As with volume 1, Arrow: Volume 2 collects the tie-in comics of the the CW show Arrow, in this case issues 7 through 12, into one book. And as before,As with volume 1, Arrow: Volume 2 collects the tie-in comics of the the CW show Arrow, in this case issues 7 through 12, into one book. And as before, the stories are arranged into a further 18 "chapters", each one a short vignette which takes place in the past or present of the first season of the show, taking a small part of the storyline or character development and adding a bit more flesh to it. As with the first volume--I feel like a broken record here--this compilation is really only for fans of the show rather than fans of the original DC comic character Green Arrow. That said, even though this is the second volume, both books are stand-alone as there's no cohesive, over-arcing storyline to them, so if one is read without the other, other than any niggling feeling you might have from reading a set of books out of order (or does that only happen to me?) you won't run into any problems.
Because each chapter is drawn by a different artist--some having come over from volume 1--once again you run into a range of style and talent. However, there seemed to be a greater consistency between the artists with this volume, not necessarily with them trying to emulate each other's work, but with the artists trying to achieve a more consistent look from story to story, i.e. the characters look more like the actors portraying them rather than generic "female victim" or "male hero." Each artist still puts his individual stamp on the story they're creating, obviously--there's nothing homogeneous here--but there's also no great disparity moving from one chapter to the next which could startle you out of the mood the book has created. You know, when one artist uses a lighter hand with his outlining and shadowing, creating a more delicate look, and then the next artist relies on deep shadows and heavy lines, creating a more raw or crude look. Does my rambling make any kind of sense?
As I stated earlier, Arrow: Volume 2 is most enjoyable for those fans of the show who would like to explore further the characters and history of the world Guggenheim et al have created. Anyone else might possibly enjoy the artwork or the stories for the interaction between characters without actually knowing who they are and why they're behaving as such . . . but I doubt it as I think it would simply raise more questions than answers for them. As for me, since I am such a squeeing fan-girl of the show, I got a great deal of enjoyment out of the book; I think my only disappointment came from the fact that the stories were so short, causing the book to end much too soon....more
Peter Caswell wakes in a silk-sheeted bed in a luxurious flat in London with only a song refrain running through his head to tell him who and where hePeter Caswell wakes in a silk-sheeted bed in a luxurious flat in London with only a song refrain running through his head to tell him who and where he is. You see, Peter is an assassin, the best in the world, thanks to his ability to blend in anywhere, but he never remembers where he goes or who he kills because of the implant in his head and the timed-release chemicals it contains. And that's just the way Peter wants it. The only thing he allows himself is knowing how many kills he's made and that only by the number of Sapporo beer bottles, out of twelve, with labels turned away, a count done in the moments before he reverts.
And so begins one of the most twisty-turning, heart-pounding, thought-provoking books I've read in quite some time. It would be easy to describe this book as a spy thriller wrapped up in science fiction. Easy, but probably not quite accurate, not to mention too simplistic for such a complex tale. Having never read any of Jason Hough's other works, I don't know if Zero World is characteristic for him or a story that shows him growing as an author, but I will say that what I read left me mightily impressed. It would be quite easy, with such a complex and fast-paced story, for authors to skimp on certain things such as character development or world building, but that's not the case here. In fact, I was completely blown away by how much thought Hough put into creating the parallel Earth on which most of the story takes place. The differences between our two worlds are often quite simple, yet at the same time truly innovative. (Such as opening a door: here we turn a doorknob; on the alternate Earth, a door opens by way of a foot latch. So simple, yet I dare say no-one would've thought of it had the question been posed. I know I wouldn't have. Or expressing appreciation: here we simply say “Thanks” whereas alt. Earth uses “Gratitude.” A subtle, yet powerful difference.*) Yet, those differences are never outlandish or thoughtless or untrue to the story; they feel completely organic to the culture Hough has created. Even the names of the characters populating the alternate Earth are a degree or two away from familiarity for us, yet a natural extension of alt. Earth's evolution. But what makes this world-building so amazing was how deftly Hough managed to insert so much backstory and so many details without any of it ever becoming overbearing or an info-dump. As a writer, I'm in awe. And I also kind of hate him. Just a little bit.
The storyline is told from the perspectives of both Peter Caswell and his alt-Earth counterpart, Melni, which is another way Hough gives us a greater view of the world(s) he's created. The thing is, as developed as Peter is, Hough didn't skimp on Melni's development to achieve that. Melni is just as fierce and dedicated to her mission as Peter is to hers and as the story progresses it peels away the layers of her character allowing us to find out what drives her, what scares her, what makes her Melni. Which is awesome. It's so refreshing to find a female co-protagonist who is neither a fainting wimp nor an aggro female who probably started out as male. Yes, Melni can be vulnerable and, yes, she can be hard-ass, but she never loses her humanity or her femininity. Even his secondary characters have a depth to them that gives the impression that, if Hough were asked to, could step up and become the center of the story without difficulty.
Then we get to the story itself, set sometime in the future, which is . . . complicated. I mean, you start out with an enhanced super-secret spy-assassin, then progress to space travel, wormhole travel, an alternate Earth, and one heck of a conspiracy that sets everything Peter ever knew or believed in on its ear, and you've got a story that can't be easily condensed into a short summary. At least not without giving a misleading impression of what you'll be reading or giving away any number of spoilers. For all its complexity and genre-bending subject matter, not to mention its hefty appearance, Zero World is a fast and engrossing read, sucking you in from page one and only reluctantly letting you go. It's one of those books that will keep you up at night, making you want to know what happens next and then what happens after that. Not to mention you get a bonus novella, The Dire Earth, at the end, allowing you to keep the adventure going when the main novels ends.
So, really, all I can say is if you like books of a sci-fi, spy-thriller, futuristic, alternate Earth, dystopic, action-adventure, military leaning (and who doesn't?), with just a dash of romance thrown in for good measure, I'd strongly suggest you pick up Zero World right this minute. And prepare to have your mind blown.
*About the only weakness comes from the main curse word Hough created. Where we say fucking, alt. Earth uses blixxing. Now, having gone through the arduous process of creating an adequately vivid and powerful curse word myself, I can appreciate what Hough went through to create blixxing and for that I can't fault him. But whereas fuck represents a clear, Anglo-Saxon directness, it's hard to imagine the linguistic path of blix (or is it blixx? I can't remember). I'm sure I'm in the minority with this kind of struggle and I fully acknowledge I am a linguistics geek, making this a petty quibble, but considering this was the only thing out of the entire book that gave me pause . . . that's pretty blixxing good!
I received an ARC through the Amazon Vine program in exchange for an honest review....more
Okay, for my review, a few things should be known: I'm an unabashed, squeeing, fan-girl fan of the show Arrow (same goes with its brother, The Flash);Okay, for my review, a few things should be known: I'm an unabashed, squeeing, fan-girl fan of the show Arrow (same goes with its brother, The Flash); I have a very sad and pathetic crush on the lead, Stephen Amell, mainly because of his salmon ladder pull-ups *hummina, hummina, hummina*; I'm deficient in any knowledge of classic Green Arrow comic history--my time at DC Comics was mainly spent communing with Wonder Woman. With those things in mind, here is my review:
Arrow: Volume 1 collects issues 1-6 of the tie-in comic for the CW show, Arrow. Inside this compilation are 18 "chapters", each of which takes a scene or character and expands upon what we learned in the first season of the show. Basically the "chapters" flesh out points of the show that may have only been flashes on screen, giving us a deeper look at the world of Arrow as created in part by executive producers Marc Guggenheim and Andrew Kreisberg. Do these "chapters" provide a deep and insightful exposé? Not particularly. But if you're a fan of the show--which is really the target audience for these comics--you'll enjoy seeing what happened to Diggle in Afghanistan, for instance, or discovering the tragedy that made Helena Bertinelli into the Huntress, or getting a glimpse into Chien Na Wei's childhood before she became China White. And, of course, we follow alongside Oliver as he patrols the city, carrying out the promise he made to undo his father's wrongs and serve the city.
The storylines are pretty basic, nothing particularly striking or revelatory about any of them, but they are entertaining, full of quips and fast-paced action. The artwork is pretty good--as with any graphic novel or compilation that relies on multiple artists, the work can at times be hit-or miss. In some of the chapters, it's hard to differentiate between characters: the men all look the same and so do the women. I'd have to say the work of Mico Suayan and Omar Francia was the best, in my opinion, with Mike Grell and Xermanico as runners up. At times, the artwork is rather primitive, at others, overly cartoonish, but again that's what you get with several artists working together. In the end, it all evens out, I think, and there's nothing so overtly "wrong" with any of it that might jar the reader out of the book. So I count that as a success.
In the end, I honestly don't see fans, especially die-hard fans, of the classic Green Arrow comics particularly enjoying these comics or graphic novels as they're aimed at the viewing audience of the Arrow TV show. Even then I don't think casual or highly critical viewers of the show will find the need to read these or take much away from them as they probably won't answer the questions or issues they have with the show and will seem more superficial than beneficial. Me? Gimme more, gimme more!...more
Reading this made my inner child (who often escapes and runs amok as an outer child, but that's an issue to deal with another day) gleefully, squealinReading this made my inner child (who often escapes and runs amok as an outer child, but that's an issue to deal with another day) gleefully, squealingly happy. About the only thing that would've made the whole thing even better would've been the presence of unicorns. But that's just my horse-obsessed inner child speaking.
The story revolves around a very familiar theme, that of loneliness and not belonging and wondering if everyone would be better off if you just ran away. Believe me, as a teenager, I ran the gamut of these emotions, so I could fully empathize with Star, the protagonist of the story. As a black pegasus in a world where black pegasi aren't an everyday occurrence, Star feels like an outcast. Add in an ancient prophecy attached to those rare black pegasi, one of which is born every hundred years, which states that the pegasus foal will either unite or destroy the herds and become the most powerful pegasus in the land, and it's no wonder Star is either shunned or actively bullied by the other foals, not to mention many of the adult pegasi. As a final insult, Star doesn't fully belong to his herd: His mother had been driven away from her herd and was taken in by the Sun Herd, then died after giving birth to Star; the lead mare, Silvercloud, promised Star's mother she'd protect him, a promise she's kept all these years, to the detriment of her relationship with the herd's over-stallion, Thunderwing. So not only is Star concerned about his destiny, he feels guilty for destroying the lives of those protecting him. This makes for one sad, lonely little youngster. The fact that, on top of all these issues, Star is a pegasus who can't fly . . . Well, it's no wonder he feels depressed! In the end, Star comes through his trauma and finds his place in the world, but it's a bumpy road he has to travel before reaching that peak.
This is definitely not a light and fluffy book, an impression one might get upon hearing that it's all about pretty, pretty pegasi. But right from the start, in the first chapter, we deal with bullying and fear and the threat of death. From there the book gives us fighting between herds and even within the herd--fighting that ends in a lot of death--more bullying, physical violence, betrayal and vengeance, near-death experiences due to starvation and infection, a forest fire that kills yet more pegasi . . . you get the picture. But don't be put off and think it's too dark for a kid. Trust me, at heart kids are sociopaths, and I mean that in the most positive way: They're still forming their moral compass and books that show how things can go wrong, how life isn't always fair, but how things like love, compassion, cooperation, and sacrifice can save the day provide helpful guidance. Kids are plastic, elastic, and flexible; they can handle more serious issues that we adults might want to shield them from. But exposure to the darker side of life, even viewed through the lens of fantasy, gives kids a more well-rounded attitude and the potential to cope with any future issues that might befall them. They'll sympathize with Star and root for him even as they growl at Star's enemies, especially Brackentail; they'll cry when things go wrong and yelp for joy when Star finally starts to fulfill his destiny. In short, I can see both girls and boys devouring this book and any follow-up volumes.
I've noticed some people dinging the bit where Star's tears cause flowers to spring up in their wake, complaining it's too far-fetched and silly. Um, we're talking about a book concerning talking pegasi and a star on a hundred-year cycle that gives one particular pegasus a unique power. You're going to complain about the idea of flowers growing from tears? *opens mouth, pauses, shuts mouth and shakes head* Yes, Star's tears bring forth flowers, which I took as an obvious and overt sign that his destiny isn't written by an ancient prophecy. Star's destiny is one he will write every day, one of his own making. A destiny I'm eager to read about in however many sequels Ms. Alvarez decides to write (very, very many, I'm hoping)....more
Okay, I really hate Ann Aguirre. I am dead serious here. She writes the best action-adventure/sci-fi/fiction/YA of anyone out there today. To the poinOkay, I really hate Ann Aguirre. I am dead serious here. She writes the best action-adventure/sci-fi/fiction/YA of anyone out there today. To the point where I could literally swallow my tongue out of jealousy whenever I read one of her books. Hyperbole? Nope, not even close.
Horde is the final book in Aguirre's Razorland Trilogy, and what a finale it is! If Enclave was the skeleton and Outpost was the muscles and organs, Horde is the tattooed, punk-ass skin on this most awesome literary creation. Horde begins where Outpost left off: the town of Salvation is under siege by Freaks, the remnants of humanity gone savage, and in order to save the place they've come to love and call home, Deuce, Fade, Stalker, and Tegan must leave their families behind in order to find help in one of the surrounding settlements. But this is no mere rescue mission. Because things have changed. The Freaks are no longer just the mindless beasts they once were; they've become more cunning and resourceful, and in order to save her family and free humans from the threat of these mutants, Deuce will learn to lead an army which has forgotten how to fight. This war isn't just for the sake of her family or the families in Salvation, however. This is a war to save the entire human race, a war that must be won at all costs, and that's a burden Deuce might not be able to carry.
When I started reading this book, I promised myself that I would try to take it as slow as possible, in order to savor it, but I couldn't help myself. Aguirre throws you right into the action and makes it impossible to slow down. Which is probably why I stayed up until 6 a.m. the day I finished reading this. Even as I reached the end and was satisfied every step of the way, I mentally cried because I just did not want the story to end. (I might've also physically cried a little bit as well.) Deuce has been such a fascinating, deep, and rich character from beginning to end, and part of that comes from Ann's writing in that she's allowed Deuce to grow and to change as she learns more about herself as well as the people and world around her. Yet Deuce isn't alone; the supporting characters are all real and tangible individuals, making us care for them even as Ann plays with their “lives,” even going so far as killing someone off in a scene you'll never see coming. The bitch. And I mean that in the best way because it's only the bravest author who'll let a character die in service of the story, regardless of how much an audience might care for that character. With this novel, Deuce, already having come so far from where she started, has to keep fighting uphill battles every step of the way and Aguirre lets us see her weariness, lets us see when Deuce reaches her breaking point and very nearly snaps, feel her terror, her hopelessness, her confusion and despair. And yet she keeps moving, planting one foot in front of the other and in the end manages to come out of such blackness carrying victory on her shoulders. It's a journey that'll wring you out in so many ways, but is so fulfilling you'll want to cheer.
I have a feeling it's only the easily parsable books that are made into movies, those books that can be broken down into tropes and cliches and easily understood themes so that the dollar sign-eyed movie studio execs do a little dance for joy in anticipation of all the money they'll make off a new tentpole franchise.* Take, for example, The Hunger Games. Don't get me wrong, I read the first book and thoroughly enjoyed it as it's a well-written book. But, the thing is, The Hunger Games is also part of a trilogy, yet as much as I thought the first book was fabulous, I still have not read the other two. With the Razorland Trilogy, I couldn't not read each entry in the series even if I tried. The only way would've been to have physically stopped me, because I had to, I just had to find out what happened next. What trouble would next find Deuce, what would become of her relationship with Fade and Stalker, what Tegan would do to find her courage and place in the world. And those things may sound like issues common to any other YA book or series of recent publication, but with Aguirre's writing, there's always a little something extra, a different take or new angle on the situation. There's always more to the story. Out of the YA trilogies that have lately been made into movies or are in the process of being made, of none of them have I read beyond the first book, no matter how good that first book might've been. Though it may sound mean and counterintuitive, I really hope no movie producer or production company purchases the rights to the Razorland Trilogy, because no-one, no script writer, no director, no studio, could do it justice. Bold claim, perhaps, but just read the books and ask yourself if I'm exaggerating.
I'm not sure any of this is coming out intelligibly and I know I probably sound like some kind of squeeing fan girl. You know what, though? I totally am that squeeing fan girl and proud of it. Taut, tight, well-crafted, and often heartbreaking, her books have totally become my book candy, those titles I hoard miser-style, savor even as I speed through the pages, and turn to whenever I need a comforting pick-me-up.
*I had to edit my previous remarks to be a bit less inflammatory. You'll have to excuse them, and me, as when I wrote this review, I was coming off a major "OMG! I've just read the most awesome book in the world, finishing up the most awesome trilogy in the world!" high. In that kind of situation, enthusiasm overrules any restraint or common sense a person might possess, hence the rather bombastic nature of what I'd written. That said, I realize I'm still courting controversy and anger from others with what I've said in my review; however, I stand by my remarks and opinions....more
It took me a while for my attention to get drawn into this novel. Mainly because I discovered, only after I'd started reading the thing, that3.5 stars
It took me a while for my attention to get drawn into this novel. Mainly because I discovered, only after I'd started reading the thing, that it's actually the fourth novel in Bernard Cornwell's Grail Quest series. Now, other people may have no problem picking up and reading a book from the middle of a series, but me? Um, yeah, that doesn't work for me. For better of worse, I tend to be rather OCD about book series: I hate reading books from the middle of one, and the idea of skipping around, reading the books out of order, positively drives me bonkers, giving me an eye twitch and the beginnings of a foamy mouth. So when I found out 1356 was number four in a series, I nearly screamed.* I also nearly stopped reading. However, I have such a backlog of ARCs I need to read and review that the notion of me trying to plow through the first three books (and that's only if I were able to find them at my local, woefully lacking, library in the first place) while still keeping up with my other ARCs just so I could be comfortable reading 1356 nearly gave me the same eye twitch as the one I was trying to develop due to reading 1356 in the first place. (Damn, that was an exhausting sentence!) So I took myself in hand (which is an idiom I've always found vaguely naughty, most likely because of my brain's permanent dwelling place in a nice and comfy gutter), gave myself a stern talking to, and soldiered on with 1356, suffering only the occasional eye spasm in the process.
I also had a rough beginning with this book as for the longest time I couldn't identify with or be sympathetic to any of the characters. It took some time for them to mean anything to me, even the main character, Sir Thomas Hookton, aka le Bâtard, leader of the Hellequin, a band of mercenaries working in France while serving under the aegis of the Earl of Northampton. Eventually, though, I warmed up to Thomas and his band, especially Brother Michael and the Irishman, Keane (the latter mainly due to his adoption of a couple of wolfhounds away from the Frenchmen who were hunting down him and Thomas; as an animal lover, it was a particularly satisfying scene).
The story itself is interesting yet oddly forgettable. Revolving around a mythical sword said to be the sword of Saint Peter, a sword said to grant whoever bears it certain victory over his foes, both the French and English army have sent scouts to find it in order to aid their endeavors. (If the year of the book's title doesn't hold any significance for you, it was in that year the Battle of Poitiers took place, which was the second major engagement of the Hundred Years' War. Edward, also known as the Black Prince—for what reason is still debated among historians—the son of King Edward III, had raided France that year, his second chevauchée [a destructive raid designed to inflict severe economic disaster on the enemy] through that war-torn country, spurring King Jean II of France to pursue him. The two ultimately met at Poitiers, and even though the English army was outnumbered, road-weary, thirsty, and exhausted, and though the battle was long, the English came out on top, capturing around 2,000 members of the French aristocracy, including King Jean himself, whose ransom alone—six million gold écus—was equivalent to about a third of France's GNP.) So each side believes they are in the right and that this sword, la Malice, will bring God's wrath down upon their enemies. In between battle scenes and personal dramas revolving around Thomas and his band we watch as this sword gets shuffled around from place to place and from person to person as it falls into the hands of those who would hide it and those who would abuse it. Eventually it finds itself in the possession of Sculley, a wild Scotsman marginally under the control of the Lord of Douglas, on the side of King Jean. After a brief but bloody sword fight between Sculley and Thomas, the fate of la Malice was something of an anticlimax. Maybe that was the point, but it just seemed rather disappointing. And that was the overall sensation I took away from my reading experience. It just felt as though the book was missing something, as though I was only getting part of the story. Perhaps it's due to the fact that it is number four in a series. Perhaps it's better read as part of a whole, when all the pieces fit together into a larger, more detailed picture.
I also have to disagree with the blurb on the cover from George R.R. Martin in which he states “Bernard Cornwell does the best battle scenes of any writer I've ever read, past or present.” Well, I'm very sorry George, but the author who writes the best battle scenes is still, to my mind, Conn Iggulden. Cornwell writes vivid, bloody, stirring scenes, to be sure, but they're nowhere near as atmospheric and breath-taking as Iggulden's. That's not to say Cornwell's writing is flawed. I've read his Warlord Chronicles, which tackled the story of King Arthur, and like those books, 1356 is a cracking good read. The dialogue is fast-paced, accessible without being overly-anachronistic, the story moves along and keeps your attention, doling out information in just the right amount without slowing down the action, and he allows the characters to develop as the story moves along so that by the end, though they may not be complex creatures, they're far from cardboard cutouts. At least for his “good guys”; Cornwell's bad guys in this novel tend to suffer slightly from the Black Hat Syndrome in that they're after one thing or one person, their motives for going after that thing or person are narrowly drawn (i.e. revenge or greed or simply because they're a black-hearted knave who loves being bad), and as such become near-caricatures of people. Basically, they're villains because they're villains and nothing more. Thomas is the most three-dimensional character of all; he's obviously one of the good 'uns, yet he does shady, even downright criminal things, he has conflicting emotions between what he's doing and what he should be doing—basically he behaves like a human being, especially one who's often placed between a rock and a hard place and must choose the lesser of two evils in order to move. (Two clichés in one sentence, woo hoo!) That said, I suppose the goal of most writers is for you, as the reader, to empathize with the good guys and Cornwell certainly accomplishes that. Or at least for me he did. Every time one of the characters found themselves in a perilous situation, I suffered along with them, heart beating rapidly, palms sweating, lips gnawed raw as my eyes zoomed across the page, reading as fast as I could in the hope that the character would soon find an escape.
So, yeah, despite some flaws and a slow start, in the end I would recommend this book as a good read. However, I do believe it would've been even better had I gotten to it after first reading the three books that came before it.
*It doesn't help that this brought up one of my biggest pet-peeves about book publishing: Why can't publishers identify a book that's part of a series? How difficult would it be to put a small number somewhere on the spine, or place, in small typeset, a sentence somewhere on the front cover informing potential readers that the book they're holding is #__ in a series? Or, at the very least, place a page at the front of the book listing the titles, in chronological order, that belong to a particular series, allowing the person holding said book to exclaim, “Hey, this is book #4 in the series! I need to read these other books first!” Really, would it put such a huge dent in their bottom line? I think not. In fact, doing so would encourage more sales, in my not-so-humble opinion: First of all, people wouldn't get pissed off about picking up a book in the middle of a series, and secondly, in my experience, people like to buy in bulk, so when they find the first (clearly labeled) book in a series, they tend to pick up the second one at the same time....more
Agghhhhhh! I've finished it! There's no more book to read!
*pauses for breath, is startled by a new thought*
Agghhhhhh! I'm going to have to wait a yearAgghhhhhh! I've finished it! There's no more book to read!
*pauses for breath, is startled by a new thought*
Agghhhhhh! I'm going to have to wait a year or more until the next book comes out! NOOOOOOOO!
Okay, I will try to keep my gushing and fawning to a minimum, focusing instead on a review of the story. Though I can't promise some fan-girl enthusiasm won't slip through.
This, the second entry in Ann Aguirre's Razorland series, picks up where Enclave left off. Deuce, Fade, Tegan, and Stalker have found sanctuary in the topside settlement of Salvation. Each has found a place with a foster family and a place in the settlement, with varying degrees of success. Though it makes Deuce wary, she finds herself growing comfortable with the care she's given by her foster family, the Oakes, and while she isn't exactly happy spending her days in school when she considers herself full of all the knowledge she'll ever need, she complies as she doesn't want to make trouble. After all, she's already turned a few heads with her Huntress behavior, behavior seen as unwomanly and not in keeping with the strict religious tenets upon which Salvation was founded. But things in Salvation aren't quite as idyllic as they seem. The Freaks, or Muties as they're known by Salvationers, are behaving in ways never seen before. They're becoming smarter... and that is not a good sign for the people behind the flimsy wooden walls of Salvation.
Yeah, I don't think those are gonna hold.
Outpost is a more thoughtful entry in the series than the first book. Don't get me wrong, there's still lots of ass-kicking, especially by Deuce (who finds she has to prove herself all over again to the community--mainly the men-folk, that is), but even with the growing crisis outside Salvation's walls, there's time for Deuce, Fade, Tegan, and Stalker to grow in ways in which they never had the opportunity to grow during their adventures on the way to Salvation. There's more time for drama, confusion, mixed signals, romance, and character expansion. As we watch these kids (for that's what they are, no matter what they've been through or how they see themselves) mature, we delve deeper into their personalities, their pasts, how they think, and their hopes for a future. And though Deuce is at the center of the novel, this book is really where Tegan comes into her own. In Enclave, Tegan was a shell-shocked survivor, barely able to pull her own weight in the group dynamic, needing to be cared for by the others. When we saw her at the end of the book, she was half dead due to the massive injury she'd received to her leg. In Outpost, she's not only survived her injury, she's spreading her wings. She grows in confidence and discovers she has a lot more to offer others than she ever thought. She even finds it within herself to forgive Stalker for how he treated her when she was held captive by his gang, something she swore she would never do.
As with Enclave, the story is a page-turner, and the writing keeps you involved as you await each new development with breathless anticipation. Aguirre has a knack for writing heart-pounding action, yet she's also able imbue her characters with real emotions and depth. Once again, they grow and change, behaving just as real people behave. It's hard for me to express just how much I adore reading Aguirre's novels. My eyes fly across the page, and the pages flip by fast enough to raise a breeze, even though I try to slow myself down in order to savor the story rising up from those pages. All I can say is that if you'd like to get in on this new trend of post-apocalyptic YA novels, but don't know where to start, start with Aguirre's. Pick up Enclave and I guarantee, as soon as you finish it or perhaps even before then, you'll be rushing out to the store to grab Outpost. I'd say Hollywood needs to pick up these books and make it into the next series of blockbuster movies, a la "Harry Potter" and "The Hunger Games," but I'm afraid Hollywood would screw up the magic that is Razorland....more
This is not one of those adventures that plops you into a conspiracy or conundrum on the very first page, takes off at warp speed, and doesn'3.5 stars
This is not one of those adventures that plops you into a conspiracy or conundrum on the very first page, takes off at warp speed, and doesn't give you a moment's rest until the very last page. This is what is known as a 'slow-burner'. The plot gradually builds up, clues and hints are dropped at random points, and the picture develops chapter by chapter until we reach the final thrilling conclusion.
I've read a few of the Pendergast novels Lincoln Child has written with Douglas Preston and enjoyed them; however, this is the first of Child's solo novels I've read. As anyone who knows even the slightest bit about me could've guessed, the Egyptian setting of this novel was right up my alley due to the fact that I'm mad about Egypt and especially ancient Egypt. Not only do I love reading books set in ancient Egypt, I love reading about modern or near-modern individuals discovering that ancient country's hidden treasures, buried by time, sand, and memory. The Third Gate introduced me to a new aspect of that area's geography, being set in the Sudd, a vast swamp formed by the White Nile in southern Sudan and one of the largest wetlands in the world. Although the Sudd is quite treacherous, choked as it is with grasses, reeds, papyrus, water hyacinth, and other aquatic plants, forming mats of vegetation which can shift position and block waterways and are in various stages of decomposition, not to mention the ever-changing water levels as well as the dangerous animals, mosquitoes, and parasites, it's an important resource to the rural populations for whom it provides valuable grazing land for their livestock. However, the Sudd as pasture isn't what's presented in The Third Gate. The novel's Sudd is an almost living thing, dark, ominous, fetid, choked with a foul miasma which is nearly solid in its potency and pervasiveness. Add in the discovery of the tomb of Narmer, the first king to have unified Upper and Lower Egypt, a string of inexplicable accidents which some believe to be powered by the powerful curse attached to Narmer's tomb, and the enigmatic leader of the entire expedition, Porter Stone, and you've got a situation ripe for danger, discovery, and death.
Yet, despite all these intriguing ingredients, as a whole the book felt slightly lacking. As I said in the first paragraph, this is a slow-burner of a novel, which is fine; I like stories which build to a climax. Yet this was almost too much of a slow-burner. Though the expedition suffers from traumatic and horrific accidents through the first half of the book, to make the tension build and to lead to the biggest event which makes up the climax of the novel, the persons involved are minor characters, so we're not really invested in either the person or the horrible event happening to them. It's only toward the end that things ramp up and the characters around whom the story is revolving get mixed up in the disasters. There just doesn't seem to be enough thrills or action. I think part of that comes from the narrator, one Jeremy Logan, a professor of medieval history and a self-proclaimed “enigmalogist” (an expert in deciphering enigmas). (Well, he's not really the narrator as the novel is told through the 3rd person P.O.V., but his eyes are the ones through which the reader views the action.) Because he's hired as an observer to Stone's expedition and thus witnesses all these events as an observer, it creates a distance which sets the reader apart and diminishes the drama. However, what really torqued me off about this novel is what always sets me off when authors reference ancient Egypt: the use of Greco-Egyptian terms rather than the true Egyptian words. ***Slight spoiler alert*** One of the characters is supposedly channeling an ancient Egyptian. Yet, when that Egyptian speaks, does s/he speak of being “The Mouthpiece of Heru”? No, s/he says they're “The Mouthpiece of Horus,” Horus being the Greek interpretation of the Egyptian divinity. Argghh! That sort of thing annoys me to no end; it's not only one of my pet peeves, it's my main pet peeve, the one I dress up in little sweaters, take out for walkies, and feed only the best organic pet peeve food.
For all that, though, the history, the supernatural aspects, the Egyptological discoveries (even if they are fake) are quite entertaining; in fact, they're the strengths of the novel and are what make it work when other aspects fail. Not to mention the writing itself, the technical makeup of it, is strong: vivid descriptions, realistic dialogue, well-paced scenes. What does that add up to? A book that, though slowly-paced, compelled me to keep reading to discover how it all turned out.
As the blurb on the cover of the book states, this is an original prequel novel based on the TV series, with the action taking place about si3.5 stars
As the blurb on the cover of the book states, this is an original prequel novel based on the TV series, with the action taking place about six months to a year before the pilot of the show (I'm estimating). We see Sydney Bristow, a freshman at UCLA, doing exceptionally well in her classes yet feeling lost, without a purpose. We know she has issues with her distant father and has had ever since her mother died when she was a little girl; all Sydney wants to be is a teacher, like her mother, both to honor her mother's memory and to, perhaps, win her father's approval and affection. Yet her classes don't inspire her, even though she's passing each course with flying colors (especially the foreign languages as Sydney has a gift for linguistics). All that changes when a mysterious man makes her an offer that she almost refuses: join the CIA. As she rises from a low-level grunt to an agent in record time, Sydney finds a new sense of purpose. She finds she's actually happy and knows exactly what she wants from life. At the end of the book, after her "initiation," we meet a Sydney completely different from the one we met at the beginning of the story. We meet a Sydney ready and eager to embark on her new life.
Yes, Sydney, as she's portrayed in the novel (and, to some extent, in the TV show), is a bit of a Mary Sue. She's sweet, she's innocent, she excels at any activity you throw at her. However, I didn't find this aspect quite as annoying as I would've had this been a regular novel for two reasons: one, realizing this is an origins novel, it's easy to shrug off any liberties taken because, basically, she's just getting started as a character so there's bound to be some one-dimensionality to her; two, as I was reading, I saw Jennifer Garner as Sydney and saw Jennifer's quirks, her dimples, her personality, which helped overpower any particular Mary Sue-ishness in the novel's character (if that makes any sense).
The one really interesting facet of the novel, and I don't know if this was the author's intent, if she was working from J.J. Abrams' notes, or if it was a complete coincidence, was the obvious use of Sydney's desire for her father's approval in her recruitment (using the knowledge gleaned from my recent Psychology 150 class). The agent who acts as her handler/mentor, Wilson, is middle-aged, with a young daughter in whose life he takes an active interest (thus being the father to his daughter Sydney desires for herself, allowing her to trust Wilson more readily). Sloane, the head of SD-6, whom we meet only briefly in the novel, plays an amiable, downright avuncular role in Sydney's life, although we don't see this in the novel, setting himself up as a father substitute for Sydney, thereby tying her loyalty to him and the agency. Even Sydney's eventual partner, Dixon, whom we also meet (very briefly) in the novel, is set up in the show as someone Sydney could turn to for advice and comfort when her father lets her down. While Sloane and Dixon don't play major roles in the novel, it's easy to see the manipulation. Very sneaky and very clever. (Then again, I could totally be seeing something that's not there, which means I've been talking out of my ass...which would not be a surprise. At all.)
This is a quick read. It's not perfect and it's not quite the origins story I would've given to Sydney, but it was entertaining....more
Okay, I finally get it now. What can I say, I'm slow. After all, it took me a couple of years of hearing Harry Potter this and Harry Potter that beforOkay, I finally get it now. What can I say, I'm slow. After all, it took me a couple of years of hearing Harry Potter this and Harry Potter that before I finally sat down with a (good, non-translated from English to American) copy of the first book and discovered the wonders of the Harry Potter universe, discovering my own inner Harry Potter fanatic at the same time. So it's only right that it took me a few years of hearing about the marvels of The Hunger Games and its sequels before breaking down and reading it. Now that I have, I can quite cheerfully join in with the rest of the crowd (something I so rarely do) with my own "OMG, this book is freakin' awesome!" war cry. Because it truly is.
Before I get to how beautiful and heartbreaking the story is, I have to say it is told in what might be the most perfect example of fiction writing. Collins's writing should be held up as an example to students in creative writing classes aimed towards aspiring YA fiction writers, heck, for any fiction writers, period. Those authors who have managed to get their stuff published by some miracle and not by any show of actual talent (I'm looking at you, Stephenie Meyer) should study Collins's books front to back and back again to get an idea of how a compelling story should truly look and behave. In The Hunger Games, the story flows along at exactly the right pace, neither rushing us through scenes nor holding us back with needless information. Back story is filled in only where it's needed, at just the right places, with enough information to gently round out the story as it keeps up its brisk pace, without becoming overstuffed or bogged-down. There is no purple prose here. In fact, the prose is succinct, almost terse, yet filled with such vivid and vivacious detail; words, much like the food in certain Districts, are rationed, producing a concentrated story with no waste, no unnecessary flourishes, and an almost electric page-turning readability.
As far as the story, it's...wondrous. Violent, yet filled with tear-jerking scenes of compassion and mercy. There's action a-plenty, but woven between those scenes of heart-pounding peril and nail-biting panic are scenes of desperate soul-searching, tender moments showcasing the uncertainty of burgeoning love, human moments of doubt and fear and calm acceptance. And, of course, I have to say something about Katniss. She comes from a long line of strong, positive female YA role models, following in the footsteps of Jo from Little Women, Mary Lennox from The Secret Garden, Anne Shirley from Anne of Green Gables, Karana from Island of the Blue Dolphins, Julie from Julie of the Wolves, even Hermione from Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone. But what I love most about Katniss is, she's the complete antithesis to Bella Swan and, hopefully, an antidote to the portrait of womanhood portrayed by Swan. (And here I apologise to both Suzanne Collins and Stephenie Meyer. I truly dislike pitting authors against each other, but with two such enormously popular series, featuring two such disparate characters, each of whom are idolized, it's hard not to compare them and see the faults.) Where Katniss is strong and resolute, Bella is whiny and limp; where Katniss works to provide for her family, gaining her identity from her role as provider and, at times, de facto mother, Bella has no identity, no goals, in fact, strives to be nothing more than Edward's arm candy. Katniss constantly thinks about her life, where she's going, what she's becoming, worrying over the fate of her family, the consequences of her actions, layer upon layer of well-rounded, slightly (yet healthily) neurotic complications which combine to create an actual human being, which, in side-by-side comparison, only shows up that much more clearly how much of a cardboard cutout Bella Swan is...and how, after fifty, perhaps a 100 years, the world will still remember Katniss. Girls will still read about her and imagine themselves in her image. And Bella Swan? Forgotten, a curious fad relegated to a footnote in history....more
Wow. I mean, wow. This has been described as a rollercoaster ride and that is so true. However, this is a rollercoaster which comes out of the loadingWow. I mean, wow. This has been described as a rollercoaster ride and that is so true. However, this is a rollercoaster which comes out of the loading dock straight into a free-fall drop and never slows down until the very end. Take The Da Vinci Code, add few more octanes of amphetamine-fueled energy and you get Comes a Horseman. And that's the problem. As much as I love exciting, grand conspiracy-fueled action-thriller novels, I also like a bit of breathing room to take everything in, to allow my heartbeat to slow and my adrenaline to drop back to its baseline level. I don't mind the action getting a running start from the get-go, but, like any good rollercoaster, you need some flat sections, some gentle curves before your brain gets scrambled and your insides get rearranged by the next loop-de-loop. Right up until the very end, Liparulo keeps the action at a break-neck pace and by the time the finale rolls around, you as the reader are just so damned tired you're more numbed than relieved when the bad guy gets it and the battered yet satisfied main characters return home. However, the story itself is so well-told, so well-researched, with enough gruesome killings, conspiracies, and misdirections, when that ending does come, you don't care that you have the energy level of a beached jellyfish. You're just glad that it's fiction (or, at least, one hopes it's fiction) and can set the book aside for something a little more upbeat at the end of the day. And I have to say that even though the plot does concern the advent of Antichrist (that's right, just 'Antichrist', no 'the' involved) and the Christian mythology which revolves around such a person, there's a level of realism involved which makes the concept not only plausible, but downright scary, as there're no metaphysical elements involved. No appearance of the Devil, no singing of angels, just men who believe so much in a particular destiny that they will do anything, kill anyone in order to bring it about. And let me tell you, that's the scariest thought of all because you know there are people out in the world today psychotic enough to do just that a million times over. Hell, history is full of such megalomaniacs and the advent of bigger and more destructive weapons has made their quest for glory that much more bloody and deadly.
I freaking love this book and I love Sirantha Jax! I truly cannot get enough of this series. Sadly, from what I've heard, the next book will be the laI freaking love this book and I love Sirantha Jax! I truly cannot get enough of this series. Sadly, from what I've heard, the next book will be the last and the idea of that just breaks my heart. Even with a novel such as Aftermath, which, if I were to be cruelly honest and say that it really doesn't have a coherent story-line and that instead it's a progression of small stories involving Sirantha strung into a whole, I still say, you know what? I don't give a damn. I raced through it, even as I told myself to slow down and revel in Aguirre's storytelling; I was absorbed by and absorbed in the novel, loving every page and savoring the bittersweet sensation I felt when I reached the end. Aguirre has managed to imbue the most fantastical of what should be space-opera elements with a three-dimensional reality, grounding them and giving them depth and life in a fierce, oftentimes heartbreaking way. I don't know how she does it, but I'm grateful she does and while I'm sad for the eventual end to the Sirantha Jax series, I know every time I reread the books, I will experience anew the roller-coaster ride which is her universe, full of emotional thrills and chills and breath-taking spills (sorry, had to do it), and love every minute of it. Thank you, Ms. Aguirre....more
Jig the goblin, now known as Jig Dragonslayer from his exploits in the first novel Goblin Quest finds himself back in the goblin caves, although now,Jig the goblin, now known as Jig Dragonslayer from his exploits in the first novel Goblin Quest finds himself back in the goblin caves, although now, instead of a lowly muck maker, he's a healer, gifted with that magical talent by his god, Tymalous Shadowstar. It's not as prestigious a position as it sounds, considering some of the injuries Jig is required to heal; however, he's content to hide in his cave, worship Shadowstar and play with his pet fire-spider, Smudge. However, the new goblin leader, Kralk, has other ideas for Jig's future. After all, the heroic Jig threatens Kralk's status, so when an ogre shows up to ask for Jig's help with a new enemy who's tyrannizing all ogre folk, Kralk "volunteers" Jig's assistance, seizing the opportunity to rid herself of Jig without actually having to do the dirty work of killing him outright. With the "help" of a large, profoundly stupid goblin and an elderly, ornery goblin who can barely walk, Jig sets out to defeat the force which is terrorizing the ogres and threatening to take over the entire cave system. Unbeknownst to Jig, another goblin, an aspiring wizard who is profoundly jealous of Jig's status, sets out behind him, determined to steal the spotlight and reveal herself to be the proper goblin Hero. Thus ensues fighting, backstabbing, enchantments and general mayhem as hobgoblins and invading pixies are thrown into the mix.
Man, this took me a long time to finish! Partly it was a case of bad timing, but a lot of it was the fact that I really had to push myself to keep reading because I was bored out of my gourd. The first book wasn't bad, a fairly entertaining spoof of your typical D & D adventuring story. This one...I don't know. I kept expecting it to be more enthralling, more exciting, and funnier. Especially funnier. From the reviews I've read, I expected to encounter many laugh-out-loud moments in the story, but I never even cracked a smile while reading. If I hadn't been set up to believe the novel was a humorous adventure, I probably wouldn't have been quite so disappointed with the overall story; as it is, while there were some high points, there weren't enough to keep me continuously entertained. It's not a bad book, just not as good as I was hoping....more
Okay, basic synopsis: Marine architect (one who designs underwater vehicles and the like) Hannah Bryson has been contracted to inspect and overhaul aOkay, basic synopsis: Marine architect (one who designs underwater vehicles and the like) Hannah Bryson has been contracted to inspect and overhaul a decommissioned Russian nuclear sub, the Silent Thunder, for the U.S. Maritime Museum. Working with her brother, Connor, she begins the routine check of the sub's systems. During this process, an enigmatic set of metallic plates, inscribed with seemingly nonsensical symbols, is found. Tragedy strikes, however, and a mystery unfolds. Hannah, though warned by the U.S. government against involving herself any further in the situation, stubbornly searches out the truth behind Silent Thunder's history and how it pertains to the ruthless man masterminding all the recent death and destruction surrounding the sub. With the help of a enigmatic and charismatic mercenary, their search becomes a race to find the prize Silent Thunder's secrets leads to before anyone else dies.
Like any Iris Johansen book, this one is fast-paced, thrilling, and tautly told. The added bonus is NO SEX! Yes, that's right, no throbbing loins or hanky-panky between the sheets. Lots of sexual tension and hints of a budding romance, with some smoldering looks and innocent yet electrifying skin contact, but that's it. It was quite refreshing. Of course, the lack of sex may have been due to Iris's collaboration with her son, Roy; mother and son may be close, but not enough to write sex scenes with each other. Yuck! But I digress. Is this deep and lasting literature? No. Is it a quick and thrilling read, something to while away the hours with? For sure. Although, and it may only be me and my dirty mind, but does anyone else get the giggles when they read the title? Silent Thunder. *snicker* Sorry....more
Why, oh, why can't we give books 10 stars? If it were at all possible, I would. I would give this book one hundred stars. I finished this today and alWhy, oh, why can't we give books 10 stars? If it were at all possible, I would. I would give this book one hundred stars. I finished this today and already I'm in withdrawal. I didn't want to stop. I tried, I tried very hard, to read Killbox as slowly as possible, to savor the story. But like any attempts of mine to savor a rich piece of chocolate, to let it melt on my tongue and slowly infuse my senses with its deliciousness, I failed miserably. From the first page, I got so caught up in the story, I couldn't not turn the pages as fast as my eyes devoured the words.
There's no way I can coherently describe the story to non-readers of this series. I'm nowhere near eloquent enough. I am in complete awe of Ms. Aguirre. She has created a series so rich, so lifelike, so real, even though the story is set in space and features aliens and concepts so totally science-fiction in nature. Despite that fact, or perhaps because of it, her characters live and breathe. None of them are perfect; each one has fears and hopes and character faults. In other words, they are three dimensional, just as real human beings are. And the relationships between them are real, not picture-perfect ideals, but messy, hard, fractious, delightful, fulfilling, full of mistakes and missed opportunities and moments of wonder. This alone would make the books wonderful reads, but the storytelling, the weaving of these characters' actions into wonderfully exciting, terrifying, exhilarating, emotional stories, make Ann Aguirre's novels top-rate, in my opinion. Plus, she made me cry. I can't tell you how many years it's been since I've cried while reading a book; too many to count. But she did it, and I'm not a weepy person. That's the mark of how involved Aguirre makes you become with these people--Sirantha Jax, March, Dina, Hit, Vel--that when they feel pain and loss, you feel it, too, and cry because of it. Though I know it is impossible, for my part I hope Sirantha Jax continues her adventures through many, many more books in the years to come; unlike chocolate, I can savor them as much and as many times as I like without getting fat....more
This will be the shortest review I've ever written: What a freakin' awesome book! Honestly, the best sci-fi book I've read in a long time. A real pageThis will be the shortest review I've ever written: What a freakin' awesome book! Honestly, the best sci-fi book I've read in a long time. A real page-turner, with humanity, humor, and knee-jumping action. Read it. That's all I've gotta say. Read it.
Re-read August 17-22, 2013: Can't add anything new to my review as it pretty much says it all. This book is freakin' awesome and Sirantha Jax is one of the best, most fully-fleshed and entertaining characters to leap (and I do mean leap) off the pages in years....more
If I could, I would kneel at Ann's feet and worship her as a god. I would sit there for hours, or for as long as she would let me, and absorb all theIf I could, I would kneel at Ann's feet and worship her as a god. I would sit there for hours, or for as long as she would let me, and absorb all the knowledge and wisdom I'm sure she exudes. Because that's the only way I could ever find the talent and capability to write as well as she, if I ever could, that is.
Enclave is Ann's first YA offering and it kicks serious ass. Frankly, and as much as I loved The Hunger Games, if the two were matched in a head-to-head smackdown, Enclave would win hands down and leave The Hunger Games limping, bruised, with a couple of black eyes and perhaps a torn-off ear. It's that good. Then again, Deuce, the protagonist of Enclave, is the natural heir to the bad-assery shown by the star of Aguirre's other series, Sirantha Jax.
Deuce lives in the enclave, an underground dwelling built into the remains of the New York subway system after the second holocaust, in the near (or far) future. It's a hard life: only if you survive the first fifteen years do you get a name; until then, you're only identified as a 'Boy' or 'Girl' brat and a number. During those years, you train as either a Breeder, a Builder, or a Hunter. When you get your name, you also get your arms scarred, the number of which identifies you for life: two for breeder, four for builder, six for hunter. Hunters have the most dangerous life, having to go outside into the tunnels in order to find food, all the while braving the marauding monsters called Freaks. Almost-human, but yet not, with razor-sharp teeth and claws for fingernails, they eat the dead, even their own, and attack anything that moved. They've always been a threat to the enclave, but lately the Freaks are becoming more bold, more intelligent, which makes them even more terrifying.
Deuce is proud of becoming a Huntress, proud that she can now justify her place in the enclave. But she's not so proud to become the partner of Fade, an outsider who joined the enclave after surviving for years in the tunnels on his own. Of course, Fade's not too happy either, especially when the two of them discover some unsettling truths about the Freaks' behavior and it seems as though all Deuce wants to do is carry on the enclave's party line, one of defiant ignorance. That all changes when Deuce slowly begins to question all that she's been told growing up in the enclave, especially when she's put into a situation not of her making which results in her and Fade being exiled. As the two make their way Topside, Deuce finds herself facing new vistas, new truths, and new feelings unlike any she's ever known before.
Deuce is one of those rare YA characters who actually grows and changes as the story progresses. Not always for the good, perhaps, but she doesn't remain the same character she was at the beginning of the novel. Because she's so young when the story begins (even though, in her society, Deuce is seen as grown up), the novel is a coming-of-age tale, albeit one that happens to mix in some knife fighting, ass-kicking, and Freaks. As with her other novels, Aguirre infuses even the most minor of characters with a depth and nuance, peopling the plot with a variety of likable and not-so-likable people who also manage to morph as circumstances change. Then there's the story, which isn't at all straightforward or predictable. It starts at one point, you think you see where it's going, and then it takes a turn. It's full of drama, heart-pounding action, and pathos; there's not a moment where the reader's attention drags or feels overwhelmed by exposition. There's nothing extraneous; it's a lean, tight, engaging book that moves even when the characters aren't.
My final words? I can't recommend Enclave highly enough. If you are a fan of the ever-expanding YA post-apocalyptic genre, you would do well to read Enclave. Once you do, you'll be hooked. Ooh, and then you can join me and we can create the cult of Ann Aguirre! There'll be t-shirts and everything! C'mon!