A five tissue read, damn it. I should have been prepared for it--a twenty-two year old guy looking after his seven brothers and sisters while his alcoA five tissue read, damn it. I should have been prepared for it--a twenty-two year old guy looking after his seven brothers and sisters while his alcoholic father and stepmother drift in and out of their lives? Add in one cop boyfriend with a huge heart and his mother, who always wanted more than one child, and it's a recipe for reader tears.
There's more to this book than a need for tissues, though. The author dealt sensitively with many of the issues making Tommy's life difficult. Bobby is just patient enough without being annoying and the kids were far from perfect. That dash of realism kept this book from being too sweet. Given the circumstances, this book was never going to be fluff.
* Recommended by Stella for the M/M Group November FOTM Reading Challenge. This was supposed to be the book that featured children. Well, it also included a holiday (bah humbug, you made me weep over a Christmas scene), it was set in my own country, I'm sure there's a little brown on that cover, it's set in the country were I live and, oh man, was it ever a tearjerker. ...more
Theo's physical, mental and emotional journey away from grief is so well done. Rather than swamp the reader with despair, Con Riley apportions out TheTheo's physical, mental and emotional journey away from grief is so well done. Rather than swamp the reader with despair, Con Riley apportions out Theo's memories and moments of insight so that you fully appreciate his relationship with Ben while being able to move forward with him. The highs and lows are appropriately high and low. Any book that makes me laugh and cry is an automatic favourite. ...more
Colonel Nathan Pretorius only just survived his last mission. Actually, if you take into account the couple of times he died during surgery, technicalColonel Nathan Pretorius only just survived his last mission. Actually, if you take into account the couple of times he died during surgery, technically he didn’t, but the Democracy doctors have put him back together – prosthetic foot, cloned kidney and spleen and all. Now they want him to lead another mission. Seeing as he is the only surviving member of his last team, Pretorius wants to choose his own people this time.
Rejecting military candidates, Pretorius vets his contacts for less conventional candidates. The team he puts together resembles a carnival side show and is a large part of the fun of The Fortress in Orion. Strong man Felix Ortega has been less fortunate than Pretorius when it comes to hanging on to his original body parts. He’s now more machine than human. Sally ‘Snake’ Kowalski is a contortionist and a thief. Pandora has never met a computer she can’t hack. Circe can tell if you’re lying and probably why and Gzychurlyx has a name no one can pronounce. No one knows quite what he is, neither, but he’s an incomparable illusionist!
Their mission is to replace Michkag, the leader of the alien Traanskei Coalition, with a clone. Their directive allows them to either kidnap or kill the original Michkag, so long as the clone is left in his place. Raised from a tissue sample, the cloned Michkag will then subvert the Coalition’s objectives, thus bringing an end to the war. The catch – there is always a catch – is that the only place they can attempt the swap is a heavily guarded fortress deep in Coalition territory, the fortress in Orion.
Mike Resnick approaches this adventure with exactly the right tone. The mission is impossible and so he puts together a team of implausible characters to take a crack at it. Nathan Pretorius is a likeable hero. His suitability for the mission is quickly obvious. His reticence to actually lay down a plan is a fairly transparent ploy. He’s either brilliant or skidding along on the seat of his pants, probably both. It’s the combination of planning and improvisation that allows the team to navigate the many obstacles in their path, however.
It might be unfair of me to say I expected the mission to end differently. The team certainly faced enough challenges along the way. I thought there’d be this unexpected twist, but maybe I’ve been reading too many over-complicated books or maybe the twist is coming later in the series.
The novel also lacks strong character development, but Resnick does take the opportunity to showcase each team member, giving each a chance to share what motivates them. I wanted to know more, particularly about our intrepid leader, Nathan Pretorius. I’m also sure there’s more to Gzychurlyx than meets the eye, which is a terrible pun, given his nature.
Hopefully we’ll get more up close and personal with the “Dead Enders” in future adventures.
A little bit of everything in one enjoyable package. Whyborne is exactly the sort of character I adore and I can't wait to read on. (I also liked GrifA little bit of everything in one enjoyable package. Whyborne is exactly the sort of character I adore and I can't wait to read on. (I also liked Griffin and Christine very much!)...more
There are a few authors for whom I will buy (or request) every new book without even glancing at the blurb. Among these is Catherine Asaro. I did takeThere are a few authors for whom I will buy (or request) every new book without even glancing at the blurb. Among these is Catherine Asaro. I did take a quick look at the cover copy for Undercity, but I will admit that when I saw the words ‘Skolian Empire’, glee fuzzed the rest. I did realise this novel is more peripheral to the saga, that it in fact begins a new series, but it represents a piece of the world I have come to adore and that is enough.
At age fifteen, Bhaajan escaped the slums of Cries by enlisting with Imperial Space Command. Now retired, Major Bhaajan works as a private investigator. Her reputation for due diligence and never giving up attracts an influential client who transports her back to the planet of her birth for an interview. Bhaajan hasn’t been back to Raylicon in years, but she hasn’t forgotten where she came from, which may be what her client is counting on.
The noble houses of Raylicon are so far removed from the slums of the City of Cries, they may as well be on another planet. House Majda perhaps even more so. In a reflection of history long past, they seclude their males, hiding them away under guard. It is a crime to even touch one of these men. One of the house princes has gone missing and the matriarch has hired Bhaajan to find him.
Using her knowledge of the Undercity, the canals and aqueducts that form the slums she came from, Bhaajan begins her search for clues. She finds little has changed since she left. Crime is still the number one form of commerce and children are still running in gangs. But a key component of the underground society seems to have broken down. They might not have much, but the dust gangs have always looked after their own. Now children are suffering neglect, the adults are fighting and the whispers no longer carry all the secrets.
Bhaajan finds her prince but, in doing so, she uncovers a much more sinister plot, one that threatens the Undercity more than starvation and neglect. She cannot ignore the children who begin to follow her, nor the man she left behind seven years before.
Undercity is divided into three books or parts. The first has been previously released as a novella called "The City Of Cries". The second two parts follow directly on from the first, expanding upon the first story, exposing the plot responsible for Prince Dayj Majda’s capture. Undercity does read like a complete novel and, for those unfamiliar with the Skolian Empire, it would make a fantastic place to start. While the psi-talents of the Ruby dynasty do feature prominently in this book, the narrative isn’t bogged down by the history of the dynasty or the mechanics of their talents. Instead, Asaro has written an engrossing mystery.
Our hero, Major Bhaajan, is typical of her characters in that she is strong, talented and capable but not perfect. She has flaws and foibles and both are exposed as she first searches for Prince Dayj, then struggles with the decision she made seven years earlier to leave the planet of her birth. Circumstances conspire to keep her on Raylicon this time around and she has to choose between two hearts, professional and private. She’ll discover they’re one and the same.
As a long-time fan of ‘The Skolian Saga’, I really enjoyed Undercity. As always, Asaro delivered a tale rich with the embedded history of her world and bright with technical marvels. Her characters were engaging and intriguing and there is even a bit of romance. What really touched my heart was Bhaaj’s interaction with the children of the aqueducts. I spent the last fifty pages of the book sniffling into a tissue. I’m looking forward to reading the continuing adventures of Major Bhaajan.
‘East Of West Volume 3: There Is No Us’ collects issues 11-15 of the comic ‘East Of West’. It’s tempting to babble senselessly about how good this com‘East Of West Volume 3: There Is No Us’ collects issues 11-15 of the comic ‘East Of West’. It’s tempting to babble senselessly about how good this comic is, urge you to go out and buy all available issues right away, but I wouldn’t be much of a reviewer if I didn’t explain my fascination. I’ll start with a little back story.
Loosely based on the ‘Book Of Revelations’, ‘East Of West’ tells the story of impending apocalypse. It’s clear from the very first issue that the world has been destroyed and revived before in what might be an endless cycle. What’s not clear is the role to be taken by the very recognisable symbols of a biblical apocalypse. The Four Horsemen are missing one of their number, Death. The Seven Seals have been replaced by seven nations. The Beast is…difficult to explain without spoiling some of the surprises of the story. Then there is the Message, which is presented as a constraint upon the actions of all. A dictate on how the world will end. Mixed into this over-arching story are the lives of the people within each nation. The leaders and their friends and foes.
The cover of Volume 3 features Xiaolian. The title, ‘There Is No Us’, again perfectly encompasses the events of the collected issues as well as Xiaolian’s philosophy. After rallying her people, she departs for a meeting with the other nations where she plans to call for an end to the illusion of peace. We visit with each leader as they make their preparations and depart for the Wall, the neutral zone that will host the meeting. These glimpses of each nation serve as a quick reminder of who the players are and what they are up to. After waiting months for the next collected volume, I found it easy to slip back into the story and was surprised by how well I remembered each character’s quirks and faults. To me, that is a mark of great story-telling.
The second chapter begins with politicking. The dialogue is clever and again serves to establish the intention of each nation. The Endless Nation, which is the most obscure player thus far in that we haven’t seen a lot of them on the page, is called to project an outcome to the war Xiaolian wants. Predictably, they outline the terrible cost of any match of opponents and call for peace. Violence interrupts the meeting and the chain of events that follows ensures that war is the only outcome. The panels depicting the breakdown of negotiations are brutal and gory, which only serves to highlight the shocking nature of each incident.
From there, we move to the dead lands and the shootout between Death and the Ranger. While they duke it out, Wolf and Raven attempt to bind the power loosed by the death of wolf’s father. They…succeed in doing something. Trouble is averted for now. When Death reveals why he was dealing with a chosen, the Ranger stands down. Post-brawl negotiations are interrupted by a rumble overhead: the ships of The Endless Nation heading to war.
Next, we check in with the three Horsemen and Ezra. More panels of delightfully depicted gore here. The Horsemen want Ezra’s help in killing the Beast. As this is counter to the Message, Ezra goes a little nuts.
The final chapter has all four Horsemen arriving at the lair of the Beast. As always, this part of the story is creepy-cool. As always, I’m going to say very little regarding it, except that I was once again surprised by events.
Closing the back cover of the book, I saw a quote: ‘We would tell you to pray, but it wouldn’t do any good. You have earned what is coming to you.’
These little quotes appear throughout Volume 3. They’re a reminder of how deep this story is and illustrate the attention to detail that makes this comic special. The art alone is spectacular. I rave about it every review and I’ll do so again here. The composition of each panel is stunning. No image is extraneous or wasted. The art tells as much of the story as the dialogue. But without the smart dialogue and strong characterization, the art would just be pretty. The collaboration between writer Jonathan Hickman and artist Nick Dragotta is what makes ‘East Of West’ such a delight to read.
I met Vincenzo Ferriero and Ray Chou at the New York Comic Con (2014). Infected by their enthusiasm for their project, I handed over five dollars forI met Vincenzo Ferriero and Ray Chou at the New York Comic Con (2014). Infected by their enthusiasm for their project, I handed over five dollars for an oversized, glossy comic book called Skies of Fire. I had flipped through it and the artwork appealed. Airships and pirates, bearded men dressed in flight jackets and peaked caps, low-slung cities dotted with tall towers that served the sky. A brooding line of clouds called the Expanse. Fire, destruction, politics and a plucky naval captain who wanted to talk on the world. And pirates. Yep, worth five bucks.
I like a good story, but my choice of comics usually comes down to the art. A good cover catches my eye, as does clever use of colour. Skies of Fire is a really pretty comic book. Inside the front cover they have a wonderfully detailed map of the Aquilan Empire. The style of art within, the line work and colours are consistent with the steampunk flavour of the story.
The comic opens with an airship docking with a tower at Port Prince. Pirates arrive before they finish unloading their cargo and a battle ensues. It looks fairly one sided with the airship going up in flames and the tower left crumbling. The pirates are chased away by ‘blue coats’ who break off pursuit when they enter the massive storm system known as the Expanse.
At The Capital of Monterey, the actions of Captain Pierce are called into question. She is accused of disobeying orders and breaking formation. Basically, her admiral is throwing her under a bus (or over the side of an airship as the case may be). She defends herself by explaining that she disobeyed in order to chase the enemy and then asks permission to lead an expedition into the Expanse. Obviously impressed by her compunction and courage, His Majesty grants permission and puts the crown at her disposal. The politicking against her adventure is fierce. No doubt she’s gained herself more than one enemy.
The remainder of the thirty-three page comic is fleshed out with some extras: ‘Unravelling the Expanse’ gives some world building background and information. A copy of the Monterey Tribune does the same. Then there are a couple of pages of names who are the project’s Kickstarter Backers. Finally, the last page includes portraits of the team done in the same style of the comic. Each has a brief bio.
I really enjoyed the comic. The story has just started, but already I’m intrigued enough by the world and the characters to want to continue. Unfortunately, there is no release date available for the second issue, so I’ll just have to keep an eye on their website—which is kind of gorgeous, by the way.