I was one of the 110 people who watched Firefly from the very first episode (which was, of course, not really the first episode, Fox being the idiots...moreI was one of the 110 people who watched Firefly from the very first episode (which was, of course, not really the first episode, Fox being the idiots they are). While I loved all the characters, Shepherd Book was the one who intrigued me. The one whose backstory I wanted. When Serenity came out, as far as I was concerned, I had it: Book was a retired Operative.
Then this graphic novel was released, and I had decided not to read it because I liked the story I'd put together in my head for Book, but someone had a copy and did I want to read it? and I said I would.
And now I really wish I hadn't. While I enjoyed the structure of the book, and I agreed with pretty much everything after he left the Alliance, everything that came before didn't work for me, not least because it made no sense given the events of the television series--it goes directly against things we already know to be true (in particular, the episode "Safe"). FFS, this was a show with, what, 13 episodes, and then a movie? How lazy did the writer have to be to do something that contradicts what appeared in those episodes?
I'm giving it two stars because it was an interesting narrative structure and there were a couple of things that did work. But this graphic novella is too short to do its story justice--for which I'm profoundly grateful, because the story was just not very good.(less)
In 1740, the Russian empress issues a cruel and unusual order: two court jesters (one of them actually an out-of-favor nobleman) are locked into a pal...moreIn 1740, the Russian empress issues a cruel and unusual order: two court jesters (one of them actually an out-of-favor nobleman) are locked into a palace made of ice, where they are wed and left to consummate their marriage. Out of this union come twins: the princes Andrei and Alexander Velitsyn.
Andrei lives a relatively normal, if short, life, but Alexander’s life is long and remarkable. He explores the Siberian wilderness in search of the Northeast Passage; he fights—so many fights, from the Cossack rebellion to the Napoleonic Wars; he is caught up in the Great Game and both World Wars; he mingles with artists and writers as varied as Mary Shelley and Anna Akhmatova. He makes and loses fortunes. He loves, in his way, yet throughout the novel he holds himself aloof and distant from those around him because he has a secret: he is impervious to cold. More than that, he is cold. Strong emotion—and physical arousal—manifest as the chilling of his body: snow and ice will not melt in his hands.
Alexander is a character who doesn’t really arouse sympathy so much as fascination. His is not a straightforward journey. He’s driven by a need to discover why he is what he is, and if there is another like him. The physical distance that is forced upon Alexander by his unique physiology is mirrored in the way he’s presented: there is a distance to the first-person narration, and Alexander, while longing to be connected to someone either physically or emotionally, is unable to articulate that need or his reasons for avoiding such connections. But while the chilling effect of feeling distant from the main character can sometimes take away from a novel, in this case it adds depth to it. It allows the reader some insight into Alexander: he’s not just living under a thin coating of ice, he spends much of the book encased in ice armor.
This is not a book where events happen quickly. It is a sprawling epic, and some knowledge of Russian history and/or literature is extremely helpful to provide signposts along the way (the timeline of events at the back of the book is also quite useful for keeping track). The writing is excellent, in particular the descriptions of the cold and the ice; the book is like a Russian winter, slow to start but intense and lingering. It is the slow burn of ice, that bone-deep chill. Although I’ve seen this described as a fantasy novel, I didn’t really see it that way. It’s definitely historical fiction, but I would call this magical realism: richly layered, and while the settings feel real and authentic, Alexander’s long life, and his affliction, are clearly not of this world. Sidorova is an author to watch. (less)
One of the great joys of being a reader is finding a book that incorporates familiar elements in a way that is completely original. The Bone Season is...moreOne of the great joys of being a reader is finding a book that incorporates familiar elements in a way that is completely original. The Bone Season is such a book.
Paige Mahoney lives in 2059 Scion London, where “voyants”—people with special mental abilities—are hunted down. Some are imprisoned, some are executed, and some are forced to join the security forces and use their powers to capture other voyants. Paige is part of an underworld group called the syndicate, which is kind of like a mafia protection racket: the voyants go to work for the syndicate, and the syndicate looks out for the voyants. Paige is the group’s “mollisher,” the second in command; and although she recognizes her powers are somewhat unusual, she doesn’t fully understand what they are and what their limits might be. One day, riding home on a subway, she has a run-in with the Scion security forces that changes her life forever: she’s captured and sent to a penal colony run by the Rephaim—an alien race who control the Scion—where voyants are the soldiers in the Rephaim war against their own enemies.
If this sounds complicated, that’s because it is. But Shannon has an incredibly deft hand at world-building: the descriptions of London and Sheol I, the prison, are richly layered and full of details. And it’s not just the places. The societies are also fully realized—the human world, where ESP is viewed as a potentially curable illness and people volunteer for “treatment”; the voyant underworld and the syndicate; and then the world of Sheol I—each with its own set of rules and hierarchies. All this information is presented in a way that is effortless for the reader. There’s no slogging through background information or paging through excessive description, and as a reader I never got the sense that I was being given more information or detail than I needed.
Paige is an engaging and incredibly frustrating character. She’s smart, she’s passionate, and she’s intensely loyal, which means that she makes a lot of decisions that an outsider can instantly identify as bad ones, but that Paige is going to make every time because that’s who she is. Paige is also endlessly curious, and at Sheol I she’s got a lot to explore: the prison itself; the Rephaim; her own powers, which she is beginning to realize are even more unusual and special than she ever imagined; and her relationships within the prison. Her master is a Rephaim called Warden, who manages to be simultaneously cruel and sympathetic. The relationship between Paige and Warden is very well drawn; Paige, so slow to trust but so incredibly loyal, doesn’t know what to do with this Rephaim whose motives are so unclear—is he trying to help her or destroy her?
To sum up: I loved this book. It’s richly layered, complex, and compelling. I plan on re-reading it when the sequel is published because I know there’s more under the surface that I’ve missed.
The Bone Season is the first book in a planned series of seven by debut author Samantha Shannon. Apparently Andy Serkis has already optioned the film rights; if so, I hope this book makes it to the screen, because it has the potential to be amazing in a visual medium.
This book was provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
The first book in the series, BZRK, was a true thrill ride: nanobots, biotech, mass murder, espionage (both political and industrial), good vs. evil,...moreThe first book in the series, BZRK, was a true thrill ride: nanobots, biotech, mass murder, espionage (both political and industrial), good vs. evil, and a hit of romance. The book ended with the failure of the BZRK mission: to stop the Armstrong brothers, Charles and Benjamin, conjoined twins who want to make the world a perfect place through technological enslavement.
BZRK Reloaded is even better.
The book picks up where the previous book left off. Having failed in their mission, the BZRK group is left to pick up the pieces. The president is under the secret control of the Armstrong brothers—maybe—who are using government resources to track down what remains of BZRK. Olivia has suffered horrific injuries; Vincent, having lost one of his biots during the battle, teeters on the brink of insanity; Nijinsky has become the reluctant leader; and Plath and Keats have realized the true stakes of the battle. In fact, part of what makes BZRK Reloaded better than the first book is the transition of BZRK from a group of loosely affiliated gamers who enjoy the action at the nanolevel to a group of individuals with a personal grudge against the Armstrong brothers. Yes, they oppose the utopia the Armstrong Fancy Gifts Corporation would impose upon everyone, but more than that, they have a score to settle with Charles, Benjamin, Burnofsky, and Bug Man. And Anonymous makes a guest appearance as a minor annoyance that turns out to be not so minor.
The characters develop nicely in this second book in a planned trilogy. The book is still full of action, but as with the Gone series, the shifting alliances and perfectly timed conversations reveal motives and secrets of each character without becoming mired in introspection. Grant uses these devices to explore philosophical issues (What makes a good leader? Can battles or wars ever really be cast in terms of black and white, good and evil? Can a person employ tactics he despises for what he believes are the right reasons, and still be a good person? Where and how is that line crossed?) in a way that preserves the book’s rapid pace.
The battle scenes are not as frequent as in BZRK but are no less fascinating; microscopic nanotech making its way around the human body makes for great description, and the in-depth view of what goes into “wiring” the brain—and how the brain reacts—is as compelling as it is cringe-inducing.
This is clearly a second book; while it stands alone, it does so within the context of the series and would be utterly confusing to anyone who didn’t read the first book. It’s setting up the final battle in the third book, BZRK Apocalypse, so while the ending is a resolution of sorts, I’m left anticipating what is to follow. I’ve got questions, and I’m looking forward to the next book so I can get some answers.
This book was provided by the publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.
The England in this novel is reminiscent of Charles Dickens’ England, only with a twist: aether, a magical substance that transformed English society....moreThe England in this novel is reminiscent of Charles Dickens’ England, only with a twist: aether, a magical substance that transformed English society. Aether is almost like a magical glue in that it holds things together that would otherwise come apart, which is both good and bad when it is the major component of most of England’s infrastructure, as it short-circuits progress: why search for ways to improve things when you can just fix them with aether? Aether must be mined and used in combination with magic, which leads to a controlling elite of Guilds and Guildsmen, who control the economy and therefore the jobs, and an underclass of miners—who, after years of exposure, are sometimes slowly transformed into hideous creatures: Changelings, also called “trolls,” and are considered fit only for the asylum, where they are used for experimentation.
Robert Borrows is born in a town in Yorkshire that is the heart of aether mining country. It’s said that the residents’ hearts beat in time with the enormous aether engines that power the country. When he is still just a boy, Robert’s mother turns into a troll, which destroys his family. Rejecting a dreary future as a member of his father’s Guild, Robert runs away to London, where he’s able to live a life outside the Guilds, albeit one of poverty and petty crime. He soon becomes a political agitator, arguing that society is at a turning point: it’s time for revolution and a new society, one without the strict social strata imposed by the Guilds.
But Robert has also seen the better things in life. Shortly before her death, his mother introduced him to Annalise, who is not quite human—a Changeling?—and whom he encounters on Midsummer’s Day in London. She now styles herself Anna Winters, a part of the upper class. Robert senses that their destinies are intertwined, but he’s not sure how—until he begins to suspect something, something that binds him to Anna, something involving their parents, and the day the aether engines stopped.
MacLeod’s writing is superb. The descriptions are lush, gorgeous, and give a real sense of time and place. His characters are likewise nuanced and multifaceted. But Robert is a very passive character, and slow to make connections; the book, already slow-moving, bogs down under the sheer weight of his passivity and introspection, and sometimes it’s difficult to keep track of the actual events of the story. Which is too bad, because the setting, the characters, and most of all the language are extraordinary, but the story itself doesn’t quite hold up.
This book was provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. (less)
Sally Mitchell is in a coma. The victim of a horrific car accident, Sally is considered by her doctors to be brain-dead, and literally moments before...moreSally Mitchell is in a coma. The victim of a horrific car accident, Sally is considered by her doctors to be brain-dead, and literally moments before her family turns off the machines keeping her alive, she awakens. Only she isn’t Sally anymore, she’s Sal, and she remembers nothing of her life before the moment she awakened. She has to learn how to speak, how to walk; she has to establish new relationships with her family members, who struggle to accept her new personality, which is completely different from the Sally they all knew. What they don’t struggle to accept is her miraculous recovery—her genetically engineered symbiotic implant, developed by the SymboGen Corporation, has done its job: while she was unconscious, it repaired all of her injuries, leaving her almost completely healed.
In fact, these implants—which are bioengineered tapeworms—are so effective at healing disease and boosting the human immune system that almost everybody has one. No more tablets, no more injections: these implants are truly a modern miracle. But if that’s the case, what is the mysterious sleeping sickness that is starting to spread across the city? Seemingly healthy people are fine one minute, and the next they’re almost in a fugue state: they can’t speak, they can’t really communicate, they don’t seem to move with any purpose, they’re really kind of like zombies. And from what Sal sees during one of her regular visits to SymboGen (one of the hazards of awakening from a coma is you become medically fascinating and are routinely subjected to all kinds of medical and psychological tests), there seems to be some kind of tie to the implants.
And possibly even to Sal herself.
Parasite is compulsively readable. It’s engaging, it’s witty, it’s creepy (the children’s story that is featured throughout is fantastic and really helps to set the tone), but it also gives away too much too soon, so the plot “reveals” fell a little flat. Even so, Grant does such a good job of pacing that the suspense builds up to the very last page—which is a little frustrating because this is the first book in a planned trilogy, meaning I have to wait to find out what happens next.
This book was provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. (less)
This is the backstory for Ink, which has one of the most gorgeous covers I've seen in ages. Katie has just lost her mother and has to move halfway aro...moreThis is the backstory for Ink, which has one of the most gorgeous covers I've seen in ages. Katie has just lost her mother and has to move halfway around the world to live with her aunt; Tomohiro is a young man with a dangerous secret. At the end of Shadow, they encounter each other for the first time. It's a fairly conventional setup, but the setting is a bit different.
I'm hoping I read the unedited version of this book; if not, I don't have high hopes for Ink. Even in a novella, the use of "smiled" and "giggled" and "laughed" and "smirked" in dialogue tags was annoying--an entire book of that would drive me nuts. Also, I'm hoping that in Ink the author will stop explaining every difference between Japan and the United States. I get that readers who are interested in Japanese language and culture will find it interesting, but in a novella like Shadow, it's info dump that gets in the way of the action--and there's little enough of that as it is.(less)
White Cat is one of my favorite YA urban fantasy novels. In many ways, Red Glove seemed to have middle-child syndrome: while White Cat had the benefit...moreWhite Cat is one of my favorite YA urban fantasy novels. In many ways, Red Glove seemed to have middle-child syndrome: while White Cat had the benefit of a relatively simple story (albeit one with a wonderfully twisty-turny plot), Red Glove introduces many new characters and a lot more action. It’s a lot more complex than the first book (White Cat), and it doesn't have the same gut-punch twists and turns. But it does have more in-depth characterization and plotting--and something I consider important in YA: it doesn't rely on stereotypes.
Cassel, the main character, continues to struggle with the morals and ethics of who he is--as a curse worker, as a member of a crime family, as a human being. He grew up believing he had no magical abilities and that he had killed the girl he loved, only to discover that neither of those is true. The girl he loves is right beside him—only Cassel’s mother, in an attempt to “help,” has put a love curse on Lila, so that her feelings for Cassel are as not-real as his are real. Cassel’s relationship with his brother Barron has improved, but there too, Barron’s memory has been so affected by blowback that nothing he says can be taken at face value. Luckily for Cassel, his friends Sam and Daneca continue to stand by him. Though they’re secondary characters, they’re witty and well-developed.
Definitely going to check out Black Heart to see how this ends. (less)
I can't think of anything to say that hasn't already been said. This is a really good book, and I can't wait to read The Twelve.
Things I really liked:...moreI can't think of anything to say that hasn't already been said. This is a really good book, and I can't wait to read The Twelve.
Things I really liked: The book's structure. I liked how it was divided into parts, and I especially liked the different narrative techniques, which included emails and journal entries as well as standard narrative. Although there were a lot of characters--it's a monster of a book--I was able to remember and distinguish them all, as they were all distinctive. Although the book is quite long, I didn't really feel like it dragged very much. The language was gorgeous and I was really sucked into the story.
Things I didn't like: The lack of a map. The hand-drawn map of the Colony was good, but a map of the other locations Peter and his gang visited would have helped me immensely as I read this. Also, and yes, it's a nitpick, someone needs to track down the copy editor and/or author, whoever stetted "wretched" whenever "retched" should have been used, and explain the difference. It appeared several times in the book, and drove me crazy--they're not even pronounced the same way.(less)
I came into this series very late—I hadn’t even heard of it but saw the books in a shop and was immediately drawn to the neon-and-black covers. The ed...moreI came into this series very late—I hadn’t even heard of it but saw the books in a shop and was immediately drawn to the neon-and-black covers. The edges of the pages are the same color as the book title, so these are gorgeous all set up together in a shop display. The praise page included a quote from Stephen King, so I bought the five books that were then available.
The premise of the book intrigued me. I’ve always enjoyed “the adults are gone now what” stories, starting with Lord of the Flies. While this book has some similarities, it’s also very different. Having supernatural elements—special powers, the way in which the adults vanished—distinguishes it immediately and allows a whole other dimension of relationships and power inequalities to the kids’ society.
Sam is a good primary character. I’ve always liked reluctant heroes, especially when there’s a good villain for him to go up against—and in this book, there definitely is. Caine is the leader of the students from the exclusive private school on the hill, who immediately set themselves up as challengers to Sam and his “townie” classmates. Astrid, as Sam’s friend and confidante, manages to be wonderful and intelligent without being superior or annoying. In fact, I liked almost all of the characters, and I liked that they had distinct personalities and reacted in different ways to the events around them. Sometimes I was frustrated with them, but much of that is due to my being out of the target demographic. I would have loved these characters when I was a teenager.
The action moves quickly, and it’s well-paced. The book is some 500 pages, but the tension crackles from beginning to end and I didn’t think it ever got bogged down in detail or description or explanation. I finished the book and was very happy to have the next one—I wanted to find out what happened! (less)