My inner geek of all things pop culture loves this web comic. There is rarely a story arc, but rather, it's a clever comic about current pop cultural...moreMy inner geek of all things pop culture loves this web comic. There is rarely a story arc, but rather, it's a clever comic about current pop cultural events revolving around three friends with varying different tastes. While I haven't read the collection itself, the commentary Joel includes on the website with each new strip just makes Hijinks Ensue that much more entertaining.
And Josh loves bacon. How can you not love a comic that includes a character with an unhealthy (in more ways than one) love of bacon?(less)
This is perfect steampunk gateway territory. It’s a fast-paced, brilliantly crafted story combining st...moreRead the full review at Working for the Mandroid
This is perfect steampunk gateway territory. It’s a fast-paced, brilliantly crafted story combining steampunk with elements of fantasy in an alternate version of World War I. Archduke Franz Ferdinand has a son, Alek, that can’t be legitimately acknowledged as heir to the Austrian throne because of his mother’s common bloodline. Deryn is a Scottish girl who wants to be in the British navy, so she becomes Dylan and joins up as a young recruit. Neither can really be who they want to be, so they fake it and are awesome the entire way.
I have a huge girl crush on Deryn, which is awkward because she’s 15. She spends the entire book pretending to be a boy and manages to show up all the other young British soldiers from the moment she shows up. She’s fearless, intuitive and adventuresome. She is everything a young female protagonist should be in my books. From the moment she first appears, I liked her and when she found herself loose in a flying jelly fish contraption high above England without much of a care in the world, she became one of my favorite female characters possibly ever.
Then there’s Alek, who is a bit flaky at the beginning because he’s been raised as royalty despite his common bloodline and is suddenly whisked away from his life by people he can’t figure out are friend or foe. Once he manages to get his feet beneath him again, figuratively speaking, he’s equally engaging – determined, selfless and very much his own person though young and previously sheltered. When Alek and Deryn finally end up at the same place, sparks don’t fly. I mean, Alek thinks Deryn is a boy, and yet I can’t help but want them to be best friends for all of time, knowing that they belong together.
Despite being alternate history, World War I starts in a similar manner – the Germans use the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand as an excuse to start a war that spreads quickly through Austria, Hungary, and Russia before spilling over into England, France and further. Leviathan only covers that first month after the assassination when it was still mostly the Germans picking fights with everyone.(less)
In a bleak future some indeterminate number of years from now, the ever global expansion of trade and culture has constricted back to a point where co...moreIn a bleak future some indeterminate number of years from now, the ever global expansion of trade and culture has constricted back to a point where countries must fend for themselves or suffer the consequences. Global plagues and famines have destroyed the world’s natural resources, and only through genehacking do companies have the ability to create food that could temporarily hold up against deadly disease. Ivory beetles are quickly eating their way through trees, destroying what’s left of the natural world. Sectarianism has created vast groups of illegal immigrants seeking low paying wages in hostile host countries where the natives do not want them.
Within pages, Paolo Balcigalupi creates a world that is both familiar and foreign, a reflection of the world today but much, much worse. The current media-enhanced epidemic of bird flu and drug resistant bacteria is changed to cibiscosis that eats away your lungs and fungal diseases that leave skin scarred and puffy, destroying your body from the outside in. Current fear of petroleum depletion is nothing compared to a world where giant elephant-like megodonts are used to power factories and humans use spindal run computers. Global warming is not a "theory", but a proven fact with the ever increasing sea level. Failed crops of today are nothing compared to blister rust destroying natural occurring food sources as a whole.
In this world, the city of Bangkok has barricaded itself from the outside world and, thanks to a mysterious genehacker, is able to feed its people foods that haven’t existed in lifetimes. An American named Lake Anderson poses as a foreign owner of an energy-supplying kink spring company to cover his attempts at discovering these secret recreated foods and the source of their creation. In his attempt to find the master genehacker, he is introduced to Emiko, a New Person – a genehacked humanoid creation of the Japanese, bred for loyalty and obedience – who is serving as a prostitute in an attempt to hide from the authorities after her owner abandoned her. Thais aren’t too fond of the human-made heechy keechy creatures and she’d be killed if her jerky movements were caught by authorities that could not be bribed.
The world Balcigalupi created is amazing. It’s so vivid, complex and complete that it took me a while to realize the story itself had taken a turn towards a political drama and far away from the android-esque girl of the title. What seems to be the main story line becomes subsumed by a political war between two government factions: the insular Environment Ministry that has a nationalist stance that Thailand doesn’t need the help of foreigners to care for its people, and the global Trade Ministry that wants to open up global trade again for the sake of the country’s - and their treasury's - well-being.
Before you know it there are a cast of characters with complex back stories and three dimensional personalities that allow you to follow multiple story lines weaving in and out of each other with no problem at all. Though these multiple storylines do fall under the same problem that most complex stories have: by the time you’re immersed into a storyline, the chapter ends and a new one begins with a different set of characters and you don’t know when you’ll next pick up the plot you were so into. It also causes slight confusion with shifts in time. Events that occur parallel in time could be separated by chapters rather than paragraphs or even just line breaks.
Emiko does become central to the story, a catalyst for the events of the last third of the book, though she isn’t often “on screen”, which was disappointing. I wanted more about Emiko, about the New People in general – their background, their history, how they were developed. But then again, I really have a thing for robots.
The political battle that took over the book was interesting and allowed for a lot of action and changes in motivation, which makes for great story telling. Political drama just isn’t really my thing. Despite the elements of hard sci-fi that surrounded the story, in the end, it’s politics and explosions and riots and people getting hurt. Without robots. Though I have to say, I want to see a spring gun in real life. They shoot small, sharp metal discs that sound like they would hurt even more than bullets.
Balcigalupi leaves it open for sequels in this world, though by the end, it’s a different world than when it began. I hope he does return and perhaps with more focus on the sci-fi nature of the New People and genesplicing itself, rather than using both of those sci-fi elements as catalysts to a more pedestrian story. In the meantime, I’ll have to pick up his other works.(less)
A middle aged man revisits the place where he thinks his wife disappeared decades before only to be kidnapped by people who travel from world to world...moreA middle aged man revisits the place where he thinks his wife disappeared decades before only to be kidnapped by people who travel from world to world through teleportation stones called xenoliths. He ends up a prisoner in this strange land until he escapes and starts an adventure through unknown territory in the middle of a violent, bloody war. In the middle of his terrifying romp through this torn land, he begins to think that maybe his missing wife had been brought here many years before and might still be alive.
At the same time, a group of military scouts are trying to get home after finishing an assignment, but get stuck on "Ur" (aka Earth) due to faulty xenoliths. They encounter a group of the enemy as well as a violent cadre from their own side who claim that they are working for a peace treaty. Violence, blood, anger, people in mismatched clothing.
It took awhile for the book to get to the crazy "people from another place" bit. It almost started sounding like a sad book about a man who had lost his wife and suffered survivors guilt from it, so that by the time the place-jumping aliens (?) showed up, it was really jarring. Both story lines remained exciting and carried along quickly, though at times, one story would take precedent over the other and by the time you made it back to to second story line, it was hard to remember where they had left off.
The two story lines never really merge together. You don't get any of the characters in one story crossing into the other or vice versa, but it's obvious they are occurring at the same time. With this being the first of a trilogy, it appears that the stories might cross sometime later on.
My biggest problem with this book was the same problem I tend to have with most e-books and books published by independent publishers - typos, misspellings, and a general lack of editing. It's hard to get into a book when there's so many typographical and grammatical errors to distract from the general story. It left me feeling as though the book was published a little too soon and should have gone through another heavy editing process.(less)
Perhaps it would have been better going into this book if I hadn't known that there was a sci-fi element to it. Then again, I probably wouldn't have p...morePerhaps it would have been better going into this book if I hadn't known that there was a sci-fi element to it. Then again, I probably wouldn't have picked it up if I hadn't known. By the second or third reference to "donations" and "carers" I knew what was going on in the background that wasn't being explained. Yet I still hoped that there would be a twist that would make it more compelling, less predictable.
But then again, this isn't really a book that isn't really based on the plot, but rather the changes in relationships as people grow up together and then move beyond the comfortable walls of a boarding school. It was about emotions and all those under-the-surface things that no one is saying, but everyone knows. It came to the point that the sci-fi-ish bits were superfluous and got to be a little redundant to the point of the occasional annoyance. And the info-dump in the final few pages was a little much, and would have worked better, I think, if it had been spread out a little more through the last third of the book.
I would really give it 3.5 stars if I could. The language was beautiful at times and was definitely a vivid depiction of boarding school life in England. Knowing that there's a movie version out there, I kept picturing Sally Sparrow, Spiderman and that girl from the Pirates movies (which, of course, is all of their real names) as the characters instead of images I'd created on my own. I think that might of helped a bit since the narrator seemed to fit Sally Sparrow.
Understated and British. It's not a bad book; I was just hoping for more.(less)