I really enjoyed this collection of mostly Eastern-themed short stories. This collection is more whimsical than Foster's other collections and is probI really enjoyed this collection of mostly Eastern-themed short stories. This collection is more whimsical than Foster's other collections and is probably the only one that I might considering buying for my young niece.
My favourite stories are probably The Girl Who Drew Cats, the opening story of the collection about, um, a girl who drew cats; The Princess and the Golden Fish a romantic story of a princess who wants to choose who she marries; and The Dragon Breath's Seed a traditional quest story. The quality of all the stories is high and I enjoyed the tone of the whole book....more
So Mike Callahan is gone, back to his own time and place, and Callahan's Place was blown up in a nuclear explosion. Is that going to stop the regularsSo Mike Callahan is gone, back to his own time and place, and Callahan's Place was blown up in a nuclear explosion. Is that going to stop the regulars? Of course not. Several years later, Jake Stonebender, our narrator through the series, opens his own bar, Mary's Place, and the old Callahan's regulars flock back. Hilarity (or at least puns), as they say, ensue.
This was an enjoyable book to read, but, for me, it misses the magic of the original trilogy. The core theme there was to help those who came in, on the principle that pain shared is reduced, while joy shared is increased. Here, we only get one new person to help in that way: Jonathan Crawford, who is overwhelmed with guilt. Although we have some new characters introduced here, Duck and Naggeneen amongst others, they're not hurting and in need of solace. We don't get to see the gang doing what they do best, which means that, I fear, we don't get to see Robinson at his best either.
This is still an entertaining book, although one for established fans and definitely not a jumping on point for new readers, but it's to the earlier books what Mary's Place is to Callahan's: a good try, but missing a vital ingredient....more
This is a nice little short story set in Brennan's Lady Trent universe. It's set sometime after The Voyage of the Basilisk and takes the form of a nuThis is a nice little short story set in Brennan's Lady Trent universe. It's set sometime after The Voyage of the Basilisk and takes the form of a number of letters for publication by Isabella Camherst and others, where she takes shoddy research (and researchers) to task.
This is a fun little story with a delicious payoff that might help entertain you while waiting for the next book. Although it makes mention of events in other books, they're minimal and you can still get a lot out of the story even without having read the novels. It also gives the virgin reader a short and clear taste of Isabella's character which I hope will entice them to the series as a whole....more
The penultimate volume of Lady Trent's memoirs sees Isabella (now Dame Isabella) and Tom in the (grudging) employ of the military to try and breed draThe penultimate volume of Lady Trent's memoirs sees Isabella (now Dame Isabella) and Tom in the (grudging) employ of the military to try and breed dragons to create a sustainable supply of dragon bone to build airships with, following the events of the last book. As usual, politics interferes with Isabella's perfectly natural desire to just get on and do Science. But this time, the danger is more personal than before but the potential rewards are so much greater.
I loved this book as much as the rest of them. I love the character and determination of Isabella and the strong bonds of friendship between her and Tom Wilker, and how far they've come since the first book. It was also nice to see Suhail (from the last book) back for this one and the complex relationship between him and Isabella deepened and changed in interesting ways.
This book, moreso than others in the series, really put Isabella's frustration at the limitations imposed on her for her sex to the fore. Between the patronisation from the military officers she has to deal with and the deeply patriarchal faux-Arabian culture that they're visiting, it seems constant. This is wearing for the reader, but this makes me, as a male reader, very aware that women even now probably face something very much like this (albeit maybe not so blatant) all the time, which just makes me angry and want to shout at the world to stop it. So if it makes one previously oblivious man empathise then the whole series is worth it!
But the books are much more than just feminist awareness-raising. As I said before, Isabella is a wonderful character, as is Tom. The setting is great, although having different names for the days and months makes it harder to get a mental image of the seasons and so forth (just saying it's April is a shorthand that conjures up images of the time of year and the season in a very minimal way; we don't have this shortcut for the months as named here).
This volume also starts to gather together a lot of threads that have been building from the start. The Draconeans, the preservation of dragon bone, the rumbling of war across continents have all been simmering in the background. I get the impression that the final book is going to bring them all together, and I look forward to seeing where Isabella's journey takes her in the end....more
Peter Grant is back in this short aside from the main series. Appearing to take place sometime after Broken Homes this lovely graphic novel sees PetePeter Grant is back in this short aside from the main series. Appearing to take place sometime after Broken Homes this lovely graphic novel sees Peter having to deal with possessed cars. Joining Aaronovitch for writing duties is fellow Doctor Who scribe Andrew Cartmel (of Cartmel Masterplan fame). I'm not sure I can see a difference in the writing with the co-writer, although the format does mean that we're in Peter's head a lot less than usual, so we have less of the running commentary that makes the novels so much fun. However, this is made up for by the art, which is rather lovely and all the characters totally fitted with what was in my head, except, perhaps for DI Stephanopoulos. Peter himself and Molly were probably my favourites in terms of their visual representation.
This is short enough that after putting it down, I picked it up again five minutes later and read it again in a short space of time. There are, apparently, more graphic interludes to Peter's story planned and I shall look forward to buying and reading them....more
I avoided the latter adventures of Moist von Lipwig for a long time after I read Going Postal because I didn't think that there were more stories toI avoided the latter adventures of Moist von Lipwig for a long time after I read Going Postal because I didn't think that there were more stories to be told about Lipwig. However, I'm currently filling in the gaps in my Pratchett collection at the moment and when I found it in a charity shop, the friend I was with said it "wasn't bad".
The book did little to change my original opinion: after sorting out the Post Office, Lipwig is, by hook and by crook, put in charge of the Royal Mint. Rinse and repeat. In saying that, there's a lot to enjoy in this book. Unlike a lot of New Pratchett (a period that, for me, starts around The Fifth Elephant or The Truth) there are actual laugh out loud moments, and I find Lipwig a sympathetic character. In this book he sometimes comes across as a little, not stupid, but slow, and this is something that he recognises in himself: the respectable life at the Post Office has taken his edge. But despite everything, he retains enough to, as you'd expect, come out the other end without losing the shine on his golden suit.
So not classic Pratchett, but better than the ones on either side of it. It's got me interested enough in Lipwig to possibly prioritise getting Raising Steam earlier than I would otherwise have done....more
With volume two, Gaiman starts to hit his stride with Sandman. The general plot of this book concerns a vortex forming within the Dreaming, somethingWith volume two, Gaiman starts to hit his stride with Sandman. The general plot of this book concerns a vortex forming within the Dreaming, something which could destroy it, and what Morpheus has to do to stop it. But it's also about desire (or should that be Desire?) and what it can make you do. About twisted dreams and lost loves and what makes a friendship. Lots of elements, all interwoven.
First time round, the Hob Gadling story seemed oddly out of place in the middle of the rest, but reading it again, and knowing the rest of the story, it seems to fit much better. It must have been a really odd thing to encounter if you were reading it month by month when it was originally published though....more
It's been a while since I've read the Sandman books, but I've just finished The Sandman: Overture and that made me want to reread these again. So muchIt's been a while since I've read the Sandman books, but I've just finished The Sandman: Overture and that made me want to reread these again. So much of my memory contains the series as a whole that you forget that the story started off relatively small-scale. The lord of dreams was captured in 1916 and held for 70-odd years before he managed to get free, went about taking revenge and recovering the tools that had been taken from him.
Coming straight out of Sandman Overture the art, while definitely attractive, feels a bit scratchy (although they had much more time for Overture, with a 6-issue series taking two years, rather than a strict monthly schedule like the original series), although Dave McKean's covers were as gorgeous then as they are now.
I said the story was small scale earlier. That's not entirely true, as Dream does go to Hell at one point, to recover his stolen helm and we have our first encounter with Lucifer Morningstar, who would go on to star in his own series. At this stage, Gaiman didn't have his own clear vision for the series, so we see ties to the wider DC universe as John Constantine, the Martian Manhunter and other elements from the wider superhero universe show up. These don't really recur once the series hits its stride but do serve to remind the reader that the Dream and the Endless are part of a shared universe.
The third-last chapter, 24 Hours, is a difficult one to read. It's pure horror as customers in a diner are made into puppets to be the plaything of John Dee, who had stolen Dream's jewel, the last, and most powerful, of his tools. Dream himself doesn't appear in this chapter until the very end and we're left seeing people being made to do terrible things to each other as the madman watches. Like I say, it's a difficult one to read, even if you suspect that he's not going to win - that's no consolation for the people who's lives are destroyed or who are killed before Dee is stopped.
The final chapter introduces us to one of the most popular (with good reason) characters in the Sandman canon: Dream's older sister, Death. This isn't the dark-robed scythe-wielder of popular myth but a cute goth girl who always has good advice and is always there for her younger brother. Bizarrely, she always brightens up the page when she appears and her presence and advice make for a great epilogue to this first volume....more
In this prelude to Gaiman's masterpiece, we learn why Dream was so weak that Roderick Burgess was able to capture him at the beginning of Preludes anIn this prelude to Gaiman's masterpiece, we learn why Dream was so weak that Roderick Burgess was able to capture him at the beginning of Preludes and Nocturnes. A star has gone mad, the result of something that Morpheus left undone a long time ago, and now he must repair the damage and stop the madness spreading and destroying the universe.
The art in the book is really lovely. The book is a stunning artwork in its own right and it has the feel of the dreamtime about it. It puts you in the right mood for the story. The story itself is suitably epic in scale and mythic in tone. The idea of sentient stars put me in mind of Stapledon's Star Maker and the meeting of the different aspects of Dream (across a stunning four-page spread) is a wonderful scene.
I would say that this is a book to definitely come back and read after having read the story proper. There are spoilers for Sandman, and lots of references that can't be appreciated unless you're familiar with the main story, as well as cameos from some of Dream's family and other characters from the Dreaming and beyond. So although you could read it before the main story, you'll get the most out of it if you read it afterwards.
One thing I thought worked less well was the introduction of yet another layer of mythic entities. The First Circle seems unnecessary, except as a way to provide exposition (view spoiler)[and the idea of the Endless having parents also seemed unnecessary, especially as they didn't really do very much. (hide spoiler)]
So very pretty, enjoyable but not exactly essential. It has made me want to go back and re-read Sandman though.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
These are stories written by Pratchett when he was a young man, working for his local paper. The Young Pratchett wrote a children's story for them eveThese are stories written by Pratchett when he was a young man, working for his local paper. The Young Pratchett wrote a children's story for them every week, which is what makes up this collection, and is, according to the foreword, mostly unaltered from that time. They're very definitely written by an author still finding his way and don't have the polish of later Pratchett. We do get a couple of stories set on the Carpet, which would go on to become The Carpet People (which I've read, but so long ago I don't remember anything about it and was BG [Before GoodReads]) and some fun stories (my favourite being the one about the time-travelling bus), but I didn't really get an awful lot out of this one. I think this may be passed to my sister as bedtime story material for my nephlings....more
This is Neil Gaiman's third collection of short stories. He addresses the controversial title in his introduction but since I don't feel that I haveThis is Neil Gaiman's third collection of short stories. He addresses the controversial title in his introduction but since I don't feel that I have the appropriate background for this, I'm not going to comment, one way or the other on that. The collection did seem skewed towards the dark and the macabre, with especially the first few stories being a bit grim, but there are enough points of light in there to not make reading it a slog for someone like me, who likes their fiction a bit fluffier.
Highlights include The Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountains... about a small man on a quest and the companion he takes with him; The Case of Death and Honey, Gaiman's 'Sherlock Holmes' story which is a lot of fun; 'And Weep, Like Alexander', a story from a 'shaggy dog' anthology of the Tales from the White Hart mould; and The Sleeper and the Spindle, which mashes together some well-known fairy tales in a new and interesting way. There was also the unexpected pleasure of another 'Shadow' story (the protagonist of American Gods). Since the last one (in Fragile Things) he's moved on from Scotland to Yorkshire, where he has another 'unusual' encounter. In the introduction to the story Gaiman says that he thinks there will be one more Shadow short, probably set in London, before he gets packed off back to America and another novel, which would be good.
I think A Calendar of Tales merits more discussion than just a one-liner as it's a very interesting project in its own right: 12 flash fiction stories based on the answers to questions about the calendar that Gaiman asked on Twitter. The website is great, but I would definitely pay money to hold this in my hands, with dedicated artwork (something that's already been done for The Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountains... and The Sleeper and the Spindle).
I liked this collection a lot. It's not as good, in my mind, as Smoke and Mirrors, but it's definitely better than Fragile Things. It's classic Gaiman and is both a good introduction for newbies to Gaiman's writing and for established fans. Oh, and it also continues his tradition of hiding stories in the book's introduction....more
The Rat Queens are a group of four female adventurers trying to make a living (read killing things and taking their stuff) in a medieval fantasy worldThe Rat Queens are a group of four female adventurers trying to make a living (read killing things and taking their stuff) in a medieval fantasy world. It's all a bit D&D but this was recommended to me by a friend with good taste in books, and dear goodness but it's good.
It's the characters that make it. The four Rat Queens are all very individual characters, with their own flaws, secrets and desires. Violet is a dwarf fighter who shaved her beard before it was cool; Hannah is an elf mage with attitude problems; Dee is a human former cultist who walked away and became an atheist (but can still use divine magic); and Betty. Betty is the sweetest smidgen (halfling) you could imagine, who loves candy and booze and ripping out monsters' eyeballs (I may be a fan of Betty [although Orc Dave and his bluebirds of healing comes a close second]).
As the story develops, these characters all evolve and we see their history, what led them to where they are, as well as that of the people around them. The other adventuring parties in the town, the town guard, and the local merchants. They all weave together a compelling story that's a joy to read. And there's so much humour throughout. Even with all the violence (and dear goodness, there's a lot of violence), the humour is the standout thing about this series.
A word needs to go to the book itself. This deluxe hardback collects the first two trade paperbacks, covering the first arc of the story, and is a very beautiful thing in its own right. It looks absolutely lovely, from the silver-on-black foil cover to the vividness of the colours within. The art is fantastic, conveying both the tender, character moments, and the manic rush of the fighting, and certainly not sparing any feelings over the dismembered limbs and blood.
It's lovely to see a book focusing on female characters the way that this one does. The Rat Queens, and so many of the women around them, are strong, independent and take no crap from anybody. But they're not one-dimensional, they each have their own weaknesses and vulnerabilities; they're individuals and are treated as such. It seems that comics like this, Ms Marvel and Saga are the place to go for good female characters at the moment.
All in all, a fantastic book and a fantastic series. I can't wait for more....more
The third volume of Lady Trent's memoir sees her documenting her time on the Royal Survey Ship Basilisk on an expedition searching for sea serpents. SThe third volume of Lady Trent's memoir sees her documenting her time on the Royal Survey Ship Basilisk on an expedition searching for sea serpents. She finds these in abundance, and much more besides.
The third of Brennan's Lady Trent books is the most assured yet. It's lovely to see the character of Isabella Camhurst develop over the books and something that I think is quite clever in the writing is that the younger Isabella is, as she ages, starting to sound more like the elder Lady Trent. She's maturing, gaining experience and wisdom and it's lovely to see how Brennan conveys that in the writing.
I think this is also the first in the series that really features dragons to any great degree in the forefront. That's not a complaint about previous volumes (it's been great fun just following Isabella's life as she struggles to be recognised as a serious scholar while having the terrible handicap of being a woman) but it makes this one even more fun. The ongoing background plot concerning the now-dead Draconian civilisation also picks up a little in this volume and I look forward to see where that goes in future.
I was slightly concerned at the start when Isabella brings her young son with her on the voyage. I feared it might descend into one of many annoying child-related tropes, but in the event, I ended up really liking Jake and hoping that we see more of him in future, not to mention the mysterious Suhail. Isabella's constant companion on these trips, Tom Wilker, is with her through this volume as well, and I admired his dry tone and his humour as he has come to accept that he can't stop Isabella doing, er, un-ladylike things but he's always there to help, and often as enthusiastic as she is.
So all in all, I highly recommend this book to fans of the series to date. If you're new to Lady Trent, you'll certainly be able to read and enjoy this book without having read any of the others, but you'll appreciate it more if you have. As for me, I've already pre-ordered the next volume....more
Barely has Librarian/spy Irene settled into her new role as Librarian-in-residence on Vale's world than her Dragon assistant Kai is kidnapped, and it'Barely has Librarian/spy Irene settled into her new role as Librarian-in-residence on Vale's world than her Dragon assistant Kai is kidnapped, and it's up to Irene, acting alone, and without help from the Library, to get him back, and possibly prevent a war.
The second volume in Genevieve Cogman's excellent Invisible Library series is, if possible, more self-assured and fun than the first. There's no sign of second-book nerves here. Cogman throws us into the middle of the action and then back-tracks from there; an old trick, but an effective one, and one that Cogman's writing is good enough to pull off with aplomb. It takes a while to get to Venice, the masked city of the title, but once we do, the city that the author draws for us is beautiful to behold. It's evocative, dangerous and lovely to read.
While the apparent Big Bad of the series, the disgraced former Librarian Alberich, remains off-stage for this book, the villain of the piece, the powerful Fae Lord Guantes, is just as effective and, in combination with his wife, quite the foil for Irene. Lord Silver returns as a decadent Fae aristocrat combining playing for power with playing with people in a turn that makes me sort of want to scrub myself down. He's a lovely character. The rest of the supporting cast is mostly just sketched, something which works well for the Fae, given their embrace of narrative and storytelling roles. I would like to see Vale be slightly better developed, and become more than just a Holmes-clone, though.
Still, that's just a little niggle in a series that has been, to date, a joy to read. I mean, for book-geeks like people who hang out at GoodReads, what's not to love about a kick-ass female librarian who can rewrite reality around her! Roll on volume three....more
When Fat Charlie Nancy's father dies, he finds out that his father was a god and that he had a brother he didn't know about. And that makes his worldWhen Fat Charlie Nancy's father dies, he finds out that his father was a god and that he had a brother he didn't know about. And that makes his world much more interesting, and much more dangerous.
This is a much more whimsical book than American Gods, with whom it shares a universe and one character (Mr Nancy/Anansi, Charlie's father, whose death kicks off events). Whereas that was deep and brimming with mythology, this feels much lighter, more like a good old-fashioned story without as much going on underneath. There was a lot of humour in it, of a style that reminded me a lot of Good Omens, but without the lightness of touch ( Terry Pratchett's influence?) that made that book such a joy to read. It sounds like I'm being negative, but it's just that I expect great things of Gaiman and this is, IMO, just good. Fat Charlie is a decent enough character and I really felt for him when the whirlwind of his brother, Spider, came into his life. For a while, it seemed like it would just be Spider tormenting Charlie, but the tone shifts later in the book, as the events driving things start to come to the fore.
The focus here is on African folklore, in the way that it was Norse mythology that drove American Gods and while this is less familiar to me than the latter, Gaiman handles it well enough that what you need to know is explained in the text, so you don't feel like you're floundering. That the story is reasonably lightweight helps in this regard too.
So this is an entertaining read in an unfamiliar (to me) mythology and definitely lighter than some of Gaiman's other work. Worth a read, but I wouldn't put it at the top of my pile....more
Tiffany Aching is getting on with the job of being the witch of the Chalk, taking the responsibility for bringing people into the world, helping themTiffany Aching is getting on with the job of being the witch of the Chalk, taking the responsibility for bringing people into the world, helping them leave and all the bits in between. For a young woman it's a heavy load, so she really doesn't need an ancient malevolent spirit being awoken and coming after her.
I enjoyed this book and feel that I should really have more to say about it, but I can't really think of an awful lot. There were some small surprises for me, such as the character of the Duchess and how she evolved, along with her daughter, but I didn't really feel an awful lot of fear for Tiffany herself. She seems to have reached the same sort of stage as Granny Weatherwax, where she's pretty much indestructible so I felt sure that she'd be able to deal with the Cunning Man.
The Cunning Man, by the way, is a pretty excellent villain. His origin story is marvellously gruesome and the idea of this eyeless creature full of hate and malevolence is very evocative.
(view spoiler)[The other thing the surprised me was Preston and his story. I was sure that Pratchett was going to take Tiffany along the dutiful, lonely road, so it was a bit of a surprise (a pleasant one, mind) when he and Tiffany did actually sort of get together at the end of the book. It's nice to get a happy ending for the person who spent her own time ensuring happy endings for others. (hide spoiler)]
The humour in this book was the thoughtful, 'wry smile' variety rather than the belly laughs of Pratchett's early work, although there were still some really laugh out loud moments. These were almost all provided care of the Nac Mac Feegle, who retain all the charm of their early days for me as they enthusiastically fight, steal and generally caper through life, but always protecting their Hag o' the Hills. They're a joy to read and, I imagine, to write. I can just imagine Pratchett sitting at his keyboard, chuckling to himself as he wrote them.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
Writing reviews of Saga is starting to get a little dull, really. Each volume is brilliant and moves the story in new directions that throw me off-balWriting reviews of Saga is starting to get a little dull, really. Each volume is brilliant and moves the story in new directions that throw me off-balance but never to a degree that I stop enjoying the story or caring for the characters. Fiona Staples' art also continues to be gorgeous, bringing the characters to life in their weird, sexy, horrific glory.
Alana and Marco have been separated by the wannabe revolutionary, Dengo, of the Robot people and while Alana tries to deal with him to recover Hazel, Marco has to team up with his enemy, Prince Robot IV whose child Dengo has also kidnapped.
This all happens in parallel with Gwendolyn and Sophie's quest to find something that can save The Will, and doesn't that storyline come with a kick to the gut!
I basically like all of these people and just want them to all talk over their problems, work them out and all live happily in a Friends-style apartment block where they'd be in and out of each others' homes all the time. Yeah, I know. A guy can daydream though!
I don't know how much Saga there is to come, but I look forward to the time when I can basically sit down with a bit pile of graphic novels next to my chair and just work through the whole story in one sitting. ...more
The sixth volume of Charles Stross's Laundry Files series is the first not to be told from Bob Howard's point of view, instead being narrated by his wThe sixth volume of Charles Stross's Laundry Files series is the first not to be told from Bob Howard's point of view, instead being narrated by his wife, Dr Mo O'Brien as she is tasked with establishing and leading the Home Office's new superhero team while dealing with the Pale Violin that she has carried for some years and also trying to do something about her disintegrating marriage to Bob.
There's a lot of interesting complexity in this book, particularly set as far into the series as it is. After reading it, I had a shot at the spoiler thread about it on Charlie's blog (a 'shot' at it because it's nearly 600 comments long!) which definitely helped contextualise it a bit.
One thing that I get out of it is that I don't necessarily think I like Mo. And I really like that. The fact that Stross told a good first person story and didn't make the narrator that likeable is the mark of a good storyteller. And coming with five books' worth of background helps as well. Until now we've only seen Mo from Bob's point of view, and, as Stross points out again and again, Bob is a highly unreliable narrator. But specifically this is the woman he's still in love with and has been married to for a decade so when we see her from his point of view, she's on a pedestal. From her own point of view, she's, er, less so. And this is hardly the best time to getting into her head, as the stress of trying to contain the Pale Violin (which she names Lecter) and everything she's had to do as Agent CANDID is finally getting too much for her. Just when she has to effectively build a new Home Office department from scratch and deal with the politics of that, not to mention separation from her husband, an attractive new male colleague and working with her husband's exes.
So an awful lot in there, and I look forward to seeing more from her and Bob, although that could be a while yet, as the next book in the series is to be narrated by Alex (the vampire from The Rhesus Chart) and it's only the one after that which will once again star Bob.
Mind you, I came to these books for the geek humour and spy thriller vibe, with a bit of Lovecraftian stuff going on in the background. That's obviously a bit of a false-flag. The series is very clearly tending towards horror with a bit of humour thrown in. As CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN intensifies, I don't know how much longer I'll be able to keep on reading....more
The fifth collected volume of of the utterly marvellous webcomic takes us to the end of Annie and Kat's year nine at Gunnerkrigg Court. Annie is now mThe fifth collected volume of of the utterly marvellous webcomic takes us to the end of Annie and Kat's year nine at Gunnerkrigg Court. Annie is now medium of the forest and her friend Andrew is medium of the Court. She has to balance her new duties with her education, not to mention all the ups and downs of being a teenage girl.
There are some lovely stories in this volume, especially that of Mort and how Annie helps him find peace, while at the same time finding out more about Jeanne, the ghost trapped in the Annan Water. The new romance between Kat and Paz is incredibly sweet and Annie's initial reaction to it is very believable for the girl that we've come to know over the last forty-something chapters.
The chapter that followed Renard and Hetty was beautifully told as well, with Renard's obvious pain over his past choices contrasting with the selfishness of Hetty. Renard is now one of my favourite characters in the story, which is saying something, in a story that has so many wonderful characters to choose from.
The final chapter is a suitably dramatic end to the year for the kids of the Court but it's the last couple of pages that really make it, with the revelation of the deepening of Robot's involvement in the cult that grown up around Kat.
Every time I think that Gunnerkrigg Court can't get better, it does. Siddell is growing as both a storyteller and an artist. However, now that the volume has ended, it'll be at least a year until the next one. Many webcomics work okay running a few pages a week (and Siddell has been nothing if not reliable at doing so) but I find GC impossible to read on such a schedule. I usually let a chapter or two build up and read them then, but it's really when you have a whole book in one go that you can appreciate the story properly. I don't know how much more there is to come, but I look forward to the day when I can put the entire set next to my chair and just work through them all in one giant binge. Until then, I'll keep reading one chapter, and one book, at a time....more
I liked the second volume of Ursula K Le Guin's self-curated collection of short stories better than the first. This volume contains her more overtlyI liked the second volume of Ursula K Le Guin's self-curated collection of short stories better than the first. This volume contains her more overtly SFF stories, which are definitely more up my street than the Literary stories of the first. Le Guin's writing remains beguiling and a joy to read and these stories have the combination of character and plot that I prefer over focus on just character. Favourites include the Hainish stories, particularly The Matter of Seggri, a classic SF what-if story asking what would happen on a world where women vastly outnumbered men; Solitude, where a field ethnologist takes her two young children to a pre-contact planet where the adults are split by gender and rarely talk to one another; The Wife's Story is a different take on the werewolf genre; and, of course, The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas. Call it a fable, a warning story or what you will, it's a beautiful, and immensely chilling story. Not a word is wasted and it remains with the reader long after the last page. It makes us question ourselves, and I have the haunting feeling that I wouldn't have the strength of character to be one of those who walks away.
So, a marvellous collection and both worthy addition to a fan's library and an excellent jumping-on point for those new to Le Guin's work (I include the first volume in that as well, to get the full range of her writing)....more
I enjoyed the second of Lady Trent's memoirs as much as the first. This time, a few years after her first voyage, she is off to what seems to be her wI enjoyed the second of Lady Trent's memoirs as much as the first. This time, a few years after her first voyage, she is off to what seems to be her world's Africa to study the dragons of that part of the world. Coming with her is her fellow naturalist Tom Wilker and her benefactor's granddaughter, Natalie. As before, Isabella and her companions can't help get caught up in local politics, when all they want to do is to study dragons.
I like that the not-quite-steampunk aesthetic doesn't blind the book from tackling (to some degree, at least) the issues of colonisation of Africa by Britain (by analogue, at least, as Isabella's Scirland isn't exactly Britain and Beyembe isn't Africa). But the book doesn't shy away from the repercussions of Scirland's political meddling in the affairs of the countries of Beyembe, despite being told by Lady Trent, a Scirland national.
I continue to enjoy the tone of voice of the books, both the voice of the Isabella of the time, and the older voice of the Lady Trent who is writing the memoir, and I'm impressed by Brennan's ability to write two voices for the same character at different periods in her life. I enjoyed seeing the relationship between Isabella and Wilker develop and mature to a point where they're comfortable with each other, and I have to say that I enjoyed the events that eventually cleared the air.
The last line has left me wanting to dive straight into The Voyage of the Basilisk, but I also don't want to devour it, as the fourth book isn't out until next year, and the fifth (and, I understand, the last) isn't yet written. If I can pace myself, I should hopefully be able to read the last few in fairly quick succession (if!)....more
I read Grandville a few years ago and was immediately impressed by the vivid and quite stunning artwork, the sense of scale, the world-building of thI read Grandville a few years ago and was immediately impressed by the vivid and quite stunning artwork, the sense of scale, the world-building of the alt-history, oh, and the random anthropomorphic animals. This sequel lives up to its predecessor in all those respects and more.
This time Detective Inspector Le Brock must chase down a dangerous fanatical criminal, who was once a hero of the British rebellion against their French masters. "Mad Dog" Mastock has escaped from the Tower just before his execution and Le Brock must pursue. The trail leads him, and his faithful sidekick Detective Sergeant Ratzi, back to Grandville: the great city of Paris, where high-class prostitutes are being murdered and a conspiracy that stretches back to the liberation of Britain.
The art continues to enthral me. Both the style and the vividness are a joy to behold. The anthropomorphised characters always keep you slightly off-balance, in a good way, and I quite like the fact that it's never really commented on, except in an occasional good-natured insult ("Catch, Beaky" to a vulture, for example). The world itself is deepened as we see more of the history between Britain and France and the war of independence.
The book isn't long, I finished it in just under an hour, but it is definitely worth savouring. I'll definitely be rereading the series and I look forward to picking up the next volume in the series as well....more
There are some lovely stories here and mostly they're more whimsical than the previous collection, although that doesn't necessarily stop them from packing a punch, as The Life and Times of Penguin attest. As for the others, knowing what I do about Foster's own life and death, Running on Two Legs was heartbreaking, while Black Swan, White Swan just bemused me a bit (although I do think I liked it more than when I heard it in audio). The Bunny of Vengeance and the Bear of Death was in equal parts hilarious, horrific and heartbreaking. That's a combo that Foster is pretty good at, as the cutesy frame reveals a centre with depth and heart. A Nose for Magic is lighter and more fun (and I always love a story where the IT guy saves the day and wins the girl). The Center of the Universe is a story about growing up, moving on and the passage of time. It's sweet and melancholic at the same time, as such stories often are. The Wizard of Eternal Watch seems like a segment in a large story and I'd love to read that larger story as this really whetted my appetite. Finally, the title story, Mortal Clay, Stone Heart was a story of love found and love lost. Beautifully told, melancholic (there's that word again) and haunting.
For such a big book, I don't actually have an awful lot to say about Bone. I enjoyed this story of the Bone cousins, Fone Bone, Smiley Bone and PhoneyFor such a big book, I don't actually have an awful lot to say about Bone. I enjoyed this story of the Bone cousins, Fone Bone, Smiley Bone and Phoney Bone, being run out of Boneville and each finding their way to a valley where they find themselves caught up in epic events.
Fone Bone was a fun protagonist and Phoney's money-making plans are enjoyably terrible. I liked Thorn's evolution as a character, from simple country girl onwards, and her grandmother, the cow-racer, was fun as well. My favourite characters, however, were probably the two cowardly monsters with the quiche obsession. Their relationship was never made explicit, but they certainly behaved like an old married couple and stole every scene they were in.
The epic scale of the book is enjoyable, and it feels quite old-fashioned in a way, but with a modern twist. The art is fairly straightforward and clear, although I'd definitely loved to have seen it in colour....more
The sequel to The Shambling Guide to New York is equally fun, as Editorix extraordinare Zoe Norris leads her team to New Orleans to expand UndergrounThe sequel to The Shambling Guide to New York is equally fun, as Editorix extraordinare Zoe Norris leads her team to New Orleans to expand Underground Publishing's guidebooks for the magical. While she's there, she has to deal with a boyfriend who's trying not to succumb to zombieism, a newish vampire staff writer with a hell of an attitude problem, a secret society and learn more about her own new found power and her heritage.
This book takes the time to expand much more on coterie society, especially human coterie such as the zoetists, and the city talkers, Zoe's own speciality. We find out more about recent history and why there are so few city talkers. I liked this, but can't help thinking that the secret society/cabal thing is possibly laying it on a little thick.
I did enjoy the many pop culture references (I squeed a bit at Zoe's goldfish being called Lister and Kochanski) and the nod to recent(ish) events in New Orleans, with an alternative explanation for the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina.
Marley Jacobs is not only rich and eccentric, she's also the protector of Seattle. When her nephew is murdered, and a vampire seems to be responsible,Marley Jacobs is not only rich and eccentric, she's also the protector of Seattle. When her nephew is murdered, and a vampire seems to be responsible, it's up to her to protect the peace that she's spent decades building up, and prevent it from crashing down around her.
I quite enjoyed this urban fantasy. I heard about it when the author had a guest slot at Charles Stross's blog. I liked the idea of pacifist urban fantasy, although that's not to say that there's no action, or even violence. Despite being resolutely pacifist herself, and insisting that those around her don't use violence either, she can't stop others trying to attack her. But, like the Doctor, she uses her wits and intelligence rather than fists (her own or magical) to deal with dangerous situations (not that fists are a great option for an older lady like Marley).
There are lots of hints dropped about her past, before Marley came to this philosophy, and the reasons behind her very particular habit of not opening doors for herself. Marley's other nephew, Albert, is our entry point to this world, which he's discovering at the same time as we are, when he's hired as her driver and assistant. He's a likeable guy, albeit one who's too prone to wanting to solve problems with violence (not surprising since he's just out of the army) and finds it difficult to cope with these situations on Civvie Street.
I found the pacing to be slightly uneven, especially towards the end, and the last chapter or two especially odd, as the final reveal seemed to come entirely from nowhere. I'll look out for the sequel, but won't rush to get it....more
Irene is an agent of the Invisible Library, which exists between realities. She goes out to one of the many alternate Earths and brings back rare, impIrene is an agent of the Invisible Library, which exists between realities. She goes out to one of the many alternate Earths and brings back rare, important and sometimes dangerous books to be kept safe within. Her latest mission is to retrieve a book from a steampunk-esque alternate Earth and is given a new apprentice. However, she soon discovers that the world that she's been sent to is infested with chaos magic, that her new apprentice has secrets of his own and that a terrible threat stalks her in her quest for the book.
This is a great fun story. I'm a book geek (big surprise from someone who's reviewed how many books on a social network for readers!) and this pressed so many of my buttons. From the intelligent, capable woman who can rewrite reality with Language to the hints of the mysterious Library itself to the steampunk world that Irene finds herself on, there's lots to enjoy here.
The main thrust of the story here has a conclusion, but the main plot is only just beginning. I look forward to volume 2 (coming this year, according to the author!)....more
This is a memoir of the foremost dragon expert in the world, Isabella Camherst, her first expedition to study the creatures and of the very human probThis is a memoir of the foremost dragon expert in the world, Isabella Camherst, her first expedition to study the creatures and of the very human problems that the expedition encountered. I really enjoyed this book a lot. Although I've shelved it as 'fantasy', the only fantastic elements are that it's not set in our world, and that there are dragons. And even the dragons are very naturalistic, with organs that generate their unique breath. Isabella even helps to dissect and record the details of them more than once.
The worldbuilding is rather marvellous as well. It's set in what we would describe as an early Victorian period, and it seems that the country that Isabella comes from is probably analogous to Britain during that period. There are details thrown in (such as hints that iron ore isn't common in this country, leading to militaristic endeavours abroad) in a casual way that that provides information without breaking up the flow of the story.
I enjoyed Isabella's voice in this memoir as well. Both the youthful nineteen year old new bride who manipulates her husband into taking her on the expedition and the wiser, at times querulous voice of the elderly Lady Trent (as she becomes at some point) adding asides and her own commentary.
Some other reviews have had problems with the narrator's voice and the trouble she had with just one servant in this remote village, where the expedition was taking place. This doesn't bother me one bit, because even for an adventurous young lady, a noblewoman of the period would have felt like that, and Isabella tries her best to overcome that.
One word of warning, dragons aren't really make a huge presence in the story and when they are, it's from a naturalistic, scientific point of view. I love the idea of treating dragons in that way and having a pseudo-Victorian naturalist try to analyse them, but if you're after lots of flaming and adventure then maybe this isn't for you....more
Three strangers find themselves drawn to Bay Beach in Lagos to make first contact with an alien race and find themselves, their city and their world cThree strangers find themselves drawn to Bay Beach in Lagos to make first contact with an alien race and find themselves, their city and their world changed forever.
This was an enjoyable first contact story set in the Nigerian city of Lagos. It's not immediately obvious what a marine biologist, a soldier with a conscience and a rapper have in common, what brings them to the beach to become ambassadors for the Human race, but we learn more as the story goes on.
As it transpires, this isn't a straightforward SF first contact story, as it adds some fantasy elements. At some points, various African mythological figures/gods appear and there's a rather creepy road that literally kills and eats people travelling on it. These work oddly well, as you can imagine these things not being out of place in Lagos, a city whose energy and life spring from the pages of the book.
The aliens are a catalyst, and a bit of a deus ex machina, in the story. Their aims aren't really all that clear, other than possibly wanting to settle on Earth, but they bring change with them, as their ambassador, the woman named Ayodele, repeats several times. Some of these changes are to bring the potential of our three protagonists to the surface and others seem like they could affect the world.
There are many threads left dangling at the end of the book, the narrator explicitly points this out, but this appears to be deliberate. I had wondered throughout what the rest of the world is making of the giant alien spaceship hanging over Lagos and the aliens entering it, and the narrator at the end implies that some people are going to be very unhappy about this and that the story must wait as it goes to join the fight...
This was an interesting and original (not to mention very Nigerian) take on first contact. The pidgin English was difficult to read at times, and I did have to make extensive use of the glossary at the back, but I found it a worthwhile read....more
Granny Weatherwax is bored, and Nanny Ogg knows just what she needs: a third member of their coven to replace Magrat, who's gone off to be a queen. BuGranny Weatherwax is bored, and Nanny Ogg knows just what she needs: a third member of their coven to replace Magrat, who's gone off to be a queen. But the perfect choice, Agnes Nitt, has gone off to Ankh-Morpork to join the opera. But there's something odd going on there too, with ghosts, dead bodies and troublesome artistes all creating the sort of problem that Granny loves to get her teeth into.
I hadn't read this book in years, until the sad death of Sir Terry put me in mind of the Discworld again. It reminded me just how funny the man could be. Despite the fact that I went off his later books, at this stage, he was still making me giggle like a schoolboy. Frequently. Out loud.
Twisting The Phantom of the Opera in the way that Pratchett did best and using it to observe and make cutting remarks about human nature. Agnes/Perdita is a very sympathetic character and Granny and Nanny make their usual incredibly readable double act. A marvellous book for anyone who loves music, opera, comedy and human nature....more