing a frilly apron of cats knitting. I'm glad she's trying to make him more that what his appearance as the bald, tough guy would suggest, I just feel like she's kind of making it into a joke instead of making him into a more realistic character. I could go for the baking, but the movies? Anyway, even a few quite minor characters have become a nice part of the overall picture over the years, like Helen the house mother, or Margot, the chef. I really like the way that Chicago is used in all of the books, it makes me feel like I can really see what's going on, I can picture the lights in the city and the streets passing by. Many of the emotions the characters feel ring true a lot of the time. It's never all bad, despite all of my whining. If Merit wasn't such a Mary Sue and if Ethan wasn't such a rotten romantic lead it would just be so great.
That being said, on with the critique. Books that are in the first person point of view shouldn't start with paragraphs and paragraphs of recap and info dump. You have to choose, if it's first person then as an author you have to find a way to work that stuff info the story, at least try at little, tiny bit! I don't like being lost because I can't remember things, but this was so lazy. Merit was just thinking to herself for paragraph after paragraph of recap of the entire series, it was completely lame. It wasn't in response to anything, it wasn't in context, it was just pure recap. Just put an actual prequel with "in the first 8 books of the series" or something but don't do that, just don't.
And what about this vampire child they're prophesied to have? Because a woman or couple can't be complete without a child? Because that's the ultimate sign of their perfect magic together? Love isn't enough. Building a life together wouldn't be enough. Not that we've seen that, all they do is fight. Well, Ethan turns away from her for one reason or another and she tries to get him to pay attention to her. Lots of maturity. They should have a kid!
I get annoyed at every fight scene and the idea that she's some super warrior when she's still so new at this. How is she the one trusted to protect Ethan when there are people in the House who have been training for a hundred years or more? Can't Luc fight? What about Lindsey and the other guards? The whole concept of the series is irritating. And when she whines that the guy punched her, what was that? She'd have rathered he stabbed her? Or it's not OK for a guy to hit a woman who's coming at him with a katana?
When I sat down to read on night three I think, page 220, I was surprised to realize that I was bored and just wanted it to be over so I could get to the great pile of other new releases that I had picked up from the library. Which is weird because for the first time in several books in the series I wasn't particularly annoyed with the story, I hadn't been rolling my eyes or writing endless notes about all of the things that were irritating me. But it was also the same old same old. I'm really tired of Merit and Ethan's relationship issues. How about if for one book, one lousy week, they actually acted like the partners they supposedly are. Every crisis pulls Ethan Merit apart. It's stupid Sam and Diane stuff, except this isn't TV, a sit-com or a twenty-four episode season to fill up, and by this point (or several books ago) working together would be much more interesting than this childish bull. And it brings the whole book down because everyone is drawn into their stupid drama. It's bad enough that Merit and Mallory are obsessed with it, they're girlfriends and that's normal, but everyone in the House is drawn into it too. It's absurd when ancient people like Luc or Lindsey get sucked into the black hole of Ethan's bad behavior and Merit's responses to it. And why in the world would I ever think of this whiny, obnoxious guy as the hero? I haven't gotten it from the start and I've yet to get it. She writes him as a total jerk in a hot bod.
And Ethan's big secret was lame. I've read the same plot in dozens of books, for one thing. And while I can see how he'd be deeply ashamed about it, I don't see how it isn't as harmful to her as it is to him, I'm sure she was behaving as badly at the same time, if not exactly in the same way. (view spoiler)[I'm sure they were all killing a lot of people, as he said, life was cheap, whether or not sex was a factor for her is irrelevant. I should hope Ethan is more upset about the people they killed than sleeping with a lot of women since he was still sleeping with a lot of women well past the day Merit showed up. (hide spoiler)] And then the story just got cheesy and preachy at the end. Yep, Ethan's a good guy, color me surprised. He didn't let his ambition overwhelm his morality. He was the only one watching the bad thing to go on and who tried to rescue the people in danger, risking his ambition to do it. Of course if anyone else had the guts to go in and do it then he wouldn't have had to risk his position... But of course only Super Ethan could save the day. Which might be true with the stuff about their Strength or whatever. But it was super cheesy near to the end there.
And then my basic argument with Merit the Supergirl got a big talking point even closer to the end. The idea that because she met the unbalanced psycho murderer once for three minutes so she's the best one to go negotiate with him while he is about to kill someone is so nuts I can't deal with it. The police psychologist was right there. Her grandfather who has around fourty years of experience on the police force was right there. Even Ethan, who has centuries of just plain old experience, was right there. But sure, send in the woman who, as Mallory pointed out several times in this book, was a major lit nerd until a year ago. Because we all do feel that all of the reading we do is the same as real life experience, right? I mean, why not send me in to a hostage negotiation, I've read about way more than Merit has, she was reading the classics!
The book was less annoying overall then the last few, but it was also a lot more boring. The murder mystery felt very disconnected and odd. It isn't illogical that the Ombudsman/her grandfather would ask the vampires for an opinion given the circumstances, but them getting that involved is more Merit the Supergirl stuff, she isn't an investigator, or on staff with his office, and they are actually competent. But it was a lot more interesting than Merit and Ethan's childish relationship dramas. I'm so, so tired of every book finding a way to throw barriers between them. I just don't like Neill's ideas about relationships, from what I've seen in this series in her writing about Jeff and Fallon, Lindsey and Luc and Merit and Ethan. Merit says over and over again what an alpha and leader Ethan is. Well I'd like to see that, because all I ever see is a whiny, childish, obnoxious boy. At least he had Margot make hamburgers for their bet dinner. And there was a really nice moment between Ethan and Mallory near the end. And a lot of really nice moments between a lot of the supporting characters, they really shone in this one. It really showcased how well developed the world has become, how real all of the characters feel and how likable so many of them are. And I thought "the big twist" at the end was good, I guess. It could be interesting to see how it plays out. Oops, I didn't mean the one right at the end, I'm not really interested in that. That seems like it's playing into more Ethan being whiny and shutting Merit out. But the one before that, the political stuff, that could be interesting-ish. I think I'm just pretty much played out with the series, it's gone on too long. Maybe, maybe if Ethan and Merit actually start working together and acting like adults, maybe that final twist at the end won't be a disaster for the readers as well as for the characters.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
I didn't enjoy this. I found the story very hard to follow, even though I'd read the book. There wasn't enough information given to understand what wa...moreI didn't enjoy this. I found the story very hard to follow, even though I'd read the book. There wasn't enough information given to understand what was going on. There were a lot of jumps and gaps where suddenly something else was happening and somehow I was supposed to understand how the story had gotten to that point. It was just way too rushed, there was no way to feel attached to people before their stories were played out. The mayor and sheriff went down to get Juliette almost instantly, there was little feeling that this is a massive structure and the walk they took took days and a huge amount of effort, plus intimacy between the two of them. There's no sense of scale at all. It needed more pages, more time, more interactions, more momentum. This feels more like a kid's book report on the story, barely skimming the highlights. Things that were shocking or moving on the novel are just huh or eh or too fast to register at all here. (view spoiler)[The mayor is dead, who cares? The deputy is dead, why? He loved her. Who can tell that? I couldn't tell. (hide spoiler)] It was impossible to feel anything about these people except a vague ick for Bernard. Even he deserved more. I also didn't feel any sense of mystery like in the book at all, that thing that kept me turning the page, trying to figure out what the heck was really going on here, or anything to replace it either. This book revealed all of it's secrets very easily, there was no sense of fulfillment in figuring out what was going on because there was never a feeling of secrecy or wonder. This was focused much more on the war, maybe because that's easier to depict.
A big part of the problem was that the photo-looking faces don't show any expression at all, it's almost disturbing, like really old claymation or something. The very basic pencil sketches in the extras at the end look more like real people than the art in the book does. Trying to make them look more real, like a movie or something, just removed their expression and added to the feeling that the scenes were jumping around from one frozen location to another instead of having any sense of flow. And the choice to make everything in the silo so dark doesn't work for me at all. They had lights. Just because it's underground doesn't mean they all lived in the dark all of the time. It's dumb that it's as dark in fully functioning silo 18 as it is in silo 17, running on emergency power at best.
The book just doesn't work. The bones of a story might be here if it was fleshed out. I don't know, I read a lot of adaptations of novels into comics and they manage it, so I don't think it was the length. The writing isn't perfect, but I'm trying to separate out where it's definitely a different story than the novel with a different focus and feeling. That part is ok, an adaptation isn't meant to be the same as the original. My problem with the writing is more with where it's just really confusing, more in the early parts than the latter. There's a lot that I think won't make any sense to readers who haven't read the novel because it's trying to get too much information into too short a space so it barely touches on a lot of import things and then jumps to the next thing, very confusing. But I think the bigger problem was that the art wasted a lot of space, so much more could have been conveyed if the pages had been used better. It didn't convey emotion, for one major thing. I don't know what it was, but it just feels like the writing and art weren't working together to tell this story.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)